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John King, USA

President Obama's Supporters; Dabbling in Witchcraft?; Interview With Joe Miller

Aired September 20, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. The newest sensation in American politics, the Tea Party Senate candidate, Christine O'Donnell, is at a candidate's forum this hour making her case to voters in Delaware as her supporters complain loudly that she is being held to a different standard than Democrats who have said or done controversial things in their past.

In O'Donnell's case the latest controversy involves a brief dabbling in witchcraft. She is joking about it now but we'll debate whether it's a lasting campaign issue -- first though a rude awakening of sorts today for President Obama. His team thinks the more he can talk directly to average Americans about the economy between now and Election Day, the more he can make the case that things are slowly getting better.

In a televised town hall put together by CNBC, Mr. Obama heard time and time again from folks who voted for him back in 2008 but are frustrated and confused now. Here's a sampling.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an American veteran and I'm one of your middle class Americans and, quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of defending you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really want to know is the American dream dead for me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need you to help us understand how you can regain the political center because you're losing the war of sound bites. You're losing the media cycles.


KING: So what was the lesson for the president and can Christine O'Donnell overcome the controversies of her past? Here to discuss and I suspect debate the 43-day path to Election Day, Republican pollster Ed Goeas, CNN contributor Roland Martin, GOP strategist John Brabender and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn.

All right, Roland, just start with you, if those are people who voted for you and that's what they think and that's how they talk to you, he has got a tough 43 days.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely and the people who also -- a number of them, who worked on his campaign are people who are on the road with him, surrogates. I've heard from those very same people telling the White House the exact same thing for the past eight to 12 months and in many cases folks in the White House not listening. I would think after today the folks will say, wow, maybe those folks have been right. We'd better listen now because we've been, frankly, tone deaf.

KING: But if you're advising him, Ed, I know you're in the other party, but if you were just to suspend your Republicanism for a day and say, Mr. President, here is how you need to communicate this, what are they or what is he doing wrong?

ED GOEAS, PRESIDENT & CEO, THE TARRANCE GROUP: Here's what he's running in danger of, is going out there trying to talk about the economy is actually improving more than people think is exactly the mistake other mistakes have made -- presidents have made in the past like George Bush, President Bush in the 1992 campaign. Basically him saying things are getting better when everyone believes, in fact, it's not, is the kiss of death in terms of tone deaf and disconnect with voters.

KING: He seems to get that to a degree. John Harwood, the CNBC journalist who moderated the debate, asked him, do you think this has anything to do with your race? Do you think this has anything to do with your Ivy League education? You're having trouble breaking through. You not -- can't make a personal connection with people in these tough economic times and here's the president's answer.

That sound -- let me read what the president said. Here is my suspicion. I think that when the unemployment rate is still high and people are having a tough time, it doesn't matter if I was green. It doesn't matter if I was purple. I think people would still be frustrated and understandably so, but even if he's right there he still has to try.

PETER FENN, PRES., FENN COMMUNICATIONS GROUP: Listen, I think what we have got here is you've got impatience. I mean people are angry as all get out in 2008 and they're still angry. But the fact is we've had eight months of private sector job growth. We didn't have that when he came into office, but the problem is Ed is right.

You cannot go out and explain to people how great everything is if that's not their perception. So part of this is the famous Bill Clinton empathy question. Do you empathize with people? Do you care about them? And then what are you doing? What are the small business jobs programs, and where are you taking the country?

KING: But why is he failing or not succeeding at the empathy test?

JOHN BRABENDER, BRABENDERCOX: In all due respect, it's not impatience, it's arrogance. You know he gives us a $787 billion stimulus that was supposed to create jobs. Instead we get 2.5 more Americans unemployed, so what does he do? He comes back and says let's do round two. It won't be as big as round one. I hope he spends between now and November going out and telling everybody why we're going to spend more on a second stimulus package.


MARTIN: First of all, let's correct something. OK, talking about a stimulus bill, a number of those same Republicans who were saying we didn't like it, they did like the one-third of that stimulus bill that had tax cuts in it. Here is another piece. I remember being in Columbus, Ohio, talking to Mayor Coleman saying we have to cut our cadet class as a result of budget cuts.

That very stimulus bill saved that police cadet class. And so if you're in the city and you're concerned about your house burning down, you want firefighters, you want teachers, you want police officers. Now it was also about saving a lot of those jobs and I would think we'd want to save those kinds of jobs in America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The second round for the cities as well, so they got a second round that came from the city to pay for a lot of those --


MARTIN: First of all, I'm just stating a fact. I'm saying don't disagree with the fact. You might not like it but that was a fact --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your job has been saved -- you're a teacher and your job has been saved, you're a happy camper, right? I mean there's no question about it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perception is different --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand the perception, John --


GOEAS: The truth is what people believe and here is what the people believe. By a 20-point margin they believe the stimulus package has not worked, period. He cannot change that perception in the next six weeks and the biggest problem the president has had quite frankly is he went about a year too long on trying to blame everything on Bush and where people are focused today and you see it in verbatims and verbatims and verbatims in terms of polling is that they don't like his solutions.


KING: I want you to listen to this.

(CROSSTALK) KING: Hang on -- hang on one second. I want to you listen to this because the president in making his case today was trying to explain that a lot of these things will take some time. The question is do people have the patience? Listen to how the president says it.


OBAMA: I think the challenge right now is that I'm thinking about the next generation and there are a lot of folks out there who are thinking about the next election.


KING: Now on the one hand you can -- on the one hand you can make that argument some of these programs will take three or four years but on the other hand, you risk there, don't you, of sounding like I'm smarter than you. You have to trust me here.


KING: This works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is -- it's tough. In the context of a campaign with two months left, that is a very tough argument to make. But you know when you look at the numbers which Ed does such a good job with, you know you'll see that they don't trust the Republicans at all either. If you do the approve/disapprove and members of Congress there's a 20-point gap there between the Republicans and the Democrats --

KING: Does that matter?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not in charge --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but you broke it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're in charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You broke it and we own it. You're right. I mean it's true.

GOEAS: Looking at those numbers, the real numbers are is that for the first time in 20 years Republicans match Democrats on providing -- doing a better job on jobs. By two points they believe they're doing a better job on the economy --


MARTIN: And John, what has -- what also has to happen is look the president cannot be the only person with this administration going out there. One of the criticisms of him he's -- what's the problem with big business? Well typically your commerce secretary is out there dealing with businesses (INAUDIBLE). You have to have Shaun Donovan with HUD dealing with housing. Where is Hilda Solis? My god, I mean she's is the labor secretary, you see, you know, Summers and those folks more than you see her. You have got to use your entire team versus you carrying the ball the entire time.

KING: Another piece of the equation is that you have the president and his team -- you make a criticism of them there. At the same time up on Capitol Hill, Democrats are using their majorities that they still have and they're bringing up in the Senate the defense authorization bill which has the repeal of don't ask/don't tell, if they can get the votes for it, and also has the DREAM Act, an immigration related measure.

And if you talk to Democrats privately they make no bones about the fact that maybe we don't have the votes but we will convince the gay rights community we're trying. We will convince the Latino community we're trying. Good politics or bad politics?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I mean I think the politics it's probably a wash on that. But you know the thing about Obama, which I think people like, is he's doing the right thing. I mean he believes in it. He's going to fight for it --

KING: If he's doing the right thing and the Democrats have the majority, why didn't they bring it up six months ago?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well this is the defense appropriations bill. They can't vote against that --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got the DREAM act which is basically a new pathway to citizenship for young adults are here by just simply showing up and going to school --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or the military -- they get special in-state rates to go to colleges in those same states at a time when people are struggling. I think they're going to find this offensive.

MARTIN: Look, first of all these politicians, they are paid to do their job. They are not paid to go back and campaign and so you don't want to take a tough vote, you know what, take your butt home and don't run for Congress. This is why you were elected to make these kinds of decisions, so you deal with it.

GOEAS: That is fine rhetoric, but --

MARTIN: No it's not fine rhetoric. I'm a voter.


GOEAS: -- by the American public is you're sneaking these bills in because you won't --


GOEAS: Let me finish --


KING: Let's let Ed finish the thought, then we'll call a time- out.


GOEAS: And basically where this is going to be a danger for the Democrats is there is a great concern that if they lose control of the House, they lose control of the Senate, there is going to be a lame duck session that is going to cram through all these things and all you're doing is telegraphing a message that, yes, in fact, that's what we're going to do. We're going to sneak all this stuff --


KING: To that point, Bob Menendez, who runs the Democratic Senate Committee, did say on Univision yesterday on their Sunday show that they will do comprehensive immigration reform in the lame duck session after the election. We'll see how that one plays out. We're going to take a quick time-out.

When we come back, we'll talk about Christine O'Donnell, whether she's being held to a double standard and there she is right there. She's just arrived at a candidate's forum up in Middletown, Delaware. We'll listen to what she says tonight. If she says anything newsworthy we'll bring it to you and we'll have an interesting conversation just on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- confusing chatter about Iraq and Afghanistan and (INAUDIBLE) closing Gitmo and (INAUDIBLE) taking over entire businesses --



KING: You're looking at a live picture here. That's the Delaware candidate's forum in Middletown, Delaware -- excuse me -- Middletown, Delaware, sponsored by a nonpartisan citizen's organization called First State Patriots. Among those on hand Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party Senate candidate, now the Republican nominee. She gave brief introductory remarks -- no news there.

But if she gets up and has any newsworthy remarks we will take you there immediately, but let's discuss her candidacy. We still have our group on hand and this is what is being talked about all across the country right now and let's listen first. This is Christine O'Donnell on the "Bill Maher Politically Incorrect Show" back in 1999, saying when she was younger she dabbled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I dabbled into witchcraft. I never joined a convent, but I did. I did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. You were a witch?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she was a witch.

O'DONNELL: I didn't join a convent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were a witch?

O'DONNELL: I didn't join a convent. Let's get --




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love this. You were a witch. You go on Halloween --

O'DONNELL: I was a witch --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you be a witch?

O'DONNELL: Because I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things.


O'DONNELL: I'm not making this stuff up. I know --


KING: We get the picture. She hung around people who were doing these things. That's her talking about it -- that's in 1999. So yesterday she had a campaign event and of course everyone's looking, as we do, the YouTube age you go back and find everything you can, so yesterday at a campaign event reporters wanted to hear about this. Here is what Christine O'Donnell told her supporters.


O'DONNELL: That witchcraft comment on "Bill Maher," I was in high school. How many of you didn't hang out with questionable folks in high school? But, no, there's been no witchcraft since. If there was, Karl Rove would be a supporter now.



KING: She's got a sense of humor there. (INAUDIBLE) witchcraft since, she says she would have hocus-pocused Karl Rove into a big supporter. Look, this is funny but we've all said or done funny things in our past. Is it relevant?

GOEAS: That's what we're going to find out. I mean, one of the interesting things here is that she was elected not because of this. She was elected or nominated to run based on the issues she was talking about. She raised $750,000 on the Internet the first day. She has raised almost $2 million since the primary day.

She is going to have her opportunity to tell her story the way she wants to and not the way it's being played here. Who knows what's going to happen? This is an election. The one thing I do see happening out there and this could be good. This could be bad, but this is the Democrats 2006. In 2006, no matter what we said, nothing worked. I see that happening with the Democrats --

KING: You were involved up there with Mike Castle?


KING: The Republican, he had won 12 times statewide over his career, she beat him. What's in the water?

BRABENDER: Well these are the type of things that actually helped her in that primary and they'll help her nationally in this election. She'll raise a lot of money. People see the insiders, the man, coming after her, creating her as a victim to some extent and they want to defend her. And honestly she'll raise more money because they're attacking her like this. I think people think it's a silly issue and I think actually it's a winner for her at the end of the day when they do this --


KING: Roland, I want to you listen to your close friend Rush Limbaugh who was on --


MARTIN: Oh yes, we hang out.


KING: Rush was on the radio today saying, wait a minute, all these people going after Christine O'Donnell. Look in their past.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Joe Biden has dabbled in plagiarism. Obama's good friend, Bill Ayers, has dabbled in domestic terrorism. Valerie Jarrett, Obama's best female friend, has dabbled in communism.


KING: And Sarah Palin also tweeted this, telling Christine O'Donnell time is limited. Use it to connect with local voters whom you'll be serving versus appeasing the national media seeking your destruction.



FENN: (INAUDIBLE) she had -- she was -- she had three events, right. She had to go to church. She had to go to a picnic, but oh, she couldn't come on the major news shows on Sunday. She is going to duck just like a lot of these other folks. Look, my point on this, it is not your mother's Republican Party anymore when you're nominating these kinds of folks. I mean I hate to tell you --


BRABENDER: The Democratic Senatorial Committee is now on the air in Delaware so they must think --


MARTIN: First of all, John, as an evangelical, I'm amazed at Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, has not sent a press release out criticizing her and her witchcraft. Trust me if that was a Democratic candidate it would be a huge story. But you know what, at the end of the day this will be driven by the question of economics.

What this does for her, it keeps her on the front page. It keeps us talking about her. We're talking more about her than her Democratic opponent. And so that's really how it plays. But she is going to get hit if she does not answer significant questions in real news forums. Even Sarah Palin said go on FOX News. She even ditched them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well we'll see. We'll see.

KING: I'm not sure there's not something different this year. The people are not unhappy about sending people in controversial midterm elections --


FENN: I think the question is -- John is right on this -- it could be that these voters just say, you know, we're going to go against the establishment. We're going to go against Washington, whatever you guys say on these big news networks, tough, we don't like it. But I still say if the woman was sued by her college, said she had a college degree when she hadn't, didn't pay her taxes, I mean you know what qualifies her to be a United States senator?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is not one of them. (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand --


GOEAS: -- bottom line the voters of Delaware are going to decide --


KING: Voters in Delaware will decide it in 43 days.


KING: Gentlemen, thanks all for coming in -- a quick time-out. There are 43 days we'll have you all back. It is a fun campaign here and it keeps getting more fun. Up next, what does former President Carter claim that he and the Tea Party movement have in common?


KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the latest political news you need to know right now -- hey Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. President Obama is in Pennsylvania right now trying to help Democratic U.S. Senate- candidate Joe Sestak. During a stop in Philadelphia, the president ordered four Philly Cheese Steaks topped with sweet peppers and mushrooms, the works. He gave the clerk a dollar, an aide paid the rest. During the YouTube interview today former President Bill Clinton had some advice about the proposed Islamic center and mosque in New York City.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Much, maybe even most of the controversy of this decision, could have been avoided and perhaps still can be if the people who want to build the center were to simply say we are dedicating this center to all the Muslims who were killed on 9/11.


JOHNS: Easy for a former president to say, but for Democrats and Republicans in Congress a touchy issue. Republicans don't want to be seen as extremists, I think, and Democrats don't want to be seen as sympathizers to a controversy.

KING: Before he ran for office he was a political strategist, helped people get elected. He worked for George McGovern back in the day. I think President Clinton there was trying to say, hey, listen to me, maybe I can give you a way out.

Joe, I want to focus on another former president who's been in the news, Jimmy Carter just wrote a book. He's giving interviews including he'll be on "LARRY KING" tonight. You should watch it. But on the "Today Show" this morning Jimmy Carter suggested, you know what go back and look at how I got elected. Look at the Tea Party now, Jimmy Carter sees some comparison. Let's listen to what he said though because I want to break some of it down.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I kind of capitalized on a dissatisfaction by the government when I was elected. You have to remember that I came in right after Watergate, right after Vietnam, right after the assassination of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. And so I rode a wave of dissatisfaction with incumbent government in order to get into the White House. And I think the Tea Party is taking advantage of that now.


KING: Interesting take from President Carter. I just want -- I guess it depends on your definition of right after. Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976. He said right after the assassination of President Kennedy. That was in 1963. Right after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., that was in 1968. So he's stretching the years a little bit there.

JOHNS: It's all relative depending on how much you've seen.

KING: Just stretching -- President Carter there -- that was the "Today Show". He will be on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight. You will want to listen to that interview as well.

And when we come back a lot more to go -- we've got a big interview when we come back, too. Lisa Murkowski is the Republican senator from Alaska. She lost the primary, but she is running as a write-in against the nominee Joe Miller. She says he's too radical. Mr. Miller makes his case when we come back.

Also tonight is the President facing exhausted expectations from his own supporters? Kathleen Parker, Eliot Spitzer right here to help us break down the president and you knew this was coming, didn't you? Pete Dominick out on the street tonight, what does he want to talk about? Hocus-pocus -- Pete's on witchcraft.


KING: It's been an interesting few days to say the least for U.S. Senate-nominee Joe Miller in Alaska. All of a sudden he's just one of two Republicans in Alaska's three-way Senate race. He joins us now to go "One-on-One".

Mr. Miller, let's start with that, the new development. The woman you defeated in the primary, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is still in the United States Senate, has decided now to mount a write-in campaign and she acknowledges that is a very tough sledding. But, I want to you listen to her on CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" over the weekend where she said she believes she is in the mainstream of what Alaska wants and you are not. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: Joe Miller simply does not represent that. He is suggesting to us, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many, many Alaskans some pretty radical things. You know we dump Social Security, no more Medicare. Let's get rid of the Department of Education, elimination of all earmarks. You know he is -- he has taken an approach that is just plain and simple more radical than where the people of the state of Alaska are.


KING: How would you answer that, sir? Do you consider yourself more radical than the people of the state of Alaska?

JOE MILLER (R), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: Well let's see, I won the Republican primary with the largest Republican voter turnout in the history of this state. And we've had an extraordinary number come behind this campaign in the days following that and even more come behind this campaign after she announced her write-in campaign, which of course contradicted the word that she gave just a few days before the primary that she would support the victor of the Republican primary.

But you know what, what we reflect in our message is something that all Alaskans are embracing. This is something much broader than the Republican Party. It is basically common sense Americans and Alaskans recognizing that the system is broken and in fact, you know Senator Murkowski represents why it's broke. It's that type of thinking that, you know put your head in the sand, ignore all these problems. Things are just going to continue the way they've always been. It's going to drive this country into bankruptcy.

KING: We talked about this last time you were on the program and my job is just to let you air it out and let the people of Alaska decide, so I want to go through some of the issues she just mentioned and have you briefly address what she said. She said, quote, "no more Medicare". Is she right?

MILLER: Well I mean you know this is just yet another misconstruction of our position. She tried to do that from the beginning of the campaign. People in Alaska know better. They recognize that in fact that was a misinterpretation. What we said consistently throughout our campaign, my parents are on Social Security -- I think I told you the last time I was on your program that they're dependent on those dollars that come in.

They're dependent on Medicare. It is absolutely critical that we regain some fiscal sanity in this nation so we don't go broke and we can continue to pay the benefits of the elderly that are so dependent on those benefits. But longer term there is no question there has to be a transition, so we can either be irresponsible like the Senator and just pretend like all the problems that she helped create are never going to go away or we can be neutral looking and say look, we've got to do something about this problem where I, Joe Miller, when I put money into Social Security, when you John, you put money into Social Security, the government just takes that money and steals it for something else.

That's just not the right way to go and it's also ignoring the fact that the system is broken. So we've got to come up with new solutions. Saying anything else is just lying to the people of Alaska and the people of this nation.

KING: And one of the questions a lot of people have for the -- some of the Tea Party candidates like yourself who have taken provocative positions in the campaign is what happens when you're one of a hundred if you win this election?

What if Joe Miller comes to Washington and says, I would like to eliminate the Department of Education? I think that money should go back to the states and they should spend it, we don't need a big federal bureaucracy in Washington.

What happens if you're in just the Republican caucus, and there are 48 or maybe 52 of you, and your Republican colleagues say, sorry, we don't want to do that?

MILLER: Well, I don't think they're going to say sorry, we don't want to do that because they're saying, just like you are -- just like we're saying across the state of Alaska, a real concern about where we're at as a nation. And that concern is expressed in the idea that, look, the states are better to do these things than the nation.

It's not an issue of, like, with the Department of Education with getting rid of education. It's an issue as to who spends the money and who controls how that money is spent. And our answer is the states are in a much better position to do that.

I mean historically education has been controlled at the local and state level. The feds have, of course, caused this to be a national thing where these special interests get entrenched and they decide to spend money in a way they see fit. They just keep those special interests going and really doesn't educate our children.

And so it's a question of power. You know, Murkowski wants power at the federal level. I want power at the state level.

KING: You just used the term special interests. One of her criticisms of your campaign is she says that you came from out of nowhere and beat her with the help of what she would consider to be an outside special interest, the Tea Party express, which is a political organization.

It is based in California. It is run and heavily influenced by a veteran Republican strategist Sal Russo. They gave $600,000 up there to your campaign and they've said if it gets close they are more than willing to come back in and spend more to help you.

Do you welcome that or do you want people whose money is outside the state to stay outside the state?

MILLER: Well, first, I want to just state to you how hypocritical that statement is. Senator Murkowski received 88 percent of her funding in the last year from out of state. And then after she breaks her word and decides to write the writing or do the write-in candidacy on the Saturday following -- just this past Saturday, she goes to D.C. and she meets with a bunch of lobbyists to try to bring more out-of-state money into her campaign.

So if anybody thinks this is Joe Miller, the out-of-state guy against Murkowski, the in-state gal, think again. Because there's a way lopsided amount of money coming into her campaign from lobbyists and special interests.

Now we do have some out-of-state money coming in. But the thing that you've got to realize, the people that are supporting this campaign, they have no vested interest except to see this nation saved.

This is not about, you know, some sort of industry or some sort of teachers group or some sort of labor union. They're saying, I want to give you money so you vote my way. This is the American people saying the system is broken. We want it changed and we see that Joe Mill is moving things in that right direction.

And Alaska's Joe Miller is moving the state in the correct direction of resource development, getting the federal government out of our backyard so that we can have an economy here that's not dependent on a government that's going broke.

KING: You're in a debate now with Lisa Murkowski, Republican. But you're getting attention all across the country including from many Democrats.

I want to you listen here to the take of the former Democratic president, Bill Clinton.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: The gentleman who beat Senator Murkowski in Alaska, as I understand it, said that he thought unemployment compensation was unconstitutional. Well, putting 10 million more people in bread lines is not my idea of how to bring the economy back or balance the budget.


KING: Answer President Clinton. Now you have said you believe extending unemployment benefits and federal unemployment benefits are unconstitutional.

MILLER: Let me tell you why. The Democratic Party and even the votes that many of which Murkowski voted in support of the Democratic Party is not the answer to putting people back to work.

And as long as the federal government stays on the back of the American worker by too much regulation, by creating an anti- competitive atmosphere, by taxation, we absolutely are going to maintain the unemployment benefits so that workers can continue to be where they need to be but long term there has to be a transition there, too.

We have to transition that control. Again, who spends the money? The state as opposed to the federal government. That is a state function. It's a better function for the states to maintain than at the federal level.

But you've got to remember, why are we at this point anyway? Why we're talking about expanding unemployment compensation for a much longer period than what had been done in the past?

The reason why is because this federal government has kept down the American worker, has kept down the American economy, whether it's by Obama care, whether it's that 1099 requirement, whether it's by taxation.

The party of Bill Clinton is the problem. And of course it's wider than that as well, but they are a major problem in keeping us in a position where we're entering into a double-dip recession rather than growing our way out of this economy that is very much in a downturn right now.

KING: Joe Miller is the Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska now facing a write-in candidacy from the incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski. The Democrat in that race, too. One of the many fascinating ones.

Sir, we appreciate your time. We'll check back in in the days ahead.

MILLER: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you.

The president attends a town hall in the economy and gets put on the defensive by voters who say they supported him back in 2008.

The new newest members of the best political team on television, CNN's Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer, join me next.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we could achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming. But tonight because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.


KING: That was election night 2008. Lofty rhetoric from the candidate who just made history.

Well, this was the town hall today, 20 months to the day since he took office.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an American veteran and I'm one of your middle-class Americans and, quite frankly, I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration. Defending the mantle of change that I voted for and deeply disappointed with where we are now.


KING: So what happened? Well, joining me now are the two newest members of the best political team on television.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker and New York's former Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer. Their new program are right here on CNN, "PARKER SPITZER" debuts in two weeks.

Let me just start right there. And, Kathleen, to you first. In a column last week you talked about solving the riddle of the sphinx.

What happened to the guy who once had the Midas touch to the point where he had this town hall today, he was getting battered by people who said they supported him?

KATHLEEN PARKER, CO-HOST, CNN'S PARKER SPITZER: Yes, well, I'm afraid that he touched too much and it didn't turn to gold. This time Obama has just gone too far with too many programs too fast, and I think the American people feel overwhelmed and that lady spoke for many.

I think even those who voted for him are now exhausted in trying to defend him and find a place to land that they can be in favor of his agenda. It just hasn't worked so far.

ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST, CNN'S PARKER SPITZER: You know, John, let me defend the president if I might, and I don't do this as a partisan, I don't do this as a Democrat. I do this as somebody who has taken a look at those presidents who've been transformational, whether it is FDR, whether it is Lyndon Johnson, whomever it may have been, it takes time.

Campaigns are truncated. They're a number of months. You get the emotions and the excitement. And it's a wonderful thing to be part of or to vote for a candidate who brings all of this energy with him or her but it takes time to turn.

And the -- you know, the message of the president about the arc of history, it's a long arc. And it takes time for things to get to where we want it to be. And I think the public needs patience right now and the president is going to get that.

PARKER: Well, it does take time but every president has had to deal with that arc and, you know, he has -- he has bitten off more than he could chew just to put it quite simply. And that's -- I don't think the American people expected to have hope and change institutionalized right away.

SPITZER: You know, he was --

PARKER: You see how well we get along?

SPITZER: He was dealt a hand which was worse than any president since President Roosevelt, who came in in the midst of the Great Depression, and President Obama has mustered all the tools, all the energy.

Look, I've been critical of him as well in certain respects. I don't think he's done enough. But I think the notion that he should have done less misses the magnitude of what was going on in our society and the depth of the anger and the frustration and the degree to which we need change.

KING: But if he has such enormous --

PARKER: John, I heard --


KING: If he has such enormous communication skills, and I think you both agree that he does, doesn't he, though, Eliot Spitzer, have a responsibility to help people along the arc, to show them that, yes, this is a long-range problem?

Because that's the disconnect here. That woman who asked that question, the president's answer was, well, we've passed credit card reforms. She said she didn't have a credit card.

Then he went on to talk about another program. But it's all problematic in saying we'll get there eventually or we're taking small steps. There's not a personal connection like he had in the campaign.

SPITZER: John, you're exactly right. The failure has been first and foremost one of communication. He has not been emotive. He has not been emotional enough. He has not touched real people.

And I think the part of this is that he has become antiseptic and he's been worried about particular programs rather that seeing the pain. Look back to Bill Clinton when he said I feel your pain, people believed it.

When Barack Obama says it, people don't necessarily believe it. And so clearly there's been a disconnect there and he's got to work on that. But I think that is a smaller concern than the problem of being wrong on substance.

KING: There's -- you know, almost 10 percent unemployment in the country. It's about 10 percent in some states, 8 percent in others. We're 43 days away from a big election. Colin Powell was out on "Meet the Press" yesterday and he tried to identify what he sees as the president's biggest problem. Let's see if you agree. Listen here.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Some of the anxiety and anger that you see out there I think comes from a belief on the part of the American people, whether it's correct or incorrect, and the White House would say it's incorrect, that not enough attention, his singular focus should be on employment.


KING: Kathleen, that reinforces your point, That he took a bit too many apples at once, if you will.

PARKER: Yes, and Colin Powell also said that he had just taken -- yes, exactly. Those were the words he used, that he had taken on too many programs.

And, you know, Barack Obama had the support of independents going into the election. They put him in office. And even they are going the other direction now, 2-1, those who are expected to vote say they will vote for the Republican candidate over the Democrat.

So, you know, Barack Obama has -- you know he is a wonderful communicator if he believes in what he's communicating and I wonder sometimes if he's really as enthusiastic about what he's trying to do as he wanted us to believe in the beginning.

SPITZER: You know, I think the problem here, John, is one of expectations. And I think all politicians can fall into this trap on the cusp of a big election. You say, my goodness, we're going to win big. People have bought everything we're saying. We think we're going to change society.

They want to believe it. In his heart he did believe it but if you just simply look at the unemployment rate numbers which is really what is driving this. Unemployment equals bad poll numbers, and everybody understands that.

When he was told by Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, don't worry, we passed the stimulus, unemployment will peak at 8 percent, my goodness, the president was simply sold a bad bill of goods by some of his most senior advisers, and now he's trying to work his way back from that and it's a very difficult thing to do.

So he's doing the best that he can. And it's tough.

PARKER: I didn't know that Eliot was working for the White House.

You know, part of the problem, I think, it comes down --

SPITZER: Look, I've been critical -- this sounds good. I've been intensely critical of some of the folks in that White House.

PARKER: It comes down to trust, I think, as well, because once you say something, once you make a promise and then you failed to keep it, there's nothing wrong with saying up front, look, there's no dishonor in saying I can't fix all these problems quickly.

You're going to have to stay with me. It's going to be a long flood. But instead they promised that the stimulus would result in 8 percent unemployment and so, you know, we see that that's not the case and so over time trust erodes.


SPITZER: And one other thing, I think this is the issue of biting too many apples simultaneously. President Reagan, who was an amazing communicator, also had a very linear communication strategy. One issue at a moment. He was brilliant at it.

PARKER: Right.

SPITZER: And he didn't deal with health care and then foreign policy, and then the Middle East, and then let's get the Olympics and then a beer summit. All these other things and health care. And so all these things that distract him.

PARKER: Well, and not to mention attacking people who aren't even part of the Hill. I mean going after Rush Limbaugh. Yes, he is an influential radio host, but he's not part of the Republican Party to the extent that the president has suggested he is.

SPITZER: Maybe the message is --

PARKER: These people are influential. But I mean -- the White House doesn't need to get involved in that.

SPITZER: Look, I agree with that. That was a bad trip. Can't the president multitask? I mean, look, the president needs to --

PARKER: Apparently not.

SPITZER: Well, look, I mean, maybe he should be able to. Maybe the problem is that we, the public, need to cut him some slack.

KING: Eliot Spitzer --

PARKER: You get a sense of what our show is going to be like.

KING: I like it. I like it. I like it. It's a good little taste of the flavor. We'll do it again before you get started.

Kathleen Parker, Eliot Spitzer, thanks for your time today. We'll do it again in the near future.

And next for us, the 2010 version of the "Contract with America".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns and the latest political news you need to know right now.

Hey, Joe.


Both President Obama and Vice President Biden used a new line today but both said it off camera, addressing Democratic complaints the administration hasn't done enough, both men said, don't compare us to the Almighty, compare us to the alternative.

A group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a formal complaint against Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell today. They allege she illegally spent $20,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. An O'Donnell campaign spokesman calls the complaint frivolous.

And French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy flatly denies a new book story that Michelle Obama told her living in the White House is hell.


CARLA BRUNI-SARKOZY, FIRST LADY OF FRANCE: Of course, Michelle Obama never said such a thing. I'm happy to tell you very frankly that this is not an authorized book.


JOHNS: So John, honestly, you know -- right.


JOHNS: I don't know if she said it.

KING: There you go.


JOHNS: I don't know what she said.

KING: There we go. There we go. See? Yes.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And with the flattering picture --

KING: Carla Bruni said it was not true, too late to keep it off the New York tabloid cover there.

All right, that was a little funny.

BORGER: Never mind.

KING: Never mind.

JOHNS: She wouldn't be the first occupant of the White House to say something like this.

KING: I'm tempted to just continue talking about Carla Bruni. But I --

BORGER: Just waiting for that.



KING: But I know better.


JOHNS: Good for you.

KING: Let's move on.


KING: The House Republicans on Thursday will unveil their new proposal to the American voters to try to convince people we are not just the party of no. If you give us the governing majority, here are the things we will do. We don't know quite what they're going to call it but do we know what's going to be in it?

BASH: Well, we have a general idea of what's going to be in it. Nothing is going to surprise you. Nothing is going to surprise any of the viewers. It's going to be about jobs, it's going to be about spending and health care. And along the lines of what they have been arguing on all of those issues to date.

This is I think the big -- we had this big ceremony in 1994 and this big hoopla, big -- a lot of dramatic pomp and circumstance. This is the check the box event that we're going to see on Thursday.

KING: So more low key.

BASH: More low key. Check the box. Because -- check the box because they promised that they were not just going to be against Democrats. They were going to offer something for the voters. But they're going to do this as quickly and in a dirty way as they can because they don't -- they want to talk about what's wrong with the Democrats more.

KING: And they don't want to go on the record saying here's how fast we balance the budget, here's where we cut. Do they?

BORGER: Well, no. Of course they don't. And they don't want to nationalize the election anymore than they already have. I mean they've -- it's about Barack Obama. It's not about these particular issues.

They feel they've got a great issue, sad as it is. They want to run against the stimulus, run against health care, run against the energy policy. So, you know -- and by the way, why tie all of your candidates to the establishment in Washington which is why they're not having the big posing picture they did in 1994.

BASH: Right. It's going to be a small, small group. Yes.

BORGER: You know?

JOHNS: And they don't have to sign.

BASH: Right.

BORGER: Right.

JOHNS: And that's very interesting. Last time they had to sign. The other thing I'm hearing is they're not going to be so many specifics in there.

They don't want to get tied down. They don't want to get locked down into this because they think they're doing pretty well right now and the more specific you are, the easier target you are.

KING: Still a little risky late in the campaign where everything is going your way, because even if you don't sign, even if you don't come, candidates are going to get asked at their events out there, in Michigan and Ohio, and everywhere else in the country, are you --

BASH: It's hard to imagine -- again, they're holding the specific close to their vest, but it's hard to imagine they're going to put anything out there, that any of these candidates are not going to be able to say, of course I support that.


BORGER: Let me guess, they for tax cuts.

BASH: They want to reduce spending. Exactly. Want to reduce spending, the tax cuts, and they want to repeal the president's health care plan and also there's going to be some issues in there that have to do with reforming the way Congress works.

KING: All right, so -- so occasionally I make the point that the politicians clearly think we're all stupid. This is one of these occasions.

BORGER: Occasionally they're right.

KING: Occasionally they might be right.

Here's an ad -- the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is running this ad against Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party stunning upset victory last week in Delaware. Let's play a little bit of the ad then we'll talk about it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know a lot about Christine O'Donnell. But here's what we do know. She'll fit right in this Washington. O'Donnell spends money she doesn't have.


KING: The Democrats, who've been in charge of the Senate since 2007, they have had a Democratic president for 20 months now -- 20 months today -- I guess they're qualified to say, "She'll fit right in in Washington. She spends money she doesn't have."



BORGER: Is that the definition of chutzpah, I think?


BORGER: It's a technical term, but yes.

JOHNS: So many insiders in Washington -- you know this. They love to run as outsiders. I think Ronald Reagan ran as an outsider against Washington when he was an incumbent president. You know? In his second term.

So, yes. It's -- anything they can do. The other thing is anything they can do to change the subject the Democrats think is good right now.

BASH: But beyond the specifics of that, which I think chutzpah is the best word for that, is the whole question of -- you know, we've been -- we talked about this before. The question of whether anything the Democrats put up, especially a negative ad, will have any affect. I mean you talked --

KING: When I was in Ohio --

BASH: Exactly.

KING: John Kasich who's running for governor said that. The Democratic attacks, they'll be working -- Ed Goeas, the Republican pollsters at the top of the show, said -- he basically said the Democrats this year could be the very same spot Republicans were in 2006 no matter how good they campaign, no matter how good they follow the playbook, it doesn't work.

All right. We'll see.

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) Republican today.

KING: Sorry --

BORGER: It's already baked. Let's put it this way.

KING: It's already baked. All right. Let's see if it is. We'll find out. Thank you.

Are you embarrassed? Of course you are. By anything you did in high school. "Pete on the Street" is asking the question. He's up next.


KING: "RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME" just a couple of minutes away at the top of the hour. Let's check in with Rick Sanchez for a preview.

Hey there.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Sinatra sang about it, but O'Donnell actually tried it. We're talking about witchcraft, yes, on this newscast.

And who makes the list you don't want to be on on this night? We'll have that for you.

John, back to you.

KING: Rick just mentioned witchcraft. Come on, admit it, we all did something in high school that we wouldn't want to come out now. So what did you do?

Our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick on the street finding out.







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mooned somebody.

DOMINICK: You mooned somebody?

So it's not a big deal that she dabbled in witchcraft and went on a date where she worshipped Satan at the altar for -- like at night, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's kind of sexy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bonding spell once.

DOMINICK: A bonding spell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never admit to anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supposedly my mom's a gypsy. So who knows? Might be.

DOMINICK: Your mom might be a gypsy. This guy's mom is a gypsy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I had a clue.

DOMINICK: He had a clue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That we just steal horses back in my country.

DOMINICK: Did you annoy people? Did you bother people?


DOMINICK: Right. What did you do? Give me something. Come on.


DOMINICK: This guy's a wimp.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I'm so old now I can't even remember.

DOMINICK: Really? Come on.


DOMINICK: Are you a witch?


DOMINICK: Oh dear. Did you ever ride a broom?


DOMINICK: Cast a spell?


DOMINICK: Yes. Found her. You used to throw things up a bridge, are you scared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Just water balloons.

DOMINICK: Water balloons off a bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should be like all the other politicians. Aren't they all a little --

DOMINICK: Could you give me hair? Go ahead. A spell for hair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I'm working on it.

DOMINICK: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to take 48 hours. DOMINICK: Abracadabra. Found one. Whoo! Oh, I feel it coming out.


DOMINICK: John, she was a witch. Her spell worked. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for but I'll take the Barney Frank look.

KING: Wow. That is scary. Hey, Pete, you watch "Harry Potter"?

DOMINICK: Never seen it. Heard about him. Who is this Harry Potter?

KING: Here's a spell. Ready? Evanesco. That worked wonders.

That's all for us tonight. We'll try to bring Pete back for tomorrow because we'll hear from Chris Coons. He's the Democratic candidate running against Christine O'Donnell up in Delaware.