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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
John McCain on Barack Obama and Afghanistan; Ann Coulter v. Kiki McLean
Aired October 7, 2009 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, John McCain on Barack Obama -- is the president in over his head?
Eight years into the Afghanistan war, America's security on the line -- what the senator says the commander-in-chief must do next.
Plus, Ann Coulter versus Kiki McLean -- are we better off now than we were under President Bush?
They'll tear into that topic and each other.
And then, Tom DeLay drops out of "Dancing With The Stars."
Why couldn't they hammer that one out?
And Conan O'Brien attacks the Newark, New Jersey mayor -- why all the hate?
Mayor Cory Booker is not going to take it, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always a great pleasure to welcome Senator John McCain to LARRY KING LIVE.
Senator, we're going to begin with a quote from your Senate colleague, in fact, the co-author of one of the most famous bills ever offered in the Senate, Russ Feingold -- you of the famed McCain- Feingold bill.
But here is his statement. He issued it earlier today and he concluded it with this quote: "After eight years, it's time to give the Afghan people, the American people and the people around the world an idea of when our massive military presence will end. A flexible timetable to drawdown our troops in Afghanistan will diffuse the perception that we're occupying the country, which fuels militancy and instability in Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan."
How would you respond to that statement by your friend?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, he is my friend and I have the highest regard for him and he's a man of integrity. We are obviously at different -- a far different viewpoint on Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan, in the words of General McChrystal, is deteriorating. And so therefore, that means if it continues, then the Taliban will regain power. I am confident that that means, unfortunately, further working in alliance and cooperation with Al Qaeda. It means destabilization of Pakistan. As the foreign minister of Pakistan said yesterday, that it would destabilize Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country.
General McChrystal and General Petraeus Admiral Mullen have come up with a strategy that will succeed. We need to act and we need to act with all deliberate speed.
KING: But as you know, Senator, the commander-in-chief makes the decisions. And we can remember back to the war you fought in. In Vietnam, General Westmoreland said all I need is 50,000 troops and we have to stay there because communism is going to spread.
Generals aren't always right, are they?
MCCAIN: No, they're not always right. And the commander-in- chief has the final responsibility. And I have full respect for that. But these generals have a track record of success, when many others, including the present president, predicted that it would fail. And so did the vice president. And so did the secretary of State. And so did the national security adviser.
So what I hope is that in weighing the options, the president will give great credence to leaders who have already succeeded in Iraq and use that model to -- to succeed.
I know of no one who believes that what we're doing now, which is basically counter-terrorism, will work. Again, the Pakistani foreign minister said the Pakistani Army goes into places and they clear and hold and secure. Right now, because we don't have sufficient resources, we don't do that.
So we have to employ the same strategy, adjusted to Afghanistan, that succeeded in Iraq. And I'm confident we can do it.
And, Larry, I'm sorry for the long answer, but Americans are weary. Russ Feingold, I think, articulated that. This is long and hard and tough and tragic. And like the surge in Iraq, there's going to be an increase in casualties in the short-term. I just don't believe that America's national security wouldn't be threatened if there was a return of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
KING: You and other members of Congress, you met with the president yesterday and you reportedly told him -- and I want to see if it's true -- that deciding what to do in Afghanistan would "not be a leisurely process."
Does that mean -- if you said that, does that mean a decision has to be made like yesterday?
MCCAIN: Well, I think it should be made -- be made very soon. The strategy was decided on last March, when the president said this is a war of necessity, we have to win, etc. And there have been some events that would impact the strategic situation. But overall, it's the same strategy that would be employed as was adopted last March.
I don't think that the president should be rushed in. I think the appropriate phrase would be deliberate speed, because we have 68,000 over there. As you well know and Americans well know, we just lost 10 very tragically. And so -- and the situation continues to deteriorate. It calls for action.
KING: But, also, as you well know, the public opinion is now against this. If America -- and I know that's not the way we do things, but if this were a referendum, they would say leave.
Do you agree?
MCCAIN: I understand Americans are weary. And nobody is more weary than the men and women who serve and their families and those who have already sacrificed.
But I really believe that if the president of the United States, who has -- is held in very high esteem made the MCLEAN to the American people as to what we need to do and why we need to do it, I think that they would support him.
And I'd also like to say, I've never worried about the president announcing a pullout. I worry about half measures such as we employed in Iraq before the surge, which could lead to a bloodletting that, frankly, I would rather get out than not take measures to win the conflict.
KING: If we left -- give me the bad side.
What would happen if we left -- out, gone in three months?
MCCAIN: Well, I think the first thing that would happen is you'd see a return to power of the Taliban. As you know, they're already in control of certain areas. That -- the brutality of that regime ranks up there among the worst in history, especially where women are concerned.
Then I think you would see a certain destabilization in Pakistan, as their foreign minister said yesterday. And they are a nuclear power -- a nation with nuclear weapons. And then I think you would see the shared hatred that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have for us, that you would see them working together. And Afghanistan could return to a base for attacks on the United States and our allies. And Pakistan could be very destabilizing.
The foreign minister of Pakistan said yesterday, why did Benazir die?
In other words, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated, had taken a position of taking on Al Qaeda and -- and Taliban. And he believes that that's one of the reasons why she was assassinated.
We'll be right back with more of Senator John McCain on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.
KING: We're back with Senator John McCain.
He is on Capitol Hill at the Russell Senate Office Building.
Do you have problems with Stanley McChrystal, who was appointed by this president to run things in Afghanistan, speaking out publicly?
We remember one famous general named Douglas MacArthur spoke out publicly and lost his job because the commander-in-chief didn't agree.
Do you think the general should have spoken out?
MCCAIN: Well, I think so, given the situation. First of all, he had been invited to and had been cleared to make the speech in London that he made. And he responded to -- to questions.
Second of all, during the Vietnam War, as you recall, we wished that the military leaders had spoken out more. General Shinsheki, who spoke out that we needed 300,000 troops in Iraq, was made -- was certainly applauded for those comments.
I -- I think that General McChrystal would have rather remained quiet on this. I think he was answering a question. I know he respects the chain of command and respects the authority of the president.
But I would also add, I know this is a very tough decision for the president of the United States. I just think we need to make it with all deliberate speed.
KING: If he goes for it, though, that will enhance his reputation in your party and decrease it in his own, will it not?
MCCAIN: I think -- again, that's too -- it makes it -- that presents difficulties for the president because the left base of his party, obviously, is very strongly against it. And I also know that he's very popular with his party. He enjoys good approval ratings amongst Americans, and, obviously, he has great eloquence. I was exposed to that at least three times.
But the point is -- also, could I point out, Larry, that other presidents in history -- Harry Truman staying in Korea, Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, Franklin Delano Roosevelt prior to World War II -- they acted in the country's interests. I believe that this president will, too.
KING: And very often, though, Senator -- you know your history as well as anyone -- both Lincoln and Roosevelt overruled their generals.
MCCAIN: Yes, they did. And President Obama fired General McChrystal's predecessor. Harry Truman fired MacArthur and Matthew Ridway did extremely well. And Westmoreland was removed and his replacement, Creighton Abrams, succeeded, to a large degree.
KING: And where -- what do you think is going to happen?
We know what you want to happen.
What do you think he's going to do?
MCCAIN: I think that the president will agree with the recommendations of Admiral Mullen, General McChrystal and General Petraeus. I think he will. As I mentioned before, I think half measures would be the worst of all worlds. I'd rather get out than go back to the kind of counter-terror strategy that we employed in Iraq prior to the surge. And I think the American people, when talked to with some straight talk, will at least give him some slack on this very tough issue.
KING: Was he very open to it at your meeting?
MCCAIN: I think the president very appropriately said he wanted our input and our -- and our words of advice. And I thought we had a very good exchange, a very respectful exchange. And I think he pointed out very appropriately that he was still in the decision- making process, but wanted to hear from us. And I'm glad that he invited us over.
KING: A couple of other quick things.
Are you going to get a health bill?
MCCAIN: I think the Democrats, because they have the votes, may ram something through. The question is, is whether that will be good for America or not. And this is -- I think it could have very serious economic impacts on the country.
KING: Has the economy turned?
MCCAIN: I think, in some respects, the economy, if you live on Wall Street, I think it's returned and I think that all these profits and bonuses make them feel good.
If you go down Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona, certainly the economy has not come back. Unemployment is high. People are not able to stay in their homes. Unemployment, which was predicted by the administration, if we passed the stimulus bill, would not exceed 8 percent, is now 9.8, as you know, and going higher.
I think it's good for Wall Street. I think it's bad for Main Street. And I'll tell you, they told these big institutions they were too big to fail. Unfortunately, they told small businesses they're too small to save.
KING: Always good seeing you, John.
MCCAIN: Good to be with you, my friend. KING: Senator John McCain of Arizona.
Coulter versus McLean -- Ann and Kiki are standing by.
Back with their takes on Obama in 60 seconds.
KING: I don't like to presume things, but I'm going to presume that these next few sessions will be spirited.
Ann Coulter is in West Palm Beach, Florida. She's the syndicated columnist and conservative commentator, a number one "New York Times" best-selling author. Her book, "Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America," will be out in paperback next month.
And in Washington, Kiki McLean, Democratic strategist, partner at Porter Novelli. That's a global public relations firm.
This first segment is a little short, so I'll do a little twist for both of you.
Ann, what about the Obama administration so far do you like?
ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I like his reneging on his promise to shut down Guantanamo.
KING: You like that he reneged?
COULTER: Yes. Yes, I thought it was a crazy.
KING: Oh, I see. So keeping it open makes you feel good?
KING: OK. All right.
Kiki, what don't you like?
KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What don't I like about it?
Well, I'm going to have some hard time finding a...
KING: The administration so far, what disappoints you?
MCLEAN: I probably was disappointed in some of the ground we lost this summer on health care, but I feel like we're back on track now.
KING: Ann, why do you get...
COULTER: I shouldn't have (INAUDIBLE) short, Larry.
KING: ...why do you seem -- why do you get -- why do you both -- and maybe both of you are this way or the opposite -- why do you give no quarter to the other side, Ann? COULTER: Well, I think you'd have to be specific. I just -- I just did. I mean he did -- he was responsible by not shutting down Guantanamo, as, by the way, a lot of the mainstream media journalists were saying he was going to have to do shortly after the election. That was mostly Move.org -- MoveOn.org and the -- and the crazy liberal base screaming about Guantanamo. I mean I think it was the Senate that voted something like 90 to 6 -- I'm not sure it was exactly that -- not to set up detention centers for terrorists within the United States borders.
So that was...
KING: All right...
COULTER: ...that was a fine idea. It was crazy for...
COULTER: ...Democrats to be screaming about it.
KING: Kiki, should he have shut it down?
MCLEAN: Well, I think that we should try to do what we can to shut it down. I think that it's a complex problem. So I don't think it was a simple and I don't think that folks in the administration thought it was simple, but I think it became a bigger challenge than could be dealt with at the time.
So, eventually, I would like to see it shut down.
But, you know, Larry, you raised an interesting point about giving quarter to the other side. And I would say to you that there are things that Republicans do and participate in that I do agree with. And -- I think that any advocate or activist who becomes sort of a -- a one ticket puncher who never can respect the other point of view or find a point of agreement is going to be pretty lonely on the sidelines, because it's going to take us working together for progress.
KING: OK, we'll get into some -- I've got to break now and we'll come right back -- Afghanistan, Hillary Clinton and more -- we'll get into all of it.
Stay with us.
KING: We're back with Ann Coulter and Kiki McLean. Both ladies heard the senator from Arizona.
Ann, what did you make of Senator McCain's thoughts on, I guess, the most pressing issue today, Afghanistan?
COULTER: Well, I largely agreed, though I thought it was a little bit muddled. I think the most important point to be made about Afghanistan was the mistake made, again, during the campaign and the way Obama -- and, to some extent, Hilary, but more Obama -- was -- was stressing that Afghanistan was the real war, that was the war of necessity, whereas Iraq was a war of choice. I don't think that makes sense logically and I think it's a disaster.
Well, apparently neither Afghanistan nor Iraq attacked us on 9/11, both countries were harboring the people who did and hope to again. Iraq was better for this country militarily. By focusing on Iraq, we -- Iraq became like terrorist fly paper -- luring all these (INAUDIBLE)...
KING: All right, the question...
COULTER: ...moved in from around the country. The moment you switch the focus to Afghanistan, that is not good for America's military. It's a much tougher country to win in.
KING: A question, Kiki, for about Afghanistan to you?
MCLEAN: It's tougher to win and it doesn't mean that it still shouldn't be a priority. I mean President Obama has been absolutely consistent in his position on this, which is that Afghanistan was neglected in the last administration. No military or diplomatic situation is static. Over the course of time, decisions have to be made.
I think that one of the things, to Senator McCain's credit, he acknowledged the history of where advisers are and what history tells our current leaders.
But what we also see today is a president who is turning to his military advisers, his generals on the ground, his national security team, the elected leaders of our federal government, like John McCain -- bringing them -- bringing them in to make a comprehensive decision, A, first, on strategies; and then, B, on resources -- not to respond to one recommendation, but to view this in the whole so that you make comprehensive decisions that are -- that have a plan, a tactical element and then, frankly, an expectation for outcomes.
That's a real differences and I think that's a demonstration of leadership on the part of the president.
KING: Ann, what's wrong with that concept?
COULTER: Well, I think the reason he's bringing a lot of people in and he claims to be listening to the generals is that if a disaster ensues, he -- he won't have to take the blame. But the point is we were winning in Afghanistan as long as Bush was president. It wasn't a focus. We had a presence there.
When you turn that into the main focus of the war on terrorism, that isn't good for America because our -- our strength -- not only our strength, but we are dominant over any other nation in the world on air power. Afghanistan isn't...
COULTER: ...a country suitable for that. It's mountainous, it's cave-pocked.
COULTER: There are cave dwellers all over.
Wait a second. Let me just finish this.
Moreover, the citizenry itself is more inclined to agree with Al Qaeda. Whereas in Iraq, you had the reverse. You had the crazy leader, but actually a pretty educated people, much like Iran, I might add.
So establishing democracy in Iran, where they have had elections, where women are living in far greater freedoms than they had under Saddam Hussein...
KING: All right, but...
COULTER: ...was much -- a much better strategic decision. I don't think Obama cared about military strategy. He cared about being politically correct.
MCLEAN: What I really like about sort of the professional (INAUDIBLE)...
MCLEAN: What I really like about -- what I find interesting about the professional opponents of a Democratic president is that they will -- they'll take a position like he shouldn't be listening. He only listens to the people who have a stake and experience and responsibility in these decisions because it's politically expedient or he might be scared. That's -- that's not an explanation or a critique of what a president should or shouldn't do. A president's role is to consult, bring the information to the table and then make a decision and lead.
And I think that for Ann to say, well, he's only listening to people because he's afraid he might make a bad mistake, would you prefer, Ann, that he actually not lead and go make the decision all by himself, without consulting the information around the world?
I mean it's -- it's ridiculous.
COULTER: Well, to answer that, that was only my first sentence and then I -- gave, I think, a quite descriptive reason for why what I think he's doing is a disaster, why it is very likely to lead to disaster, why we only seem to fight unwinnable wars when a Democrat is president, because they don't look at military strategy.
MCLEAN: Well, but...
COULTER: They don't look at military advantages. They look at what the Democratic base wants.
KING: OK, ladies...
COULTER: Basically, anything about Iraq...
KING: I've got to get a break.
MCLEAN: He's talking to General...
KING: I've got to get a break and we'll come right back.
By the way, we're -- hold it.
Hold it, Kiki.
We're taking your quick vote. Here's tonight's question -- President Obama, effective or ineffective or too early to tell?
Go to CNN.com/larryking and cast your ballot.
More after this.
KING: Kiki, before we move to other aspects about the whole Obama presidency, do you fear Afghanistan could be his Vietnam?
MCLEAN: I think it's too early to tell that. I mean one of the things -- and I'm sure Ann's listening, too -- about her answer is that she -- her answer and some of her colleagues on her -- her end of the world there, talk as though he's made the decision and what our final strategy is going to be. And that's not the MCLEAN. He's in the process of developing that strategy.
So I'm not prepared to say, oh, this is his Vietnam.
Do I think he inherited very, very complicated war scenarios?
Absolutely. And they only get more complicated with time. And history will tell you that any war becomes more complicated with time.
KING: Well, McCain...
MCLEAN: And that's what he's dealing with.
KING: McCain said he -- McCain said he thought that the president would go with the generals. Anyway, I want you to watch -- Ann, I want you to watch this clip from "Saturday Night Live" -- you, too, Kiki -- and give me your impression.
Was it on the mark or just -- or just funny?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," COURTESY SNL/BROADWAY VIDEO) FRED ARMISEN, COMEDIAN: You look at my record, it's very clear what I've done so far. And that is nothing.
ARMISEN: Do you think I'm making it up?
Take a look at this checklist. Now, on my first day in office...
ARMISEN: On my first day in office, I said I'd close Guantanamo Bay. Is it closed yet? No. I said we'd be out of Iraq. Are we? Not the last time I checked. I said I'd make improvements in the war in Afghanistan. Is it better? No, I think it's actually worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ann, is this a sign there's a turn against the president going on in the country of "Saturday Night Live"?
COULTER: I don't think so. For one thing, I don't think "Saturday Night Live" or the mainstream media will ever turn against Obama. Michelle will turn against him before "Saturday Night Live" does. But I think it was mostly just funny.
Words that it were true that he were not keeping his promises. I certainly wouldn't be complaining about it. And just a quick little side bar on some of the conservative Web sites like Free Republic they have been making fun of CNN for fact checking a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.
KING: Kiki, do you think it's a bad sign for the president if the supposedly liberal "Saturday Night Live" turns?
MCLEAN: Well, no. Look, I don't think it's -- I don't think it's a sign of anything except some fun jokes on a Saturday night. I think we all know the truth is that this president actually led the administration's fight to keep what has been a dark recession going into a deep depression.
I think we know that we are closer to health care reform than we've been ever before. We are closer to dealing with climate change and clean energy and a new plan to make ourselves energy independent in the future.
This is all within nine months. I mean -- and if you look at this from a corporate scenario, the CEO walk-in. He walked in to a company that was about to just completely implode, fall apart, disintegrate. He stopped that. He brought the crisis to a halt. And now he's beginning to move it forward in working with other officials and leaders both internationally and domestically and doing it.
And I think -- I think that's a lot to be proud of at this mark. KING: Ann, do you admit he inherited a down fallen administration?
COULTER: The economy was a mess. But he has made it worse and he's going to continue to make it worse because this is -- because of the liberal philosophy that they can figure out, you know, who should get benefits, who should get a tax break and who should get Cash for Clunkers all from Washington.
What we need is -- to put it simply -- cash for clunkers for everyone. I mean you get these benefits for people selling cars. Yes, car sales went up, but sales of refrigerators, and -- you know, boats, microwave ovens, new couches, they went down.
What you need is everyone feeling like he has more money that you could achieve through something broad base like a payroll tax deduction or perhaps even a payroll tax holiday, as many Republicans have suggested. But trying to micromanage the economy from Washington has never worked. And it will not work now. And the unemployment rate is going up month by month by month. It is absolutely not...
KING: Kiki, want to respond?
MCLEAN: Yes, I do. I think the reality is what we're dealing with is an increased unemployment rate that the final waves of amplification from the disaster that was left on his doorstep when he came in as president.
What the president did was stop this recession from going into a deep depression. We're beginning to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. Not a lot. It's going to be long and it's going to be slow. And there's no overnight miracle. There's no overnight from the Republican Party either.
But what I would like to see the Republicans do is step up to the plate with broad suggestions. How are they going to deal with health care? You know it's interesting, when you look at something that affects our economy as large as the health care issue does, you hear nothing from Republicans, Larry, about what they want to do on that.
You see a president who's looking at the financial institutions and saying there's a reform package I'm bringing to the table. He hasn't been afraid to address the top issues and I think in some way he intimidates other people because he's willing to do that.
KING: I'll have Ann comment on health as well. Matthew McConaughey is here tomorrow night. He's written a Web exclusive for us. It's at CNN.com/LarryKing. Click on the blog and read it.
We spent some time with Matthew this week and we've got a Web extra for you, too. A video preview of Thursday's show. Check it out and CNN.com/LarryKing. Still ahead, "Dancing with the Stars'" Tom DeLay.
More with Ann and Kiki right after this.
KING: Ann Coulter, do you agree or disagree that health insurance should be in every American home?
COULTER: I think I'd phrase it differently. I think good health care should be available in every American home that will often entail health insurance. But I -- I must say I do wish Democrats would stop flaunting, blaming everything on Bush and for another thing claiming Republicans have no -- have offered no proposals.
I have just offered a proposal on what you can do for the economy instead of picking out particular winners from Washington -- green jobs or sending money to the states to have more state government workers. Allow 300 million Americans to decide what they'll do with more money in their pockets by giving a massive broad based tax cut.
As for health care, it's the same thing. I've been screaming it from the rooftops as have many Republicans. Allow there to be free market competition in health care. And you'd be able to buy health care easily as you buy car insurance and home insurance.
Right now we have all these government mandates both at the state level -- especially at the state level -- and at the federal level saying you can't buy health insurance unless the health insurance plan covers Viagra and marriage counseling. And you know, physical therapies and chiropractors.
Well, what -- you know, most of the uninsured people are young and healthy people who really just want to be insured in case there's a catastrophe and accident. They can track some of these.
KING: Kiki? Kiki, what's your thoughts on where we're going with this?
MCLEAN: Well, I think Ann needs to work with some of her colleagues on the right and get them to focus more on the ideas that they have to promote them because that's not really how they spent the last six months talking about it. And in fact, you know, it's interesting because there's a move in leadership in the party when it comes to health care.
If you look at the last week or two, you have had everybody from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Scott McClellan who was a Bush appointee, to Bill Frist, a Republican leader, now to Bloomberg, an independent mayor, saying it's really time to make it happen.
And I think somebody like Tommy Thompson, who is a leading Republican on health care, a four-term governor, and saying now is the time to do it and make it happen.
This is the momentum that gets you there. You know we're 80 percent of the way there. The House has passed legislation out of committees. We're moving legislation out of the Senate. And we have a chance to make a difference.
And I'll tell you, Larry, I get this firsthand because I'm fortunate that I -- I've had a job and I've had health insurance and I have resources. I am grateful and I am blessed. But I'll tell you, I had to switch insurance recently and I'm a middle-aged woman who put off her physical because I was afraid, what if they found something and it would be a pre-existing condition?
Those are the choices people are making every day in this country and we have to make it affordable.
MCLEAN: And Affordable.
KING: It's a little philosophical, isn't it? Do you think health is a right? Do you think I -- that every American has the right to health care?
MCLEAN: Yes, I do.
COULTER: I think...
KING: Ann, you do?
COULTER: No, I was just checking to see if that was a question for me.
KING: Yes, for you.
COULTER: When we have rights to things, they become less available and more expensive. When they're sold on the free market like computers and cell phones and flat screen TVs, suddenly the price comes down and everyone has them. That doesn't mean you don't take care of people who can't afford even the most basic health insurance.
KING: That's what I meant.
COULTER: Which would be a lot cheaper if you had a competitive market system you could buy health insurance on, but...
KING: All right.
COULTER: But to say something is a right, it ends being like...
KING: I got it.
COULTER: ... the public schools.
KING: OK. OK. We'll be back for just a few moments in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is nothing I would like more than to step just a few blocks from my family's home with Michelle and my girls and welcome the world back into our neighborhood.
JON STEWART, HOST, "DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": That's the pitch?
That's the big post? Let's have the Olympics in Chicago? That way I don't have to drive?
You've got to give it to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: My friend Jon takes no prisoners. Kiki, was it a mistake for the president to go to Denmark?
MCLEAN: He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't on that one to head to Copenhagen. I think sometimes a president has got to take a few risks and he did and this one didn't work out.
KING: Ann, was it a mistake?
COULTER: I didn't think it was that big a deal and did not particularly complain about it. I mean you would think most Americans would prefer for Obama to be more focused on the economy right now, but you know, I don't know what he's going to do. It will probably be more bad idea out of the White House, anyway.
KING: Kiki, are you still optimistic about your president?
MCLEAN: I am optimistic about it. I'm optimistic not only about my president, but about the American people. I know how close we are to health care reform. I know how close we are to climate change legislation. I feel like there's good change coming on. And I think we're seeing that little light I talked about at the end of the tunnel on the economy.
KING: We only have 30 seconds. Ann, I would imagine you are pessimistic about this presidency?
COULTER: Yes, certainly the economy and foreign policy, but I will say I'm very optimistic in the American people. So we may have a change of some of those policies.
KING: Aha, an agreement. Thank you both very much. Ann Coulter and Kiki McLean. And Ann's book will be out in paperback next month.
Tom DeLay may have met his match -- the dance floor. Why the former congressman dropped out of "Dancing with the Stars." He's here to tell us next.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, tonight on "360" we are reporting from Chicago. From the very place where 16-year-old Derrion Albert was beaten to death. A killing captured on video. How can this keep happening? Why can't school officials, police, community leaders, families keep kids safe? We're keeping them honest tonight.
And raw politics. More allegations of corruption on Capitol Hill. Democratic congressman, Charlie Rangel, tonight, he heads the committee that writes our tax laws. But get this, he's being investigated for allegedly failing to declare hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own assets and failing to pay taxes on those assets.
So how come Democrats are taking so long to investigate the ethics of one of their own?
Plus David Letterman under fire tonight. The National Organization for Women blasted the comedian saying he created a hostile work environment. But with his ratings surging and audiences laughing, has Letterman survived the worst of the storm?
Those stories and more ahead on "360". We'll be right back.
KING: We're back here in Los Angeles with Tom DeLay. The former GOP congressman from Texas, former contestant on ABCs "Dancing with the Stars." Why are you a former? Why are you out of show? You were doing good.
TOM DELAY, FORMER GOP CONGRESSMAN: My feet gave up on me.
Well, I got a stress fracture about a week -- 10 days ago in my right foot and then last week, I got a stretch fracture in my left foot. And even though I have two left feet...
DELAY: You've got to have feet to dance with.
KING: But you kept on dancing, though, right?
DELAY: Well, I wanted to dance Monday night. We had a great little samba. Of course, Cheryl Burke, my partner, and I were dancing to...
KING: There you are.
DELAY: To the song. Well, that's not -- that wasn't the dance Monday night. That was my "Wild Thing." (LAUGHTER)
KING: Why did you do this?
DELAY: I just thought it was a kick. You know? I like to do things like this. And I love a challenge. And I can't dance even though I think I can. My wife says I can't.
And it's outside my comfort zone.
KING: Well, let's take a look. We have been watching a little bit.
DELAY: There it is.
DELAY: She's a Democrat and I'm the Republican.
KING: Look at that.
DELAY: And we're dancing to "Why Can't We Be Friends?"
KING: Good idea. Let's take a little further, look at some of the footwork of Tom DeLay.
(VIDEO OF ABC'S "DANCING WITH THE STARS")
KING: How hard was the work?
DELAY: It's excruciatingly hard. I never expected it. These people, like Cheryl Burke and other, they work -- they have a work ethic like nobody you've ever seen. We danced -- we practiced every day, seven days a week from five to six hours a day.
KING: Wow. No regrets over doing it?
DELAY: Not at all. My regret is I don't get to keep doing it. I wanted to see how far I could go. I had no expectations that I could win this thing at 62 years old. I was 11 years older than anybody on the show. But -- no, I...
KING: Did the judges give you a fair shot, you think, in their analysis?
DELAY: Well, I don't know. I think that dance I did Monday night was better than the score I got but...
KING: I thought it was super.
DELAY: Well, thank you. But I should have had one of my arms up a little higher.
(LAUGHTER) KING: Did any of your old political colleagues, left and right...
DELAY: Oh yes.
KING: ...comment on this team?
DELAY: Oh yes. I'm getting calls from left and right. I had one liberal e-mail me and said I've hated you all my life, but I voted for you. I loved what I saw.
Maybe we're bringing the country together.
KING: Maybe that the way to do it.
KING: Because it ain't happening elsewhere.
DELAY: Well, I'm suggesting that we have a dance once a week in Washington where the Democrats and the Republicans come together and party together.
We used to do that, by the way, in the state legislature. Every Tuesday night, we had spoke night where we'd go to the Broken Spoke Dance Hall and we would dance. The speaker would host a party with a live band. I mean, it's hard to get mad at somebody that you party with.
KING: Are we too (INAUDIBLE) now?
DELAY: It's getting really nasty, Larry. I've got to tell you.
KING: What's going on?
DELAY: Well, I think the stakes are so high now. It used to be, you know, the paradigm of politics was just, you know, ruining somebody's reputation and you could beat them. But now it's the criminalization of politics. You want to bankrupt people and destroy their families. Put them in jail.
KING: When did that start?
DELAY: I don't know. I think...
KING: Both sides, right?
DELAY: Yes, both sides do it. It's really sad. I don't know why we have to do that, to be honest with you.
KING: Can you criticize, let's say, a president without hating him?
(CROSSTALK) DELAY: You should be able to do that. I didn't hate Clinton, although I was probably more responsible than anyone to impeach him. But I thought, you know, he was a great guy to hang out with.
KING: What do you think is happening? How is Obama doing so far, just general impression?
DELAY: I think, to be honest with you, I think his experience -- inexperience is starting to show through a little bit. But I don't know, I've sort of stayed out of it for the last few weeks.
I'm trying to keep my broken foot out of my mouth.
KING: Would you do it again? If your feet were fine and they said we loved you, come back?
DELAY: Oh, yes.
KING: In a minute.
DELAY: And I would stay on the show in a minute. Absolutely. This is the most fun and the people you get to hang out with, these professional dancers are just phenomenal people. Really smart, great young people.
KING: I want to tell you, I thought you were great.
DELAY: Thank you.
KING: And I hope your feet get better and I hope you come back.
DELAY: Thank you, Larry. It's great being with you.
KING: Tom DeLay. What did Newark, New Jersey ever do to Conan O'Brien? Conan's got it out for the city and Mayor Cory Booker fights back next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": The mayor of Newark, New Jersey wants to set up a city wide program to improve Newark resident's health. The health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Ever since that, a major conflict has developed and David Letterman has his personnel sex scandal but "Tonight Show" host, Conan O'Brien is embroiled in a feud with a whole city. We're going to talk to the mayor of that city in a moment. But here's part of how the conflict got going. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: I told a little joke about Newark last week and then Mayor Booker responded by banning me, first, from Newark -- yes. Well, actually first from Newark Airport, then from Newark, and then from the entire state of New Jersey. Yes.
Since then -- yes. So I'm banned from New Jersey now. But since then, I've been able to form a pro-Conan alliance around Newark by sucking up to all the New Jersey cities surrounding Newark. By getting them on my sides. Take a look at this little clip from last night's show.
Welcome, my new allies. You're on my side now. And with these cities next to me, I now have Newark completely surrounded. Creating a geographic toilet seat around the city of Newark. So goodbye, Newark.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And, today, you have the gist of all of this major story, we welcome Mayor Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Is this now light hearted, Mayor, or is it serious stuff?
MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: I think it's a little of both. I mean the truth of the matter is, his jokes are very funny. But they're at the expense of our city. And we've had a reality in Newark for years and decades, late-night talk shows, I can't tell you how many, have always sort of picked on our city.
And now at a time that our city is surging back, the second fastest growing population in the northeast right now, record reductions of violent crime, tremendous programs, new arts and cultural institutions opening up. We have a lot to be proud of.
And I think our city said we're just not going to take it anymore. In fact, we've already taken a few other people to pass. Barry Melrose from ESPN took a crack at us and we made him come to the city of Newark. And once he saw what was going on, he publicly apologized.
So this time we decided to be created. We just said, you know what? Conan O'Brien is coming at us with jokes, we're going to go right back at him in the same way.
KING: We have a clip of you. We're going to -- I wasn't going to play this but now I want to see how you fired back. So let's see you, who you've got more than 800,000 followers on your Twitter, how you fired back at him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOOKER: Hi, this is Mayor Cory Booker of the city of Newark. I've got a message directly for Conan O'Brien.
Conan, let's end this feud. Enough already. Enough. You started out by insulting our city and I had to respond and I banned you from Newark Airport. Then you escalated and banned me from Burbank Airport. I joined with other mayors and banned you from state of New Jersey and then you banned me with the Governor Schwarzenegger from the entire state of California.
Conan, can't you see our country is beginning to be divided? People are choosing sides. The entire northeast has already said they're standing with me. The southwest, Conan, looks like they're going with you, especially Arizona, which has a particular love for large, gaping holes that just won't close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Cute, cute. Very cute, Mayor. We asked Conan, by the way, to make a statement for our show tonight and here's what he said.
"Thank you, Larry." Getting (INAUDIBLE). "Thank you, Larry, for allowing me to make a statement on your show. I want to again reiterate, I have only the highest respect for Mayor Cory booker and the city of Newark, New Jersey -- one of America's oldest, greatest, and most enduring punchlines."
BOOKER: Oh, wow.
KING: So he wants to continue it, Mayor.
BOOKER: Yes, indeed. Well, we're going to try to bury the hatchet and end the feud. The truth of the matter is, we in Newark are doing a lot of good things and we're going to stick to the work that we're doing. I think we've made our point.
It's a new world of media right now and we've got -- you know, closing in on a million people between Facebook and Twitter and we've been able to get this picked up by a lot of other traditional media.
So the reality is, I think Newark is now showing itself, that it's not going to let itself be picked on by late-night talk show hosts. But the good thing about Newark right now is we've got a lot of brag about.
KING: Sure do.
BOOKER: And we are, like many cities, dealing with real issues that have real challenges and I'm just proud to be a mayor of a city right now that is taking on those difficult challenges and making a name for itself, not as a punchline to jokes but actually is making a name for itself as one place in America that's actually tackling challenges and making the progress.
KING: Has he invited you on his show?
BOOKER: Yes, we've actually now are in discussions trying to find a time that works for both of us. I definitely think we should do this meeting face to face, and -- so we're trying to figure out how to get that done.
You know, look, Conan actually is a very funny guy and I think he does have a lot of respect for the city of Newark and understands what we're trying to do. So at the end of the day, I think his producers are conspiring with us to find a way to end this quickly.
KING: I think that'll be smart. Smart of you to go on because you handle yourself very well. And Conan is a very good guy and he's very funny and you're a good guy yourself. And it should be -- it would only help Newark to go on.
BOOKER: I think so as well. Again, the more we can shine a light on the truth of Newark now, the more the residents are going to benefit and I think the more America is going to discover that we're not a city from memories long ago, (INAUDIBLE) true. We're one of the 21st century cities that's remaking itself in the greatest image and hope for America.
KING: Thank you, Mayor. Go get them.
BOOKER: Thanks so much, Larry. All the best to you.
KING: The best to you. Mayor Cory Booker. Hey, that's going to be some night. And thank you, Conan, for issuing a response.
Matthew McConaughey is going to be our guest tomorrow night. Right now, our host is Anderson Cooper in "AC 360."