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Sound of Sunday

Aired November 8, 2009 - 11:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: I'm John King and this is "State of the Union."

It's 11 a.m. Eastern, time for "State of the Union's" "Sound of Sunday."

Fifteen government officials, politicians and analysts have had their say. Chief of staff of the United States Army General George Casey and the chairman of the Democratic and Republican National Committees.

We've watched the Sunday shows so you don't have to. We'll break it all down with James Carville and Mary Matalin, the best political team on television. "State of the Union," "Sound of Sunday" for November 8th.

One of the Army's top generals says this Sunday the military will investigate whether it missed warning signs that the gunman responsible for the Fort Hood massacre was sympathetic with suicide bombers and vocally (ph) against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But at the same time, General George Casey says Americans should not cast aspersions on the 3,000 Muslims who serve in the Army honorably.


CASEY: And, frankly, I am worried -- not worried, but I'm concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.

As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.


KING: As the military investigates the shocking shooting, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee says Congress will be asking tough questions, too.


LIEBERMAN: In the U.S. Army, this is not a matter of constitutional freedom of speech. If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance. He should have been gone.


KING: The morning after the House passed these sweeping health care changes, Democrats claim victory and momentum, but they also concede the Senate version is likely to be very different.


GOV. EDWARD G. RENDELL, D-PA.: I think there will be a compromise on public option, maybe a phase-in or a trigger or maybe the opt-in or opt-out, but I think we're going to get basic health care because we need it. There are people all over this country who have health care who are afraid they're going to lose it.


KING: But where Democrats see a major policy gain, Republicans see a huge political opening.


REP. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.: Nancy Pelosi, last night, said that they were answering the call of history. Well, I've got to tell you, Democrats keep ignoring the American people, their party's going to be history in about a year.


KING: As you can see, we've been watching all the other Sunday shows so maybe you don't have to.

Joining me now, where you can only see them right here together, on "State of the Union," Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor James Carville and Republican strategist and CNN political contributor Mary Matalin.

We should introduce you first some time, right? We always introduce him first. What's up with that?



KING: Well, let's do -- let's go ladies first, here. A huge vote in the House last night, 220 to 215. The Democrats have made progress in advancing the president's signature domestic policy initiative. You heard Mike Pence, there, at the end. He says political suicide for the Democrats. It is progress for them, is it not?

MATALIN: They're measuring progress by a process. They keep saying -- and their argument's been, all along, we've moved this further than it's ever been moved in 60 years. It never occurred to them that, for 60 years, people didn't want what they're proposing. They still don't want it.

And the point is not to just get it done; it's what's in it that they got done? And it's a double whammy for the House members because it is going to get ratcheted back in the Senate, so she made these these -- particularly these conservative Democrats walk the plank, just like the whole cap-and-trade thing, and they're going to get slammed for the vote, which is not going to be what the final package looks like anyway.

But the bottom line here is just that they've got it this far does not mean there is going to be progress in health care; just quite the opposite. People understand that and that's why they oppose it -- intensely oppose it, because they're concerned that this will result in the diminution of quality and quantity. And they're right.

CARVILLE: Well, John, you know, you can't be a Democrat and just not be very moved by what happened last night. This is 61 years. You're talking about covering 96 percent of the people in the United States. You have every leading health care economist said that this bill would go a long way toward controlling costs.

It was endorsed by the AARP, the American Medical Association, the nurses. You're right. It's going to change in the Senate, but this thing is -- it's a significant achievement, and you've got to give Speaker Pelosi a ton of credit.

I mean, this woman has come in, first woman speaker, the highest- ranking woman in the history of the United States government. And there were some difficult times that we'll talk about, I'm sure, in the panel, but anybody that dreams of getting costs under control and expanding coverage, this was a good night. I feel good about it.

KING: We're going to spend a lot of time on the politics of this, but let's do it in the context of the policy of this. So let's show our viewers what's in the House bill.

Again, this is the House bill. Now it has to go over to the Senate, but the House bill would do this. It would cost about $1 trillion over 10 years. It would include huge Medicare changes. It would extend coverage, as James just noted, to 36 million Americans who do not currently have health insurance.

That means, at the end, after the 10-year implementation, 96 percent of Americans would have coverage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would cut the deficit by $104 billion over 10 years, and they would pay for this -- and this is one of the controversial parts -- through a series of tax increases and Medicare and Medicare (sic) savings, they call them. Others would call them cuts. They're going to squeeze what they say is waste and inefficiency out of Medicare and Medicaid.

On the policy, Mary, the cost, $1 trillion over ten years. The goal, extending coverage to 36 million Americans. They say it would cut the deficit in over 10 years if they implement it correctly. From a policy standpoint, the Republican objection is?

MATALIN: If they execute per what they're saying they will, which -- we have a history for this. We have a template. We've seen it before. They have -- one of the giant cost savings is to reduce the cost of Medicare, is to cut Medicare. They've never done that. They've never, when it comes time to trigger the cost to providers, they never do that, or they're taxing these plans. They're not going to do that. Their unions are against it.

Every cost-cutting measure that they have in there, there's a history of the Congress never pulling the trigger, just kicking the can down the road, if you will.

Secondly, those -- and CBO says this, the cost is more like $1.8 trillion, even discounting for what I just said, because it doesn't start. They've figured over a 10-year period, but this 10-year period doesn't start until 2013. When they measured over a true 10 years, it's $1.8 trillion. We cannot afford that. We simply cannot afford it.

We can do reforms. This doesn't -- this only -- doesn't cut any costs anywhere. Let me just this, finally. It shifts costs to taxpayers. It shifts costs to providers. It shifts costs to everybody. It does not reduce costs anywhere along the line.

CARVILLE: Well, the leading health care economists in the country have all endorsed this. And the reason they said they endorsed it is because it goes a long way toward containing costs. So I'm not going to argue -- I'll assume that they know more about this than I do.

Look, you're not going to be able to do something like this without having -- it's a pretty monumental thing that they're doing. And the fact that they're doing this and not only paying for it, but actually having some savings on it, I think, is a good thing. And I think that's why you see the AARP and the AMA and people like that coming aboard on this. And I think they've got a little momentum. I think they've moved this chain down the field.


MATALIN: I don't know who these leading health care economists are. It's like global warming, like there's a consensus opinion on this. As for AARP and the AMA, bought off. The AARP sells insurance now. They should sell insurance for the Medigap, which they will get more money for because we're going gut -- you're going gut; we have nothing to do with this -- you're going to gut Medicare Advantage.

I mean, you're going to gut the program that AARP is going to get paid to put up. That's why they're for it.

CARVILLE: I hope that these predictions are as accurate and factual as the sort of facts that support global warming. It would be fine because they're like 100 percent, but...


KING: I want to bring a voice into the conversation who will be an important voice as we go forward. Bob McDonnell is the Republican. He just won the election to be governor of Virginia. One of the questions -- now, the House bill has a government option, a national government option who would compete, essentially, with private insurance companies. The goal is to drive down costs. I know there are skeptics, but that's the goal.

In the Senate, there's a big debate about whether you can get that through. And the answer is no, they don't have the votes right now. SO they're looking at something where a state could opt out, as in the current proposal from the leadership. And some say that might even change and the state could decide to create this public option.

A little bit of (inaudible). But I asked the new governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, who will take office in a couple of months, his preference.


MCDONNELL: Either way, my preference would be not to have Virginia participate, from what I know this plan contains. So, however they structure it, if it gives flexibilities to states, I think that's -- that's a good thing.


KING: There's a policy and a political question here. If states get the option to opt out or opt in; they can create a public option or not, what are we going to see across the 50-state mosaic of the United States if some states are saying, hey, man, I'm in, and other states saying, no way, I'm out?

CARVILLE: I suspect we're going to see that some will get in; some will get out. If costs go down and coverage goes up for the states that stay in, then the stays that stay out will say, well, you know, maybe we should do this. If it doesn't work, then the states that are in will say, maybe we'll opt out.

I mean, this is one of these things where, you know, (inaudible) Yogi Berra, "The past is easy to predict; the future is harder."

But if you have that, there is obviously to be a great lab. It's just like in Texas. They said, if we -- we have tort reform; if we don't allow people to sue for medical damages, we'll drive costs down. It's done no such thing. The medical costs in Texas are rising higher. That's a good example of how something works in the lab.

And so we'll see these things. If that's the case, we'll know in three or four years what's going on.

CARVILLE: I think it will drive costs down and the leading health care economists think so. I think they're right.

MATALIN: There's the leading health care economists again. We have no idea where they are.

KING: We'll have to invite them to dinner in New Orleans, James.

MATALIN: That's one of those weirdo talking points they use about taxes. It's not a complete program here. If they're so confident that American people want this so badly, why don't they just pass the opt-in? Then people it's so great, people will opt-in everywhere.

The only way they're going to make people be for this or not be for it, or force it upon people is you have no choice and if there's a public option, this is not leading health care economists. These are real economists, 90 million people will be forced out of the insurance that they currently like and prefer into the public option which will reduce quality. It will reduce quantity and will not cut costs and it will not -- and will burden our country with crippling debt. Your kids will be paying for this. I'm glad you're feeling good about this historic moment.

CARVILLE: Let me tell you, 16 percent of GDP and growing costs are out of control, 45 million, 50 million uninsured Americans. That's good enough for them. That's not good enough for Democrats and that's why you've got to feel so good if this thing keeps spiraling and spiraling, somebody, congratulations to President Obama, the speaker, will be going to the Senate. I think we're going to get something done and I think this is a significant moment in American history.

MATALIN: How many uninsured are there? Fifty? Thirty? I mean, every time you guys talk about this, it's a different number.

CARVILLE: It's somewhere between 40 and 50 and let's leave it. Too many would be the exact number that I would come up with, precisely.

KING: We're going to continue to talk about this, but let me close this block with the political stakes. Mike Pence, you heard at the top of the program, he thinks Speaker Pelosi has created a recipe for Democratic disaster HERE by passing this big, sweeping program. Chris Van Hollen, the Democratic congressman from Maryland, he runs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he sees it quite differently. He says by getting things done, Democrats will repair their image with voters.


REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: With all due respect to Mike and his party, when President Bush and they had a lock on the Congress, they did nothing about these issues, these rising costs, the fact that insurance companies could essentially abuse consumers. They did nothing about it and people back in 2008 said it's time to step up some of these issues and that's what we did last night.


KING: Does that Mary, the Republicans have said, do these incremental steps, here are six or eight things we can do that would start to solve the problem. Then let's talk, maybe, if there are still problems that exist after that, does their own record undermine that case now that they didn't do any of those things when they had a majority and had a Republican president?

MATALIN: Democrats do two tactical things. One they say it's this giant government program versus if you're not for this, you're against reform. And the second thing they do that is wrong is that argument is we did nothing. President Bush did Medicare Part D which came in 40 percent -- only 40 percent of what the projection of the cost was because it allowed private competition to get these drugs out there. Health savings accounts, which a number of Americans were able to take, buy, asserting the consumer into the purchase of it.

KING: But they didn't these conditions, they didn't do let the insurance companies sell policy across state lines.

MATALIN: Because this is the truth and anybody can go look this up . Associated health plans pulling lots of stuff, the Democrats stopped that just like they did anything else that Bush would have gotten credit for. Those were all market-oriented reforms which in the end is what we're going to come back to.

CARVILLE: Let me precise here. Health care premiums when President Bush took office was $6,000 a family, it went up to $12,000. That is an unacceptable number to the Democratic Party, period. I would further make the case here and I would appreciate Congressman Pence's advice to the Democratic Party. We've won the popular vote before in the last five presidential elections. We've won the last two congressional elections. So, as a party, I think people, over a period of time are starting to look at us and conclude that they want action on these issues and I think that last night was really a historic night and a good night.

KING: We'll continue the health care conversation after a quick break. James and Mary are staying with us. We're also going to bring in much more of our team. We'll continue on health care. A lot more to talk about, the economy as well. Stay with us.


KING: We're back with James Carville and Mary Matalin. And joining our conversation, senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, senior White House correspondent Ed Henry and former presidential adviser David Gergen.

Let's continue on health care and the significance of the moment and, David, you just joined the conversation. It's progress. The House has passed this bill, but by a very narrow margin, 30 Democrats bolted from their leadership and said I have to vote against this one. Do we focus on the victory and we're moving the debate forward or does that narrow margin tell you something?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think you focus on the victory from a Democratic point of view. I believe the bill is flawed and I share some of Mary's concerns about it. I think from a Democratic point of view, this is something they've been trying to do since Harry Truman. You know, seven presidents including Republican Richard Nixon tried to do this. Every one of them failed. Here comes Barack Obama, gets it done. I agree with James, you've got to give a lot of credit to Nancy Pelosi on this. Margaret Thatcher once said in politics, if you want to get something said, give it to a man. If you want something done, give it to a woman. KING: For months, Ed, people have criticized the president's strategy which has been not hands off but a little bit step back. Let the committees in Congress do their business, we'll get a House bill, we'll get a Senate bill, and then we'll do the messy business of compromise. A lot of people said, what are you doing? A lot of his own Democrats are saying, Mr. President, get involved, get involved. Do they view this at least as partial vindication?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They do as partial vindication but what we have to remember and I know this full well, the House was supposed to be the easy lift and they were struggling up first with the last minute, not quite, to make sure they can get to 18 to pass it.

The Senate is the hard one, and I think the big story this week that was sort of under the radar was Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader saying well, we might have to push this to 2010. At the White House, they freaked out for a couple of moments and then the Reid office put out a very quick clarification that we still hope to get it done this year.

You start pushing it back into next year, this gets a lot more difficult. So this victory could start fading fast if the Senate can't get this done.

KING: I want to get to the Senate in a minute, but you were up on Capitol Hill very, very late Friday night. And in the speaker's office, some fascinating negotiations going on not necessarily with members of Congress, but with members of the clergy.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Remarkable, remarkable. She was on the phone pretty much ail day Friday and into the night, Friday night, with members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who really held so much power in this. In fact, one Democratic leader, one member of the leadership said to me, can you believe it's come down to this? And it really did.

BASH: At the end of day, she had to do something she did not want to do which was to allow this vote on abortion because the bishops made very clear to conservative Democrats, Catholic Democrats with highly Catholic constituencies, we're not going to allow them to vote and many of them said OK, unless there is a clear-cut ban on abortion when it comes to public funding and she had no choice or this would not have passed.

KING: And so again, as we go through the politics of this, I want as much as we can to help our viewers understand the specifics of this. The House legislation, that amendment says clearly, no public funding, even in the public option --

BASH: In the public option or in what's called the exchange, which is a list of private insurance companies. No abortion would be allowed at all. The only way somebody would be able to get abortion coverage at all in the exchange, public option or not, is if they buy a separate rider, a separate insurance policy that allows abortion coverage. And that's why I watched Democrat after Democrat who are very much for abortion rights just like the speaker herself, storming out of the speaker's office because they think that's just a non- starter. It's just not going to happen and they believe a lot of women especially poor women are going to suffer for that. The speaker does, too, but again, she didn't have a choice.

KING: And that is something many conservatives wanted to do as well. Is there not a partial victory there if you're a pro-life Republican in having this change?

MATALIN: Well the reason this happened is because of the number of pro-life Democrats. The opinion on the life issue has switched dramatically over the last decade or so and a little shout out to the Catholic channel on XM Radio. They ran this. I listen to the Catholic channel as I'm driving the kids. They were really on this and it made a big difference in these races in New York and that's a powerful constituency and Democrats got it done this time. I give it to them.

CARVILLE: Bishops have been anything but consistent on this and they are entitled to play politics and entitled to play politics as hard as they want to. The speaker was able to shepherd it through, able to sort of calm down certain constituents in her own party and you're right.

We have a real different opinion on this issue, but it is going to continue to be. And by the way, the immigration issue was very difficult because a lot of people in the Hispanic caucus wanted more coverage there and this is -- this is the nature of politics. It's the nature of being a majority party. You have all of these contradictions in your party. I'm glad we got them and I'm glad that we got a speaker that in the end was able to deal with them.

GERGEN: The other thing politically which was really interesting to me was Nancy Pelosi decided to hold this vote after the Tuesday night elections. She wanted to get this done before people went home as far as you can tell. She did not want members of Congress going back home and hearing from constituents. And she pushed it. She gambled. She didn't have the votes heading into the weekend. This was a big gamble that she took it and she succeeded. It was very close.

KING: A quick break here and we're going to come back, we're going to continue our health care discussion and political discussion. Among the many interesting dynamics of this debate, one Republican voted for the House bill. He just happens to be the congressman representing James and Mary. We'll talk about when we come back. Don't go anywhere.


KING: We're back with James Carville and Mary Matalin. Joining our conversation also, our senior political analyst David Gergen, Ed Henry, Dana Bash is here. I want to start with the one Republican to vote yes on the House legislation. He happens to be your congressman and you had a conversation with him this morning.

BASH: That's right. He was here at CNN to do an earlier program and it was very interesting. He made clear to me --

KING: Congressman Cao.

BASH: Congressman Cao of Louisiana. First of all, we should say, your district, as I'm sure you know this, it's 70 percent Democrat and he's a Republican.


BASH: As you well know, Mary. He said he would not have voted yes if the abortion measure that we just talked about did not pass, but he also said that he had a conversation with the president who called him about noon and said what can I do to get your vote? He made clear that abortion was a non-starter for him, but he also said look, I need your commitment to help my hometown, to help New Orleans and I need your commitment to do things like loan forgiveness and things like that. He said that the president didn't say iron clad yes, but he made clear that he was going to do his best. So he tried to horse trade a little bit, but he also said that he told his Republican leadership about a month ago this is probably where he was going head.

KING: Can he win re-election?

MATALIN: I was early going to be with him. I love that he did something that no Democrats could get done, at least not easily which is to get Obama focused on recovery issues there and hopefully coastal restoration issues. He's a Catholic, he's a seminarian. He cared about abortion. He's in that kind of district. I'm sure that Republicans knew they had to give him a pass and let him use that opportunity.

GERGEN: Will he run something against?

MATALIN: No. I don't think there is another Republican...

BASH: He also by the way...

CARVILLE: It is almost impossible for him to win re-election, with this vote or not. He's an interesting guy. He's very Jesuit. He is very, very big on the life issue, but he's not a very -- he's kind of a social conscience kind of guy.

BASH: James, he said he always gets praise from Mary, but he said he was hoping that this time he would finally get praise from you. He wanted me to pass that along.

CARVILLE: I think he's a very interesting guy. He's a very intellectual, but unfortunately, the district is -- the legislature just isn't overwhelming.

KING: Let's see what happens to Congressman Cao. Let's talk about the motivating forces here. You talk about Democrats and voting for this, thinking they just need to vote for something. I was out in Washington State this past week and I do my weekly diner segment and you'll see more of it later in this hour. But one of the interesting points was, one of the gentlemen there is a social worker. He's a liberal Democrat. He works in a welfare office. And he frankly was disgusted with the activity of the Democratic Party. He just said they were elected, they have this big majority, they have this and that and his point was that the Democrats need to get doing things that he thought they were too afraid to do.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see the Democrats cowboy up. I think that they have been incredibly risk averse throughout this entire process. And as somebody that's a Democrat myself ideologically, I would like to see them be more true to their values. It makes them seem like hypocrites when they back down so easily to conservative ideas and to lobby groups like the insurance industry.


KING: And what Daniel went on to say, James Carville, is that if Democrats didn't start taking the tough votes and doing what they promised in the last election, that he would find the hippie party, the any party to vote for in the next election to send a protest.

CARVILLE: I have traveled a lot and I walked down a lot of streets in a lot of cities. And if walking down the street and people's reaction on the street is any indication, Seattle is about three times more liberal than San Francisco.


CARVILLE: I mean, I think they just, like, elected a great mayor there, all right?

This is a -- and, look, it's a great city. Don't get me wrong. It's a -- I love going out there, but that would be a reaction that that district, the city of Seattle, is about as liberal a place that I've ever run across.

HENRY: But I think there are more Democrats out there who are frustrated with this administration and the pace of change and feel like the president certainly, one year ago this month, suggested there was going to be radical change, and on health care, they're chugging along. They've got one victory here, but there's -- it's more than just...


KING: The intensity -- the intensity. That gentleman, (inaudible) was one of the intense Democrats who voted for President Obama. Now he's a Democrat who's, maybe, sitting on his hands a bit while Republicans have intensity.

GERGEN: Well, that's right. And if this had gone down last night, the intensity level on the Democrat side would just plummet. I think they would be in real trouble. But having said all that, they've still got huge cost problems in this bill.

You know, when this thing settles down and people sees what's going to happen to the deficits; what's going to happen -- what's not going to happen in bending the costs down and getting these costs under control, then people may have second thoughts.

And the problem with not getting a bipartisan bill is the Republicans are going to attack this so they get back into power. They may well dismantle parts of it. And that's going to be a serious issue to make this...


KING: Well, let's talk about it. David makes the point the House bill is about $1 trillion. The Senate bill is $800-something billion. And that's where the debate goes now, from the House to the Senate. Lindsay Graham is a conservative Republican senator from South Carolina. He watched the House debate last night. He says, what we do in the Senate won't look anything like that.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. Just look at how it passed. It passed by 220 to 215. It passed by two votes. You had 40 -- 39 Democrats vote against the bill. They come from red states, moderate Democrats from swing districts. They bailed out on this bill. It was a bill written by liberals for liberals.


KING: And so the Senate bill will be what?

BASH: Well, it's -- you know, there are going to be a lot of similarities on big things, pre-existing conditions, things like, but the most controversial difference is, of course, on public option.

And right now, Harry Reid still wants to get at least a form of the public option into the Senate bill. It's incredibly unclear if any form is going to even come out of the Senate at all.

There are a lot of differences on how you pay for it. The whole idea of taxing wealthy Americans -- that's a non-starter in the Senate.

So there are differences there, but I think what David said and what Senator Graham said about 39 Democrats voting no because those are conservative Democrats from swing districts, you have many more in terms of the ratio in the Senate of those conservative Democrats in the Senate. And that is a huge, huge problem and challenge.

HENRY: And I think -- and we've been talking about the warning signs for Democrats either in the election results, in this health care debate, but I think we should also talk about the warning signs for Republicans as well, whether it's Lindsay Graham or others.

Are they going to join this debate and push this bill toward the middle and try to make it bipartisan? Because I think one of the lessons from this week, with Governor- elect McDonnell from Virginia, who was on your show earlier -- he didn't just attack Barack Obama. He talked about solutions. He came up with a plan.

I mean, Ed Gillespie, who is on this program a lot as a Republican strategist, wrote an op-ed this week in The Washington Post, saying it's time for more Republicans to follow that model and not just be against Obama, but actually try to work with him on some things.

KING: The rules of the Senate give you more options in terms of amendments and the like. They can't -- you can't write a rule that says, "Go away, Republicans."

Do you think there's an opportunity -- do you see a possibility that senators will come forward with proposals that are pragmatic enough or bipartisan enough or common-sense enough, common-ground enough to actually change the bill?

MATALIN: Well, they've been rejected at every turn. Even in his big health care speech in September, he threw out this sop about malpractice reform. None of that was in the House bill. So there won't be any health savings accounts. There won't anybody tort reform. There won't any lifting insurance for cross-state competition. There won't be the kind of things that would make it truly bipartisan and truly cut costs.

So just dribbling around the edges is not going to get Republicans to come along. It has to be real substantive.

Now this whole notion -- if you have to be for something -- if you're against this, you are for something. People want this stopped, by two-to-one margins and an intensity of two to one.

So that is being for something, to get in front of this and rue the day those 39 Democrats who are sitting in under 5 percent districts, go back home. They're more scared of Nancy than they are of their constituents until they get back home.

CARVILLE: What world are we living in?

OK, this Republican-sanctioned, organized event at the Capitol with Michele Bachmann. This was official, all right?

They were linking this to the Nazis. They're not -- they're not going to vote for any of this. And you saw them out there. This -- this wasn't a renegade group. This is the Republican Caucus putting its full weight behind this, OK?

So, if -- if that's what they believe; if Virginia Fox says that this is a greater threat to the United States than terrorism, I don't think, Virginia Fox, you're going to get her vote. You can let her put any amendment she wants in there; she's not going to be for it.

And I mean, that's one of the things that we're dealing with in this debate, and we shouldn't -- we ought to acknowledge that.

GERGEN: And the Republicans have been way slow and way late in putting forward a alternative proposal. They finally got something up there, but it -- you know, from their point of view, they have become, essentially, the opposition, but not a constructive opposition in terms of offering something.

But the only way they're going to pass this in the Senate is to make a much more conservative bill than what they've got in the House.

KING: All right. A quick time out, here. When we come back, we're going to shift gears and talk about the weighty decision the president faces about sending more troops to Afghanistan and the tragedy this past week at Fort Hood, Texas.


KING: We're back with our panel, James Carville, Mary Matalin, David Gergen, Ed Henry, and Dana Bash.

Let's shift gears. General George Casey, who's the Army chief of staff, was on the program this morning, discussing the horrible massacre at Fort Hood.

And there are a number of questions about should they have caught the warning signs? Major Hasan, the alleged gunman, perhaps posting on the Internet his sympathetic thoughts on suicide bombers, making clear to friends and family that he was opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And yet, at the same time, he is counseling some veterans.

So I asked General Casey, did you miss the warning signs?


CASEY: We have to go back and look at ourselves and ask ourselves the hard questions. Are we doing the right things?

But, again, we'll learn from this incident. It's way too early to draw any kind of specific conclusions from it, but we'll ask ourselves the hard questions about what we're doing and about what impact, what changes we should make as a result of this incident at Fort Hood.


KING: As the army asks those questions, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee says he too, will launch an investigation.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: The U.S. Army and the Department of Defense has a real obligation to convene an independent investigation to go back and look at whether warning signs were missed both because of the stress he was under, but also the statements that he was making which really could lead people to believe that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist.


KING: David Gergen, you worked in the White House with tough moments. You want to answer these question, but you also want to be careful.

GERGEN: Absolutely. Let me just say, look, the questions have to be answered. Large organizations are going have mistakes. You're going to miss things, just as the army missed things at Walter Reed. Signs got overlooked there and they need to go back and investigate it. But I hope as people do that, they also appreciate that the U.S. Army is one of the most successful institutions in this country. It's a meritocracy and also bringing together people of very diverse backgrounds and making it work. Yes, they're going have this occasional type of person, but the army has been hugely successful in integrating people of different backgrounds far more so than the regular society, the rest of society.

KING: You think politically and culturally, people understand the stress? I was at Fort Lewis in Washington as this was playing out at Fort Hood. I have with me, I've been carrying it since, this is a leadership coin given to me by a colonel who was paralyzed from the waist down who won't leave the army. He is still serving now, running the Warrior in Transition Brigade, getting people who have lost their limbs, people who have traumatic brain injuries, trying to get them back to productive lives and some of them want to go back to the battlefield.

Do you think the wars become unpopular? They become very political and frankly not terribly good for television ratings. Have we failed to tell people about the stress and the strain on these people?

CARVILLE: It's enormous that warriors, there are all these stories in the old Prussian regiments of sergeants that had been with them for 20 years on crutches following them off the battle. There's a sense that post traumatic combat stress syndrome is just awful, but I do want to say something and General Casey said this and I couldn't agree more.

There are 3,000 Muslims that serve in the United States Army and I have a feeling that these are very, very valuable people because of language skills, they're very brave and they're very, very good Americans. And I hope that this doesn't happen where these -- these soldiers, if you're a Muslim you're just as much a soldier, you're just as much of a marine as you are of anybody else.

The army does not and should not make that distinction and that's the one thing that General Casey said that I completely agree with. Yes, we have to know what happened here, but I hope we have an active recruitment of Muslims in our Armed Forces because we need them.

KING: We're going to hear from the president of the United States in a little more than an hour. CNN will you bring there when he speaks. He'll be in the Rose Garden to discuss that big health care vote last night. When we come back, our lightning round. We'll go around the panel. We'll ask them to give us a sentence or two about the challenge now facing the president. Stay with us.


KING: Back for our lightning round, Dana Bash, Ed Henry, James Carville and Mary Matalin. David Gergen had to catch a plane if you're wondering. Let's start with this right here. The House passes health care bill. That's been front-page news today and the president in a little more than an hour from now, will be at the Rose Garden at the White House and he will be happy and he will be celebrating.

But Ed Henry, the challenge for the president now is to push this debate forward because the House bill is not at his desk, it's still got to go to the Senate and the communication is challenge for the president.

HENRY: The key is momentum, it's really just that one word, he finally has a little bit of it, but if Harry Reid can't get this debate going and can't get it done by the end of the year, that momentum is going to evaporate. So I think he's got to keep the pressure on the Senate.

BASH: Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief-of-staff was at the Capitol meeting with Harry Reid on Thursday and I'm told they were trying to figure out some way to do what Ed just said, to get this passed still by the end of the year. But it's going to be incredibly hard.

Look, we're already in the second week of November. There's no chance the senate is even going to start debating until the week before Thanksgiving. That's going to take three or four weeks. It's just incredibly hard to figure out how they do that. But I've got to tell you, behind closed doors yesterday, the president told House Democrats, you've got to get this done and the reason he said is because of energizing the Democratic base and that is going to be the same going forward in the Senate.

HENRY: You don't agree with what he's doing, but you've advised presidents of big moments like this. What is the challenge?

MATALIN: Well, this is a political catch 22 because the more he energizes his base, the more he energizes our base. And our base is already energized on this. The history of this is even when he gets a little bit of momentum when he gave his speech and did all that, there are two days of momentum and then celebrate weeks of people absorbing themselves in the facts and the substance and the think tanks.

We've gone through the cycle a couple of times. So even if he gets the momentum and he gets it passed, then people focus on the substance and it's just -- the better he does, the worse it is for 2010, let's just say that. It's called catch 22.

CARVILLE: The worst thing that can happen to an incumbent party is be perceived not to be able to govern, all right? Start with that. That's a guarantee. Secondly, the Senate is a different thing that the House. With the House, he went down Saturday morning, gave a pep talk, and was by all accounts a very good speech, very emotional, very everything. This is going to be senators in the Oval Office face-to-face negotiating. This is going to be the dirty, grimy, you know what I mean, one-on-one part of American politics and I think Senator Reid said something to the effect that Mr. President, I can get this thing to 57 and you have to get 58, 59 and 60 and how you do that, I don't know. And that's going to be the real difference here. This is going to be one-on-one. This is not going to be like a great speech and a pep talk.

KING: We have about a minute left. Let's follow up on that point. We will see and hear from the president today, but what he does after today away from the cameras, Ed, could be more important. Will he now get more involved in trying to broker the deal or will he wait and let the Senate do its version and then get more involved?

HENRY: My sense is that he's going to wait in the short term because as Dana said, there's going to be a lot of debate on the floor, a lot of amendments. There's going to be twists and turns so he can't use all of his capital now. But at some point, he will have to start reaching out to get to 57, 58 and 59. Joe Lieberman, we've been asking Robert Gibbs, has he reached out to him? He hasn't spoken to him in weeks, maybe months.

HENRY: He needs to get some of those -- you know, the independent Democrat and other Democrats in the center, like Ben Nelson, who are not there yet. And it's going to come down to presidential leadership.

BASH: He's going to have to get involved to get this bill off the Senate floor. He'll be able to probably get it on, but to get it off the Senate floor, and probably to tell some of the Democrats who want a robust public option that they're going to have to live with what's called a trigger. Because they're going to need Republican Olympia Snowe's vote in order to pass this in the Senate.

MATALIN: They're going to have more to do and less time to do it in.


CARVILLE: Look, it is -- what I would say is, look at the coverage that you've got, the bill that just came out the House. Can you imagine what it would be like if something actually passed?

I mean, it just would -- this has, and I think that's why you have people, the Republicans, (inaudible). They know that, if the Democrats pass this bill, it's going to be -- it will be wall to wall; it will permeate. And that's going to be their choice. If they kill this, they have no chance of not getting swamped into 2010. Hey, they may pass it. If you have 10 percent unemployment, we may lose anyway. But why not take a chance on winning?

(LAUGHTER) KING: All right, we're going to thank our group, here, Mary Matalin, James Carville, a good lightning round. Ed Henry, Dana Bash, thanks as well.

When we come back, our weekly diner takes us to the other Washington, way out west. We'll discuss the issues that matter most to you at the Poodle Dog. Trust me, good food, good conversation. Please stay with us.


KING: In our travels this week, we went all the way west to Washington state, one of the most reliable Democratic states when it comes to presidential politics. Let's take a peek, here, at some of the facts in Washington: 9.3 percent unemployment rates, below the national average but coming up as the recession reaches the West Coast.

We've been talking about the health care debate today. Nearly one in five residents, nearly 20 percent, are uninsured in the 19 to 64 age group in the state of Washington.

Now, since 2001, over 300 troops stationed or living in Washington have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Stationed" is important because over here is Fort Lewis, one of the Army's largest military installations. We've spent some time there this week. It was quite a moving experience.

So we also, as always, sat down for our meal. We wanted to talk about the big debates here in Washington, about spending, about the state of the economy, as that national unemployment rate cracked 10 percent, and also about what people who live so close to a major military installation think the president should do about Afghanistan.


KING: Let me just start with asking you how you think the economy is doing here?

(UNKNOWN): Well, I've got to make this dollar stretch a little bit more. Everything is going up in price. I go to the grocery store and the prices are escalating there. My insurance rates are going up. Everything is just going up, up. And my -- I'm retired, so my income, kind of, stays where it is.

(UNKNOWN): I work at a welfare office, and so I can tell you very matter-of-factly that food stamp cases are going up, (inaudible) cases are going up. We're helping more and people, and they're having a harder and harder time finding work.

KING: But how do you judge what the government and the Washington I work in, the faraway Washington -- doing things right, messing thing up? Should take hands off, too much hands-on?

(UNKNOWN): Well, I don't know. My opinion of what Washington did was basically load a cannon up with money and pull the trigger, and just blew all this money out all over everything. But I don't know what the average, everyday working person has to show for it.

(UNKNOWN): To be really honest with you, the money that we received, I don't think even made a big difference.

KING: Has Washington changed? And if so, for the better or for the worse?

(UNKNOWN): I'd like to see the Democrats cowboy up. I think that they have been incredibly risk-adverse throughout this entire process. And as somebody that's a Democrat myself, ideologically, I'd like to see them be more true to their values. It makes them -- it makes them seem like hypocrites when they back down so easily to conservative ideas and to lobby groups like the insurance industry.

KING: If Democrats don't cowboy up, as you say, would you vote against them to send them a message, or just stay home?

(UNKNOWN): Yes. Absolutely, absolutely. Democrats should realize that they're on the bubble, so to speak, and I can always go and vote for some hippie party.


You know, I won't name a party, but I could go and just...

KING: You have options if you want to protest.

(UNKNOWN): Right. Exactly.

(UNKNOWN): They want to get this done, like he says, they've got to cowboy up, just -- just do it. I mean, if...

KING: Whether you agree with it or not?

(UNKNOWN): Whether I agree with it or not, they've got the vote. They won. They're in charge. And if -- and part of being in charge is leading, and just get in there and then we'll know if it works. Then, if it doesn't -- we'll give them some time. If it doesn't work, then we throw the bums out.

KING: At the beginning of the year, it was health care reform. This year, this year, this year -- it had to be this year. Now they say that may carry over to next year.

(UNKNOWN): I'm still waiting for some reform to happen.


Because I see my rates going up and I see -- they're getting picky, picky about services. I'm getting bills from procedures. My husband's disabled and I get bills that never I had before. And I thought, well, if Medicare paid for that three years ago, why aren't they paying for that now?

I feel a little bit, you know, that my vote doesn't really count all that much. KING: Let me ask you, lastly, we're on our way up the road to Fort Lewis, to go to a memorial service for a 20-year-old kid who was just killed in Afghanistan. And the base has taken a lot of hits recently.

The president's about to make a big decision, whether to send more troops, about whether to hold right where we are. And there are some who say, eight years later, get out. What should he do?

(UNKNOWN): Hey, I'm a mother. I have three sons. And they're beyond military service, although one was in the military. Every time I see that on the television, you know, my heart goes out to the families. And then I think, what are they really fighting for over there?

(UNKNOWN): I think, if it's going to be a war, it's a war. If it's going to be a policing action, cut our losses and get out. I mean, let the military fight a war. That's what they're -- they're trained to do.

KING: If the general says, I need 40,000, should the president give him 40,000?

(UNKNOWN): If we put a man in charge, a general in charge, like McChrystal, and he says, this is the way it is, the president ought to take his opinion and his advice.

(UNKNOWN): There's enough American blood and treasure in Afghanistan right now.


KING: An amazing veggie omelet. And, wow, are the pies good at the Poodle Dog, there, in Fife, Washington, if you're ever in the neighborhood.

As you know, one of our goals is to get out of Washington, this Washington, D.C., as often as we can. We made it our pledge on "State of the Union," to travel to all 50 states in our first year. So far, not so bad, 43 states in 43 weeks, including Washington, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Check out, where you can see what we learned when we visited your state.

President Obama is expected to make remarks in the Rose Garden today at 1:00 p.m. "GPS" then will be seen in its entirety.

KING: We'll be back to that later on in this program. I'm John King and this is STATE OF THE UNION.