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"The Last Word": T. Boone Pickens

Aired June 28, 2009 - 12:00   ET


KING: I'm John King, this is our "State of the Union" report for this Sunday, June 28. The deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from all major Iraqi cities, like it or not, is just 48 hours away. We'll ask the commander of all U.S. troops in Iraqi, General Ray Odierno, if the Iraqis are ready and the latest timetable to get all U.S. troops home.

The Republican Party is in a tough stretch. Two leaders viewed as possible White House contenders admit marital infidelity. Democrats are advancing President Obama's agenda. One of the party's 2012 prospects, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, is right here to debate the White House approach to health care, climate change, and to offer his recipe for a Republican revival.

And with Friday's House passage of a massive climate change bill, we'll give the last word to a man who isn't afraid to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to energy issues, an oil wildcatter who has become convinced that America must break its addiction to oil, T. Boone Pickens right here. That's all ahead in this hour of STATE OF THE UNION.

A quick reminder this morning before we get to our guest. We continue to track the latest developments in Iran. There are now reports that Iranian protesters are being dragged from hospitals by pro-government militia. Local staffers working for the British embassy have been arrested.

And police questioned Michael Jackson's doctor for several hours last night as the investigation into the death of the pop legend continues. Stay right here with CNN for breaking updates on both of these important stories.

But we begin today with a critical development in Iraq. Tuesday is the deadline for U.S. troops to pull out of bases in Iraq's major cities and to turn major security operations over to Iraqi forces. It is without a doubt a major benchmark in the more than six-year war, and to some, a huge achievement.

But even some U.S. generals say they would prefer more time in some cities. And there are worries the shift in power could bring a spike in violence. The man managing this delicate shift is the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, who joins us now from Camp Victory in Baghdad.

Good morning to you, General, and thank you for your time. A simple question off the top. Are the Iraqis ready for these awesome new responsibilities?

ODIERNO: I do believe they're ready, John. They've been working towards this for a long time. And security remains good. We've seen constant improvement in the security force. We've seen constant improvement in governance. And I believe this is the time for us to move out of the cities and for them to take ultimate responsibility.

KING: Are you doing this based on military calculations or political calculations in the sense that Prime Minister al-Maliki has said he wants the American troops out, President Obama has said he wants them on a path to get home as soon as possible? One of your own deputies, sir, Brigadier General John Murray, said this: "Sadr City is one we wanted. The Iraqi government said no. So now we are leaving."

Are there two or three of these areas where you wish you could keep U.S. troops a little bit longer? ODIERNO: I think sometimes it's about strategic advantage over tactical advantage. I think, again, it's important for us to be in line with the security agreement that we signed in December.

I think from a military and security standpoint, it's time for us to move out of the cities. We'll still be there providing training, advising, enablers for the Iraqi security forces. I believe they're capable of doing this. We'll still be conducting significant operations outside of the cities and the belts around the major cities.

And I still believe that this will enable us to maintain the current security and stability situation here in Iraq.

KING: But do you have the flexibility -- if you see a target of opportunity, if you see something that troubles you, do you have the flexibility to act or do you need to go to the Iraqis and ask permission and perhaps lose incredibly valuable time?

ODIERNO: Well, again, when we signed the security agreement, we agreed to abide by Iraqi sovereignty. So everything that we do today is transparent. Everything we do today and have been doing since the first of January is transparent to the Iraqi government.

So we will continue to be transparent. But that does not limit our flexibility. We'll continue to coordinate with them and when necessary, we'll conduct the operations that we need to with their approval.

KING: I want to get up, sir, and go over to the wall because I want to show our viewers a map of the area. And I specifically want to pull out on a point. Because we have seen some incidences, some would say an uptick in violence, down in Nasiriyah on June 10th, deadly violence there, in Baghdad, a couple of bombings recently, then up in Kirkuk, let me shrink the map a little bit, we can see it all, up in the Kirkuk area.

Is there a pattern to this violence? Do you believe you are being tested and the Iraqi security forces are being tested on the eve of this deadline? ODIERNO: I think these are some extremist elements who are trying to bring attention to their movement that has been fractured. They're trying to use this time frame and this date to first gain attention for themselves and also to divert attention from the success of the Iraqi security forces.

We have not seen increased violence across the country. We still have low levels of overall violence. However, these high profile attacks, all they have done is kill innocent civilians and in fact, brought the air (ph) of Iraqi civilians against these terrorist groups.

KING: I want to also show you, sir, I'm putting up on our screen, I know you probably can't see it, but I want to show the level of troops in Iraq. We began with 150,000 in the beginning, May 2003, the peak was 171,000 of October 2007. We're now at about 138,000 as we're in June 2009.

When we spoke two months ago, sir, I asked you on a scale of 1 to 10 how confident you were that all American troops would be out by the end of 2011, are you still that confident, sir? Is that still a 10 on this morning?

ODIERNO: It is. And, John, actually we're at 131,000 today, have been now for about a month. We'll continue to draw down slowly and deliberately over this year. What's good is I've been given the flexibility to make those decisions based on the security environment on the ground.

I believe we'll continue to slowly and deliberately withdraw our forces this year, but have enough forces here to ensure that we have successful parliamentary elections next January.

KING: What do you make then, sir, if you say you're still very confident you will keep that, the former Iraqi national security adviser is quoted in The New York Times just today saying: "We need to extend the Status of Forces Agreement to 2020 or 2025, I just hope Prime Minister al-Maliki realizes we don't have competent security forces yet."

ODIERNO: Again, I would argue there's a difference between conducting internal counterinsurgency operations and being able to have external capacity. And I think they will have to make some decisions in the future of what they want to do in terms of their external capacity.

But I think that's something that has to be discussed later on. And there are many ways for them to do that. They can get assistance from the United States. They can get assistance from Egypt. They can get assistance from many countries. But that'll be a decision that has to be made in my mind a couple years from now.

KING: I want to also give our viewers, sir, a glimpse at the U.S. casualties. 4,317 U.S. men and women have died in Iraq over these past six years, 486 in the first year, and you see the violence and the death toll as it goes, 95 fatalities so far in 2009. As you move into this new posture, General, are U.S. troops safer in that you're pulling back from the major cities, or might want to argue they could conceivably be more at risk because if they are called upon for major operations, it would be after some tragic or traumatic event that the Iraqi security forces can't handle?

ODIERNO: Well, we'll maintain full coordination with the Iraqi security forces inside of the cities. If they need us, our movements will be coordinated. We'll continue to have intelligence capacity inside the cities. So I'm confident that we'll be able to maintain the situational awareness in order to protect our troops.

And our goal is to continue to lower, obviously, our casualties. We've continued to do that. And our goal is obviously to eliminate all casualties over time here. KING: We're having a military conversation, but in a sense the success of your mission in the final years will be dependent on the political situation in Iraq. What is your take on Prime Minister Maliki? Is he up to this task?

And I ask in the context that you have from time to time have been critical of his government and had to privately go to his government when it has cracked down on its political opponents. Is he a strong man or is he a democratic leader?

ODIERNO: Well, I think -- first off, I think this is -- you know, working in the situation he has had to, establishing a brand new democratic government while trying to maintain stability and security inside of Iraq is a very difficult task.

And I think he has continued to develop his government. I think he has continued to develop his security forces. And I think they have made great, great progress over the last -- over the last couple of years.

So I think from that viewpoint, he has done a very good job. Obviously there are still many political issues that have to be worked out here, reconciliation is one. Arab-Kurd tensions, intra-Shia, Sunni-Shia, those are all political issues that still have to be worked here.

And I believe they're in the process of doing that. And as we move to the national elections coming up here very shortly, those will be the main issues that are addressed in the lead-up to the elections.

KING: I want to ask you a bit about the situation in neighboring Iran. We have talked from time to time about Iran meddling dangerously in your business, allowing weapon systems to come across, IEDs to come across, perhaps even training, some of those who are trying to kill American men and women in Iraq.

Has that situation in terms of Iran coming across the border in ways or training people across the border, sending dangerous equipment across the borders, is that better now than if we were having this conversation in the past, or is it about the same?

ODIERNO: Well, I would say they still continue to interfere inside of Iraq. They still continue to conduct training. They still continue to pay surrogates to conduct operations in Iraq. It might be a bit less than it was. But I think that's more based on the success of the security forces here than it is on Iran's intent.

So, again, I think they're still attempting to interfere. They're still attempting to have undue influence inside of Iraq. And we continue to deal with that. We have made great progress on that front working with the Iraqi security forces.

KING: And as you know, sir, there are some in the Congress back here in the United States and others back here in the United States who have urged more assistance to the demonstrators, to the protesters in Iran. And some have said that, you know, we have the capability technologically if we wanted to say increase Internet access, to use technology from your position in Iraq along the Iranian border to somehow help increase Internet access, technical communications, text messaging. Have you been asked, sir, to do anything? And do you have that capability if you were asked?

ODIERNO: Well, first, based on the Iraqi security agreement, we are only concerned with protecting Iraq's security and stability.

ODIERNO: And based on that agreement, I'm not authorized to do anything outside the borders of Iraq. So I think I'll leave it at that.

KING: OK, sir. Let me come back to this important deadline. You believe you can keep this deadline and stay on the path to get U.S. troops home on schedule in 2011.

Let me ask you this question, what is your biggest worry? When do you say, OK, am I wrong here? What's your biggest worry?

ODIERNO: Well, again, I think -- I think it has to do with if we see a breakdown in stability in Iraq; if we see a consistent increase in violence; if we see that the Iraqi security forces aren't able to respond; if we have some event that it caused some instability, then that would cause us to, maybe, after we're asked by the government of Iraq, to help.

I don't see that right now. I believe we're on the right path. And I want to make sure you understand that. I believe we are still on the right path. I think security and stability is headed in the right direction as we move through 30 June.

KING: And I've used this test with you in the past, so let me ask it this way. On a scale of one to 10, how ready, in your view, are the Iraqi security forces to take on this added mission?

ODIERNO: Yes, I would just say they're at a very -- they have improved significantly over the last 2 1/2 years. We've seen incredible increase in their capacity and capability. They have proven it in combat operations. They have proven their flexibility and adaptable. So I am much more confident than I've ever been in the Iraqi security forces.

KING: I want to close, sir, in our last minute, on a lighter note.

You had a guest recently. Stephen Colbert came over to spend a little bit of time. And you were ordered, I think, by a very high authority, to give him a bit of a military haircut, shall we say, an unorthodox military haircut.

We're showing a picture to our viewers, right now, of you applying the shave to Stephen Colbert. Take us through that moment.

ODIERNO: Well, again, you know, Stephen said he wanted to join the Army. He went through basic training. So we told him, if he really wanted to be a member of the armed forces, he had to have the right haircut. And the president agreed with me on that. So we gave him a haircut.

I've been watching him lately. I think it's time for him -- he needs a trim, I think, so maybe we need to give him another haircut.

KING: You ran him through a little basic training. Is he in shape?

ODIERNO: He did pretty good. He was pretty impressive. Now, it was a little bit unorthodox basic training, but he looked like he did pretty well.

KING: All right. We'll laugh -- we'll laugh at that. But, as we close and say thank you to you, sir, we want to make sure you know you're in our thoughts, and the men and women serving under you are in our thoughts and our prayers as you go forward; first, this big deadline in 48 hours, and then, of course, the important weeks and months ahead.

General Ray Odierno, thanks as always for spending some time with us.

ODIERNO: Thank you very much, John.

KING: Take care, sir.

And as we take a quick break, a snapshot of troops serving in Baghdad, the capital city, of course, of Iraq.


KING: Here in Washington, President Obama and Congress spent another week wrestling with health care reform. It has been, to say the least, a contentious debate, with Republicans questioning whether the country can afford this right now and whether the president wants too big a role for the federal government.

But the biggest obstacle at the moment are Democratic objections to the White House approach. Some of them aired right here on this program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: Well, to be candid with you, I don't know that he has the votes right now. I think there's a lot of concern in the Democratic Caucus.

Controlling cost is a very major and difficult subject as long as you have a large private-sector involvement. So this needs to be worked out.


KING: And as key senators did just that this past week, working to trim the cost of the huge price tag of health care reform, we saw several examples of Democratic in-fighting.

The liberal group, for example, lashed out at Senator Feinstein and others who have raised questions about the president's approach. Feinstein's California one of nine states where MoveOn says it will run advertisements attacking Democrats.


ANNOUNCER: California voters sent Senator Feinstein to Washington to fight for us. That includes fighting to pass President Obama's health care plan. But Feinstein is saying health care may just be too difficult. Senator, we don't expect you to lead just on the easy issues.


KING: Republicans also intensifying the air war, the Republican National Committee, for example, running its first ad of the 2010 cycle. And, separately, a conservative group turns its attention to 14 senators, mostly from more conservative states, questioning the wisdom of the president's insistence that a government option be included in any major health care reform.


ANNOUNCER: Remember the $400 hammer? How about that $600 toilet seat? It seems, when Congress gets involved, things just cost more. Now they're at it again with a government-run health care plan. It'll cost more than $1 trillion and raise taxes $600 billion.


KING: Senate Democrats hope to begin voting on their proposal shortly after the July 4th recess. It will be interesting, fascinating to track this debate as the lawmakers go home and meet with their constituents. And we will do just that, watching them.

And coming up, we'll ask a Republican governor facing a state budget crisis whether Washington's actions on the economy, health care and climate change are helping or hurting. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty joins us in studio, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm John King. When our next guest recently decided against seeking a third term as governor, the buzz in conservative circles started immediately. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney already viewed as possible 2012 presidential contenders. And close associated of Tim Pawlenty urged activists and reporters to add the Minnesota governor to that list too.

But his day job remains leading a state with rising unemployment and a budget crisis, because a painful recession means lower revenues. And as he navigates those difficulties, Governor Pawlenty is often critical of the proposals of the Obama White House that the president says are designed to help. Governor Pawlenty joins us now here in D.C.

Welcome to STATE OF THE UNION. And let's start with the big debate. And we'll get to some of the policy specifics, but I want to talk first about the goals. The president says it is urgent that the United States extend accessibility to health care and have universal or near universal coverage. Do you share that goal?

PAWLENTY: Well, there are goals of three parts for health care reform, John. One is extending coverage, called access, but there are other goals, as well, which is cost containment, because it's bankrupting cities, states, businesses, the federal government. And the third is making sure we maintain quality.

So you can obsess just about access, but if you don't also contain costs and preserve quality, you're in big trouble. And the federal proposal is largely modeled so far after what happened in Massachusetts. They succeeded in extending access, but the cost of that program is now double, triple, and some would say soon-to-be quadruple what they originally estimated. That would be a bad development for those of us who are concerned about the uncontrollable rise in health care costs.

KING: Well, that -- let's go through some of the specifics. To pay for this, the president says about $1 trillion over 10 years. Let me start with the threshold question. Can we afford that right now?

PAWLENTY: Well, the president said not long ago in an interview quote-unquote, "we are out of money." With all due respect, Mr. President, if we're out of money, quit spending it.

And so, no, we can't afford it. This is a nation that has got a debt load and a deficit load that is unsustainable. We're going to have, in my view, the federal government debt crisis equivalent of the mortgage crisis within 20 years.

And notwithstanding the rhetoric, the Obama administration does not appear serious to address this out of control spending.

KING: The president says this public option, that if you -- you can have your private insurance, you can have what you have from your employer, if you like it, keep it. But if you don't have that or if you want to look around in the marketplace, there will be this government plan. And if you like that, maybe you opt out instead. Maybe it will be a little cheaper. Maybe it will offer a different mix of benefits. What's wrong in a mix, as long as there is a mix, of having a public option?

PAWLENTY: Well, what's wrong with it is, you have a government option in a market that is supposed to be driven by private choices. So if you're disadvantaged, unable to pay, and the government is going to subsidize you, the question becomes, should we give that subsidy to you directly? Should we subsidize and create its own program? That's the tradition.

But now they're talking about something new and different, which is to say, even if you're able to pay, even if you're in the marketplace, the government is going to compete for your business with private entities.

The government is going to come right into the marketplace and compete. So it would be equivalent to say, you know, John, you're a corn farmer and the government is going to put up a row of corn or a farm next to you and compete with you.

We don't do that in the United States, it's a different kind of model with a different kind of culture and society.

KING: Let's move on to the energy debate. The House just passed legislation, the narrowest of margins, two votes to spare, I guess not quite the narrowest of margins, but almost. The cap and trade legislation it is called. It would dramatically change the way -- if it passes the Senate, change our whole energy economy and our whole energy structure is based in this country.

The Congressional Budget Office says it would increase the energy bill of the average family about $175 by 2020. Is that an acceptable price to pay to reduce our dependence on foreign oil?

PAWLENTY: Well, John, the estimates you cite are on the low end. There are some other studies out that show it could be as much as several thousand dollars for an average family by 2020 per year. So depending on which of those estimates is accurate, it could be a very significant burden.

We all share the goal, I think, of reducing pollution and reducing emissions in this country. But we should have a debate about how best to do that. This bill that has just passed the Congress is a nightmarish, mind-boggling, overly bureaucratic, misguided bill.

I've been a strong supporter of renewable, clean and secure energy. I've been a strong supporter of finding ways to reduce emissions. But the way to do that is through conservation, doing things for base-load energy like nuclear energy, bringing on more fuel-efficient vehicles.

But this bill goes so far as to have the federal government micromanage and prohibit what local homeowner associations can do as it relates to the design features of local homeowner associations. That's one example of dozens in this bill in terms of its overreach. And it's a cap and trade bill. It's going to cap our job growth and trade our jobs to other countries who provide a more competitive business environment. This is the overly burdensome version that Congress has put forward.

KING: The president's senior adviser, David Axelrod, was out on another program this morning, and says this is a phony issue, the way you call it -- the way you just characterized this. He says it's phony and Republicans are using inaction as an excuse here, a political tactic.

PAWLENTY: Well, with all due respect to David Axelrod, why are they so opposed, on the other side of the aisle, of looking, for example, in the base load energy area of promoting aggressively more nuclear power plants? One of the biggest emitters of pollution and carbon in this country is our base load energy sector.

Nuclear power plants have no such emissions to speak of. There are next generation opportunities to process -- reprocess nuclear fuel. And yet while they kind of tip the cap at the argument, they really don't want to do anything and won't do anything.

Ask them to be accountable for that. That would be a major step forward as it relates to carbon emissions, and they won't take it.

KING: I want to go back in time a little bit. You were the host governor for the Republican National Convention. And in your speech at that convention, in the middle of a heated campaign, you were talking about then-Senator Obama. And it's clear you weren't that impressed. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAWLENTY: When John McCain is president, there will be no misunderstanding about where America stands and what we stand for. In this time, when don't need a president who can just read a poll or momentarily thrill a crowd. We don't need rhetoric or empty promises.


KING: As a guy some think might be running against -- trying to run against President Obama down the road, rate him now.

PAWLENTY: Well, he's only six months into his term, John, and so I think the history books should be a little broader in terms of perspective than just six months. But I'm very concerned on a number of fronts.

One is the out of control, unsustainable, irresponsible level of state -- or, excuse me, federal spending and the debt and the deficit that's growing by the minute. That is something that is not responsible, something that's going to, I think, snap back and bite us in ways that are going to hurt the economy in the intermediate term. I'm concerned also about this massive government encroachment in autos, in health care, in energy and other sectors. But, you know, President Obama inherited a very tough situation. I think we need to give him more than six months before you can make an ultimate verdict on how he's doing.

KING: Tim Pawlenty is going to stay with us. Up next, the GOP brand took another hit when South Carolina's governor acknowledged a secret trip to visit his mistress. When we come back, Governor Pawlenty's take on what Republicans need to do to turn things around.

Stay with us.


KING: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. Let's continue our conversation with Minnesota's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty.

Governor, I want to move on to what you think ails the national Republican Party. But first, a question that is very personal to you. Your state has only had one United States senator since the election because of the disputed election between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.

Your state supreme court has a ruling before it, it could come very soon. After that ruling, the next step would be for you to certify the election. Will you certify the election based on your state's supreme court ruling, is that for you?

PAWLENTY: I'm going to follow the direction of the court, John. We expect that ruling any day now. I also expect them to give guidance and direction as to the certificate of election. I'm prepared to sign it as soon as they give the green light.

KING: And so if Norm Coleman loses at the state supreme court and says he's going to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, will you give him that time or will you say, sorry, Senator Coleman, our state supreme court, our highest court in this state, has spoken, and I will follow their lead?

PAWLENTY: Well, a federal court could stay or put a limit on or stop the effect of the state court ruling. If they chose, if they do that, I would certainly follow their direction. But if that doesn't happen promptly or drags out for any period of time, then we need to move ahead with signing this, particularly if I'm ordered to do that by the state court.

KING: And if you're ordered to do it and they say Al Franken has narrowly won the election, you're prepared to sign it, if the court says so.

PAWLENTY: I'm not going to defy an order of the Minnesota Supreme Court. That would be a dereliction of my duty. But a federal court could weigh in and say, don't do that and order a different result.

KING: I want to move on to the drama in the Republican Party right now. President Obama won the election and won it quite handily. Since then and in recent weeks, we've seen two leading Republicans, men like you, who show up on lists of who might run in 2012, Senator Ensign in Nevada, then Governor Sanford in South Carolina acknowledging marital infidelity.

I want to play for you a snippet of a conversation -- and I want to be very careful and tell our viewers, this is from 2007. I went down to South Carolina to spend some time with Governor Sanford, to ask him there about the ongoing Republican competition for the 2008 Republican nomination.

Even then, he said the Republican brand was damaged and he also said this...


SANFORD: It takes time to damage a brand. It takes even longer to rebuild it. You think about Tylenol, or you think about some of the incidents over time, you know, a single night you could do destruction to a brand. And it took time to build up trust.

I mean, the value of a brand is, in the chorus of voices out there, people have a trust in a -- in a single group or in a single product. It takes time to build or regain trust.


KING: How much further damage to the brand of a party that says it's the party of family values, that counts Christian conservatives among its most reliable base -- how much damage has been done nationally by the actions of Governor Sanford and Senator Ensign?

PAWLENTY: It's hard to quantify that, John. But, clearly, there's been damage. Any time you have leading figures who are engaged in behavior that is sad and troubling and hypocritical, other people are going to look at that and say, "Hm, they don't walk the walk." And so the words and the actions don't ring true.

But it's a sad and troubling situation with Jenny and Mark Sanford. I know them. I'm proud of Jenny for her strength and her commitment to her family and keeping that family together. And, frankly, I was glad to see her not standing at the press conference like many others have, and, kind of, charting her own path, saying, look, I'm willing to forgive him, but I'm not going to stand there and condone this in any way.

But it certainly hurts the brand. It's hard to quantify it.

KING: Well, when you say "hard to quantify," what do you hear?

You're an evangelical. When you go to church and you talk to your pastor -- I travel the country quite a bit, and I've spent a lot of time with Christian conservatives. And they, frankly, are fed up.

They think Ronald Reagan didn't always deliver. They think George W. Bush promised to work against same-sex marriage and he did not, in their view, deliver. How much frustration is there that tars all of you, that the politicians are going to come to us; they're going to tell us, "I'm one of you," and then get elected and not do it? PAWLENTY: Well, that's a big part of the problem of the Republican Party. It's not the only one. That leads into what your next question was going to be.

It really hasn't mattered that much whether Republicans have gone to Washington or Democrat have gone to Washington, for example; on the issue of spending, the trend line's been about the same.

Now, it's been accelerated pretty dramatically under the Obama administration. But if you're going to be, for example, the party of fiscal discipline and be the person talking who's about fiscal responsibility, then you better do that.

And so hypocrisy doesn't sell, and the Republicans have to be true to their values, be true to their principles and walk the walk.

Now, we live in a world where people aren't perfect. You've made mistakes; I've made mistakes. There's going to be dumb things that happen, sad things that have happened, heartbreaking things that happen. So we can't expect perfection. But we at least have to be headed along the general correct trend lines.

KING: Since Senator McCain's defeat in the last election, many Republicans have said they think the party, especially with younger voters, is viewed as somehow intolerant.

And some, including Senator McCain's campaign manager, have said Republicans need to think again on the issue of gay rights and especially perhaps open their minds to same-sex marriage.

Does Governor Tim Pawlenty think that the Republicans should step aside and drop their opposition to same-sex marriage?

PAWLENTY: Well, no I don't. I think there is a lot of data that shows a lot of younger people feel differently about that issue than older people, and that's something we're going to have to come to terms with down the road, in terms of a country.

But I don't believe, nor does the Republican Party believe, that all domestic relationships are the equivalent. I believe that traditional marriage should be maintained on an elevated status and an elevated form for obvious reasons. It's an important part of our social fabric and a cornerstone of our social fabric.

KING: After the Sanford scandal emerged, there was a little item in The Washington Post saying, well, who else is out there for the Republicans when it comes to 2012?

And they said, "A riveting reality show takes shape," and they mentioned you, with a picture, and they said, "Tim Pawlenty: The Geek. Minnesota earnest with a dash of bland. Is he flying too far under the radar?" You were in Arkansas just the other night for a fund- raiser. I know your state press back home watches you every time you go out of state. Is Tim Pawlenty running for president?

PAWLENTY: You know, John, I don't know what the future holds for me, but I do know this. I feel strongly about the values and principles for the Republican Party. I believe I have something to say about that.

So, within Minnesota and outside of Minnesota, at least as my time allows, I'm going to go out and speak to that. And I think I can make a contribution, in a positive way, for trying to rebuild this party. And it needs it.

KING: On that point of your travels, I want to circle back a little bit. Because this became an issue and could become an issue in the state of South Carolina.

When you leave your state, what is your responsibility, as the governor, to tell people where you are, how you can be reached, and the whole combination of events that could play out from that?

Because, as you know, one of the questions about Governor Sanford is did he -- was he derelict of duty?

Could he possibly be impeached for lying to his staff about where he was and not telling others in the state he was leaving?

PAWLENTY: Your staff has to be able to reach you and reach you quickly for all the obvious reasons, natural disaster, terrorism, or other events.

And so I'm very careful to make sure that numerous staff people and my security detail always know where I am and can reach me. And any governor should do that.

KING: So Sanford was derelict in his duty?

PAWLENTY: He should not have left the state and not allowed people to know how to contact him in case something happened. That's obvious.

KING: Governor Tim Pawlenty, we thank you for joining us on "State of the Union." We will see you, whether it be in Minnesota or one of those other plenty places in the months and weeks ahead.

Sir, thank you very much.

And up next, breaking international news. We'll give you the latest on a breaking story, a military coup against the president of Honduras. Stay with "State of the Union." We'll be right back.


KING: I'm John King and this is "State of the Union." Here are stories breaking this Sunday morning. Despite an uptick in violence, the top U.S. general in Iraq says he believes Iraqi forces are ready to take over when U.S. combat troops pull out of Baghdad and other major cities on Tuesday. Speaking here on "State of the Union," General Ray Odierno says sure, he has worries, but he's seen a constant improvement both in the security situation and the government in Iraq. Iran today, an estimated 500 protesters marched silently through the streets, just as Iran's supreme leader called for national unity. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged both sides of the bitter election dispute to calm things down.

This morning, the president of Honduras was apparently the victim of a military-led coup. Jose Manuel Zelaya was arrested by soldiers this morning and then taken to Costa Rica. President Obama issued a statement saying he's deeply concerned about these developments and has called on all parties in Honduras to follow the rule of law. CNN's Karl Penhaul is standing by in Atlanta with more on this dramatic story. Karl?

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, from what we know, President Manuel Zelaya was dragged out of the presidential palace in his pajamas by about a dozen soldiers. We do understand shots were fired and then he was bundled aboard a military plane and flown out to Costa Rica. He does seem to be well there. We have heard him talking on Venezuelan media this morning. And he is calling on the people to remain calm. He is calling on the people in Honduras to protest this action by the military, but not to use violence to react to this measure.

Now of course, the Honduran military has had a long history of involvement of politics in Honduras, and especially from the 1955 to 1982 period. But since 1982, they have stayed out of politics, at least formally speaking, and so obviously this is a great setback, something that in fact has been reflected by President Obama's statement as well, John.

KING: And Karl, the source of this dispute here, a referendum the president wanted to have that would allow him to run for another term. The Supreme Court had said that was illegal. Do we have any sense of where the public stands on that question? Do they want this president to stay in office? And as we watch what happens on the street, how do we think public opinion will influence that?

PENHAUL: Well really, that was what President Zelaya was trying to test the temperatures today in this referendum that he had called to see if he could seek out that extra four-year term. That is something that's becoming pretty common across Latin America of late presidents trying to extend their terms.

But he also is up against regional and political and economic power elites there that have always made life difficult for any president, they have always been pulling the strings there from behind the scenes.

But what President Zelaya has said in an address on TV this morning is for the Honduran people to remain calm. Now we do know that certain supporters of Zelaya have gathered outside the presidential palace, but according to our report so far, the situation is not violent, John.

KING: Karl Penhaul for us in Atlanta tracking this dramatic development and we will continue to follow it on CNN throughout the day. Karl, thank you very much.

And when we come back here on "State of the Union," he made his fortune in the oil market. But he's now convinced America needs a new solution to its energy crisis. T. Boone Pickens gets "The Last Word," next.


KING: Twenty-two newsmakers, analysts and reporters are out on the Sunday morning talk shows, but only one gets "The Last Word." That honor today goes to T. Boone Pickens. He's the founder and chairman of BP Capital. And Boone, as you join us, I want to just show our viewers of the map because we wanted to talk to you in the wake of the House passage of this dramatic climate change bill, and the House is saying we need to get away from our dependence on foreign oil, get to more alternative sources of energy. I want to show our viewers some of them. This is a map showing where there are major solar power production facilities.

KING: These are solar facilities that feed an electric grid in parts of the country; as you can see, most of those out in the West.

Now let's take a look at wind. A much more national scope, here. These are wind facilities, wind turbines, again, that feed into some sort of local, regional, or national electric grid.

Now, T. Boone Pickens, the question to you. The House has passed this legislation. What do you believe -- as it now stands, is this the prescription for America's energy future?

PICKENS: Well, it's not complete. You've only done -- you've addressed the climate issue, but you know that wind and solar do not run 18-wheelers, so you're going to have to address that with another resource in America.

Remember where I come from. And I started July the 8th last year, so I'm coming up on my first-year anniversary. I know what the American people want. I'm in communication with them. I have had 33 town hall meetings. I have -- I'm in touch with -- well, I've got 1,600,000 people signed up in my army. I'm in touch with probably 20 million on -- on energy.

So, yes, the first move was fine. But the second move has to bring in a resource that's going to replace foreign oil. Wind and solar will not replace foreign oil.

So this is the first move. We're right on track. Everything's going good. And so -- but the next one is 1835. This one was 2454, was the House bill number. So house bill 1835 will be the one where we use natural gas to replace diesel in the 18-wheelers.

KING: Well, as you make the case that we need to go to natural gas to fuel our vehicles, I want to get your sense on the political climate in the country.

Because, you're right, it's the year anniversary of the Pickens plan. And back when you announced the Pickens plan, the price of gas was $4.11 a gallon, over $4.

Today the price of gas, on average, is down to $2.64 a gallon. As you know, the American people, when it comes to energy, their political urgency is often driven by price at the pump.

Have you seen the demand on the American people, the urgency go down with the price of gas? PICKENS: Let me -- yes. No question they're impacted by the price. But I, when I started last year -- and as you said, it was $4.11. I remember that on the Exxon marquee as I went down the street that morning to make the announcement.

But remember this, we're still importing the same percentage today as we did then; 68 percent of our oil is imported, and over half that comes from countries that are unfriendly to us.

So the urgency for -- on foreign oil has not changed. The price has changed. But let me tell you, I'm in touch with so many people that I've stirred this up.

And, you know, I've spent $60 million telling this story, and so -- and I've got a great amount of support for the $60 million. But they -- the people today know that urgency is there, and -- and they want it fixed.

KING: And you say the urgency is there and they want it fixed. I want to go through some of the particulars of this House climate change bill. It would require emissions by so-called greenhouse gases to be cut 17 percent by 2020, 83 percent by 2050.

Electricity producers would have to get at least 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

You have heard the counterargument. The opponents of this bill say it will hurt jobs in the United States because we're taking things that India and China are not prepared to do, at least not at the moment. And they say manufacturers will pick up and go overseas.

PICKENS: Well, John, you're talking about cap-and-trade here. And on cap-and-trade, let me shift -- and I'm not trying to dodge the question, but my urgency is security to America, and that is the dependency on foreign oil.

And again, this bill, the climate bill, is not going to reduce that dependency. What it is going to do, it's going to get us on our resources. And that's good. I'm for that. And I'm for anything that's America. I do not like foreign oil, is where I'm coming from. However we can do it, we need to do it because of the security issue.

And so here -- let me take you to a point that came up a week ago, that, on a study that the Colorado School of Mines had sponsored, they came up with we have -- this is not confirmed because proven reserves are one thing; probable reserves are another, but the probable reserves for natural gas in the United States is 2,000 trillion cubic feet of gas. That will be larger than the largest producer in the world, which is Russia. We will have more natural gas than Russia. We'll have more natural gas than Iran, who's number two, and Qatar, number three. We will move to number one with 2,000 trillion cubic feet of gas.

That is the window of opportunity that America has to go through immediately. Our leadership has to take us in that direction, and we have to get on our own resource.

But can you imagine, this year, we'll have an outflow of probably $500 billion for foreign oil. If we could cut that down by a half, $250 billion, you think how many jobs that is. You think what that does for America.

And, you know, you can -- in 10 years' time, you can get completely off of oil from unstable areas: Mideast, Africa and Venezuela.

KING: Well, let me come in -- I want to get to the policy in a second, but on the politics, then, if what is most important to you is weaning us off our addiction, our dependence on foreign oil, you see how much political capital was spent on this climate change bill.

The Democrats were able to pass it in the House with only two votes to spare, one of them being the speaker of the House.

Are they doing this in reverse order, in your view, in terms of our biggest energy need, our biggest national security and economic security crisis?

Should they have done the natural gas and the infrastructure in terms of our vehicles first?

PICKENS: Well, I don't know whether -- you know, it's not my business as to know whether it was...

KING: Is it your preference?

PICKENS: Well, of course, I'd rather go with -- with the Natural Gas Act, which is House bill 1835, and get it out of the way first, but it didn't work that way for me. And so what did I do -- I just keep grinding until we get to where we have to be to get -- to get the security for our country.

But here, on -- on 1835, it's a beautiful situation because they've got 73 sponsors, co-sponsors on it, and they're half Republicans and half Democrats.

So 1835, I don't think you're going to have to trade off anything to get that bill passed. Because, you remember when I came on the scene a year ago, I said, this is totally a nonpartisan issue. It will not ever become a partisan issue. And as far as I'm concerned, I've kept it that way.

KING: And as you make the case for this, as you know, there are some out there, especially in oil-producing states, who say we need changes but we don't need these sweeping dramatic changes, whether it's cap-and-trade for climate change or whether it's what you're talking about, to go completely to natural gas.

I want you to listen to the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, who is sharply critical of the president's approach and says, you know what; there's a lot of energy resources right here in the United States. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, R-MISS.: America has abundant, affordable energy, but the Obama administration's purpose here is to use less American energy, to have less oil and gas. Their position on nuclear is vague at best. They have had many administration officials say that coal's not part of the future.


KING: What do you think of Governor Barbour there, and is he right about the administration's approach?

PICKENS: Well, Governor Barbour is -- he and I have talked about this subject a lot -- and he was one of the ten or 15 governors that have signed up with the Pickens plan. He signed up with me early.

And so he is -- he didn't speak of natural gas, but -- and I think there -- maybe he was talking about coal. But Haley and I are in complete agreement on using natural gas. But we don't want to replace all of our vehicles with natural gas. I'm not suggesting that.

Go to the 18-wheelers, is where you want to go. That's the place. Go to the MTAs; go to the trash trucks, the big users, the big polluters

Natural gas is 25 percent cleaner than gasoline, 50 percent cleaner than diesel. I mean, this is a fuel we have in America that does exactly what we want, and it's at half the price of foreign oil. So it's an opportunity that we're going to look like fools if we don't take advantage of it.

KING: You say we will look like fools, sir. I just wonder -- we're about out of time, but do you believe the second piece, the part you care about, will pass this year, or will this political debate -- it's become so divided -- perhaps derail what you want for the near future?

PICKENS: I don't think so, John. I think that the way this is going to unfold, this is so needed, and I have done a good job of stirring up the American people to where they fully understand the dependency issue and the security issue.

So, consequently, I think it will pass this year, yes. I think we'll have -- they call it -- this bill was...

KING: I need to cut you -- I need to cut you there, sir. We're out of time. I'm sorry. T. Boone Pickens, thank you.

PICKENS: Thank you.

KING: ... on the energy debate on "State of the Union. We'll see you right back here next Sunday morning. Take care.