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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Former Senator Stevens Killed in Plane Crash; Is Obama Helping or Hurting Democrats?
Aired August 10, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAVIS SMILEY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, breaking news, a deadly plane crash in a remote rugged region of Alaska claims the lives of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and at least four others. Good Samaritans helped save several survivors including former NASA chief, Sean O'Keefe, and his son.
And then is President Obama helping or hurting his own party? Can Sarah Palin lay claim to the most political clout in 2010?
Plus, embattled Representative Charles Rangel, defiant, defensive and daring Congress to throw him out of office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't leave me swinging in the wind until November.
SMILEY: Right now on LARRY KING LIVE.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMILEY (on-camera): Good evening. I'm Tavis Smiley sitting in for Larry tonight. He's on vacation. We'll get right to now the latest on that deadly plane crash. CNN's Casey Wian joins me on the phone from (INAUDIBLE). CNN, of course, has been covering this story all day today. Casey, you've been on top of it. Tell me what the latest is tonight regarding the death of former U.S. senator, Ted Stevens.
VOICE OF CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just heard a news briefing from Deborah Hersman. She's the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. They arrived into Alaska about the same time we did, midday today and got out to the closest town near to the crash site, but they're having great difficulty getting to the scene because it's in such a remote area. We're learning new details about what happened at least in the aftermath of this crash.
What they described is a debris field of about 100 yards where the plane crashed into the side of a mountain, about 1,000 feet up that mountain in a very remote area. They were on their way, these nine people on their way to a fishing camp and the folks at the lodge that they left from had not heard from them. They were worried about what time they were going to come back for dinner, and when they didn't hear from them, they decided to send out rescue flights to see if they could find this plane, and ultimately, some people flying over, locals did spot the wreckage, and they describe a scene that one of the pilots, volunteer pilots we spoke with earlier today said that he was shocked that there were actually any survivors of this flight.
He said the plane looked like it just went straight into a mountain. The wings of the plane, he described, as being tipped back from the fuselage. He said the front of the plane and the NTSB also confirmed this was smashed in. Surprisingly, though, we learned that none of the nine passengers aboard this plane were actually ejected. All of them stayed inside the fuselage of the plane. Four survivors. Five fatalities, including Senator Steven, and one of those survivors, as you mentioned, Sean O'Keefe, the former administrator of NASA.
It must have been a harrowing night for those folks who spent the night in that plane because rescuers were prevented from getting to the area because of the bad weather. A doctor was airlifted 1,000 feet away from the crash site, and she hiked up into the mountain to provide some comfort and aid to those survivors. They would not characterize, the NTSB, would not characterize what those survivors told the doctor or told rescuers, but the four survivors are now back in anchorage in the hospital as well as the bodies of the five fatal victims.
SMILEY: Let me ask you two quick questions, Casey, before I let you go. The first question is, given what we know at this moment and I recognize the investigation has just now beginning, does weather appear to be the culprit?
WIAN: The investigators are not saying anything about what the cause is going to be, and they said they're not going to make that determination for a long time, but the pilots that flew in the area said visibility was horrible. The clouds in the area were down almost to the level of the crash scene. So, it certainly seems that that is going to be something that they will be looking into. The pilot in this incident, the NTSB said had 29,000 hours of fly time. So, he is an experienced pilot.
They don't have all the information about what kind of avionics and electronic gear and crash avoidance mechanisms were on this plane. They say they're still gathering that information, and they're going to go back out to this crash site in the morning in hopes of getting more details.
SMILEY: Finally, right quick here, I know again this is just breaking news today. We're going to talk to some Alaska officials here momentarily. What's your sense, Casey, of how the people of Alaska are taking, because he's an icon in that state, indeed. The airport you flew into today to cover this story for CNN is called the Ted Stevens Airport. What's your sense of how the people of Alaska are handling this news literally just hours ago?
WIAN: One gentleman who we spoke with earlier as we got off the plane ourselves who actually said he knew former Senator Ted Stevens said it's a big loss for Alaska. He was a great champion for this state. A lot of folks here felt like he got a bad deal in terms of the Congressional ethics investigations that were eventually vacated by Eric Holder because of prosecutorial misconduct. Many people here are strong supporters of Ted Stevens, and they are and very sad at his death.
SMILEY: Casey, first of all, thank you for the reports tonight. I know you'll stay on top of the story. Good to talk to you. Thank you for sharing your insights.
WIAN: Thank you.
SMILEY: We're going to take our first break here. When we come back, we're going to be joined by Major Guy Hayes who is the public affairs office for the Alaska National Guard and talk about their role from this moment forward. We'll do more of that in just a moment when we continue here on CNN's LARRY KING LIVE.
SMILEY: Welcome back. I'm Tavis Smiley sitting in for Larry King tonight. Major Guy Hayes is the public affairs officer for the Alaska National Guard. He joins us via phone. Major Hayes, good to have you on the program, sir.
VOICE OF MAJOR GUY HAYES, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, ALASKA NATIONAL GUARD: Thank you very much.
SMILEY: Let me start by asking about these good Samaritan pilots we've been hearing about who found the wreckage. What can you tell me about those persons who first laid eyes on this crash?
HAYES: I don't know a lot about who they are, but they definitely helped in the search and recovery. They let (INAUDIBLE) last night, and they provided us an opportunity to get our Alaska international guardsmen out on the scene as quickly as possible.
SMILEY: So, what role at this point is the National Guard playing in the rescue and recovery effort?
HAYES: The Alaska National Guard in conjunction with the coast guard, NTSB, the Alaska state troopers, we all work together out there. We were able to get the survivors, the four survivors from the aircraft back to anchorage this afternoon to Providence Hospital. We are also able to transport the deceased back to Elmendorf Air Force base and that's where they're currently located.
SMILEY: And quickly, I keep asking this question to see if anybody knows anything more -- of course have you spoken too already, do you know anything about the cause of the crash, whether or not weather was one of the major reasons?
HAYES: I'm sure that's something the NTSB is going to investigate and then that's going to be part of their investigation, but you know, one of the things that we know here as Alaskans, poor weather always remains a factor when you're flying out here because it's a huge state, and there's a lot of area to cover and weather can change drastically. Low cloud cover. This morning trying to get in there was very difficult because of the visibility and the rain and the heavy wind. So, it definitely could have played a role.
SMILEY: I know you have work to do, Major Hayes. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I appreciate it, sir.
HAYES: Yes, sir. Thank you.
SMILEY: Joining us now, Mitch Rose who is the former chief of staff to Ted Stevens. He is the Stevens family spokesperson, Dr. Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, former Senate Majority Leader, of course, the author of "A Heart to Serve: The Passion to Bring Health, Hope, and Healing." He was a close friend and colleague of Senator Ted Stevens.
And we're talking a moment to Senator Ben Nelson that is a democrat from Nebraska. He and Ted Stevens were good friends on different sides of the aisle. Mitch Rose good to have you on the program. Thanks for your time. I appreciate it.
MITCH ROSE, FMR. TED STEVENS CHIEF OF STAFF: Thank you.
SMILEY: Tell me the family. You, obviously, are the spokesperson for the family. I know this has to be devastating for the family. What can you tell me about the family? How they're coping this evening?
ROSE: Clearly it's devastating, but they've really been heartened by the outpouring of support worldwide. President Obama called Mrs. Stevens, was extremely gracious. She was very touched by his comments. Alaskans have just been amazing in their support for the senator. The Senate family has embraced him. I'm sure the former majority leader and others on this program will speak to that.
So, it's warmed the family very much to have the support that they have and they know that Alaskans love Ted Stevens.
SMILEY: What's his legislative legacy going to be?
ROSE: Well, I think all you have to do is look at that 49th star in the American flag and that's Ted Steven's legacy. You just have to walk through the state of Alaska and see the opportunity these young people have to stay in that state. See the infrastructure that's been built. It's everything from the Trans Alaska Pipeline, the native claim settlement act, 200-mile fishery limit.
Ted Stevens has touched every part of that state socially, economically. He started it before statehood and has carried it through. It's an enormous loss, but he's made such a contribution to the state that he'll very much be missed.
SMILEY: Mitch, thanks for talking to us. I appreciate you taking the time, sir.
ROSE: You bet.
SMILEY: Senator Frist, always an honor to talk to you; although, I wish we were on the different circumstances. You, of course, were the majority leader in the Senate serving alongside your friend, Ted Stevens. Tell me about Ted Stevens.
BILL FRIST, FORMER SENATOR, FRIEND OF TED STEVENS: You know, we hear a lot about what we just did, the accomplishment, a man who made Alaska number one. But behind-the-scenes, in the office of majority leader with closed doors, you saw a man who was compassionate, a man who was genuine, a man that on the same day that he would wear the incredible hulk tie because he was a gruff guy and he was always in there fighting, the juxtaposition was he was fighting for the underserved, the people who didn't have voice, the people who didn't get attention.
Now, I would remember travelling with him. I've traveled with him. I fished. I've been in planes with him throughout Alaska. We've traveled to China together and around the world together representing the United States. He loved America. He loved our military. He loved the American flag. And at the same time, when it came down to things like family and the personal, the intimate side he was there. His daughter, Lily, who was married last year I remember him talking before wedding about he was so blessed to be able to live to the day to see her be happily married.
When he had the opportunity to interact with my kids as they were growing up in Washington, it would be Ted Stevens wearing that incredible hulk tie who would come over and give them little words of encouragement at 10 years of age and 12 years of age and say why don't you come with your dad and come with me to the next event. It was Ted Stevens, the compassionate, the genuine, the person reaching out always for the underserved, and at the same time, the hard driver fighting for Alaska of military and defense of our country.
SMILEY: Senator Nelson, unlike Senator Frist, you are a Democrat and so you and Ted Stevens struck up a friendship that was able to grow and to last across the aisle. Why was that the case with the Republican named Ted Stevens?
SEN. BEN NELSON, (D) NEBRASKA: Well, Ted Stevens was one of the first senators that befriended me when I arrived on the scene as a freshman senator. We grew our friendship through many things we did together, travelling together, but also fishing together. He knew that I loved the out of doors, and so, he took every opportunity to include me in things that he sought to -- that he knew that I would enjoy. Ted Stevens never forgot where he came from and who sent him to Washington.
And that's why he served the underserved in the state of Alaska. Many people in Alaska feel like not only they in terms of distance a long way from Washington, they're a long way from the minds of those of us in Washington. Ted made sure that was not the case. I think that's one of the reasons why people really did love him in Alaska, and I heard it said many times people referring to him affectionately as Uncle Ted because he was everybody's uncle, everybody's father, everybody's patron saint in the state of Alaska.
Just a wonderful man. He's going to be sorely missed by not only people in Alaska but a lot of us who knew him so well. SMILEY: Senator Frist, I got a minute to go before this break. Let me give you the last word here. We all know, of course, when Senator Byrd died some weeks back he was touted, of course, and honored as the longest serving member ever in Congress and serving the Senate. And we know today given the passing of Senator Stevens, he was the longest serving Republican in history, 40 years. What do you make of that?
FRIST: You know, it's interesting. You compare to what's happening today. It's exactly as Ben just says, Senator Nelson just said. It was Ted Stevens who with Dan Inouye, a Democrat, when they were chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Ted Stevens, I would call each other brother, and I think in the release that Dan is (ph) out today talked about his brother, it was that reaching across the aisle. Fierce party loyalty. Fighting for America with Republican principles.
But he would not vote, unless, he had a partner, somebody like Daniel Inouye. And that's what we love to see in America, the coming together. It's a passing of an era, I think as you look at whether it's the Byrd's or now the Stevens passing, it's an era that showed people working together and that's very much what Americans want today, want us to recapture..
SMILEY: Senator Frist, Senator Nelson, and Mitch Rose, thank you all for your time. I appreciate it.
This statement released earlier today from President Obama on the passing of Ted Stevens. "A decorated World War II veteran, Senator Ted Stevens devoted his career to serving the people of Alaska and fighting for our men and women in uniform. Michelle and I extend our condolences to the entire Stevens family and to the families of those who perished alongside Senator Stevens in this terrible accident." That from the Obamas. We're back in a moment. Stay with us.
SMILEY: Former president, George W. Bush issued this statement today about the passing of former senator, Ted Stevens. Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Ted Stevens and all those aboard the airplane that crashed in Alaska last night. Ted served our country with great distinction. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who are lost, and we are praying for the health and well-being of the survivors.
We're back now talking about the plane crash, of course, that killed five people including Senator Ted Stevens, four others survived. Michelle Laxalt knew Ted Stevens well and others on the plane. She's served (INAUDIBLE). She's a Republican consultant and strategist and daughter of a former Senator Paul Laxalt. Michelle Laxalt, good to have you on the program.
MICHELLE LAXALT, WORKED WITH STEVENS SINCE 1974: thank you for having me.
SMILEY: Let me start by asking you the same question I asked one of our guests earlier. Since you worked with Senator Stevens for so long starting back in the 1970s, tell me about the man that you worked alongside on the hill.
LAXALT: There's a saying in Washington that senators are either work horses or show horses. Ted Stevens was the absolute too perfect work horse. He was an absolute work horse. Yes, he had -- to those who were unfamiliar with him, he scared a lot of people. He had piercing black eyes and he could see the truth from bull from a mile away. But Ted Stevens as you can see from the outpouring of wishes that once you worked for Ted Stevens, you're a lifer.
I called him boss throughout these many, many years. He is an extraordinary -- he was an extraordinary mentor. And he was a straight shooter like I like to say since I'm a westerner is endemic to the western part of the United States. I remember one time I was counting votes, helping in a whip count when he was assistant minority leader and one of our Republican senators decided that he was not going to vote with the boss and I think I used a very, a very un-lady- like suggestion in describing this senator, and I remember the boss saying now, gal, you remember this, you never call somebody an S.O.B. until they've lied to you.
But once they've lied to you, they're one forever. He was a fighter pilot. He was the American dream. He came from nothing. He's a Harvard -- he went to Harvard on the G.I. Bill. Thank you for the G.I. Bill where people who came from humble beginnings could actually realize professions such as being attorneys, doctors, whatever. He was an extraordinary human being.
SMILEY: To your point, Michelle, of his having been a fighter pilot. If I'm treading too close here, let me know and I can pull back, and I want to respect your feelings tonight but I know it's a difficult time for you, but I was struck today by the fact that he was, in fact, as you mentioned a fighter pilot. His wife dies in a plane crash in 1978, his first wife. He survives that plane crash.
As we mentioned earlier, the airport in anchorage is named after him. He said once that plane crashes in Alaska are an occupational hazard of Alaska pilots. That's the senator talking because you got to hop on these little small planes because of the way Alaska, of course, is laid out. So, what do you make of the fact that after all of that, he ends up perishing in a plane crash?
LAXALT: I would imagine that having -- I was working for him at the time of the first crash, and it was a horrific scene, a typical campaign trip. Inclement weather, crosswinds and, actually he and another fellow were in the back of the plane. And they landed on the tarmac by themselves in the tail of the plane while they're watching the remainder of the plane, it was a Learjet go careening off into the distance, and yes, his first wife and who is just a beautiful lady and the mother of his four children, who were more familiar with me because they were closer to my age, and he cheated death at that point, and for a while, he really thought that he was omnipotent which I gather is not an unusual response to surviving that kind of a tragedy. But when I heard that this had struck him again, you can imagine the shock for all of us having gone through the first experience. But I think Ted Stevens is a real optimist at heart, but for the absolute morning of -- you look at the passengers on the plane, they were all family. They were people with their children, they're teenagers, et cetera, and he would mourn the fact that any one else was harmed in any way, but from having survived the first crash he thought he had another shot. He thought he cheated death and indeed he did.
SMILEY: Well, I appreciate your coming on under these difficult circumstances. And you're right, there were (INAUDIBLE) on that plane, a mother and a daughter died in that crash, but a father and a son survived the crash. And it's mind-boggling, life is strange, but I thank you for coming on under these difficult circumstances. Michelle, I appreciate it.
LAXALT: Thank you.
SMILEY: There is other news today involving President Obama, Sarah Palin, and Charles Rangel. We'll get to all that and more after this.
SMILEY: I want to welcome our panel now. Stephanie Miller is a progressive talk radio host, the "The Stephanie Miller Show". Dana Loesch, blog or talk radio house, "The Dana Show," co-founder of the St. Louis Tea Party, Aisha Tyler, actress, author, and activist. She will be at the Denver Improve starting Thursday. Too bad I won't be in Denver. More information on her Facebook page, and of course, Hugh Hewitt, talk radio show host "The Hewitt Show," a blogger for columnist for town hall.com.
There's so much political news to get through today, and I'm going to come back in a second to these elections that are taking place tonight since these results are just coming in. Who did not see Charlie Rangel today? This was amazing today. Veteran congressman who finally took to the floor of the House today to deny these allegations against him saying he will not resign. Just take a watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Don't leave me swinging in the wind until November. If this is an emergency, and I think it is, to help our local and state governments out, what about me? I don't want anyone to feel embarrassed, awkward. Hey, if I was you, I may want me to go away too. I'm most going away. I am here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMILEY: I saw, Stephanie, the entire speech he gave on the floor today. And I thought he made case for himself in the sense that everybody in this country, if we're all Americans, deserves to have a hearing. And he was right on this point; I want the charges exposed, I want to have my hearing. That's the way I saw it. What did you make it. MILLER: I loved it not as a partisan thing, Tavis, just as political theater. He just went all Al Pacino on their ass. Didn't he? He's like, what kind of show are you guys running here? I'm Charlie Rangel. I wanted him to sing the Pat Benatar classic, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." Just like -- and then get off. But I loved it. I think you're right. I think you're right.
SMILEY: Hugh, is Stephanie right, this is not about ideology? If she's right, it's not about ideology. Doesn't even a Democrat deserve to have his day in court?
HEWITT: Stephanie and I agree. I loved it too. I want Charlie to have a cable channel 24/7 between now and November 2nd. He can co- host with Maxine Waters. He's the face of the Democratic party. He represents their control of Congress. They will not punish him. They stand for everything he stands for. He's the swamp and Nancy Pelosi never drained it. So I applaud the congressman as well.
MILLER: What do you call this? This is draining the swamp.
TYLER: Yes, they're doing it. They are bringing these charges. I think you can't have it both ways. Either we're going to expose these ethics issues and bring these charges and find out whether they've actually committed any kind of ethics violation or we're not draining the swamp and we're not bringing it up.
I think we can all agree no party has a monopoly on unethical behavior in Washington. Every power that's out of power wants to claim it's the party that's in power that is the slimy. Everybody has done their dirt.
SMILEY: Dana, I hear the point that he was making. Let's be clear here, this committee that brought these allegations was established in the era of Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat. The chairwoman of the committee is a woman a Democrat out of California, in fact. And they got Maxine Waters now. They got Charlie Rangel now, two other Democrats.
So is Hugh's point really serious? I mean, how do you take that point seriously when you have Democrats who control the House who are bringing up charges now on other Democrats? Isn't that want draining the swamp?
LOESCH: I don't care what you call it. I want to see more it. I agree. If they made a Charlie Rangel channel, I would subscribe to it. If it was premium cable, I would get it, because every time that man opens his mouth I fall that much more with him. I love it. I take it seriously. Yes, bring it all out there. I love it.
MILLER: Please. They were running a criminal syndicate out of Tom Delay's office. Every republican almost was dirty with that Jack Abramoff scandal. Give me a break.
SMILEY: I mentioned Maxine Waters earlier, Aisha. She was on a radio show today, the "Tom Joyner Morning Show."
LOESCH: What does that have to do with Charlie Rangel, Stephanie? It doesn't have nothing to do with Charlie Rangel.
MILLER: My point is, like Aisha said, they are draining the swamp. They are having an open hearing. Nancy Pelosi is saying let the chips fall where they may.
LOESCH: I didn't disagree with you. Let them do it.
MILLER: By the way, Maxine Waters, I don't think -- I mean, I could be wrong, but,, you know, this does not seem even close to me to a lot of these other Republican scandals.
SMILEY: I'm glad you raised that. I wanted to raise this with Aisha. Maxine Waters on this radio show, on "The Tom Joyner Show" today -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- makes the point that this committee is established under Democrats, but the names that keep leaking out on the folks under investigation happen to be African- American members of Congress. Eight names of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including, of course, Charlie Rangel, including Maxine Waters, have leaked out. What do you make of that?
TYLER: Look, if I was a conspiracy theorist, or if I was a little bit more dead inside that I already am, if I had been deadened more by the political process over the last two years than I already have been, you would see a pattern of trying to besmirched the president's name by association. I think what we have generally -- I mean, when you look at something like the FLOTUS trip to Spain and everyone criticizing her for not taking American trips -- she's already taken four American vacations here. There's this on-going effort to call regular kind of common behavior into question and associate it somehow with race.
I hate to be in that want place. I don't ever want to be in that place mentally. It's not a fun place for me to be, to be always thinking about things being motivated racially.
SMILEY: But -- I think the R-word is over-used in this country. But facts are facts. The names the keep coming out happen to be members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
MILLER: As you know, it's a complete mistake when Fox News is talking about Shirley Sherrod and runs footage of Maxine Waters by accident, and talking about John Conyers and runs footage of William Jefferson by mistake. You know that's just a mistake.
TYLER: You don't even want to say what the subtext is in there. It's such a clam. You know what I mean? You don't even want to bring it up. I do think the word racism is over-used in this country. At the same time, what I do think is happening right now is there's more of a subtext of racialism, where when you have somebody like Rush Limbaugh saying that the reason that Michelle Obama went to Spain is that black people are trying to get some of what white people have enjoyed. I mean, come on.
SMILEY: Hold that thought. I want to talk about Michelle Obama and the trip to Spain with Aisha and Stephanie and Hugh and Dana in just a second. We'll continue with more of "LARRY KING LIVE" after this.
SMILEY: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, joined now by our panel. Before the break, Aisha, you were starting to lay out for us your formulation at least about the Michelle Obama trip to Spain. I want to go around the horn, but go ahead and finish your point.
TYLER: The thing that I'm really struggling with here -- and I'm not going to call Rush Limbaugh, but that is a racialist attitude to say that somehow black people have never traveled abroad until the First Lady got her shot at Spain. I mean, look, I speak three languages. I lived in Europe. I lived overseas. The idea that somehow she's getting back at white people for slavery by paying her own way to take her daughter to Spain is just extraordinary hyperbole of the highest order. And it's ridiculous.
For somebody to say that seriously, for it to be taken seriously, shows that there is this --
LOESCH: did you hear the program where he said it?
TYLER: I did. I heard where he said it.
SMILEY: Dana, let me ask you whether or not you take these allegations, these charges, this punditry coming after the First Lady -- do you take this stuff seriously?
LOESCH: As far as her criticism for going.
SMILEY: Yes, exactly.
LOESCH: Yes, I think it's serious. This is the thing, I don't agree with what Robert Gibbs was saying, oh, this is a private person and she's taking a trip with her daughter. No, no, no, here's the deal: when you start going out promoting policy, when you dip your toe into the little proverbial pool of policy, you cease being a private citizen. You enjoy a ton of public perks. And you can't be a private citizen when you are enjoying a ton of public perks. So I think it goes along with the territory.
MILLER: She's still a mother. She's a mother, and she, like Aisha said, wanted to take --
LOESCH: Oh, my gosh. Do not play that card with me. Do not play that card with me. She's a mother, but she's a First Lady and she's making policy. If you don't want to be criticized, don't walk in the policy. That's it right there. Don't sit and pull the mother card with me.
TYLER: Is she the first First Lady who has ever traveled with her family and used Secret Service protection? LOESCH: She's not the first First Lady that's ever tried making policy before. Don't come and try making policy and go out and promote platform and policy, and then enjoy the public perks.
SMILEY: Let me jump in. Hugh, let me jump in. Hugh, what do you make of the fact we're on international television and this is the subject matter we're talking about, the First Lady taking a trip to Spain? This cannot be a serious subject. Is it for you?
HEWITT: Gosh, I feel I'm on Hollywood Squares. Tavis, the unemployment rate is at 9.5 percent. The Congress passed 26 billion dollars today in money that we do not have. The Federal Reserve issued a note that says the economy is week. The new polling shows Rob Portman up by seven points in Ohio, John Kasich almost in a double digit lead. The Democrats are going to get wiped out.
Robert Gibbs lashed out at the professional left today. The president's approval number is down to 41 percent in the "USA Today" poll. Michelle Obama is probably a much needed relief story for the Democrats, because their performance in office is so abysmal, the United States is going to throw them out en masse on November 2nd. And then we'll be able to talk about why didn't we see it coming. It's because we'll be talking about Michelle Obama and Charlie Rangel and these other stories. They're going to get hammered because of the economy.
MILLER: You know what, Hugh? I'm going to play this tape of you on my radio show after you're wrong in November.
HEWITT: Good. No one will hear it.
SMILEY: Stephanie, to your point now, seriously; you firmly believe that Hugh is wrong about the fact that Republicans are going to take control of one or both houses in November?
HEWITT: I didn't say the senate.
SMILEY: I said one or more.
MILLER: OK. You know, Tavis, I think that many of the media story lines over and over have been wrong. Obama can't win these votes. He can't win these. He'll never beat Hillary. This will never happen. He'll never win these white people. He'll never do this. So I love watching media story lines be wrong. So the Democrats --
(CROSS TALK) .
MILLER: They always lose seats. That's historic.
SMILEY: It is true -- hold on, Dana. It is true, though, Stephanie, to your point -- it is true that there are a lot of candidates now who don't want the president to campaign with them. We saw the story in Texas. You know, this is happening in a few places now, where people want to shun the president campaigning with them.
TYLER: This happened during the bush presidency. There's always incumbent fatigue. I'm not comparing the --
MILLER: According to Rick Perry, Texas may not even be part of the union by November. It may not really be an issue.
TYLER: This always happens. There's always a walk back in more conservative states or in more liberal states, when an incumbent president at the time -- during midterm elections, there are always seats lost by the opposing party during the second -- the midterm elections. This is not new news. Pundits --
LOESCH: I like the spin is already starting now.
TYLER: There have been individual occurrences over the last --
HEWITT: George W. Bush won seats in 2002.
SMILEY: There's a lot more --
SMILEY: We have a lot more to talk about with regard to the midterm elections. As you can see, we're just getting started on this part of the conversation. So we'll talk more about what effect these issues and others will have on the midterm elections, given that tonight there are some major primaries happening across the country. We'll talk more about that in a moment here on LARRY KING LIVE.
SMILEY: We were talking here during the break on LARRY KING LIVE with our panel about the fact that if, in fact, the Democrats lose the House and/or the Senate come November, Stephanie, that it will likely be due to the economic condition, the fact that too many Americans are jobless. We were making the point during the break here that when President Obama signed an unemployment benefits bill a few weeks ago, Shirley Sherrod, that story, made him disappear, with that major piece of legislation being signed.
So today 26 billion dollar jobs bill and we got the issue of Congressman Rangel, the issue of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the plane crash of Senator Ted Stevens. So this story not being discussed perhaps as much as it might on another day. Here's the question, though, the jobs bill, is it enough? Is it too late? Am I right about the fact that if Democrats lose in November it is going to be because they could not stimulate enough jobs in this economy?
MILLER: Well, I mean, I get your point about the 24 hour news cycle. You're right. Here we get all this help for unemployed Americans and Fox News is 24//7 saying, look, a black lady said something. It turns out to be nothing. And you're right. Excuse me, Dana.
SMILEY: One second, Dana.
MILLER: Excuse me?
LOESCH: Die distract you.
MILLER: I'm playing the race card?
LOESCH: You have a radio show. Be prepared. Quit throwing the race card out every second that you get. Geez?
MILLER: Excuse me?
TYLER: Wait a second.
LOESCH: Can you talk the jobs bill. Let's talk the jobs bill. Quit pulling the race card out. It's insulting.
MILLER: Fox News played the race card with Shirley Sherrod.
LOESCH: She didn't pull the race card. Either you know the issues or you don't. Quit throwing the race card.
TYLER: I would love to not get yelled at.
SMILEY: We're talking about the jobs bill, ladies and gentlemen.
TYLER: And I think that one thing that this discussion points out is that we spend a lot of time arguing about who is going to get re-elected, who is going to be in office, who is going to get thrown out of office, and not enough talking about how we are going to get things done in this country.
Look, I'm a progressive, but I have a lot of conservative friends. When we have a conversation, we're not screaming at each other about who is wrong and who is right. We trying to figure out how we're going to move the country forward. I think we are so focused in the 24 hour news cycle of creating scandal and drama and hits and quotes on what scandal is and not enough on --
MILLER: My mom is a 78-year-old Republican George Bush fan. My father ran for vice president with Barry Goldwater. I can talk to a lot of Republicans about policy.
MILLER: Let's talk about the jobs bill. What do you know about it?
SMILEY: Dana, let me ask you about the jobs bill. Go.
SMILEY: You're on.
LOESCH: I think it's ridiculous. You do not stimulate the economy by continuing to throw bailout after bailout at it. The whole thing about this 26 billion dollar bill, I find it interesting that the Food Stamp Program had to be raided in order to facilitate this bill. Fifty million dollars out of this bill is going to be going into the pockets of unions. If you think about teachers unions, 160,000 teachers in this country. If you consider that only half of them are unionized. If you look in union dues, 300 something dollars for the NEA, 196 something dollars for the Federated Teachers of America, all of this stuff.
Modestly speaking, 50 million dollars of that goes back into union's pockets. Why are we doing another educational jobs bailout bill when we still have over 30 million dollars that could be spent? We had 100 billion dollars that went to --
MILLER: What would you do to create jobs? What would you do?
LOESCH: I would lay off businesses. And I provide tax cuts to people. And I would not keep creating public sector jobs, because people do not realize that private sector pays for the public sector.
TYLER: I think people do realize that.
MILLER: I think they do.
TYLER: I think a lot of Americans do realize that. But I also think that every established economists in this country has said -- there is consensus, broad and widespread consensus that most of the bailout package has worked. It has protected jobs. It has created new jobs. The government can only do so much. And I think we all agree on that. But the government is doing what is in its power to do. There have been multiple tax cuts in the last year.
SMILEY: We've got to go to a break. We can debate that. I, in fact, respectfully would debate you on that, about whether or not the government has done enough, whether or not the stimulus bill has been enough. Paul Krugman doesn't see it that way. And there are a lot of other folks that don't see it that way. But I digress on that point.
When I come back from the break, Hugh, I want to come to you, because, believe it or not, there was other news today. It wasn't just that the president signed a 26 billion dollar jobs bill today. The House also passed a 600 million dollar border security bill today. The Senate passed one bill similar some days ago. So there was some movement, it would appear, today on the notion of immigration reform. We'll talk about that in just a moment, after this break, and more of LARRY KING LIVE.
SMILEY: Breaking news here. The Associated Press now projecting former WWE executive Linda McMahon the winner of the Connecticut GOP primary for the Senate, with 58 percent of the vote in. AP shows McMahon with a 19-point lead over former Congressman Bob Rob. That is Simmons. So Hugh, that's good news to you, I take it?
HEWITT: Well, I'm indifferent on the Connecticut primary. I'm very interested in the Colorado one, where it's neck and neck this late. I was behind Jay Norton on that. Tavis, I've got to go back and just correct one bit of the record, because facts are stubborn things. In 2002, the first off year election for George W. Bush, House Republicans picked up eight seats. In the Senate, they picked up two seats. So, in fact, the repudiation underway of President Obama is unprecedented in this millennium. It's going to be devastating to lose the House of Representatives and many Senate seats.
And it represents an enormous push back against a failed economic policy. And I beg to differ, it isn't a jobs bill. It's a public sector employee bailout. It's 26 billion dollars we don't have. The American people did not want it to happen.
SMILEY: But Hugh?
SMILEY: When you say this repudiation of President Obama, what repudiation? Nothing has happened yet. The election is not until November.
MILLER: Thank you.
HEWITT: The most precipitous drop in a presidential approval for a first-term president you have ever seen, 41 percent.
MILLER: That's not true.
HEWITT: And that is going to continue because Barack Obama has lost the confidence of the American people. He's in over his head.
SMILEY: Let me ask you, Hugh, whether or not he and the Democrats can gain some of that confidence back with things like this. Today, a 600 million dollar border security bill passed. As I mentioned, that happened in the House. The Senate did something similar days ago. So now they will come to Conference Committee and work this bill out. Is this a step in the right direction for those who think that we're not taking illegal immigration seriously enough? Is this going to comfort them in any way? HEWITT: It's not a Conference Committee next, Tavis. The Senate began that and a spending bill has to originate in the House. So they passed the bill in the House. It's supposed to pass on unanimous consent when the Senate comes back. But it's a joke. The countries knows that the Democrats don't care about border security. They're not caring about the fence. It's a ruse. It's a very thinly disguised ruse. And it's not going to work for anyone who actually cares about border security. They're not going to trust Nancy Pelosi.
MILLER: Excuse me. Arrests and deportations are up under Barack Obama than George Bush. So George Bush cared about border security, is that what you're implying?
SMILEY: When you say 600 million dollars is a joke, that's a serious bill, yes?
HEWITT: I think it's a joke that Democrats put forward 600 million dollars. People will not believe it will be spent effectively to build the fence, what the American people want. And it's ,like 90 percent consensus on this, secure the border and then regularize --
MILLER: Yes, they want comprehensive reform. That's the consensus. Republicans don't want comprehensive immigration reform.
TYLER: I'd just like to restate that what we talk about too much in this country is about why the other side is wrong. And not -- and I feel like we can never concede that anybody's motivation might actually be genuine, that the president might actually care about improving border security, that we might actually be moving in the right direction. Maybe we're not there yet.
It's like no matter how much money he spends, somehow his motivations are off. He's doing something. Let's support it. Let's move forward.
SMILEY: That will be the last word tonight. Stephanie Miller, thank you. Dana Loesch, thank you. Aisha Tyler, thank you. Hugh Hewitt, thank you as well.
I'm Tavis Smiley, sitting in for LARRY KING LIVE. Thanks, Larry, for the opportunity. Now Anderson Cooper.