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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Republican Wins Ted Kennedy's Old Senate Seat; Interview With Mark Halperin, John Heilemann
Aired January 19, 2010 - 23:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight...
SCOTT BROWN (R), SENATOR-ELECT, MASSACHUSETTS: If anyone doubts that, in this next election season that's about to begin, well, let them take a look at what happened in Massachusetts.
MARTHA COAKLEY (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, MASSACHUSETTS: There will be plenty of Wednesday-morning quarterbacking about what happened and what went right, what was wrong.
L. KING: Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
L. KING: Welcome back to a special midnight edition of LARRY KING LIVE on what has turned out to be a historic night in politics.
Ted Kennedy's seat in the U.S. Senate, which he had occupied for 46 years until his death last year, has been won by a Republican. Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in a special election which changes a lot of things, including the balance of power and President Obama's agenda, which could well be in jeopardy.
With us in this first segment of this special hour, Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of CNN's "SITUATION ROOM"; John King, the anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION." He was in Boston at the Park Plaza at the Brown headquarters. Jessica Yellin, CNN national correspondent, who's at the Coakley headquarters at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston. And in Washington on Capitol Hill, Dana Bash, CNN's senior congressional correspondent.
How did Brown win, Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He got out the independents. He really was impressive in doing that, convincing a lot of independents and probably a lot of Democrats at the same time that he would be a better United States senator.
It was an uphill struggle. It was only a few weeks ago, Larry, that everybody just assumed that Ted Kennedy's seat would be -- would be -- remain in Democratic hands. Martha Coakley was a pretty popular attorney general. She had a pretty good brand name. There's no doubt about that.
But at the same time, things did not go in her way, and within the past two or three weeks, it began to collapse pretty quickly. And all of a sudden, he wins rather decisively. If you take a look, he got, what, 52 percent of the vote. She got 47 percent of the vote. That's a pretty impressive he victory, especially for a Republican in the state of Massachusetts.
L. KING: John, a lot of times in sports, as we know, John, we don't know if the winning team won or the losing team lost. Did Brown win this, or did Coakley lose it?
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: That's a great way to put it, Larry. And I think, if you talk to everybody up here who understands Massachusetts and national politics, they say a little bit of both. You can see the celebration here. The band is back on, even though it's after midnight.
Coakley did not run a great campaign. She also had some tough dynamics working against her. People are still just as mad if not more mad about the economy, just as worried about jobs, if not more worried about jobs than they were when Obama won big in 2008. They're still mad at Wall Street and the bail outs.
But on top of that Scott Brown ran a very focused and disciplined campaign, had what everybody said was superb campaign staff around him and, Larry, just tapped into economic anxiety, spending anxiety, and the sense in Massachusetts all those independents will talked about.
They thought, perhaps naively, but they thought Barack Obama would make Washington different sooner. Those independents are saying they don't like all the partisanship. And tonight, boy, did they send a message.
L. KING: Jessica, we heard that -- what a bad or poor candidate Martha Coakley was. Yet, in her concession speech, she seemed rather clear-headed, had a good voice, a nice delivery, good approach to the crowd. What went wrong?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, she's been an elected official in the state for many years, so she knows how to be with people. She's not unlikable.
But many people just felt that she didn't have the fire in her belly. When you talk to folks on the street, Larry, they just didn't feel like, as one put it, "she was going to do it for us." That she would fight for them.
She did make some really crucial missteps. You know, she went and asked a reporter, "What do you expect me to do? Stand outside the baseball stadium and shake hands in the cold?" Well, in American politics the answer is yes.
So she came off as aloof, detached, and voters felt it.
And John was pointing out something that her campaign has said over and over, which is that there's a sense that change in Washington hasn't come fast enough. So there's a tidal wave of anger coming toward her that they just miscalculated. They didn't respect the intensity of it and didn't respond quickly enough. The Republican did, Larry.
L. KING: And Dana Bash, what's -- what's the sentiment on the Hill? Is there a chance the House will pass the Senate version and get this quickly passed by going to the Senate, and they'll approve it? They don't need 60 votes.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looks very, very unlikely this evening, Larry. I spoke to so many House Democratic lawmakers, some of the most liberal and some of the most conservative. And many of them said that they just don't see it possible, that they personally would not vote yes, and all you need is a couple of House Democrats to drop off. And that, you know, throws that idea of the House passing the Senate bill out the window.
What is next? That is such a big question mark. House Democratic leaders huddled in Nancy Pelosi's office just a short while ago there to watch the returns. And they're trying to figure out what to do with health care. There is no clear path. All of the options are very, very bad when it comes to trying to hold onto that very, very big, broad health-care bill.
It actually surprised me, Larry. Several rank-and-file Democrats, again, across the political spectrum within the Democratic Party told me that they think that maybe the best thing to do is to scrap that big bill and to go for something smaller, go for something that has a lot of support, at least the provisions in this particular bill that have a lot of support, and aim small, move on and talk about what they really want to talk about because it's what they've been hearing from back home, jobs.
L. KING: Wolf, we have about a minute left in this segment. Isn't it unusual to think that, in all these years, everyone says we don't have the best health system, it needs a lot of health? Everyone says that, and we've never been able to pass a major health bill.
BLITZER: You know, it's taken so long this time. Think about this, Larry. It's not now after midnight, so it's January 20. Exactly one year Barack Obama was inaugurated and sworn in as president of the United States. Very popular with so much popularity behind him.
The thought was he was going to get this thing passed relatively quickly. But it's gone on and on and on. And now exactly one year later, look, Democrats lose in Massachusetts, in New Jersey, in Virginia, these statewide contests. And it looks a lot different, the political environment now, than it did exactly one year ago.
L. KING: Wolf Blitzer, John, Jessica Yellin, Dana Bash, thank you for yeoman-like work all night long on this historic election night.
When we come back, we'll meet our panel of pundits and experts. Don't go away.
L. KING: Let's meet our first political panel in this extra- special extra edition if LARRY KING LIVE. In Washington, Andrew Card. He was White House chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He voted for Brown as an absentee ballot, a resident of Massachusetts.
Here in Los Angeles Tanya Acker, political analyst, contributor to the Huffington Post.
Back in Washington our man David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst and adviser to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.
And also in Washington, Gloria Borger, CNN senior political analyst.
Scott Brown took a populist stance during his campaign, very much an "it's against us big, bad Washington" theme. He sounded that theme in his victory speech. Here's an excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I will remember that, while the honor is mine, this Senate seat belongs to no one person, no one political party. And as I said before, and you've heard it today, and you'll hear it loud and clear, this is the people's seat!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
L. KING: Andy Card, if it's the people's seat, do you think the Republicans might not take credit for it?
ANDY CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The Republicans will take credit for it, but Scott Brown deserves the bulk of the credit, because he ran a very disciplined campaign. He was not phony. He was the real thing.
And this is the people's seat. It belongs to the people of Massachusetts. And Scott Brown says that he'll take good care of it and make sure that they're part of the process, rather than being dictated to or preached at.
L. KING: Does that mean he will serve the liberal interests of that most liberal of states?
CARD: Look, Scott Brown is a very able representative of the people. He served extremely well as a state representative in Massachusetts. He's been a state senator in Massachusetts. He's got a great record. He works well across the aisle.
But make no bones about it: he campaigned on the issues, and he listened to the people. And he responded to the arrogance that the people saw in the Coakley campaign, the Obama administration, and in Washington, D.C.
So I think this was a response to the arrogance that we've seen in the political process over the last four or five months.
L. KING: Tanya, why do you laugh?
TANYA ACKER, HUFFINGTON POST Well, look, I have to laugh a little bit because I'm realizing that the Democrats lost Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to a Republican who voted against providing aid for 9/11 workers and who posed nude in "Cosmopolitan." I mean, seriously.
We do not get -- the party, the state of the party could not be -- couldn't be much worse.
What I think is going on here is not so much -- it's really nice that, you know, the guy who won now makes himself a populist. But Democrats need to decide what it is they stand for, who it is they're fighting for, and they need to get behind a real theme.
A lot of the things that are in this health-care bill, for instance, things like bans on pre-existing conditions, bans on abusive insurance company practices of dropping people who get sick, these are things that the people wanted.
But the Democrats were just set back and let the Republicans turn those things into socialism. That's why they lost. That's why they're losing this conversation.
L. KING: The puzzle, David, is that Massachusetts has all those things.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's certainly true, Larry, but Scott Brown is a very effective and, I must say, a somewhat charismatic figure. Remember, he's run in ten elections in Massachusetts. This is his tenth straight victory. The guy's never lost an election, as far as I can tell.
He does well at this, and that's because he does connect well to people. He was the populist in a pickup truck, and it worked.
But I think for Democrats not to understand that, when Scott Brown won, he did win on issues, as Andy Card said, and he did make this a referendum on Washington. It was effective.
On health care, even though Massachusetts has health care, Larry, he argued effectively that the bill that was going to come due at the national level, that Martha Coakley was supporting, plus the other bills that were going to come due were going to drive spending up over $2 trillion. And a lot of people in Massachusetts didn't want to do that.
L. KING: Gloria, was this a national race?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it was. I think, as everyone has said, that it was a good race that this candidate ran.
But I think he nationalized the race when he came out and said, "Look, I want to be that vote that kills health-care reform." He turned it into a national race.
And what he did very smartly was not only make it an anti- Washington race, but he made it an anti-insider race. And he made Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress look like the insiders who were not bringing the change that the people had voted for.
That, in fact, when they were writing their health-care bill behind closed doors in the United States Senate and then the House of Representatives, they were cutting deals with big labor and with members of the Senate.
And, you know, people just were offended by that, and it gave State Senator Brown, now Senator Brown, an opportunity to kind of, you know, dig into that hole a little bit more and say to the people, "This is not the kind of change that you voted for. And look, Barack Obama and the Democrats have become the corrupt majority, and we need to change that." Very smart.
L. KING: And we'll be back with -- we'll be back with more of Andy Card, Tanya Acker, David Gergen and Gloria Borger after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COAKLEY: There will be plenty of Wednesday-morning quarterbacking about what happened and what went right, what went wrong. And I know that everyone, including me -- I am brutally honest on my own performances -- we will be honest about the assessment of this race. And although I am very disappointed, I always respect the voters' choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
L. KING: If you're watching in the east, we are doing Wednesday- morning quarterbacking.
Andy Card, should the president take this personally?
CARD: I don't think he should, but he probably will. This is a very significant defeat for him. This is -- today is literally the anniversary of him taking the oath of office to be president. I'm not sure this is how he planned on celebrating that anniversary.
So this is a wake-up call. And actually, it was the voters saying, "Hello. We care about some things, and you're doing them wrong." And I'm sure that President Obama has heard that hello.
L. KING: Tanya, was it a wake-up call for your line of thinking?
ACKER: Of course. It's absolutely a wake-up call. But I think that there are a lot of folks who think that the president has spent more time trying to engage in this bipartisan dance with people who have no interest in working with him.
I mean, let's again -- let's not forget -- I can appreciate the analysis about how this is a referendum on health care. But let's forget that there are folks who position themselves at the outset of this conversation, Jim DeMint, for instance, who said this will break him, and they set out to do that.
And so I'm not prepared to concede that that's going to happen now. But, you know, I think it's interesting the way we're framing this conversation. People wanted a lot of the things that are in this bill. The Democrats have not done the work that was necessary to sell those things.
L. KING: David, can they circumvent this in a way? Can the Democrats pull off something with the House approving the Senate side and getting a bill?
GERGEN: Larry, I think they're in a very difficult dilemma now. They're damned if they do, damned if they don't. If they go forward with a great big health-care bill in the face of this kind of public opposition, they're going to pay a huge price.
If they don't deliver on health-care reform, they're going to pay a huge price.
I think what's -- I don't know how we're going to get there, but my sense is we're going to wind up with a bill that's been scaled back considerably. It probably will not bring us universal access. It will be much less expensive. But it will bring insurance reform.
And I do think, Larry, that there is going to be a tension within the Democratic Party. Tanya is arguing the progressive view and saying you have to fight for the liberal causes versus others who are moderates in the party saying, "No. We've got to figure out a way to get more to the center, work with the opposition, get together on jobs and get some things done on that."
This is not the time to go out and crusade for liberal causes. And they're going to have to -- they're going to have to resolve that in the White House. I don't know which way the president is going to come down on that subject.
BORGER: And Larry, if you...
KING: Gloria, what's going to happen? Go ahead.
BORGER: We don't know what's going to happen because they're behinds doors to figure it out right now. If you look at this election, we always say Massachusetts is the bluest of the blue states.
Well, 51 percent of the voters in that state self-identify as independent voters. Independent voters are very important to President Obama. They helped get him elected, in fact, got him elected. And Democrats need to figure out a better way to talk to those independent voters.
What you're hearing from moderate House Democrats is that they're afraid to vote for this health-care reform package or any health-care reform package because they say what happened to Martha Coakley in the state of Massachusetts.
This president has to figure out a way, and there are very smart people at the White House, he has to figure out a way to pivot now. And it will be interesting to see what he does. Does he become the populist that he said was -- in the campaign, he accused the Hillary Clinton of false populism. Does he become the populist now? Does he pivot to talk about jobs and to attack Wall Street. Does he narrow his agenda? What does he do about health care? Lots of big decisions over there.
L. KING: David Gergen and Gloria Borger will be leaving us, getting a well-deserved rest for the night. Andy and Tanya will remain, and we'll be joined by Amanda Carpenter and Paul Begala. Don't go away.
L. KING: Andrew Card and Tanya Acker remain. We're joined by Amanda Carpenter, conservative commentator and often correspondent and hot-button columnist for "The Washington Times."
And Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor.
Let's get them into the conversation. Amanda, what do you make of this vote tonight?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, it's going to clearly change the debate when it comes to health care, but I think that people are really blaming Martha Coakley for being a bad candidate and not crediting Scott Brown for running a really spectacular campaign.
He had a clear very message. He was going to be the 41st vote against health care, going to oppose cap and trade and get tough on the terrorists. And those were the defining issues that, I think, the Republican Party will want to run on, as well, in future elections.
L. KING: Paul, how stinging a defeat was this for your side?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, it was as bad as it gets. You know, I think that Abraham Lincoln lost an election and said that, you know, it hurts too much to laugh, but I'm too old to cry. And I think that's probably how Democrats are feeling right now.
But I do want to pick up on what Amanda said. She's right, Mr. Brown, Senator-elect Brown now, ran a terrific campaign, and it took a perfect storm to win in a state like Massachusetts. Not only a nearly perfect campaign by the Republican, but about the worst campaign from a Democrat that we've seen since I don't know why.
I mean, just pick one at random. She mocked the Democrat. Ms. Coakley mocked Brown for going out to Fenway Park where they were having a hockey game outdoors, and shaking hands. She mocked him for that.
She said Curt Schilling, for goodness sakes, was a Yankee fan. You know, just on and on.
And by the way, she only campaigned at 19 events in the first 30 days.
Now, you know, I worked for Bill Clinton. He did 19 events in a day. By the way, Teddy Kennedy would have done 19 events in a day. He worked for that seat. And Senator-elect Brown noticed that tonight, and he commented on that tonight.
So kudos to Senator Brown for running a good campaign and working very hard. But I think Democrats ought to also understand that, you know, it matters who your candidate is and how the campaign is run.
L. KING: Do you think, Andy Card, that this election will affect the State of the Union speech next week?
CARD: I don't know how it doesn't. Convinced that it changed the way they're celebrating their one-year anniversary of President Obama taking the oath of office. And I think it will change the way they were planning to have a message on this State of the Union address.
So, yes, the work of the last six weeks at the White House is all now being reviewed, and they don't have a good message to celebrate much of anything. So it's going to be very interesting to see what the president does say when he talks about the State of the Union. The state of the union is not good.
L. KING: Andy -- and Andy has had plenty of White House experience. Tanya, do you agree it will affect the State of the Union?
ACKER: Absolutely. It absolutely affects the State of the Union speech. And, you know, just to hearken back to the point that I was raising earlier, you know, I didn't make this up.
Barack Obama got elected president of the United States because a majority of the country wanted change. They wanted health-care reform. They wanted to regulate a lot of abusive insurance company practices.
Now Scott Brown -- and Amanda is absolutely right. He ran a masterful campaign, and Martha ran a terrible one.
But that being said, you know, folks want these changes, but I don't know who they expect to do them. I mean, Superman does not swoop in and give us health-care reform. Government does those things. And until Democrats can reclaim the conversation and start talking about a reasonable role in government, we're going to keep losing elections.
L. KING: Amanda, will you admit that the public definitely wants reform in health care?
CARPENTER: Oh, there's no doubt they want reform. And I think Barack Obama's best move to be to backtrack, reset and start with common sense, I think, ideas like letting people buy insurance across state lines.
But I do want to revisit the point that, you know, Superman did try to come in and save Martha Coakley. And that was when Barack Obama went there on Sunday.
And if you look at his speech that was all over the place. I mean, you really have to question the missteps that they're making when they decide to belittle the guy's truck over and over again. That, you know, he went there and campaigned for the bait tax, which Scott Brown was opposing. So, you know, you can blame Martha Coakley for being a bad candidate, But the Democratic messaging seems all over the place at the highest levels.
L. KING: Paul, how badly does this affect the president?
BEGALA: Well, you know, this -- we will see. This will be a bit of a character test for him.
My own view is that he's got a good deal more steel in his spine than his critics believe, and I think -- at least I hope -- we'll actually see a tougher, stronger Barack Obama.
I dissent from some of the advice that he's been getting on the air tonight. I don't think surrender is ever a good strategy. I don't think the American people want weakness in their leader. He actually believes in these things and health-care reform and political reform, by the way, and deficit reductions, something Democrats actually did when we balance the budget. Republicans haven't.
So I think he ought to -- yes, you always want to reach out to the party opposite. But he ought to show us that he really believe in these causes and then fight for them.
L. KING: And we'll take a break and get the thoughts of what Andy thinks about that. Don't go away.
KING: Andy Card, do you agree with Paul Begala, the president should stick to his principles?
ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF, PRES. G.W. BUSH: Well, I always believe politicians should stick to their principles, but I also the president has to be pragmatic.
He cannot make laws unilaterally. He has to get Congress to pass the laws. And right now President Obama will be dealing with a very, very paranoid Congress. House and Senate.
There are no blue states anymore. They're all purple. And he's going to have to work hard to get the votes in order to have legislation show up his desk. It will not be as he wants it, but may be as he needs it.
And I don't think he should be so arrogant to say it's my way or the highway, because the highway will lead nowhere. KING: Tanya, can he take a lead from Roosevelt's book?
TANYA ACKER, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I was going to say, picking up on Andy's point, you know, he might want to take a lead from George W. Bush's book, and say there's some things I believe in and I'm going to do them. And I'm going to make you suffer political consequences if you don't join my party.
Because I think that the things that Barack Obama campaigned for and the reason why people elected him are things that -- a majority of the country believes in. And the Democrats are not doing a good job selling those ideas.
So they need to sell those ideas and they need to make the other side get on board. Because right now we are losing the messaging campaign, we are losing that fight.
KING: Amanda Carpenter, it is true the last we checked Obama was elected.
AMANDA CARPENTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Yes, absolutely. He campaigned on doing health care. If he doesn't get it, it's going to be a major mark, you know, on the legacy. And people will say that you didn't do what you promised you're going to do.
But it's kind of, you know, short-sighted to think OK, well, he's going to double-down, he's got to get tough. To what effect? You no longer have 60 votes. You know the best thing, I think, he'd do is try to figure out where he can get some Republican cooperation on common sense things that people like in terms of health care reform that are do-able, in terms of transparency.
And look at what Scott Brown campaigned on. He said no more backdoor deals. More transparency in the system. So start there and maybe you can get something.
KING: Paul, is 60 votes sacrosanct?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, well, there is the filibuster rule. You can block anything with 40. I never thought when the Democrats claimed that they sort of had 60 with the independents counting for them. I didn't think it was particularly magical then.
I mean it's always difficult to pass legislation through the Senate. The question is, what's the best way?
I think this president has been very pragmatic. He's accepted over 200 Republican amendments in his health care bill for which he's got zilch votes in the Senate. Zero votes for 213 amendments.
I mean that's kind of -- so this is why I come back to you. You always negotiate out of strength. The Republicans are not going to compromise with him if they think that he's weakened and he has laid down. You know he needs to go to them and challenge them and say OK, here's my plan on health care reform. Where's yours? Scott Brown voted for a plan almost identical to Obama's in Massachusetts.
Here's my plan on the deficit. We're going to make the banks pay off the TARP bailout that President Bush gave them. Where's your plan? How about his plan for reform. Tomorrow the Republicans can do what Obama does, which is refuse to take any money from lobbyists.
You don't even need a law for that. Barack Obama refuses to take any money from lobbyists. Let's see Scott Brown. Let's see the Republican Party renounce taking money from lobbyists.
KING: All right, Andy, how would you respond to those points?
CARD: Well, first of all, the hyperbole rather than reality. I think President Obama is going to face a very difficult challenge within his own party, and he has not shown strong resolve to the American people, and therefore there's not a lot of people in his own party that are ready to follow him.
So I think he's got real challenges, and the leadership in House and the leadership in the Senate have real challenges. It's going to be hard to get the votes.
I helped a president try to get the votes in Congress. And it was not easy. It's not going to be easy for Rahm Emanuel as he tries to help President Obama. But you can't get anything done if you don't get the votes in Congress.
KING: Do you agree -- he's got to come somewhere.
KING: He's not a dictator.
ACKER: Absolutely. He's not a dictator, notwithstanding what some of the tea partiers want to call him. No, he's not a dictator. And I think that all of those points are absolutely right.
But again, I'm going to strongly second Paul Begala on this. There's no way that, you know, after having -- I mean, we're having this conversation on a little bit of a vacuum and a little bit of an a-historical way.
I mean to suggest that this -- that the Democrats in Congress and this president didn't try to negotiate with Republicans and health care reform, I mean, that's just false. It's not true.
What's been demonstrated is that they're not interested in working with him. Now he's going to have to make the decision about how much of a risk he wants to take and try to go -- do some of this on his own.
KING: Thank you all very much. This will be water cooler discussion all day tomorrow.
I am in the process of reading one of the most extraordinary books I have ever picked up. The book is called "Game Change," and the co-authors are with us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR-ELECT: I hope they're paying close attention because tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There's an extraordinary book, it's a major best seller. It's titled "Game Change." The co-authors are Mark Halperin, who's editor-at-large and senior political analyst for "TIME" magazine. And John Heilemann, the co-author of "Game Change." He's the national political correspondent and columnist for "New York" magazine.
Before I discuss this election tonight and other things, Mark, as you discovered -- all you discovered about Jonathan -- about John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards, about the McCains, the Obamas, the Clintons, about Governor Palin, were you shocked yourself?
Mark, we'll start with you.
MARK HALPERIN, CO-AUTHOR, "GAME CHANGE": Larry, we were because we covered this campaign really closely. The whole country was paying attention. One of the challenges when we thought about doing a book was, was there more to say about the most over-covered campaign of all time?
John and I would regularly leave our interviews and basically reach the conclusion that we were covering the campaign with a bag over our head. Because there was so much going on behind the scenes with these fascinating people that we didn't know until we started doing the reporting for the book.
KING: John, what was your reaction as you discovered all these incredible things?
JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-AUTHOR, "GAME CHANGE": You know, Larry, we try to keep poker faces as we sat -- we did over 300 interviews with more than 200 sources for the book, and often in extended settings over long, long lunches, and long dinners, two hours, three hours, four hours long.
And as Mark said, many of our sources would tell us stories that we found shocking and unbelievable. And of course, we had to try to keep our composure, but as we would walk out of these interviews, we would sort of be shaking our heads in disbelief at some of the things that we learned.
And it was -- as Mark says, it was both an incredibly exhilarating experience and also a little depressing because it makes you realize just how much is going on behind the scene that even a pretty well-plugged in reporter knows nothing about.
KING: By the way, the book takes no sides. It takes no prisoners, Republicans or Democrats. Was it tough, Mark, to write disparagingly about Elizabeth Edwards?
HALPERIN: Well, look, Elizabeth Edwards is really a sympathetic figure. She's gone through losing a teenage son in an auto accident, having two cancer twice and battling that very courageously and publicly and dealing with her husband's public infidelity.
No one could look at that set of circumstances and not feel bad for her, including a lot of people around her. But as we reported in the book there was a uniform view that we thought was important to tell the pub because it wasn't just to go hard at Elizabeth Edwards.
That wasn't our motive or our purpose. The point was here was a guy who could have been the Democratic nominee for president, who could have been president of the United States. His wife was, at times, more famous than he was after her book about her fight against cancer appearance on "Oprah."
We felt our sources' accounts mandated that we tell the complete story which is a much different portrait of her than had been reported before.
KING: Not very flattering at all. John, were you surprised to learn about the difficulty in the marriage of the McCains?
HEILEMANN: You know, Larry, we had -- you know, it's one of these things that we had heard about, I think, while we were covering the campaign. But again, you know, when we started to talk to people for the book, it was sort of stunning how many people who work for the McCains would bring up to us the fact that there was no much friction between them and it was so public.
That was the thing that sort of stunned their senior advisers and even lower-level staffers that they would often fight with each other in front of people. And it caused a lot of disruption. And it also caused -- it was a problem they felt they had to manage.
They spent a lot of time thinking about that problem and how to make sure that they kept up a public image that didn't let this kind of private reality show through. We reported in the book at point that when video people would go to try to shoot ads with John and Cindy McCain, they would have to keep the cameras rolling for hours in order to catch just a couple of moments of warmth between them.
And again, you know, one of the things that we were trying to do in the book is to tell about the high human drama of the campaign. But more -- just as much was to try to show people that what the gap is between the private realities of these candidates and their public images.
We think that's an important thing historically to do. And this was one of those instances where we thought we had to lay it all out there.
KING: And that comes in almost every case. Folks, I'm telling you, you will not put it down. "Game Change" is incredible. We'll ask them about tonight's occurrences in Massachusetts after this.
KING: We're with Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, co-authors of major best-seller, "Game Change."
Mark, what do you make of what happened in Massachusetts today?
HALPERIN: You know, it's common, Larry, in punditry to over- interpret the results of special elections. I don't think this one can be over-interpreted. In the short term, the medium term, and the long term, this is a huge symbolic and substantive problem for the Democratic Party.
As Andy Card said earlier on the program, it would be stunning if this White House, which has not really made any major course corrections in the first year, didn't make a major course correction in time for the State of the Union and the budget.
HEILEMANN: You know, Larry, I -- obviously it's both substantively and politically really devastating, I think, for the Democratic Party and to the White House. I agree with what Mark just said.
You know, one of the things that we write about in the book is the way that Obama reacted in situations of crisis in his own campaign. I mean he was very steady throughout the 2008 campaigns, but at various moments when things did look precarious and when things went wrong, he was able to seize the reigns and pull his campaign to the right or to left when he needed to.
He's going to find himself in another one of those pressure- filled situations right now. And he might just be able to do it.
KING: He still remains popular? Can that help him, Mark? Can he do it?
HALPERIN: Well, it can help him and it's certainly right now between his popularity and his wife's, it's probably one of the leading things he has going for him. But I think what he needs to do is to find himself better and the results in Massachusetts suggest that definition has got to involve appealing to independent voters and recapturing the mantle of change.
This new proposal that they have to levy a fee on banks, to help them -- have them pay back the money that they borrowed, I think is a way to recapture that. But he's got to -- I think, be a little bit more populist, a little bit more fired up, and he's got to be a little more unified in what he says. All of the proposals he has have to come together to give people a sense of direction. I don't think he's done that very well in the last few months on domestic policy. And that's created a vacuum into which the Republican Party, without much of a message except we're not the Democrats, can thrive as they did tonight in Massachusetts.
KING: John, in your research, what about Obama or the Obamas if anything surprised you?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think one of the things that was most surprising is that -- unlike many of these other candidates, there was not as great a gap for Barack and Michelle Obama between their public images and their private realities.
I would also say that, you know, one of the great -- one of the stories that the campaign told over and over again as they conduct it and then after they won was that race had not been a big factor in their campaign and their consideration.
From the moment that Obama decided to get in, all the way through the primary contest with Hillary Clinton, and then into the general election with John McCain, well, we show in the book, in "Game Change," is that race was in fact at the top of Obama's mind from the very beginning.
It was a strong motivating factor for him to get in. The aspiration to be the first African-American president. And that throughout both the nomination fight and the general election, his campaign was constantly obsessed with the question in how it might be used against him, how it might hurt him.
We detailed the ways in which they tried to get ready for the kinds of attacks, racially (INAUDIBLE) attacks that they expected that were coming from the McCain campaign. It was very much on Barack Obama's mind.
And I think it indicates the ways in which -- although Obama's victory was obviously a red great racial milestone for the country, it was not a moment of post racialism. The campaign was acutely aware of that and so was the candidate. And I think that was a big deviation from the conventional wisdom about the campaign.
KING: Did the reaction to the Harry Reid revelation, the reaction to it, surprise you, Mark?
HALPERIN: It did, Larry, for a number of reasons. Probably most prominently, we thought one of the biggest stories in the books making news and explaining history involved Harry Reid. But it wasn't the marks that got all the attention.
Reid, as we write in the book, was part of what we call conspiracy of whispers. Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, other leading Democratic senators, terrified that Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee would not only cost them the White House but bring down the Democratic Party, other candidates running in 2008. And they worked behind the scenes to coax Barack Obama to run because they saw in him at least the potential to stop Hillary from winning.
KING: And Governor Palin does not come off very well, Mr. Heilemann, in "Game Change," does she?
HEILEMANN: No, she doesn't, Larry, and I think you know we paint a pretty tough portrait of Sarah Palin, but also one that's somewhat sympathetic. I mean one of the things that was surprising to us in the book and we knew, and most of the America knew, that she had been kind of rushed on to the ticket.
But our reporting shows in pretty vivid detail just how slip shot the process of selecting her was. And I think that although the portrait of her in some ways is unflattering in terms of her substandard deficiencies and some other matters, I also think it's much more damming in some respect of John McCain.
Because, as I say, the process by which she was chosen did not serve Sarah Palin well and it didn't serve the McCain campaign well either.
KING: Yes. The book is terrific. Thank you, guys.
HALPERIN: Larry, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
KING: Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. The book is "Game Change." Trust me on this one. This is some read.
We'll step away from politics next with a heartfelt thanks on behalf of the people of Haiti. Don't go away.
KING: We want to thank everybody for their contributions on Monday night during "HAITI: HOW YOU CAN HELP." Because of you we raised $8,944,956 for the people of Haiti.
The American Red Cross and the U.S. fund for UNICEF will administer the funds. We were wowed by your response and hope you continue to support those who need it most in the months and years to come.
So we leave you tonight with the best of "HAITI: HOW YOU CAN HELP." Thanks, good night.
KING (voice-over): Mick Jagger, Jennifer Lopez, Ringo Starr, Seal, Ben Stiller and many others are here to say thank you because your money is going to the American Red Cross and the U.S. fund for UNICEF.
RYAN SEACREST, HOST, "AMERICAN IDOL": The need is immediate. They need help right now. So that's why we're here with you tonight.
WILL I.AM, ARTIST: Those people that are out there that have -- that can help, help. It's important for humanity, for love, life. You have to help.
MICK JAGGER, SINGER: It's just very, very sad when you see this happening to someone where you've been, that you've enjoyed, where people have been welcoming. Where people have been (INAUDIBLE).
MOLLY SIMS, ACTRESS: I was in Haiti in October, and it was -- words can't even describe what I saw, and I considered myself a very well-traveled person. It was absolute devastation.
SEACREST: Jared, what's going on with you, buddy?
JARED LETO, ACTOR: I'm actually pulling out my credit card participating in Habitat for Humanity. There's a program called Hope Builders where you can actually build a house virtually.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just touched and moved by the passion of humanity and everyone getting in there. I think we innately want to help, sometimes we just don't know how.
JEFF PROBST, TV HOST: You know something that's been inspiring to me is how kids are responding to this here in America. They get it. They get that there are other kids that now need shoes or need help. And that is really encouraging to me.
ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: This sachet costs 10 cents, and a family can stir this water for about 30 minutes. After the process of have stirred at the water is what it's called deflossed. All of the contaminated matter is separated and all of a sudden you may drink and stay healthy. It costs 1 cent per liter, 50 cents for a family of four for an entire month.
SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS: I talked to Paul Hagis this evening on the phone, the Academy Award winning director and writer, and he personally is taking money and supplies to Haiti. The Web site is artistsforpeaceandjustice.com.
PAULA ABDUL, ARTIST: We're going to donate this to raise money.
KING (voice-over): You're going to auction it off?
ABDUL: Auction it off, yes.
ABDUL: And the artists that are here tonight can find it.
KING: Russell Simmons is helping with the phones in New York. Who have you got with you there, Russell? And how's it going?
RUSSELL SIMMONS, RAPPER/MUSIC PRODUCER: I'm on with a young lady who just made a donation to the Red Cross but said she's going to call back for UNICEF. SNOOP DOGG, RAPPER: We're putting together a lot of concerts where we'll take all the money and the money are going to the Red Cross to send the money directly there.
PROBST: Herbal Grand (ph) said Larry should auction off his suspenders tonight as part of the fundraising.
SEACREST: Larry, auctioning your suspenders tonight as part of the fundraising. Should we start the bidding?
KING: Start the bidding. You start it.
SEACREST: I'll start the bidding at $100.
PROBST: I'm a 250.
SEACREST: 300, 500. Jared Leto is at 400. He's at 1,000. All right, we're at 1,000. We'll hold it at 1,000.
KING: We're in for one. I've got to bring more suspenders in. $1,000 a pair. Call in, you get it.
SEAN "DIDDY" COMBS, RAPPER/MUSIC PRODUCER: I'm really working these phones, Larry, and there's something about your suspenders that the people want. Larry, I have an idea, we're going to sell your suspenders for $5,000 a pair.
RINGO STARR, SINGER/MUSICIAN: Peace and love everybody. You know peace and love is a great, and we're here for Haiti so donations would be better.
CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Please give anything you can to help the people of Haiti.
PETE WENTZ, SINGER: You have a blanket that costs $3. Just $3 for this blanket. For 200 bucks you can get this school in a box, which is actually so kids can keep learning and empowering themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you talking to?
DAVID SPACE, COMEDIAN: This guy, he donated, and he also wants to know why "Just Shoot Me" got canceled. I'm trying to keep everything together here.
I think this is a pretty trustworthy operation, and everyone's kind of kicking in and we're going to get it right to where it needs to go right away.
I've been in Haiti. I've met the people there. And they really deserve our help right now. And they really need it.
NICOLE RICHIE, TV PERSONALITY: It's actually really nice to see everyone come together and really do everything that they can.
BEN STILLER, COMEDIAN: The tough thing is a month, two months, six months down the line when people aren't doing specials on it, when the news cycle has moved on.
JENNIFER LOPEZ, SINGER/ACTRESS: To think that that much money was raised in an hour just shows you how big-hearted people are.
KING: I'm glad we're able to do this, you know, to devote two hours to it. And to -- you know, it's one thing to report on something, and we've been seeing these reports, but the feeling of being able to be in a position where we in the media can give back by helping in the people, of course. These contributions are enormous.