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CNN ELECTION CENTER
Politics of Patriotism; McCain's Military Service
Aired June 30, 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: Hey, everybody.
Tonight, we begin with John McCain's military service under attack. Should the record of a celebrated POW be fair game during this campaign? As always, we give you the fact, no bias, no bull on the strong pushback over what some see as the Obama campaign's attempt to swift boat John McCain, and this coming on the day Obama delivers a major speech on patriotism in the carefully staged location of Independence, Missouri.
Plus, after all the hand-wringing, Bill Clinton did finally pick up this phone to take a call from Barack Obama.
And our Candy Crowley has the inside story on their conversation
And then you will remember this chilling 9/11 call, the guy in Texas who saw robbers leaving his house.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: Mr. Horn, do not go outside the house.
JOE HORN, TEXAS RESIDENT: I'm sorry. This ain't right, buddy.
911 OPERATOR: You're going to get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun. I don't care what you think.
HORN: You want to make a bet? I'm going to kill them.
911 OPERATOR: OK? Stay in the house.
HORN: I'm going to kill them.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, he did kill them. He shot them dead. And, today, a Texas grand jury ruled in his case. We're going to have the details and a debate, because it's just one of the -- one more reason, rather, that guns are always part of the political debate.
But first to the story that everybody is talking about tonight, what generally -- what General Wesley Clark said about John McCain's war record. There's no argument that Senator McCain is a Vietnam War hero who was tortured in a POW camp for five-and-a-half years.
So, you would think it would be politics 101. Don't say anything that even sounds like you're minimizing his experience. Just don't go there. Well, General Clark, a Barack Obama adviser, did in a big way yesterday. And now the backlash has begun.
Dana Bash has late-breaking details from Harrisburg, tonight -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, the irony of all of this is that John McCain's own campaign did more to highlight General Wesley Clark's negative comments about their own candidate than anyone else. And you talk to McCain aides, and they say that that is because it fits very well into their political strategy.
BASH (voice over): If John McCain is known for anything, it's his five-and-a-half years as a Vietnam POW. So why is he defending it?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm proud of my record of service.
BASH: Here's why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FACE THE NATION")
WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Retired General Wesley Clark is a Barack Obama supporter, and appeared on television as his surrogate. Camp McCain pounced on Clark's comments to feed their central feed about Obama: He isn't what you think.
JILL HAZELBAKER, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Let's drop this idea that Barack Obama is somehow raising the dialogue and raising the debate in this campaign.
BASH: McCain aides argue Clark's comments are part of a pattern of Obama allowing surrogates to impugn McCain's service, not condemning it, like when Senator Jay Rockefeller slammed McCain for dropping bombs as an American fighter pilot in Vietnam. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues, said Rockefeller.
But McCain aides note the Democratic candidate himself is careful to take the high road.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For those like John McCain, who have endured physical torment in service to our country, no further proof of such sacrifice is necessary. No one should ever devalue that service, especially for the sake of a political campaign.
(APPLAUSE) BASH (on camera): Do you think that Senator Obama is being hypocritical here?
MCCAIN: I don't know. I know that many -- that General Clark is not an isolated instant. But I have no way of knowing how much involvement Senator Obama has in that issue. I know he has mischaracterized some of my statements in the past.
BASH: Now, a spokesman for Senator Obama says of course he rejects what General Wesley Clark said. And the McCain campaign, as you can imagine, Campbell, they shot right back, and they said, we have learned to wait to see what Senator Obama does, rather than just listen to his words -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right, Dana Bash for us tonight -- Dana, thanks.
So, has the Obama campaign crossed the line here, or is the McCain camp blowing the story out of proportion?
Well, we have brought together some of the feistiest people in politics to talk about that, nationally syndicated radio talk show host Ed Schultz, Republican strategist and former Bush administration official Brad Blakeman, and CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Brad, I'm going to want to start with you.
Retired General Wesley Clark, who we have been talking about, has released a statement tonight clarifying his comments from yesterday. And he says -- quote -- "I honor John McCain's service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam veteran. The experience shows courage, commitment to our country, but it doesn't include executive experience, wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions."
So, is this all really an attack on John McCain's Vietnam service?
BRAD BLAKEMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It sure is. And it's not a fair attack. And Barack Obama says one thing and does another, Campbell.
You have a legitimate war hero in and of itself of his experience, but you also have the experience of him as a legislator in the House and the Senate. When Barack Obama was in the rathskeller down at Harvard, McCain was in the Senate working hard for the issues that have helped build this military to one of the strongest powers in history.
And Barack Obama should know better than to send a hatchet man, like General Clark, to attack the credibility and the credentials of a legitimate war hero and somebody with the experience to be commander in chief.
BROWN: Well, Ed, isn't it fair to say, of all things you're going to attack on, why go after something where he so clearly certainly has more experience than Obama and certainly more military experience, of all things?
ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think the statement tonight by General Clark clarifies, once again, we're talking about military executive experience. He hasn't had to make the tough decisions.
BROWN: Yes, but Obama doesn't have that experience either.
SCHULTZ: Well, that's not dissing his military experience in any way, shape or form.
The bottom line is that Wesley Clark, first of all, shouldn't have to clarify what he said. I'm disappointed in the Obama camp distancing themselves from it. This is about experience. This is about judgment. And if John McCain is a war hero, maybe we better ask the question, why isn't he voting like one?
He voted against the G.I. Bill, which Bush signed today. Think about what happened. We have got a freshman senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, getting the president of the United States to sign legislation. And John McCain wasn't on board. Now, is that being a war hero? I don't think so.
BROWN: Ed, I just want to ask you quickly, because the McCain campaign says this is much bigger than this particular incidence -- incident, rather. In fact, they say that you have repeatedly called McCain a warmonger.
SCHULTZ: He is.
BROWN: And they say that comments like yours are part of a larger smear campaign against him that distorts his foreign policy views and his military service more generally.
SCHULTZ: Well, Campbell, let me be very clear. I'm not paid by your network or any other network. And I have no direct connection to the Obama campaign as far as e-mails on a daily basis. I call them like I see them.
John McCain is a warmonger. He has supported this failed policy in Iraq for months on end. And the fact is, when it comes to veterans, since September 11 of 2001, he has never voted yes for veterans' benefits. So, what are we praising here? A man who was in captivity that served 40, 50 years ago or an executive who denies the veterans what they need and what they deserve?
BLAKEMAN: Ed, what John McCain fights for is bills that are stacked with pork-barrel spending, that are shill bills and don't protect our G.I.s like they should. And, in addition, Barack Obama has no interest in going and speaking to General Petraeus, has to be shamed into going to Iraq and Afghanistan, hasn't been there, when John McCain has been there at least nine or 10 times to visit our troops? What does that say about a guy who wants to be the commander in chief?
BROWN: Guys, let me -- Jeff, let me bring you into this, because it is hard to make the case, as we were talking about before, that Barack Obama has more experience in foreign affairs.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: It's not hard to make that case.
BROWN: It's impossible.
TOOBIN: It's impossible to make that case, yes.
BROWN: So, isn't he undermining his own -- and not him, for -- to be fair, but a surrogate in Wesley Clark -- undermining his own position here?
TOOBIN: I don't think so.
I think this is a mountain out of a molehill.
BROWN: Wesley Clark wasn't attacking John McCain's service in the military. He was pointing out the limitations of it as a predictor of what kind of president he's going to be.
And, also, you know what? I think the American people are smarter than the political people on these issues. They know that Americans -- they know he's a war hero. That's not in dispute.
In the last four elections, the candidate with the better war record lost. So, these elections are always about the future. They're not about honoring someone in the past.
BROWN: OK, guys, sit tight. We're going to come back in just a second.
And talk about getting swift boated here. One of the guys who actually helped bring down John Kerry is now on the case for John McCain. We will explain that next.
And then, later, after all the stories of especially bad blood between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the former president finally got on the phone with Obama. We have got insider details on the call.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: John McCain's 22 years in the Navy add up to a distinguished career by anybody's standards. But, as his campaign fights back against what Wesley Clark said today, do they run the risk of overreacting, as we were arguing about just a moment ago?
Well, back with me now, Ed Schultz, Brad Blakeman, and Jeffrey Toobin.
And, Brad, let ask you about this. John McCain has assembled this truth squad now, he says, to fight charges like this. And guess who is on it? Colonel Bud Day, who was one of those so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who smeared John Kerry.
What kind of message does that send?
BLAKEMAN: Well, Bud Day is a hero. I know the guy. I have met him.
And he didn't smear anybody. He told the truth. And sometimes the truth hurts. And negative campaigning is important in a race when you're talking about facts that are truthful.
And the swift boat ads were effective, because they talked the truth of an exaggerating story that John Kerry has been touting for years. And, finally, he had to answer those charges. And people didn't like the fact that he was exposed for what he was, and he exaggerated his service. You certainly can't say the same thing for John McCain.
BROWN: OK, Brad, a lot of people would disagree with you about that -- that much of what the Swift Boat Veterans put out there was actually -- was proven not to be true.
I think regardless of what your political persuasion is, you would have to agree with that, correct?
BLAKEMAN: No, I don't agree with that.
I think that the swift boat message was factual. And I think that that's what really hurt John Kerry, was the fact that you had people coming out who worked with the guy, who served with the guy who said, basically, his story doesn't jibe.
SCHULTZ: Well, Brad, how come President Bush didn't support the swift boaters? Why is it that he disavowed himself from the swift boat ads, the same thing that Barack Obama did today with Wesley Clark's comments? Why is it good for Bush, but not good for Obama?
BLAKEMAN: Because they weren't paid for -- Ed, you're a smart guy. They weren't paid for by the campaign.
As a matter of fact, these 527s and 501(c)4s cannot coordinate with a campaign. So, naturally, the candidate would distance himself from something he had nothing to do with. SCHULTZ: So, it's not the message; it's where it comes from?
BROWN: But, Brad, you know. You worked at the White House. They -- Brad, they went a lot further than that. There were a lot of people in Republican circles who said, this is a mistake; they have gone too far.
BLAKEMAN: Some people did think that the swift boat ads went too far. But, quite frankly, they were effective and they worked, because they were truthful because, and they exposed Kerry for exaggerating his war record.
BROWN: All right.
SCHULTZ: He did not exaggerate his war record at all.
BLAKEMAN: Oh, come on, Ed.
SCHULTZ: He did not do that.
BLAKEMAN: You know he did.
SCHULTZ: He did not exaggerate his war record.
BLAKEMAN: He certainly did.
SCHULTZ: A lot of the stuff that was in the swift boat ads was made up, and you know it.
BLAKEMAN: Bud Day is a Medal of Honor winner. And Bud Day and those guys worked with John Kerry, and they knew what his service was.
BROWN: Jeff, go ahead.
TOOBIN: One of the people who defended John Kerry in the swift boat attacks was John McCain. McCain played a very honorable role, and he played no part in those attacks.
TOOBIN: That's why I think it was surprising to see one of the swift boat people there.
BROWN: So, why, just for pure strategic questions, if nothing else?
TOOBIN: It's an odd choice.
But I think it is clear that we have spent the last couple weeks talking about gas prices, talking about the economy, issues that actually matter to people's lives. Those things aren't going so well. So, I think the McCain camp saw an opportunity to change the conversation into something completely different where they think they might get an advantage. But it's basically just a phony issue that I don't think affects anyone's lives.
BROWN: Do you guys agree?
Brad, do you see this being a major issue in this campaign or a one- or two-day story?
BLAKEMAN: Well, look, if the Obama campaign persists in attacking John McCain's record, I believe that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. It's very helpful to John McCain if he continues to do it, because the American people, as Jeff pointed out, I don't think buy it.
BROWN: Ed, quickly, the last word.
SCHULTZ: Brad, he is not attacking his record. He is pointing out the fact that, in the military, he did not make executive decisions. He was not the decision-maker. This is about experience. This is about judgment.
SCHULTZ: No one is attacking John McCain's war record.
BLAKEMAN: Ed, tell me, please, what is the executive experience of Barack Obama, a state senator from Illinois, who basically ran for the U.S. Senate to run for president?
SCHULTZ: That's not the issue here. The issue is what Wesley Clark said. The issue is what Wesley Clark talked about. And the fact is, the McCain camp is distorting this and blowing it out of proportion big time.
BLAKEMAN: What is the issue, ed?
SCHULTZ: And I think it's going to turn off people.
BROWN: All right.
BLAKEMAN: What is the issue? The guy won't even go visit the troops or sit down with General Petraeus, because he has got better things to do. How is he going to be the commander in chief?
SCHULTZ: There's plenty of time to do all of that. He's going overseas.
BROWN: They just announced they're doing a trip to Iraq, Brad. So, anyway, we're going to end it there for a moment. We are learning of something new and expensive and an embarrassing oops for John and Cindy McCain. A family trust she oversees apparently has just paid four years worth of overdue taxes on an oceanfront condo near San Diego. Well, "Newsweek" uncovered that the tax bills were mailed to a Phoenix address associated with Mrs. McCain's trust, but were returned by the post office.
Shortly after "Newsweek" pointed out the problem, a McCain campaign aide e-mailed the receipt showing, the trust had paid $6,700 in back taxes. Cindy McCain controls a beer distribution fortune worth an estimated $100 millions. But "Newsweek" says the trust still owes $1,700 on the condo for this year, and it's due in full by tomorrow.
Anyway, coming up: the story you're going to be hearing more about, new details on today's long-awaited phone call between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Also, with all the new debate about guns, an important update on a man who stopped a pair of burglars with a shotgun.
Plus, some high-flying stagecraft. John McCain's Straight Talk Express staff now has wings.
This is the ELECTION CENTER.
BROWN: After the bitter primary campaign, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama joined together last week in the much-talked-about unity tour. But everybody was asking about, where's Bill?
well, now Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are, at last, talking. Obama's campaign says they had a -- quote -- "terrific phone conversation" earlier today. The former president's spokesman called it -- quote -- "very good."
Now the two Democrats plan to meet face to face.
And senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is dialed in to the Democratic drama tonight.
BROWN: Candy, lots to talk about, how these guys have found it so hard to connect. So, how did it finally happen?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it finally happened when Barack Obama picked up the phone and Bill Clinton was on the other end is sort of the short answer.
The longer answer is that we know that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had talked about an occasion when Barack Obama and Bill Clinton could talk on the phone. It became sort of obviously a huge story, because, when Hillary Clinton was out there, the question always was, where's Bill Clinton, who was such a big presence that his absence also is duly noted.
So, you know, what I'm told is that, earlier in the week, and late last week -- I'm sorry -- earlier last week, that when a lot of people said, well, has Bill Clinton called and why hasn't he called, that the Obama campaign and the Hillary Clinton campaign were still trying to work out details of unity day, the one they ended up going to Unity, New Hampshire, that that hadn't been set in place yet, and that Bill Clinton wanted to sort of stay away from that field.
So, people around him say, yes, there are things that have upset him, but he understands. He always said he was going to step up to the plate. And today they had proof positive that they could at least talk together and are likely to work together.
BROWN: So, is all forgiven? Where do we go from here?
BROWN: How do you think they are going to put Bill Clinton to use?
CROWLEY: The South. I think Bill Clinton will go campaign for Barack Obama. He says he will. Obama said he wants to use him.
I have talked to people who believe that there will in fact be a joint campaign appearance with Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton. So, in fact, there will be a lot of things that -- that they will do together.
But this will happen, they think, before the convention. Now, this is coming from Clinton sources, who say, listen, it's Barack Obama's campaign, but we really believe that you will see that foursome out there, probably before the convention.
BROWN: All right, Candy Crowley for us tonight -- Candy.
This high-profile phone call took a long time to happen. But will it do enough to smooth everything out on both sides.
And we do want to bring back in Ed Schultz, who is in Fargo, and Brad Blakeman, who is down in Washington tonight.
And I got to task, why do you think this has been so drawn out? The primaries ended weeks ago. Bill Clinton wasn't even a candidate. What's with all the drama?
SCHULTZ: Well, you know, Campbell, I have to tell you, I'm a little drawn out by this.
Bill Clinton's ego is bigger than Asia.
SCHULTZ: Barack Obama has won this fair and square. And it's not what Bill Clinton says on the phone to Barack Obama. It's what Bill Clinton's going to say when he goes to Georgia, where the polling is very close, or he goes to South Carolina, where Obama might have a shot, and also in North Carolina and Virginia.
That's where Bill Clinton has got to go and say the right things and do some convincing, because, you know, he broke a few noses along the way with some Democrats on some of the tough things that he said about Barack Obama. I think Bill Clinton's got work to do.
BROWN: Well, does that give Republicans an opening, Brad? Do you think that Bill Clinton gave them ammunition?
BLAKEMAN: Oh, absolutely, tons of ammunition.
And I think that, if President Clinton helped Obama as much as he helped his wife, bring it on, because he's going to do great work for the Republicans. He can't help himself at this point. He doesn't like Barack Obama. It's not going to come across, because he doesn't have a genuine like or regard for this guy, after what went on in these last 16 months.
BROWN: And, Ed...
SCHULTZ: And that's a fair point. I have to tell you, I think that's a fair point.
I think Bill Clinton has got work to do on this. And we should point out that Barack Obama is breaking away in the polls without the Clintons on the campaign. He's earning this.
BROWN: Well, I was going to say, Ed, in some ways, you could argue Bill Clinton needs him more than Obama needs Clinton. There's a legacy-rebuilding issue here. Do you think Obama could help with that?
SCHULTZ: He might be able to.
But I think you're going to be accountable for your actions. Bill Clinton has got to go out and sell the American people that Barack Obama would be the next best president of the United States. And he's going to have to work awful hard.
And, if he's a team player, OK, we will genuflect it, Bill. You got your phone call and everything else. Now let's get on board and get the White House.
BROWN: All right, guys, Ed and Brad, thanks so much tonight. Appreciate it.
BLAKEMAN: Thank you.
BROWN: And still ahead, everybody, the political upshot over a Texas man, his shotgun, and the burglars that he shot while calling 911.
And, then, put your seat backs in the upright position. The stagecraft of John McCain's campaign plane, that's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: In tonight's "Stagecraft," we turn our attention to John McCain's new campaign plane. The Boeing 737 was shown off today with great fanfare.
Erica Hill shows us, the stagecraft was a lot more than just "plane" politics -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Campbell.
For John McCain, the Straight Talk Express is so much more than just the famous name right there of his campaign bus. It is in fact really the essence of this candidate. And it goes into -- it's really at the heart of the stagecraft which is used to present John McCain as a no-nonsense candidate who is going to give it to you straight.
His impromptu rolling news conferences, which you're seeing some of there here on the screen, they were a staple of his 2000 bid for the White House, when he was campaigning against George W. Bush, also for his primary this year.
And, in fact, some observers have -- observers, that is -- have said these little news conferences really paid off big for him in the form of favorable press coverage.
Since becoming the Republican presidential nominee, though, he has got to cover a lot more ground. So, today, here it is, the new John McCain campaign plane. You can see right on the tail it's his. The Straight Talk Express takes to the skies, made its inaugural flight today from Washington to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And, as you can see, it's painted in his signature colors, blue and gold.
Also, right there on the side of the plane, "Straight Talk Express," and also slogan for his campaign, "Reform, Prosperity, Peace."
John McCain made the joke that it's like a flying billboard -- really not much of a joke, though, because it is a flying billboard for the campaign. Get this, Campbell. Every time they fill this plane up, $20,000, which, of course, costs a lot more than that old bus used to.
BROWN: Yes, I will say. It's all very impressive, but will reporters have the same access to him that they had on the bus?
HILL: Which is really what everybody wants to know, because reporters who have traveled with him again have said that, since he has become the nominee, as I mentioned, already, there's a lot less access for them.
Well, because of FAA regulations, one thing they won't be able to do, you can see right here, this horseshoe-shaped table, this nice little conversation nook, you can't have this in the skies because of FAA regulations.
So, instead, there's going to be another place to have press chats. And that will be right here. You notice there's this campaign banner poster right behind him. They can of course change that out, depending on what the message of the day is -- Campbell.
BROWN: And I have to say, Erica, I do remember from my own travels on those planes that that is a lot of times where campaign news gets made.
HILL: It absolutely does, as you know so well.
And, of course, you also know that the candidates really want to control that news coming out and the message. So they want the message to look and sound good, too. Plenty of technology to help them with that, everything is set up wired for audio, microphones, like even extra space on this plane for TV cameras. Right here, you're looking at the press section, essentially coach, 66 seats, right here is a little bit more the first class area where McCain and his staff will travel.
Talk about a turnaround though, because you may remember last year, John McCain was so cash-strapped just a year ago, he had to get rid of the Straight Talk Express bus for an SUV. Now, he has got the plane. As for how much Straight Talk there will be aboard the Express in the sky, we're going to have to wait and see.
But interesting tidbit here, Campbell. He wasn't actually on the inaugural flight today. It turns out, he spent last night in Harrisburg and then this afternoon jumped right back on the old Straight Talk Express bus where he told reporters he missed the TV on the old JetBlue plane -- Campbell.
BROWN: He can't quite let go of the bus, either. All right. Erica Hill for us tonight. Erica, as always, thanks.
And imagine this, you see two intruders breaking into your neighbor's house. Well, what do you do? One Texas man called 911 but then he shot and killed them after the operator warned him not to. We have the latest facts so you can decide when we come back.
BROWN: Later this hour, Senator Obama on patriotism and why it has become such a hot political issue. But first, Ted Rowlands has tonight's "Briefing" -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, wildfires have property owners on edge in Arizona tonight, north of Phoenix. Flames have burned hundreds of acres and threatened the small town of Crown King, a popular weekend get away. Firefighters evacuated homeowners as a precaution. Investigators say a lost hiker set the fire Saturday night. Another fire east of Phoenix has been burning since last week.
This was the last act of freedom for convicted Alaska state lawmaker, Vic Kohring. Check this video out, before turning himself in today, he stood along a highway, waving at supporters. Kohring will serve up to three-and-a-half years for accepting bribes to support a new pipeline. He calls the sentence, quote, "almost like a vacation." And hang up and drive. Tomorrow, it will be against the law for California teen drivers to talk on cell phones or send text messages while they're behind the wheel. Adult drivers will have to use hands- free devices. A similar law takes effect tomorrow in Washington State. Hand-held cell phone bans are now on the books or in the works for drivers in 22 states. A lot of people in California scrambling to get those little ear pieces before tomorrow.
BROWN: All right. Ted, thanks very much.
Tomorrow night in the ELECTION CENTER, the mother of all campaign scandals. It has a little bit of everything, steamy text messages, a mayor under fire, the other woman, and now the mayor's mother is getting mixed up in it. Could Kwame Kilpatrick's troubles sink his mother's congressional career? We've got that story tomorrow right here on the ELECTION CENTER.
Still ahead tonight, Barack Obama tries to once and for all put to rest all of those whispered questions about his patriotism.
But next, guns and self defense. New developments tonight in a shooting that sparked so much passion that people picketed a Texas man's home. This is a story with a 911 call that is unforgettable. You're going to hear it when we come back.
BROWN: Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, we have been talking a lot about the right to own a gun for self-defense, which makes today's headline out of Texas very timely. A Houston grand jury refused to indict Joe Horn who shot and killed a pair of burglars after they broke into his neighbor's home last November. Now you may remember it was all caught on tape because Horn called 911 before going after the burglars.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOE HORN, SHOT BURGLARS: They've got a bag of loot.
911: OK. How big is the bag?
911: Which way are they going?
HORN: I can't -- I'm going outside. I'll find out.
911: I don't want you going outside, Mr. Horn.
HORN: Well, now here it goes buddy, you hear the shotgun clicking and I'm going.
911: Don't go outside.
HORN: Move, you're dead!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BROWN: Again, Horn killed both burglars and a grand jury today refused to indict him for any crime. Well, here to talk about this, we have got CNN analyst and radio talk show host Roland Martin; Westwood One radio talk show host Lars Larson, who we should mention has a permit to carry a concealed weapon; and CNN senior analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who is a former federal prosecutor and doesn't have a permit to carry a weapon.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: No, no. I'm not packing here today, let's just say that.
BROWN: OK. Roland, I'm going to start with you, because you're from Texas. I don't have to tell you that people there feel very strongly down in Texas about property rights. What did you think of the jury's decision?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think it sets a very terrible precedent because in Texas, it's a different situation when somebody is in your driveway, trying to steal your car or trying to break into your home. Here is somebody who was at a neighbor's home. It's a terrible precedent, Campbell, and I think it's going to cause some serious problems down the road in Harris County.
BROWN: Lars, do you agree with that? Because, I mean...
LARS LARSON, WESTWOOD ONE RADIO: No.
BROWN: Go ahead, go ahead.
LARSON: We need more Americans like Joe Horn. The fact is that if every burglar went out to do his burglaring or two of them every night, thought, I might get shot by a homeowner, we'd have fewer burglaries.
And as far as I'm concerned, Joe Horn is an honest American hero for protecting his neighbor's property.
MARTIN: Hey, Lars. Hey, Lars. Wait a minute, Lars, he was not shooting a homeowner, they were stealing a neighbor's -- the police -- the 911 that said don't go outside, this is a serious problem because when you start having vigilantes, it's a slippery slope here.
LARSON: Fortunately, Americans are smart enough not to just to take direction from the government, they can use their own common sense. He was helping to protect a neighbor's property.
BROWN: But, Lars... MARTIN: And they were stealing what?
BROWN: Lars, I think a lot of people...
MARTIN: Two people are dead.
BROWN: OK. Just clarify this for me, because, I mean, if someone were breaking into my home, I'm trying to protect my child, I don't know what I might do. But if this was a neighbor's...
LARSON: You should shoot the bad guy.
BROWN: This was a neighbor's house. I mean, he wasn't threatened in any way.
BROWN: Go ahead.
TOOBIN: Campbell, we don't have the death penalty for burglary in the United States. This was such an extreme reaction. Plus...
TOOBIN: I am a city boy, but I know enough that a shotgun is something that spreads danger widely. We're talking about Harris County, we're talking about Houston, we're talking about an urban or at least suburb neighborhood.
LARSON: Jeffrey, you've probably never shot a shotgun.
TOOBIN: What -- you know what, you've got me there. You've got me there.
LARSON: Right. And I have. The fact is a shotgun is a great weapon for that.
TOOBIN: So but it's a great weapon for shooting someone in a suburban neighborhood? I mean, come on, Lars.
LARSON: Here's the logic. If you don't protect your stuff, people will come and steal it, if you are prepared to protect it, people are less likely to do the crime.
MARTIN: Lars, news flash, this was not Joe Horn's stuff, it was a neighbor.
LARSON: Doesn't matter. We should be looking out for our neighbors.
MARTIN: You're talking about deadly force.
TOOBIN: The most disturbing part about this story is that the grand jury, which are ordinary citizens, reacted and said, look, this is not a crime. I think it is indicative of an attitude, and not just in Texas, that people have this extremely powerful connection to their homes and believe that deadly force can be used to protect it, even though, as Roland points out, it's the neighbor's home.
But I think this is a deeply American case that I think tells us a lot about people's values.
BROWN: Lars, hold on, I want you to listen. I want to play just another snippet from the 911 operator and get you to comment on it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HORN: I'm doing it.
911: Mr. Horn, do not go outside the house.
HORN: I'm sorry. This ain't right, buddy.
911: You're going to get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun.
HORN: You want to make a bet? I'm going to kill them.
911: Stay in the house.
HORN: There's still -- getting away!
911: That's all right, property is not worth killing someone over, OK?
911: Don't go out of the house. Don't be shooting nobody. I know you're (expletive deleted) and you're frustrated, but don't do it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BROWN: Well, here is my -- here is the thing...
TOOBIN: That 911 guy, he is a hero, what a great guy.
MARTIN: He is a hero.
BROWN: He was trying to talk some sense into him, it's not like he was there acting alone, there was an argument, a debate about this between the operator and the man.
LARSON: But, Campbell, here's the problem, you don't have to take your directions from the government. The U.S. government is not your nanny and the U.S. government is not ordering you what you can and cannot do.
TOOBIN: Actually, Lars, they are telling you what you can and cannot do, because you know what, we have something in the United States called laws. And that's what the government is telling you what you can and can't do.
LARSON: And Mr. Horn broke no laws, right, Mr. Toobin?
TOOBIN: Well, according to the grand jury, that's right.
LARSON: That's right.
BROWN: OK. Very, very quickly...
BROWN: Hold on, I just want Jeff's legal options left here, are we going to see anything?
TOOBIN: Joe Horn is done. He is scot-free. The two people he killed were illegal immigrants, they have no estate.
TOOBIN: They have no way of suing civilly, so Joe horn is just a celebrity who will live on in all our memories now.
BROWN: All right. We have got to end it there, guys. Roland, Lars, and Jeff.
LARSON: Thanks, Campbell.
BROWN: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Barack Obama was waving the flag today, metaphorically at least, in his talk of patriotism. Is it winning voters over? We've got that story coming up. This is the ELECTION CENTER.
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Good evening. I'm Larry King in Los Angeles. You might be staying home this holiday weekend because gas costs too much. And you might be making more serious choices all because you can't afford to fill up. What's going on? We'll have some tough questions for the chairman and CEO of Chevron. And we'll talk about how oil could be the issue that decides this election.
We'll also look at some money-saving alternatives. That's "LARRY KING LIVE." Campbell Brown returns after this quick break.
BROWN: We want to clarify something that we reported earlier in the program. As we told you, John McCain has formed a so-called "truth squad" to defend against attacks on his military record. We noted that one of the people he has enlisted is Colonel Bud Day, who was a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that slammed John Kerry in 2004.
Well, we should add that Colonel Day was also John McCain's commanding officer when they were both prisoners of war in Vietnam. And the McCain campaign says that's why they enlisted him for the truth squad.
Now, Barack Obama wants us to know he loves his country. After months of talk about his on again-off again flag lapel pins, and whispered questions about his patriotism, Obama went to Independence, Missouri, today to take on that issue in a major speech. And our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, was listening very closely -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Campbell. You know, Barack Obama has tried to address questions about his patriotism all along the campaign trail, in town hall meetings, because it has come up. But now he is the nominee in waiting, and he has to talk to a much broader audience.
CROWLEY (voice-over): Independence, Missouri, during Fourth of July week is a pretty standard pick for politicians to show their patriotism. Barack Obama went to defend his.
OBAMA: ... as I found for the first time my patriotism challenged, at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears and doubts about who I am and what I stand for.
CROWLEY: Part of it is his unusual name, an upbringing with little resemblance to "Ozzie and Harriet" and a vicious anti-Obama whisper campaign on the Internet and elsewhere. But a September picture showing Obama listening to "The Star-Spangled Banner" without his hand over his heart, a carelessly worded answer when asked why he wasn't wearing a flag pin...
OBAMA: I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest.
CROWLEY: ... and inflammatory criticism of the country by his former minister fueled the fire of repeatedly debunked e-mail claims that he refused to pledge allegiance to the flag, that he was un- American.
It seeped into the grassroots. In April, a young woman asked how she could convince her father-in-law to vote for Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has influenced by some of the spin about saluting the flag, that pin, you know, and all the things that I've heard. And I just wondered what you would say to him if he was here to show him where your heart is?
CROWLEY: And now, he has a bigger stage to show where his heart is, where he came from.
OBAMA: I remember listening to my grandmother telling stories about her work on a bomber assembly line during World War II. I remember my grandmother handing me his dog tags from his time Patton's army, and understanding that his defense of this country marked one of his greatest sources of pride. That's my idea of America.
CROWLEY: He has a biography ad about his American roots and values airing in 18 states, and he has a video on his Web site to rebut the still circulating e-mails, and he is pushing back.
OBAMA: I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CROWLEY: But in politics, pictures are permanent and symbols seem like substance. In April, when a veteran gave him a flag pin, Barack Obama put it on. He wore one today.
CROWLEY: This is not the end of "values week" for Barack Obama. He also intends to talk about community service so he can talk about his Chicago roots, when he did organize workers who were getting out of jobs. And he also is going to talk about faith and politics -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right. Candy Crowley again for us tonight. Candy, thanks.
So was this speech enough to finally answer all of those doubters? Let's go back to CNN political analysts, Roland Martin and Westwood One talk show radio host, Lars Larson.
So, Lars, I know your feelings on this, but you heard the speech today. Are you now convinced that Obama is patriotic?
LARSON: He created his own problems and they're still there. The fact that he's now trying to fake sincerity about his patriotism and the fact that he has now put the flag lapel pin back on that he so ceremoniously took off and said, this is why I'm not wearing it, no, that doesn't convince me. I think he is just trying to fake it.
And by the way, nice that he pulled grandma back out from under the bus where he threw her in the previous speech because now he finds her convenient to use to convince people of his patriotism today.
BROWN: But, Lars, come on, I mean, what is it going to take to convince you? I mean, how do explain that someone would spend almost their entire adult working for government if they weren't patriotic? I mean, could certainly go out and make a ton of money doing something else.
LARSON: He was working for government because apparently power attracts him more than money does. He has also got the money, don't forget, he has got a multi-million dollar income from his books and all. I'm not faulting him for that. I'm just saying that working for government doesn't necessarily...
MARTIN: Hey, Lars, real quick, I haven't heard you complain about John McCain's 20-plus years as a politician. Here's the reality...
LARSON: Oh, I do.
MARTIN: ... you are what we call -- no, no, no, no, hold on, hold up, Lars. You are what we call a rhetorical thug when it comes to this whole issue of patriotism. Who are you to question somebody's patriotism? Are you walking around with a flag underwear, a flag undershirt, a flag hat?
MARTIN: Are you walking around...
LARSON: Not at all.
MARTIN: So how dare you question somebody who is running for president?
LARSON: Because the man said, I'm taking the flag off for a reason.
MARTIN: Oh, it's silly.
LARSON: He gave a reason. He created his own problem.
MARTIN: You're like a bully on the playground who is saying, OK, tag, you're it, you're not a patriot, you're not American, you're not allowed to play.
LARSON: Once again, Roland, I'm just taking him at his word. MARTIN: Oh, stop it.
BROWN: Roland, let me ask you, you know, Obama himself conceded today that some of these attacks on his patriotism were because of his own carelessness, you know, possibly a reference there to not wearing the flag pin. Do you think that he misread the country's mood on these kinds of gestures?
MARTIN: No. I think probably what he said is, let's see, I'm a U.S. senator who is running for president and you have got guys like Lars who are saying, oh, he's not a patriot, oh, watch out, he doesn't love America. It's idiotic. That's what it is. It means nothing...
LARSON: Why is it, Campbell, that if I evaluate him based on his own words and the things he says and does, all of a sudden, I'm a thug?
BROWN: Well, Lars, OK, let me ask you this.
MARTIN: Because (ph) you are!
BROWN: Oh, come on, Roland, no, he's not a thug.
Lars, Obama says it himself...
MARTIN: I said a rhetorical thug.
LARSON: Well, now he says he's a patriot because he has put the flag back on. And every time you see him, he's standing in front of a bank of flags because he figured out that throwing the flag under the bus didn't work.
MARTIN: Well, because of guys like you, Lars...
BROWN: But is there something else...
MARTIN: ... don't listen.
BROWN: Hold on, Martin.
LARSON: I didn't put a gun to his head and tell him to take the flag off.
BROWN: Is there maybe something else at play here? I mean, he has said himself that he is a black guy named Barack. That he is different. Is patriotism maybe not the issue here?
LARSON: I don't care what color he is.
BROWN: Do you think it be masking something like racism?
LARSON: No. I don't think it's color at all. Everybody evaluates him based on what he says and what he does. And the first thing the liberals say is, it must be because of his color. Baloney.
BROWN: Roland, you've got 15 seconds.
MARTIN: No, he never said that. Campbell, this is all ideology, I don't care who you are, if you're a Democrat, guys like Lars will always say, you're not a patriot, you don't love America. That's what it boils down to, ideology, pure and simple.
BROWN: OK. Hold on, hold that thought. I do want you guys, when you come back, to talk about something else, something Michelle Obama just said and the question of whether it will stop all of the questions about her patriotism, that's when we come back.
BROWN: In a front page story in this morning's USA Today, Michelle Obama calls it just downright mean to portray her as negative and unpatriotic. She was trying hard to put down the furor over this statement from February.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well but because I think people are hungry for change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Bring back Roland Martin and Lars Larson.
And, Roland, those comments from Michelle Obama, they were back in February but she's still asked about them in almost every interview. You know, how much is she the issue here?
LARSON: She's the whole issue.
MARTIN: Well, again it goes back to -- I'm sorry, Lars, she said -- Campbell, she said Roland.
Campbell, it goes back to these rhetorical thugs, OK, who want to beat up people. How about this here, John McCain said: "I really didn't love America until I was deprived of her company." So what, John McCain hated America before that? It's the same thing. But Lars would likely say, that was the context, right, Lars?
LARSON: No, here's the thing, John McCain laid his life down for his country and very nearly lost it.
MARTIN: Ah, gotcha.
LARSON: And Michelle Obama has benefited tremendously from this country. But the first time she's proud of it is when her husband is running for president.
LARSON: It doesn't fly.
MARTIN: No, she didn't (INAUDIBLE) -- wait a minute, Lars, Lars, John McCain hated America...
LARSON: There's a reason that resonated with people.
MARTIN: Lars, John McCain hated America before he was deprived of his country, right?
LARSON: He didn't hate America.
MARTIN: He didn't really...
BROWN: All right.
MARTIN: But he said he really didn't love it before.
BROWN: Lars, what would have her do here? Is there really anything at this point that would convince you that either Michelle Obama or Barack Obama is a patriot?
LARSON: She has a tremendously negative view of this country based not just on that statement but many other statements she has made.
MARTIN: Oh, that's silly.
LARSON: She is going to have to do a lot of correcting.
MARTIN: You have no facts.
LARSON: She said America is just downright mean, quoted in The New Yorker...
MARTIN: You have no facts to back that up, Lars. Stop it.
LARSON: ... magazine in four speeches.
MARTIN: She was talking about guys like you!
LARSON: No, she was talking about America.
MARTIN: Who love to beat up on people!
BROWN: All right. Guys, we've got to end it there. A conversation we will have many more times in the future, Roland and Lars. That's it for us from the ELECTION CENTER. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.