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Interview With Paul Krugman; Scott Simon's Adoption Story
Aired October 8, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATHLEEN PARKER, CO-HOST: Happy Friday, and I really mean that. I'm Kathleen Parker.
ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST: And I'm Eliot Spitzer. Welcome to the show.
Kathleen, today, I have got an issue burning a hole in my stomach I just got to talk to folks about. This economic crisis is worse than anybody is telling us.
They came out with new unemployment numbers today they said at 9.6 percent. That would be bad enough. But it's not 9.6 percent. you know what it is? It's 12.9 percent, 12.9, about 20 million people who are out of jobs.
That's about one in eight of our workers. Here's what's going on here. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government agency that puts these numbers together, it's not that they're so much lying to us. They just don't include in the 9.6 percent 5.9 million people that they say are marginally attached, people who are too discouraged to keep looking or they haven't looked in the past four weeks, because they know there are no jobs for them. And you can't blame them because there are no jobs out there, so they just don't count those folks. If you did count them, 12.9 percent is where we are. That is bad news.
But good news out there, a tiny little bit, you know what, 34,000 additional jobs last months. You know where? Drinking establishments. Clear what's going on here. We're drinking away our sorrows, but, folks, this is not happy hour -- Kathleen.
PARKER: All right, Eliot, so I want to do my part after this announcement of gloom and doom and help the economy.
SPITZER: ... not a happy story.
PARKER: I'm going to a drinking establishment right after work.
SPITZER: I will join you. I will join you.
PARKER: But here's the question I have for you. Why do you know this? And why isn't this more widely known? Why aren't we hearing this? SPITZER: Look, here's the thing. I get an e-mail from a good friend of mine, Leo Hindery. And we're going to post that e-mail on our Web site, so everybody can get it.
A lot of people know this. These numbers are there in the government report that's issued. You just have to read down into the footnotes and look at the charts. What's happened over time is everybody just focuses on the 9.6 number, which excludes all these other people who should be counted. And there's no good reason for it.
PARKER: But your figures include college students, people who are just out of college and looking for jobs? Because they haven't really looked very long.
SPITZER: Well, no, it would include anybody who's actually genuinely seeking a job, even if they have given up after four weeks. But these numbers count the people who want a job who can't get it.
PARKER: What about people who are just -- who are underemployed, meaning that they...
SPITZER: No, we don't count there.
SPITZER: There's another huge category. And good point you're raising here. If you included people that we would call involuntarily part-time -- in other words, I want to work part-time, but I'm only working five hours a week at a fast-food, or a deli, whatever it may be -- if you included them, then the number would break through 18 percent.
So, then it would be skyrocketing in a really ugly way. But they're working a little bit, so we don't count them. That would give you the biggest number. The issue is why do they not include all these other people in the number that gets out there?
Let me one other number in there, which is really important. I know you make fun of me all the time. I love numbers.
PARKER: I have got some numbers of my own. Just keep going.
SPITZER: Good. All right. Well, we will get to it.
But the other number that matters is the average duration of unemployment, because then what you're saying to people is when you have been unemployed for half-a-year, getting back into the work force gets harder and harder. And I think the number now is we have got I think 9.5 million workers who have been unemployed for over half a year.
And you break that down a little bit more. If you're over a certain age and unemployed for that long, boy, does it get hard to get back into the work force, and so we have got a real crisis here. PARKER: All right, well, I don't want to mess you up here, because I hear your thesis. But, no, I was looking at the Cato Institute figures, and, of course, that's a libertarian organization.
SPITZER: Right. Very conservative group.
PARKER: Well, they would be against government programs.
SPITZER: I always look at job creation. If it's government job creation, it doesn't mean nearly as much to me, because long term private sector jobs are going to create more wealth, greater tax revenue, the whole thing.
PARKER: Good to hear. Good to hear.
SPITZER: So that is what we really need.
PARKER: But the Cato Institute shows that if you consider only those jobs that have been lost since the recession began, rather than jobs that haven't been found, people who have actually been fired, it's more like in the 6 percent range.
So, that's -- I think we ought to show that figure just as a little contrast for those who are thinking of rushing out to happy hour.
Fortunately we have a guest today that can help us figure some of this out.
SPITZER: And he's going to drill down even deeper into these numbers.
He is of course Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman. He is brilliant. I'm going to say it right here.
But, first, let's talk politics with two very interesting people. It's time to go in the arena.
Joining us tonight, Chrystia Freeland, global editor at large for Reuters, and Dylan Glenn, a former special assistant to President Bush.
SPITZER: Welcome to both of you. Thank you.
Chrystia, great to see you. Welcome. Welcome, welcome.
SPITZER: Glenn, pleasure.
PARKER: As we say down South, nice to see you.
DYLAN GLENN, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Nice to see you.
SPITZER: We have a little convention here of the Southern folks. All right, well, that's good.
PARKER: You know why you say it. What if you had met previously and didn't remember. That would be rude.
SPITZER: That's right. And we know in the South, that is rule number one.
GLENN: Paramount not to be rude.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, REUTERS: But if you know someone and you say, nice to see you, then they might think he forgot you have been introduced before.
PARKER: Well, that's why everybody says it. Then you don't have to distinguish.
SPITZER: A lot easier up here. We don't worry so much about it.
SPITZER: So, you, let's get down to business here.
PARKER: Sarah Palin last night in Palm Beach, that bastion of ordinary Americans, announced that she would run for president if the American people want her to.
So you remember it used to be when a door opened and I was expecting a voice from above. And now it's just American people, I don't know how many that would be. I don't know what a consensus or critical mass would be. But what do you think? Can she win?
GLENN: I think what's important is that everybody on the Republican side is a part of the conversation. And, look, I don't know.
PARKER: That's a very diplomatic answer.
FREELAND: Are you scared of revenge from the Palin camp if you are insufficiently supportive?
FREELAND: We have seen they can be tough, right?
SPITZER: Was he carrying a gun or something when he saw you? What is going on here?
GLENN: My point is just that we are facing what could be monumental elections in 28 days. That's where the focus probably is and should be.
SPITZER: So, why did she say this now? That is actually what mystifies me. Why distract at this moment by suddenly keeping herself and her presidential aspirations in the limelight?
GLENN: Well, look, she's one person in a party that's made up of millions. And so while she's got a higher profile than most, I'm not sure...
PARKER: Well, she's the kingmaker or the queenmaker. She goes out and waves her magic wand, and, voila, you have...
FREELAND: I think it's a significant comment from her, and I actually think that she's been consistently underestimated by metropolitan elites like ourselves.
SPITZER: The people she loves to knock.
FREELAND: No, and she's right to do that. And I think she really taps into what I think is going to be the big theme of these midterms and maybe 2012, which is the two Americas, the rift, not so much the two parties, but the rift between the people doing really well in this high-tech global economy, people like (INAUDIBLE) on Wall Street, and the people who are not doing well who are the Sarah Palin constituency, and they like someone who openly, proudly identifies with them.
PARKER: Well, and speaking of which, Christine O'Donnell has a new ad out, and she says: I did not go to Yale. I did not inherit millions.
SPITZER: I'm a witch.
SPITZER: No, no, that was the wrong one. I'm sorry.
SPITZER: Let's take a look at this ad. We have got it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't go to Yale. I didn't inherit millions, like my opponent. I'm you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: Eliot, I didn't know you were running against Christine O'Donnell.
SPITZER: Did Yale ask her to do that ad? Who's going to win more from this -- our perspective, Christine O'Donnell or Yale? But you are right.
FREELAND: Christine O'Donnell.
SPITZER: I'm with you on that.
PARKER: It's anti-elite, anti-Ivy League, anti-rich kids, all that.
FREELAND: And there's something real behind that. I think the anxiety, the anger of the American middle class is real.
It's about the hollowing out of the middle class. It's about these jobs that we were talking about. And that's going higher and higher up the income distribution. People are scared and angry.
SPITZER: I'm going to ask you a hard question, because I'm going to ask you to figure out what Democrats should do. Why hasn't a Democrat filled that space? And this is the mystery to me.
GLENN: And it's a mystery to me, quite frankly.
I think that the president spent the better part of 18 months to two years focused on an issue that he may have thought important, and a lot of people in the ivory towers may have thought important, but the public, the people, the families around the kitchen table were worried about jobs. (CROSSTALK)
SPITZER: It was important. That issue was important to real people, but he...
FREELAND: You mean health care?
GLENN: Health care.
SPITZER: But he just didn't communicate it.
SPITZER: It's been a communications debacle of historic proportions.
GLENN: I disagree with you.
PARKER: It just wasn't the primary concern.
GLENN: It wasn't the primary concern. The primary concern for 40 million Americans is, am I going to keep my job or can I get a job?
And they didn't speak to that, still haven't spoken with it.
SPITZER: I agree.
GLENN: When you have a stimulus package that is $700 billion that feeds money to the states, doesn't directly impact the consumer, doesn't directly impact the states, really, we come to find out doesn't add to the bottom line in terms of GDP, people are concerned that the president and...
FREELAND: But isn't it also about communication? Isn't it also about the fact that this president is a technocrat particular excellence?
He went to Harvard, and it shows. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. He's a guy who is very analytical, believes in analysis, thinks that if we put the smartest people together we will get the right answers. And that may be true, but that's not in sync with American...
FREELAND: ... right now.
(CROSSTALK) SPITZER: This Yale line -- Bill Clinton went to Yale. Bill Clinton is the best, most real politician we have got, certainly in our past 10, 15 years. He communicates. So...
PARKER: So did George W. Bush, by the way.
SPITZER: But this is a shot at George W. Bush?
GLENN: I think it's a shot at those people that believe that the country is represented by New York and California, not what's in between. And I think there is a disconnect. And it will play itself out, I predict, in 28 days, and probably not in a good way for Democrats.
PARKER: But that's not just an article of faith. It happens to be largely true.
GLENN: It happens to be largely true in terms of the populace.
PARKER: Yes, and so they don't feel connected.
FREELAND: But just because the anxiety is true doesn't mean that the policies that that anxiety translates into are a good thing, right?
Actually at the end of the day, probably having a super-educated president surrounded by super-educated advisers is probably not a bad thing.
GLENN: Well, I think the jury is still out on that.
FREELAND: And if you are running a hedge fund, if you are in Silicon Valley, do you want someone who has a Ph.D. in math to work in your company? Probably.
PARKER: I'm perfectly comfortable with an analytical, thoughtful, well-educated president. And I wonder, are we asking too much that he also be a fabulous communicator 24/7, when he's got so much on his plate?
FREELAND: It's called democracy, right?
GLENN: Right. The voters get to...
SPITZER: I'm going to come from a different place. I actually agree with the premise of Christine O'Donnell's whole argument, which is the plutocracy, that ruling elite in this nation, has failed. Without any question for the past 10 years, it's been self- involved, self-focused, enriched itself. It's taken care of Wall Street, and lawyers, and investment bankers, and not real people. And we have seen a hollowing out of this economy.
And I blame both parties for that. And, frankly, I too am frustrated and I have made this clear. I said fire Tim Geithner. And I would do it over and over until they put money back into the real economy. And I think that's why there is that frustration.
GLENN: I couldn't agree with you more. And I don't see the pursuit of policies.
With all due respect to health care and its importance and whether or not you come down on which side of that issue, I think if you're sitting around the kitchen table, it's tough to make the jump from health care to -- unless you're grappling with a catastrophic- care issue...
FREELAND: Not if it were communicated differently, right?
I do think there was a way to communicate about health care that said, look, actually, to be unemployed in America is worse than to be unemployed in any other rich country in the world. This is something astonishing to North Americans, that if you lose your job, you lose your health care? How can that actually be? How can Americans tolerate that?
And isn't it scary to be American? So, they could have been communicating differently, right?
SPITZER: Let's come back to politics.
SPITZER: Newt Gingrich said something the other day. He made a statement. I think -- do we have a tape of this one? Let's just get this tape...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think this tide is just continuing to build. I think the 10.1 percent unemployment number by Gallup is going to be devastating. I think that food stamps vs. paychecks is very powerful. So, I'm going to predict that we're probably over 60-seat pickup, and it will be historic. It will be the largest pickup since 1932.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: Dylan, Republicans just need 39 cents -- 39 seats.
GLENN: We will take the 39 cents as well.
PARKER: I'm sorry. Anyway, do you think this is remotely possible, that they can get that money?
GLENN: I'm going to surprise you. Obviously, I believe that is the case.
And I think most popular consensus among -- from the pundits of "The Stuart Rothenberg Report" and Charlie Cook and those guys, to just general people that recognize, hey, Democrats held a lot of seats that were actually seats that were held by Republicans. John McCain and George Bush carried 80 seats that are now represented by Democrats.
So they start off at a position of strength, if you will. And I would argue that the president in his first midterm election historically always faces a challenge of losses. And you add that with the context of an extraordinarily difficult economic climate, and it's a recipe for a tsunami.
And I, you know, quite frankly don't think that they have done a lot tactically to -- and you can change the narrative here in the next 28 days in any real way.
PARKER: I agree with you.
FREELAND: Yes, I think that's right.
And I think your dominant point was your last point, Dylan. It's the economy, stupid, right?
Thank you, Both, fascinating conversation. We will get you back here soon, we certainly hope.
We have to take a quick break, but don't go away. We're talking to Paul Krugman next.
PARKER: And then a look at how far off-base politicians can go when they dare to throw a baseball.
Eliot, you had a problem with that, didn't you?
SPITZER: Absolutely not. Mine was straight down the middle, 95 miles. The Yankees tried to recruit me. (LAUGHTER)
PARKER: This is questioning a man's manhood. We can't talk about it.
SPITZER: We're back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": The only player out there who can get this economy moving is the government. So now is the time for the government to go ahead and borrow, spend, get this economy moving, and then be responsible, then pull back, but only after we have got this thing going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: It's time for tonight's headliner. The way most people get excited about Oscar nominations, Eliot gets when the new economic numbers are released.
Well, today, we're both excited to have Paul Krugman here. He's won the Nobel Prize. And many say his columns in "The New York Times" are brilliant. And they are certainly provocative.
SPITZER: And I'm one of those people who says they're brilliant.
And I got to tell you, I care less about the Nobel Prize than the fact that he is right, always looking forward, looking back. He is the one who has figured out where we are, why we're here. And I'm going to say it right up front. Paul should be the treasury secretary of this nation. He is the one who has figured this stuff all out.
PARKER: You didn't know you were going to be nominated right here, did you?
KRUGMAN: Terrible, terrible idea.
SPITZER: The unemployment numbers that came out today -- and at the top of the show, I was talking about it's not really 9.6. It's either 12.9 or maybe even higher, depending on what you build into that number. How serious is this embedded structural unemployment problem now?
KRUGMAN: The unemployment problem is enormous. It's terrible.
Long-term unemployment, people who are unemployed six months, a year or more, are at unprecedented levels. You have to go back to the 1930s to see anything like this. That does terrible, terrible harm.
Now, structural has a very specific meaning. It's a term of art. Structural means you have unemployment that you could not solve just by increasing demand, that you have unemployment that even if the Federal Reserve prints a lot more money, and even if the federal government goes and does a lot more spending, we have people who are unemployable, because they have the wrong skills or in the wrong places.
There is no sign that we have a lot of that. We have -- think about it. We're talking about things like infrastructure spending. We have 1.5 million unemployed construction workers. Those people are not structurally unemployed. They're unemployed because we are choosing not to have the policies to put them to work.
So I think that's a terrible dodge, saying, oh, it's beyond our control. It's structural. It's not.
SPITZER: So you think there's an answer?
KRUGMAN: Oh, if we had no political constraints and complete unanimity among economists, who would all agree with me...
KRUGMAN: ... then, in 18 months, we could make the unemployment problem go away. It's not -- there is nothing wrong -- Americans have not forgotten how to work in the last three years.
SPITZER: So, then let me ask the political question. Where in the White House is the opposition to what -- I'm totally in agreement with you. I'm one of those people who is on your side.
Where is the opposition to saying in a very loud, clear way, this is the answer?
KRUGMAN: I think what happens -- and, to some extent, this is theory, though I know a little bit about it -- but what happened was the White House right at the beginning, January 2009, went for an underpowered stimulus because -- in part because they thought they couldn't get a bigger one through Congress, and then made the political decision not to say this really isn't as big as it should be, but it's all we think we can get, but instead the decision to pretend that they were getting -- that it was exactly right.
And to the bitter end, they have stuck through claiming that this was exactly right. They have never found a way to step off that initial claim and say, look, we're sorry, this wasn't big enough, we really need more.
And now they're stuck. Now it's very, very hard for them to talk about the issue in any coherent way.
PARKER: I want to try to clarify something for the average viewer at home. You're a big fan of deficit spending. You say we have to -- to get something, we have to spend more.
But for the average American at home who may already be in debt, the idea of spending when you don't have money doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Can you explain why that's a good economic model? KRUGMAN: Yes.
Now, it's not in all times, right? When the economy has recovered, once we're back at a point where we have a self-sustaining expansion, when businesses are spending because they're using their capacity, then you actually want to try and pay down the debt, certainly stop borrowing so much.
But, right now, nobody wants to spend. Businesses don't want to spend, because consumers don't want to spend. And the economy is deeply depressed. And the only player out there who can get this economy moving is the government.
So, now is the time for the government to go ahead and borrow, spend, get this economy moving, and then be responsible, then pull back, but only after we have got this thing going.
SPITZER: So, this is primarily a matter of sequencing?
KRUGMAN: Yes. It's a question -- give me a situation in which the unemployment rate has dropped to -- it doesn't even have to be full employment, but down below 7 percent, a situation where the Federal Reserve is thinking maybe we need to start raising interest rates, because we're worried about inflation.
That's a time when the government can start to pull back. But right now, it's even self-defeating in pure budget terms. The government pulls back, the economy will shrink further, tax revenues will fall. This isn't the time for austerity.
SPITZER: The critical question is, what do you then buy? What should government invest in?
KRUGMAN: Well, actually, that's less of a critical question than people imagine.
In a way, look, what ended the Great Depression? The Great Depression was ended by massive government spending on stuff that was not only useless, but destructive, namely World War II, right? So, the most important thing is to get a lot of spending.
But since we aren't fighting a war, it should be on useful stuff. We should be building another tunnel under the Hudson River. We should be building roads, bridges, fixing our sewer systems, which are creaking and falling apart. So, there's lots of good stuff to spend on, but, above all, spend.
SPITZER: China, which is, of course, the great threat or partner, depending how you see it, across the Pacific. What is your answer to the trade deficit, the concern that all our middle-class jobs are migrating overseas? What is our best answer to this?
Well, there's a general issue of the rise of China, which is, that's mixed. And I think in a lot of ways that's a good thing for the world, even for us. It has negatives. But right now, the Chinese are deliberately keeping their currency undervalued.
In effect, they're subsidizing their exports and protecting against imports. And then it means that they are quite literally stealing jobs from the rest of the world. Under current circumstances -- things aren't always like this -- but the way they are now, the Chinese policy is predatory, and its destructive.
And at the moment, they see no reason to stop, because no one seems willing to take action against them. But I'm willing.
SPITZER: I have seen your columns, where you basically say to the White House, come on, to use our phrase, man up, get a little tougher.
Again, every now and then, Tim Geithner mumbles a few words, and then nothing more. What is happening?
KRUGMAN: They're afraid of two things, one of which I think is wrong, the other which I understand, if you're -- they're afraid that the financial markets will be upset.
And that's a terrible way to make policy, try and run your policy to -- you know, to maintain confidence sort of unrelated to the realities. The realities is, getting tough on China is the right thing to do, and I think the financial markets will eventually recognize that if you do it.
Also, it is a big step. We would be talking about a level of really getting tough on trade policy that we haven't done for a long time, really we haven't done since Richard Nixon took action on the dollar.
SPITZER: On the gold standard.
KRUGMAN: But -- and so people are a little bit afraid that, well, if you start to say, well, we're going to really play tough, maybe the whole world starts going crazy.
But there comes a point when you have to act. You cannot -- we cannot be the people who bear sole responsibility for maintaining civility in the world economy, while the Chinese go and take advantage of us.
SPITZER: Is the concern that the Chinese would no longer buy our debt a real concern?
KRUGMAN: No. No. We are awash in savings with nowhere to go.
As my friend and colleague the economist Dean Baker says, the Chinese have got an empty water pistol pointed at our head. They have no leverage under the current circumstances.
SPITZER: So, this is the perfect time to actually go to the plate and start swinging at this one? KRUGMAN: The same reasons that make the Chinese policy so destructive right now, which is that we have a depressed economy in which businesses are sitting on trillions of dollars of cash and don't want to spend it, make this also a period in which the Chinese have no leverage over us.
Cash, which is what they have, is -- there's too much cash out there. We don't need theirs.
Look, we have to take a quick break, but don't go away. Fun with politics is next.
Paul, thank you so much.
KRUGMAN: Thank you.
PARKER: It's time for fun with politics.
Did you catch the Florida governor, Charlie Crist, last night? Not to worry. Neither did the catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Take a look.
SPITZER: Oh, my goodness, that's not good.
PARKER: That's exactly how I pitch.
SPITZER: He just lost an election on that one. He lost that election.
I was up in Rochester one time, threw out the first pitch. And the thing is, you practice a little bit. And I thought I was going to throw it over the backstop, I was throwing so hard. But sometimes you worry -- you worry if the audience is kind of -- the fans are kind of rooting against you.
PARKER: Rooting for you to fail?
SPITZER: Yes, because they want to see something like that.
SPITZER: ... little hard.
PARKER: I can't imagine the pressure. It must be horrible.
SPITZER: Mine was like 85 miles per hour.
PARKER: So, how did you do? How did you do?
SPITZER: Did great. The Yankees sent a recruiter up the next day, and they said they wanted me to go to AAA. And so I said, I'm not doing that.
PARKER: All right, well, you mean like President Obama?
SPITZER: He's not in AAA. He's in the majors. come on. Let's take a look at him throwing out that pitch.
PARKER: All right. Who can forget this curveball? Definitely needed a little stimulus package. But it must be hard to throw when you're wearing a bulletproof vest, right?
SPITZER: Yes. Actually, you know what? We should say that for the president. Yes, that was not a perfect pitch.
PARKER: That's not too bad. Come on.
SPITZER: A little -- it looked like softball.
PARKER: We have seen him on the basketball court. He redeems himself.
SPITZER: He is a great athlete. He is a great athlete. And I think we should remember that. You see him playing ball. He is fluid. He jumps. He is graceful.
PARKER: All right, but there's no one better than George W. Bush, you've got to admit.
SPITZER: Why does everything come back to W. for you?
KRUGMAN: Well, I mean, because he can throw. Look at this.
SPITZER: He's soaking it up.
PARKER: Come on now.
SPITZER: That's a nice motion. He's good. He's good. Good motion.
PARKER: All right.
SPITZER: He had heat on that pitch. But that heat got us in where? Hot water. I'm not going with this guy. I'm sorry.
SPITZER: We had him for eight years. That's enough.
PARKER: But you love that Charlie Crist video, right? SPITZER: We do. Let's take one more look.
PARKER: A little far to the right. Maybe there's a lesson there you, Eliot.
SPITZER: No, it's not for me. It's for him. He -- oh, that is ugly.
PARKER: Let's show one more for W.
SPITZER: We will be right back.
PARKER: All right. We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're waiting in our hotel room.
PARKER: Oh, that's right. And they brought her to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were told to be there at 4:00. And they said, "We will bring your -- your baby to you."
I turned to my wife and I said, "Boy, talk about room service."
PARKER: Scott Simon and his wife Caroline are thoroughly convinced that miracles do happen. Simon became a father for the first time at the age of 50 when he and his wife adopted their daughter, Elise, from China. Five years later, they went back to pick up Elise's sister, Lina, and four lives were profoundly changed. That's what Simon describes in his new book, "Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other." Scott Simon is the host of NPR's "Weekend Edition" and millions of people listen to him every Saturday morning. He's also a very good friend.
SCOTT SIMON, AUTHOR: Yes.
PARKER: Scott, you and I have known each other a while. I've been to your house. I know Caroline. I love you both, and I know your two beautiful girls. But I don't think I've ever asked you, what was the conversation like where you and Caroline decided to go to China and adopt a baby girl?
SIMON: Oh, we were sitting at a table not unlike this, so there wasn't a studio obviously, and we've been through -- we had tried to start a family in the traditional Abraham and Sarah beginning manner.
PARKER: Yes. I vaguely remember that.
SIMON: Yes, until we were black and blue. We tried that. PARKER: Oh, dear.
SIMON: Which is not as much fun as it always sounds, certainly not for my wife. And then we tried a couple of rounds in a clinic, which you can do these days. And it was sitting at a table like this, we just looked at the figures and then we thought, you know, we both have been around the world. We both know that there are children in the world already, overseas and in our own country --
SIMON: -- who need families, and we sure need to love them. So that's when we decided enough of that and that's when we decided to adopt.
PARKER: Well, this book, first of all, you're a wonderful, wonderful writer. People think of you, if they're not familiar with your novels, they think of you as a radio person, but you are also a written word person. And if you would let me indulge myself --
PARKER: -- I want to read just a paragraph early in the book that I particularly love, and it just shows what a great writer you are. OK. So now listen, if I don't do this as you intended me to be heard, forgive me.
SIMON: I stand by your interpretation.
PARKER: This is a novelist -- this is novelist writing. "Raindrops rattled the roof of our small bus, seeped through the windows and pitted the windshield with great wet gobs. A sad day sighed Julie from Utah, while the cityscape of Nancheng (ph) China, slabs the brown and gray with wet laundry flapping rolled by our windows. Five sets of strangers were together on the bus, about to share one of the most intimate moments of our lives. We had Cheerios, wipes and diapers in our hands.
I'm sorry, but that is beautiful writing. And not once but many times I got tears in my eyes. Now, when you went to pick up Lina, Elise went with you?
SIMON: Yes, absolutely.
PARKER: And there's a particularly moving moment in your book?
SIMON: Yes -- well, in my life. It's not those --
PARKER: I know your life. But you brought little Lina back to the hotel room and Elise --
SIMON: We were waiting in our hotel room. We were brought.
PARKER: Oh, that's right, and they brought her to you.
SIMON: We were told to be there at 4:00. And they said we'll bring your baby to you. I turned to my wife and I said boy, talk about room service. And, you know, at 4:10, they walk in with this baby and you get a little picture, a mail-size (ph) picture of your baby. And they put her on a round table like this. And she did not look like the baby whose picture we've seen. And my wife immediately said, are you sure she's the right one?
Now, we weren't hung up about getting one baby or another, but we didn't want a circumstance where we would --
SIMON: This when we were beginning to kiss this baby or we were beginning to hold her.
PARKER: You're already in love.
SIMON: Exactly. And we didn't want bureaucrats coming back in two hours and saying, oh, you know, that's the Tuplipski (ph) family down the hall. That was their baby. You have theirs. Let's switch them out now.
So my wife said, are you sure she's the right one? And it turned out to be the right one. But I mean --
PARKER: But little Elise said something.
SIMON: It's the greatest moment of my life. Not that she reached out to Lina -- I'm sorry -- she reached out to Lina with her hand and held it very tenderly and with a tenderness that we still sometimes don't see from her. And she held Lina's hand and she said, it doesn't matter. And it was the greatest moment of my life and --
PARKER: I know you, Scott, so I brought some tissues.
SIMON: Thank you. Thank you. It's the greatest moment of my life, you know. And in that moment, she reminded us of everything. Yes, it doesn't matter. It absolutely doesn't matter. I mean, how this girl -- this little girl began, where she was from, none of that. It just all disappeared.
PARKER: And they're all adorable and they're complete sisters.
SIMON: Yes, they are complete sisters.
PARKER: And there's another favorite passage in this book, when Elise became an American citizen. Can you tell us about that?
SIMON: Oh, gosh.
SIMON: Yes. Yes. Thank you.
Yes, we came in through Chicago, and --
PARKER: Your hometown. SIMON: My hometown. And we were -- this is something I recommend to every American citizen, by the way. If they ever have the chance to sit in one of these arrival lounges in an international airport for customs --
SIMON: Homeland security I guess it would be now. And we were sitting there with families from Poland and families from Kenya and families from Bermuda. And the man with the Smokey bear hat calls out Simon family, which he hadn't heard before. We go up there, he's got our paperwork and he said, OK, your paperwork is all in order. Then he pointed out and he said, when you pass that line, your little girl is going to be a citizen of the United States. And he reached his hand under Elise's chin and said, welcome home, sweetheart. And --
PARKER: That's on page 13. That's when I --
SIMON: That's on page 13.
PARKER: I happen to know. Everybody in the control room is in tears. So we're going to close it and end it right there.
SIMON: That's probably my tie. I know it does terrible things to the color monitors.
PARKER: That's wonderful. Thank you so much for coming.
SIMON: Thanks, Kathleen.
PARKER: We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: Pick a national leader and tell us what tattoo that person should wear.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, REUTERS: My tattoo is for all politicians, and I think it should be on the palm. And it should say remember the open mike. And it's in honor this week of Jerry Brown, who forgot the danger of --
PARKER: I'm going to write that on my hand right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: Welcome to "Our Political Party," an offbeat conversation with people who have strong opinions on a whole range of topics. Let's meet our guest. Chrystia Freeland is back. She's the global editor-at-large for Reuters.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, REUTERS: That's right.
PARKER: And Steve Kornacki, who is the news editor for Salon.com and we think we can now call you a friend of this show because you've been here before. Thank you for coming back.
STEVE KORNACKI, SALON.COM: I'm glad I've done the adversary.
ELIOT SPITZER, HOST: Errol Louis who is a columnist for "The Daily News" and CNN contributor. And Ed Rollins who's been in politics for what? Forty, 50 years now, Ed? Since you were two years old?
ED ROLLINS, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Start with Lincoln.
SPITZER: Start with Lincoln. And you've won all your races.
ROLLINS: Most of those.
SPITZER: Most of it, good batting average. And CNN senior political contributor.
ROLLINS: Yes, thank you.
SPITZER: Thank you for joining us.
ROLLINS: My pleasure. Thank you.
PARKER: Well, earlier this week, Nancy Pelosi said our challenge is to tattoo the practices of big insurance, big oil, big banks and the rest onto Republican opponents. So that got us thinking, pick a national leader and tell us what tattoo that person should wear?
KORNACKI: My one suggestion would be Joe Biden, and I don't know where on his body, but somewhere -- maybe big bleeping deal.
PARKER: Big "bleeping" deal. Well, that's --
KORNACKI: That was one of his best moments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you know what? He was right.
PARKER: Well, it's a lot. It's a lot of language.
SPITZER: A big chest.
PARKER: Or a big bicep.
SPITZER: But you know, remember when he said -- what was your response when he said that?
FREELAND: From the vice president though?
PARKER: No, we would never do that. That would be inappropriate.
SPITZER: What was your response when he said that? You know.
KORNACKI: Wasn't that a refreshing moment, anyway? SPITZER: Because it was correct. It was true.
KORNACKI: The one thing I've always said about Joe Biden's gaffes, more often than not, I find them actually refreshing in a, you know -- he's off message in a way that is actually more understandable than most politicians when they're on message.
FREELAND: And actually real people like him partly for that reason. I mean, we criticize him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Delaware. In Delaware.
ROLLINS: One percent of the vote. Spent a year in Iowa, got one percent of the vote in Iowa.
FREELAND: He has been a remarkably successful vice president and actually a really, real person. You know, we talk a lot about does Obama connect with people?
PARKER: Ed, do you have a tattoo?
ROLLINS: Yes, I do.
PARKER: All right.
ROLLINS: I think somewhere I've known Nancy Pelosi for three decades, and I think somewhere on her arm she's got tough and brave. That's what she is.
SPITZER: Tough and brave.
ROLLINS: I've watched her for 30 years survive starting with California politics, where I grew up with her. And she is a very effective speaker. And one of the great things that she did on that tattoo remark, she told her members to go out if you're going to run against me, go do it. Just win your seat. That's a brave comment from any speaker. It shows how much she wants to win.
SPITZER: Is she the best speaker of the last 20, 30 years?
ROLLINS: By far, by far.
SPITZER: High praise. Now you're on the other side of the aisle.
ROLLINS: Definitely on the other side. Definitely on the other side.
PARKER: You think John Boehner is going to be the next speaker?
ROLLINS: I think John Boehner is definitely going to be the next speaker.
ERROL LOUIS, "NY DAILY NEWS": I got a tattoo for the next speaker.
LOUIS: I'll put one of the Marlboro man, if it's not already there, in honor of the time in 1995 when he passed out checks from Brownie Williams sent to members of the House on the floor of the House --
LOUIS: Like it was an open auction.
SPITZER: If you're going to do it, you might as well do it there, right? I mean --
LOUIS: That was his answer.
ROLLINS: I've been around so long I remember we used to pass out bottles of booze on the floor.
KORNACKI: How does the tattoo look against that really orange skin?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to get the colors right.
PARKER: Yes, he was born tan.
SPITZER: Chrystia, what's your tattoo?
FREELAND: My tattoo is for all politicians, and I think it should be on the palm. And it should say remember the open mike. And it's in honor this week of Jerry Brown who forgot the danger of --
PARKER: I'm going to write that on my hand right now.
KORNACKI: Why tattoo when you can do it Sarah Palin style?
FREELAND: Well, that's what I do -- and I have one of my points for later on written down. I believe in writing on palms.
SPITZER: It's that gaffe and it was a bad one. Is that going to reverberate around through that election?
FREELAND: I think it could. And certainly, you know, if I were on Meg Whitman's side, I thought that their response emphasizing that this is, you know, all the women of California should be dismayed by this. I thought that was really smart. I mean, I do think that Meg Whitman can appeal to the female vote.
ROLLINS: But there's one thing that's very important. They're not sure it was him. It might have been an aide because it was a two- way conversation.
FREELAND: For sure. ROLLINS: And it was the second part of the conversation.
FREELAND: Nonetheless, It would.
ROLLINS: I'll do anything I can --
SPITZER: Give us what actually happened.
ROLLINS: What actually happened is they were talking about a labor union thing. And they had made a phone call, and basically the process of hanging up and they were still talking, and the other end was recording it. And so it was -- when I got off the phone, I thought they had disconnected. Someone called Meg Whitman a whore.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my goodness.
ROLLINS: And it's -- and then the governor made a counter- comment, so there's two conversations, and the stories are he said it was someone on his line said it and I think you ought to give him the benefit of the doubt.
KORNACKI: Political whore is what -- they were not talking about --
LOUIS: This was about her cutting a transaction.
SPITZER: That's exactly right.
FREELAND: Nonetheless, nonetheless --
PARKER: That's not a word you use.
SPITZER: But you know --
FREELAND: It's not a word you use.
SPITZER: And that campaign has been sort of in the gutter with the whole, you know -- the maid, the illegal immigrant stuff, and now this. This has not been a high-brow campaign, shall we say for the past couple of days.
ROLLINS: Not been for $140 million campaign.
PARKER: Well, this will distract people from the illegal maid, right?
SPITZER: Let's switch gears for a second. Earlier today or a couple days ago, Newt Gingrich said 60 seats would be the Republican pick-up. I've got a crazy theory for you. I think the White House wants to lose the House. It needs a foil. It needs an enemy. Agree or disagree?
KORNACKI: I think you're basically right at this point when look at, especially when you start looking at the Senate. If the House goes, then you probably want them all to go because then you can sort of set up the dynamic that Bill Clinton had after the 1994 mid-terms when his party suffered a drubbing. You know, it allowed them to go after Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party. The problem is this. Newt Gingrich made himself such an easy mark for Bill Clinton and for the Democrats back in 1995. He made himself the face of their party, and he was a very unappealing face. You say a lot of things about John Boehner, but I think John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, two in the Senate of that matter, they're a lot more benign as public figures. So I think the dynamic might have been different where you had that train wreck, where Gingrich and the freshman just went after Clinton and shut the government down. It became do you like Clinton, or do you like Gingrich? And the public likes Clinton more than Gingrich. I'm not sure I see the same thing.
ROLLINS: The most difficult thing the president would face if you have one House seat or both Houses against you, the idea that Bill Clinton who could sit down and negotiate with Gingrich and with Trent Lott and make deals is not in the DNA of President Obama. And what's going to happen if they lose the House, the Pelosis of the world who are not going to lose their seats are going to basically say you weren't progressive enough, we've lost our conservative members who are the ones are going to get beat, and you better get more liberal. You go make deals with Republicans, you won't -- they'll be in this tail more so than anybody else.
FREELAND: And what could even be worse though, I disagree with you, Eliot, about this. I mean, I think whether they want it or not, I think they probably are going to lose control. But I think it's really, really bad for this White House partly because the promise of Obama was I'm going to be the bipartisan guy. So this is going to be if he loses control, this is his big chance to be the bipartisan dealmaker. And I think he's going to be a heck of a hard time doing that, partly because of what Ed points out and partly because these Republicans are not going to play ball.
LOUIS: You want to keep in mind that the '94 revolution led to the Congress that impeached the president. I mean, nobody wants to willingly take a chance.
KORNACKI: But the impeachment of the president actually led to the Democrats gaining seats in the mid-term election. Politically, it ended up being a very good thing for them.
SPITZER: I don't think that's what the president wants to go through. We'll be right back with more of "Our Political Party" in a few moments.
PARKER: Welcome back to "Our Political Party." One more quick whip around the table. We've been covering some earth-shattering stories this week. Is Christine O'Donnell a witch? What story are we missing?
ROLLINS: Well, from my perspective, all the focus on O'Donnell has distracted everyone from the fact that Patty Murray is now behind the polls. Angle has now caught and passed Reid. The Feingold race in Wisconsin and the Raese race in West Virginia. Those are four seats that we can win.
ROLLINS: And everybody is focused on one.
SPITZER: This is a decoy theory.
LOUIS: Huge story, I think, which you broke in the middle of the week, which is the fact that foreign corporations are using the American Chamber of Commerce -- U.S. Chamber of Commerce arguably to funnel all kinds of money. And it's this gigantic loophole that nobody seems to have nailed down before. So we've got money coming from India and Bahrain for sure. You've got businessmen in Russia, Brazil, all these folks, including countries where lots of jobs have been outsourced. This should be a national alarm. You know, we shouldn't wait until we know that there businessmen in Iran or in China who are buying up elections or buying attack ads in American elections.
KORNACKI: Well, we're talking about the Republicans maybe taking over. I think it's a great cautionary tale this week about the dangers of going too far with the sort of small government rhetoric. It was out of Tennessee, there's a small town that has semi-privatized their fire department, which means if you want fire service, you've got to pay for it, otherwise you don't get it. Some guy says, well, I don't want to pay for it. If his house catches on fire, the fire department says we're not going to help you. Of course, fires don't know the difference between one property and the other, so it spreads, and the guy's house burns down.
ROLLINS: We have to read the history of New York. It happened every other day.
FREELAND: That was a good time, though.
SPITZER: We have got a great week. That is a fascinating issue. All of these are fascinating issues. We have a party here at "PARKER SPITZER" every night. We'll be right back. Thank you all for joining us.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Randi Kaye. "PARKER SPITZER" is back in a moment. First, the latest. There's a new development in the case of David Hartley. He's the Texas man whose wife claims he was shot and killed by Mexican pirates last week while they were jet skiing on Falcon Lake which straddles the border with Mexico. The day he disappeared, David and Tiffany Hartley were stopped by Texas police for a motor vehicle violation. A police dashboard camera recorded the incident and shows two jet skis on a trailer. This video could bolster Tiffany Hartley's story. Doubts have been raised because neither David's body nor his jet ski have been found.
In Chile, rescuers could break through to the 33 trapped miners by tomorrow. Once drill is about 120 feet from them. Once the shaft is stabilized, a doctor will be lowered to check on the miners before they are brought to the surface.
Coming up on "Anderson Cooper 360" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, Anderson's special town hall "Bullying: No Escape." We'll hear from a variety of people, teens and parents, former bullies on why they did it, and from victims on what it's like to be bullied. "American Idol's" Crystal Bowersox is one of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRYSTAL BOWERSOX, "AMERICAN IDOL": It gets better, I'm living proof and, sure, you know, a lot of people have been bullied and celebrity types and public figures. It's OK. There's a light at the end of the tunnel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: "Bullying: No Escape," a special town hall down in partnership with "People" magazine and Cartoon Network. That's tonight at 10:00 on "360."
That's the latest. Now back to "PARKER SPITZER."
SPITZER: Before we go, our postscript. John Lennon would be turning 70 tomorrow. Hard to believe it. Isn't it, Kathleen?
PARKER: I can't help thinking of a certain story by J.M. Barrie. It begins "all children except one grow up." He meant Peter Pan, of course, but he could have been talking about John Lennon. He'll always be young. The sweet boy who sang "If I Fell in Love with You," as if he was singing just to me. Oh, no, to you.
SPITZER: He wasn't singing just to you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LENNON, BEATLES: I must be sure from the very start that you would love me more than her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SPITZER: His clothes changed, his glasses changed, his music changed, but John Lennon was always revolutionary. He even wrote a song about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEATLES: You say you want a revolution. We'd all love to change the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: Well, I guess that's why he remains so important to us. He wanted to change the world, and he did.
SPITZER: Thanks so much for being with us tonight. Good night from New York.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.