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McCain Worker Lied; Can McCain Win?; Scott McClellan Endorses Obama

Aired October 24, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, she made it all up -- the beating, the black eye and the B on her cheek. A John McCain volunteer claimed it was a politically motivated attack. So now she has some explaining to do.
And does the campaign really want to hear it?

Plus, he once spoke for the president. Now he's speaking out for Barack Obama. He's Scott McClellan and he's got a bombshell.

And is the Republican Party tearing itself and the McCain-Palin ticket apart?

All next on LARRY KING LIVE. Good evening.

A claim by a white McCain campaign volunteer that a black man robbed, beat her and carved a B into her cheek in a politically motivated attack sent a jolt through the election landscape. John McCain and Sarah Palin called the young woman to express their concern. The Obama campaign said its thoughts and prayers were with the 20-year-old college student.

But now police in Pittsburgh say it was all a hoax. CNN has learned that the young woman has been jailed and is being charged with filing a false police report. Authorities say the GOP campaign worker has told them that she's had mental problems in the past.

Our panel includes Joe Hicks, the radio talk show host and "Pajamas" TV commentator.

In New York, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the editor of "The Nation".

In Washington, Bay Buchanan, CNN political contributor.

And in New York, Nancy Giles, social commentator and contributor to "CBS News Sunday Morning."

Does this story, Joe, as a black man, offend you?

JOE HICKS, TALK RADIO HOST, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, of course this offends me. I mean, it should be offensive to everybody. And everybody took it at its face value. Both campaigns tried to, you know, deal with what appeared to be a very nasty and a volatile situation.

She's obviously a disturbed young woman, so what can one say about it? I mean, this -- something like 10 percent of the American people think that Elvis is still alive and if you send him a letter, you'll get a return replay. So you've got nuts out there.

KING: Any effect on the campaign?

HICKS: I don't think so. I think they just want both camps -- obviously, the Obama campaign doesn't want to talk about it. The McCain campaign will be embarrassed about it to continue to talk about it. They just want it to go away, clearly.

KING: Katrina, any affect?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION," SUPPORTS OBAMA: Well, I think it -- she's clearly an unwell, unstable young woman. But it makes you concerned about stoking any climate of intolerance or the fearmongering and some of the division and distraction we've seen at rallies held by McCain and Palin. Because at a time of economic pain in this country, you do find people who are on the edge. And there are people in this country on the edge.

And those kinds of -- those kinds of attitudes at those rallies are going to lead to -- could lead to more problems. You know, the whole issue of race is such a contested one in this country. Fortunately, in my view, the serious issues, the big issues of this election, particularly the economic anxiety, pain and stress, trumping the racial issue.

KING: All right, Bay -- Bay Buchanan, what do you think?

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: I think, first of all, that this incident had nothing to do with either campaign and it had nothing to do with race. It had to do with a tragic situation, a lady that was obviously unstable, as the other panelists have indicated.

But for -- to suggest that this is in any way was contributed -- that the rallies of the McCain-Palin campaign somehow contributed to this is such an outrage. We are running against an individual, Obama. We have exciting rallies, just as Obama does. Many, many people come. Ninety-nine -- if not 99.99 percent of them -- are terrific, wonderful Americans who are there to support the campaign and be involved.

And to suggest that somehow those things that are being said on the stage is encouraging this kind of approach, is just -- it's outrageous.


KING: Nancy, what do you make of it?

GILES: Thanks, Larry. I totally disagree, although, with all due respect to Bay, this is kind of like a reverse Tawana Brawley situation. And I think that the fact that the young girl, although she is clearly disturbed, said that it was a black man that attacked her, definitely casts a racial pallor over the whole thing. And, again, it goes back to John McCain's sense of judgment and who is vetting the people that he's talking to. "Joe the Plumber" turns out not really to be a union plumber. He doesn't have enough money to buy the company he claims he was going to buy. This girl, the whole thing didn't happen and yet McCain calls and offers his support and sorrow and stuff.

It just -- it keeps going back to a lack of judgment and a lack of vetting, if nothing else, of people that...

BUCHANAN: Oh, you know...

GILES: ...this man is in contact with.

BUCHANAN: She was a volunteer...

KING: Joe...

BUCHANAN: He was never in contact with this woman.

KING: All right.

BUCHANAN: Larry, come on. Let's get the facts out. You can't just have panelists say outrageous things.

GILES: That's not outrageous at all, Bay.

BUCHANAN: This is a volunteer.

Do you know how many volunteers Obama has?

GILES: It's not outrageous at all.

BUCHANAN: We are talking...

KING: A full-time worker...

BUCHANAN: ...a hundred thousand volunteers -- no. She was...

KING: Well, she was a volunteer.

BUCHANAN: was a volunteer.

KING: Well, she was a volunteer, but she was...

BUCHANAN: She was a volunteer.


BUCHANAN: Do you know -- I mean I've done campaigns...

KING: But isn't it...

BUCHANAN: ...a lot smaller than McCain's...

KING: You don't... BUCHANAN: And I can tell you...

KING: You don't see...

BUCHANAN: don't meet all your volunteers.

KING: Hold it, Bay.

Hold it.

Don't take over.


KING: Joe, you don't see a racial component here?

I mean why accuse a black?

Why not just say a guy put a B on my cheek?

BUCHANAN: Because she...

KING: Why say a black guy?

HICKS: Well, but who knows?

KING: I mean she's defending the whole thing...

HICKS: But the idea that somehow...

KING: ...why not say a...

HICKS: First of all, this has not had...

KING: ...a Latino?

HICKS: Remember the case of the woman who pushed her two kids into a lake...

BUCHANAN: Right. Smith.


KING: And said a black man did it.

HICKS: And said a -- OK. Those kind of things that went on for days and days and days and did have, certainly, the possibility of really generating a lot of bad feeling. This woman -- this just happened like yesterday.


HICKS: There hasn't been enough time for this to generate much in the way of any kind of sensationalism on any kind of -- or dredges up any kind of racial resentment here. The woman is sick. And let's not try to then play out the partisan role here that I hear from some of your guests here tonight, trying to say, oh, well, the McCain camp should have vetted this one. Come on.



HICKS: Tell me you don't have to...



HICKS: ...that there's not some odd nut cases working throughout this country for Barack Obama.

BUCHANAN: Exactly. On both sides.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But, Bay, there is a concern...

KING: Hold it.

One at a time.

One at a time.


VANDEN HEUVEL: There is a -- Bay, you have to be concerned about the climate in this country at a time of great economic pain and stress.

GILES: Thank you.

VANDEN HEUVEL: That contributes to pushing those who are living on the edge, whether into bankruptcy -- 10,000 foreclosures a day -- or those who are mentally unwell, who may not be getting the care they need, into this kind of situation.

But let us be honest. This country has come a long way. Extraordinary.

BUCHANAN: Of course.

VANDEN HEUVEL: The next president of this, the United States, may be an African-American. But we have a ways to go. And this country remains divided. One of the great speeches of this nation's history, I would argue, on a par with Abraham Lincoln's Cooper Union 1860 speech, was Barack Obama speaking about race...

GILES: The speech on race. I agree.

VANDEN HEUVEL: ...and speaking about it as we are a flawed nation, we are imperfect, but we can be a more perfect union. And that is what we are struggling for, not talking about this unwell woman, but talking about the future of our nation...

KING: All right...

VANDEN HEUVEL: ...and the climate, the unity...

KING: I've got to...

VANDEN HEUVEL: ...that Colin Powell spoke to.

GILES: I totally agree.

KING: I've got to take a break.

GILES: I agree.

KING: Thank you.

Some of our panelists will be returning.

Joe, we look forward to seeing you again soon.

HICKS: You got it.

KING: Joe Hicks, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Bay Buchanan and Nancy Giles.

And when we come back, Scott McClellan turns the tables.

Don't go away.


KING: Joining us now is Scott McClellan, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, best-selling author of the book "What Happened Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

Scott lobbed a major grenade yesterday -- a political grenade at the -- at this whole story. In an interview with CNN's new show, "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News," which premiers tomorrow night.



D.L. HUGHLEY, HOST: But you haven't endorsed anybody. You haven't endorsed anybody.


HUGHLEY: And it's McCain and it's Obama. You know, and I mean a new show and your endorsement would probably mean a lot. But -- and don't look at the fact that I'm black or nothing like -- no pressure.

Endorse somebody, damn it. Endorse somebody.

MCCLELLAN: From the very beginning, I've said I'm going to support the candidate that has the best chance of changing the way Washington works and getting things done. I will be voting for Barack Obama.



KING: Scott, was that difficult?

MCCLELLAN: Well, yes, Larry. You know, this was not a decision I came to lightly. I thought long and hard about it. I wanted to see the debates. I wanted to see what the candidates had to say and I also wanted to do something that I think is important to do, and that is get beyond the elaborately crafted political facades of the candidates and delve a little deeper into what makes them tick and what drives the candidates, to see who they really are.

Now, I consider myself a centrist. When I went to work for then Governor Bush, I did so because I believed he was someone who was committed to working across the aisle to get things done, as he had done as governor of Texas. I thought we could bring that same sort of bipartisan spirit to Washington and change the tone. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

I'm supporting Barack Obama for two primary reasons. First, I believe that he can change the way Washington works for the better. I believe he is genuinely committed to ushering in an era of post-partisan leadership that is focused on moving us away from constant campaigning grounded in excessive partisanship and back to rational debate, deliberation and compromise and focusing on getting to common ground so that we can get things done on the big priorities facing this country.

I think he has the potential to be a transcendent leader -- someone who will rise above the politics, the hard-line ideology of left and right, to find that common ground, to build consensus in order to solve some big problems facing this country.

KING: But...

MCCLELLAN: Now, the second reason I am voting for him is believe I believe he has demonstrated during the course of this campaign that he has the temperament, the judgment and the strength of character to be president of the United States. And he has done that in the way he has conducted himself in the campaign and some of the judgments he has made along the way.

KING: Has a McCain campaign in any way disappointed you?

MCCLELLAN: Well, yes. But this is more of a reflection that I think Barack Obama is the better candidate and will make a better president. I think very highly of John McCain, but he has not run a very strong campaign. You know, you've seen in recent columns that some of his strategists are saying that he's been fighting from tactic to tactic. He really hasn't offered a hopeful, forward-looking agenda, like Barack Obama has.

And so I am disappointed in some ways that the campaign has been conducted. I liked it when he was at the convention and he talked about taking on Washington. And earlier he talked about ending the permanent campaign style of governing. I think that's good. And I think that he has had a record of bipartisan leadership.

But I think Barack Obama has the potential to fundamentally change the way Washington works. And I don't think John McCain can do that. I think he might bring some marginal change, but I don't think it would be the kind of fundamental change that this country needs at this time in our history.

KING: Have you spoken to Senator Obama?

MCCLELLAN: I have not. I have not spoken to Senator Obama.

KING: Do you plan to call him or discuss anything with him?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I -- yes, if he wants to talk, that's great. Or if anyone on his campaign wants to, that's fine. But I'm just here to speak out and make my choice known, that I think Barack Obama is the best candidate at this time in our country's history and that he does have the potential -- again, the potential to really be that kind of transcendent leader that will move Washington forward in a very positive way and move America forward in a very positive way.

KING: You can't agree with everything, though, right?

MCCLELLAN: No. That's true. I think on some fiscal issues, he's probably more to the left of me. And, you know, there are certainly -- but, you know, what I'm betting on and what I believe -- I mean in either candidate, you're taking a little bit of a chance. We don't know what they would do specifically as president. We've heard from them. But we don't know once they actually get in there. So you have to really look at what drives them and what motivates them and what makes them tick. And I think we've been able to see over the course of the campaign.

And I'm betting that Barack Obama is the kind of guy that generally wants to govern...

KING: Yes, OK.

MCCLELLAN: a pragmatic way and reach out to get things done.

KING: More with Scott and a few who might question what he's doing in 60 seconds.


KING: We're back with Scott McClellan.

And let's meet the rest of the panel.

Terry Holt, who was national spokesman for the 2004 Bush-Cheney reelection campaign and was a senior adviser to the Republican National Committee.

Christopher Hitchens, columnist for "Vanity Fair". He supported George Bush in 2004, is voting for Barack Obama in 2008.

And in Portland, Oregon is Lars Larson, Westwood 1 talk radio host of "The Lars Larson Show" and "Lars Larson Northwest Show." His Web site describes him as right on the left coast, a supporter of John McCain.

We're going to have a short break here.

So for a quick opinion from Lars, what do you make of what Scott McClellan said?

LARS LARSON, TALK RADIO HOST, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: I think it doesn't make any sense. I don't understand where the judgment is in Barack Obama saying that he didn't favor the surge when, in fact, the surge worked and now he can't even see its success. I don't see the sense I'm getting...

KING: Well, no, I'm talking about what -- what did Scott say that you disagree with?

LARSON: Temperament and judgment and reaching across the aisle?

I don't see it in Barack Obama's background. There's no history of reaching across the aisle. There is in the case of John McCain, even though I'm not the biggest fan of John McCain. The fact is, McCain's reached across the aisle. Barack Obama does not have that history.

KING: All right, let me get a break and bring the whole panel in. Scott, of course, to respond, as well, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

We'll get back with the rest of the mix, after this break.


KING: We're back.

Go to our Web site and tell us what you think about what you're seeing right now -- Click on blog and ask our guests questions or comment on the show.

The panel is assembled.

Chris Hitchens, columnist for "Vanity Fair" -- Christopher, I'm sorry.


KING: The whole name is correct.

You have written that McCain and Palin should be decisively repudiated.


KING: What's your reaction to what Scott McClellan just said? HITCHENS: Well, he's more pro-Obama than I am, perhaps paradoxically. I just think that McCain and Palin have, in a sense, forced the choice.

Obama has improved during the campaign, I think, clearly, as a person and as a candidate and as a potential president, whereas McCain looks about two or three years older than he did at the beginning of it. And it shows in all kinds of ways, from addressing audiences as "my fellow prisoners" to the extraordinary bizarre attacks he's now making on Bush, which, as he might himself have put it, if he wanted to do it, he should have done it a long time ago.

And, thus, forcing us to think what if he was suffering or would suffer soon from diminished capacity, thus making the choice of his vice presidential stand-in of great importance and thus making that frivolous, irresponsible, unthought decision even more disgraceful than it would otherwise have been.

It's -- a responsible person cannot cast a ballot for the Republican ticket next month. It just can't be done.

KING: All right.

Terry Holt, how do you respond to that?

TERRY HOLT, FORMER SPOKESMAN, 2004 BUSH-CHENEY CAMPAIGN, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, I feel like the choice between Barack Obama and John McCain is fairly clear because Barack Obama brings almost no credentials to the table. He's barely been a senator for two thirds of a term. And John McCain has quite a lot more experience. And my view is that in this time -- troops in harms way, a dangerous world with a financial crisis looming, Barack Obama is for raising taxes and for gutting our ability to create jobs in this country.

I think that's it's ultimately about ideology. It's whether you agree or disagree with either of them and whether either of them is qualified to be president.

KING: Scott, is...

HOLT: And I just don't think it's close.

KING: Scott, is Palin -- does Palin have to be part of the equation?

MCCLELLAN: Well, yes. That's the first decision a president makes is the vice presidential selection. And certainly when it came to John McCain's decision, you know, I think that there are a lot of fair questions there to be raised.

Sarah Palin -- I have enormous respect and admiration for what she's accomplished. Certainly, I grew up with a mother who was a trailblazer for women in politics, becoming the first woman mayor of Boston.

But the question is does she have the knowledge of world affairs and the interest in world affairs to be president on day one, God forbid, should it happen? And she has not demonstrated that she has that knowledge of world affairs necessary to step in on day one.

Now, if Senator McCain wins, he...


MCCLELLAN: ...I would hope that she would, in those next couple of months, get up to speed. But she hasn't demonstrated it at this point. That is a reflection on judgment. It's the first way we get to judge a president.

HITCHENS: No, but let's...

KING: Lars?

HITCHENS: Let's not beat about the bush.

LARSON: Larry...

KING: All right.

HITCHENS: She was chosen because she's a sop to the extreme right-wing who don't like McCain. That's all she's there for and it shows.


KING: All right, Lars?

LARSON: Larry, I disagree.

KING: Let me get to Lars.

LARSON: I have to tell you something...

KING: Lars, former Massachusetts...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here comes one of them.

KING: Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, another Republican, endorsed Obama today.

Go ahead, Lars.

LARSON: Well, Larry, I have to tell you, I have great respect for Governor Palin, too. I've been talking to her over the last couple of years. I have admiration for her judgment. And you see, we're not expecting her to be an encyclopedia. That's why she -- every president is surrounded by advisers who will present the options.

What you want is good judgment. I think Barack Obama has shown extremely poor judgment on a number of major issues, including the surge, including the need to remove Saddam Hussein... MCCLELLAN: Well, but it was Barack Obama who stepped forward and opposed the war in Iraq before we got into it. He said he was against it. That shows judgment right there because the war...

LARSON: It shows bad judgment.

MCCLELLAN: ...the war was absolutely unnecessary. We did not to go in...

LARSON: Not at all.

MCCLELLAN: We did not need to rush into war in Iraq. And most Americans...

LARSON: I disagree with you.

MCCLELLAN: Well, most Americans disagree with you.

LARSON: I disagree -- and that's all right.


LARSON: But I'm telling you that I think Governor Palin has good judgment.

MCCLELLAN: But that is a judgment. And we can have a disagreement about it...

LARSON: Fair enough.

MCCLELLAN: ...but that -- I think put those two side by side and look at who made the right judgment...

LARSON: Barack Obama...

MCCLELLAN: ...on the original decision.

LARSON: Barack Obama also advocated against the surge. In fact, the surge was the right decision once we were in war. Barack Obama said it was the wrong decision. And now he can't -- he doesn't even have the guts to come forward and say it was the right decision and it worked.


MCCLELLAN: Yes, but it's not that black and white.


MCCLELLAN: He has come forward and talked about it.

HITCHENS: Look, he's also...

KING: Lars...

HITCHENS: He's also...

KING: Lars, wasn't the surge a reaction to a failure?

LARSON: No. This -- well...


LARSON: Was the strategy...

Then why did they need a surge?

LARSON: Was the strategy working?


Was the surge the right prescription...

KING: That's what I meant. That was the question.


HITCHENS: Barack Obama...

LARSON: But that's like saying...

KING: If the strategy wasn't working, was Barack right in the first place?

LARSON: No, he wasn't.

KING: If the strat...

LARSON: The official policy of the United States was regime change in Iraq. Twelve years had not removed Saddam Hussein. He was a threat to the world. He was a threat to the United States...

KING: He was?

LARSON: ...with or without the WMDs, and we needed to remove him.

HOLT: He was not a great and gathering danger.

LARSON: He was removed.

HITCHENS: That's all true. But then what about the surge in Afghanistan that Senator Obama has been advocating...


HITCHENS: negates the opposition -- the repeated opposition of Senator McCain, who is suddenly in favor of negotiation with the Pakistanis, who are trying to recolonize Afghanistan through the Taliban.


HITCHENS: And Sarah -- and on this question, Sarah Palin...


KING: Now let...

HITCHENS: Sarah Palin has lied -- lied about what Senator Obama has been saying without conscience and without scruple. And her misrepresentation of what he said about Afghanistan could only be...

KING: Terry...

HITCHENS: ...because she's too stupid or because she's too cynical.

HOLT: Yes, Larry?

KING: All right.

LARSON: She's not stupid at all.

KING: Terry, today...

HITCHENS: Although...

KING: Today, Governor Palin...


KING: ...made mockery of the -- for Terry Holt -- Governor Palin made mockery today of the use of fruit fly in medical experimentation. Yet, in fact, it has been one of the genetic forerunners in discovery in the area of things like autism.

HOLT: Right.

KING: Now, it sounded easy, but why would she make -- wouldn't you have knowledge of the fruit fly's importance?

HITCHENS: She doesn't believe in genetics. She's a creationist.

HOLT: Why doesn't Chris answer?

I think he's obviously much more...


KING: All right, Christopher, go ahead.

HOLT: Well, I guess, to me, this seems to be utterly unconsequential to the major choices that we have facing this country right now. I think that, you know, most of this Obama fever seems to be just that -- fever. People want change. And this seems to be, at least to me, not about the specific issues, but about a protest vote.

I mean, Scott McClellan, a lifelong Republican, decides that he's going to be for Barack Obama. It's easy, he's 12 points ahead. But fundamentally, I don't understand why we can't just have a conversation about the future and what these two candidates offer in terms of their issues going forward. MCCLELLAN: Well, Larry...

HOLT: You can argue about the surge and the Iraq War until you're blue in the face. We need to get this country moving again and that's what the election should be about.

MCCLELLAN: And Barack Obama is the one who has offered a respectful, issue-oriented...

KING: All right, let me...

MCCLELLAN: ...and forward-looking agenda throughout this campaign.

KING: Let me get a break...

MCCLELLAN: Senator McCain has wanted to make this about character all along. This race...

KING: Let me get a break, guys.


KING: Let me get a break and we'll be right back.

Where would McCain be now had he picked a different running mate?

We'll consider that and other things, next.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: We cannot let up. We cannot let up and we won't. Because one thing we know is that change never comes without a fight.



MCCAIN: We're a few points down. The national media has written us off. We've got them just where we want them.


KING: We're back with our panel.

Even as George W. Bush cast an absentee ballot for John McCain, the senator was lambasting the president.



MCCAIN: We cannot spent the next four years as we have spent much of last eight, hoping for our luck to change at home and abroad. We need to act. We need a new direction and we have to fight for it.


KING: And, Lars, I don't believe President Bush has made one appearance in this campaign for anybody.

LARSON: And that's...

KING: What do you make of that?

LARSON: Well, I make of that the fact that the president is unpopular at this point and he realizes his presence isn't going to be warranted -- or is going to be positive.

And I'll tell you something. You have Scott McClellan thinks that judgment on the part of Obama is that higher taxes for America and more federal spending is a great prescription of a down economy -- Scott, please explain to me how that...

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FMR. W.H. PRESS SECY., PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: I'll be glad to talk about it.

This is what happens too often in Washington. People want to reduce things to start black and white terms and oversimplify things. Barack Obama has proposed cutting taxes on 95 percent of working families -- workers and working families. So that's a misrepresentation of what he's proposing.

Let's talk about this in a reasoned and rational and honest way if we're going to have this discussion. And...

LARSON: He's proposed higher spending, Scott. You know that. And that's not...

MCCLELLAN: Well, both -- both candidates have proposed more spending. Let's -- let's look at the record. They're both are going to face a tremendous deficit and try to address those issues and cut back on some of the priorities that they face.

The question is which one can move us beyond the partisan warfare that has dominated this town for the past two decades. And I think...

LARSON: Scott, can you point to one...

MCCLELLAN: ... only one candidate has that chance to do that.

LARSON: Scott...

MCCLELLAN: And I'll be glad to point to the way.

LARSON: Point to -- point to...


LARSON: ... one example where he's reached across the aisle.


LARSON: McCain -- McCain reaches across to a disturbing degree, I'll admit.

MCCLELLAN: And Lars...

LARSON: But he does across.

MCCLELLAN: And Lars, Governor Bush reached across the aisle more than Senator McCain did in Washington and look where that turned out.

Senator Obama can point to the record of reaching out. He's worked with Senator Lugar on...

LARSON: Where?

MCCLELLAN: ... nuclear proliferation efforts to combat nuclear proliferation.

LARSON: An easy -- an easy grab that everybody agrees with.

MCCLELLAN: He's worked with Tom Coburn -- he's worked with Tom Coburn to address the (INAUDIBLE) issues.

KING: Right. Christopher, let me get...

MCCLELLAN: So there are a number of them -- there are of (INAUDIBLE).


KING: Guys, hold it.

Christopher, columnist Charles Krauthammer is slamming you in what he calls you're a wet fingered conservative.


KING: He says voting for -- he's voting for McCain because he'd rather lose an election than lose my bearings.

HITCHENS: Well, that sounds...

KING: Want to react?

HITCHENS: That sounds if the bearing have -- have already gone. Just look at what was just said. It's as if our taxes are not likely to go up. Not because one candidate proposes or another. We don't babies to be talked to like this, but because the country's credit has imploded. And that was not as if it happens on Barack Obama's watch.

So -- it's childish to say promise everything to everybody like this.

I want to go back to what he said about the fruit flies. It was actually, I think, very important. Sarah Palin...

KING: Not funny, Lars.

HITCHENS: Jeers about -- jeers about this because she thinks genetics is a joke on its own and in itself. We have every reason to think that she thinks that dinosaurs lived on -- at the same time as human did.

She certainly advocates the teaching of creationism in school. In other words, the deliberate plan, state finance, stultification of American children at a time when our need in matters of science and science education is (INAUDIBLE) as it might be.

This is a disgrace.


HITCHENS: It's not serious to have such a person in politics at all.

HOLT: The fruit flies of (INAUDIBLE). Let's deals with the big issues.

HITCHENS: Yes, she's a creationist and a religious fanatic.

HOLT: Let's deal with -- she's not a fanatic.

HITCHENS: And she -- and her -- she says she'd been saved in some tabernacle in Wasilla.



HITCHENS: How does she know she's been saved? Who -- how does she know that?


KING: Terry, you want to comment -- let Terry in. Terry?

HOLT: I'm not sure which is worse.


HOLT: Religious fanaticism or atheistic fanaticism if that's even a word. I mean it's ridiculous. People have the right to their basic beliefs and they have the right to express them.

HITCHENS: Yes, and we will cross judgment on that.

HOLT: And you can vote against it if you'd like.

HITCHENS: Sure will.

HOLT: But ultimately the fruit flies are -- Lars is right. It's about who's going to blow another trillion dollar hole...


HOLT: ... in the economy. And if you take a trillion dollars out of the economy, like Barack Obama would do, it's going to go into the pocket of the government and get wasted. The trillion dollars in this economy needs to be in the private sector so that the people can create the kinds of jobs...

LARSON: Absolutely.

HOLT: ... that Barack Obama can only talk about.

LARSON: Absolutely.

KING: Scott -- Scott McClellan and Lars Larson, we look to both to having you back with us next week before this all winds up.

Terry Holt and Christopher Hitchens will be returning.

And as the McCain campaign coming apart, stay with us.


KING: Here's our panel, Katarina -- Katrina Vanden Heuvel is the editor of "The Nation." She's in New York. Terry Holy is in Washington, who was national spokesperson for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.

In Washington is Christopher Hitchens of the "Vanity Fair" scene and a supporter of Barack Obama. And in Washington as well is Bay Buchanan, CNN political contributor, president of American Cause.

The McCain campaign launched a new ad, gang, using the words of Obama's running mate Joe Biden. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Listen to Joe Biden talking about what electing Barack Obama will mean.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mark my words, it will not be six months before test Barack Obama. The world is looking. We're going to have an international crisis to test the mettle of this guy.


KING: Fair or not, Katrina?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, THE NATION, SUPPORTS OBAMA: You know, we're already in an international crisis. I mean I consider this financial crisis a security international crisis and we are seeing these two candidates...

KING: But that's not what Biden said.

VANDEN HEUVEL: ... tested in real time. Well, he talked about how, you know...

KING: One coming.

VANDEN HEUVEL: One coming, but I would argue that Mr. Biden, who is not known for, you know, discipline with his words, you could argue that we are already in a financial crisis and the country has turned toward Barack Obama because they respect the way he is handling the current crises.

KING: All right.

VANDEN HEUVEL: So I think that judgment...

KING: Terry?

VANDEN HEUVEL: And the judgment he has shown.

HOLT: Answer the question. Answer the question.

KING: Terry Holt?

HOLT: Yes.

KING: What do you make of the bad ad?

HOLT: Well, I think it -- it's a fundamental question that people have to decide on before they go into the voting booth. To me, it seems every election comes down to a basic question for voters as they -- just before they pull that lever. And framing that question is essentially what the campaigns are about.

There have been fits and starts in this campaign and I think most of this has been disappointed that it hasn't been more focused on the consequential issues of the day. And in this case, I think, that it does. It says, is this guy ready?

He's a great guy, he's a beautiful public speaker. But is he the kind of person we want to put in charge of this country when our country's survival may be at stake?

KING: Christopher, is bringing up the Biden quote, isn't that fair? He said it.

HITCHENS: Absolutely. And actually someone as not a huge admirer of Senator Biden, I think it's one of the best and most honest and tough- minded thing he's every said. Of course it's true that something like that will happen.

The -- I mean just to give you an example. Everybody now knows (INAUDIBLE), the Iranian will be -- on the centrifuges much, much closer to the point where they can weaponize their nuclear program than anyone had previously thought.

That's the challenge in itself whether it's thrown down as a (INAUDIBLE) or not. Actually, Senator Obama has already said how seriously he takes that as a threat. I mean it's -- it would be idle to say anything except what Biden did say.

It's obviously the truth.

KING: OK. Bay?

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, it's a very legitimate ad. And Larry, I think the key point of this is what was Biden suggesting is that this man who's absolutely inexperienced, Barack Obama, who has never shown any kind of leadership skills whatsoever -- in his public career, is now going to be president of the United States, therefore, there is no question in Biden's mind that these terrorists, these enemies of ours, are going to test him. And that's something American people should consider before they vote.

HITCHENS: Wait, that -- that only makes sense if you think no one won't try and test John McCain.

BUCHANAN: Oh no. They will be far less likely to -- test John McCain because they knew John McCain is most likely going to respond within 12 hours and they don't want to be bothered.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But Bay, the -- the hyper militarized, atavistic Cold War policies of a John McCain are so badly suited to the 21st century challenges we face that I believe that he would cause more turmoil in this world with his response than promote security.

Barack Obama has spoken to a different kind of foreign policy. I disagree with Christopher Hitchens on Barack Obama's talk about ramping up the U.S occupation of Afghanistan. I think that would destabilize Pakistan and might be the end of the hopes and dreams of an Obama administration if we want to rebuild this country.

KING: I got to get...

BUCHANAN: You know, but Katrina...

KING: I got to get a break. Hold that. I got to get a break.


KING: We'll be right back. We'll have a short pause and then we'll come back. And Joe Biden was asked about that remark today and later we'll play his response.

Back in 60 seconds.


KING: When do I check out Anderson?

"Saturday Night Live" has done an outstanding with the political comic relief this year. Let's take a look at their latest spoof.

Here are Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Darrel Hammond, doing what they do best.


DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR: Good evening, my friends. Mr. President, always a pleasure.

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Good to see you. Good to see you, John.

Hey, let's get a photo of this. A photo that will really help your campaign out.



FERRELL: Now, let me do this. I, George W. Bush, endorse John McCain and Sarah Palin with all my heart.

John was there for me, 90 percent of the time over the last eight years. When you think of me --when you think of John McCain, think of me, George W. Bush. Think of this face.

When you're in the voting booth, before you vote, picture this face.



FERRELL: Right here. A vote for John McCain is a vote for George W. Bush.

You're welcome.

So I want to be there for you, John, for the next eight years.

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: The next 16 years.

FERRELL: Let's get a safety. I think I blinked on that shot. Thumbs up, everybody.


KING: Bay, I wonder -- I noticed you weren't smiling too much. Do you have a bad -- do you think "Saturday Night Live" picks on conservatives too much?

BUCHANAN: Well, listen, I always enjoy a good laugh, and I certainly can laugh at myself and the movement, conservatives, and the Republican Party. But I think fair is fair and it's time for "Saturday Night Live" and the media to start -- if you want to laugh and make fun, let's do it of both sides equally, and that is clearly not what's happened.

KING: OK. Fair statement.

Back with all of our guests right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: It's "AC360" time at the top of the hour.

Anderson, what's up tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, we got breaking news tonight. Right now a McCain campaign volunteer is in court being arraigned. She'd claimed she was attacked by a man angered by her John McCain bumper sticker. She claimed he carved the letter B on her face.

Now police say her story was made up, a hoax, and she's getting charged. We'll have late-breaking details.

Also tonight, John McCain making new efforts to close on Barack Obama's lead in the polls and Sarah Palin's first major policy speech on the same day, she testified under oath in the investigation to whether she unfairly fired Alaska's pubic safety director.

Those stories and the investigation into the role race is playing in this election at the top of the hour, Larry.

KING: Wow, it's getting close, Anderson.

COOPER: It sure is.

KING: "AC360" at the top of the hour, 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Back with our panel. Joe Biden was asked about that test remark earlier today and here's what he said.


BIDEN: No, I don't regret the comment. Every new president is tested, Democrat or Republican. I don't know where John's been the last 20 years, number one. Number two, I've watched Barack Obama. I've tested his mettle. I have seen him. He's ready to handle any crisis.

And based upon the major crises we've had, he's been right and John's been wrong.


KING: Christopher, is he right?

HITCHENS: Well, I repeat, he's -- right to say that, but it's ridiculous of the Republicans to say -- and also evidently absurd for them to say what -- crisis, what challenge? As such a thing could only happen if you voted for a Democrat.

Do they not, the rest of the time, tell us that it's a very dangerous world out there? That we have Putin, Ahmadinejad, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Hezbollah and China and (INAUDIBLE), Zimbabwe, the rest of the charges?

Of course, yes. Of course, yes. Biden is right and the Republicans have yet again shown how unfit and irresponsible they are by saying that it isn't the correct thing to say.

KING: Bay?

BUCHANAN: Well, it's -- listen to what he said exactly. Biden made it very, very clear that there's not question, it's guaranteed that if Obama gets in, the first six months, we are going to have a major international crisis.

That is not what is being said about McCain. We all can say there's likely that something could happen. But with Obama it's guaranteed because he's absolutely inexperienced. Biden has said it this last year. He knows, as well as everyone else, the man has no resume and they are going to test him.

Now the voter has to decide, is it worth the risk?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Guys, what are you talking about, testing? We are being tested. There is the combating of terrorism, but there is also a crisis here at home. You have millions of people losing their homes. If you don't call this a crisis which will test the next talking leader and is already testing...

HITCHENS: No, Katrina, come on. Come on...

VANDEN HEUVEL: No, come on.

HITCHENS: Katrina, that's not what Biden -- that's not what Biden was talking.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But I'm -- the argument that we're going to be tested by a future crisis, any president will come in and face a calamitous situation at home and in the world -- two wars, an economy cratering, millions of people out of work, pain metastasizing through the system. That is not a crisis?

BUCHANAN: And -- and Katrina, you make it the point...

VANDEN HEUVEL: What would constitute a crisis?

BUCHANAN: You make the point we should not choose somebody without any experience whatsoever.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think the country...

KING: Let Terry Holt come in.

VANDEN HEUVEL: ... is choosing with their polls and the numbers.

KING: Terry? Terry?

HOLT: Yes. My guess is that most people aren't thinking about whether or not Barack Obama is going to be tested.

I think people want change, and it seems to me that there's so -- so little that we've had as a discussion about the substance of it. It seems like most people are protesting the bad times with their vote, and that bothers me a little bit because it doesn't seem like we're making a serious decision about who's going to run the country and with -- what basic ideas and tools that they'll use to get us back on our feet.

HITCHENS: Look, can I try to make this easy? John McCain is getting older by the day in front of all of us.

BUCHANAN: Similar flaw.

HITCHENS: And he's been -- and he's already had quite a grave illness and this could happen at any moment and then while he was incapacitated Sarah Palin would be president of the United States.

Anyone fancy challenging the United States at that moment? Don't you think that that would be a golden opportunity for anyone want to challenge us? Don't the Republicans succeed only in reminding us of the utter irresponsibility...

HOLT: I don't understand why Sarah Palin...



VANDEN HEUVEL: It's a pleasure to agree with my former colleague Christopher Hitchens.

HITCHENS: Thank you.

HOLT: I'm baffled by why - by...


HITCHENS: Precisely for this reason.

VANDEN HEUVEL: No, but seriously, but seriously...

HITCHENS: Precisely this reason...

KING: Do you think...

VANDEN HEUVEL: But Christopher, I just wanted to say in addition to the good points you made about her contempt for science, which I think is very serious in the 21st century and her religious extremism, which I know how much that must drive you crazy, you must -- you must look at this discussion...

HITCHENS: Glad you say it.

VANDEN HEUVEL: You must look at this talk of who is a real American, who is a pro American, who is an anti-American.

BUCHANAN: You know, Katrina.

VANDEN HEUVEL: And fear for your country because I think this is the ugliness toxicity that this system cannot afford at this point and you talk about saint...

KING: Do you think -- Bay, do you think...

VANDEN HEUVEL: ... and big issues, and big elections. We need that, not this.

KING: Bay, do you think McCain would change his vice president right now if he could?

BUCHANAN: Absolutely not. Do you know that I don't -- you know...

HITCHENS: Well then that's final.

BUCHANAN: What this woman has done is -- remarkable. She may indeed be the smartest decision he has made in this entire campaign.

You know, Larry, the first rule of thumb is you can't win a general election if you come out of your convention without a united party. She took care of that in an afternoon, and we were winning this election for the next three weeks.

There's only one thing that caused this to collapse. It cost us 10 points and we haven't recovered, and that's the economic crisis we're all facing.

KING: Let me get it...

BUCHANAN: It's only that that has caused to put us back.

HITCHENS: Plus about a dozen...

KING: We'll get a break and we'll be right back. We'll be right back, Christopher. Hold it. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: We have a blog from Robyn. I'll address it to Terry Holt.

Do you think that McCain has spent too much time bashing Obama and that's why he's losing the race?

HOLT: Well, Barack Obama has flooded this country with millions of dollars in television ads. If anybody has used the big, you know, hammer on anyone, it's Barack Obama's $150 million that's been spent on primarily negative advertising against John McCain in state after state after state.

The fact of the matter is John McCain is behind at this point. He does have to make stark differences known to the American people so that the American people can make a serious choice about who will be president.

KING: Christopher, do you dislike this campaign?

HITCHENS: Yes, very much, and this kind of extremely low cultural level as was shown today by the unbelievable stupidity of anyone in any campaign calling this obvious racist psycho woman in Pittsburgh.

Just appalling that anyone would rush to try and get on the right side of that when all it took was a couple of minutes of reflection. I just did not know until this moment passed that the GOP had this rooted objection to well-financed advertising campaigns. This is completely new to me.

HOLT: No, I mean, I'm just responding to the blogger.

HITCHENS: It is worth to come all the way here tonight to find out that this is true.

HOLT: And your sarcasm is appreciated but what I'm trying to say is that both campaigns have been painting very dark pictures of each other.

HITCHENS: I don't think anyone says...

HOLT: And in fact, if you're looking for...

HITCHENS: Anyone says Obama has been as negative.

BUCHANAN: Oh, please.

HOLT: Quantifiable difference, the quantity of advertising, it's an ocean of money that's flowing over this country and it's mostly negative ads directed at John McCain. John McCain doesn't have enough money to compete with Barack Obama. That's how it is.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But, you know, I disagree a little again with my former colleague Christopher Hitchens because I think the low level, the demonization, the fear mongering in this campaign has been ugly to watch, but there has been something exciting which is the mobilization of millions of people, young people, people of color who were out of this political process, have come into it and it has been, as far as our democracy goes, an inclusive process and I think that there has to be an understanding that there is a politics, a party which doesn't want too many people to vote and a party which wants millions to vote.

HOLT: That is absurd and offensive.

VANDEN HEUVEL: And I think this...

HOLT: You cannot -- you cannot -- you can't say that...

VANDEN HEUVEL: The talk about voter fraud, it's an effort to divert attention from voter suppression which is going on...


KING: Bay, you want to get your two cents in?

HOLT: Do you know in Florida, for example? Do you know in Florida, for example, it wasn't the Democrat who made it possible for early voting? It was Jeb Bush, a Republican, who made it possible for people, hundreds of thousands of them in this election cycle, to vote early.

It's an absurd and ridiculous suggestion that Republicans don't want people to vote.

VANDEN HEUVEL: And the Republican state legislature has made it very difficult...

HOLT: If that were the case, then we wouldn't have spent millions of dollars getting people to the polls.

VANDEN HEUVEL: It's a long history.

HOLT: The reason Republicans have been able to win elections...

KING: We thank you all for this...

HOLT: ... is because we motivate people to vote.

KING: ... sprightly discussion. Thanks, guys, Terry Holt, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Christopher Hitchens and Bay Buchanan.

Hey, join our blog at We've got a terrific Web extra. You're going to love this.

Josh Hamilton beyond belief, Josh, the superstar with the Texas Rangers. Remember the all-star game batting contest? Drugs just about destroyed him. He's fought his way back, now on track with his life at the top of his game.

Check out our interview with Josh at You can go to it right now and while you're there download our newest podcast Bill Mahr.

By the way, we'll see you this weekend for a funny edition of LARRY KING LIVE, Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 Eastern. Now here's Anderson Cooper and "AC360."