Return to Transcripts main page

PARKER SPITZER

The House Speaker Speaks; Anti-Government Protests in Egypt; ; Conservative Tag Team on State of the Union Address; Republican Party Responses and Investing in the Future; Speaker Boehner on His Presidential Plans; More Snow for the East Coast

Aired January 26, 2011 - 20:00   ET

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


ELIOT SPITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome to the show. I'm Eliot Spitzer. Kathleen Parker is on assignment tonight. She's in Washington and in just a moment she'll be with us with breaking news, an exclusive one-on-one interview with speaker of the House, John Boehner.

We'll get his first comments on last night's State of the Union speech and he had some strong things to say.

But first I wanted to give you my thoughts on what the president told the American people last night. Some of it, I liked, some of it, not so much.

Let's start with this simple idea. Give the president some credit. He saved us from a depression. He brought back the auto industry. He added a million private sector jobs in the past year.

And still everybody out there seems to want to give him hell. Everyone is a critic. Give him a break for a minute and listen to what he said. Because last night he told us the single most essential truth about what we need to do. We've got to lift our game.

In a world driven by technology and tough competition, we need to be better educated, more creative. The president set out a challenge. If we want to stay competitive, we had better invest in our educational skills, in infrastructure, in energy independence. But then he dropped the ball.

After setting out the challenge, the president fumbled. He didn't answer the critical question. How? How do we do it? How do we pay for it?

Last fall I think he made a big mistake. He extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Some saw it as a compromise. I saw it as caving. Come on. It added hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. If he'd only told us how he wants to pay for his grand ambitions, a good speech could have been a great speech.

Now still to come tonight, a stormy White House, not politically, aesthetically. Take a look at those pictures. It is a thing of beauty and it's happening again in New York and Boston, another major winter storm. And elsewhere in the world, Egypt explodes as thousands storm the streets demanding the ouster of their longtime president and threatening the stability of a key U.S. ally.

But first it's time for Kathleen's exclusive interview with John Boehner.

Kathleen, take it away.

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks so much, Eliot.

And thank you, Speaker Boehner, for making time for us. I know you're a busy man these days.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Glad to be here with you.

PARKER: All right. Let's cut straight to the State of the Union address last night. The president kept saying this is a Sputnik moment. What kind of moment would you say we're in right now?

BOEHNER: Well, if you really want to talk about what the Sputnik moment is, it's the fact that we're broke.

PARKER: Yes.

BOEHNER: The American people know we're broke and they want us to do something about spending. And there wasn't much talk last night about cutting spending and getting our debt under control.

PARKER: And would you cut Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security?

BOEHNER: If we lead with our chin, nothing happens. That's what's happened in Washington for the last 25 years. I think that we need to have both parties working together to help explain to the American people the size of the problem and an array of possible solutions and out of that conversation we'll begin to resolve what is possible.

PARKER: All right. Well, let's just focus on one piece of it. Let's look at Social Security.

Speaker Boehner, you have said that you would support or consider supporting raising the retirement age for Social Security. Would you go on record tonight and say that you will do that?

BOEHNER: I don't -- I made a mistake when I did that because I think having the conversation about how big the problem is is the first step. And once the American people understand how big the problem is, then you can begin to outline an array of possible solutions.

But when you look at life expectancy in America today and you look at the Social Security system, we're all living far longer than anyone had ever anticipated and the result of these big demographic changes is having a disastrous effect on the Social Security program.

And so raising the retirement age or considering it is something that ought to be on the table. PARKER: OK, so raising the retirement age is on the table. And you keep saying -- Speaker Boehner, you keep talking about an adult conversation. And nobody really -- yes, we have to have one. Everyone I've talked to, I can't -- most people say, look, even -- Obama's plans, even the plans that the Republicans have put forward, there's really no way to get out of this economic mess without these drastic spending cuts that we're talking about, cutting back on entitlements but also raising taxes.

Ultimately are we going to have to raise taxes?

BOEHNER: Raising taxes is the wrong prescription for where we are. It's pretty clear to me the cutting of spending is the most important thing we can do to get the American people back to work. That and eliminating a lot of the uncertainty of this coming out of this administration.

The most important thing we can do to increase federal revenues is to get the American people back to work. Whether they're taking care of themselves, their families and back on the tax rolls helping to supply income to the federal government to meet the demands of the American people.

You're not going to get people back to work by taxing the very people that we expected to reinvest in our economy.

PARKER: Now we are talking about a debt and deficit of enormous proportions and I don't know how you can cut enough without also raising taxes.

BOEHNER: You can't raise --

PARKER: Believe me, I don't want to pay more taxes.

BOEHNER: You don't -- you can't raise enough to solve the problem. And you can't spend -- you can't cut enough spending to solve this problem. Two things have to happen if we're serious. We've got to hold the line on spending and we have to get the American people back to work.

PARKER: Last night after the State of the Union address, Michele Bachmann got up and gave her own response. Now she did this without consulting you. You're the most powerful man in the House of Representatives certainly and one of the top -- most powerful men in the nation.

And she decides to go out on her own and give a response. Are you able to manage these people?

BOEHNER: Well, the official -- the official response was given by Paul Ryan, who's chosen by Senator McConnell and I, to give our response. But understand that every member of Congress, Democrat and Republican, does a response to the State of the Union.

I mean in years past I've been on a number of TV shows, I've done a number radio programs back in my district. Everyone does something to respond to the State of the Union. She decided to do hers in front of a Tea Party group. That's fine.

PARKER: But the Tea Party people can be a little unruly at times, can't they?

BOEHNER: Well, if you look at what the Tea Party folks were saying, it wasn't any different than what the rest of America was saying. That spending is out of control and we've got to get our economy moving again to get people back to work.

PARKER: Speaker Boehner, don't the American people want you to work with the president and with the Democrats to find common ground and solve these problems?

BOEHNER: Well, clearly, and we are going to find common ground. I'm not going to say it's going to be easy but we're going to find some way to find common ground in cutting spending.

The president talked about tax reform last night and I think there are ways where we can simplify both the corporate tax code and the personal tax code. And I'm optimistic that we can work together on that.

PARKER: Could you get that down to one page, please? That tax bill, that tax reform? I want one page.

BOEHNER: You and I and every American would love to have that.

PARKER: You've been -- you've come from -- as you said, you had sort of a -- not a privileged upbringing and now you are speaker.

BOEHNER: Yes.

PARKER: Of the House. And last night the president recognized you as sort of symbolizing the American dream. So let's take a look at that.

BOEHNER: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We may have different backgrounds but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything is possible, no matter who you are. No matter where you come from.

That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can sit behind me. That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father's Cincinnati bar can preside as speaker of the House in the greatest nation on earth.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

PARKER: So how did that feel?

BOEHNER: It was a nice moment for Joe and I and for the president. But I think it gives -- it gives every American the opportunity to look up and say, hey, you know, they can do it, I can do it.

SPITZER: When we come back Speaker Boehner finally explains exactly why he didn't go to the state dinner with the Chinese president last week. Has he rethought his decision? Don't go away. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SPITZER: Now more of Kathleen's exclusive interview with speaker of the House John Boehner on why he's been spurning the president's invitations and how he felt when he heard about the Tucson shootings. Take a listen.

PARKER: Speaker Boehner, despite your new position in life, your new elevated place, you seem to me to be a little shy nonetheless. Maybe a bit of an introvert like me. You don't like to go to parties much. You don't even like to go to state dinners.

BOEHNER: Now, listen, I've been to one state dinner in 20 years. It's just not -- the idea of putting on a tuxedo and sitting in a room for a long boring night, that's not my idea of a nice evening.

PARKER: Well, none of us really likes to sit in a boring room all night, but, you know, you turned down the state dinner with China's President Hu Jintao.

BOEHNER: I was meeting with him the next day. I was hosting him here in the Capitol and I really didn't see any reason to have -- to go have dinner the night before and then host a meeting up here the next day. I knew I was going to have my chance to talk to him.

PARKER: So you don't want to see people two days in a row?

(LAUGHTER)

PARKER: Do you not feel, though, as speaker of the House that you have a duty to show up to some of these functions just because of that's who you are?

BOEHNER: Apparently a lot of people think that I do, and so maybe the next time I'll reconsider.

PARKER: You have an idea about what the House needs to be. I know you wanted to restore honor to the House as you see it. Tell us about that.

BOEHNER: Well, the Congress is broken and I think most Americans realize that Congress is broken. And over the last five or 10 years, it's been evident to me that we're moving in the wrong direction.

You know, in the last few years there were about five members who decided what the beginning of the bill looked like and the same five members who decided what the end of the bill was going to look like, coerced the process to achieve an outcome while 430 of us, each representing 650,000 people, we sat on the sidelines. And I gave a speech on the floor of the House in 1991. I had been here about six months and they had to bring in a bill to the floor under a close rule, and I said this. I said, what do we have to fear in allowing the house to work its will? Well, I don't feel any differently about it today than I did then.

So my -- what I believe is necessary is we need to open up the House. We need to let all members from both parties participate in the debate, offer their ideas, represent their constituents and let the House work its will.

The House should not be coerced to produce legislation that fits my needs. Or to fit anyone else's needs. And I do believe that if we open up the House, it'll drive more power back to the committees where members were going to have to begin to work together again.

And I think the result of this is that we'll have better legislation, we'll have more bipartisan legislation and we will begin to melt the scar tissue that is built up between the two political parties.

PARKER: Do you feel like last night's date night helped toward that end?

BOEHNER: Well, I don't know whether date night helped, but it was nice to see members spread out. The vice president and I were not going to engage in the constantly jumping up and down and clapping.

This is the State of the Union. The president comes here at the invitation of the Congress and the Congress in my view ought to respect the fact that a president has accepted the invitation and there ought to be more dignity at this event.

Last night was better than what we've seen in the past. Not as -- not as dignified as I'd like to see it but we're moving in the right direction.

PARKER: I watched you and you have a poker face. It's very hard to read what's going on.

BOEHNER: Oh, I didn't last night. Well, you know, it's difficult. You're sitting behind the president. You got these cameras on you, you know, and my -- one of my girls sent me a text and said now just remember this camera is going to be on you looking for any bit of a reaction.

Really? So I tried to do as good a job as I could. I did not want to be the issue. I never wanted to be the issue because this is not about me.

PARKER: I've heard that about you. I've heard that you have kind of a coach's approach to running the House.

BOEHNER: Yes.

PARKER: You're very happy to delegate and let other people have the limelight? BOEHNER: I've run my business, run my office and now hopefully run the House in a way where I try to build consensus. Build consensus, move ahead. Build consensus, move ahead.

I don't have to be in charge. But my job is to bring people together, get people to work together to achieve a common good and the common good here is following the will of the American people.

And I think there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans who do want to come together to fulfill the common good.

PARKER: Do you feel like you have a good relationship with the president?

BOEHNER: I do. You know, as I've said it's not particularly close, but we get along fine but I suspect over the coming months it'll get a little closer.

PARKER: You know one of the words that I listened out for in his speech last night was the word exceptional. I heard him use it when -- in Tucson. In Tucson, of course, it's been this horrific event for the whole country.

But I didn't hear him say it and I thought at a time when you're building a speech around sort of defining the common purpose of America, that seemed to me a rather -- you know, a simple direct line, fairly -- pretty much a no-brainer, but he didn't say it.

BOEHNER: Well, they -- they've refused to talk about America exceptionalism. We are different than the rest of the world. Why? Because Americans have -- the country was built on an idea that ordinary people could decide what their government looked like and ordinary people could elect their own leaders.

And 235 years ago that was a pretty novel idea. And so we are different. Why is our economy still 20 times the size of China's? Because Americans have had their freedom to succeed, the freedom to fail. We've got more innovators, more entrepreneurs, and that is exceptional but you can't get the left to talk about it. They don't -- they reject that notion.

PARKER: Why do you think that is?

BOEHNER: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know if they're afraid of it, whether they don't believe it. I don't know.

PARKER: Going back one more time to the moment when Nancy Pelosi handed you that gavel, can you describe to me what that moment was like?

BOEHNER: It was nice.

PARKER: Oh, come on.

BOEHNER: It was nice. It wasn't -- I was proud to be there.

PARKER: Listen --

BOEHNER: I was proud to be there. I was honored to be there. You know, it's an honor to be chosen by your colleagues to be their leader. But I've been as steady and calm over the last four or five months than I've been in years and you can't get too excited because you know that while there may be a moment of excitement, there is a mountain of work looking at you the next day, and so it was nice, but it was a long day.

PARKER: Sad, sad moment when we all got the news of what had happened in Tucson. And you are the speaker of the House. This is your -- you know, your crowd and I know a lot of people -- everyone was very upset when you heard that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot. How did you feel?

BOEHNER: Well, I felt awful.

PARKER: Shocking.

BOEHNER: It was -- it was one of our own, and in addition to that, just wasn't her, it was one of her staffers was killed and, you know, while most people don't think much about our staff or just doesn't come to mind, you know, there are about 10,000 staffers who work here on Capitol Hill.

And it might have been the moment -- I had only been speaker for about three days and I really began -- I realized at that moment that I am the speaker and I've got a big job to do.

There are a lot of pieces to what happens up here on Capitol Hill and who's responsible, and on that Saturday I was responsible for a lot of it. But I talked to the president. Worked with our security people and our logistics people and there were a lot to do.

PARKER: Have you been in touch? Have you been in touch?

BOEHNER: I sent her a card yesterday. I --

SPITZER: We'll have a final thought from Kathleen's exclusive conversation with Speaker Boehner later in the show.

But first coming up next, in Egypt, an explosion of violence in the streets and a government in crisis. Thanks in part to twitter and Facebook, the young people of that nation rise up threatening the stability of what had been that region's only stable country. Harrowing details when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SPITZER: Violence and revolt in Egypt tonight, a country that was until now America's most stable ally in the Middle East. Thousands of protesters took to the streets for a second day calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

The protesters were met with police using teargas, batons and water canons. Four people have died. More than 100 are injured and things appear to be getting worse.

How did this happen? What will it mean for America and the Middle East?

Joining me now from Cairo is CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman.

Ben, thanks for joining us.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: My pleasure, Eliot.

SPITZER: So, Ben, fill us in. What is the latest? What is happening in the streets and what happened there today?

WEDEMAN: Well, today started off fairly quiet with just a few scattered demonstrations, but the Interior Ministry made it clear early in the day that no protests would be tolerated.

So we saw around town small groups forming, trying to reproduce the massive demonstrations Cairo saw yesterday, but the crackdown was severe. The police, no restraint today as we saw yesterday in relative terms, using their clubs, using their water cannon, using rubber bullets and teargas to try to disperse the demonstrators.

But every group they dispersed, another group formed somewhere else. We're hearing that the city of Suez on the Suez Canal is in a state of open or insurrection against the government that the police have pulled out of the city and that they are now burning down things like police stations and ruling party headquarters.

So even though the numbers of demonstrators in the streets of Cairo were smaller, it seems that this movement that really began sparked yesterday is not losing any momentum.

SPITZER: What are the demands of the protesters if they can be discerned or known at this time? And is there even an organization there to make demands?

WEDEMAN: Well, there's not really an organization. What we have is something probably unique in history. We have Facebook groups that have formed. Two big ones. And they had some basic demands. They want a minimum wage. They want an end to police brutality, an end to corruption, and more than anything what you hear from people in the street is one single very profound demand.

They want the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak who has been ruling this country longer than most Egyptians have been alive -- Eliot?

SPITZER: And is there any possibility that Mubarak would either resign and who is there to take over? What would happen if he were to step down? Is there an alternate government?

His son has been apparently slated to take over. What could possibly happen? WEDEMAN: Well, there's a whole variety of scenarios, all of which have a lot of question marks around them. First of all, President Mubarak has not uttered a word in public since these demonstrations happened which is causing a good deal of concern, causing some people to think that the government is simply losing its grip at the moment.

He has no vice president. He's been president since 1981 and has always refused to appoint one saying that the people will decide. Well, the people haven't had a chance to decide this matter.

There's a lot of talk about his so son, Gamal Mubarak, businessman, a banker in his mid-40s, taking over. But Egyptians across the board have rejected that option. They say we are after all a republic, not a monarchy, they don't want that sort of system.

There's always the option that the army can take over but that is something most people don't really think is possible unless the situation goes out of control.

SPITZER: Was there any intimation? Was there any evidence that this could erupt in a place like Egypt?

WEDEMAN: I have to confess that I and all of my colleagues in the press corps here and all the protesters I spoke with, nobody predicted that it would get so big so fast and throughout the country. It's taken everybody by shock. The police, as well. They didn't expect this.

And there were reasons for popular discontent. Police brutality, corruption, under a president that's been in power since 1981, and -- but nobody thought that this would happen so dramatically so quickly.

SPITZER: What has the press coverage of these revolts been and these protests? Has it been supportive? Has it led to larger and larger protests building up in different neighborhoods?

WEDEMAN: All right. This is Al-Ahram. This is the state paper, sort of the gray lady of Egypt. Top story, "Riots and Unrest," but it's not in Egypt. It's in Lebanon. The Egypt protest is below the fold. This is referring to yesterday.

Here is another newspaper. Al Masry Al Youm. Here you have top story, great big red headline says, "Warning." Complete comprehensive coverage, very positive about the protest, so two completely different ways of looking at the demonstrations, and this really gives you an idea of the chasm between the official stance on these demonstrations and a more sort of independent popular view of what they mean and where they're going.

ELIOT SPITZER, HOST: It seems that the communication between or among the protesters is on twitter, is on Facebook, is on social media. Is there any way for the government to shut that down?

WEDEMAN: Well, one important thing to point out is that Egypt has never put any blocks on the Internet. Egyptians can go to any site they want. However, yesterday during the protests, Twitter suddenly was blocked and that was one of the main forms of spreading information and spreading news about Egypt.

Egyptian officials insist they did nothing. They say that the system was overwhelmed and it simply didn't function in Egypt. And what's interesting is that it took about an hour and a half ago, mid-evening in Cairo, the Twitter page was working again, but Twitter and Facebook, things like text messages have been key to spread the word to organize these demonstrations and to keep them going and to spread information so Egyptians even at these demonstrations, they're half the time chanting, the other time they're looking down at their mobile phones to read text messages to check Facebook, to check Twitter. So it's a very techie revolution if we can call it that.

SPITZER: Who are the protesters?

WEDEMAN: There are students, workers, housewives. You see middle- aged couples coming out to chant "down with Mubarak." There are Christians. There are Muslims. There are Islamists. There are sort of every sector of Egyptians deciding.

What's interesting is that the Muslim brotherhood, the largest political opposition bloc in Egypt is not taking part in these demonstrations. They're taking part as members, but as a group, it declined to participate. And what this really is, is at least, until now, is a secular movement. It has no religious undertones.

SPITZER: Ben Wedeman in Cairo, thank you so much for joining us. Obviously this story will be continuing as this arc of revolution seems to be sweeping from Tunisia to Egypt, on to Lebanon. No doubt we will be talking in the next couple of days. Thanks so much. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SPITZER: Last night, President Obama laid out his agenda and he challenged us to be better -- a better country with a bigger future. But again, I ask the same question I asked at the top of the show, how do we do it?

With me tonight, two friends of the show were always grounded in reality, our conservative tag team, Will Cain from "The National Review" and conservative analyst E.D. Hill. Welcome to both of you as always.

E.D. HILL, CONSERVATIVE ANALYST: Thank you.

SPITZER: So, E.D., let me start with you. We heard the two rebuttals, responses from the Republican side. We heard Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann. Did either one of them give you a sense that they really knew how they were going to close this huge deficit that was what the Republican Party ran on last November?

HILL: They may have an idea but they certainly didn't share it, neither did President Obama. That's the problem that we face with Washington as a whole. We just listened to John Boehner, as well. He had the chance to say, yes, I would suggest we cut social security or we do this. He didn't do it. He said, well, everything is on the table.

Everything is always on the table unless you're not talking at all. Yet no one is willing to take that step and say, let's talk about this specifically. And that was my problem with all of them.

SPITZER: And, look, I completely agree. I listened to them and then I read the transcripts looking for something concrete. But, you know, well it seems your point about President Obama say not so much for him either, but this was the mantra of the Tea Party and the Republican Party and there's Paul Ryan, the whiz kid budget guy, everybody has pointed to all season. There was nothing. Am I missing something?

WILL CAIN, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Yes, I think you did on Ryan. First, Bachmann, no it wasn't there. If I told you last night we were getting a speech, a late night speech, from somebody whose eyeliner had gotten a little out of control and they started at your left ear as they spoke to you the entire time --

HILL: Don't get on her makeup and the way she looked.

CAIN: Do you think I was talking about the rebuttal of the State of the Union, or the late night closing time of Dorothy's bumper club? I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

SPITZER: No, no, I'm watching you.

HILL: You guys go after the women. If the guy looks -- if the guy -- my eyeliner is fine. If the guys look bad, you wouldn't be saying that.

CAIN: No, let me tell you why I'm hard --

SPITZER: I'm with E.D. on this one. All right.

CAIN: Let me tell you why I'm hard on Michele Bachmann. Let me tell you why I'm hard on her. Because I align myself very closely to Tea Party values and principles. OK. And I think the Tea Party is an introspective movement that forces conservatives to look at the way we've taken opportunities to govern, to really realign our priorities. And what I heard from Michele Bachmann last night was blame -- blame, not unfairly appointed to Obama but way too external. We need to look at ourselves and that's what I didn't hear from Michele Bachmann. I think Paul Ryan did begin to give us the message. I do think we heard something.

Actually I think it was subtle. I think it was when we talked --

SPITZER: That could be why I missed it.

CAIN: Yes. Could be why. When he talked about social security, he said when we look at reforming entitlements, we will not touch the entitlements of people who are in or near retirement. I think that was a nod to the road back for America. I think he was saying there we do have a solution for your entitlement problem, and I've already put it together and it doesn't touch the entitlements of old people.

HILL: More people just hitting you upside the head with a two by four and telling you what they're going to do.

SPITZER: I'm with E.D. on this one. I mean, if that was, in fact, the subtle message, and I heard that. And I thought maybe this was a nod towards raising the retirement age or somehow changing the contribution structure.

CAIN: Right.

SPITZER: But this was his moment to speak to the nation and just as with John Boehner's interview a few moments ago on the show, we said we have to have the conversation. Fellows, this is the conversation. You seize the moment to lead. They both punted. I mean, that's what disappointed me.

CAIN: He's got 10 minutes. Is that 10 minutes? You're not going to lay out your budget proposals in 10 minutes. I expect to hear them in the coming days and weeks.

SPITZER: OK.

HILL: I expected to hear him last night. I'm not giving him a pass because they're the professionals. They're the ones who have compose chosen to do this for their life. They're the ones who have told us that they can lead us, that they can figure out the way to make our country better and they don't.

SPITZER: What do you think of Michele Bachmann or Paul Ryan should have said?

HILL: I think they should have given specifics.

SPITZER: Such as?

HILL: OK. Let's go with Bachmann. She was really railing on everybody else and what's, you know, hurting us. Then you know what, then take that step and call them out. Call out China. Call out India and say you're not opening up your domestic markets to our companies. So you know what, we can do it. America can do it. Our companies can do it, but give us a fair playing field. Call them out. And neither of them did that. Neither did President Obama.

SPITZER: Social security. Let's just stick to that for one more second.

CAIN: Right.

SPITZER: Because it is the touchtone, or Medicare or Medicaid. Should they have said directly we will raise the retirement age and here's when and how we'll do it? Such as the bipartisan commission did --

CAIN: Principally, principally yes. Politically, no. It would be an entire political mistake to suggest that the House of Representatives now controlled by the Republicans will put out entitlement reform only to be vetoed and lambasted in the Senate and at the presidency. Principally, I would love to hear it.

HILL: This should have come from Obama. It was his bipartisan commission that came up with it.

SPITZER: We'll get to that in a minute. I agree, and I've written the same thing. I wish he had done that. I would have said it because I think it is incumbent now given the crisis that we are facing for them to get to that point and say it.

All right. Let's move on to the president's speech for a minute.

CAIN: Yes, that was an hour long speech compared to these two --

SPITZER: All right. But look, they all had their moments to pick and choose what to say. The president's speech struck me as in a way schizophrenic. On the one hand talking about a lot of investment, on the other hand talking about the fact that we have a deficit and therefore he was going to freeze domestic spending.

I want to focus for a moment on the investments he talked about and conceptually you, as conservatives, do agree with him increasing investment in education to upgrade the quality of our human capital as they call it.

HILL: I agree with increasing investments in a certain way. I guess getting money back to people and to companies. I don't agree with more government spending. I agree with giving people more money for them to spend.

SPITZER: Let me refine that.

HILL: Education -- you can put more people through college but if they don't have jobs when they come out of it, it doesn't really matter.

SPITZER: That's certainly right. But do you agree with expanding Pell Grants, for instance, expanding the G.I. bill concept of giving people access to loans, to pay college tuitions that are right now beyond the reach of many?

HILL: Specifically what he said was, you know, you should get a tax break for college tuition.

CAIN: Right.

HILL: Absolutely. I'm totally on board.

CAIN: You and I talked about it. I think you're touching on the edges of education reform almost worthlessly. Until we start talking about the way to improve our students' test scores, I don't care how many you send to college.

SPITZER: Well, you care about -- I don't want it.

CAIN: You get my point.

SPITZER: I get your point. I'm trying to save you --

HILL: I'm trying to send one in college. I care.

SPITZER: But in that case what would you do? What would your education reform agenda be? And, look, the president has raced to the top which many people give a lot of credit to. Would you expand on that?

CAIN: I don't think education reform has to be centered in Washington, D.C. I think education reform can be done at the state and even at a local level where you actually know who your bureaucrats are and know who your teachers are.

HILL: I agree with that.

CAIN: I think that's the way to go about education reform.

SPITZER: But do you think that the president and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who is viewed by many as almost a visionary has done a good job using the federal money as a way, basically as candy saying to the states, embrace reform and we will compensate you for it. Has that worked?

HILL: I'm with Will on this. I don't think that this is one of many jobs that federal government can't do as well as state and local governments. I think states understand what the unique problems are to their localities. They need to be handling this.

SPITZER: All right. We'll put education aside but let's go to another type of investment, the infrastructure investments he keeps talking about. Road, highways, the Internet. Yes or no?

HILL: We both sat back.

CAIN: I know you want to go through every single investment, but let me just say --

SPITZER: I'm trying to understand your sense here.

CAIN: I want to give you my sense. And here it is. When the president -- the president and I have very different visions of America. When the president uses words like innovate and compete and work hard and do more," he's talking about the collective we. He's talking about government. These are words that I have traditionally assigned, and I think America has assigned to individuals and entrepreneurs. They are who innovate. They are who make us competitive. If the government can do things to get out of their way, that is a beneficial step.

SPITZER: But do you agree, E.D., that the notion of basic research being funded by the Defense Department, by NASA, by government, which has led to so many of these critical investments, let's face it the Internet really did come out of government labs. Do you buy that notion, therefore, health research, good idea, bad idea? HILL: I think that research is a good idea. However, I want to go back to your idea about this whole transportation and the infrastructure because I spent last summer driving across America with a bunch of my kids and I kept on seeing this "your federal stimulus dollars at work." They were out there ripping up highways and literally in the middle of cornfields that were perfectly fine and repaving them. And to me that's not accomplishing anything. Use that money wisely. That's what they don't do.

CAIN: You used the word I think was completely appropriate earlier. Schizophrenic. At one point in the president's speech last night, he said nobody could have seen the Internet coming. And then in other parts, he suggests that he can peer into the future and see what the future energy sources for America are and we'll subsidize those. There's a huge amount of hubris and arrogance in that assumption that you actually know. Why is there not some kid working on cold fusion or turning ocean water into oil? Why do you know it's wind? Why are you going to allocate so much of our money to that?

SPITZER: Will, I think he's saying something different. I think what he is saying is that the Department of Energy which has funded so much of the critical breakthrough technologies when it comes to energy won't play venture capital firm trying to pick companies and invest in them. It will give grants to universities, University of Chicago. You know, pick your favorite state university and say, you do the research on fusion, on fission.

HILL: But we've been researching. We know what works. You just can't --

SPITZER: No, we don't yet know.

HILL: You know that wind works, you know solar works, you know nuclear works and yet you don't -- you've got.

SPITZER: But clean coal, for instance -- clean coal, which I think we all aspire to have as part of our complex of energy sources, you know, using traditional dirty coal but somehow taking the carbon dioxide and submerging it below ground so we don't have the green gas issues, that is only going to happen if the federal government subsidizes it.

CAIN: Eliot, if these are real, viable businesses that have a place in the market, they will figure out a way to make it on their own. I'm afraid you'll spend 50 years funding projects that have no future and in 50 years we'll look back and it will be the equivalent of you trying to fund jet packs.

SPITZER: Let me ask you a question.

HILL: -- say the same thing. We need to be researching. I think fish or cut bait. Let's go out there and start making some changes. Everybody continues talking.

SPITZER: Have you spoken to any executive in the nuclear sector recently? They will tell you they want to build plants but what do they need? They need federal guarantees on the loan. They need limitations and liability. These are the sorts of government assistance projects that are in my view neither conservative nor liberal. They are market intervention but the nuclear sector won't be part of our energy structure if we don't do it. Are you against that?

CAIN: No, I'm not against that. I think there is some place for some role in the government aiding some businesses along at a very, very small level. Not for a new investment as it was put out last night.

SPITZER: Right.

CAIN: Not for the increasing our spending to the degrees that we've been hearing.

SPITZER: OK. Look, this is going to be a continuing conversation with as we call you "our tag team of conservatives." See if we can put up on the screen here my favorite chart.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: Oh, good. Another chart.

SPITZER: Here we go. I love numbers. Look at this chart for a second. It shows you --

HILL: Bachmann was using charts too.

SPITZER: I like that. That's the part I liked about the speech. I got a copy here. You can't see.

HILL: OK, I'll see.

SPITZER: Top one percent has had income go up 281 percent. Middle class in the 25 percent, about 1980.

HILL: Is this your spreadsheet at home?

SPITZER: Yes, that's right.

Philosophical level, does this bother you?

HILL: No. It doesn't.

SPITZER: It doesn't.

Should government -- Will, should government do something about it?

CAIN: No, I agree with E.D.

HILL: Keeping people from making money, no, I don't think they should do.

CAIN: Yes. I don't think it's the government's job to redistribute that into some sense that you think is more fair. I want the rising tide to lift all those --

HILL: I like you speechless.

CAIN: I want them --

HILL: He's looking and saying, are you crazy?

SPITZER: No, I'm just trying to watch you dig a little deeper.

CAIN: I want the rising tide to lift all those. I want the middle class incomes to have greater purchasing power. I don't think it has to be in direct proportion to the wealthiest in society.

SPITZER: What if the rising tide is lifting only the yachts, but not the rowboats? Does that bother you?

HILL: I don't think in our economy that is what will happen. Certainly you can -- I know. Certainly you can pull out your chart and you can show that. And recently that is the case. But I think that if the federal government backs off and lets people take more control of their own lives, of their companies, helps small, medium size companies do better, gives them the tax breaks, I think you do bring all those boats up.

SPITZER: Will, Will wants to raise the yachts.

CAIN: No, I think the issue is a tad bit more complicated than your chart. And I think there are income and wealth opportunities included in that middle class line that don't show up. I think there are health care benefits. They're provided through the employer that don't show up on that line.

HILL: Will, you're challenging him to come up with another chart.

SPITZER: Next time, more charts. That's what you want. All right.

E.D. and Will, as always thanks for being with us.

Coming up, Kathleen asked Speaker of the House John Boehner, any politician's favorite question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SPITZER: There's one question no prominent politician can avoid, but that doesn't mean they don't love to be asked. Kathleen sprints it on Speaker Boehner. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN PARKER, HOST: I was thinking about 2012, at last count about 413 people running for the Republican nomination for president.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: And one of them will win.

PARKER: Is that ever on your agenda?

BOEHNER: Oh, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. I decided a long time ago I never really wanted to be governor. And I really didn't want to be senator. So I decided all right the rest of my political career is going to be in the U.S. House. I thought I'd be here about 10 years and go back and run my business or go do something else. But here it is, I've been here 20. But I decided a long time ago that the rest of my career was going to be in the House. My goal ought to be to be the speaker. Shoot for the top you'll never get there.

PARKER: What do you want your stamp to be when you leave as speaker?

BOEHNER: I want to have an institution that truly represents the will of the American people. And I want to have a process in place where no leader in the future can turn the clock back and take control away from the members.

PARKER: All right. Well, thank you so much, Speaker Boehner.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

PARKER: Appreciate it.

BOEHNER: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SPITZER: When we come back, from Maine to Mississippi, another winter storm blasts the East Coast. Bundle up and stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SPITZER: The northeast is slammed with another winter storm. Warnings have now been issued from Maine to Mississippi. Parts of the northeast could see more than 10 inches of snow tonight and this is just after digging out from a blizzard earlier this month.

Take a look at the picture outside the building here. You can see, well, maybe if you look carefully, wind and snow blowing through Central Park. Gorgeous view unless you're stuck outside.

And then take another picture. This is the White House. Snow continues to fall there. More than 40,000 people, unfortunately, without power in Philadelphia. If you're trying to fly out of Philadelphia right now, this is what it looks like, doesn't look like too many planes are taking off. And here's the view from Boston where they could get close to a foot of snow.

Oh, my goodness, just what the kids want. No school tomorrow. Parents not too happy about it. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider joins us with the latest.

Bonnie, what's going on right now?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Eliot, the storm is certainly not over yet. We're watching our radar picture that shows a lot of snow sweeping through the mid-Atlantic and then on up into New England. At times it's been mixing with sleet and turning slushy making for a real mess out there. Notice the change over here on Long Island, for example, where the warmer air is coming in. And then back to the south and to the east, we're seeing some more snow build in. So it's going to be cold enough to see that changeover overnight. The temperatures right over parts of Pennsylvania into the low 30s and then in the 40s along the Jersey Shore. That's where you're seeing some really heavy thunderstorms mixing in with sleet at times. Just really a treacherous situation out there. The question is what happens now as we go forward?

Let's take a look at the storm track and we'll advance it on end. And what you'll find is that the storm is working its way to the north and east in a classic nor'easter sense. It's kind of sliding up the coastline. It will be off the coast of New York by early tomorrow morning. Kind of in the overnight hours when we expect some really heavy snow to pile up and then it advances further to the east. It's a fast-moving storm. So we actually could have seen even more snow with this system but it's going to dump some heavy amounts. Four to six inches for Washington. Eight inches to a foot in New York. Eight inches to a foot in Boston. And, of course, there's always the risk for isolated higher amounts.

Other thing to note that's really important is the temperatures. And right around the 30s. So it's not that cold where we're seeing light fluffy snow. We're seeing big flakes, wet heavy snow. This is going to be dangerous tomorrow, Eliot, for people that are trying to shovel out because the snow will be heavy and tough to maneuver.

SPITZER: You know, Bonnie, real quick, before time runs out. Are there more storms like this coming? It seems like every week we're getting another one. My kids are never going to school. Snow holidays every day. Is this just me imagining this, or is this for real?

SCHNEIDER: No, you are not imagining it at all. Because when you look at cities like Philadelphia and New York and even in Boston and Syracuse, we are way above normal for this time of year. Already in New York, over 27 inches of snow. For this date for the winter, the normal by this time would be 9.3 inches. So well above-normal. And remember coming up, February is the snowiest month of the year. So we have a lot more ahead.

SPITZER: All right, something to look forward to. Bonnie Schneider, thank you.

And thank you all so much for being with us tonight. Good night from New York. I'm Eliot Spitzer. Thanks so much.

"PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.