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CNN Larry King Live

Jesse Ventura Discusses Potential Bid for Senate

Aired July 14, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight's the night -- Jesse Ventura, will he run for the United States Senate?
UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Jesse! Jesse! Jesse! Jesse!

KING: Against all odds, he was elected Minnesota's governor.




KING: And then he left the political arena.

Is he ready for a rerun?


VENTURA: They better start paying attention because what I did could happen again.


KING: The decision time is now.

Jesse, what's it going to be?

Are you in the race or not?

The answer next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

We'll have a political panel later.

We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, for many -- one of many visits, Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota.

He is in Minneapolis.

His "New York Times" best-selling book is "Don't Start the Revolution Without Me." And before we get to the question of the day, Jesse -- this is called a tease -- so we'll ask a couple of other things leading into it.

By the way, I'm sure you've heard about that cover of "The New Yorker." We may put it up on screen. It shows Obama wearing a Muslim outfit in the Oval Office with a portrait of bin Laden on the wall. He's fist bumping his wife. She's armed with an automatic weapon and sports an Afro. A U.S. flag burns in the fireplace.

"The New Yorker" says that it's satire.

Both candidate, McCain and Obama, criticize it.

What do you think?

VENTURA: Well, you know, we do -- we do live in the era of free speech, Larry. I think that that was proven when they took "Hustler" publisher Larry Flynt -- it went all the way to the top of the Supreme Court, when he did his thing against Jerry Falwell. And the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. So we always have to remember something -- that the First Amendment is there to protect unpopular speech, because popular speech doesn't need protecting.

And if we start practicing censorship, then where does it end, Larry?

KING: All right.

But what did you personally think of the cover?

VENTURA: Oh, I -- first of all, I...

KING: Because you can protect it, but you can not like it.

VENTURA: Oh, I don't like it. You know, it -- you know, I think that it definitely -- yes, I find it distasteful. But then again, that's politics, Larry. Let's remember, it's the dirtiest business in the world. It's part of what you have now. Without the campaign reform, you've got -- they can do any type of political ads people want to do. There's no one there to correct them. There's no one to say whether they're false or true. It's an extremely dirty, rotten business that the Democrats and Republicans have created.

And I guess, in essence, that's part of my decision tonight of whether I want to get back...

KING: I don't...

VENTURA: No, I won't.

KING: All right.

VENTURA: Trust me. I know how TV works, Larry. We'll take it right to the bottom of the hour. It will be the last thing we do.

KING: No, we won't. No, it won't be the last thing we do.

VENTURA: OK. Whatever.

KING: In fact, it will be in the next couple of minutes.


KING: I just...

VENTURA: Well, maybe...

KING: I'm just trying to rev it up, Jesse.

VENTURA: Maybe not quite. I might hold off a little bit, Larry, you know, for that extra dramatic effect.

You know, who knows what will happen?

KING: Anyway...

VENTURA: But we'll get her done this hour.

But, again, you're talking about the dirtiest business in the world, in my opinion, where anything goes. It's so cutthroat. And it's shameful, really.

Our politics, to me, in America today has turned shameful.

KING: All right, Jess, we an unpopular war. The United States' economy is in the tank. Bush's approval ratings are the lowest of any president ever. It would seem that in that situation, the incumbent party's nominee would be facing terrible political headwinds. Yet, the latest polls have McCain and Obama in kind of a dead heat.

How do you explain that?

VENTURA: I can't explain it. It's amazing, Larry, that it could be that way. Only the Democrats could screw up an advantage like that. They're the only ones I know. I mean, after all, last week they trashed the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution when they came back and gave President Bush the power to wiretap us again, the power to listen -- look at our e-mails. All of that power the Democrats held in their hand and they passed it for him last week again.

So, you know, to me, it's a case of, really, I think, in many ways, federal politics is very much like pro-wrestling. In front of us, the public, they pretend they're angry with each other and they pretend to not like each other. But in the back rooms, they're all buddies and cutting deals. And I think that's what the two parties do today at the federal level.

KING: So that's why you think the public...

VENTURA: It's very much like wrestling.

KING: And do you think the public is aware of that? VENTURA: No. I think the public believes it, just like they did for wrestling, you know, that they really don't like each other, that they're really against each other, when the reality of it is that both parties are bought and sold by the same lobbyists.

If you go to both national conventions, you'll see the same lobbyists at each one, where they're buying their influence right there. So it really doesn't matter fully to them who wins and who loses, because they have their base covered.

KING: All right, I don't want to wait anymore.

What I'm going to do, Jesse, is take a break. And when we come back, we'll ask the question and then follow up.

Will he or won't he -- will Jesse Ventura run for the United States Senate in Minnesota as an Independent?

He'll tell us next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesse "The Body" Ventura!



VENTURA: And the American dream lives on in Minnesota, because we shocked the world.


KING: OK, let's get you up to date. The filing deadline for the Senate in Minnesota is tomorrow, Tuesday, at 5:00 p.m. Local time. The Senate race is GOP incumbent Norm Coleman versus Democrat comedian and talk show host Al Franken. The most recent polls shows Coleman leading Franken.

Jesse, by the way, defeated Coleman and Hubert Humphrey III in 1998 gubernatorial race.

OK, Jesse, what are you going to do?

VENTURA: Well, we'll get to that in a moment, Larry.

I want to talk a little bit about what you just talked about, though, the polls. And I got a call today and was told that the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis had just conducted a more recent poll that included me. So it was Coleman, Franken and Ventura. This had been done earlier and I had been polling 24 percent and I was in third.

Well, I was informed today that without even being a candidate, I've already passed Al Franken. So I'm now in second place in the poll. And I think that bodes very badly for the Democrats in the fact that you have an unpopular president, you even have a more unpopular Congress and you have a senator who's in lockstep with this president.

And you're trailing that dramatically in the polls and now you have a third party candidate who hasn't even announced whether he's running yet or not and you've fallen behind him?

I think the Democrats in this particular race in Minnesota are in some serious trouble right now, Larry.


What are you going to do?

VENTURA: Well, first of all, let me say this -- and I want to talk in all seriousness. This was an agonizing decision for me, because everywhere I walk on the streets of Minnesota today I get, "Run, Jesse, run." And it feels the same way as it did in '98 when I ran and with little chance and won the governorship.

Ultimately, this decision comes down to my personal life and my personal family, Larry. You talked about it at the top of the show, about the things they're portraying Barack Obama looking like and all that. So you have to want to get into this fray and your family has to be prepared for it, also.

My children were attacked by the Minnesota media when I was the governor. I fear very much that they will be attacked again, because nothing is off limits today in the world of politics. So these are some of the dilemmas that I go through.

Do I want to put my family on the firing line again?

Is that -- this is a six year term. And as an Independent, Larry, you're held to a different standard than a Democrat or Republican is, because give it -- I'll give you a great example. When I first got in office, I wrote a book. Well, the Minnesota media accused me of trying to earn money, of trying to take the office and use it for a profit- making machine and all that stuff. I forget the exact term they used today, that I was only there to make money off the office.

And yet John McCain came through three months later on a book tour and they heralded his book. And Barack Obama writes a book and that's fine.

KING: So...

VENTURA: See, Democrats and Republicans can do that. Independents are accused of trying to turn it into a money-making venture and all that.

KING: So, you're not going to run?


KING: You're not going to run? VENTURA: I haven't said that yet, Larry.


VENTURA: Now, having said, also, I've looked hard at what it takes and I feel very strongly that maybe I'm not religious enough, because I don't go to church. I don't have a reverend today. And I'm from the old school, where there's a separation of church and state, like our founding forefathers wanted.

Today, it seems that religion is being brought into the mix. They go look at your minister. They want to hear what your congregation is and all this stuff. And, quite frankly, Larry, I'm not very religious and I don't have a minister that they can go see, when it comes time for that.

Now, having said that, maybe I'm not powerful enough because let's remember, George Bush, our president, said he talked to God before invading Iraq.

I remember, he was asked before the invasion, did you talk this with your father?

And the president's response was I spoke to a higher father. Now, that tells me he can talk to God and God talks to him, Larry.

Well, in my 57 years, which it will be tomorrow on the planet, God's never spoken to me once. Never.

And so I will tell you now, I am not going to run at this moment. But if between now and 5:00 maybe God comes and speaks to me like he did the president, and tells me I should run, like he apparently told the president to invade Iraq, well, then maybe at 5:00 tomorrow, Larry, don't call me a liar, just understand God sent me to file.

How's that?

KING: How close did you come to going -- to making the race, Jesse?

VENTURA: Well, again, Larry, it's -- I've until 5:00 tomorrow. But as of right now at this minute...

KING: But will you...

VENTURA:, I'm not running.

KING: OK. Assuming God doesn't call...

VENTURA: And how close?

Very close.

OK, assuming God doesn't call...

KING: Was it... VENTURA: Thank you.

KING: Right.

VENTURA: I was...

KING: You came close?

VENTURA: ...close to doing it. One part of me wanted to very badly. But when I spoke to my daughter and my daughter said she feared -- and she's handicapped, but she feared what would happen to her that happened to her that happened to her brother, that put me over the top. I thought I will not put my family under that type of position again, I don't think. And so it was really...

KING: What happened to her brother?

VENTURA: Her brother was convicted of doing nothing. He never did anything and the Minnesota media attacked him and accused him of underage drinking in the governor's residence. It all stemmed from a disgruntled employee that I fired and he went to get his 15 minutes of fame and said my son did all these things, which wasn't true. My son was investigated by the I-Team here and he now refuses to live in Minnesota, Larry.

So now you know why I dislike the Minnesota media.


VENTURA: Imagine if somebody did that to your child. KING: Yes. If you were if you're second in the polls...

VENTURA: Then my daughter feared...

KING: If you're second in the polls, you must -- must have had strong thoughts toward making the run. If Coleman is a weak leader in the polls -- he's a conservative senator supporting, apparently supporting the Bush administration...

VENTURA: Well...

KING: You'd have a shot, wouldn't you?

VENTURA: Oh, absolutely. There's no -- I feel strongly I could defeat him, because let's remember something. I served my country. I put on the uniform for four years of active duty and two years in the Reserves. This senator was a war protester who then comes back like the quintessential chicken hawk 30 years later and he votes for everything to go to war when he himself would not go.

Another interesting thing about Senator Coleman. For a Republican, it's pretty strange -- do you know he's never worked in the private sector?

He's been cashing government checks for the last 32 years?

Now, I find that bizarre for a Republican who says that he feels our pain in the private sector. He's never been there.

KING: All right.

Are you going to endorse Al Franken?

VENTURA: No, I won't endorse -- I won't endorse a Democrat or Republican. But I would say this, it's very difficult. I don't see how Al Franken could possibly win because he should be leading in the polls now, not trailing me. And I'm not even a candidate.

KING: But you will -- therefore, you will not endorse either one?

VENTURA: Oh, absolutely not. I don't -- well, let's look at it this way. If they're the two best we've got, I -- and for president, I'm not going to vote for either one of them, either. I guess -- you know, I don't know if I'll even vote, Larry, I've got no one to vote for. I can vote against someone. But I really have no one to vote for.

KING: All right. We're going to take a break and we'll come right back.

By the way, if Jesse did run, who would win the Minnesota Senate race?

It may be our only chance to vote for or against Jesse this time around. So go to and cast your ballot now. Maybe if he gets enough votes on our Web site, he'll change his mind before 5:00.

Jesse is not going anywhere...

VENTURA: It isn't about winning or losing, Larry.

KING: We'll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED SUPPORTERS: Jesse! Jesse! Jesse! Jesse!

VENTURA: When all the experts were saying he can't win, he's the spoiler, he's this, he's that, I kept thinking back -- no, that's not true we can win. And we have won.


KING: Jesse Ventura announcing he'll not run in the Senate race this year.

Your long-time friend and adviser, Dean Barkley, says that he thinks the public is "10 times more disgusted with Democrats and Republicans than they were when you ran for governor."

Do you share that opinion? VENTURA: Yes, I think so. You know, look at our economy right now. You know, the major thing -- and I got this backed up by the head of economics and business at Hamline University.

They asked the question the other day, how can we get a strong dollar again?

And it's the two subjects that I harp most on and that my whole campaign would be based upon, that the Dems and Repubs seem to stay away from. The first is the deficit. He said with a deficit of over $9 trillion, that's why the dollar is so weak today. That's why the economy is in the condition it's in. We must do something about the deficit. And you don't even hear either one of these parties even bringing it up.

Second, there's the Iraq War. And, in a way, I'm kind of glad now, because this country went to war and didn't feel any pain, Larry.

Well, now they're feeling pain, aren't they?

The economy is in the toilet right now and the Iraq War has played a big part in both creating that debt and putting the economy into the toilet now.

So the U.S. people are now starting to feel a little bit of pain. You maybe want to ask them how they like the war now.

KING: We have an e-mail from skip in Des Moines, Iowa: "Do you think there should be term limits for members of Congress?"

VENTURA: Yes, I do, because it's so slanted toward the incumbent to win, it's ridiculous. In the Congress today, we don't even have competitive races in all but about 15 across the country, because they control the districting and they make the districts so well -- this is Democrat, this is Republican. They all work it out in the back room.

So, yes, I think term limits would be terrific. I don't believe anyone should be allowed to serve one day longer at one job than what we let our president do, and that's two four year terms.

KING: This weekend, Governor Schwarzenegger said that he thinks flip-flops are great. People are accusing both candidates of flip- flopping. He said it's OK for a politician to change his or her mind, as long as he's honest about it.

Do you agree?

VENTURA: Absolutely. You can't go into anything and say totally that it's going to be this way, because certain -- unless you can predict the future, Larry, circumstances could change from your first year in office to your fourth year in office. And you learn more. We all learn more.

Don't you think when you learn more about something, that gives you the ability to change your opinion on it?

I agree wholeheartedly with Arnold. That's common sense.

KING: Jesse Jackson recently stirred up a fuss when, on an open mike, caught him complaining that Obama had been talking down to black people and saying in crude language that he wanted to castrate Obama.

Your thoughts on that?

VENTURA: Well, first of all, I didn't hear it. Second of all, I don't care about that. All I care about in this race, Larry, is what will Barack Obama do as president or what will John McCain do as president. All the rest of this is nonsense to me.

Why do I care what Jesse Jackson says about him?

I care about what Barack Obama says -- the same I touched upon earlier, why are we looking at their ministers?

Why do we care where they go to church?

I don't get it. We're supposed to be a country that separates church and state. But in today's world, we seem to be embracing -- you need to go get endorsements from religious leaders now, who, I might say, when they do that, should lose their tax-exempt status.

KING: By the way, Barack Obama, who will be a guest on this program tomorrow night, addressed the NAACP tonight in Washington. That same group will be addressed tomorrow by Senator McCain.

Here's a little bit of what he had to say.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: I know there are some who have been saying I've been too tough talking about responsibility. NAACP, I'm here to report I'm not going to stop talking about it.


OBAMA: Because as much as I'm out there fighting to make sure government's doing its job and the marketplace is doing its job, and we're passing laws to bring more investment and more education and more infrastructure into our communities and putting our young people back to work, no matter how much money we invest in our communities, how many 10 point plans we propose, how many government programs we launch, none of it will make a difference -- at least not enough of a difference -- if we also, at the same time, don't seize more responsibility in our own lives.


KING: Now, Senator Obama's is in Washington -- addressing the NAACP in Cincinnati.

What do you make of him, Jesse?

Are you impressed with him? VENTURA: Very much so. I agree with just about everything he says there. I'm a very big advocate of personal responsibility, as my record proves when I was governor.

My problem with Barack Obama is this -- he's making tremendous promises for government to do a great deal of stuff with and my taxes are going to go up, Larry. Well, at a time, economically, when we're in a recession -- many people are saying now even a depression -- the worst thing you can do economically is take money from the private sector and give the government more of it.

And, you know, I'm not for getting -- I already pay 50 percent. Half of what I earn goes to the government. I think that's enough. I think I'm paying my fair share, half of the fruits of my labor.

KING: We're going to take a break. We'll come back with some more moments with Jesse Ventura and then we'll meet an outstanding political panel to discuss a lot of things.

Jesse is not finished yet. He'll sound off on some more issues right after the break.


KING: We're back.

Our Web site has a vote regarding the Minnesota Senate race.

We asked, who would win -- Jesse, Al Franken or Norm Coleman?

Right now, Jesse's in the lead by a wide margin. There's still time to vote at

Change your mind, Jesse?

VENTURA: No, Larry, not at this point.


VENTURA: Like I told you, it will take an act of God to do it.

KING: All right. You're in the lead on this...

VENTURA: But let me say...

KING: ...on this Web site.


Larry, let me say this to you. It was difficult decision. But it came down to almost there -- surfing versus the Senate. And I found surfing to be much more honorable than the Senate if I -- for the next six years, because the ocean doesn't lie to you, the waves don't lie to you. My government does lie to me today.

KING: What do you make of the mortgage meltdown? VENTURA: I think it's great deal like the family farm meltdown. You know, this is a repeat of what happened 20 years ago to the family farm. The family farmers were given these bogus mortgages. They leveraged themselves to the hilt and it destroyed the family farm so that corporate farming could then come in and take over. What's happening now in the mortgage thing is almost identical to what happened 20, 25 years ago to the family farmer.

KING: Governor Schwarzenegger, who we mentioned earlier, has endorsed John McCain. But during an interview this weekend, he had this to say when asked if he'd take a call from Barack Obama offering the job of energy or environment czar. Take a look.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: I'd take his call now and I'd take his call when he's president, any time. Remember, no matter who is president, I don't see this as a political thing. I see this as we always have to help no matter what the administration is.


KING: Would you serve in the administration, Jesse? Would you take a call?

VENTURA: You know, Larry, to be honest with you, I haven't even given that a thought. Being the rogue independent I am, I can't imagine either one of these candidates asking me to be part of the administration. But if they were, naturally, you'd give it due consideration, because if you're a patriot, as I feel I am to my country, when the president asks you something, absolutely, you'd give it that consideration because this is the president of the United States.

KING: President Bush has lifted by executive order the ban on off shore drilling. A lot more has to be done in Congress. What do you make of that?

VENTURA: I think that's another thing for the oil companies. I think the rise in prices right now is all an orchestrated thing. They want to break the back of the environmentalists. They want to break the back of the Americans that side with the environment. They want them to say, OK, we don't care about the environment anymore, drill wherever; I've got to drive my car. That's what I believe it is.

Things don't happen -- always remember, like in "All The President's Men," follow the money, just what Deep Throat told Woodward in the bowels of that parking lot, follow the money. That will lead you to the answer.

KING: Do you plan to endorse a candidate for president?

VENTURA: No, not at all. I don't even know if I'm going to vote. Like I said, neither candidate appeals to me. Neither candidate represents what I feel. I am fiscally conservative, socially liberal. Nobody's been fiscally conservative. Give me a break, the Republicans are supposed to be, and yet the deficit has gone over nine trillion dollars with their spending. Both sides spend equally. One just puts it on the credit card. The other just does cash and carry and takes the money out of your wallet with taxes, but they're both equally as bad.

KING: If you don't vote, aren't you leaving yourself out of the mix?

VENTURA: Yes, I guess I am. Like I said, I'll be down surfing in Baja, California, on -- what would we call it -- a fact finding mission to find out what it's like to live among those brown skinned people that we want to build these fences of to keep out of our country. Imagine the courage I have, Larry. I live right down there with them for half the year. That's humor, Larry, go ahead and laugh.

KING: I get it. You're always a welcome guest, Jesse. If god calls, call us tomorrow, OK?

VENTURA: I will. You'll know that will be it. Like I said, he spoke to President Bush. I'll never forget when the president was asked, did you consult your father about the war in Iraq, meaning, of course, Bush Senior, and our president said, no, I consulted a higher father. Well, that means that God told us to go to war. Clearly he talks to our president. I think I'm every bit as good a man as him. He hasn't talked to me in 57 years. I'll wait tonight to find out.

KING: Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota; he will not run in the Senate race of Coleman versus Franken. Thanks, Jesse.

VENTURA: Thank you, Larry.

KING: The political world is buzzing about that controversial magazine cover. We'll get into that and some other issues of the day next.


KING: Tomorrow night, Barack Obama on this program. Our panel is assembled. In Santa Fe, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico, a supporter of Senator Obama. In Dallas, Texas, our friend Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a supporter of John McCain. San Francisco, Kamala Harris, San Francisco district attorney and a supporter of Barack Obama, and in Cincinnati, where attended that NAACP convention, Congressman Chris Shays, Republican of Connecticut, supporter of Senator McCain. First, quickly, Governor Richardson, do you think Jesse Ventura would have added to that battle had he gone on in Minneapolis?

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D) NEW MEXICO: Sure, he would have. He's a colorful character. He's been a governor before in that state. He had a controversial tenure there. I'm not sure he would have the support he had when he ran originally. But an independent in a state like Minnesota that is -- it trends Democratic but has moved a little bit towards Republicans. He would have had an impact. I think it would have helped Al Franken, because a lot of those independent votes probably go mainly from the Republicans, but it would have been an interesting race.

But his heart and soul don't seem to be in politics anymore. I think it's a good contest, Franken, Coleman. It's going to be interesting to watch. I wouldn't dismiss Al Franken. I think he's going to be a very strong candidate.

KING: Let's move to some other areas, and the most discussed item today, of course, in politics was the front cover of the "New Yorker," often satirical, maybe never quite as biting as this current issue out today. There you see its cover, speaks for itself. Senator Hutchison, what do you think?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R) TEXAS: Biting is probably a good description, Larry. I think they meant to be satirical and they said that they did, but, clearly, it was way over the top, I think.

KING: Kamala.

KAMALA HARRIS, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I agree. As Barack's campaign has talked about, it's tasteless. It's offensive. And it's unfortunate, the "New Yorker" being a magazine of great credibility, that it really fell into a trap that's been created around really just disguising issues and diverting people from the real conversation, which is what Barack Obama was trying to talk about, which is talking about the needs, in terms of health care, what we should be doing in terms of national security, what we need to do in terms of rising gas prices and our mortgage crisis. This is a distraction.

KING: Chris Shays, do you think its attempt failed or what?

REP. CHRIS SHAYS (R) CONNECTICUT: I didn't actually see it. It was described to me. I just have a real prayer that this will be the first election in years that the media will seek to force the candidates to speak about the issues and not about all the things that are so irrelevant, which the media seems to want to talk about.

KING: Governor, what did you think of the cover?

RICHARDSON: It was in bad taste, although I think the "New Yorker" is a great magazine. They made a mistake. Obviously, there are some pushing these lies and innuendo about Senator Obama that are totally incorrect and lacking in taste. The "New Yorker" tried to send the opposite message, but I think they failed because it reinforces that stereotype that a lot of people, in some circles, are trying to perpetuate. So it's not good.

We need to move on. Again, the "New Yorker" has a lot of credibility, as Senator Hutchison said. These are lies and innuendo that there are some groups in this country that are trying to spread about Senator Obama that are totally false.

KING: Senator Hutchison, do you fear, maybe on both sides, that this campaign is going to get really gut dirty?

HUTCHISON: You know, I really don't. I think both candidates have said they want to run on the issues. And the candidates couldn't be more different on the issues. So there's so much to discuss. I think both of them are honorable people. I think if we see exactly what they're saying they would do for our country, people are going to have a real choice. I think all of the surrounding hub-bub of who is saying what, and a lot of times, it's not the candidates talking; it's someone else talking, and then it's attributed to the candidate, so the candidate has to deny. That's just noise.

What we need to do is get down and have the candidates debate. For instance, I wish Senator Obama would take up Senator McCain's offer of debating once a week or having a town hall meeting once a week. That would be so refreshing in American politics.

KING: Why doesn't he do that, Kamala?

HARRIS: I think he's been very forthright that he looks forward to debating John McCain. I think we all do. We look forward to watching that and watching a very meaningful and issue laden discussion about the concerns that we have about our country and the direction we should go. He's going to do that. He will do that in the midst of doing what he also is doing, which is going out and shaking hands and sitting down and talking with Americans throughout this country, so he can listen and hear from them what is concerning, what their priorities are; so he can make sure his message is consistent with what America feels and needs.

KING: Congressman Shays, you saw him speak tonight in person at the NAACP. Were you impressed?

SHAYS: He's an awesome speaker. The thing I always said is that John McCain does what Barack Obama says we need to do. John offends his own people when he thinks they're wrong. He works with Democrats. And that's why it was so hard for him to get the nomination. He goes where the truth takes him. That's why I'm eager to have it be about issues. I think Americans will make a good decision when they have the candidates talk about the issues.

KING: We have a financial crisis. We'll get into that coming up. We'll also take your calls. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Back with our panel, starting with Governor Richardson in this go around. Governor, we have a bank crisis. We've got a mortgage crisis. We've got closings. We've got bail-out of Fannie Mae. What's going on?

RICHARDSON: What's going on is that the Bush administration has totally mismanaged this economy. The problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, possibly bailing it out, that other bank that is in bad shape, is in endemic of an economy that is not strong. Senator Obama has proposed a relief package that 95 percent of the middle class of the American people get a tax incentive, a rebate, initiatives that promote growth and opportunity and renewable energy. I think that's what we need. People are lacking confidence in this administration. It's a psychological issue, too. You know, all around the country, you can talk to average Americans losing their homes, wages not going up, gas prices totally out of control. We have an administration that seems paralyzed about dealing with these problems and not looking down the road at how America can, one, be number one competitively in the world. I think what Senator Obama offers is this bipartisan spirit of bringing people together, Republicans and Democrats, to revive this economy and help America's working family.

KING: Senator Hutchison, what's your read?

HUTCHISON: I don't think it's fair to blame the Bush administration, when really it was the tax cuts that Bush put in place with Congress in 2001 and 2003 that kept our economy going, that made the stock market go higher, that really made more jobs being created than we had seen in the previous ten years. The Bush administration did a great job with the tax cuts.

What I'm worried about with what President Obama has said he would do, if he is elected, is he would do away with the tax cuts, so that people will all of a sudden see capital gains and dividends go up. He would raise the bracket on every taxpayer. And I think that is going to be a jolt on our economy at a time when our economy needs propping up.

KING: Senator, excuse me, he isn't the president. What caused the problems in the last couple of years?

HUTCHISON: It was lenders, subprime mortgage lenders who made loans to people that they could not afford.

KING: All right. Kamala? I don't hear a Kamala.

HARRIS: Larry. I'll just answer the question. I think that what we see now is the result of a failed administration over eight years with a lack of appropriate priorities. In the environment that you've described, where we've had a mortgage crisis, we've seen, for example, predatory lending, where lending institutions, financial institutions, have taken advantage of the most vulnerable among us, in many cases very hard-working families, seniors and basically created an environment where crimes are being committed -- financial crimes and fraud were being committed against some of the most hardworking and vulnerable members of our communities and that's true throughout the country.

I think what we have in Barack Obama, looking forward, is someone who, as an individual and as a member of a family, he worked his way through school. He is raising two young daughters. He knows and has a sense of the struggle that working families are experiencing in this country. And when he creates priorities, I think it will be with those families and working people in mind.

KING: Congressman Shays?

SHAYS: I would love to jump in. I love Governor Richardson, but he gave the most partisan dialogue of blame and then says Barack Obama is going to be bipartisan and work with everyone. The bottom line is, we had September 11th, which was deadly to our economy. We had Katrina, which was a 500-year storm. We've had a war to fight. We've had prices of energy go up because of huge demand. And we've had a Congress, which happens to be Democratic, and a Republican president that aren't able to work together. So it's a bipartisan problem. It's going to be a bipartisan solution. And it's not going to be talk about President Bush. We have John McCain who is running against Barack Obama. We need to look at these two candidates and hear what they want to do.

KING: I got to get a break. Barack Obama is our guest tomorrow and you can still send him a question by I Ask. Stay with us.


KING: Let's take a call. Los Angeles, hello.

CALLER: Hello, this is Judy calling from Los Angeles. My question is, how far is too far to go in a political cartoon? Political cartoons are inherent in our culture. Bush and Cheney were battered around for years. Hillary was battered around. Pelosi, Republicans and Democrats alike. And I think it's just part of the game. And I just don't understand why Barack Obama can't just take a punch.

KING: Bill, you want to respond?

RICHARDSON: Yes, yes. I think that this is a different case. This is a cartoon which perpetuates lies and innuendoes that are not factual whatsoever. And for a national magazine to put it on its cover, with a great reputation this magazine, is inappropriate. I'm surprised that Senator McCain has not vociferously opposed this.

KING: He has. He did today.

RICHARDSON: That's good. But it should be condemned by everybody. This is not a political cartoon. This is a depiction of a mischaracterization of something that is totally false.

KING: And Senator Kay Bailey, I'm sure you share that, right?


KING: And Kamala, do you think it will have any effect on this race? We only have 30 seconds?

HARRIS: I think it's a one-day story. It should be a one day story. There are so many more issues that are much more important. Barack Obama will be on your show tomorrow. He's going to be giving a very important statement about where he is on national security. He spoke at the NAACP about bringing communities together and accountability, not only between family members, but also accountability for people in our country. And these are the important issues. A cartoon is not. KING: Thank you all very much for a very informative segment on LARRY KING LIVE tonight. As we finish up, a few thoughts about a very special man. Tony Snow, the former White House press secretary and recent CNN political contributor, died this weekend after a brave battle against colon cancer. He was only 53.

Tony Snow was a class act. He was a man of intelligence and principle and decency. He was also a friend of this show. Here's his appearance on LARRY KING LIVE in March. I asked if he missed working for the White House.


TONY SNOW, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What you want to do is enjoy every day, every moment, every challenge, which I did. And then at the end of it, you look back without regret, but instead with a sense of joy and pride, because you got to do something not many people get to do and it is one of the most wonderful, exciting, fun, fulfilling jobs. I loved it.


KING: We wish Tony's wife, Jill, and their three children the very best. Tony leaves us with a lot of good memories and an empty spot in our hearts.

Tomorrow night, Barack Obama. He'll tell us about his plan for ending the war in Iraq and then we'll deal with problems closer to home, your mortgages, your finances, your money. What do you do in these turbulent times? And what you should always do is head to There's still time to participate in our Jessie Ventura quick vote. Now Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?