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Campbell Brown

Bush Attacks Democrats From Israel; California Removes Ban on Same-Sex Marriage; Republicans Wake-Up Call: GOP Party is in Peril; China Predicts 50,000 Fatalities from the Earthquake

Aired May 15, 2008 - 20:00   ET


In the ELECTION CENTER, three very big and emotionally charged stories tonight.

From Israel, President Bush attacks Barack Obama, implying he would appease terrorists.

California's Supreme Court rules gay marriage is OK, so now it's back to the center of the political debate.

And John McCain makes a ton of promises about what he will do in just one term. Hint -- the economy would be robust. Everyone would have health care, and the Iraq war would almost be over. But he didn't say how he would do any of this.

The political fireworks start as soon as we catch up with all the campaigns today. Here's the view now from 30,000 feet.

The three main candidates are all busy refilling their bank accounts. Barack Obama is home in Chicago doing a fund-raiser. His wife, Michelle, is in Puerto Rico, which holds a primary on June 1. Hillary Clinton started the day in South Dakota, which holds a primary on June 3. Tonight, she has a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. Her campaign is $20 million in the red right now, as we have told you.

Bill Clinton is campaigning in Kentucky. Its primary is next Tuesday. Chelsea Clinton is wrapping up a three-day campaign swing in Puerto Rico. and John McCain started the day in Ohio. He's now flown to Washington, D.C. for, you guessed it, some fund-raising.

And while all three candidates were raking in the dough, President Bush was overseas, where he threw the day's biggest political punch.

And CNN's Ed Henry joins me now from Jerusalem with more on all of that -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, for a president who's repeatedly insisted he wants to stay out of the 2008 campaign, he certainly jumped right in today with an explosive allegation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (voice-over): In Jerusalem today, President Bush launched a political attack that found its mark in the United States. He scored a direct hit on Democratic front-runner Barack Obama.

Without naming names, the president said some politicians support appeasement of terrorists, just as the Nazis were appeased in the run- up to World War II.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.


HENRY: White House spokeswoman Dana Perino later told reporters, the president was not targeting Obama. While other officials said the president was referring to various Democrats, the blow landed squarely on Obama, who has suggested the U.S. president should talk with, among others, the leaders of Iran, Cuba and North Korea.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think that it's important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, that's where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.


HENRY: Republicans scored before by labeling Democrats as soft on terrorism. It helped this president get reelected.

BUSH: Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before.

HENRY: Not surprisingly, only a few hours later, in the critical swing state of Ohio, John McCain jumped on the same theme.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It does bring up an issue we will be discussing with the American people. And that is, why -- why does Barack Obama, Senator Obama, want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism? I will debate this issue with Senator Obama throughout this campaign.

HENRY: Obama, who took a day off the campaign today, fired back with a written statement, saying -- quote -- "It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists."

And other Democrats pounced on the president's remarks.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Bush's comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think what the president did in that regard is beneath the dignity of the office of president.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: This is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This is malarkey. This is outrageous.



BROWN: And Ed Henry back with me live now.

Ed, why do you think the president is weighing in now? Is he trying to make some political hay here?

HENRY: Well, certainly, Republicans are trying to soften up Barack Obama. They expect him to be the Democratic nominee. They want to make the case that he does not have the national security credentials to be commander in chief and that there are consequences when you sit down with dictators.

And that has special resonance when you're talking to a Jewish American audience, in particular, when you're throwing words around like appeasement, the Nazis, et cetera. And, obviously, the Jewish Americans voters will be critical in the next election, one of many blocs.

But I think the bottom line is it's not clear that it's going to work. President Bush's poll numbers are very low. And secondly Hillary Clinton has been launching the same attack basically with different rhetoric against Barack Obama, that he's not ready to be commander in chief. Obviously, it doesn't seem to have worked, Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Ed Henry for us from Jerusalem tonight -- Ed, thanks.

And as Ed was just saying, Democrats may be crying foul, but will this appeasement label stick to Obama?

We want to ask tonight's panel of top political observers. Tara Wall is deputy editorial page editor for the conservative-leaning "Washington Times" and a former senior adviser to the Republican National Committee. Ed Schultz hosts a nationally syndicated radio show. And he leans to the liberal side, but hasn't endorsed a presidential candidate yet. And Michael Crowley is senior editor for the left-leaning "New Republic."

Now, that we have gotten everybody's sort of lean in there, I want to start with you, Tara. You are in the studio with me. We just heard from all these Democrats. They were pretty outraged, clearly. Here's the quote from Rahm Emanuel, congressman, today, who said: "The tradition has always been that when a U.S. president is overseas, partisan politics stops at the water's edge."

Does he have a fair point?

TARA WALL, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": You know, you can tell you have really hit a nerve when all the Democrats come out with their fangs and their claws out. I have got to tell you, there's something really there, and for Barack Obama, quite frankly, to respond the way he did.

First of all, I think, look, the president made very legitimate issues. He raised very legitimate issues in a very timely manner and he spoke in a very broad manner. He could have been speaking to anywhere front President Carter, who has met with Hamas, to and including Barack Obama, certainly.

BROWN: And you don't think he was inserting himself in the campaign per se?

WALL: Not necessarily. I think it's wholly legitimate.

These issues he's raised before. It's not the first time we haven't heard this from President Bush. And I think again it's a legitimate issue and it's worth raising, particularly when Barack Obama himself has said he would sit down and meet with Ahmadinejad, who is no friend obviously to Israel.

His former adviser resigned because he met with Hamas. And, quite frankly, these are issues that are defining issues for Americans that Americans need to know and that Republicans are strong -- the Republican candidate right now, John McCain, is strong on, and the Democrats, this Democrat candidate in particular is not. So, it is worth bringing up.


BROWN: Ed, was Obama maybe being a little defensive about all this today? I mean, President Bush, as Tara said, he certainly didn't mention him by name. And he could have been referring to many people, including former President Carter, and many Republicans even in the Bush administration.

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: No, I think, Campbell, that this is a major play by the Democrats to defend themselves in the war on terror, defend themselves, that they will be aggressive, and go after Osama bin Laden, fight terrorism where it's important.

I think it was really, by President Bush today, somewhat of a cheap shot on Barack Obama. There's a whisper campaign going on that he's not supportive of Israel. And for President Bush to go over there and to say stuff like this, we all know who he was talking about.

And the fact is Barack Obama has been very clear.


BROWN: OK. So, who was he talking about, Ed? You were saying this was an overt appeal to Jewish voters, yes?

WALL: And if he was, so what? Even if was talking to Barack Obama, so what? He makes a point. And it's a legitimate issue. He has -- he does have problems with the Jewish voters right now, Barack Obama does. The support among Jewish voters in the Democrat Party has slipped. So, certainly, it is absolutely legitimate to bring this up. And it's a good question McCain brought up.

BROWN: So, Ed, so what? So, why isn't it fair game?

SCHULTZ: It's not -- well, it might be fair game in the eyes of the conservatives, because they're not in favor or popularity with the American people on this issue. The fact is, they are misstating, misstating Barack Obama's position on fighting terrorism and his support for Israel.

He's not going to appease anybody. There's a huge difference between appeasement and surrender. And there's also a big difference between talking to your enemies and also appeasement.


WALL: I think that, when you sit down with someone like Ahmadinejad, that is absolute appeasement. It's not appeasement...


SCHULTZ: No, it's not.

WALL: It absolutely is.

SCHULTZ: You're not giving him anything. All you're doing is negotiating with him. That's not giving anything.


WALL: Listen, but we don't negotiate with terrorist sympathizers.


SCHULTZ: There is a difference between negotiating, talking to, and appeasement.

WALL: It has been the position of the commander in chief not to sit down with terrorist sympathizers. And the administration, quite frankly, and others in the administration do meet on a regular basis with folks.


BROWN: Right. A fair point. All right.

WALL: But, for the commander in chief, it's a wholly different issue.

BROWN: Let me bring Michael into this.

Michael, what's your take?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, look. I think, first of all, it's important to point out, I mean, Bush uses the word terrorists. Obama is not talking about going out to bin Laden's mountain cave and having tea with him.

So, I think the way Bush frames it is quite misleading. I think, actually, McCain's attack, substantively, is somewhat more defensible, when he talks specifically about Iran and Ahmadinejad.

But, listen, Bush's poll numbers are absolutely in the cellar. Obama would welcome a fight with George Bush. Where it gets complicated is when McCain comes in. That's not as clean a shot for him.

But I think Obama doesn't mind going head to head with George W. Bush, especially when Bush's attack is frankly I think really over the top. He is not talking about negotiating with terrorists in the sense that we think of the 9/11 terrorists, first of all.

And second of all, it's just -- it's a tired theme that Bush has been using for years and years. We heard this before the 2006 elections, and it totally flopped. So, I don't think it's such a clean shot, Bush at Obama. McCain, it's a little different story. But we can talk about that.


BROWN: OK, guys, we have got to end it.

WALL: Sure.

BROWN: I should say the panel's going to be here for most of the show, so we're going to pause right there and talk about another issue. File this one under timing, timing, timing. Just like four years ago, the issue of gay marriage has suddenly been injected into the presidential campaign.

A ruling from California's Supreme Court triggered a celebration in the streets today. But is the timing a thorny issue for presidential candidates? We're going to talk about that in just a minute.


BROWN: Tonight, the most populous state in the country, California, took a big step toward legalizing gay marriage. The state Supreme Court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage today, calling marriage a basic civil right for all Californians.

And the ruling came after several gay and lesbian couples gave rights groups, and the city of San Francisco sued after a lower court had ruled that the city broke the law by giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples. And joining me now is CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin to explain all this for us.

And bottom-line it for us. What was the legal reasoning here and how significant is it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's a huge decision because the California Supreme Court said, under the California Constitution, not the U.S. Constitution, so this only applies in California...

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: ... that the -- gay people have a right to get married, not just civil unions, marriage. And that's the law of the land, unless it's overturned by the voters.

BROWN: OK. So, 45 states right now, if I have got that number right, do not allow gay marriage.

TOOBIN: Right.

BROWN: So, is this just going to stay in California or do you see it moving in other places?


TOOBIN: Other states will be allowed -- other states will still have their laws on the books.

Interestingly, Massachusetts and California are the only two states that allow gay marriage now. But Massachusetts, you have to be a resident. Anybody can go get married in California. So, I anticipate a flood of people to go get married there.

The question is, will their marriages be recognized in those other states? That's likely to generate complicated litigation. But it is certainly true that anybody can get married in California now.

BROWN: But you do have a patchwork around the country in terms of the legal ruling. Is this in your view going all the way to the Supreme Court, ultimately?

TOOBIN: I don't think so because this is just an interpretation of California law. I don't think the Supreme Court will want to get involved in this case at all.

I think the Supreme Court is going to simply say, each state can...

BROWN: Make up their own...


TOOBIN: ... make up their own rules. That's what our federal system is supposed to be. And I think that's likely the way it's going to be remaining.

Look, liberal states, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, are going to allow gay marriage. Utah and Idaho are not. And maybe that's an appropriate resolution.

BROWN: All right. Jeff Toobin for us tonight.

Jeff, thanks.

As we were saying, this decision is likely to put same-sex marriage back into the political and national debate. And that's just fine with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. As you may remember, he set this case in motion back in 2004, when he opened City Hall for gay couples to marry in a calculated defiance of the law. Here he is today.


GAVIN NEWSOM (D), MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: By the way, as California goes, so goes the rest of the nation.


NEWSOM: It's inevitable. This door is wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not. This is the future. And it's now. Courts across this country, we're waking up.


BROWN: So, where do the presidential candidates stand on this issue? We did want to take look at this.

John McCain says that marriage, as you can see here, is a union between a man and a woman, but he opposes a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He also supports legal benefits for same- sex partners.

Hillary Clinton, for her part, opposes same-sex marriage, but supports civil unions. She, too, opposes a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Barack Obama, like Clinton, opposes same- sex marriage and a constitutional ban, but supports civil unions.

And we're going to hear from our panel again shortly, but right now we're going to take another quick break.

We will be right back right after this.


BROWN: Today, John McCain presented a very rosy vision of what America and the world would be like after -- that's right -- after he's served four years in the White House.

In his crystal ball, McCain says he sees winning the war in Iraq, restoring confidence in the economy, and catching Osama bin Laden.

And joining me now is Dana Bash, who covers John McCain for us, to tell us all about this revelation today.

Dana, what can you tell us?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Campbell, on his bus today, one reporter said that it was like his magic carpet ride. Senator McCain didn't like that very much, but there's no question this was a unique approach for any candidate to try to lay out benchmarks for his presidential term, his first term, as John McCain did today, and it was a very, very dramatic change in terms of his message on an issue he says will define him: Iraq.


BASH (voice-over): It's 2013. John McCain is finishing his first term in the White House. It's an imaginary time warp the Republican candidate used to lay out sweeping domestic and foreign policy goals, for the first time suggesting a date that troops in Iraq should come home.

MCCAIN: By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy.

BASH: That clearly intended as a political antidote to this sound bite already in a Democratic ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... our staying in Iraq for 50 years.

MCCAIN: Maybe 100.


MCCAIN: We have been in South Korea -- we have been in Japan for 60 years.


BASH: But, keeping him honest, a timeline for withdrawal is a stunning departure for McCain, who slams Democrats for wanting to prematurely surrender, and used this same tactic against then Republican rival Mitt Romney in a primary.

MCCAIN: He said that he wanted a timetable for brawn. That would have meant disaster.

BASH: About his bus, we joined other reporters in pressing McCain about the withdrawal date. He repeatedly insisted he is not following Democrats in setting an arbitrary timetable.

MCCAIN: It could be next month, could be next year. Could be three years from now. Could be, but I'm confident that we will have victory. BASH: Democrats quickly jumped on McCain's benchmark to win in Iraq in four years, equating it to the president's infamous mission accomplished speech. But that kind of optimistic, yet politically risky prediction about first-term achievements wasn't limited to Iraq.

MCCAIN: There has still -- still has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001.

BASH: By 2013, McCain also said he envisions Osama bin Laden captured or killed, Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs abandoned, a new League of Democracies stopping genocide in Sudan after the U.N. fails, and, on the domestic front, economic prosperity and a streamlined tax code.

In what is likely to reignite skepticism among conservatives, McCain called once again for a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants. Aides say that dovetails with what McCain calls his core campaign promise, the end of hyper-partisanship.

MCCAIN: This mindless, paralyzing rancor must come to an end.



BROWN: And Dana is back with us.

Dana, it was a pretty unusual speech, but there is a strategy here, isn't there? McCain is trying to draw this very clear contrast with Obama, isn't he?

BASH: He absolutely is, Campbell.

And it is the buzz word that we have been talking about this entire campaign year. And that is change. What the McCain campaign has already been trying to do and very much tried to do with this speech is to undercut this idea that Barack Obama is kind of this post-partisan agent of change.

You heard Senator McCain say that he -- if he were to be president, after his first term, he would have had Democrats in his administration. He even said that he would go to Congress and take questions from congressmen, just like they do in Great Britain. That is the kind of thing that he is trying to make the case that he would do differently, saying, Barack Obama says he is an agent of change, but I'm giving the first details on how I would do it -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Dana Bash for us tonight -- Dana, thanks.

So, if he wins, how many of John McCain's promises would come back to haunt him? We're going to see what our panel thinks about that.

Back again with me are Tara Wall of "The Washington Times," talk radio host Ed Schultz, and "The New Republic"'s Michael Crowley.

Welcome back, everybody.

And, Tara, I do want to start with the Iraq stuff, because McCain has been adamant that there would be no timelines for getting out of Iraq, but today it basically sounded like troops are out by 2013, was the year he used. How can that not be a timetable?

WALL: And troops will never essentially be out. He has said that all along, that troops won't essentially be out-out, but the major fighting and people dying and that kind of thing is his vision for what would happen by 2013.

BROWN: So, how is that not a timetable?

WALL: Well, it's not a timetable.


BROWN: 2013? I...

WALL: You could argue that it is a timetable, but that's -- I think he's not putting it down on paper. He's saying this is a vision of what I see could happen.

If you look at the tone of his speech, he said a number of things. He talks about tax reform and having borders -- a lot of folks have said that borders would be secure and immigration reform. And there are a lot of lofty things there we would all like to see.

I think it's trying to lift the spirits right now. We are in a down period right now, a lot of frustration. And he's trying to lift the spirits of Americans, the same way George Bush when he first came into office, inherited a recession, 9/11, corporate scandals, and say, listen, we can get through this. We're going to push ahead.

And the -- the only thing about whether this will come back to haunt him is if -- he hasn't locked down anything concrete. And that's going to be where Democrats might have a little bit of leeway to come in there, because he hasn't said anything tangible. It's a rosy picture of where we would like to see things.


BROWN: It's dangerous setting those kind of benchmarks.

But, Michael, let me ask you about something else. In the last election, we heard a lot about fear from the Republican Party. In this speech, as Tara, I think, pointed out, it has a very Reaganesque morning in America feel to it. Is there a political calculation there?


I mean, it is a well-worn theory of American politics that optimism sells. Optimism works. You know, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton did great selling optimism. And, look, what other choice does McCain have? He can't promise to continue Bush's policies. So, he has got to make an omelet out of broken eggs and say, well, things are so bad, I'm going to get us back to where they were before they were that bad. So, that's really the only place he can go.

And I just want to make one quick point. When you look especially at the domestic agenda, remember, it really does seem like a fantasy, because McCain is not going to have a Republican Congress. I mean, look at what happened in that Mississippi special election. Democrats are getting ready to steamroll. He's not going to be able to get a domestic agenda through the Congress.


WALL: The reason those victories took place, though, those were conservative areas. And those Democrats ran on conservative issues.


BROWN: Hold on, Tara. I want to talk about that later in the show.

But, Ed, let me get you in on this. I mean, are we looking at gridlock?

SCHULTZ: Well, Campbell, can I play the violin music with John McCain on this? The country's not with McCain on Iraq. He's got an image problem.


SCHULTZ: He's a warmonger.


WALL: That's not true. That's why he's running even with Obama right now. How do you explain that one?

BROWN: But you do have -- look at the numbers -- 82 percent of the country thinks we are headed currently in the wrong direction. How does a speech like that work in this climate?

Go ahead, Ed. You can have it. I'm teeing you up, baby.


SCHULTZ: Well, thank you. I would like to do this a little uninterrupted here, if I may, for just a moment.

WALL: Go right ahead.

SCHULTZ: John McCain is a warmonger. He's got an image problem with the American people, and now he's trying to reinvent himself, like, hey, we are actually going to have a timetable, and 2013 is what we're looking at.

The fact is this is the same guy that has called Democrats on the carpet for possible surrender, for cut and run, for appeasement. He's gone right down the list. The problem is, you can't trust John McCain. The American people aren't thinking about 2013. They're thinking about 2009. They're thinking about $12 billion a month and the loss of life.

And he has no end in sight. He has no plan to end it. It is just a dartboard. It is a guessing game. Let's play the violin music. It is a sad foreign policy. It's more Bush.


BROWN: Aside from Ed's just point, I mean, more generally, the speech was all rhetoric. It's not like he talked in any detail about how he would do any this. And he's always criticizing Obama for doing nothing but...


SCHULTZ: The American people want details. The American people in...


BROWN: OK, Ed. Now -- it's Tara's turn now.

WALL: American people would like details from Barack Obama and John McCain, quite frankly. Barack Obama is very...


SCHULTZ: It's very clear that Obama is going to get us out of Iraq far faster than McCain will ever dream about it.


WALL: If you look at the polling, a majority of Americans support John McCain in poll after poll after poll in his leadership on the issue of Iraq and the issue of foreign policy. No one wants to be there right now, in the situation that we are in. And I think...


SCHULTZ: What poll are you quoting?

WALL: I think that -- first of all, I think that...


SCHULTZ: I would like to know what poll you are quoting.

WALL: Ed, from Rasmussen to numerous polls over the course....


BROWN: I have got to back her up on this, Ed. We did have a CNN poll that essentially said the same thing.


BROWN: Go ahead.

WALL: And, quite frankly -- and I just looked at the latest Rasmussen poll today with the numbers showing John McCain and Barack Obama in a head to head are a running in a virtual tie, dead heat. There are -- there are issues that he resonates...


SCHULTZ: So, you're saying that America wants to stay in Iraq? Is that what I'm hearing? Just let's invent the facts up as we go along.


WALL: If you will please let me finish my thought. Thank you very much.

I think that no one obviously wants to be in the situation that we are in right now. Americans certainly don't want to be there. But I think that you will see the stark contrast between these -- between these two candidates.

SCHULTZ: Then why don't you get us out of it? And McCain offers no exit strategy whatsoever to get us out of it. That's the bottom line.


WALL: Ed, I don't work for John McCain.


SCHULTZ: It's more of Bush. It's more of the same. There's no getting out of Iraq with John McCain.

WALL: That's also -- that's also rhetoric. I think if you...

SCHULTZ: You can't trust him on it.

BROWN: OK, guys.

WALL: He is a warmonger.

BROWN: All right. We're going to take a little breather.


WALL: Name calling never --

BROWN: With a little yoga, we'll be back after the break.

But coming up, if you are a Republican in Congress and you have that uncomfortable feeling of someone breathing down your neck, you're not alone. In a minute, Tom Foreman is going to join us to explain why so many Republicans seats are right now at risk. We'll be back.


BROWN: Republicans on Capitol Hill are getting a nasty wake-up call. This after voters in three special elections sent three Republican members of Congress packing. The latest on Tuesday. Does this sound like a party in peril?

Well, Tom Foreman is joining me now to help sort out what this means for Republicans -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Congressional election victories for Democrats this year are spurring a near panic among Republicans who fear some vulnerable Republican seats are even shakier than they appear. The Democrats already control the House by almost 40 votes and they expect to gain more ground there, but the real story is in the Senate. Up to 11 Republicans are at risk of losing their seats to Democrats. GOP leaders are worried.


JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: On whether it's gas prices, whether it's the cost of health care or access to health care, national security issues, we've got to show Americans that we know how to fix it, and we are committed to fixing it.


FOREMAN: These are six states where political analysts say the Republicans are in the most danger of losing Senate seats. And here are five more which top Democrats think they might be able to take, as well. The Democrats have only one seat in jeopardy, Louisiana.

And this really matters because with the help of two independent senators, the Democrats have an edge in the Senate right now, but just by one vote. That is significant, but it's not quite enough to beat back a White House veto. That's why Dems say, for example, they've been unable to push through legislation to end the war.

But if the Democrats can get 60 seats, then they will have enough power to override a presidential veto, which if John McCain wins the White House, would be a vital weapon for the Democrats in the Senate. That's why the National Republican Congressional Committee had said just this week this should be a concern to all Republicans. And, Campbell, you can bet at least here in D.C., it is.

BROWN: All right, Tom. Tom Foreman tonight.

And, of course, our panel is chomping at the bits to weigh in on this issue, too. We'll bring them back coming up.


BROWN: So we just heard from Tom Foreman a moment ago about some of the struggles that Republicans are having right now. And we want to ask the question, is the Grand Old Party in peril? We'll talk to our political panel about that now.

Tara Wall, Ed Schultz and Michael Crowley all joining me once again. And Tara, let me just show you this quote. This is from Congressman Tom Davis. He sent a memo around to his colleagues and it said, "The Republican brand is in the trash can. If we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf."

And he is a Republican that's left. You know, looking at Election Day, what? Less than six months.

WALL: Yes.

BROWN: What are they going to do?

WALL: Well, it is a tough environment and quite frankly, it is a wake-up call for Republicans. It is a wake-up call. Actually the bell was sounded by my former boss. In fact, Ken Mehlman (ph), after 2006 midterms and Republicans lost the majority and he says look, we have got to get back to our core issues. Republicans have got to get back to those core issues that the party has strayed from.

I mean, you had the scandals, the spending, the out of control spending, those kinds of things, those kinds of issues that really are starting to really alienate the base from the party.

BROWN: Let me --

WALL: And then, they also don't have George W. Bush -- you know, his approval rating absolutely. I mean --

BROWN: In the tank.

WALL: You know, when he was popular and he was at the height of his presidency, you had -- you know, he was a fund raising machine if you would, and I think there's some struggles there that are, you know --

BROWN: Michael, what about that? Is Bush the problem?

CROWLEY: Well, Bush is a big part of the problem, but I also think that they just don't have a clear vision for how to get out of this hole. So they'll be happy to get rid of Bush and they'll be happy to be associated more closely with McCain than with Bush.

But Bush made them walk the plank on a lot of tough votes. They've taken a lot of positions. It's going to be hard for them to run away from. Anyone who's been there for a little while has to explain the record that the Congress has shown, that as Tara just explained, totally flew in the face of a lot of fiscal values.

Spending went through the roof. They didn't get a lot done. They said they were going to. So it's not going to solve their problem completely. I don't really know how they'd get out of this fix. I mean, they're trying to put lipstick on a pig.

I think to some extent, they're just --it's like when a team in sports just takes the hit and they rebuild, you know, and you just start from the bottom again. They've got to get some new leadership, some new guys to chart a new course.

BROWN: Ed -- Ed, I think the great irony here is that for liberals like you many of these Democrats are winning in red states because they're running on a platform that's pro-gun, that's pro-life. And, frankly, they sound a lot like Republicans. You can't be too happy about that, huh?

SCHULTZ: Well, I don't think the wedge issues are really playing a whole lot here, Campbell. I really think it's the conditions of the country. Obviously, the war, foreign policy, gas prices, health care, education -- all of these kitchen table issues are surfacing.

Here's the problem that the Republicans have right now. The only guy that can raise any money on the Republican Party is George W. Bush. I mean, that guy knows how to shake down the top two percent better than anybody in America. John McCain has to have the Bush family, and he's not going to be able to distance himself completely from any Bush policies because he needs him to win this election.

WALL: You know --

SCHULTZ: And the fact is --

WALL: I do think -- I do think that -- you know, these are --

SCHULTZ: Didn't want to get in your way.

WALL: These guys -- these guys ran in very conservative areas. They ran on, again -- they ran extremely right to the Democratic Party. I think there is a message in that for Democrats and Republicans.

You know, Americans are still centered to right and these are issues that, you know, certainly that John McCain can in which he has shown leadership on.



BROWN: Ed, Ed, Ed --

Hold on, hold on, hold on, everybody!

SCHULTZ: Going to overtake your hard laws.

BROWN: Again, Ed, in fairness, Tara is right. Is --

SCHULTZ: The liberal agenda, the progressive movement is on a roll in this country.

WALL: Ed, Ed --

SCHULTZ: No doubt about it. WALL: Screaming doesn't make you right, Ed.

BROWN: Hold on, guys.

CROWLEY: Campbell --

BROWN: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, Ed, I want you to answer the question if you can, because Tara made a fair point. I was trying to ask you that.


SCHULTZ: Oh, I can. I can definitely answer your question.

BROWN: These Democrats who won because they ran almost as Republicans.

SCHULTZ: Look. We are seeing a rejection of dirty politics in this country. The 527 money that was thrown down at Travis in Mississippi was flat-out scurrilous, dirty politics. They lied on the air about his positions. The fact is as they tried to connect it to Obama through the liberal word out there time and time again, it didn't work.

You're not going to be able to hoodwink the American people. The progressive agenda in this country is on a roll. You're seeing record turnouts. It's going to be a sweeping election.

BROWN: All right.

CROWLEY: And, Campbell, Democrats don't --


SCHULTZ: And you're going to see (INAUDIBLE) in '08 than what you've seen in '04.

BROWN: OK, quickly, Michael --

OK. Michael, quick, quick point.

CROWLEY: Well, Democrats are happy. Look, if they have to compromise on the margins in some of the regions that they're trying to establish, I think they're happy. What they want is to have the votes, to have the leader in the House and the Senate. They set the agenda.


CROWLEY: The problem Democrats have before was that their leadership was too conservative but now, they don't have that problem anymore.

BROWN: OK, guys, got to end it there.

WALL: OK. BROWN: Tara, Ed, Michael, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

The war on terrorism, though, we're going to shift gears here a little bit, isn't the only international event that is making its way on to the campaign trail. All of the presidential candidates are following developments in China given the earthquake, what's happening in the disaster zone.

And we have found a town that once had a population of 20,000 people. It is a horrible situation there. We're going to find out how many are left alive when we come back. Stay with us.


BROWN: All of the presidential candidates are expressing concern about the incredible devastation that was caused by the huge earthquake in China this week. China's government is now making a mind-numbing prediction that the death toll could hit 50,000.

We are just bringing in now a live signal. There is a delay of several seconds.

This is our live correspondent, John Vause, who is in the disaster zone in southwest China -- John.


Well, the work here now continues at this collapsed middle school. But the real destruction was about a kilometer or so away from here in this one city which was one of the worst affected areas after Monday's earthquake.


VAUSE (voice-over): The city was once home to 20,000 people. Now, there is only utter devastation. It's not confirmed but word here is only 5,000 residents have survived. This man and his sister are looking for their mother.

The neighbors called out for her yesterday and she answered, he says. But today, there is only silence. So they sit there on the sidewalk.

At the end of their street, there's a pile of rubble three stories high, all that's left of an apartment block on one side and office building on the other. From a distance, the entire city looks as if the next aftershock might bring it all crashing down. Almost every building here has either been destroyed or is badly damaged.

The injured are stretchered out through the hills. No vehicles can make it in. When the quake hit, this woman was shopping. She says the ground started to shake. She ran and fell. That's all she remembers before being pulled from the rubble more than three days later. At the local middle school, there is a steady stream of tragedy. Parents wait, hoping each dead body is not their child. They're just teenagers on the stretchers. The frozen expression on their face is of pain and fear.

Cheng Ying (ph) has been here since the earthquake destroyed this five-story building. She watches and waits for her daughter.

I just want to see her, she told me. If she's dead, I just want to see her body.

(on-camera): No one knows how many students are still buried beneath this rubble, how many are alive and how many are dead. Some of the bodies were found embracing each other. Others were huddled underneath desks with their hands over their heads as if they're protecting themselves from the falling debris.

(voice-over): With each stretcher, the quake's death toll grows ever higher. Authorities believe it could reach 50,000. Fifty thousand times there will be anguish like this. She just saw her daughter's body being carried away.


VAUSE: Obviously, the hope here, Campbell, is that someone will still be alive. But just moments ago, another body was dragged out of the rubble.

BROWN: John, just a devastating scene there. John Vause for us tonight. John, thanks.

Coming up, more about John McCain who's borrowing a page from the Brits. We'll explain when we come back.


BROWN: There is one race that drew more votes than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain combined. You can find out about that on "LARRY KING LIVE" at the top of the hour. Larry is with me now.

What's coming up tonight, Larry?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": You've got it, Campbell. Ryan Seacrest is here tonight. He's going to talk all about the "American Idol" finale, why he sleeps, by the way, with his BlackBerry. I bet a lot of people at CNN do that too.

Plus, the alien spacecraft files. Britain has made some top secret UFO documents and photos public. What do they show and tell? That's all at the top of the hour, Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Larry, thanks, we'll see you then.

And when we come back, questions for John McCain. He loves to answer questions, but he doesn't know what he's in for if he's elected president. It's all about the stagecraft. We're going to explain.


BROWN: One thing in John McCain's big vision speech that we paid very close attention to, a vision of some stagecraft that he says he will use during his presidency.

Tom Foreman is back. What's all this about doing things the English way, Tom?

FOREMAN: Well, it's really interesting, Campbell. You got to love the stagecraft of Britain's parliament. The prime minister standing in a room full of dedicated lawmakers who are all hooting and hollering and confronting him directly over his policies. This really looks like people engaging each other on the issues.

Compare that to our State of the Union addresses. Once a year, the president shows up sort of like a rock star. He says his piece and everyone scrambles to shake his hand. I mean, you could see them all here. These guys gathering around. That's pretty much it.

What McCain wants to do is make our system look more like the Brits. He says he wants to regularly join both Houses of Congress for free flowing conversation about ideas and legislation. Why would he do that, you may ask?

BROWN: Oh, OK, Tom, why would he do that?

FOREMAN: You know, it's funny you should ask that, Campbell. It has to do with his personal stagecraft, how he appears. Look at this big speech today.

Now, he's got all of the things you're supposed to have here. Let's check them off. He's got the suit on, he's got the light blue shirt, he's got the tie, he's got the hair just right, and he's got the flags all over back here. It looks very presidential but not very comfortable.

But now, look at how he plays in town hall meetings. Like the Brits, he's willing to take the risk of having less control if not outright chaos in exchange for being less formal and more connected. Take a listen.


MCCAIN: In that old Beach Boy song, Bomb Iran -- bomb, bomb, bomb -- anyway, every campaign I've ever been in my life I have outcampaigned all of my opponents and I'm confident that I will. And thanks for the question, you little jerk.

Well, this is the reason why we have town hall meetings.


FOREMAN: Boy, it's easy to see. He is funny, he's warm, he's friendly, unpredictable, and what this is all about is sending a message. What he's saying every time he does this is I am not like those Washington people. I'm not an insider. I'm a normal person with normal concerns about the future of the country.

So all you normal people, gather around me here. Let's talk it over. Send me to Washington and things will change.

And, Campbell, heaven forbid, maybe even Washington will become normal.

BROWN: Well, it sure would be fun to watch. I'll say that much, Tom Foreman.

FOREMAN: Campbell, it will be really different.

BROWN: Thanks, Tom, appreciate it.

Here's a surprising development in the campaign. Barack Obama is begging forgiveness, and there is a voicemail to prove it. I'm going to play it for you next.


BROWN: Tonight on the political ticker, nobody likes to make a mistake but especially not candidates because when they apologize, that also becomes the news. It happened to Barack Obama on the trail when he deflected a female reporter's question at a Michigan auto plant.


PEGGY AGAR, WXYZ REPORTER: How are you going to help the American auto worker?

OBAMA: Hold on one second, sweetie. We're going to do -- we'll do a press (ph) --


BROWN: After calling reporter Peggy Agar "sweetie," the senator never returned to her or her question. And Agar reported the incident on the Detroit local news, and then the Internet did its viral best at popularizing the story. Yesterday she gets this voicemail from Obama.


VOICE OF SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Hi, Peggy, this is Barack Obama calling to apologize on two fronts. One was, you didn't get your question answered. Second apology, for using the word "sweetie." That's a bad habit of mine. I do it sometimes with all kinds of people. I mean no disrespect and so I am duly chastened on that front. Feel free to call me back."


BROWN: It does appear to be a habit. Last month in Pennsylvania, Obama was overheard calling a factory worker "sweetie." And senator, not OK. None of us like it.

To find more stories like this, check out the political ticker on

That's it for me tonight in the ELECTION CENTER.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.