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Republican Convention Wrap-Up

Aired September 4, 2008 - 23:59   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Tonight...

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Fight with me. Fight with me.

KING: The maverick says the status quo has got to go. GOP nominee John McCain is loud and clear putting Democrats and Republicans on notice.

MCCAIN: The old, big spending, do nothing, me-first, country second crowd, change is coming.

KING: He wowed the convention crowd. But did he make the grade with the Democrats?

Find out right now on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: As we have done all week, the loyal opposition. Last week it was Republicans commenting on the Democratic convention. This week we have had Democrats all week long commenting on the Republicans.

By the way, back at our regular time tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, and Michael Moore will be our special guest.

This was John McCain's night at the Xcel Center in Minneapolis. The rousing conclusion of his nomination acceptance speech is tonight's "King's Convention Clip."


MCCAIN: Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country.


MCCAIN: Fight for the ideals and character and the free people. Fight for our children's future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all. Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other, a beautiful, (INAUDIBLE), bountiful America.

Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight!

Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans! We never give up! We never quit! We never hide from history, we make history.


MCCAIN: Thank you and God bless you and God bless America!


KING: He's been with us all week from Minneapolis. He's Robert Gibbs, Obama campaign senior adviser.

How do you rate the McCain speech?

ROBERT GIBBS, SENIOR ADVISER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Well, look, obviously, he started out with his compelling biography.

But, you know, Larry, I think a lot of people like me watched this speech, a lot of people sitting in houses and homes in Youngstown, Ohio and Scranton, Pennsylvania, wondering whether John McCain was going to outline for them a plan to get this economy moving again, to make health care more affordable, to break the grip of special interests and break our dependence on foreign oil.

And I think, like me, a lot of those people are sitting around wondering why they didn't hear any of that tonight.

You've heard commentator after commentator say this was a speech, honestly, that George Bush could have given. Just about any Republican could have given. It's hard to differentiate yourself from George Bush when you have an identical economic plan to what's been going on the last eight years under him.

I thought the speech was very underwhelming and lacked any specifics about what we're going to do in this country to get it moving in the right direction.

KING: But he did say, did he not, that he would take on Democrats and Republicans, where necessary.

GIBBS: Look -- you know, he said that and it's obviously a good line. But I'm not sure what he did to underscore how exactly he was going to do that. He talked about reaching out. How is he going to do that? What he's going to do to put this economy back on track?

You know tomorrow, Larry, we're going to get a jobs report. And I think most people believe we're going to get the eighth straight month of job loss in this country. And listening to this speech tonight, I'm not sure that anybody would take away from it that John McCain is going to do anything differently than what George Bush has done for the last eight years.

KING: Here's another clip. He drew some distinctions between himself and Obama. One of which dealt with keeping America secure.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: We face many dangerous threats in this dangerous world. But I'm not afraid of them. I'm prepared for them.


MCCAIN: I know how the military works, what it can do, what it can do better, and what it shouldn't do.

I know how the world works. I know the good and evil in it. I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't.



KING: All polls, Robert, say that that is his strength compared to Obama. Do you agree?

GIBBS: Look, I'll put Barack Obama's judgment up against John McCain's three decades in Washington any day of the week.

Barack Obama didn't think it was a good idea to go into Iraq and said we ought to focus on what he believes is the central war on terror in Afghanistan. It's where Osama bin Laden hides in a cave on the border with Pakistan this very day.

We've got to go after the people that attacked us, and not be distracted by other things that we shouldn't be worried about right now. I think we should be focused on Afghanistan and the central front of the war on terror.

I think Barack Obama has demonstrated throughout this campaign the judgment to lead this country to a stronger place.

KING: Also tonight, McCain worked to varnish his credentials as a maverick who can cross party lines and get things done.

Here's a sample.


MCCAIN: The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't the cause, it's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not for you.


MCCAIN: Again and again -- again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again.

My friends...

(APPLAUSE) MCCAIN: I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.


KING: Do you think that was effective, Robert?

GIBBS: No, because Barack Obama has a record of working across the -- working across the aisle to get things done that matter to people. Whether it's moving people from welfare to work, making their health care more affordable, doing what we need to do to break our dependence on foreign oil.

Time after time, Barack Obama has worked across party lines to get things done.

You know, Larry, I don't think it's working across party lines when you agree with George Bush 90 percent of the time. I thought one of the lines that was effective that John McCain used, I don't think that -- I don't think he actually wants to use it to describe himself.

He said that he and many in this party had gone to change Washington but Washington changed had them. I think many voters agree that Washington has changed John McCain. He voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.

That's not the change we need in Washington right now.

KING: Thanks, Robert. Thanks for being with us. And we'll be seeing you...

GIBBS: Thank you, Larry.

KING: ... on the campaign trail.

GIBBS: Thank you.

KING: Robert Gibbs, Obama campaign senior adviser.

Did John McCain win over any Democrats? We'll ask a few top Democrats right after this.

ANNOUNCER: Coverage of the Republican National Convention is sponsored by...


KING: We continue with more of the loyal opposition.

In Washington, Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom, the Democratic mayor of that city, and in Washington, Terry McAuliffe, who is chairman of the Hillary Clinton for President committee, a former chairman of the DNC.

All three, of course, support Barack Obama.

Senator Bayh, what did you make of the McCain speech?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Larry, I thought he gave a good speech. He's a good man and he has a compelling biography. But I think most Americans will know a couple of things.

We really do need a change in this country and Barack Obama really represents the change we need. As Robert Gibbs was just pointing out, Senator McCain has voted with President Bush 90 percent of the time.

I think it's almost a direct quote when he said that he agreed with President Bush on virtually every major issue. And he described the economy as having made great progress under President Bush.

And I think most people will say, good man, but really not the change we need and then they look at the specifics of Barack's program -- college more affordable, insurance premiums down $2400 for the average middle class family, 3 million new green-collar jobs, particularly in the auto industry, out in my part of the country -- I mean, real specifics, addressing kitchen table issues.

And I think most Americans will say between two good people, Barack Obama offers the real substantive change we need.

KING: Mayor Newsom, one of the strongest lines McCain drew between himself and Obama tonight was on the subject of Iraq.

You watch this clip and we'll ask you to respond. Watch.


MCCAIN: I fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq when it wasn't the popular thing to do.


MCCAIN: And when the pundits said -- and when the pundits said, my campaign was finished I said I'd rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.


KING: Mayor Newsom, despite the success of the surge, most Americans still are against the war.


KING: But wasn't that an effective piece of scripture there?

NEWSOM: Yes, it's fine.

KING: If you can call it that.

NEWSOM: Yes. Well, well stated scriptures of sorts. But look, the bottom line is, Barack Obama had the prescience, Barack Obama had the courage, Barack Obama had the judgment to go against the president of the United States, to not try get us in this war in the first place.

So I think that's more of an interesting point and a compelling point -- certainly from my perspective -- than what John McCain did to get us in this mess in the first place and how he now is trying to fix the mess that he created.

So I found that, frankly, a bit disconcerting. Those of us that opposed the war find it disconcerting and those of us that recognize that Barack Obama was the only candidate, the only person that had the courage at the time to stand up on principle not to get us in the war in the first place.

I think he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that.

KING: Everyone seems to agree, Terry McAuliffe, that the speech making is not Senator McCain's strong suit.

But how do you think he did tonight?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Well, I think for the first 80 percent, he had a tough time. He was not drawing all the points together. He was not coming up with solutions. In fact, he used a lot of his speech to distort Senator Obama's record.

He said that Senator Obama is going to raise taxes. That's just pithily false.

He's going to reduce taxes for 95 percent of Americans. For seniors that who make under $50,000, they're going to pay no taxes. For married couples, $250,000 less, your taxes are going down. For single filers under $200,000, your taxes are going down.

Under Senator McCain, 25 percent of his tax cut goes to those that make over $2.8 million. So the speech -- you know, it had a lot of rhetoric in it. He didn't pull it together.

I think the end was very powerful. Obviously, distinguished record, his service to our country. I thought the ending was very powerful. But, you know, this is a tough convention for the Republicans.

When you think about where we are today, Larry, you have an incumbent president of the United States of America, probably the most up popular president in our nation's history. He doesn't show up at the convention. The vice president -- incumbent vice president doesn't show up at the convention.

You and I have been doing this a long time. You would have never seen the two incumbents in office not show up at their own convention. No tributes, absolutely nothing. It is extraordinary. It has never happened before.

So as much as John McCain says, you know, I want to bring about change -- he's been in Washington for 25 years, he voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time -- he is not the change agent.

That is Senator Barack Obama.

KING: All right.

MCAULIFFE: So he had a very tough time tonight.

KING: Senator, what, if anything, does Governor Palin add to the ticket?

BAYH: Well, she seems like a nice person, Larry, obviously, with modest experience. She's got a wonderful family. But I really don't think this election is going to be about Sarah Palin and I don't think it's going to be about my friend and colleague Joe Biden.

I think it's about the two principals and, most of all, about those middle class American families out in the heartland like where I'm from who are gathering around the living room saying, what are we going to do about health insurance premiums? What are we going to do about job security? What are we going to do about the cost of college affordability?

Those kinds of things -- and Barack Obama just offers a more compelling agenda to address those issues in real terms that will help people in real ways.

John McCain, you know, speaks in generalities about them but when you drill down represents four more years of what we've had. And I think most people know that we need to do better than that.

KING: And we'll be right back with more of Senator Bayh, Mayor Newsom and Terry McAuliffe.

McCain was tough on his own party tonight. Could that hurt him? Find out next.



MCCAIN: Tonight, I have a privilege given few Americans -- the privilege of accepting our party's nomination for president of the United States.


KING: We're back.

Senator McCain touted his vice-presidential pick tonight in the speech.



MCCAIN: I'm very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country, but I can't wait until I introduce her to Washington.


MCCAIN: Let me just offer an advanced warning to the old big spending, do-nothing, me-first, country-second crowd, change is coming.


KING: Mayor Newsom, both parties are using the word change. What do you make of it?

NEWSOM: Yes. Well, clearly, the Republicans have figured this out. It's a change election and I think wisely so.

The irony, again, is the words just don't match the reality. I mean John McCain is sitting there supporting a war that's costing us $10 to $12 billion a month. That's more than the entire annual budget of the state of Alaska.

He has been part of the problems that we are now experiencing, as Terry said, for over a quarter of a century. So, again, all this rhetoric, all of this desire to try to separate himself -- almost as if we were watching a confessional against the Republican Party tonight is just rhetoric.

And so I look forward to moving away from all these speeches, moving away from this convention, and now having a real focus and attention on solutions and real ideas and compare and contrast real time-tested solutions to the real problems that we face across this country over the course of the next 60 days.

That's not a long time, but in the next 60 days I want to know where Sarah Palin is on some fundamental issues.

KING: Terry...

NEWSOM: Not just what she gives in terms of speeches but where she is on these issues and I look forward to having that debate in the next 60 days.

KING: Terry, the senator had dealt with energy as well tonight.

Watch, we'll have you comment.


MCCAIN: Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and nuclear power. But Americans know better than that.


MCCAIN: We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and restore the health of our planet.

My friends...


MCCAIN: ... it's an ambitious plan but Americans are ambitious by nature and we've faced greater challenges. It's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead.


KING: All right, Terry, how do you respond?

MCAULIFFE: Well, it's like John McCain never served in the United States Senate. It's like he just all of a sudden appeared. He's been in the Senate now, as I say, for over 25 years. He hasn't done anything to promote energy independence in this country.

The Democrats have consistently tried to push an agenda in the Congress and the Republicans have stopped them every single time.

George Bush has done nothing in his eight years as president. The only thing they can look to is that they've given gigantic tax breaks to the oil companies.

ExxonMobil just had the largest corporate profits of any corporation in our nation's history. And yet millions and millions and billions of dollars of tax breaks go to ExxonMobil. Not to go out there and do energy independence but to help them make more money.

We need, as Barack Obama has laid out in a (INAUDIBLE) project, which we need to focus on to move us away from our dependence on foreign oil, come up with alternative sources, and that is a major part of something that Barack Obama has talked about all along.

And we need to move about it and I think the American public understands this. It's more of the same with John McCain. It's the same thing we've had for eight years. People want a change. Barack will give you that change.

KING: By the way, Terry, has Senator Clinton told you what she thought of Governor Palin?

MCAULIFFE: Well, you know, I think John McCain picked Governor Palin, one, to try to appease the right wing to get to...

KING: No, but has Senator Clinton discussed her with you?

MCAULIFFE: Sure. And listen, she will be very clear. She does not agree with one position that Governor Palin has. I think Senator McCain thought because she was a woman that we could get all these supporters who went out for Hillary Clinton to come over and join the McCain/Palin ticket.

That's not going to happen. It comes down to the policies which Hillary Clinton fought for. What the Democratic Party is all about. KING: Is she going out on the stump?

MCAULIFFE: She is. In fact, I spoke to her today and her entire fall schedule is now filled up. You bet she is.

KING: All right.

MCAULIFFE: Because these issues matter to her.

KING: Senator Bayh, I know that Barack Obama got a bump out of the convention. I think he was last six or seven points ahead.

What do you think is going to happen now? What kind of bump, if any, will McCain get?

BAYH: He may get a slight bump, Larry. Obviously, they were rallying their base. But if you have to go into your convention trying to rally your base, you know you've got a problem.

This is going to be a close election, a close hard-fought election. But that 6 to 8 percent in the middle -- independents, moderates in either party -- that are going to decide the outcome, they're going to look at two good people -- let's say four good people -- and one represents, really, a continuation of what we've had.

The other represents a real prospect for something better, addressing middle class families' kitchen table issues, and that's why Barack Obama and Joe Biden...

KING: Senator...

BAYH: ... are going to win.

Could I just say one thing, Larry, about what Terry was saying?

We got to remember, the governor of Gavin's state -- Arnold Schwarzenegger, known as a straight shooter -- has indicated that we can't drill our way to energy independence. And Boone Pickens, an oil man, has said the same thing.

So John is just not doing the public a service by saying let's just drill, drill, drill, we're going to get there, and he's, in fact, voted against or not shown up to vote on things that would help promote alternate energy sources that really will get us energy independent.

KING: Senator, with all this -- go ahead, Mayor.

NEWSOM: What the senator has said is such a fundamental thing. I mean it's just extraordinary to hear the rhetoric and compare and contrast it with the realities.

Senator McCain is opposing extending tax credits for wind and solar. So to stand up there today and talk about energy independence and talks about a comprehensive strategy, when he's sitting there fighting against extending these tax credits, is remarkable. And that's what the American people need to hear -- the facts, not these new assertions, not the new John McCain trying to be the old John McCain. When, in fact, this guy has been, again -- not just a talking point, Larry, it's fundamental -- with the president of the United States 90 percent of the time.

There is not much of a difference. There's a reason why there's Mc-Bush signs all over California. And I think that's his great struggle is defining himself somehow as a different type of candidate and it won't happen just because of a nice speech tonight.

I think it's going to be a challenge for him.

KING: While we have you, Mayor Newsom, are you thinking about running for governor?

NEWSOM: If we can get our act together with the budget that's 2 1/2 months behind and get back on the right footing, I'm happy to consider it.

But right now we're focused on this election and, Larry, that's not, again, just another talking point. Nothing can happen to the degree that it needs to happen in this country unless we have a partner in the White House. And that's what's at stake.

A lot of cities and a lot of states have been succeeded despite Washington, D.C., despite the current administration. We can't afford four more years.

KING: Thank you, guys. Senator -- Senator Evan Bayh -- by the way, how's your dad?

BAYH: He's doing great, Larry. 80 years young.

KING: Great man.

BAYH: Thank you.

KING: Mayor Gavin Newsom and Terry McAuliffe, thank you all very much.

He's been there, done that. Former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis is next.


KING: Will you vote for John McCain? Head to and tell us right now. Still time to vote.

We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, this special edition, from Boston, Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, former governor of that state, a supporter of Barack Obama.

You've met that kind of challenge. You had to stand up in that kind of forum. What did you make of the senator's speech tonight? MICHAEL DUKAKIS, 1988 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'll tell you, Larry, I've been kind of disappointed with John McCain from the beginning of this campaign. This is not the John McCain of 10 or 12 or 15 years ago.

And I don't know whether he's getting old or it's his last shot or what. But the first thing he did is hire a Karl Rove protege to run his campaign. They've been running attack ads on Obama ever since.

You know it's nice to hear this talk about bipartisanship but when you put Giuliani and Lieberman out there and they're out there to trash your opponent, it all sounds a little hollow to me.

So I've been kind of disappointed, frankly. And as my colleagues have said on this program, what we heard tonight was a very compelling personal story, which is extraordinary, and I think we all respect and admire Senator McCain for that.

But, I mean, the policies are the same things we've had for the past eight years that have run us into the ditch. So why would you vote for a guy that's, basically, going to give us Bush for another four years? Which is essentially what he's talking about, really.

I mean when you scrape all of the frosting away, what you really got is another four years of what we've had for the past eight. And I can't believe that the American people will vote for that.

KING: There was a scattering of protesters inside the convention hall. McCain dismissed their efforts. I want you to watch this clip.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Please don't be diverted by the ground noise and the static. I'm going to talk about it some more. But Americans want us to stop yelling at each other, OK?


KING: Governor, don't you think that Senator McCain wants a clean campaign?

DUKAKIS: Well, you heard Rudy Giuliani and Lieberman didn't you, Larry?

KING: Yeah, but they're not him.

DUKAKIS: What were they doing? It's his convention. He puts it together. If you're going to put those guys up there to trash your opponent, who are you kidding? No, I don't think he's interested in genuine bipartisanship. And frankly, I don't think you're going to see a genuinely bipartisan campaign.

KING: If he's changed, why do you think he's changed? DUKAKIS: Somebody would have to ask them that. I don't know. I just -- I remember a McCain -- by the way, not an easy guy. He's one of the most difficult guys I ever had to work with when I was on the Amtrak board and he was head of the Senate Commerce Committee. But there was a certain amount of integrity there. I just don't see it. He's surrounded by lobbyists. He's got this rogue guy running his campaign, he puts these two guys up there and they're up there basically to trash the other side. And then he gets up tonight and says he wants to be bipartisan. It just doesn't jive. And I'm afraid maybe the desire to win is overwhelming what used to be a real maverick. But John McCain's no maverick these days. He's basically voted the Bush line. You saw it basically tonight and in the convention itself.

KING: Explain something. You've got an unpopular war, a very unpopular president, the economy down the tubes. Why is this race close?

DUKAKIS: Because I think the American people are genuinely looking for the person that they want to lead this country. They don't know as much about Barack Obama as I think they will by the time this campaign is over. After all, although he's an extraordinarily impressive guy, he's relatively new on the national scene. I think it's important to remind people of this.

This experience thing, Larry, that the Republicans keep bringing up. Barack Obama has been in elected office for 12 years. When he was in the state senate in Illinois, he represented more people than happen to live in Alaska. And he was an extremely effective state legislature as well as an effective legislature in the Senate.

By the way, 12 years is more time in public office than Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter or George Bush had before they became president. So there's no lack of experience there. But I think they -- I think people want to take a good look at him, and they will. And when they do, I think they're going to vote for him.

KING: How about we heard about his temper tends to get -- at times he goes a little off the wall.


KING: Have you heard that? Yeah, McCain.

DUKAKIS: I've experienced it.

KING: How?

DUKAKIS: Well, when I was the -- when Tommy Thompson was the chairman of the Amtrak board -- by the way, a Republican governor and a great guy -- we went in to see Senator McCain. And effectively, he threw us out of his office. I never had an experience quite like that.

KING: Why? DUKAKIS: Well, he just doesn't get it. He doesn't think that this country needs a first-rate national rail passenger service. He doesn't believe in public transportation. You didn't hear a word tonight about putting unemployed Americans to work rebuilding this country's infrastructure, which is falling apart. I didn't hear a word of that. Did you?

You would have to ask him. But it wasn't pleasant working with Senator McCain. On the other hand, I admired him for the fact that he was an independent in those days. But these days -- remember he voted against tax cuts for the rich, now he's for them. He says he wouldn't even vote for his own immigration bill. He used to be against drilling until a few months ago. Now he's for that. So as I say, I think something has happened to McCain. I don't know what it is. But this is not the real McCain.

KING: He threw you -- he literally threw you out of the office?

DUKAKIS: Well, he certainly invited us to leave.

KING: You were annoying him, I gather?

DUKAKIS: Well, it wasn't the kind of bipartisan spirit that we heard about tonight, I can tell you that.

KING: You're looking well. Stay well.

DUKAKIS: Thanks.

KING: Thank you for joining us, Governor.

DUKAKIS: Only for you, I do this.

KING: I know. Stay up late.

Governor Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, former governor of Massachusetts.

Speaking of former governors, Mario Cuomo is with us and Arianna Huffington and Katrina Vanden Heuvel. They've got a lot to say about tonight's speech. You'll hear what they think after the break.


KING: Three distinguished Americans join us now in our loyal opposition segments. In New York is Katrina Vanden Heuvel. She is the editor of "The Nation." In Los Angeles is Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor or And in New York, our old and dear friend, Governor Mario Cuomo, the first guest ever on this program, former Democratic governor of New York, who delivered that fabulous keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.

We're going to play a clip here and, Katrina, I'm going to ask you to comment. This is McCain ticking off a laundry list of policy differences with Obama. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can. My opponent will raise them. I will open -- I will open new markets to our goods and services. My opponent will close them. I will cut government spending. He will increase it. My tax cuts will create jobs. His tax increases will eliminate them. My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance. His plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat -- -- where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.


KING: Katrina, what did you make of that?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, THE NATION: It's certainly not the Straight Talk Express. It's the low road express. We have seen in these last seven, eight years, Larry, a country that is far worse off because of the tax policies John McCain has espoused. It's more tax cuts for the very rich, more tax cuts for corporations which, by the way, are paying the lowest rate in income tax since the 1930s. We have 47 million uninsured because this government, under the Republicans -- and by the way, who is McCain talking about when he says we want to go to Washington and change? As if he's an insurgent. The Republicans have had the keys for the last eight years. So it's the same old. And the deregulation that John McCain supports has led to the housing crisis which thousands and thousands in Michigan and Florida and around the country are suffering from. So I think John McCain knows not of what he speaks and it is red meat of a very platitudinous kind for this crowd.

KING: Governor Cuomo, you know about standing in front of a crowd like that. What did you make of his speech?

MARIO CUOMO, (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: It was autobiographical. It was the story of John McCain. Thompson delivered it, I think, better even than McCain did. But there's no question that he's a legitimate hero. And that's what he's trying to sell.

But the issue here is so fundamental, so simple. The issue is an American people who know you need substantial change in almost every part of our society. The economy, starting with the economy. He said nothing useful with the economy. And he's contradicted himself over and over. He says the following. He says he will cut taxes where he can. He will spend more money on the military where he can. And he will give us a balanced budget. Well, how do you do that? That sounds very much like Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan did give us a huge tax cut. It was so huge that it gave us a deficit and debt that it took us three presidencies to deal with.

One point I want to make here too. John McCain made a point about him being him being willing to give his life for his country. And he would, God bless him. He is a hero. But he's not willing to go to the wealthiest people in this country and say, give some money to the cause, we need it. The deficit is a disaster. The dollar is down. The economy is weak. We need it for infrastructure. We need it for health care. We need it for education. And he says, no. Give your life, yes. Give a little wealth, no. He says, yes, as a matter of fact, to tax cuts for the wealthy.

One thing that people have forgotten, the thesis he has, and the Republicans have still, is that if you cut taxes of the wealthy class, the investor class, it will hurt the economy. Let me remind you. You and I would remember this, Larry. We're old enough. Reagan raised taxes six times after he cut them because the deficit and debt we so large. Six times.

KING: All right.

CUOMO: And he raised them at the top. And then George Bush, the first George Bush, raised them at the top on the wealthy people. And then Clinton raised them on the top about $100 billion. And you wound up with the four best-market years in history. Eight years of growth, et cetera, et cetera. And so...

KING: Hold it. Hold it Mario. We'll come right back to you.

Another part of McCain's speech was a backhanded swipe at Obama. I want to watch this and have Arianna comment. Watch.


MCCAIN: I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness, that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me. And I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her as long as I draw breath, so help me God.


KING: Arianna?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, CO-FOUNDER AND EDITOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: That is a little bit like the same sarcasm that we had last night from Sarah Palin about Obama.

But it was also a speech -- I feel her contradictions. Although he had these things to say against Obama, the speech was primarily against George Bush. He actually said we need to change almost everything. He said we need to restore the pride and the principals of our party. He talked about bringing back transparency and accountability. He talked about responding to disasters differently and protecting our security differently. These are all attacks on George Bush. So even though his speech started with his gratitude towards the president, there is no question this was his effort to distance himself from Bush, which of course started...

KING: Isn't that smart?

HUFFINGTON: Of course, he has to do that. But can he really convince the American people that this man, who has basically voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time, who has changed his positions on taxes, on torture, on immigration, is actually going to bring change to Washington? It really demands a huge suspension of this belief. And I don't think the American people will go there unless they're seriously distracted by the soap opera of Sarah Palin. That's why Democrats need to be very careful not to focus on Sarah Palin. This is not what this election needs to be about.

KING: We'll be right back with our outstanding guests right after this.



MCCAIN: I've been an imperfect servant of my country for many years, but I've been a servant first, last, and always. And I've never -- I've never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn't thank God for the privilege.


KING: We're back. The Republicans explicitly invoked 9/11 tonight, in video and verbally.

The question for Katrina is, to what degree does 9/11 still resonate with the public and is this to the GOP's advantage? Katrina?

VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, Larry, I remember four years ago the Republican convention in New York City, and the manipulation of fear. Today, I think this country, the majority of people understand how 9/11 was misused and abused by an administration, which took us into Iraq. And for that reason, we are more insecure, we are more isolated, a disastrous war, a military stretched thin. By the way, something John McCain did not talk about when he spoke of the military tonight. Nor did he speak about how he has not helped veterans who have come back from the war with their PTSD and brain traumas.

But I think we need to move beyond 9/11. John McCain seems uniquely ill qualified. We need somebody who needs to understand, as the Rand Corporation, a bipartisan group, said a few weeks ago, to talk about the war on terror is counterproductive. We need smart intelligence, policing, diplomacy. And John McCain is someone who is militaristic. That is his first instinct, by temperament, by career, by personal history.

So I think the Republicans have squandered the possibilities of being the security party. and I hope that, as Arianna said, that this becomes a big election about big issues and that the Republicans who are so desperate to take us off the issues and into a life-time television symbolic reality show, that people, not just Democrats, though we speak tonight as Democrats, but citizens, sane citizens who want a different engagement with the world and to be more secure, do not accept the Republican fear mongering.

KING: Thank you, Katrina. Just hours before John McCain formally accepted the nomination, the DNC unleashed its first advertisement of the general election. Like ads from the Obama campaign, it ties McCain to George W. Bush. We'll play it. And ask Mario to comment. Watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fundamentals of our country are strong.

MCCAIN: The fundamentals of America's economy are strong.

AD NARRATOR: Michigan is struggling but some people don't seem to notice. Bush and McCain, more of the same, tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas, millions more in tax breaks for oil companies.

BUSH: The fundamentals of our economy are strong.

MCCAIN: The fundamentals of America's economy are strong.

AD NARRATOR: It sounds like a broken record because it is.


KING: All right, Mario, is that effective?

CUOMO: Of course, it's effective. It is the simple big issue for Americans. They want change. You ask them if they're happy about the economy. The answer is no. How about the fact that we're not respected around the world like we used to be. The answer is that has to change. We have had eight terrible years.

The big question her is the big question Reagan asked of Carter, are you better off today than you were eight years ago. Eight years with Bush, eight years with Clinton, we had 22 million new jobs an ascending middle class, a shrinking poor population, the world loved us, everybody was happy.

He's many things, McCain, but he is not change. He's been around a long time. He's been a hero a long time. God bless him. He's done a lot of wonderful things. But he is not change.

Obama is. He's a new kind of intelligence. He's young and bright. He has a different attitude toward the world, a more cosmopolitan attitude. He's all the things we need. Most of all, those 80 percent of American people are right. We need change. These people are not change. Whatever else they are, they're not change.

KING: We'll get a break and be back with more. And we'll pick up with a clip from Lindsey Graham's speech and have Arianna comment right after this.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CINDY MCCAIN, WIFE OF JOHN MCCAIN: John has picked a reform- minded hockey mom, basketball-shooting, moose-hunting, salmon-fishing, pistol-packing mother of five for vice president.


KING: John McCain's close friend and Senate colleague, Lindsey Graham, spoke to the convention tonight, tried a little verbal judo using one of the major applause lines of Obama's acceptance speech against him. Take a look and we'll have Arianna comment.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Barack Obama went two and a half years between visits to Iraq and never once sat down with General Petraeus. If Barack Obama cannot appreciate that our troops are winning in Iraq, he should not be their commander-in-chief. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Barack Obama doesn't care. I'm just saying, he doesn't get it!


KING: Arianna, you going to try that?

HUFFINGTON: The whole point he was making about Iraq is really perpetuating the meat of mission accomplished. Is anybody still reading what's happening in Iraq? You know, the Shiite government...

KING: Senator McCain didn't accept mission accomplished.

HUFFINGTON: No. Right now, they're all talking about victory when the Shiite government is arresting and the leaders of the awakening that has been to a large extent responsible for the drop in violence. There's been no real political reconciliation in Iraq. To continue talking about victory is misleading the American people. It is important for Obama and the Democrats not to let the Republicans get away with that. That's what the Republicans have been getting away with for years. And remember, Dick Cheney talking about the insurgents in its last throws.

KING: On this show.

HUFFINGTON: Again and again -- on this show, exactly. Again and again, they mislead the American people and they continue doing that.

KING: We only have a few minutes left. A couple of quick things for each of you.

Mayor Cuomo, what do you make of Governor Palin?

CUOMO: Exciting, talented. She has a lot of gifts, not as many as Obama. Obama is maybe the best package of gifts I've seen in my time of watching politics. He is brilliant and has new ideas. That's what we need, change, very simple. These people are not change.

KING: Katrina, what do you think of Governor Palin? VANDEN HEUVEL: She gives good speech but I think she is someone -- you have to look beyond the packaging. I don't say that in a sexist way, Larry. By the way, last night, the attacks on the media are so hypocritical. John McCain has had the most extensive adoring relationship with the mainstream corporate media for the last 20 years. What they did by his canceling coming on your show, Larry, is what we call working the rep. They want to intimidate the press from doing their job. They want to seal off Sarah Palin from legitimate investigation. She comes out of a very extremist background. She is cementing the social conservatives. People -- John McCain eight years ago, when he was more of a maverick, he called them agents of intolerance.

I think, in Sarah Palin, you have someone who is very appealing but you have to look beyond that. He will deploy her. He needed to game changer because he felt he didn't have the issues. And that's what I said earlier. They don't have the issues to run on so they're desperate to switch the subject.

KING: Arianna, what do you think of her?

HUFFINGTON: She's obviously talented and connects with people when she talks. She's a major, major distraction. The American people talk about Sarah Palin for the next 60 days, and whether Bristol and Levi will be happy together and whether Sarah Palin was or was not pregnant when she married her first dude, then this is going to be the greatest disaster for the Democrats. That's obviously what John McCain and his campaign wants. It will be a major soap opera, a variety show.

KING: Do you want the Democrats to ignore her?

HUFFINGTON: If they're going to talk about her, they need to talk about her purely on the issues, the fact she doesn't believe in global warming, the fact that she believes in creationism, the fact that she doesn't believe in abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, the fact that she wanted to ban books from her local library. These are issues that the Democrats should take her on, not her private family life, not whether her daughter is or is not pregnant. These are all elements of the long-term America neither.

KING: Mario, we only have a little over a minute. How much do you think race will play in this election, do you think?

CUOMO: Too much. Whatever impact it has will be wrong. It's not intelligence. It's not fair. What people should be judging is, is this man, Obama, good for me? Will he give us the change we need? Does he understand the economic problems? Will he give us a broader and more intelligent view on foreign policy? The notion of saying, yeah, he might be good for me in terms of a job, but I'm not going to vote for him because he's tan. It's unfair and stupid. It exists but it's not going to beat him here. We're not that stupid.

KING: We don't know how much, do we?

CUOMO: No, we don't but it won't be enough to beat him. (CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think last night, Larry, -- just quickly, the whole attack on community organizing, which is about ordinary people from below bringing on change and taking on establishment politicians, had a subtext. It was about urban cities. I think you will see coded attacks like that from the Republicans, which is, after all, the party of white refuge at a time in this country with extraordinary demographic shifts.

KING: Arianna?

VANDEN HEUVEL: This may be their last election. Looking at the country, that party in St. Paul is not representative.

KING: Katrina, I said quickly.

Arianna, anti-black vote?

HUFFINGTON: I don't really think it will be ultimately significant because probably the people who are racist in this country, and there are a few, won't be voting for a Democrat anyway.

KING: Will you vote for John McCain. Head to and vote now.

Back at our regular time tomorrow night. Michael Moore's our guest, taking aim at one of his favorite targets, the Republicans. Does that mean he's happy with the Democrats? We'll ask him. Plus, he'll take your calls. That's LARRY KING LIVE, regular time Friday night, 9:00 eastern, 6:00 pacific.

We thank all our guests tonight and invite you to stay tuned for continuing coverage of Election 2008 right here on CNN.