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CNN ELECTION CENTER
Is Barack Obama Arrogant?; Is EPA Report on Greenhouse Gases Being Ignored by the White House?; Texas Senator's Campaign Video Goes Viral; Ralph Nader Under Fire for Controversial Remarks
Aired June 25, 2008 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody.
Tonight, a story that everybody is going to soon be talking about. It is a new line of attack on Barack Obama led none other -- led by none other than Karl Rove. There are those who say, though, that Obama brought this on himself. We're going to look at this from both sides tonight.
Also, lawmakers doing a 180 on one of their colleagues. She defaulted on three homes. There was talk of investigating her. And now they are raising money for her. It's politics as usual. But we're going to put a spotlight on it tonight as well.
Plus, a new scandal: money, politics, a movie star, the Vatican, and, yes, there are even ties to Bill Clinton. We're going to talk about that.
But, first, again, as we mentioned, this new line of attack on Barack Obama, it's coming at him tonight. The reason it's generating a lot of buzz is because the guy leading the charge is none other than Karl Rove, who says that Obama is arrogant. And what voter likes arrogance? We're going to look into that issue.
National correspondent Jason Carroll has been digging into this all day.
Jason, what do you got?
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Campbell, as you know, candidates are used to name-calling, especially during presidential campaigns. The question is, will this specific attack end up resonating with voters?
CARROLL (voice-over): It's the latest attack on Senator Barack Obama, and leading the charge, none other than former Bush adviser Karl Rove, and Rove's word of the day, arrogant.
Here he was last night on FOX.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: I will say, yes, I do think Barack Obama is arrogant. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: Rove started the arrogant line of attack Monday. ABC News reported he told Republicans at a breakfast that Obama's -- quote -- "the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone."
To be sure, Obama's given his critics ammunition, like his faux presidential seal last week, remember that, with his campaign slogan, "Yes, we can," translated into Latin. Blogs had a field day, attacking Obama as arrogant and pompous. The campaign quickly said the seal was a one-day thing. But it did add to a perception problem.
STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": He continues to have a style that is kind of distant, almost professorial, and some of the people will regard that as elitist or arrogant.
CARROLL: "New York Times" political correspondent Jeff Zeleny says Republicans may be using catchwords like arrogance to set Obama apart as different.
JEFF ZELENY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Arrogance in this campaign will be perhaps more loaded than it would be in other campaigns. Is it a code word for his race? I'm not sure. But they're trying to say -- exactly right -- he's not one of you.
CARROLL: And they have said it before in a slightly different way, when Obama's critics questioned his patriotism and branded him an elitist, this after Obama said people in small towns were bitter over the economy and were clinging to their guns and religion.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think those comments are elitist.
CARROLL: But, in some ways, it just didn't seem to stick, perhaps in part because elite doesn't match Obama's upbringing.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am amused about this notion of elitist, given that, you know, when you're raised by a single mom, when you were on food stamps for a while when you were growing up, you went to school on scholarship.
CARROLL: Jeff Zeleny says the Obama campaign knows it has got a problem to solve.
ZELENY: In the last week or so, the campaign manager, the top officials in the campaign, have sent word throughout the campaign that, look, we would not have gotten this far if we were not always viewing ourselves as the underdog. So, keep that mind-set.
CARROLL: And if Senator Obama's campaign decides they have to do more to make him seem more humble, more like a regular guy, in doing so, they will also have to make sure he comes across as being genuine -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right, Jason, thanks very much.
And with me to talk about all this tonight is CNN analyst and radio talk show host our own Roland Martin, with me here in the studio, and Westwood One radio talk shot host Lars Larson, who is joining us from Portland, Oregon.
So, Lars, what's the deal? Obama was raised by a single mother. This is not exactly the country club set kind of guy. Is arrogant, elitist, is that line of attack really going to work?
LARS LARSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's not an attack. It's an accurate description of Obama. He's a man who is highly educated, highly compensated, had an income up until the time when he started running for president that was above $1 million a year.
BROWN: Oh, come on. John McCain is worth multimillions.
LARSON: That's fine.
BROWN: Anybody who runs for president is by the time they reach that stage in their life likely to be super-rich.
LARSON: But, you see, John McCain doesn't appear to exude the same kind of attitudes Obama does. Your reporter mentioned the statement about God and guns and antipathy toward people who are not like them.
You have talked about how Barack Obama is trying to be -- or that people are trying to set him out as different. He is different. He's very much more educated than the average American. He's very much more well compensated.
But consider this. He is a man who spent eight years in the Illinois legislature, voted present over 800 times, doesn't have much of a legislative record in the legislature or in the Senate.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Lars...
LARSON: And, on top of that, remember the words he said the night he got victory over Hillary Clinton? He said, we will look back generations from now at this moment as the time when the oceans stopped rising and the earth began to heal. Those are his words about his own victory. That's not arrogance?
BROWN: Let Roland get a word in.
MARTIN: Lars, this is a stupid conversation. That's exactly what it is.
You're sitting here saying, he's a highly educated man. The president of the United States went to Harvard, went to Yale. The Supreme Court, most of them went to Harvard, went to Yale, went to Oxford. That's what we do in this country. We educate -- we nominate, elect, choose educated people.
Are you sitting here saying that somehow, no offense to junior colleges, because my wife's a dean at one, but somehow do you think we're going to elect somebody who went to a community college to be president? No. This is a false attack. This is a joke.
LARSON: Abraham Lincoln was president.
MARTIN: Oh, stop.
LARSON: Abraham Lincoln was not well-educated by modern standards.
MARTIN: You want to fall for this, oh, he's arrogant, he's too cool, he's aloof.
No. I think arrogant could probably describe the last seven years. Arrogant could describe a number of different things that Dick Cheney does. It's not going to stick, Lars. So, get over it.
LARSON: Hey, Roland, tell me this, though. The highly educated George W. Bush, president of the United States, does not go around disparaging people for their belief in God, guns, and supposedly antipathy towards people who are not like them.
MARTIN: Oh, cut the crap, Lars. Cut it.
LARSON: It's not true.
BROWN: Lars, let me ask you.
BROWN: There are some brand-new poll numbers that show these arrogance attacks aren't even working anyway. When asked which candidate cares more about people like you, Obama more than doubles McCain. I mean, Republicans have tried this in the past. And it has worked with John Kerry. But do you think it can actually work with Obama?
LARSON: But, Campbell, you look at it as just a strategy. The fact is that, when you describe the man this way, and then you say to people, like the people who listen to my radio show, do you think this guy connects with you, when he makes $1 million a year, and he's not worried that you're paying five bucks a gallon for gasoline, because, for a millionaire, five bucks a gallon is no problem?
MARTIN: OK, Lars, how many times do you tell your audience that John McCain is married to somebody who is worth more than $100 million?
LARSON: I do talk about that issue.
MARTIN: The only reason Obama makes that amount of money is because he signed a book deal. OK? Let's just be honest.
Not only that. George W. Bush came from a serious patrician family, lots of money.
Cut the crap. You are playing a silly game here, Lars.
LARSON: Hey, by the way, Roland.
MARTIN: And you know it. It's childish.
LARSON: The other thing you should remember about the Obama household is that the minute that Barack Obama got elected senator, his wife somehow got a raise from $100,000 a year to $300,000 a year. Most Americans can't relate...
MARTIN: And John McCain's been flying around on his wife's private plane when he's campaigning. Come on.
BROWN: Guys, hey, forgive me for trying to interject a little -- I don't know -- something.
LARSON: I don't Cindy McCain sold any more beer because of her husband.
MARTIN: This is childish.
BROWN: It is a little bit childish.
Bottom-line it for me. What does any of this have to do with being a good president?
LARSON: I can tell you, but, Campbell, let Roland go first if he wants to go.
BROWN: No. No. His answer is nothing, Lars. What is yours?
MARTIN: It's a fake discussion.
LARSON: All right, I will tell you. I will tell you what it has to do.
The average American right now is struggling with $5 a gallon of gasoline. Obama wants it to stay there. He does not want to drill for oil. That's a problem, when you can't connect with people and understand their problems. He can talk about hope and change all he wants. But what Americans want is drill here and drill now and get some oil.
MARTIN: Hey, Lars, my fellow Texan George W. Bush was stunned when somebody said did you know gas was approaching $4 a barrel -- $4 a gallon? He didn't even know. So, maybe that's arrogant, Lars.
BROWN: All right.
MARTIN: Come on.
You know what, Campbell? Chris Rock said it best. Anybody who thinks they can be president of the United States, they have to be arrogant thinking you can be the person to run the country.
LARSON: Hey, Campbell?
BROWN: Yes, go ahead.
LARSON: I have got to tell you something. I think it's arrogant that Barack Obama had 153 working days in the Senate. That wouldn't be enough to qualify to cut hair in my home state, let alone be president.
BROWN: All right, guys, enough, enough, enough.
MARTIN: Lars, I see your haircut. You probably need him to cut your hair.
BROWN: Lars and Roland, I know you're not going anywhere, but we're going to change subject matter at least.
LARSON: OK. BROWN: Barack Obama isn't just taking punches. He's got his own attack strategy. And coming up next, Obama's new plan to go after the GOP in places Republicans thought were safe.
And, then, a little bit later, a story plot everybody is talking about, the cast, blockbuster movie star Anne Hathaway, a charming Italian jet-setter, Bill Clinton, and his billionaire friend. They're all figures in this summer's newest scandal.
BROWN: Barack Obama is shifting into long-range attack mode. And his targets may surprise you.
Here now, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.
OBAMA: How's it going, Indianapolis?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is backed by a campaign structure that has already competed in 50 states. He's flush with cash and encouraged by upwardly bound poll numbers. So, broadcast will stretch the presidential playing field to Republican strongholds, Indiana, Montana, Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia.
OBAMA: Hello, Virginia.
CROWLEY: They are making a map and checking it twice. Obama's campaign manager told reporters, even if Obama should lose some Democratic states, the campaign sees several ways they can get to electoral victory by winning Republican states.
While his campaign confidently plots strategy and his vice presidential search team pores over resumes, Obama held forth at a news conference.
OBAMA: I want somebody who can be a good president if anything happened to me. And I want somebody to who can be a good adviser and counsel to me and tell me where he or she thinks I'm wrong.
CROWLEY: Thursday, Obama turns his full attention to party unity. Whatever they may feel about each other personally, politically, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have agreed to agree they need each other. He needs to get elected. She needs a future in the party, so, Thursday night, a fund-raiser fest.
She's bringing her top fund-raisers to meet his. But the big picture day is Friday, when Clinton and Obama campaign together in New Hampshire, without, it was noted, Bill Clinton.
OBAMA: It's understandable that the former president wouldn't want to upstage what is going to be, I think, a terrific unity event over the next day-and-a-half. CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton reiterated today, her husband does and will support Barack Obama. Give him a break, said a source close to the former president. He needs to decompress.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
BROWN: Now let's get back to our political panel.
With me again, CNN analyst Roland Martin, radio talk show host Lars Larson. And joining us for a little sanity in the mix -- I'm kidding -- Washington CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.
BROWN: Gloria, let me start with you.
As Candy just told us, Obama is trying to expand the playing field here, go after states that Democrats don't usually win. But isn't John McCain trying to do a similar thing? Isn't he campaigning in somewhat unchartered waters for Republicans?
BORGER: Yes, I think, in a way. And Obama's campaign manager said this at a briefing I was at today, that the Republicans have chosen the one candidate who can actually go to different places and go after those independent voters that Barack Obama's going after.
So, you're going to see John McCain spend an awful lot of time in states like Ohio and Florida, where he thinks he can win. There's going to be a real head to head going on in the state of New Hampshire, because McCain is going after those voters that Obama wants. And he thinks he can win them. He also thinks he can win over Hispanic voters. He's from the state of Arizona. So, it's going to be quite a battle.
BROWN: Lars, this has got to be a bad sign for John McCain. Even some Republicans are jumping on the Obama bandwagon. Now, take a look at this ad. This is just released from a Republican senator in Oregon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SMITH CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: Who says Gordon Smith helped lead the fight for better gas mileage and a cleaner environment? Barack Obama. He joined with Gordon and broke through a 20-year deadlock to pass new laws which increase gas mileage for automobiles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, what does it say, Lars, that a Republican senator is hitching his wagon to the top of the Democratic ticket? LARSON: Well, I got to tell you something. I know Senator Smith. I like him. I consider him a friend. But I will tell you something. It tells you more about Oregon than it does about Barack Obama, that the Republican senator from Oregon has to buddy up to Barack Obama, because Oregon is such a blue state, and the only way to win votes here is to go as far left as any Republican can humanly. It's kind of a sad commentary on Senator Smith, frankly, but...
MARTIN: Oh, Lars.
LARSON: It is.
MARTIN: Oh, Lars.
But you know what? You never complain about those conservative Democrats in Mississippi, North Carolina, who go to the right as well.
Here is what's interesting, Campbell, about this whole deal. This is why it's going to be so fascinating, because you do have candidates who can appeal to each other's territory. President Bush won Iowa by 10,000 votes against John Kerry. He won New Mexico by a very small number.
But you look at Wyoming, look at Montana, look at even North Carolina, and other states like that, you have a different margin. Even Mississippi, Bush won by 214,000 votes. You look at a strong black voter registration, Democrats coming out. It could change the ball game.
That's why I think these two candidates, by being -- by appealing to independents and not, frankly, appealing to the far edges of the parties, what makes it so unique, and why it's unpredictable what's going to happen in November.
BROWN: Gloria, go ahead.
BORGER: And Smith is just making a calculation here that's really smart. He knows that Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in his state in a primary by 20 points. He knows that John Kerry beat George Bush there. He knows that he's one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the Senate. And he wants to win. So...
BROWN: But it's got to make John McCain cringe, though, don't you think, Lars?
LARSON: Well, listen, it makes John McCain cringe because McCain's been very successful at going as far left as he can, leaving a lot of us in his own party out wondering what the heck happened to Republican candidates for president.
It's very disappointing to a lot of us who think John McCain left behind his core values. But I think that Obama's smart to try to get those other votes, because he realizes he's going to lose a lot of Hillary's people. They're going to jump ship and go over to McCain.
MARTIN: No, they're not.
MARTIN: No, they're not.
BROWN: Go ahead, Gloria.
BORGER: I think McCain is absolutely fine with this. He wants to have this. If he becomes president, he wants to have -- and even if he doesn't, he wants to have as many Republicans in the Senate as he possibly can. So, whatever the guy's got to do to win, let him do it.
LARSON: That's right.
BORGER: Roland, Lars, Gloria, everybody is sticking around, much to talk about tonight, including how President Bush made a big splash on the campaign trail today. But it's not certain whether it will actually help or hurt John McCain.
And then later, the actress and her shady ex. Anne Hathaway's former beau goes from the red carpet to the court docket. The feds are charging him with money-laundering in what could be a bold con job involving Bill Clinton, his billionaire friend, even the Vatican -- when we come back.
BROWN: Welcome back, everybody.
Even President Bush took a swipe at Barack Obama today. Listen to what he told a crowd of GOP donors a couple of hours ago in the battleground state of Michigan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The other side talks a lot about hope. And that sums up their Iraq policy pretty well. They want to retreat from Iraq and hope nothing bad happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: With me, again, CNN analyst Roland Martin, radio talk show host Lars Larson, and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger. So, guys, George W. Bush getting in the game now.
Gloria, John McCain has been doing everything he can to separate himself from President Bush.
BROWN: He's got a 23 percent approval rating. Is President Bush helping McCain by speaking out like he did today?
BORGER: Not so much.
I think, you know, he should be using President Bush -- and I'm sure he will -- to raise an awful lot of money. But to get President Bush out there and remind people of how much George W. Bush is like John McCain just plays into the Democrats hands, who say that, if you elect John McCain, it's the third term of George W. Bush.
So, I don't think that McCain really looks at this as a way to attract those independent voters we were talking about, Campbell.
LARSON: Campbell, Campbell, I got to tell you something. I think the voters should be reminded that Iraq is now a success story. It's not being told well by the mainstream media, but it is a success story. We have won there.
And Barack Obama's going to have to modify his position.
MARTIN: We have won what?
LARSON: He's going to -- we -- listen, he's going to have to modify his position, because his original position was, this was the wrong thing to do, although there are some interesting quotes about Saddam Hussein by Barack Obama that tells a slightly different story.
But wouldn't it be interesting if Barack Obama, as a candidate this fall, has to tell voters, well, I was wrong about Iraq; we shouldn't go right in and take all of our troops out before the job is done?
BROWN: And Lars may have a point, Roland. If you look at the polls, voters may seem to agree with Obama in terms of what they want to do on the war itself. But they're supporting over Obama in terms of the polling numbers in terms of who would best handle the situation in Iraq. How do you explain that?
MARTIN: Well, it simply points to his military background. It points to his only issue that he's been focusing on.
Here's a guy who even wants to take the economy and make that a national security issue. That is what he is riding. He does not want to have a pure economic conversation, a domestic conversation, so that's no surprise there. That's why Democrats want this to be a debate in November about domestic issues and not foreign policy issues. And that's what you're trying to see created and shaping up.
BORGER: But it also shows that McCain has succeeded to a certain degree in distancing himself from President Bush on the way the war was managed. He has distanced himself...
BORGER: ... from Bush, from Rumsfeld, from Cheney. And he said he would have done it in a different way and that he was for the surge before Bush was for the surge. So, the public -- that has really sunk in to a certain degree. And they believe that John McCain is competent.
MARTIN: But he needs Bush to be quiet. He needs Bush to be quiet.
BROWN: And, Lars, do -- address that. The original question here was, how do you put a muzzle on the commander in chief if he wants to speak out?
LARSON: You don't. You don't.
And here's what you need to have. I think the American people want two things. They want a happy economy, of course. But they also want to be safe. I think they elect presidents these days in the post-9/11 era who make them feel safe.
I don't think Barack Obama is saying, we shouldn't be in Iraq, we should pull out, but maybe we should go to Darfur, maybe we should go to Pakistan. I don't think this guy is going to make Americans feel safe no matter what party they're from.
MARTIN: No, Lars, I think what he's also saying is it's time for the Iraqis to step up and take control of their own country.
LARSON: And they are.
MARTIN: But, Lars, here's what we also...
MARTIN: Lars, Lars, Lars, Lars, here's what we do know. And that is even they are very afraid of what is going to happen when our troops leave there. We cannot be the basically National Guard for Iraq for the next 100 years.
LARSON: We're not going to be.
MARTIN: We can't. They got to assume control of their own country.
LARSON: Campbell, we're not going to be. This week, as I understand it, two more provinces are going to go over to Iraqi control.
BROWN: All right.
LARSON: It's taken some time to build the police and the military, but it's being done. It's a success story.
MARTIN: And a couple of dollars, too.
BROWN: All right, Gloria, very quickly. Sorry.
BORGER: This is going to be a debate obviously that is going to play out for the rest of the campaign as we watch and see what's happening in Iraq. But it does come down to change vs. risk. And the American voters are going to have to decide which is more important to them and which candidate they believe is the safest for the country.
BROWN: Possibly the driving debate of the general election campaign, I think, those two issues.
Anyway, Lars, Roland, and Gloria, as always, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
MARTIN: ... give you a haircut, Lars.
LARSON: Thanks, Roland.
MARTIN: Yes, no problem.
BROWN: All right.
Coming up, Anne Hathaway's ex-boyfriend charged with bilking investors out of millions. And you're not going to believe which political superstar is mixed up in the story.
And take a look at this. You're not seeing things. This is a spinning skyscraper. Find out who is building it and why -- when we come back.
BROWN: Now tonight's briefing. We're giving you a roundup of the top headlines tonight that everybody's going to be talking about tomorrow.
Ted Rowlands joining me from Los Angeles right now with the latest -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, somebody from Outward Bound is going to have to explain to at least one parent why his teenage daughter was missing in the wilderness for two days before he was notified. Nine teenagers and two adults were found safe today after they went missing in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains three days ago. At least one parent of a teenager said that Outward Bound had not notified him until yesterday.
The Supreme Court has struck down a law in Louisiana allowing the execution of people convicted of raping a young child. In a 5-4 vote, the court said the law violated the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Countrywide Financial, the nation's biggest mortgage lender, found out today it's being sued by the states of California and Illinois. They're accusing Countrywide of tricking borrowers into taking on risky home loans that they couldn't repay.
More evidence that the housing market is still in trouble. The government says sales of new homes fell in May, the sixth decline in seven months. The median price of a new home fell nearly 6 percent from a year ago to $231,000.
You can now call the author of "The Satanic Verses" Sir Salman Rushdie. Queen Elizabeth made him a knight. But she took away knighthood from Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zimbabwe. It's a highly unusual move meant to show Britain's rejection of the human rights abuses of Mugabe's regime.
And finally, it is being called the world's first building in motion. Architects have unveiled plans for an 80-story skyscraper in Dubai to be built by 2010, but this skyscraper will actually move theoretically. Each floor will be able to rotate independently, powered by wind turbines. It is a high concept idea with a very lofty price tag. Apartments will go for between $4 million and $40 million each. I guess the housing problem in Dubai, not as bad as ours.
BROWN: Yes, well, what do you do? Take your Dramamine, I guess, every morning when you wake up.
BROWN: All right. Thanks, Ted. Appreciate it.
Still to come everybody, six degrees of separation. The connection between a Hollywood starlet's ex and a political superstar.
And last week we told you about a congresswoman who is up to her ears in the mortgage mess. Well, tonight, why it looks like she may be off the hook after all. It is politics as usual. We've got the story.
BROWN: Congress has held 40 hearings so far this year on the energy crisis, nine in the past month. So when you hear people talking about how Washington has done nothing about gas prices, well, that's not entirely true. What are they doing? They're holding hearings, of course.
That is politics as usual. It's something you're going to hear us talking a lot about here on the ELECTION CENTER. When we see it, we will call it out.
For example, a California congresswoman we told you about last week, well, she has bought and defaulted on not one, not two, but three homes. You would think that would land her in some hot water with Congress. Not so much. Here's Kara Finnstrom with the details.
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how it's supposed to work.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: Every member of Congress is responsible for living up to the highest ethical standard.
FINNSTROM: But the rest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's message seemed aimed at one colleague, in particular.
PELOSI: Many people in our country are caught in a foreclosure crisis. It wouldn't be -- members of Congress maybe are as well.
FINNSTROM: Well, at least one is. California Democratic Congresswoman Laura Richardson. She's in the middle of an ugly mortgage and financial mess. In fact, just one week ago, both the House minority and majority leader asked whether their colleague should face an Ethics Committee investigation. Melanie Sloan heads the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS: Laura Richardson loaned her campaign committee $77,000 for her run for Congress. She did that. At the same time, she should have been paying her mortgage and her California property taxes.
FINNSTROM: Here's the back story. Earlier this month, CNN and others reported Richardson's dizzying string of mortgage failures. The congresswoman had loaned her campaigns big money during her climb from local to national politics. At the same time, she was buying not a second, but a third house she could not afford.
REP. LAURA RICHARDSON (D), CALIFORNIA: I had a difficult time of being able to properly take care of all of the financial responsibilities that I had.
FINNSTROM: Lenders foreclosed on one of Richardson's houses. She repeatedly defaulted on her other two.
Part of the response we've gotten has been, she must have known she couldn't afford three homes. Why did she buy a third home?
RICHARDSON: I don't have a remark to that question.
FINNSTROM: Eventually, Richardson's lender changed its mind on the foreclosure of one of her homes and that angered the man who bought it at auction. He believes the congresswoman got preferential treatment. As for the ethics investigation, that watchdog group says the appetite to investigate Congresswoman Richardson seems to have disappeared.
SLOAN: Although there have been members of Congress who have complained about Laura Richardson's conduct and have suggested that the Ethics Committee ought to look at it, nobody has actually gone to the trouble of sending a complaint over to the Ethics Committee. Meaning that the Ethics Committee doesn't have to do anything.
FINNSTROM: Sloan's group filed a complaint anyway, charging the congresswoman crossed ethical lines. And that brings us back to Steny Hoyer, the majority leader, who wondered about investigating his Democratic colleague. He now appears to have done a political about- face. Tonight, he's helping her with a fund-raiser for her reelection bid.
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: That does not mean because I think questions have been raised that automatically one should assume that those allegations are true or founded and therefore, Miss Richardson asked me some weeks ago to sponsor a fund-raiser for her. I assume with others. But in any event, I do that for almost every one of our members and I agreed to do that.
SLOAN: On the one hand, he's saying that her conduct may be unethical, and on the other hand he's holding a fund-raiser to help her retire her campaign debt, which means basically that he's helping her retire her debt to herself and helping her pay off her mortgage.
FINNSTROM: So while everyone's questions about Richardson's financial mess may continue --
HOYER: We're in a tough business. People are making attacks, allegations all the time. Again, the Ethics Committee is specifically designed to look at allegations regarding members' conduct. If this rises to that level, then I think the Ethics Committee should and will look into this matter.
FINNSTROM: At least for tonight, in Washington, it's politics as usual.
FINNSTROM: Now, to be clear, Hoyer confirmed he has not recommended an investigation himself. He says that reforms made to the House Ethics Committee mean they can come to that conclusion on their own. Sloan and her watchdog group say the goals of those reforms are great, but in her words, the House Ethics Committee has a terrible track record. And she says she isn't holding her breath -- Campbell.
BROWN: Politics as usual, indeed. Kara, thanks very much. Coming up, how Anne Hathaway's shady ex-boyfriend worked his way into the inner circle of a political superstar.
And then, here's a campaign video you got to see to believe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN VIDEO)
NARRATOR: Big bad John.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: It's the real thing. We have been talking about politics as usual. This is politics unusual. We're going to have the story when we come back.
BROWN: Now to the story of the rising Hollywood star and her shady ex-boyfriend. You have probably heard that Raffaello Follieri, who until recently dated Anne Hathaway, was charged with bilking investors out of millions of dollars and even claimed to be the chief financial officer of the Vatican, a position which, by the way, doesn't exist.
Well, there is a lot more to the story and here's where it really gets interesting for political junkies. Follieri has surprising ties to several members of former President Bill Clinton's inner circle.
David Mattingly is here with all the juicy details -- David.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, looking at the federal complaint, it was clear that Follieri was traveling in powerful circles, hobnobbing with people who had lots of money and influence.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): It's a mix worthy of a best-selling work of fiction. A former president, a billionaire friend, and a leading actress. All connected to an Italian financier who claimed he was tight with the Pope. But federal prosecutors say financier Raffaello Follieri, who rubbed elbows with Bill Clinton and dated summer blockbuster star Anne Hathaway, was living a posh life built on lies and the money of others.
MATTINGLY (on camera): Now targeted for fraud and money laundering, the 29-year-old Follieri is accused of scamming over $1 million from real estate investors claiming he was the chief financial officer for the Vatican. And able to purchase church property under market value.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Instead, he allegedly used investor money to pay for a $37,000 a month Manhattan apartment. There were also expensive gifts, meals, medical bills and trips with his former girlfriend. DAVID CAPLAN, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Follieri also really used Anne Hathaway's celebrity to gain access to a lot of these investors that he wanted to work with. Many times she was at many of the events together. They vacationed together and she was really essentially a magnet for him to meet the likes of Bill Clinton, Oscar de la Renta, and all these other really players in the industry that he wanted to meet.
MATTINGLY: "The Wall Street Journal" reported Follieri used his connections to meet the former president and paid Clinton aide, Doug Band, $400,000 to help meet deep-pocket investors, including Clinton's close friend, billionaire Ron Burkle.
Burkle's investment company reportedly sued and settled with Follieri last year for allegedly pocketing $1.3 million in company money. Burkle's company is not mentioned in the federal complaint against Follieri. Neither is the former president, nor his aides, nor is Anne Hathaway.
FLORA EDWARDS, FOLLIERI ATTORNEY: I think being arrested is a traumatic experience for anyone and I think he is certainly traumatized, as would be natural.
MATTINGLY: Follieri remains in federal custody. The court is seeking a $21 million bond. Follieri's attorney tells CNN he is not guilty. We reached out to representatives of Bill Clinton and Anne Hathaway tonight. And Campbell, we haven't yet received a reply.
BROWN: David, you got to wonder how a guy like this ingratiates himself into the lives of these very famous, very powerful people.
MATTINGLY: Well, if you look back at it, he had a deal that people with deep pockets couldn't refuse and he claimed to have the ear of the Pope. How could he go wrong?
BROWN: Well, you're right about that. All right, David.
David Mattingly for us tonight. David, thanks.
Still to come tonight, you know the way that kids stick their fingers in their ears and they say, la, la, la, la, la, I can't hear you? Well, that is sort of what the White House is doing when it comes to the latest EPA report on greenhouse gases. We're going to have that story when we come back.
BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up. Tonight, Election '08, the youth vote. Larry has a preview.
And Larry, I understand you have some pretty high-profile guests with you tonight. Who's with you?
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You're not kidding, Campbell. How can you make a difference?
Well, Christina Aguilera is here to tell you. She is rocking the vote and she wants others to use their power at the polls, especially the millions of young people who have shown lots of interest in this particular campaign.
And we're also going to be joined by an extraordinary young man. Luke Russert, son of the late Tim Russert. That's all on "LARRY KING LIVE," Campbell, next.
BROWN: We look forward to hearing what he has to say tonight. Larry, thanks.
You would think someone at the White House would want to read a potentially explosive e-mail about gas prices, pollution and global warming. So what happened? We're going to have that next.
And then, take a listen to this.
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NARRATOR: Big bad John.
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BROWN: A U.S. senator, as you have never seen him before. What will the voters think?
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NARRATOR: He gave support to our soldiers and withered out greed (ph).
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BROWN: This is a story about your government at work or not. Last year, the Supreme Court confirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction over greenhouse gases. That's the stuff that comes out of our car's tailpipe. As a result, the EPA was supposed to issue a report if the agency decided not to use its power to regulate those gases. So what happened to that report?
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to thoroughly investigate the question about pollution and greenhouse gases from motor vehicles. Do they threaten the environment and our health? And, if so, what should we do about it?
EPA's answers were yes, they are a threat and, yes, there's a lot we could do. In fact, Congress only recently discovered the EPA's report, which was ready seven months ago, never came out.
Today's "New York Times" says the folks at the White House had a good excuse. Ignorance. White House officials could say they did not know what was in the EPA report because it came to them in an e-mail and they consciously decided not to open it. So what was in it?
Based on what the select committee on energy independence and global warming has learned, only that the EPA was going to declare that greenhouse gases from cars and trucks pose a compelling and robust threat, that the EPA is required by law to take actions, like making cars get 35 or, better yet, 43 miles a gallon by 2018, and that it could save us consumers at least $55 billion. By the way, that's based on gas costing $2 a gallon in 2018.
You're right. Anyhow, last March, the EPA testified no action is needed. Makes you wonder, did the White House lean on anyone?
So when asked about the unopened e-mail story, today a White House spokesperson said there would be no comment because it involves interagency discussions and rulemaking.
He represents cowboy country on Capitol Hill, and that means he has to have the right image. A senator from Texas and his hard-riding campaign video that has everybody talking. That's coming up next.
BROWN: Before we go tonight, we do want to give you a recap of some of the top political stories that we've been following for you tonight. First, just a few notes.
Barack Obama's campaign as we mentioned earlier says the senator plans to deploy considerable resources in 14 states that President Bush won in 2004. Obama hopes to score upset victories in states such as Virginia, Georgia and Indiana.
And with Barack Obama holding a double-digit lead over John McCain in several polls, the GOP is attacking Obama now. Even President Bush chiming in today at a fund raiser in Michigan saying that Democrats are "running on empty on energy policy and acting like teenagers with a new credit card on federal spending."
And now to the story that we mentioned earlier. The senator from Texas who wants to be known as "Big bad John."
John Cornyn is running for reelection and his new campaign video portrays the lawmaker as a very manly man from Cowboy Country. Take a look.
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MUSIC: Big John, big John.
NARRATOR: Big bad John. The Senate wasn't ready said pay your dues. That John said, sit down friend, I've got some big news. You see I'm from Texas where we do things quick and the way this place is run is about to make me sick. Big John.
MUSIC: Big John, big John.
NARRATOR: Big bad John. John opened up government, let us all take a look. Gave support to our soldiers and rooted out crooks. He rose to the top in just one term, kept Texas in power made lesser states squirm. Big John.
MUSIC: Big John, big John.
NARRATOR: Yes, big bad John.
MUSIC: Big John.
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BROWN: So we love it. The story behind this video -- because you got to wonder who sort of convinces the senator that this might be a great idea.
Well, somebody on his staff did. They ran this at the GOP convention down in Texas. Democrats have been making fun of it. Jon Stewart even had a little fun with it. Take a look at this.
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MUSIC: Big John, Senator John.
JON STEWART, HOST, "DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Let me ask you something, senator, how'd you find that jacket in an adult size?
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BROWN: So, is the senator's office disowning this ad or his campaign disowning this ad? Not at all. In fact, they are thrilled that it has gone viral that it is all over YouTube, that it's had so many hits.
They say that this is, you know, the senator had low name recognition and it's gotten him a ton of attention. They couldn't be happier to be known now, to have John Cornyn now known as "Big bad John." Anyway, not all bad publicity.
Just a final note tonight. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader coming under fire for a controversial remark he made about Barack Obama, questioning whether the Democratic candidate "wants to talk white."
Well, now Obama pushing back. He responded to Nader earlier today. Our Mary Snow spoke with Nader about the uproar over his comments.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ralph Nader takes aim at presidential hopeful, Senator Barack Obama. He tells the "Rocky Mountain News" Obama is, in his words, trying to "talk white" and not doing enough to tackle poverty.
RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white?
SNOW: We asked Nader what he meant by "talking white."
NADER: I see him basically being very careful about not challenging the white oligarchic structure, the white dominated corporate structure, and doing almost everything he can to avoid being seen or associated with some of the earlier African-American civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson.
SNOW: We also asked Nader what he meant by saying Obama is trying to appeal to white guilt.
NADER: I think a lot of liberals have wanted an African-American to be the nominee. But a lot of these liberals are not demanding much of Barack Obama and he has reciprocated.
SNOW: Obama says Nader is just trying to get attention for his bid as an independent presidential candidate.
OBAMA: It's a shame because if you look at his legacy in terms of consumer protections, it's an extraordinary one. But at this point, he's somebody who's trying to get attention and his campaign hasn't gotten any traction. And so, what better way to get some traction than to make an inflammatory statement like the one that he made.
BROWN: Mary Snow reporting for us. We ran out of time there tonight. So that has got to be it from the ELECTION CENTER.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starting right now.