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"The Last Word": Richard Trumka

Aired January 31, 2010 - 12:00   ET


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

KING (voice-over): President Obama resets his agenda.

OBAMA: Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010.

KING: Can he and his party regain the initiative, or will Republicans thrive in the election year policy battles? In two exclusive interviews, we will talk to the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs; and we'll go inside the GOP strategy with the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell.

He says President Obama finally gets it when it comes to making job creation priority number one. The influential labor leader AFL CIO President Richard Trumka gets "The Last Word."

This is STATE OF THE UNION report for Sunday, January 31st.


KING: We will spend much of this Sunday exploring whether this new talk of bipartisanship from the president and from his Republican opposition will blossom into true partnership or turn out to be just more political posturing.

The answer matters because there are so many big decisions looming. The president is about to send Congress a new budget. He is asking for a swift action on the jobs bill, and is looking for a plan B now that his plan to put 9/11 terror suspects on trial in New York City appears to be collapsing.

In a moment, an exclusive conversation with the Senate's top Republican, a man who has even more leverage now in the wake of the GOP's Massachusetts special election upset. But first, the White House view. Robert Gibbs is the White House press secretary, welcome.

And before that, a man with deep experience on Capitol Hill, before we get to questions of Mr. Gibbs, a quick but important piece of housekeeping. This will be my last Sunday in this chair. In just a few weeks, I will ship to a new role anchoring Monday through Friday evenings. And at the end of this hour, a bit more on that. And I have the privilege of introducing to you the remarkable journalist who will be with you next Sunday and beyond on STATE OF THE UNION. Now to Mr. Gibbs. Sorry you did not get the job.

GIBBS: I didn't necessarily want it, but we should say congratulations to your tenure, and good luck in the future.

KING: Thank you. Thank you. It has been a great treat. I'll talk more about that. But let's talk about the president's agenda...

GIBBS: You don't know anything about the fact that I need a new job, do you?


KING: No, I don't.


KING: I don't. The president has a huge agenda before him. And in the State of the Union, he said first, second, and third should be jobs, jobs, and jobs. How much will a new jobs bill cost? And how many jobs will it create?

GIBBS: Well, what the president outlined Friday in Baltimore at a small business was a tax credit that will encourage small businesses to hire by providing them money to pay payroll taxes next year -- or, I am sorry, this year. We want to add infrastructure spending, which we know will create jobs. And another part of the president's plan is to take money that the banks have paid back -- the big banks paid back through TARP, and lend that money through community banks again to small businesses.

We know that small businesses are the engine that drive our economy. And this is the place that will create jobs. We wanted to create an atmosphere that allows those to begin to hire. This bill will go -- parts of this have gone through the House in December. The president hopes that the next order of business that the Senate will take up is this package. And we will see how much...

KING: Do you have a rough overall price tag for a jobs bill?

GIBBS: You know, I think probably somewhere in the $100 billion range. But, John, I think what is important is, we know two things about the state of our union, if you will. One is that jobs are on the mind of virtually every American, and two, that they want Democrats and Republicans to work together.

I can think of no better message to send the American people at the beginning of this year and at the beginning of this decade, the Democrats and Republicans will put aside their differences and work together to pass a tax credit for small businesses, to increase lending for small businesses, to increase our investment in infrastructure and create more jobs. I think that would be a powerful message to send to the American people. I hope that the Republicans will meet the president halfway.

KING: Well, we will ask Senator McConnell when he is here in just a few minutes. And let me ask you a couple of more details. So there is already over about $500 billion left to be spent in stimulus money. You say you need additional spending on infrastructure?

GIBBS: I don't know if it's quite that amount of money that's left to be spent. I know that the Recovery Act, and we saw it in the economic figures that were released Friday, with 5.7 percent economic growth in the previous quarter, we have now had two straight quarters of economic growth that had been preceded by four consecutive quarters where the economy had retracted.

Economic growth will eventually lead to job growth, and that's what we always wanted to see through the Recovery Act. But obviously, we are not creating the jobs that we would like to, and I think that some additional recovery and stimulus spending is important in order to, again, create an environment where small businesses and large, alike, can hire more workers.

KING: On the point of creating jobs, you say not as fast as you would like. Your critics dispute your numbers. But let's use the administration's numbers for a minute. You said the stimulus bill, the Recovery Act, would create or save about 3.5 million jobs last year and now into this year. By the administration's numbers, you have about 1.5 million jobs left. If the stimulus, by your projection, will meet those goals, what would a jobs bill add? How many more jobs?

GIBBS: I don't have an estimate with me on how many those would add, but we know this, John, that whatever those recovery acts were going to save or create, it would not completely fill the hole that we saw this economy bring, which was more than 7 million people that were out of work.

But, you know, I know there are critics that want to say they don't agree with our numbers. The Congressional Budget Office, which is the scorekeeper for legislation that has to go through Congress, agreed with our numbers.

So -- but I know this, John, again, we have got a tremendous hole. We did not get here overnight. We were losing jobs for two years. We had been losing jobs for two years. We have a tremendous hole that we have to fill in. This is not going to do it all. But this is an important first step in filling that hole.

KING: Many people in this town, and many people around the country wonder, where does health care end up in this equation as the president puts jobs at the forefront of his agenda? I know from our Ed Henry, you guys had a meeting Friday afternoon at the White House to talk about next steps when it comes to health care.

I want to talk about that. But first, I want to remind you of something your friend, David Axelrod, the senior adviser to the president, said here five weeks ago.


DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We are way deep in the red zone, and we are right on the one-yard line.


KING: "Right on the one-yard line." That was five weeks ago before the Massachusetts special election. The Pro Bowl is today. The Super Bowl is next week. To continue the football metaphor, when turnovers in the playoffs cost you, you have turned the ball over a little bit here, if you were on the one yard line five weeks ago, where are you now and what next?

GIBBS: We are still inside the five-yard line.

KING: You really believe that?

GIBBS: Absolutely. We're one vote away in the House of Representatives from making health care a reality -- health care reform a reality. Look, the problem has not changed, right?

KING: The Senate, you mean, you said the House, you mean the Senate.

GIBBS: Well, no. The Senate -- well, the House and the Senate have passed the bill. If the House were to take up the Senate bill, that bill would then go to the president's desk.

But understand this, the problem that millions of families struggle with, the high cost of health care, small businesses that cannot offer the same benefit package that they could only a few years ago because of the skyrocketing costs, families fighting with insurance companies to cover their children as these insurance companies say, these kids have preexisting conditions, those problems existed for many years, they existed before the Massachusetts election and even after the Massachusetts election.

You know, if you look at some of the polling that has come out of what drove people's decision in the Massachusetts election, 70 percent of those interviewed said that they hoped Scott Brown, the new senator-elect, would go to Washington and be able to work with Democrats to make health care reform a reality. Only 28 percent wanted him to come to Washington, stop everything.

Again -- I think once again the American people are far ahead of where Washington is. I think we can get something done for the American people if we sit down and listen to each other, if we share ideas and we work together on the priorities of the American people.

KING: Well, Scott Brown says he is willing to work with you, he just doesn't like the existing two bills, the House and the Senate version. The president had this fascinating session on Friday with House Republicans up in Baltimore. I was in the back of the room and had never seen anything like it.

The president of the United States on national television, a little give and give. It was like "Question Time" in the British Parliament. One of the things he said was quite interesting. He was talking about how he and the Republicans disagree on several big issues when it comes to sweeping legislation. So the president suggested maybe there is another way.


OBAMA: My hope would be that we can look at some of the these component parts of what we are doing and maybe we break some of them up on different policy issues.


KING: Is that a signal on health care? Would the president like Speaker Pelosi to try to pass the Senate bill, which would be controversial but would get the president the big bill, or does the president think, let's test the Republicans, if they said they would actually work with us, let's break up health care and have several votes on several different proposals?

GIBBS: Well, look, John, I don't think we know yet the answer on a process of this, but we do know this, that the American people want to see that process take place. I think what you saw yesterday -- or Friday, the give and take in the open, where people can evaluate the questions and the answers that each side is giving.

And look, I think that, you know, the president talked about the Recovery Act. The Recovery Act is comprised of about $300 billion in tax cuts. Tax cuts that almost -- in almost every single instance, Republicans in Congress are for or would have voted for if it were not for being proposed by a Democratic president.

I think one of the messages that he had was, we may not agree on every single thing, every single word in a piece of legislation, but you can find things that are important for you and make sense for you. There are things that are important for me and make sense for me. That's what legislating and governing is all about.

KING: Let me ask you lastly on this Sunday morning, tell the American people what is going to happen to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other alleged 9/11 terror plotters.

KING: The plan was to put them on trial in New York. The mayor of New York says he can't afford it, worries about the security issues. As you know, Republicans and a growing number of Democrats in Congress say number one, we don't want them on American soil, and a lot of those lawmakers also say number two, this should be done in the military justice system, not in the federal court system. What is plan B, if you need one?

GIBBS: Well, let me tell you what plan A is for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he's going to meet his maker.

KING: In a federal court or in a military court?

GIBBS: He will be brought to justice and he's likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed in killing and masterminding the killing of 3,000 Americans. That you can be sure of. KING: But will it be in a federal courtroom or is there a possibility the administration will backtrack on that one?

GIBBS: Well, the attorney general believes that the best place to do this is in an American courtroom. And quite frankly, I hate to go back to the game playing on this, that's what a lot of people believed. Richard Reid who tried to blow up an airliner, a story not dissimilar to what we've seen. Again, a plot mastermind by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was tried in Boston, Massachusetts. Zacarias Moussaoui, the 20th hijacker, was tried about 10 miles from here. Testifying at that hearing, Rudy Giuliani, who raised it up as the hallmark of the American justice system. I hope you will ask Mitch McConnell and others why trying those terrorists in our courts during the Bush administration was fine. We never heard anybody object to that.

KING: I promise I will ask him. Let me try one more time. No way in New York City, and are you sure it will be in a federal courtroom, or is there a possibility because of this controversy, it may go back to the military venue?

GIBBS: I would say this, John. We are talking with the authorities in New York. We understand their logistical concerns and their security concerns that are involved. We have been discussing that with them. As you know, they were originally supportive of this. We want to see this man tried and brought to justice in the place in which the crime was committed. We will work with them and come to a solution that we think we bring about justice for those that lost loved ones on such a horrific day on 9/11. And I think again, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, will be executed for the crimes that he committed.

KING: Robert Gibbs, we thank you for coming in on my last Sunday here. I will see you on weeknights, I bet. And up next, the Republican view, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is here for an exclusive conversation. Please stay with us. Thank you. GIBBS: Thank you. Good luck, again.

KING: Off we go.



OBAMA: And if 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.


KING: The president didn't name names there, but that State of the Union message -- some called it a lecture -- was aimed at our next guest, the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Senator, welcome. MCCONNELL: Glad to be here, John.

KING: To that point, the president essentially called you out in the State of the Union address, saying, if you have 41 votes, as you will have in just a few short weeks, in the United States Senate, you have a responsibility to join him in governing. So let's go through some of the issues. You just heard the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, talking about the jobs bill. He thinks that, after a year of pretty hyper-partisanship, that might be a place where Democrats and Republicans can sit down and write a bill. Do you share that optimism?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, as long as it creates jobs, we're willing to take a look at it. And we were responsible for governing before we got 41 votes. We didn't come here just to do nothing. The president, however, the charts the course. And unfortunately, he chose to go really hard left, and it made it very difficult for him to build any kind of bipartisan consensus in the Senate or the House. And it's silly talk about having no ideas. I mean, we've heard that ad nauseum for over a year. He knows that's not true. He admitted it at the House Republican meeting on Friday.

KING: So when it comes to a jobs bill, you heard Robert Gibbs talk about tax cuts, tax credits. Was the shape of what he described to your liking or would you need to go knock on the White House door and say, no, we need to do this?

MCCONNELL: Well, we're certainly...

KING: About 100 -- is that the right price tag?

MCCONNELL: Well, we're willing to take a look at it. It hasn't officially come out yet, so it's, kind of, hard to prejudge it, but we're looking at something to create jobs. I mean, so far this administration has done best -- what it's done best is spend, borrow and tax, and the unemployment's gone up. We all have a responsibility to seriously grapple with the question of how do you get jobs created again?

And two things that we know would help -- businesses aren't hiring now in part because they're looking at health care taxes, if this health care bill passes. And one big step would be to put this health care bill on the shelf. The NPR poll last week...

KING: Put it on the shelf? Not this year?

MCCONNELL: Put it on the shelf, go back and start over. That would be a great relief to American business looking at health care taxes. We know the public is overwhelmingly against the bill. In the NPR poll last week, 20-point difference. Twenty percent more oppose the bill than support it. Put the health care bill on the shelf; indicate that you're not going to allow all of the tax relief that is supposed to expire at the end of this calendar year to expire. That's not a reassuring message.

KING: Well, let's talk about your side of the equation. Robert Gibbs just complained about it and the president mentioned it in his Saturday radio address. He says there was a proposal. It was sponsored by one Democrat and one Republican. It would create a commission that would spend a few months studying how can we cut federal spending, maybe even propose tax increases; find some way to reduce the federal budget deficit. Now, it then failed last week on a vote in the Senate. And here's the president's complaint.


OBAMA: This past week, 53 Democrats and Republicans voted for this commission in the Senate, but it failed when seven Republicans who had cosponsored this idea in the first place suddenly decided to vote against it.


KING: Now, we want to show on our screen the seven Republicans who were cosponsors but then withdrew their cosponsorship and voted against it: the Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John McCain of Arizona, Robert Bennett of Utah.

If this was such a good idea that they would cosponsor it -- this is what comes up, Senator McConnell, in my travels all the time. People say, why do they always just play politics in Washington? Is this just politics, as the president says, or if it was the same proposal six months ago when they cosponsored it, what was wrong with it last week when a Democratic president wanted it?

MCCONNELL: Well, what was wrong with it last year? I mean, I discussed this very issue with the president right after he came to office, and with his chief of staff, never could get a commitment out of him.

In the meantime, we've seen a year, now, in which we've been on a spending binge. They passed a budget that doubled the national debt in five years and tripled it in 10.

MCCONNELL: There's a lot of skepticism now about whether -- and the president endorses this commission a couple of days before the vote. Where was he a year ago when we were talking to him about it?

KING: But why should that...


KING: Why should that matter? Why should that matter?


KING: Because I want to go back to your point. I'm sorry for interrupting. I want to go back to your point.

Why should that matter? Yes, the president endorsed it because of political pressure, without a doubt. Democratic senators went to the White House and said, we will not vote to increase the debt ceiling unless you help us out here.

But if it was a good idea, why should -- let's say the president's playing politics. But if it's a good idea, why not vote for it? Because you were here several months ago and you said it was a great idea.


MCCONNELL: The Gregg-Conrad proposal would basically set up a base -- a closing-type approach, where you appoint of commission that would come up with a solution, come to the Congress with an up or down vote, which would guarantee a result. That's something we can have a bipartisan approach on. I'm in favor of that kind of a move to give us the ability to tackle one of our long-term deficit problems.


KING: And yet, you voted...


KING: And yet you voted no.

MCCONNELL: Well, let me tell you an even -- the Conrad-Gregg commission was not the only commission proposed the other day. We also had a spending reduction commission, the same kind of mechanism, but targeted at getting spending down. The American people are appalled by the amount of money we have been spending this year. And I think a more targeted way to do the same kind of commission approach was with the Brownback proposal that we all voted -- many of us voted on last week. I just think that's a better way to go. I still like the commission idea...

KING: A better way for Republicans in an election year because it would take some tax increases off the table?

MCCONNELL: Democrats -- Democrats, as well. Look, nobody thinks raising taxes in the middle of a recession is a good idea. Have you ever heard anybody say that? I don't think so. We're in the middle of a recession. We've got 10 percent unemployment. This commission would have made it possible to raise taxes, if you target the spending problem.

Look, I don't think anybody in the country thinks we have a problem because we tax too little. I think the problem is we spend too much. So I like the commission idea, just as I said a few months ago. I think a better way to do it is to target spending, a spending reduction commission.

KING: You heard the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, say a few moments ago that he believes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be executed. He will meet his maker, he said. But there is a big debate about where this trial will take place and what form this trial will take.

Mr. Gibbs would not commit. The plan is to try him in a federal court system in New York City at the moment. They are looking for another venue, I was trying to get him to say, will it be in a federal courthouse, and he never firmly said yes.

Where do you think this will take place?

MCCONNELL: The only time this administration ever cites the previous administration for a precedent is to mention that there was some terrorists tried in U.S. courts. We now know that was a mistake. That was a mistake by the previous administration.

The other mistake they made that shouldn't be replicated by this administration is letting too many people go from Guantanamo. What should we do? Three years ago we passed a military commissions legislation for the specific purpose of trying foreigners captured on the battlefield.

They ought to be tried in these military commissions. They also ought to be detained at Guantanamo. I think, John, any community in America is going to object in the same way that New York finally did to these people being put on trial in the United States in civilian courts.

KING: If you ask the White House about this, it highlights -- they say it's not just the president, it's not just Attorney General Holder, that General David Petraeus says he believes a public trial at a federal courthouse is the best way to do it so that it's not an al Qaeda recruiting tool. That Secretary Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration at the Defense Department, also they believes a trial in the federal court system is preferable to a closed trial in the military commission. And that the CIA operatives leading the fight against these guys in Yemen, in Somalia, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, also believe that if you did it in a closed setting in a military commission it would be a powerful recruiting tool.

If General Petraeus, Secretary Gates, and the intelligence leaders say, do it in court, why do you say that's a bad idea?

MCCONNELL: I simply disagree and so do the American people.

Look, Guantanamo is -- it was not there before they started attacking us in the '90s, before they attacked us on 9/11. Osama bin Laden did not mention Guantanamo in his last video. What we need to do is deny these people a show trial. We need to proceed to interrogate them, which you couldn't do obviously with the Christmas bomber.

I mean, Larry King would have a more thorough interrogation of one of his witnesses than the Christmas bomber had by the Justice Department. This is really dangerous nonsense. We have a way to do it, John. Interrogate them, detain them, and try them in military commissions offshore at Guantanamo from which no one has ever escaped.

The American people think that's the best way to do it. Most of the legal experts that we talk to think it's the best way to do it.

KING: And if the administration continues to say, bring them somewhere in the United States, and put them on trial in a federal courthouse, your power to stop them would be to deny the funding. Would you stand up and say, Mr. President, I'm sorry, bad idea, you are not getting the money?

MCCONNELL: Yes, absolutely. And I think that will be done on a bipartisan basis. And the sooner the administration figures out that whatever domestic support they had for this is totally collapsing.

KING: Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, always been a friend of this program, I thank you for that. I hope you will be in the days ahead. And maybe you will see me on the night time as well. Up next, we get a candid assessment of the political climate from an outspoken Democrat.


KING: You're finishing up your term, but would you want to be a Democrat on the ballot this year?

GRANHOLM: No, no. Personally, no.


KING: We will talk to the Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm about her state's high unemployment rate and what she wants President Obama to do about it.


KING: If you had to pick one state to study the toll of this recession, Michigan would lead the list. It has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, household incomes have dropped substantially over the past decade. And manufacturing jobs, tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs have vanished.

It was one of our early stops when we began our "State of the Union" travels. And we stopped back this week, including a visit with the Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm.


KING: What is it like being governor of a state that for 43 months, 43 months, has led the nation in unemployment?

GRANHOLM: Obviously it's enormously challenging. And it's -- the people are feeling it so deeply and there is anger across the country. Here there is anger that has lasted for longer, and people are at the point where it's not just anger, but it's now OK, we have got to do something about this. You know, we are the poster child of the global shift in manufacturing jobs.

KING: And in the context of that, the president now says a whole lot of other things we want to do, but first and foremost, we need to do a jobs bill. Put everything aside, let's do a jobs bill. As someone who has been in the middle of the storm, what needs to be in it for it to work, work in the short term? GRANHOLM: I know he talked about tax cuts and all of that, but frankly, for us, I think the most important thing that was said, the thing that got me out of my seat, was that he would provide tax credits for those who manufacture in this country and take them away from those who are off-shoring.

When he said he would enforce trade agreements to ensure that we have a level playing field, that he would have an export initiative, that tells me, that tells us here that that means we're going to be making stuff in this country.

KING: Is it overdue?

GRANHOLM: Is it overdue? Are you kidding me?


It's overdue like a million jobs, in Michigan, overdue. You bet it's overdue. It should have been -- you know, we shouldn't be in a position where we are giving away the store to other countries. We are allowing them to beat the pants off of us in this trade war.

We don't even enforce the darn agreements we have, and then we enter into ones that give advantages to the other side. What the heck is that? I mean, it's just crazy to me.

KING: He is a somewhat weaker president, delivering the message now than had that been at the top of the speech a year ago instead of health care. Should it have been? Should it have been health care, yes, but jobs first, a year ago?

GRANHOLM: You know, John, I've learned in this job that things happen, things transform so much over the course of a year that it's so easy to be Monday morning quarterbacking. I do know that I am grateful he has taken it on now. Health care is a jobs issue, but obviously focusing more directly on the word "jobs" and on specifically creating the environment for jobs is something that is very welcome.

KING: The president of the United States is now learning after a year in office that campaigning is one thing; governing is another. When you're president or governor for awhile, when you're in charge, you start to get the blame.

GRANHOLM: You know, we have this sort of myth that the leader, the super-leader with the cape comes in with the wand and fixes all the problems, and understandably people who are hurting want quick results.

And so you are up against those -- that level of expectation and frustration. But you have to understand that it comes with the territory. You have to have thick skin and you have to continue to push the boulder. You have to continue to keep at it and not pay attention, not be focused just on polls.

KING: Does Washington look any different to you? The fundamental promise, whether you're talking -- forget the economy, health care, Iraq, Afghanistan. The biggest thing candidate Obama promised was, we're going to be grown-ups, I'm going to reach across the aisle; the poisoned partisanship is going to be gone.

A year in, does Washington look any different than it did under a President Clinton or a President Bush?

GRANHOLM: From a partisan perspective, I think it's become more difficult to govern, but I don't think it's his fault. I just think the circumstances in the country have become more partisan.

But I can tell you from a governor's perspective, it has been night and day, the difference between the prior administration and the Obama administration, for us, in the fact that we were able to get the largest number of advanced battery grants because we have an administration who cares about investment in advanced technology for electric vehicles. That means jobs for us, totally different ball game.

We were able to get investment in Michigan for tearing down blighted homes, for example, in some of these -- in our urban centers where people have moved out. We would never have gotten that under a Bush administration. Virtually all of his policies track with what we are trying to do here.

So it is night and day, from my perspective, sitting in this chair, and I am very grateful for that difference.

KING: You are finishing up your term. Would you want to be a Democrat on the ballot this year?



Personally, no, I am glad I am not on the ballot at all. I wouldn't want to be an incumbent on the ballot.

You know again, I know that Democrats are taking more of the heat on this, but honestly, I think it's incumbents that are really the endangered species, or at least about to become more endangered. Anybody who is in office will suffer the wrath of the voter because they want it fixed and they haven't seen it fixed, so let's try somebody new.

KING: When you travel, especially in places like this, where people have 10 or 15 percent unemployment, their mayor has cut services, their school district has cut services, their governor is cutting services, maybe raising taxes, they are sitting around and saying, can't pay for college, have to cancel the family vacation, and they look at Washington, and Washington doesn't seem to be cutting back anywhere.

Is that part of the disconnect of the president's problem right now? GRANHOLM: It's hugely important, and I think, when the president said he was going to freeze spending, that's an important step. Cutting spending is even more important. Triage everything to provide the basics to people so you're protecting them. But all this other stuff, forget it. Put money where you have to. Cut everything else. And that, I think, is what people want to see. KING: Governor, thank you.

GRANHOLM: You bet. Thanks, John.


KING: She says President Obama finally gets it, when it comes to the issue of jobs.

AFL-CIO Richard Trumka gets the last word, next.


KING: Sixteen newsmakers, analysts and reporters were out on the Sunday morning talk shows, but only one gets the last word. That honor today goes to Richard Trumka, the president of AFL-CIO.


TRUMKA: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me on.

KING: I want to ask you, a year into this administration, where is your trust level with the president of the United States?

TRUMKA: Oh, we have tremendous trust for him. I think he's shown a real sensitivity to working people. I think he's had some real opposition and he's had some real problems to overcome.

I mean, this president, more than any, came in with two wars going on. He came in with a -- an economy that was about to go off the end of the charts. And so he had a lot to do. We've been working with him. Now we have a job of creating jobs, jobs, jobs. That's where we have to end up at.

KING: A lot to do, but with labor's help, not only did President Obama come to town, but the Democrats had a near-80-seat majority in the House. They had 60 votes in the Senate until most recently. And yet your two top priorities in 2009, health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize. Health care is on the ropes. The Employee Free Trade Act seems to be off the agenda in this election year. As the president of the AFL-CIO, looking at those two top priorities, knowing that you helped these guys get elected, it has to be pretty disappointing that they wouldn't stand up for you.

TRUMKA: Well, that's not true. They did stand up for us. The first thing you have to look at is 40 Republicans who absolutely refused to do anything to try to make health care reform a reality.

You have to look at 40 Republicans that have said no to everything before you get to any of the Democrats. And, moreover, the Employee Free Choice Act, John, is not just good for unions; it's good for the economy because it will bring more money into people's pockets across the board, so that everybody can spend a little more and create an economy that really does work for everybody. And that's where we're going to go to.

And I think we'll get both of them done. I think we'll get health care done and I think we'll get labor law reform done before the year's up.

KING: Before this year's out?


KING: You really believe that?

TRUMKA: I do that -- I do believe that.

KING: And if you don't, what happens? I want to ask you in the context of a speech you gave at the National Press Club. I'm looking at the date, back in January 11th, where you mentioned a year that most Democrats don't want to think about, 1994.


TRUMKA: The politicians who think that working people have it too good, too much health care, too much Social Security, too much Medicare, too much power on the job are actually inviting a repeat of 1994.


KING: Essentially telling the Democrats stand up and make the tough votes or you will lose this November.

TRUMKA: Not just the Democrats, telling the Republicans and telling Independents that look, the American people are angry, they're frustrated, and they're hurting. And like you, I traveled around the country talking to them. They want action. They don't want any more excuses. They're tired of it.

People didn't say in Massachusetts that people over reached. They said that we under reached. So we're telling them. You either get on the program with jobs on a scale necessary to help us put millions of people back to work or you're going to face the wrath of those voters in November.

That's Democrat, Republican and Independent alike. America is tired of excuses, they're tired of people just saying no and they're tired of not having jobs created.

KING: You mentioned Massachusetts, what happened there? Because if you look at an AFL CIO poll after that election, conducted by Peter Hart Research Associates, Scott Brown actually won, just barely, but he won the labor vote, the union household vote, 49 percent to 46 percent. And I do travel and you mentioned, and one of the things I know from meeting a lot of your brothers and sisters across the country is they remember late in the presidential campaign when the AFL-CIO and other unions spent a lot of money going around after the convention when it looked like some of your voters might support John McCain, saying you can't do this, you have to be with Obama because if McCain wins, he will raise taxes on your health care plans. And then the president opened himself up to a compromise that would have done pretty much what Senator McCain was proposing. Has that decision on health care, well how much has that decision on health care, we know it angered your men and women in the rank-and-file up there, how lasting is that damage? TRUMKA: Well, it all depends. If they continue the same policies, it will continue to agitate people. Look, we told everybody involved, we told the president, we told Congress that the excise tax was bad policy and bad politics.

It still is bad policy and it still is bad politics. You can't bend the cost curve by taxing people's benefits. You need to go after the providers. And we said that. If they continue to advocate that, there will continue to be an adverse reaction. But that wasn't the thing in Massachusetts that set them off.

They voted against people, they voted against Coakley because they thought we haven't done enough. That Democrats haven't done enough, that Republicans hadn't done enough, that Independents hadn't done enough and Brown happened to be there and said I'll do something. And we'll see. If he does something, then people will respond.

KING: And now as you want the president to push a job's bill and you want him to circle back on health care and circle back on the right of union workers to organize, the president had this fascinating event Friday with the House Republicans, not always on your side in many of these issues and the president walked into that room and he said one of the things he hopes to do in the next year is to work with those Republicans to pass trade agreements that the AFL-CIO opposes or has serious questions about. Let's listen to the president.


OBAMA: I will be talking more about trade this year. It is going to have to be trade that combines opening their markets with an enforcement mechanism as well as just opening up our markets. And I think that's something that all of us can agree on. Let's see if we can execute it over the next several years. All right?


KING: All of us we would agree on. Does that include Rich Trumka?

TRUMKA: Well, we agree that we need trade. We have always said that we need trade. But we also agree with what the president said to explain that, that clip that you showed. We want to export our products, not our jobs. We want to change the tax code to reward people that produce here and then export that product. He's onboard on all that, then we're going to continue to push him with all that. I think if all this is a continuation of the old trade policy, whatever party pushes that will pay a tremendous price at the polls. Because as we said at NAFTA, it won't work the way you're talking about. And even President Clinton who advocated the NAFTA bill now says there's a mistake.

We need to make changes. So if they just do things the way they did before. It will never work. Take Colombia. Colombia, there are more trade unionists killed in Colombia than in any other country in the world. If all we do is pass a trade bill with them and Colombia continues on the way it is, you'll see more trade unionists killed and nothing will change. So it's how you advance trade. We want trade, but we want to export products, not jobs.

KING: We'll continue to watch this in a monumental election year and labor has a big role in it in the United States. Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, we thank you for your time today.

And up next, a powerful look back at our travels over the last year and then a conversation with the new anchor of this program, the new anchor of "State of the Union," just ahead.


KING: I have only a few minutes left with you on Sundays before I move on to a new challenge. And as I do that and end my time on this program, I want to circle back to where I began. Remember we told you when we started this program 55 weeks ago, a lot of talk about what happens in Washington, D.C. But what we thought was critical was to get out of Washington every week to travel the country to listen to you. What issues concerned you, what did you like about what was happening here, what didn't you like about what was happening here. So as I say farewell and our "American Dispatch" this week, we want to look back at a 50-state journey that brought us face-to-face with remarkable people and face-to-face with the anxiety and the frustration that makes our politics so volatile.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you apply for a job now, you have 200 other people standing in the same line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-six million people who have no health insurance is an embarrassment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to college, get a degree so you can get a good job and it's just not working out that way.

KING: Fifty states are 50 very different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. Have ask you seen stimulus money fast enough?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not a government leader in America I think that wouldn't want more money to do more things right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You work hard for a number of years, retire, enjoy yourself, relax, unfortunately, no more.

KING: Some of what we have seen over the last year is simply a reflection of what you see if you can visit 50 states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way I can vote Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a lot of trust in Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's hiring on people who can't even pay their own taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been real disappointed in the Republicans so far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not just the government, it's also just the people in general. We all have to be willing to do a little changing.

KING: You're learning about how diverse the country is politically, you're also seeing how diverse and breathtaking it is geographically. Western Idaho is, in a word, spectacular. Hawaii is in the early stages of a dramatic energy evolution. Clay, West Virginia, is tucked into the remote rolling hills of coal country.

More often than not what a place looks like tells you a lot about what it is and what it does. The joy, for me, is in having the privilege and the gift of meeting people. This is Kimberly. What's turtle in Spanish? There are a lot of very different families and philosophies and ways of life.

In Washington, when you read a report from the Labor Department, you can look at the numbers and say, wow, that's bad. Or you can be on the factory floor in Peoria when they tell 2,000 more people at Caterpillar, you're losing your job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to be on unemployment. I've never been on unemployment before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not talking about somebody that you can't see. That means me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to explain to your kids that it may not be the way it's always been for you?

KING: Economic anxiety is not a theory. It's a way of life for a whole lot of people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have young people coming in and saying, I'm here, I'm 18-years-old, my family can't afford me any more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been cold, I've been hungry, I've been soaked to the skin and tired and sick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even though I'm homeless, I would rather give the last dollar I have to the person who I see that needs it more. KING: It personalized the pain and the anxieties and the worries and it also personalized the resilience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ran over an IED in Afghanistan. I broke the top of my femur and two months later I am actually able to walk. I do some walking.

KING: what is your ultimate goal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To get back out in the fight.

KING: To see those people and hear their stories makes the numbers mean something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came here kind of lost and I found myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our daughter dates an architect who works at the grocery store at the bakery because you know, he's got to survive. KING: If you keep in touch with those people over the course of time, it makes you a better reporter because you can understand what somebody who felt so strongly last year feels so differently now and maybe in five years feels differently again because the experience of their life, the experience within their community at their workplace and at their schools or watching their children grow up changed them.

You need to go it and see it and feel it and taste it before you can even begin to understand it.


KING: We made it our goal to touch all 50 states and we did and for sharing your stories I will be forever grateful. When we come back, a special introduction, the new anchor of "State of the Union."


KING: Sundays are special, a time for family, for faith and for many, a time to dig deep into the Sunday paper and reflect with loved ones on the issues shaping our lives. To be invited to share those mornings, those Sundays with you this past year has been a remarkable gift and a learning experience for which I will be forever grateful.

I will miss it, I promise you that. As I move on to a new challenge Monday through Friday nights, I could not be more proud or more excited about the future of this program. We like to say here at CNN, we have the best political team on television and we say it because we believe it. As they say in sports, there's no "I" in team. But great teams have great leaders. In that regard, our senior political correspondent is without peer. An experienced reporter, a poetic writer, a gifted leader, a mentor, and beginning next Sunday, Candy Crowley will have the privilege and pleasure of leading our Sunday conversation. Good luck to you.

CROWLEY: Thank you. You'll come back here, though, and sit here, right? KING: I will come back. You ask, I shall come back. Never say no to the Sunday anchor. That has been my philosophy for a year.

CROWLEY: I will remember that.

KING: What do you hope to do?

CROWLEY: Have some fun, which I think you did.

KING: Amen.

CROWLEY: And, you know, not just me, but the group as a whole and the viewers. I think sometimes we tend to kind of flatten out our politicians and make them caricatures when you and I know that they are actual people with interesting and charming elements. Maybe we can bring some of that out. And I hope to continue what you did, really, which was making that connection between people's real fears and hopes and the people who are in charge of seeing whether they can do anything about it.

KING: So the diner owners of America know they will continue to get "State of the Union" money?


KING: It's a great year to do it because of all the consequential elections.

CROWLEY: What a great year to be starting something new, and you as well.

KING: All right, well Candy Crowley will be in this spot next Sunday. I mean it when I say I could not be more excited and more proud of the direction of this program.

And as I say good-bye to you this final time, I want to say this. There has been a staff of this program this past year that has made it possible. The crew on the floor here, the crew in the control room, the staff of young, hungry people who work for me, hard for me all the time. And as I say good-bye to you on Sunday mornings, I want them to know how grateful I am.

Now, don't worry. Candy will be here again next Sunday and ever Sunday at 9 a.m. Eastern for the first and last word in Sunday talk. Until then, I'm John King in Washington. "Fareed Zakaria: GPS" starts right now.