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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Analysis of State of the Union

Aired January 27, 2010 - 23:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Barack Obama's first State of the Union address.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.

KING: His big message, jobs and the economy.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight.

KING: And an in-your-face challenge to Republicans on health care.

OBAMA: If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, let me know.

KING: Talking tough on terrorism.

OBAMA: Hundreds of al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates have been captured or killed.

KING: What did the president need to say and did he say it? Is it going to make any difference?

That's all next on a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Well, the State of the Union address is over. And the analysis is now continue as they do with us.

By the way, if you missed any part of the speech, it will be repeated in one hour.

We'll start with Wolf Blitzer, John King and Candy Crowley in this segment, then Senator John McCain, and then a panel of pundits, as they say.

Wolf, you've seen a lot of these. How do you score this one?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, if you like a lot of wonkish detail, as I do, real substantive policy issues, the president went through a lot of that. So I was just happy that he got into those kinds of specifics.

He made his case. And I loved watching it. I'm sure you did, too, Larry, a lot of our viewers did. The Democrats all jumping up, applauding, standing ovations, the Republicans sort of sitting quietly.

You saw John Boehner, the Republicans leader in the House, and Eric Cantor, the number two, they were stone-faced so often when the Democrats were enthusiastic.

If you're a real political news junkie, as all of us are, you love this kind of stuff.

KING: John King, the host of "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING." They borrowed this tonight from your show, John. They made the speech after...

JOHN KING, HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: No, they came before me on this one, Larry.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: How did you see it, John? Did he hit it out of the park? Does he get a big bump?

J. KING: It's a fascinating speech, Larry. We won't know the answer for that. Part of the answer will come in November's midterm elections. And as we watch his polling, he clearly understands he's lost the connection, the bond he had with the American people during the campaign.

But many people say he wasn't just a politician, he was the leader of a movement. Well, now he's struggling. He can't get health care through. He certainly seemed to call a timeout on the health care debate tonight.

And he understands in this environment he needs to prove to people he's spending most of his time and energy on jobs and the economy.

Larry, I want to take a quick look. Now, this is not representative of the country. But this is on Twitter. Social networking is one of the big things that helped Barack Obama become president.

We took nearly 200,000 Twitter messages now and our friends at Crimson Hexagon helped us with this software. Here's the reaction in the Twitter universe. Again, not representative of the country.

Blue means support him, about 31 percent strong support, 12 percent, about 43 percent globally support, about 39 globally oppose. The yellow is more neutral. Most of them asking questions or making observations. They're not real criticisms.

Let's take a quick look, Larry, at the United States when we bring that up. The different reactions. Let's just look here. The president's home state of Illinois. More than 3,200 messages there. About 45 percent support, 37 percent oppose.

Let's take a peek at some of the messages. Someone who opposed the speech in the president's home state says, "Painful to watch." "Sounds like George Bush's back-to-the-moon speech." "The president wants to do everything which means Congress will do nothing."

One more quick one here, Larry. A supporter in Illinois, "Glad the president changed the focus to jobs. Finally he gets it. Should be the highest priority."

So we'll continue to track this. We're up almost 200,000 messages so far. Not representative, again, but it shows you what people in the social networking sites who watched the speech are churning tonight as they analyze it, Larry.

KING: And they are a big part of the scene now.

Candy Crowley is our senior political correspondent. You've seen a lot of these. How did you rate this one?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Listen, the shelf life of State of the Union addresses is not very long. I don't think probably next Monday most people will be able to tell you any sort of specifics that he put in there.

And the fact of the matter is what the president needed to do tonight was kind of to start anew. What matters is what happens tomorrow, what happens the day after.

It's not enough to say, OK, I'm about jobs and the economy and bipartisanship. What matters, as he runs up to an Election Day that's very important in November, is whether or not any of those things happen.

KING: Wolf Blitzer, what's the headline in the morning papers off this speech?

BLITZER: I think a lot of people will say, yes, he wanted to change the subject from health care to jobs. He did make the case that health care reform is essential. But he sort of buried that, what, 25 minutes into the speech. The whole first part of the speech was about jobs, jobs, jobs.

And the other thing I noticed was that several times during the speech he acknowledged, you know what, he's made mistakes. And at the end, he wrapped it up with these words. He said -- Larry, he said, "Our administration has had some political setbacks this year and some of them were deserved."

Now you don't often hear a president of the United States go before a joint session of the Congress and the American public and say, you know what? We made mistakes, and we're going to try to do better this coming year.

KING: How do you rate him, John, on performance? Just performance alone. Delivery, the way he handled himself. J. KING: The president was less nervous now, Larry. His third appearance in that chamber. And he told aides that he's more familiar with the setting.

Now, look, the president is a very good performer. His most fierce Republican conservative critic would concede that. There were some Democrats who at the end of the speech seemed to think, by their reaction and by their posture, that perhaps he had gone on a few minutes too long. But the president obviously had a lot of points he wanted touched.

As a political performer, he is the premier politician in the country right now, which is why, Larry, even though you see the popularity of his policies have gone down and Republicans criticize those policies, they are very careful not to overly criticize him personally and directly, because they understand the president you saw delivering that speech tonight is a premier politician, a premier performer.

And the big question for Republicans, as strong as they feel at the moment, is if this president goes on the road, like Ronald Reagan did in his first midterm in 1982, can he help the Democrats at least limit the damage?

They know in the Democratic Party this will be a tough year. The question is, how much can the president help them limit that?

KING: And Candy, were you surprised that he got to terrorism late in the speech?

CROWLEY: No. Because what he knows is what we've been saying in the polls for so long which is that the American people want to hear what his plan is about the economy and about bringing more jobs in to the economy.

So they knew he had to and signaled well ahead of time. That this was going to be a speech about the economy, about what people want to hear him talk about and about what they are most worried about.

And I think if you look tomorrow, my guess is what you're going to see are headlines that, quote -- the "I don't quit." This is a president who at times was conciliatory and, as Wolf said, well, you know, we've made some mistakes. But this was also a president who said, I'm not giving up on this. I knew it was going to be hard and I don't quit.

So I think that in the end, that's the take-away. That, yes, he's going to get less than he wanted on health care. This is certainly something that's been put somewhat aside, but he certainly sent the message. And I think largely to his base, I'm not going to quit on this.

KING: Our terrific triumvirate, Wolf Blitzer, John King, Candy Crowley. Thanks to you all. John McCain ran against Barack Obama for the presidency. What does the senator from Arizona think of the president's first State of the Union? He'll tell us right after the break.

ANNOUNCER: LARRY KING LIVE, brought to you by...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now is Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. He was, of course, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee.

Senator, what did you -- did you like anything in tonight's speech?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I appreciate the president's call for bipartisanship. I appreciate his support for our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it seems to me quickly lapsed into the BIOB, that's "Blame it on Bush" routine, that's growing a little tiresome.

And I had hoped that he had heard the message in Massachusetts on health care and that is stop, let's start all over, and let's have some real bipartisan negotiations.

Obviously, he didn't get that message.

KING: Speaking of health care, the president did put it up to the Republicans tonight to act. Watch this and then let me have your comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.

Let me know. Let me know.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I'm eager to see it.

Here's what I ask Congress, though. Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, Senator, what's your response to that challenge?

MCCAIN: Well, if the president or the Democrats had invited us over to sit down and seriously negotiate, they would have heard -- and I don't know how they missed it -- that we have many proposals ranging from medical malpractice reform, which there's none in the Democratic proposal, to buying insurance across state lines, to rewards for wellness and fitness, to establishing risk pools for those with pre- existing conditions, to encouraging health savings account.

I can give you a long list, Larry, of the proposals that we have that get at the issue of costs of health care.

What the president and the Democrats have proposed and has been rejected not only in Massachusetts but around the country is a very big government takeover, and despite what the president said, adding $2.5 trillion to the debt.

The president's proposal -- the Democrats' proposal, the taxes and the benefit cuts start immediately and the benefits don't start for four years. That's Bernie Madoff accounting.

The other issue that I really was disappointed in was the president's solution to the earmarking and pork barreling was to put it all on a webpage. That's -- you know, we all know what earmarking and pork barreling does.

And finally his proposal for next year, 2011, to eliminate $15 billion in spending and meanwhile is proposing another stimulus bill that ranges between $80 and $115 billion additionally on the debt.

It doesn't work.

KING: We'll have more with Senator John McCain right after this. We're back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back from the rotunda in Capitol Hill with more of Senator John McCain.

You mentioned earlier that he keeps criticizing the Bush administration. You have to admit, John, in all fairness that Obama inherited quite a set of problems.

MCCAIN: Absolutely. And that's one of the reasons why we lost the election. Maybe also because not so great a candidate. But the point is that we let spending get out of control under the Bush administration. We, Republicans. And we paid a heavy price for it.

But the president also promised that he would go line by line, that he would veto bills, that there would be transparency. I mean, tonight when he said that he was going to put further restraint on the lobbyists after the deals that they've been cutting in the White House with the special interests and pharmaceutical companies and others?

I mean, there was two reasons why the people have rejected the president's health care reform. One is because the product they don't like because it's a $2.5 trillion debt on future Americans, but also the process. The cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase and all that unsavory stuff that's been going on. It amounts to bribery.

KING: Senator, there was a part of the speech -- I wonder if you enjoyed it -- when he criticized the Supreme Court for overturning portions of McCain/Feingold, your treasured legislation. How did you react to that?

MCCAIN: Well, obviously, I agreed with the president. I tried to get a look at the Supreme Court justices down there. But it is what it is. And I think the president did raise a legitimate point. And what are we going to do about foreign-owned corporations being involved in American election campaigns. I think that is an issue of some concern.

KING: The president challenged both parties tonight to do a better job. He had this message. I'll show it to you and I want to get a comment. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a super majority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well.

Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens not our ambitions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is that a good point or not, John?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it's important to recognize that the president campaigned on a change in the climate in Washington, that he would have C-SPAN cameras in, that there would be transparency, that there would be bipartisan negotiations.

I can assure you that has not happened. And so having been shut out of the process, of course, we resist legislation being jammed down our throats. And so my suggestion is, as the American people have said, stop your health care reform, go back from the beginning, and fix the biggest problem, which is the cost.

Sit down across the table and negotiate seriously. That has not happened. And therefore, the climate has not changed in Washington. In fact, it's gotten worse.

KING: Are you optimistic that, based on this, and the election in Massachusetts, that it will change?

MCCAIN: I hope that the president will -- I would love to have heard him say tonight on next Monday I'm going to call Republicans and Democrats over to the White House and we'll sit down and try and address some of these issues together.

He didn't do that. But I think we Republicans have our work cut out for us. We got to propose a positive agenda for America. We have to be careful stewards of our -- of the dollars and practice fiscal responsibility. We've got our obligations. But we want to work with the president and with the Democrats. So let's start all over again and see if we can do it. And we could begin by starting all over with health care reform.

KING: Do you favor throwing out Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

MCCAIN: I think it's a serious mistake. We're in two wars. Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been a very effective policy and one that has worked. The evidence of that is the best trained, best equipped, most professional military we've ever had.

And I just think it would be a very serious mistake when we're in two wars to make an abrupt policy change.

KING: Would you change it down the road?

MCCAIN: Well, I would rely on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, our military leadership. Those are the ones we entrust the lives of our young men and women, and have them do a study and have them come up with recommendations as to whether this policy needs to be modified or not.

I would place great credence on that. Right now, the military leaders I know say that the policy is working and they don't want it changed.

KING: All right, he said that the war in Iraq is coming to an end and the troops are coming home. And he said in Afghanistan he's confident they will succeed.

I gather you agree with him in both of those areas?

MCCAIN: Well, I would have liked if he'd said we have achieved victory in Iraq and the surge succeeded in Afghanistan. I also would have liked him to emphasize a little more the fact that it's going to be tough.

Beginning in March, it's going to get really tough and the fact is that we're going to stay the course there.

Our allies and people in the region are very nervous about his statement that in the middle of 2011, we would be withdrawing. I think they need some reassurance because, as you know, they have to stay in the neighborhood if we left. And we left once before.

KING: Why the beginning of March?

MCCAIN: Because the weather gets a lot better. And the Taliban activities will be stepped up, unfortunately.

KING: Senator, are you going to be -- you always were the kind of bipartisan person who put principle above party and the like. And there are some who say that you've been in this first year of Obama contrarian.

Do you think that you've been a little aggressive on the other side?

MCCAIN: Well, the stakes are very high. But you know, just yesterday Senator Evan Bayh and I had a package of proposals to reduce the deficit, to eliminate earmarks and pork barrel spending, and get our financial ship right.

I worked with Senator Levin on defense acquisition reform. I continue to work with Democrats on the committees and on a number of policies ranging from Indian affairs to national defense.

So I'm very proud of my record, but I again say that when you are in a majority and you do not respect the views and input of the minority, you get a predictable reaction, Larry.

KING: Thanks, as always, Senator. See you down the road.

MCCAIN: Thank you, my friend.

KING: Senator John McCain. And our political experts will grade the president when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now from Chicago, Arianna Huffington, the co- founder, editor-in-chief of the "Huffington Post." In New York, Kevin Madden, Republican strategist who was senior adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign.

Here in Los Angeles, Hill Harper, the actor, author, longtime friend of Barack Obama. He was active in Obama's presidential campaign. He's one of the stars of "CSI: New York."

And Nancy Pfotenhauer, Republican strategist and a former McCain campaign adviser.

Let's start with Arianna. How did he do?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Well, of course, he was charming. There was the impassioned rhetoric once in a while. He was at ease.

But my concern, Larry, is that the speech felt as though he had been focused group tested, within an inch of its life. There's a little bit of everything for everyone. The spending freeze, for example, which was clearly something which that he felt Republicans and independents wanted.

Well, Republicans met it with derision. So much so that the president had to make a caustic remark and say that's how budgets work. So he did not make the middle class the priority that he should have made it. Because that's...

KING: OK.

HUFFINGTON: These are the people who are hurting, and they should have been at the forefront of this speech. KING: Kevin Madden, how did you read it?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I'm surprised, I agree with Arianna. I was very underwhelmed by the president's speech. I think that it felt like there was this conveyor belt of these poll-tested ideas that were supposed to be very palatable almost as if he was trying to kind of master the unobjectionable.

And in doing so, I think that he kind of underperformed. I think people -- I think especially those in his liberal base were looking for him to really offer some grand vision, pick a fight on behalf of the party, and I think he failed to do that.

KING: Hill Harper, longtime supporter, I gather you disagree.

HILL HARPER, ACTOR: You know, it's funny, Larry. I hear folks talk about it. It seems to me the president issued a challenge in his speech. And it seems that even to shows like this, you know, pretty specifically. And it's like we're already failing the challenge.

It's how we define our politics, whether we define ourselves as Democrats, Republicans, et cetera.

KING: Not pundits.

HARPER: Yes, I think the challenge is do we believe America's best days are behind us or in front of us? I believe they're in front of us. I think the president believes they're in front of us. And how -- are we going to start talking about solutions or whether he's talking about poll tested this or poll tested that, it makes no sense. People don't want to hear that.

KING: Nancy Pfotenhauer, are we knit-picking here?

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think so. I mean I think it's fairly remarkable if you can have Arianna, Kevin and I agree that this speech was one where he checked political boxes. And I have to tell you, it was a very chin in the air speech.

You know, if there -- you've got an extremely talented man here who's a great orator. I don't think anybody could challenge that. But if there's a sin, it's hubris, and at one point when he was talking about health care, he literally said, you know, hey, you're not with me, but that's OK. I understand. I just didn't speak clearly enough to you. Like if I slow down and talk in smaller words, maybe you'll get it.

Now that is incredibly arrogant given what has happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and just in Massachusetts, which is one of the bluest states....

KING: I think, Nancy, in fairness, didn't he say he just didn't explain it well enough?

PFOTENHAUER: But let me be...

KING: He didn't talk about big words or...

PFOTENHAUER: No, no, no. But let me just be a woman here for a moment and say -- he said, you're not with me, and I take some of that blame. I just didn't explain it clearly enough. Now, you know...

KING: So?

PFOTENHAUER: And so the response is, no, no, you explained it, I heard it and I disagreed with you. You're talking about not a proposal to fix the small problems here that are significant to the people who are experiencing them and absolutely need to be fixed.

You're talking about a proposal that increases taxes by half a trillion dollars that cuts Medicare by half a trillion dollars, that causes most Americans to have their premiums increased, not decreased, and hundreds of millions of people to lose their current insurance coverage. This is not something that's good.

HUFFINGTON: Larry, you know what?

KING: We expected and I gather that Arianna would be the liberal member of the panel. We're going to have to come back to this. But as we go to break, I want to show you one of the biggest applauses he got tonight was when he took a swipe at Wall Street. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I propose a fee on the biggest banks. Now...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Now, I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now, Representative Debbie Wassermann Schultz, Democrat of Florida, member of the Appropriations Committee and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee; and Congressman Aaron Schock, Republican of Illinois. He is the deputy Republican whip. I think he's the youngest member of Congress. And we had dinner together. I want to set the record straight -- when I got my honorary degree at Bradley University where he graduated.

The president talked tonight about America's frustrations with both of your parties. Listen to what he said then I want your comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side. A belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Congresswoman Schultz, did he have a point?

REP DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: I think he absolutely has a point, Larry. I mean, I don't know how many ways into a pretzel the president needs to twist himself to get the Republicans to come to the table and sit down and try to work out some common -- some compromise on any issue.

I mean, for us to expect, in the Senate, that everything we do has to pass the test of 60 votes is not what the founding fathers envisioned. Majority rules and the president has sent that message over and over and it just, to me, you know, you know, continuously seems like the Republicans are just not rooting for Americans to succeed. And it's really unfortunate.

KING: Congressman Schock, how do you respond?

REP AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: Well, Larry, look, Republicans stand ready with an open hand to work with the president on all of his priorities, specifically health care. We wrote to the president last April laying out a series of reforms. You heard Senator McCain earlier in your program highlight many of those reforms. Those are Republican ideas.

Now, if the president is willing to work with us and incorporate some of those ideas, he's going to get bipartisan support. You're going to see many of the moderate Republicans go along with him. But, he is going to have to upset some of his liberal base to do that. And up until this point, the administration and the speaker of the House have been very happy to just go along with their party's own members on issues like health care, very partisan cap and trade bill, the very partisan stimulus bill.

The message we heard tonight about working across the aisle does not mirror what has happened this year. And I think what the voters have been trying to tell us in New Jersey and Virginia and certainly in Massachusetts is it's not about Republican or Democrat, it's the power of a good idea. And they didn't like the ideas that the majority were selling this year.

KING: Congresswoman Schultz, he says the Republicans are doing their best to cooperate.

SCHULTZ: Well, if you think that not a single Republican voting for the stimulus package, only one Republican voting for the health care reform legislation -- and no Republicans voting for the health care legislation, one Republican voting for the energy legislation -- if you think that's bipartisan cooperation, then I'm looking at a different dictionary. At the end of the day, we need to make sure that we can move this country in a new direction which is what the American people wanted when they elected Barack Obama president. And I thought the president did an incredible job tonight speaking to the folks in my district and districts across the country that are struggling.

I mean, my state has 11.8 percent unemployment. The key to job creation is right through small businesses. President Obama's proposal to put $30 billion into community banks to lend to small businesses, that's going to go a long way towards jump-starting this economy and a number of other proposals that he talked about to revitalize small business.

KING: Congressman Schock, is he going to get out of your House and the Senate a health bill?

SCHOCK: If he reaches across the aisle and gives us a seat at the table. You know, with all due respect about all the rhetoric, the fact of the matter is it hasn't happened. You heard from John McCain, the Senate Republican leadership were kept out of the negotiations. I can tell you from the House side, the House Republican leadership were kept out of the negotiation. That's why you had minimal Republican support. The same thing with the stimulus bill, the same thing with the cap and trade bill.

Tonight, you know, it was another great speech. He does a great job of delivering speech. As was mentioned earlier in the program, much of the themes were ballot tested. We heard President Obama talk about cutting the taxes, cutting the deficit, promoting free trade agreements, the need for nuclear and offshore drilling. But you know, Larry, that's like Rod Blagojevich talking about ethics reform. It doesn't meet the history of work. And so, if the president is serious about cutting taxes, cutting the deficit, and the need for free trade agreements, I and many of my Republican colleagues, I can assure you, stand ready as a willing partner.

SCHULTZ: You know, we'll take that challenge -- go ahead, Larry. I'm sorry.

KING: Don't you think he'll get a bump, tonight?

SCHULTZ: I think he will. And you know, it's just incredibly frustrating that my colleague and friend Adam -- Aaron shock is -- looks at the president's speech tonight as cynical box checking. I mean, I don't know which kind of constituents he represents, but the ones I represent are hurting. They want to make sure that they have an opportunity for job creation. They want to make sure that when you have a pre-existing condition that an insurance company can't drop or deny you coverage.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Aaron, will he get a jobs bill -- Aaron.

SCHOCK: Let me say first, I'm not being cynical. I'm being somewhat critical because the rhetoric hasn't matched up with his behavior this past year. And all I'm suggesting is if he's serious about the platform that he laid out here, tonight; he's going to get it.

On the jobs bill, look, we had nearly a trillion dollar jobs bill that passed last year that was supposed to put Americans back to work, keep unemployment less than eight percent and we're at double digits over 10 percent. Much of that money was to go to infrastructure, that's the goods and the bill sold that was sold on a stimulus bill, less than 12 percent was infrastructure.

KING: We'll have you both of you back shortly. Thank you both very much. Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann Schultz of Florida and Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois.

It was President Obama's first State of the Union. We want to know how do you think he's doing? Go to the "Quick Vote" section of our Web page and grade the president, it's at CNN.com/larryking. And our political panel is back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our panel returns, Arianna Huffington, Kevin Madden, Hill Harper, Nancy Pfotenhauer.

He was not shy, the president, about defending his record, to night. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyer. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for eight million Americans paying for college.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Arianna, did that satisfy you?

HUFFINGTON: You know, let me just make something very clear. I thought the speech did not go far enough to deal with the major problems facing the middle class. The greatest increase in poverty at the moment is in the suburbs. And the president is still trying to be bipartisan. He's still trying to please John McCain and my fellow Republican panelists.

It's not going to work. He can talk about tax cuts as much as he wants. He can talk about a spending freeze. These are not the kind of policies that are going to create jobs.

And that's the greatest criticism. Let me just say one more thing. He talked about child care tax credits. Now, the problem why people can't get jobs is not because they can't hire a babysitter. It's because there are six applicants for every job opening. What was it in the speech that will create the millions of jobs need?

KING: Hill, her criticism is, in your -- you're a liberal -- he didn't go far enough, from her standpoint. What do you think?

HARPER: You know, it's funny that we can hear a speech and then as soon as it's over clock in to what he didn't do here, he didn't go far enough here, he was saying things that clearly someone told him to say because it would resonate with this group or that group -- rather than saying, OK, this is what he talked about and these are my solutions.

I'd rather have this panel, all these smart people talk about solutions rather than saying what he didn't do, didn't go far enough here. Let's use this rest of the this half hour, let's talk about solutions. What -- Nancy, what solutions do you have? Kevin, what solutions do you have? Arianna, what are yours?

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely, I'll tell you.

KING: All right, Kevin, where is he failing? All right, Kevin, where is he failing?

MADDEN: Well, I think, you know, I look at this from a little bit of a meta approach. I think the president was reelected -- I think the president was elected by a large swath of voters that were Democrats, Independents and even some Republicans because he was a vessel for a lot of Americans' frustration at the time.

Washington was not focused on the right priorities, Washington was spending too much money; Washington was too partisan. And I think the reason that the president struggled this entire year is because he has actually become a guardian of that very same status quo that he was sent to Washington to change. Washington is still partisan. Washington is still spending enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars with very little effect. And then Washington's priorities, spending a whole year fighting about health care, spending a whole year around bailouts, at a time where people are really hurting -- people in the suburbs, people in the inner city, people in the exburbs.

So, right now, there is this enormous disconnect and President Obama has not been the force of change that he promised Americans to be. And I don't say that hypercritically, I say it as a look back over the last year.

HARPER: Kevin, I think the slogan was change we can believe in, not miracles we can believe in.

MADDEN: No, I think you're absolutely right there. I think that's a very good point.

HARPER: He inherited this is a huge problem and multiple problems and this is just the end of his first year. For to you say that he's experienced enormous difficulty. It's not true.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: You're telling me he hasn't experienced difficulty this year? His poll numbers have dropped 20 points everywhere. He's lost Independents. He's losing Democrats. HARPER: Kevin, poll numbers reflect present fear, not future results, let's be very clear about that.

MADDEN: Well, Hill, my point is that it reflects a trend line. And I think people have lost faith in the president's ability to change Washington.

HARPER: I disagree.

HUFFINGTON: No, I agree that poll numbers is not what matters, but...

MADDEN: I'm not saying what matters...

HUFFINGTON: The president is very aware of the incredible and growing anger in America, the disparity between the fate of Wall Street and the fate of Main Street. That's why his Wall Street line got such great applause. People are feeling that.

KING: Let Nancy get a word in here -- Nancy.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, you know, it's funny, I mean, but I -- that we agree on some things and we disagree on others. But I think most people who want this on a day-to-day basis would agree with the Congressman in the prior segment who said that the problem that President Obama is facing is due to the dissonance between what he says and what he does. And the American people are smart. And he's not listening. And that's the problem.

Now, it's hard to say, I care about Main Street when you are the person who approved and signed into law -- a lot of tough talk about vetoes tonight -- sign law a bailout bonanza. The second bill he signed included 8,500 pork barrel spending provisions, otherwise known as earmarks that are just political payoffs. I mean, and, you know, this whole idea of promising to have C-Span in and then not letting them in. what he does -- and he's not walking his talk and that's why he's got a credibility gap that is present and growing.

KING: We'll get a break and we'll be right back. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. A few times tonight the president accepted the blame, acknowledged to some out there that question his ability to deliver. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.

I know there are many Americans who aren't sure that they still believe we can change. Or that I can deliver.

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year. And some of them were deserved. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And let's get into the stimulus project based on all of that. By the way, the stimulus project is something that CNN is examining all week long on all of our programs.

Arianna, has that worked?

HUFFINGTON: Well, it really hasn't worked enough. I'm sure it saved jobs, I'm sure it went some way towards making the suffering across the country less pronounced. But Larry, you know, there's an 18 percent re-unemployment rate, right now. Do you include those too discouraged to look for work and those who are unemployed. What I was looking for in the speech is what are we going to do about that? And if you want real solution, I can give you real solutions.

A real big infrastructure program that would put people to work. A payroll tax holiday. You know, when Wall Street was suffering, we didn't just give them micro initiatives, we gave them a huge bailout. And they turn around and they cut down lending and they gave themselves huge bonuses and hired lobbyists to undermine financial reform. So, what is the middle class getting tonight? That's the question that everyone who cares about this country to answer.

KING: Kevin, you agree?

MADDEN: Well, I definitely agree with the payroll tax. I think that anything we can do on the supply side to start incentivizing businesses to grow and businesses to start hiring people. I think also -- I know that there's been a lot of demonization of corporations, but corporations are essentially, you know, the lifeblood of a lot of the job creation -- big companies and small companies. We need to get them all working together.

But, I think that we have to remember that when we're putting together these policies that are designed to rejuvenate regional economies, local economies that we have to remember that we cannot fundamentally help the wage earner by constantly trying to tear down the wage payer. So, I think anything we can do to encourage more of the growth on the private sector.

I think, my biggest problem with the stimulus program was that it was emblematic with what's kind of wrong with Washington. It was very hyper-partisan and it was also very wasteful. We stimulated the size of government, but -- pardon me?

KING: Supported by George Bush, wasn't it, initially?

MADDEN: I think the idea of, right, of making sure that we inject some liquidity into the economy was absolutely supported. But, I think, what happened was it injected too much money into the public sector and we grew the size of government rather than stimulating the private sector job development that's need.

KING: Hill? HARPER: Larry, I don't think there's anything in President Obama's policies that are talking about tearing down the wage payer. You know, I think that he wants incentives just like everyone else. And I agree with Arianna. We want to figure out different ways.

Now, here's the deal. Do we have groups of people that are just saying no, no, no, no to everything that's proposed and nothing gets done? Now there's no perfect thing, there's no perfect panacea, there's no perfect policy, but if we do nothing, we can't actually progress to start to amend it to make it better.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We have another issue to discuss and I want Nancy Pfotenhauer to get in on it when we come back. We'll go to that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: At the top of the hour, we'll repeat the president's State of the Union speech. When President Obama was critical of the recent Supreme Court decision on election financing, Justice Alito was caught mouthing what looked like "not true." Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Where did you stand on that decision -- Nancy.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I think it was a little bit of a surprise to everyone, but certainly this kind of extrapolation of Justice Alito's comment to himself, if you will, during the State of the Union is overblown. I mean, I don't know about you and your family, but when my family watches one of these things we're all talking back at the screen the entire time. And if anyone was qualified to know whether what President Obama was saying was accurate or inaccurate, it would be Justice Alito. So, I think that we should take seriously the justice' response, but not read into it anything that's too emotional.

If I could go back to the whole jobs question -- stimulus package, we are -- you know, we're a year later, unemployment is over 10 percent, it's higher -- it's one percentage point higher than the president's own top economic adviser projected it to be. It has been a dismal failure.

When he talks about jobs "saved," that is a made-up thing. It is nothing that economists' measure. You look at jobs that are either -- that are lost, if you will. And when he's advocating the global climate change bill he's talked about, how can he say that he's going to create jobs when that one is estimated to cost 2.5 million jobs. HUFFINGTON: Well Nancy, frankly, you and other Republicans have zero credibility when you talk about jobs. You have zero ideas how to create jobs...

PFOTENHAUER: That's not true, Arianna.

HUFFINGTON: The government is just about the only entity spending at the moment. I'm very glad the president is taking $30 billion of TARP money and putting it into community banks. We've been advocating that for a long while, asking people to move their banks too big to fail and putting it into community banks and credit unions that have a much better chance of actually lending to small businesses that create jobs. But in the end, the government also needs to be involved.

PFOTENHAUER: But what they did, Arianna, was under the auspices of a stimulus package they stitched together whatever they wanted passed on a domestic policy.

HUFFINGTON: I'm talking about what you want to do and you haven't answered it.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, you know what, the answer is clear whether you're Republican or Democrat...

KING: All right, ladies, we're going to get the final word are the gentleman. Hill, are you confident he's going to turn this economy around?

HARPER: Yes, Larry. This is the first quarter of a four-quarter game. We're not even at half time, yet. So, give the man a chance. Be patient. Let's talk solutions. It's going to happen, we're going to win this game.

KING: Kevin, are we jumping too soon?

MADDEN: Well, on the economy or on the presidency?

KING: On all the hang time (ph).

MADDEN: I think the analogy is right that we're still in the first quarter of a four-quarter game. We have a lot of time left here for the president to continue to try and turn around his administration. This is somebody who obviously we know he has an incredible intellect. He obviously feels very strongly about some of the policies, as wrong as I believe they are, but there's still a lot -- six months is a lifetime in politics. In 2008 they were saying that the Republican Party is dead. We just won three straight elections, so things can change very quickly.

KING: Thank you all very much. Arianna Huffington, Kevin Madden, Hill Harper and Nancy Pfotenhauer and obviously, we have just beginning of the second quarter. Lots of action ahead. This is a three-year Super Bowl left. And that's it for us. Stay tuned now for President Obama's first State of the Union speech repeated, right now. See you tomorrow night back at the regular time. Goodnight.