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Security Failure; Predictions for 2010; Rush Limbaugh Hospitalized; One Million Expected in Times Square

Aired December 31, 2009 - 21:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Tonight, deadline for the president's demand he get answers about the failures that almost resulted in a terrorist disaster Christmas Day.

What's he been told?

Will it mean action that will make you safer?

Plus, the politics of terror -- who's winning the war of words between the White House and Dick Cheney?

And the countdown to 2010 -- we'll go live to Times Square, Vegas and others celebrating hot spots.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Happy New Year's Eve.

I'm Candy Crowley and I'm sitting in tonight for Larry King, who has the night off.

We have a great, great panel tonight to talk to you -- a little bit serious, a little bit about New Year's because, in the end, this is about fresh starts.

You are looking at our favorite picture. We are East Coast biased here. That is Times Square. It is something that no TV network misses on New Year's Eve. And about a million or so people don't miss it, either.

We have got correspondents there, in Vegas and beyond, so you can see how New Year's Eve is playing out across the country.

So I want to, first, however, turn to what we've had -- some very serious news, obviously, since Christmas Day -- that attempt to blow up an airline over the skies of Detroit.

We have had Ed Henry, our senior White House correspondent, out in Honolulu covering the president, who we've seen a couple of times addressing this very issue -- Ed, first of all, thank you very much for spending New Year's Eve with us.


CROWLEY: Happy New Year to you. And -- and, secondly, let's talk a little bit -- this was the big day. This was the day the president set as the deadline -- come on and bring me some information about this.

Any sign he got anything we don't already have a hint of?

HENRY: We've got a little bit of new -- of information. But you're right, it's not really terribly new.

I mean, the bottom line from top White House aides, they say that the stream of information coming into the president from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and others shows a couple of things we've probably known since Christmas Day.

Number one, something needs to be done with the terror watch listing system. It clearly needs an overhaul. This event, probably the no fly list, when you talk to (INAUDIBLE) officials, what didn't get on there. They're trying to figure out why.

Secondly, as well, the CIA had some information about this eventual suspect that suggested he had at least ties to extremists and his own father had gone -- had talked to the CIA. It didn't get past others.

Where did we hear this before?

Pre-9/11. And as one top White House aide today said, this president is just not going to stand for that sort of pre-9/11 mentality, where the CIA is not talking to other intelligence officials.

So we can expect that next Tuesday, when the president gets back to Washington, he's going into the White House Situation Room. He's going to be calling in some of these top officials and probably calling some of them on the carpet -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Ed, we certainly saw, when the president came out -- at least this second time, I thought, a flash of some anger, at least, or some really being put out by what he was learning. This seems to me to say that this was a pretty serious breach, that there is something sort of more obvious than what we've been led to believe so far.

What kind of hints are you getting from those that are out there and those you're talking to back here about the seriousness of what went on?

The -- was it really a serious overlook here or was it something that we're going to be able to look at and say, I can see how they missed this?

HENRY: They're -- they're suggesting it's deadly serious. And as you heard the president himself say a couple of days ago, if not for some luck, frankly, there could have been up to close to 300 people killed on Christmas Day. So they get that this is a very serious breach of security.

And, frankly, a lot of these things should have been fixed after 9/11 because of the 9/11 Commission report, all those changes that Congress made. And, frankly, this president realizes he's in power now. He's got a Democratic Congress. We're heading into the midterm elections. We've all been talking about the economy and people do vote with their pocketbooks. But as we saw in some previous elections, they can also vote on personal safety. And if they don't feel like they're safe right now and the Democrats are in power, that could be a challenge for them.

And that's why I think, in fairness to this president, he's been pretty aggressive the last few days in saying he wants some answers and he's going to hold some people accountable. I'm certain there are a lot of people around the country who probably are going to hold him to those words -- Candy.

CROWLEY: We -- we talk a lot -- and certainly this White House pushes back very hard when you suggest that when they are dealing with something this serious, there are also some politics about what they do. But no matter what is in their minds, there are always political implications to anything that happens. And that includes any near terrorist miss.

Do you think that, looking around, that you see anybody around the president who believes that there is potential political damage here?

HENRY: Well, you're right that they'll push back pretty hard. I've gotten e-mails. You've gotten e-mails. This White House wants to make it clear that they don't believe they're playing politics on terror, on the economy and on these other issues. But, of course, they're living in a political environment, so they won't say so on the record, that they believe they'll be political fallout in any direction.

But let's just face the fact that this president is coming to the close of his first year in office. He's made a lot of big decisions on the domestic front, but also on national security, including sending 30,000 more U.S. troops just in the last few weeks to Afghanistan. He sent 21,000 before that. He escalated the war in Afghanistan big time in saying that he's going to wage a smarter war on terror, specifically putting more resources into Afghanistan, Pakistan, winding down in Iraq.

Over the next year or so, we're going to see whether or not some of those actions he's taken were the right ones or not -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Ed Henry, our senior White House correspondent. Something surreal -- talking about terrorism with all that calm beach activity going on behind you.

We thank you very much.

I hope you'll get some time to relax out there.

HENRY: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Coming up, we have got a huge panel here. Ben Stein will be with us; he, of course, the economist and former presidential speechwriter; also a columnist for "Fortune" magazine. Tanya Acker, a political analyst and Huffington Post contributor out there in Los Angeles. Terry Holt, former national spokesman for Cheney/Bush in 2004; also has been an adviser to the Republican National Committee. And, finally, in Palm Beach, Marc Lamont Hill, professor at Columbia University and a contributor to We're going to ask them more about this near miss by terrorists. We're going to ask them about New Year's resolutions, their predictions for politics, all kinds of stuff.

So stick with us.

LARRY KING LIVE will be right back.


CROWLEY: They have already celebrated big in Hong Kong, past New Year's there. Of course, that's on tape. It's gorgeous, nonetheless.

We want to bring in our panel here. Lots to talk about.

But we want to start out with, of course, the most serious issue, and that is that near terrorist miss over the skies in Detroit.

Let me start with you, Ben Stein, because we heard Dick Cheney, who is becoming or has been, this year, really the loudest voice, I think, on the conservative side. A lot of people saying he was out of line when he suggested that the president clearly isn't taking this seriously enough, that he sees it as a criminal act versus a -- a terrorist act.

Did he go a little too far?

BEN STEIN, COLUMNIST, "FORTUNE": I don't think Cheney has gone too far. But I think this is a political thing. I mean, look, we have a situation in this country where we chronically miss all the clues about what's going on. We miss clue after clue after clue about Pearl Harbor; clue after clue after clue about the beginning of the Korean War; clue after clue after clue that the events leading up to our involvement in Vietnam were fraudulent; clue after clue about 9/11. We miss clues all the time.

If it takes Cheney yelling at Mr. Obama to make the administration act even a tiny little bit better, then it's very worthwhile.

But Republicans miss clues. Everybody misses clues. I have to say, the one thing that really stands out here, though, is Miss. Natalo -- Napolitano saying the system worked perfectly. That -- I know she's backtracked from that, but that's got to rank among the all-time bonehead remarks of all time and I think she should be very seriously chastised for that and I believe they will do it. I would like...


STEIN: I'd like to hear what Rahm Emanuel says to her.

CROWLEY: Well, perhaps he'll come on and tell us at some point. Yes, right. OK.

Marc, listen, let's -- let's be fair.

When the president was in the midst of two wars, certainly in the year or so past 9/11 and every year of his administration thereafter, the president was attacked a lot on terrorism and how he was handling it. And yet when you hear it, it does have a dissonance to it.

Is there any way to kind of squeeze the politics out of this?

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: No. This is thoroughly and it's completely political here. And it's unfortunate, but it -- that's just the nature of the political moment.

When we look at what happened during Bush years, people attacked the way President Bush was prosecuting the war. We may have said that he overreacted to 9/11 in terms of going into Iraq. I mean there were all sorts of critiques coming from the left. But nobody really suggested -- there was no public critique from former presidents or vice presidents suggesting that it -- that it was the president's behavior that started the war or instigated terrorism.

But that's exactly what Dick Cheney is saying, which, to me, is completely misguided.

STEIN: Well...

HILL: I mean you would...


HILL: You would...


HILL: You would think -- you would think that President Obama was in Amsterdam, you know, giving -- giving out visas or letting the guy on the plane. I mean there was nothing that the Obama administration could do...


CROWLEY: Terry...

HILL: stop this guy from getting on a plane.

CROWLEY: Let me give...

STEIN: With greatest...

CROWLEY: Terry...

STEIN: ...with great respect, Marc...

HILL: Sure, Candy.

STEIN: With great -- with great, great, great respect, that's what President Carter was saying constantly, was that Mr. Bush had instigated the war. There -- there was constant criticism about that and constant criticism from former Vice President Gore.

So this is a given of political life. There's going to be vicious criticism back and forth.

The real question is what can be done to motivate the bureaucracy?

And now I'll let the other people talk.

CROWLEY: Terry...


CROWLEY: Terry, you know, listen...

HILL: Sure, Candy.

CROWLEY: ...I just think that people out there sit and listen to the former vice president sort of going after the president, saying he's not taking this seriously enough. And I want to read you a quote from Congressman Eric Massa. He is a Democrat of New York. And he had this to say when he wrote on the Huffington Post: "I, for one, am sick and tired of these Bush-era chicken hawk politicians that never served in uniform attacking Democrats on national security when, in fact, they are largely to blame for our nation's current national security problems."

Is anybody covering themselves in glory when -- I've got to believe most Americans were certainly frightened when they heard about the attack on Christmas -- about the near attack on Christmas Day. And we've got everybody sort of firing about who's to blame.

TERRY HOLT, FORMER NATIONAL SPOKESMAN FOR BUSH-CHENEY 2004: Well, you know, and Dick Cheney is coming to this with -- with -- with a lot of information. You know, he -- he didn't -- he wasn't exactly a shrinking violet in the last administration. He was every day engaged in national security issues, in defense issues, in foreign policy issues.

So I think he's got a good handle on what's at stake in this world. And he's been very consistent throughout the year of pointing out weaknesses that he's perceived in the way Obama has -- has -- has prosecuted the war on terror.

And I'm going to say that, because at the very beginning of this year, Barack Obama declared war not on terror, but on the intelligence community itself.

And if you look at what's happened over the last year, with -- with Eric Holder threatening to -- to jail people who interrogated terrorists, this administration has made some significant missteps that have added up, to people like Dick Cheney and others in -- in our foreign service and intelligence communities, very concerned that we might have taken our eye off the ball and that we have put this vast bureaucracy in place -- hundreds of billions of dollars and, hey, guess what people, at the end of the day, the passengers on the plane have to protect themselves because this government can't. It's scary...


HOLT: ...and I think Dick Cheney's put his finger on it.

CROWLEY: Go ahead, Tanya.

ACKER: Terry -- Terry, taking your eye off the ball is refusing to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which is what the Bush-Cheney administration did for years. Taking your eye off the ball is reducing New York's anti-terror funding by $80 million because you decide that they don't have any landmarks there that are worth protecting. Taking your eye off the ball is saying that we're going to give control of six U.S. ports to a Dubai company and then say, oh, but, by the way, we're not going to insist on mandatory screening of incoming cargo from -- from overseas ports. So, you know, this whole rhetoric.

HOLT: You're living in the past.

ACKER: This whole...

HOLT: These terrorist threats are...

ACKER: No, I -- no, no. Wait. Wait.

HOLT: our face today.

ACKER: Wait one -- one second.

One second...

HOLT: Let's go forward.

ACKER: No, excuse me. I want to go forward. But the interesting thing is that Dick Cheney and his allies and those partisans seem to think that the only way to go forward is to profile people, is to suggest that the Constitution doesn't work, is to pretend like we've never been subject to threats before...

HOLT: Let's just put the crazy people...

ACKER: this country...

HOLT: ...on a list...

ACKER: Terry, one second...

HOLT: ...and not let them on our airplanes.

ACKER: Terry...

CROWLEY: Let me -- let me call a time out here...

(CROSSTALK) CROWLEY: Hold it, folks.


CROWLEY: Hold it. Hold it.

STEIN: Tanya...

CROWLEY: Hold it.

STEIN: Tanya...

CROWLEY: Hold it.

STEIN: Tanya, with respect...

CROWLEY: I can trust you...

STEIN: Tanya...

CROWLEY: Hey, Ben can I get you to...

STEIN: Tanya, with a great respect...

CROWLEY: hold off for...


CROWLEY: Let me get you all to hold off for just a second. I shouted over my brothers, too, during the family affairs, so I can do that.

We are going to come back and I promise we will continue this discussion.

Former presidential adviser, Karl Rove, has come out with some suggested New Year's resolutions for President Obama. We'll discuss those and much more when we come back.


CROWLEY: And welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

We want to kind of clean up and put a period on that discussion.

I want to bring in Ben Stein here.

Ben, in the end, the president is facing a bureaucracy much like any other president has.

STEIN: It -- it's -- Mr. Obama is, politically, the irresistible force. He has now met the immovable object end of the bureaucracy, even in a very good bureaucracy at the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security. If he can make that move, if he can make it as fluid and alert and lively as Al Qaeda, he will have done something truly historic. We're facing a very, very lively enemy, namely the Al Qaeda. They're smart. They're lively. They adapt quickly. Let's see if he can make the bureaucracy as smart as the al Qaeda. That would be a great thing if he could.

HILL: Well, and Ben, I think we might actually agree on this point, tightening up security and making the bureaucracy operate more efficiently is the key. And if we do that, we don't necessarily need -- in fact, we don't need to profile. We don't need to ethnically and religiously and culturally profile.

In this case, we had 500,000 names on a tide (ph) list. If we had simply put those people on a no fly list, we wouldn't need to profile. The guy wouldn't have gotten on a plane in the first place.

So instead of operating under the presumption that we need more profiling, all we need to do is get the pieces that are currently in place to operate more efficiently.

CROWLEY: Marc, we will be right back with all four of you...


CROWLEY: ...right after a really quick break.

STEIN: I suspect Ben doesn't agree with me.


CROWLEY: You are looking at London several hours ago. They celebrated midnight, the new year -- and, by the way, a new decade. That in London, just showing you a little bit of the far reach of CNN.

Back again with Ben Stein, Tanya Acker, Terry Holt and Marc Lamont Hill.

Let me move us forward just a little bit into next year.

What is your -- I want to get your predictions.

What's the big political story next year, Ben?

STEIN: Well, the big political story will be if health care is implemented, is it a success or is it a failure?

There are three, really, all having to do with government control of our lives.

Is health care going to be a success or a failure?

I assume he's going to get it passed.

Two, is Cap-and-Trade going to be a success or a failure?

Is it going to kick the economy back down into a recession?

And, three, if there is a recovery, is the recovery going to lead to inflation?

That's the big one -- inflation, the killer hidden tax, affects everybody, especially the elderly.

Are we going to have inflation?

That -- if we have that, that trumps everything else and out go the Democrats as the majority force in Congress.

CROWLEY: Tanya Acker, what's your crystal ball saying?

STEIN: If we don't, I think they can hang on.

ACKER: I -- you know, I think that we're not -- health care will pass. But I'm just not sure that we're going to know a lot about it next year, because a lot of the really big reforms aren't going to really come into -- they won't take effect until 2014, although we are going to see bits and pieces that might give us a flavor of whether or not it will be a big thing. And I think you'll -- obviously, people will follow it.

But I do agree with Ben. I think that Cap-and-Trade and the environment and what we do and how we are going to -- how we manage this bill and how that moves forward is going to be huge, because I think, frankly, that the Democrats have learned something in the course of this health care debate, which is their efforts at bipartisanship yield them very little. And what they're going to have to do is to go out to the American people and make a case to the American public about what we need to change, how we need to change it, what new technologies we need to develop, how we need to really get out in front of this issue.

And so I think that that this story -- hopefully, next year, it will be about the Democrats really spending less time trying to make friends across the aisle with people who have no interested in that friendship, but instead about pleading their case to the American people and really selling their program to them.

CROWLEY: Bipartisanship generally does go down the drain, particularly in an election year. Terry Holt, let me just give you a slightly different angle on this question, just because this is your comfort zone.

HOLT: Sure.

CROWLEY: What about Republicans?

What's the big story for Republicans next year?

HOLT: Well, Republicans are going to have to take the lessons that they learned from the McDonnell campaign and some of the success that they've had this year, standing on principle and communicating directly with the American people. They're going to need to reconnect with the middle class.

And I think Barack Obama, next year, is going to give us the perfect gift to do that. Because of these disasters of these bills -- the -- the health bill with all the new taxes, the Cap-and-Trade bill that's going to destroy our economy, Barack Obama is going to be forced to admit that he's going to break his promise to the middle class and he's not going to be able to hold taxes down for them. All of us are going pay more. The government's going to in be in our pocket even more than before. And we'll see if the Republicans can leverage that into some gains in November.


HILL: I disagree with everything he just said. But I do...


CROWLEY: I'm so surprised.

HOLT: You always do.

CROWLEY: I'm so surprised.


HOLT: He always does.

HILL: Fair enough. Fair enough.

But what I do share is your pessimism. I -- I don't think -- I don't have much good news for 2010. I think that Barack Obama has expended so much political capital on health care and the health care bill that we've gotten is so -- all of the teeth have been taken out of it. So I'm not very optimistic about where that's going to go. It's going to pass, but it's going to be a very, very watered down bill with no public option, obviously. And then the (INAUDIBLE) things...

HOLT: And people are going to be mad.

HILL: Well, I -- I think...

STEIN: Well, reference -- reference what Tom -- sorry...


HILL: No, no, no.


HILL: I was just going to say and people -- people will be very much be -- people will very much be mad, at least on the left. But what you'll also see is moderate Democrats continuing to scramble away from Barack Obama, because -- particularly because it's an election year. It's a midterm election year and people are not going to want to stand next to him as he loses more and more political capital, particularly around this issue of Cap-and-Trade. Cap-and-Trade is not going to go through, even though it's going to be wonderful for -- for the environment and wonderful for the economy. Moderate Democrats are going to run from it. And then in terms of foreign policy, I think we just may find ourselves with a major problem with Iran. Ahmadinejad seems to be committed to developing uranium. He seems committed to ignoring Sarkozy, Brown and Obama, no matter how tough they scowl their faces at the press conferences. It seems to me that we're going to have a major problem with Iran, that we're going to continue to have problems in Afghanistan, that we're going to continue to have major problems with Iraq. And -- and that we're going to have no good news.

The Republicans, sadly, just may gain some significant ground in the midterms in next November.

CROWLEY: Holy cow. We may not want to ring in this new year.

STEIN: Well, we...




CROWLEY: Let me ask you...

HILL: I know. I know.

CROWLEY: Let's me move on to something that...

STEIN: You've got it...

CROWLEY: ...Karl Rove said recently.

STEIN: Well, wait a second, Candy...

CROWLEY: ...offering a...

STEIN: You're not even mentioning jobs. You're not even mentioning the big issue. We've got an enormous number of unemployed Americans, an enormous number of Americans losing their houses.

CROWLEY: Yes, well...

STEIN: I mean this -- the economy is the big one. That's the big Kahuna. If something isn't done about that, it's a disaster politically for the party in power and it's a disaster for many decent, hardworking Americans. That's the big story.

CROWLEY: It -- it is, indeed, and particularly to those who, at this point, don't have a job and haven't had one for some time -- the long- term unemployed. A big, big issue and certainly it will be in the campaign.

STEIN: That's really a sad life.


So let me -- let me ask you -- we're going to move to New Year's resolutions.


CROWLEY: Karl Rove has said that he thinks the president ought to resolve to have a few less historic moments. I guess the question here is -- the question we started out the year, has the president, with all that political capital, overplayed his hand?

HILL: Absolutely.

ACKER: I don't...

CROWLEY: Really?

OK. Go ahead.

HILL: He's absolutely overplayed his hand. He kind of came in arriving the -- riding the wave of his own awesomeness. It seemed like he never actually read press clippings. I mean one of the...


HILL: And I -- I agreed with the health care initiative. But when you looked at the town hall meetings last summer, when you looked at what everyday American people -- at least a certain sector of American people were saying, it was almost as if Obama didn't understand that people didn't like him. The fact that he had done 110 interviews and 110 talks on health care and the American people weren't persuaded, it showed that people like him, but they didn't find his argument persuasive. It was almost as if he said if they just see my face one more time and listen to me one more time, they'll be convinced. That's the type of Obama mentality and the type of Rahm Emanuel mentality that I think has undermined Obama's effectiveness this year. I hope they learn that lesson in 2010, by not having not so many unprecedented moments and not having so many -- such -- such a need to put Obama in front.

CROWLEY: Tanya, I'm going to give you 20 seconds...

HOLT: Amen...

CROWLEY: ...because you were shaking your head.

HOLT: what he said.


ACKER: I -- I...


ACKER: I have to say...


ACKER: Well, I disagree with -- with Marc a little bit, because I think that part of the health care debate was that Re -- Democrats didn't do early what they should have done, which was really to start explaining this bill. I don't think it's a bad bill. It's not a perfect bill.

But it is going to get rid of discrimination based on preexisting conditions. It is going do something for 30 million Americans who don't have coverage. It is going to get rid of lifetime caps.

I mean these are really big problems. I live in a state where most of our -- most people who are losing their homes are losing them because of health care costs that have spiraled out of control. And these are people with insurance.

So I do think that this bill does something.

So I think he's got some political capital left. I think next year is going to be a tough year. But I'm not as -- I'm not as -- I'm not feeling as dark as everybody else.

CROWLEY: OK. Well, thank heavens. There's some light there.

Ben Stein, Tanya Acker, Terry Holt, Marc Lamont Hill, I cannot thank you enough.

Happy New Year all.

HILL: Happy New Year.

STEIN: Happy New Year to you.

ACKER: Happy New Year.

HOLT: Happy New Year to you.

STEIN: Happy New Year.

CROWLEY: He has been called the most powerful person in the Republican Party. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is in the hospital in Hawaii after a health scare. We will get an update on his couldn't, when we return.


CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. We hope you're enjoying your New Year's Eve.

I want to bring back in our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry who really has done double duty for us in Honolulu, covering not just the president but also Rush Limbaugh vacationing in Hawaii. He was taken to the hospital earlier this week. He remains in the hospital.

Ed, listen with me for a moment while we play Walter E. Williams, who filled in for Rush today, as guest host on Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio show. Here's what he told listeners about Limbaugh's condition.


WALTER E. WILLIAMS, GUEST HOST ON LIMBAUGH RADIO SHOW: First of all, folks I should say that Rush continues to rest the very comfortable in the hospital in Honolulu this afternoon. Actually, it's morning out there. And he had a comfortable night and he's getting good medical attention. Yesterday -- let me go back a little bit -- yesterday, Wednesday, he was taken to the hospital in Honolulu after complaining of chest pains. Those pains were the kind of pains that makes one feel like he has a heart attack coming on but it has not been confirmed that it is a heart attack.

Today, Thursday, he'll have a complete examination and we'll know more. And we'll keep everyone informed when there's information to share. We just don't have a lot of information to share right now.

Know this, that Rush is in good and stable condition comfortable -- as comfortable as one can be in the hospital while on vacation, and he's in good hands.


CROWLEY: Ed, kind of unfair to bring you in because we may have gotten the best update we're going to get on Limbaugh's condition. Have you learned anything today why he remains in the hospital?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, all we know from a hospital source is that he was brought in yesterday afternoon in pretty serious condition. I think his guest host was right that it's unclear yet whether or not he had a heart attack. Significant today that the hospital, Queens Medical Center, finally, put out a statement confirming that Rush Limbaugh's a patient there and he had chest pains. But they didn't go into any more detail about his condition. They said he was resting comfortably but didn't give any indication if it was a heart attack or not and didn't give any indication of when he might be released.

I think that was telling in that perhaps they just don't have all of the information yet and they're giving us very little and it was significant that Rush Limbaugh's Web site and the radio show, they didn't release any photos of him today resting comfortably.

So, frankly, we just don't have enough information yet. But it's certainly an odd coincidence that we're here covering the president and one of Rush Limbaugh's chief nemesis is the president, he said he wanted Barack Obama to fail, very early in his time in office. A very, very strange point in this, Candy.

CROWLEY: It is. And despite the fact that you've covered both the stories for us, you've had time for a little sleuthing into the background of -- in the high school background, in particular, talking to some of the people who knew President Barack Obama when he was there. What did you find out?

HENRY: Well, I talked to a couple of his classmates from the class of '79. He was on the basketball team that won the state championship. They knew him as Barry back then. And a couple of funny things, one the basketball court, they say he was a slasher, and one of his colleagues, it was the point guard, told me that that sort of slashing, take no prisoners attitude he thinks is carrying over into the presidency because this is why Barack Obama is now not afraid to make tough decisions. He also said he's a real trash talker on the court, even today, because some of friends still get together to play with him.

The funny thing was: his high school classmates were telling that me that a young Barry Obama used to scoop ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. They said one the side, he used to slip them some free ice cream and frozen yogurt. I sort of have coaxed it out of them because they didn't want to acknowledge it first. And I said, look, the statute of limitations is past, it's been 30 years now. They laughed and said, "OK, he gave us free ice cream."

I think he, clearly, passed the FBI background check. So, there's no worry about the future president stealing or giving out free ice cream, Candy.

CROWLEY: So, he was a slasher on the court, gave away free ice cream when he shouldn't have. A little bit goes against that image that we've seen today, Ed. He was out and about with his kids?

HENRY: Yes, you know, it's interesting. They went to see "Avatar." I haven't seen it. A lot of people are talking about it. They saw it in 3D. He brought his daughters and now they got a chance to wear those 3D glasses. Then the president did what he's been doing a lot of this trip, he went out ands played some golf.

And now, we're told we're going to have a quiet night, family night at home. And before they leave in the couple of days, they're going do this tradition that they have every year. They have an Obama family talent show. The White House has not given us any information about what talent the president is going to show off. We're looking forward to hearing that in the next couple of days, Candy.

CROWLEY: Well, I'm sorry you weren't invited. I'd love to know what your talent is, other than reporting, of course.

Listen, quickly, give my Ed Henry's New Year's resolution.

HENRY: Well, I've got a family one and personal. A family one is that, first year in covering Barack Obama was too busy to take my dad and my son to the New Yankee stadium. I'm vowing I'm going to do that in 2010.

And the other thing, no offense, Candy, but I'm going to spend less time with you at CNN and more time in the ocean. I'll see you.

CROWLEY: Good-bye, have fun!

Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry. Better put your trunks on, first, though. I think he's not appropriately attired.

Listen, just a couple hours away from 2010. In New York Times Square, an estimates of 1 million people there to see that famed ball drop. We'll talk about keeping the crowd safe just days after attempted terror attack when we come back.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Candy Crowley, sitting in for Larry, who is off tonight.

Thousands of New York police officers are patrolling the streets of New York, making sure the roughly 1 million there who ring in the New Year are safe.

Well, here to talk about all of the security there, just days after an attempted airline attack: Lou Palumbo. He is a former NYPD investigator and director of Elite Security, providing security for CNN in Times Square tonight. And also joining us, a familiar face: CNN's Don Lemon in Times Square -- of course, an anchor and correspondent.

Thank you all for joining us and I know it's freezing there. So, I doubly thank you, not always comfortable.

Let me start with you, Lou, simply because -- tell me the magnitude of trying to keep Times Square secure. What are we talking about in numbers? And what are we talking about in task?

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER NYPD INVESTIGATOR: Well, in order to facilitate the security in this little area of Manhattan requires a tremendous amount of resources and assets, and the form of manpower, which you'll see present here with the uniformed police department, New York City, as well as a number of undercovers, FBI agents, agents from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosive Bureau -- numerous, numerous law enforcement agencies, including our intelligence community. And basically, what they do is they implement a plan where they create choke points that feed into this main area of Times Square and they screen people coming in. They prevent vehicular traffic through the implementation of barricades and they just basically try to keep a handle on the pulse of what's go on here tonight.

CROWLEY: Certainly, they have done this a lot, for many years, and including for many years post-9/11. But would an incident like the one that happened on the plane over Detroit change the game plan at all?

PALUMBO: I wouldn't necessarily believe it changed the game plan, because that would suggest that the police department had never really approached this at full throttle, and I will assure you that they do, as well as the FBI. I mean, I have friends, so to speak, in some of these agencies and they haven't taken this lightly in any of the other years.

I don't think they did anything much different this year than they did last year, for example, and I was here last year. There was an extraordinary presence of law enforcement agents, FBI agents, the same implementation of barricades and screening went on. I don't think that that incident on the plane was the impetus for Ray Kelly to do something different than he's done in the past. I think he's been on top of this the way he needed it to be for all of these years.

CROWLEY: Don, you've been there much of the day, least I've seen you from there much of the day. Do you sense -- have been able to talk to anybody in the crowd? Do you have in a sense that anybody's feeling any more trepidation other than how am I going to get home tonight or did we dress more warmly? Anything that you think that you've seen any sign of that among the people that just came to party.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, and I'll tell you, I can back up what he said. I was here last year. And this year and it seems much more organized.

These people would not be here in they didn't feel safe. I don't think they put themselves in jeopardy if they didn't feel safe.

And I've got to tell you, Candy, I was here for the run-up to the Iraq war when there was concern about security in New York and especially in Times Square. And New York City, the police department and the federal government, came up with a plan just in case there was an attack and I think they use, they implement some of the same systems when it comes to New Year's Eve and other celebration that are here in Times Square.

And I've seen Lou on television a lot. I've spoken to him for different stories. We could not be in better hands here in Times Square. New York City police officers, New York's finest, the mayor, the governor of the state, all of law enforcement here, they're keeping an eye on this place. Obviously, you know, this is the center of the world right now and everybody is watching, especially given what happened or what could have happened on Christmas, Candy.

CROWLEY: Situate yourself for us, Don. Are you in the crowd? Are you up above it? And what sort of security -- did you have to pass through any to get in there? Did you see anything tighter along that score?

LEMON: Both. I've been mingling in the crowd. I came in. Lou escorted us in, along with other security officers and people, again, acting accordingly. And as you -- we have been reporting all night here on CNN, you've got to go through security measures, take security measures much the same way as you go through an airport. No backpacks, no liquor, no sharp objects, obviously no metal or anything like that.

So, the measures here really are pretty stringent. I've been talking to people here, they're pretty -- you know, they've been very ruly, and we're up above the crowd. And we can see blocks and blocks and blocks of people who are just standing here with umbrellas and screaming and enjoying themselves.

It's not to say there probably won't be any arrests this evening or they won't be, you know, some shenanigans. But pretty much, surprisingly, I mean, it's, you know, it's not calm because people are excited but it appears to be pretty safe and people are acting accordingly.

CROWLEY: Don Lemon and Lou Palumbo, we're going to come back and have another segment with you. We're going to take a quick break.



We have talking about security at Times Square with Lou Palumbo and Don Lemon, our own Don Lemon there, anchoring our coverage out of there tonight so far.

Let me ask you both if you looked at this crowd and had to say, "Here's what I do and here would be my biggest concern if I were running the show," what would that be, Lou?

PALUMBO: Well, clearly, you know, anyone that was capable of -- how would you say, secreting an explosive the same way this individual did on the aircraft at Christmastime into a crowd like this, you wouldn't need, I would just you say, a real substantial explosion, just enough to cause a stampede would result inadvertently to death. So, my largest concern someone that came in with the agenda with even just a minimal amount of explosive.


LEMON: Candy, you know, I've got to say, too, as well, when you talk about explosives and about, you know, any sort of threat of radiation, the police officers here are carrying radiation devices that are as big as this BlackBerry or your cell phone, that they don't even have to touch it, it's on their belts and they can use it and they can sniff those things out.

And also, he was talking about a stampede. The possibility of a stampede, if it does happen, and you can correct me, it would probably be controlled because of those pens that they're putting people in, that they figured they can control the crowd by putting people in the pens so that everybody's not rushing the same way. When people come in, everybody's not coming in the same way. When they leave, they don't all run on to the subway at same time and cause a stampede. So, that's something that they've looked into when he talked about rushing a crowd.

CROWLEY: Don Lemon and...


LEMON: ... for small objects and I think -- and I think a bigger concern, I'll let you go, it's probably -- smaller concern, just little crime -- quality of life crimes like pickpockets and muggings and that sort of thing. Don't forget that happens here as well, Candy.

CROWLEY: Don Lemon, Lou Palumbo, so far, across the world, peaceful celebrations. We are looking for that in New York. Have a happy and safe New Year, both of you.'

When we come back, power couple Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin, they are in Times Square getting ready to host condition's coverage of New Year's Eve 2010.


CROWLEY: It's LARRY KING LIVE, but look who we have up in Times Square: Anderson Cooper, who is host of -- surprise -- "ANDERSON COOPER 360." He is also the co-host of "NEW YEAR'S EVE LIVE WITH ANDERSON COOPER AND KATHY GRIFFIN." It's airing tonight at 11:00, not too far from now. So, be there.

Kathy Griffin, of course, a comedienne and actress. She is an Emmy- winning star of Bravo's "My Life on the D List."

They had quite a time last year and they are back -- oh, let me just show you first while we're waiting because we're not exactly sure where the two of them have gone, this is Las Vegas. We are actually going to have a report from there in our next segment. We have taken you, let's see -- actually, Gary Tuchman, you're in Central Park in New York. Somebody has gone AWOL. I'm not mentioning any names but it's Anderson.

Where are you and what are you seeing, Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Happy New Year to you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

G. TUCHMAN: We're in Central Park and the reason we're here is this: those of us who cover news for a living, particularly you, Candy, are used to interviewing people who are running, running for president, running for senator, running for governor, and that's why this is a great change of pace because tonight, I will be interviewing people who are running literally in a road race. It's a great tradition.

Time Square, obviously, is a wonderful tradition but so is this. It's the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. This is the finish line for a race that begins at the stroke of midnight exactly. About 4,500 runners will be running in a four-mile race and I'll be one of them, talking to people from all over the world who will be running in the race. The oldest runner is 91 years old. The youngest runner is 4 years old.

And one of the youngest runners is with me right now. She happens to be my youngest, my youngest of three, Samantha Tuchman. She's 12 years old. And she ran with me last year, Candy.

How come you decided to come back? And we live in Atlanta where it doesn't snow and sleet and rain like this. How come you decided to run with me this year?

SAMANTHA TUCHMAN, GARY TUCHMAN'S DAUGHTER: Because this year, I'm going to beat you. G. TUCHMAN: I see, a smart aleck. You better not make me look bad.

One thing, Candy, I want her to model the latest eye wear that's new this year exclusive. Let's take a look. The 2010 glasses. Yes, you see them. The zero and zero are the eye holes, the exclamation point. We're just wondering what they're going to do in the year 2011.

So, we'll wait and see.

But this is a really exciting time. People are in great moods. It's a great way to start the New Year. A very healthy year, stroke of midnight, four-mile run in snowy Central Park -- Candy.

CROWLEY: All right. Well, she looks great, and don't you put them on, Gary. I just -- stick to running. You're looking good but not those glasses. You two have fun. A family New Year's Eve, it sounds great.

We want to also now bring in our John Zarrella, who, I think, has worked now about 36 hours straight. He is in Key West, Florida.

Talk about your unusual New Year's Eve, John. Perhaps I'll just let you describe it.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, maybe it's a good idea, Candy. We're down here on Duvall Street, and we've been down here, for this is our eighth year and I kind of become known as the "maestro of Main Street" down here. These are my girls back here.

These are the drag queens from 801 Bourbon Street and they're doing their show here awaiting Sushi. Now, Sushi is a drag queen who, for the past 13 years, has come down in that shoe up there at the stroke of midnight with a bottle of champagne.

You can see here, Candy, we've got thousands of people, probably 20,000, 25,000 people here for the big event, and every year, the crowd gets bigger and bigger, Candy.

CROWLEY: John, thank you.

ZARRELLA: Look, here's a couple of girls. Hi there. How are you?


CROWLEY: I hate to interrupt cute little girls, John, but I've to go.

Hi, guys. Have a Happy New Year's Eve. I'm so glad I let you explain that, John.

We've got to take a break. See you later.


CROWLEY: Well, look who finally showed up in Times Square, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. Kathy, of course, a comedienne and actress, an Emmy-winning star of Bravo's "My Life on the D List." She is there with...

KATHY GRIFFIN, ACTRESS: Candy, it's double Emmy-winning. I don't mean to interrupt the news show.

CROWLEY: I'm sorry, the double Emmy-winning. And Anderson Cooper, surprisingly, host of "ANDERSON COOPER 360." So, you finally showed up.


CROWLEY: Oh, four-time Emmy winner.


COOPER: Yes, four.

CROWLEY: OK. Wait, let's talk about New Year's Eve. Enough about you.


CROWLEY: Listen, Ed -- sorry, John Zarrella is down in Key West with a drag queen named Sushi. What have you guys got?

COOPER: We're in Times Square for - this is our third year together.

GRIFFIN: Yes. It's a new tradition.

COOPER: It's become a tradition. I'm surprised you were allowed to come back this career.

GRIFFIN: May I -- yes. It's kind of a miracle, and now, you know, there are rules, and I'm not supposed to cuss or say inappropriate things.

COOPER: Well...

GRIFFIN: So, we'll see how I do.

COOPER: Let's keep our fingers crossed, Candy.

GRIFFIN: Or not, Candy.

CROWLEY: Is there -- is there a seven-second delay?




GRIFFIN: Like a 30-second delay, about a two-minute delay. It's cool.

COOPER: No, there's no delay because it's all about counting down to Times Square -- to New Year's. GRIFFIN: That's not what I was cold. I'm like to see Jack Cafferty right away, please.

CROWLEY: When in doubt, Anderson can just reach over with his hand and put it over your mouth. I mean, that -- again you know, we have to save...

GRIFFIN: He's done that many times.

CROWLEY: I see. Listen...

GRIFFIN: I understand.

COOPER: For some reason, Kathy is under the impression that Jack Cafferty runs CNN.

GRIFFIN: Isn't this "The Cafferty Hour"?

COOPER: It's the truth.

GRIFFIN: I'm here for the "Cafferty File" and then I'm going to go and get a drink with Sean Hannity. I don't know what you guys are doing.

CROWLEY: Kathy, you guys, we're so late, I have to wrap you, but everybody, you'll get a lot more of both of them at 11:00, because right now we have to go to a familiar face, Lance Bass.

Lass, you're in Las Vegas. Thank you so much for being here.

Let me ask you what's going -- it seems like there's no better place than Vegas to spend New Year's Eve.

LANCE BASS, SINGER: Oh, I'm telling you, I have spent many a New Year's in Vegas and there's nothing like it. The energy here is crazy and, you know, Vegas multiples in buildings every year. So, I mean, I don't even recognize the place anymore.

CROWLEY: Lance, it looks surprisingly calm there. When do the festivities start?

BASS: It is. Well, you know, everyone is just getting ready. You know, it's very early here. We're three hours behind New York. So, you know, everyone is just getting into the mood now and everyone is definitely getting their drink on already, and it's going to be a crazy, crazy, crazy night, I'm sure

CROWLEY: Well, thank you for not having your drink on quite yet.

BASS: Not yet, not the yet.

CROWLEY: So, do you have a New Year's Eve tradition when you're not part of CNN's coverage?

BASS: I don't actually. Every year, I try to spend somewhere different. I was here last year, but you know what? I think Vegas might be my new tradition. You know, I really enjoy it here. It's going to be an interesting night. I had to sign one of those contracts thanks to Miss Kathy Griffin. So, all I'm thinking about is watching my tongue. So, yes, so, hopefully, the night will go smooth and I don't have to write any checks tonight.

CROWLEY: There are children watching, remember, because parents let them stay up late.

BASS: Oh, yes.

CROWLEY: That's why, so behave yourself.

BASS: And my mother is watching, too. So, yes.

CROWLEY: There you go. Double reason.

BASS: Hi, mom.

CROWLEY: Double reason. So when you do -- are you one of those people -- we're seeing more and more people, at least according to polls, are staying home. Have you ever been a stay at homer or are you not quite that old yet?

BASS: You know what? I have never been one to stay at home. But ever since I was a little kid, I always threw a New Year's party. For some reason, it was like my favorite holiday of the year and every year, I throw a party. So, you know, this is my first time to actually be working on New Year's.

But the good thing is, like I said before, three hours behind, so I get off work at 9:30. So, I get to go like start the party after we're done with this thing. Oh, yes.

CROWLEY: Lance Bass, have a lot of fun out there. You will be part of the coverage that's coming up.

I'm Candy Crowley for Larry King. And all of the staff here at LARRY KING LIVE -- we wish you a happy and healthy and safe 2010.

Now, I throw it to Anderson Cooper in Times Square.