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CNN Larry King Live

Controversial Book On Obama

Aired August 13, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, is Barack Obama being swift boated?
The man who wrote that book on John Kerry now makes some incredible and even false claims about the current Democratic candidate. Sensational accusations on race, religion and drugs leap from the pages in what's about to top "The New York Times" best-seller list. The author spells it all out right here and a critic confronts him.

Plus, is Obama's Hawaiian vacation hurting his chances?

Is McCain helping his by staying on the campaign trail?

All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Controversy heads the list tonight.

In New York, Jerome R. Corsi, author of the new book, ""The Obama Nation": Leftist Politics and The Cult of Personality." The book debuts number one on "The New York Times" best-seller list. There you see its cover. He's also author of the 2004 best-seller "Unfit For Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry."

In Washington is Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters for America. Media Matters describes itself as: "A progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation in the United States media."

Mr. Corsi, did you say -- did you tell "The New York Times" the purpose of the book is to defeat Obama?

JEROME R. CORSI, AUTHOR, "THE OBAMA NATION: LEFTIST POLITICS AND THE CULT OF PERSONALITY": Well, Larry, I make that very clear in the book. The book is designed to say that I oppose the candidacy of Barack Obama and I explain why. I've got 360 pages and nearly 700 footnotes explaining my argumentation about Obama, complete examination of his life, his positions, his background.

I'm an investigative reporter with "World Net Daily." I have academic credentials. I've studied and worked in universities.

KING: Did you -- as a good investigative reporter, did you approach this objectively or not?

CORSI: I did, but, Larry, "World Net Daily," one thing we do clearly is we also have a policy that we write in editorials and state our political views, as well. So I'm out front, just as I was with co- authoring "Unfit For Command" with John O'Neill. Here I'm saying clearly I oppose Barack Obama. And the book is designed to lay this information out and let the American public decide.

KING: Paul, you denounced the book as unfit for publication.


PAUL WALDMAN, SENIOR FELLOW & DIRECTOR SPECIAL PRODUCTS AT MEDIA MATTERS: Well, let's put in some historical context, Larry.

Four years ago, Mr. Corsi wrote -- co-wrote a book called "Unfit For Command" that was part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John Kerry. Every single objective observer that looked at that came to the conclusion that it was just riddled with falsehoods and distortions and unbelievable claims.

Now, four years later, he has come out with another book that is also riddled with distortions and falsehoods. So the question is, why on earth would anyone listen to what he has to say about Barack Obama?

KING: All right, the...

CORSI: Larry...

KING: Yes. Go ahead.

CORSI: Could I get to respond to that?

KING: Sure.

CORSI: Well, the -- you know, this a common tactic of Media Matters and others. They broad brush, say it's discredited, it's full of falsehoods. When you get down to what they can actually prove, it's nitpicking little objections.

And I mean "Unfit for Command," we -- John O'Neill and I have not had to withdraw or rescind one single sentence of that book. We continue to stand by it. And I do remind people that John Kerry lost the 2004 election.

KING: All right, the...

WALDMAN: Well, you know, you can call.

KING: Let me -- hold it, Paul.

"The Obama Nation" depicts Barack Obama as a radical liberal who has tried to hide what Jerome Corsi describes as "extensive connections to Islam."

There is a segment of the population that believes Obama is a Muslim. I asked the senator about this perception in mid- July.

Here's what he said.


KING: A "Newsweek" poll shows that 12 percent of America believes that you're a Muslim and 26 believe -- 26 percent believe you were raised in a Muslim home. A lot of misinformation.

How do you fight that?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: Well, you know, by getting on LARRY KING and telling everybody I'm a Christian and I wasn't raised in a Muslim home. And I pledge allegiance to the flag. And all the things that have been reported in these e-mails are completely untrue and have been debunked again and again and again.


KING: Jerome, if a man says he is a Christian, why doubt that?

CORSI: Well, I don't. I say in the book I can't read Barack Obama's soul. I can't look into his mind. If he says he's a Christian, he's a Christian. What I say is...


CORSI: Well, but what I document Barack Obama just there said he was not raised as a Muslim. I very clearly document in Indonesia, when he was six to 10 years old, living with his mother and his Islamic stepfather, he did attend a public school where he received Muslim education. And he...

KING: But...

CORSI: was the type of Islamic education that was for a person registered as a Muslim in that school, which Barack Obama had also been when he attended Catholic school in (INAUDIBLE).

KING: But Jerome, you know that Jewish kids go to Catholic schools. It doesn't make them Catholic.

CORSI: Well, he was registered as a Muslim. The documentation -- I thoroughly researched it from the Indonesian newspapers and Indonesian television. He attended mosque with his stepfather. The friends who were in school with him attest that he was then considered a Muslim. And that's the testimony of the people in Indonesia who grew up in those six years (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: But he says...

CORSI: ...with him.

KING: But he says he's Christian.

Paul, why do you think this closet Muslim thing hangs around?

WALDMAN: Well, Larry, partly because what Mr. Corsi is doing is of a piece with this kind of innuendo that's floating around in e- mails and on right-wing Web sites, all meant to convince people that Barack Obama isn't really one of you.

But I do want to respond to some -- to a couple of things he said before. He said that the people who criticize him for getting the facts wrong are nitpicking. Well, knit -- the truth is not nitpicking. Either it's true or it's false. And much of what Mr. Corsi has written is just plain false.

There's something else that's important, too. He talks about how many footnotes he has and how many sources he has. Well, if you actually look at them, there are dozens and dozens of citations to right-wing Web sites and blogs. One of the people that he cites as a quote/unquote source is a man named Andy Martin, who is an anti- Semitic right-wing blogger who once called a judge a dirty Jew and filed so many frivolous lawsuits that he's now no longer allowed to file lawsuits.

So my question to Mr. Corsi is, since you cite Andy Martin multiple times as a source, are there any other anti-Semitic right- wing bloggers that you also use as sources or is he the only one?

CORSI: All right. This is what Media Matters does. They frame questions that you...

WALDMAN: This is what we do. We look at what you wrote.

CORSI: Sir, if you'd like me to answer your question, I would.

WALDMAN: Go ahead.

CORSI: If you'd like to talk, I can just sit here. The book has close to 700 footnotes in it. The footnotes are of primary sources. There must be 100 books cited in that. I did interviews. The interviews are cited. There's newspapers included...

KING: Well, respond to the question about Mr. Martin.

CORSI: Well, I quote -- I can remember one quip I quote from him -- and it's just a quip, which is -- where he basically is saying if Obama will lie about his background and his family, he'll lie about anything. And this was in reference to the way Obama presents his father in the autobiography, which I write about extension extensively.

KING: All right, let me -- I've got to get a break.

Next, more on the sensational accusations, including some about Michelle Obama.

Don't go away.



OBAMA: If you get one of these e-mails that says I'm a Muslim, not true. I've never been a Muslim. This is just stuff that is designed to make people suspicious.


KING: Concerning the use of drugs, Mr. Corsi writes about it. Mr. Waldman will criticize it. But Barack Obama does not deny that he's used illegal drugs. He addressed the issue in his memoir. He's spoken about it publicly a number of time, including these remarks in New Hampshire last November.



OBAMA: You know, there were times when I, you know, got into drinking and I experimented with drugs. There was really a whole stretch of time when I didn't really apply myself a lot. And it wasn't until I got out of college -- or got out of high school and went to college -- that I start realizing man, I've wasted a lot of time.


KING: Jerome, you write in your book that Senator Obama has "yet to answer whether he stopped using marijuana and cocaine completely in college or whether his drug use extended to his law school days or beyond."


KING: But Obama wrote in his memoir "Dreams from My Father" -- which you repeatedly cite in your book -- that when he moved to New York in the early '80s: "I stopped getting high. I ran three miles a day and I fasted on Sundays."

So are you saying he's lying?

CORSI: What I'm saying in the book is that people who admit that they've used drugs -- and Obama -- Obama says he used drugs through Occidental. And it was a lot of drugs. He said it was -- it had become virtually habitual with marijuana and cocaine.

My argument is that the self-reporting of people who use drugs as to when they quit is not reliable. That's the argument I was making. So I was making...

WALDMAN: No. That -- first of all, that's not what Mr. Corsi says in his book. He's not telling the truth about that.

But think about what kind of (INAUDIBLE)...

CORSI: The context of that is...

WALDMAN: But think about what kind of malicious innuendo this is. What he says in his book is raising the possibility that oh, maybe Barack Obama was doing drugs in the Senate. I mean let me -- let's think about what this really means.

Let me ask you a question, Mr. Corsi.

Are you...

CORSI: Well, can I answer that?

WALDMAN: Hold on. Well, let me ask...


WALDMAN: Let me ask you this one you had -- you put up...

CORSI: Well, I know you like to...

WALDMAN: You had...

CORSI: You like to talk.

WALDMAN: You put up on right-wing Web sites a whole series of bigoted and hateful posts in 2002 and 2003 that you later had to admit to when you got found out -- all kinds of really vile and malicious stuff.

CORSI: OK. If you...

WALDMAN: Now, you say that you've stopped that. You say that you've stopped that and you don't put up those kinds of vile, bigoted, malicious, hateful posts on right-wing Web sites. But all we have is your word.

I mean, do -- can we really trust you?

People who do that kind of thing, well, you know, they're not really very trustworthy.

CORSI: We have...

WALDMAN: So can we trust you?

Are you still doing that?

CORSI: You have more than my word. You've got the record of everything I've written since then.

WALDMAN: Can you prove that you're not doing it anonymously?

Can you prove it?

CORSI: I don't post anything anonymously.

WALDMAN: But all...


WALDMAN: But you just said -- well, all we have is your word.

CORSI: These... WALDMAN: You see what I'm doing here?

CORSI: No, no.

WALDMAN: This is the...

CORSI: I wanted to go...

WALDMAN: I'm doing exactly the same thing to you, Mr. Corsi, that you're doing to Barack Obama.

CORSI: No, you're...

WALDMAN: You're spreading this incredibly vicious innuendo...

CORSI: What you're doing...

WALDMAN: ...with zero evidence whatsoever.


KING: Wait. Hold it. Hold it.

WALDMAN: And that's why people look at what you do...

KING: Paul, let him respond.

WALDMAN: ...and they say this is not someone who can be believed.

CORSI: This is typical Media Matters. They bring you on the show and they bait you up, don't give you a chance even to respond. You hasn't mentioned...

WALDMAN: Go ahead. Respond.

CORSI: Oh, you haven't mentioned all my apologies for those statements. I've written eight books since 2004. I'm writing constantly on "World Net Daily," now even doing a newsletter on economics called "Red Alert." I'm not posting anything anonymously.

Why don't you criticize the things that I have written?

And one last point. You know, these ad hominem attacks, to me, I hope Media Matters keeps it going right up until the election, because it doesn't refute what I wrote in the book.

WALDMAN: There's nothing ad hominem...

KING: Jerome, have you...

WALDMAN: There's nothing ad hominem about it. And if you...

KING: Jerome, have you criticized other politicians -- major politicians who've used drugs or alcohol?

CORSI: Yes. Who've used drugs or -- I don't think that's been a theme that I've written about with others. I've criticized other politicians.

KING: Republican and Democrat?

CORSI: Yes. The -- I've written against John McCain very strongly for the last four years on his immigration policy. I wrote a series of articles in "World Net Daily" of John McCain's connections with George Soros.

The book is not written to support John McCain. I am Constitution Party. I make it very clear in the introduction I'll be voting for Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party. The book is written...

KING: Michelle Obama comes under fire in "The Obama Nation" a number of times. Jerome Corsi describes her as "the angry Obama" and says she has a campaign liability.

Here's Michelle Obama defending herself, in particular her patriotism, in an interview last month on CNN.


MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: To the extent that people don't think I love my country, I don't think there could be anything further from the truth. You know, I care deeply about my country. And as Barack has said, you know, only in this country would our stories, both he and mine, be possible.


KING: Jerome, what's your beef with her?

CORSI: Well, again, I want to get on the record what is the facts. I want the truth out. So I went back to Michelle's thesis at Princeton and showed how she based it on Stokely Carmichael's "Black Power," arguing that African-Americans at a white university like Princeton could not have an authentic experience because they were feeling alienation.

WALDMAN: You know, this is...

CORSI: And I met...

WALDMAN: We've heard this here before.

KING: Why is that wrong?

WALDMAN: We've heard this before...

CORSI: No, it's not wrong.

WALDMAN: ...about Michelle Obama.

CORSI: It's not a...

WALDMAN: People have gone back...

CORSI: It's the truth.

WALDMAN: ...and looked at her thesis to try to argue that her relating the experiences of African-Americans who were at Princeton, that that was somehow her opinion. And I have to -- I have to go back to something that Mr....

CORSI: She based the book on...

WALDMAN: I have to go back to something that Mr. Corsi said before. You know, he said he's written eight books since 2004. Well, you can put slime in the covers of a book and it's still slime. And I think that anyone who looks at Mr. Corsi's track record should be approaching this...

KING: Wait a minute.

WALDMAN: ...with a critical eye.

KING: All right. Now, hold it.

WALDMAN: And that's why, if you go to our Web site...

KING: Before you start...


KING: Hold it, Paul.

WALDMAN: ...we're not just...


WALDMAN: ...throwing out insults.


WALDMAN: What we do...

KING: Jerome, are you saying that...

WALDMAN: I'm sorry. What we do is we have gone through the book and we have documented the falsehoods one after another after another.

And if you go to, you can see it all laid out there.

KING: All right. Jerome, you're not saying, are you, that a black should not feel alienated at Princeton early on?

CORSI: No, I -- Larry, I didn't comment on it in terms of -- you know, I said, first of all, it was part of the arguments I was making about how much both writers like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael -- these extreme black rage writers that affected, in their development, both Barack Obama and Michelle. It was part of their emotional development.


CORSI: That was the point I was making and I wanted it on the record because it's part of the facts.

KING: Wasn't Martin Luther King also part of their development?

CORSI: Yes. But, you know, Martin Luther King was not nearly as influential. Very clearly, Barack Obama says in the autobiography that what resonated with his soul was the writings of Malcolm X.

KING: We have a current...

CORSI: And there are very long passages...

KING: All right, I've got to take a break.

CORSI: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

KING: And we're going to continue with another segment.

I have a comment from the Obama campaign. The Obama campaign has not made public comment on "The Obama Nation" book. A spokesman, Tommy Vietor, did have this to say to "The New York Times": "This book is nothing but a series of lies that were long ago discredited, written by an individual who was discredited after he wrote a similar book to help George Bush and Dick Cheney get reelected four years ago."

More on the controversial book and what's in it after the break.


KING: By the way, point of information. John Kerry, whom Corsi attacked in 2004, has launched a Web site, Truth Fights Back, to counter charges against Obama. Kerry says: "You have to fight back against those who try to smear you."

Now, Jerome, in your books, you frequently make points about people using their own words. You, in the past -- in 2003, you blogged that "boy-buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is OK with the pope as long as it isn't reported by the liberal press."

In 2004, you described Muslim...

CORSI: And, Larry, these are all...

KING: "worthless, dangerous, satanic."

You called Pope John Paul II senile.

Now you can say you're OK, now, but if you meant that then, we have a right to question you then, as you question Mrs. Obama at Princeton.

CORSI: Well, Larry, you should also report all the apologies for those comments. And I've clearly stated...

KING: Yes, but you still -- I mean...

CORSI: I stated they were not written to express my true views. They were intentionally written to be antagonistic or aggressive or provocative. The Catholic Church, I'm a good member. I was born and raised in the Catholic Church.

I'm a member in good standing of the Catholic Church. I have supported Islam. After I wrote "Atomic Iran," I walked 200 miles with the Islamic Iranian expatriates for freedom in their country, created two mutual funds for the state of Israel, went -- with the blessing of B'Nai Brith and my 25 years in financial services.

You can't take a few quips that I've wrote that I've apologized for -- that should not have been written -- and I have not done again -- to be representative of my beliefs and writing.

WALDMAN: I don't know...

KING: Paul, are you...

WALDMAN: I don't know what Mr. Corsi...

KING: Paul, are you disappointed, the fact that Simon and Shuster, a division of Simon and Shuster publishes this book, and that Mary Matalin, the former chief aide to Dick Cheney, is the -- it's her imprint?

WALDMAN: Right. Well, that's how we have to understand this. That imprint is run by Mary Matalin, who was Dick Cheney's aide, a longtime GOP operative. And once Mr. Corsi's book came out, of course, it fit right into the conservative promotion machine.

So that means he gets to go on Fox News as many times as he wants. It gets bought in bulk by conservative donors. It gets sent out and promoted on conservative mailing lists.

This is something they've done very well before. And the merit of the book in question is never even a question. You know, one of the other best-sellers that they managed...

CORSI: Could I answer this?

WALDMAN: push on the best-seller list...

CORSI: Is this...

WALDMAN: Well, I'm not done.

CORSI: If this your statement?

WALDMAN: When I'm done, you can answer.


KING: Let him finish.

WALDMAN: One of the other...

KING: Paul...

WALDMAN: One of the other best-sellers that they pushed on best- seller list was something that alleged that Hillary Clinton put crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree. This is the kind of books that they push up by buying them in bulk, by having this promotion machine. And it's one smear job after another. And I think that it's incumbent upon all of us who believe that whatever our political positions are, that the discourse around the campaign ought to be conducted with some kind of eye toward what the truth is.

KING: All right, Jerome...

WALDMAN: ...that we have to look very, very skeptically at this whole thing.

KING: All right. Jerome, Senator McCain -- he did it on this program -- promised that he -- this would be an issue-oriented campaign, no personalities driven, there will be open discussions among both.

Are you going against that concept?

CORSI: Larry, I'm coming to the conclusion the Barack Obama campaign is afraid for people to read this book. This book is a legitimately published book. It's published with the investigative research in this book that is not being touched here. All that's happening is I'm getting called names. I'm not allowed to talk. It's an ad hominem attack. And anybody who knows ad hominem attacks know that it's -- the people making them have already lost.

If they could beat this book on argument, logic and reason, they would do so. Otherwise, they've lost and they're just calling me names.

WALDMAN: Well, what I would encourage people to do then is to go to And you can see point by point...

CORSI: How about read the book?

WALDMAN: Sure. Go ahead. Read the book. And then go to

CORSI: Good idea.

WALDMAN: ...and see point by point our refutation of all of the falsehoods, all of the distortions that are in there...

CORSI: You know...

WALDMAN: ...because it is one after another...

CORSI: I wish tonight we had discussed those. I mean you didn't discuss the points. You called me names about them.


KING: All right, give me a point...

CORSI: I would love to have debated those.

KING: Then give me a point in the book, Paul, that's wrong.

WALDMAN: Well, just to give you an idea of what...

KING: Go ahead.

WALDMAN: ...what Mr. Corsi's methods are. So he talks about at one point -- at one point about -- in his attempt to try to convince people subtlety that there's something too Islamic about Barack Obama that his father divorced his mother in accordance with Sharia law.

Now, Mr. Corsi's evidence for this is some Canadian blogger who said it. That's the kind of evidence that he has from his sources. When they're not right-wing blogs, they're right-wing -- other kinds of right-wing Web sites. And...

CORSI: That section I presented three alternative explanations of it. And I did not support the version of the Sharia law in the (INAUDIBLE).

WALDMAN: Then why did you include it in your book?

So why are you including baseless innuendo...

CORSI: I was debating the...

WALDMAN: I don't understand.

CORSI: I was debating the evidence on it.

WALDMAN: Why are you including baseless innuendoes in the book...

KING: Let him answer.

WALDMAN: ...if you don't think that it's true?

CORSI: I was looking at a variety of explanations for it and I was weighing them and I did not support that one. So, again, you're distorting the book.

WALDMAN: Yes. Well, that -- that's the technique that Mr. Corsi uses to pass on innuendo.


WALDMAN: To say...

CORSI: It's legitimate to look at different arguments...

WALDMAN: stick a question mark...

CORSI: I'm sorry.

WALDMAN: put a question mark at the end of something and say -- and say, oh, is he really a Muslim?

I don't know.

CORSI: No, I...

WALDMAN: Is he a drug dealer?

CORSI: Now you're...

WALDMAN: Because putting a question mark...

CORSI: You're acting like...

WALDMAN: the end of a sentence...

CORSI: No, I'm sorry...

WALDMAN: ...doesn't mean that you get excused for passing on that innuendo.

KING: All right. Let's get one thing clear, though. I want to clear up one thing.

Jerome, you are not supporting John McCain, right?

CORSI: I'm not.

KING: You're voting for someone else. So you want neither McCain or...

CORSI: No. I'm voting for the Constitution Party.

KING: You want neither McCain or Obama to be president?

CORSI: Chuck Baldwin.

KING: You want neither of the two frontrunners to be president?

CORSI: I'm voting for Chuck Baldwin. And Chuck Baldwin is where I'm going to vote. I'm a Constitution Party member and I support Chuck Baldwin.

If John McCain wins, I suspect I'll be writing against John McCain on "World Net Daily," where I'm a staff reporter, for the next four years, opposing very many of his positions.

KING: OK. We have not heard the last of these gentlemen or this book.

Jerome Corsi's book is "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and The Cult of Personality."

Paul Waldman, a senior fellow, Media Matters for America. Will "The Obama Nation" have an effect on the election, next.


KING: Joining us now to discuss what we've just seen, in Fargo, North Dakota, Ed Schultz, progressive talk radio host, host of his own program, supporter of Obama, and in New York, Andrea Tantaros, a Republican strategist, media consultant, former press secretary for the Republican House Conference, a supporter of John McCain. Ed, what do you make of what we've just had on the air here for 30 minutes?

ED SCHULTZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think it's an issue of credibility with this writer, Larry. The Obama people -- first of all, I talked to them tonight. They're not happy about it. They are going to respond to it. They're going to go right back at this writer and point out to the American people that he's a hate merchant. There's no question about it. He sells this stuff.

The timing of it is very interesting. This information has been out there about Barack Obama for a long, long time. But if you'll notice that back in '04, most of these political books were flying off the shelf. This time, they're not. I think the American people --

KING: This book is number one --

SCHULTZ: -- are pretty much politically exhausted with this stuff. Well, it might be number one, but it was pointed out in that segment how the number one stuff works. A lot of these conservative groups buy this stuff up. The fact is that the American people -- it does, Larry. The American people are politically tired of this kind of rhetoric. They've been down this road before. I don't think it's going to touch Obama's camp at all.

KING: Andrea, will it help yours?

ANDREA TANTAROS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it depends how many people read this book and how many Republicans actually use this book against Barack Obama. As Ed said, look, a lot of these charges are already out there. You know, I would strongly encourage Republicans not to use it. I think going after someone's religion is the lowest form of politics. I really do. I don't think you're going to see the McCain campaign use it at all.

But I do have to say something. It was interesting to have a representative from Media Matters. Just because you have a website called Media Matters doesn't mean there's slime up on your site. Media Matters is a left wing smear machine. They are notorious for taking things out of context. And I'll point out the last 30 minutes, he wasn't even able to refute anything that Jerome said. I really wish they would have gotten to the meat of the points that Jerome was making.

KING: Do you think McCain Will refute it? Andrea.

TANTAROS: I don't think so. I think he might refute some points of it and say, we shouldn't go after someone's religion. Barack Obama has adamantly come out and said, I am a Christian. He shouldn't have to defend that any further. Look there are question, Larry. You don't have to look at Barack Obama and question if he surrounded himself with a radical theory. I mean, you look at his pastor. You look at what his pastor was saying. Twenty years in that church, that speaks for --

KING: Ed, is the book -- hold it. Let me ask the question. Ed, is the book preaching to the choir? Or is it going to have an impact?

SCHULTZ: No, it is preaching to the inquire. It will not have an impact. The American people are far more educated on these smear attacks. A lot of this has already been vetted in the minds of the American people. You're not going to have a "New York Times" best- seller stop a political movement of change in this country, not one writer.

What people remember about '04, Larry, is not the writer. It was the material that was not responded to. That's what Democrats are remembering. It's amazing how many awful people there are in the world, according to this guy, and they all happen to be Democrats. But, no, Obama has a tremendous message, tremendous message of change. He's resonating big with a lot of independents in this country. The American people aren't going to go down this road of smear.

TANTAROS: Actually --

KING: Andrea -- could this book, Andrea, kind of work in reverse and hurt you? If it's too slimy will people react negatively to it, therefore, affecting McCain?

TANTAROS: No, I don't think so. It's not -- John McCain didn't pen the book or the GOP didn't pen the book. You heard Jerome. He said he was voting for the Constitution Party. But, you know, look, Barack Obama, you can talk all you want about change and hope and this movement. Your point about independents, independents are extremely undecided. I don't see them shifting towards Barack Obama. I see Barack Obama not locking this thing up --

SCHULTZ: Oh, yes they are.

TANTAROS: Then why can't they lock this thing up --


KING: One at a time, one at a time. One at a time, Ed. Let her finish. Go ahead.

TANTAROS: Ed, you know, McCain really should be eating Barack Obama's dust right now. The Democratic brand is stronger than the Republican brand. We both know that. He's not able to seal the deal, because when you look at his policies and you look at what he's done, this chameleon-like movement towards the middle, then towards the left, then he starts to mimic John McCain because he takes these very naive position on foreign policy, this isn't change. This is more of the same. These are Carter policies, Johnson policies. And Barack Obama has not done an effective job of explaining his positions, besides lofty rhetoric. And that's going to hurt him.

SCHULTZ: I don't think you're watching the news. The fact is Barack Obama has spelled out exactly what he's going to do with Iraq, exactly what he's going to do with education, taxation and, of course, health care in this country, which people are concerned about. A smear book is not going to deter Barack Obama from any kind of positive message that's been out there.

Look at the numbers. The daily numbers are out there. McCain is not gaining. He is cornered now. He's going to have to pick a hard- line conservative to be on his ticket, because that's the only way he can get anybody to come to his campaign. He's having a hard time raising money. His message isn't resonating. What's happening to McCain in Colorado? What's happening to him in Iowa? What's happening to him in Virginia? This could be a landslide. It could be a landslide.

KING: All right, Ed. Thank you, Ed. Thank you. We'll be having Ed Schultz on, as we always do, frequently. Andrea Tantaros will remain as three others join us. We'll tackle another controversial topic, race. Should it be at all an issue in any campaign? Don't go away.



MCCAIN: I'm not advocating cutting off relations with Russia. I'm not advocating a re-ignition of the Cold War. I am advocating for actions that will make it very clear to the Russians that there are long-term consequences for violation of the norms of international behavior.


KING: Speaking of that, Mikhail Gorbachev will be our special guest tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.

We welcome now to discuss the issue of race, in Washington, Peter Beinart, senior fellow in the Council on Foreign Relations, the author of "The Good Fight, Why Liberals and Only Liberals Can Win the War on Terror." His op-ed piece in today's "Washington Post," the headline, "Erasing the Race Factor, Obama's Best Hope is to Face the Issue Directly." Andrea Tantaros remains with us in New York. In Ft. Lauderdale, Amy Holmes, the CNN political contributor. She was a speech writer for Senator Bill Frist. And in Washington, Mark Thompson, Sirius Satellite Radio host. His show is "Make it Plain With Mark Thompson." He's a supporter of Obama.

Peter, in essence, capsulize it for me, you were saying what today?

PETER BEINART, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I was saying one of the things we've learned so far in this campaign is there remains a significant percentage of white Americans -- hard to know how many -- but perhaps 20 percent who might normally vote Democratic, who seem, because of racial anxiety, so far to be unwilling to support Barack Obama. People won't say it about themselves. But if you ask them, will people they know not vote for Barack Obama, then you get about the percentage of 20 percent.

Barack Obama has a huge lead on almost all of the issues. And Democrats have a huge generic advantage. So why is his advantage so small? I think -- although one cannot be 100 percent sure, I think there's increasing circumstantial evidence that he is being weighed down, as so many African-American candidates have in the past, by racial anxiety or outright racism. I think he has to confront that head on by stating what he already believes, which is that he would like to modify affirmative action to have it reflect class, under privilege, as well as race.

KING: If true, Amy, if race is a reason someone's going to vote against someone, isn't that really terrible to say about this country in 2008?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it is a terrible thing to say. I don't agree with it. In fact, I'm very optimistic about our country. It's interesting, Pew and NPR got together and did a poll that was released in November of 2007. One of the great findings there was that both black and white respondents said they felt their values were coming together. So I disagree with you. I don't think --

KING: I don't want to interrupt, but --

HOLMES: Sorry, go ahead.

KING: When Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles, ran for governor of California, 65 percent of the public, in polls, said they would vote for him and he lost.

HOLMES: Well, there is the Bradley effect. Sure, there is the Bradley effect, that's been much discussed. But that race was quite a long time ago. If you actually look at how well Democrats do with white voters when they've had white males at the top of the ticket, they haven't done well, particularly with white men. In fact, Bill Clinton, he didn't even get a majority of the vote back in 1992. You can actually credit Ross Perot with that.

KING: What do you think, Mark? Is race going to be an issue? If so, why?

MARK THOMPSON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, this will be a referendum on race for this country, I think to some extent. That's unfortunate and fortunate. I agree that there is hope. There is some optimism here. I think the primaries showed us that there are whites who are willing to vote for an African-American for president. I think that will be the case in November.

I believe Barack Obama will win. Of course, there will be some who won't vote for him because he is an African-American. But I think the overwhelming majority will. I think there's a whole group of new voters out here, younger voter, younger generation of voters, who are of all races and all colors, who are going to have a tremendous impact upon this. And I think we'll see something very, very positive.

So it's a factor I think, Larry, in a more positive sense. I think people are willing to look at a candidate, not just on the color of his skin or discriminate against him, but to have faith that because he is an African-American, he can still not only serve a part of the country, he can serve all of the country, an entire constituency.

KING: Andrea?

TANTAROS: Well, you know, I think Barack Obama should not come out and face this issue head on. I think he made a very eloquent speech on race months ago. I don't think he should address that again. And, look, racial prejudice does unfortunately exist. I agree that it is changing. I think the millennials will drastically change America's perspective on race. But I don't think that's the entire issue with Barack Obama. I think there's inexperience there that is holding people back, and invoking hesitancy. I also think his arrogance is also turning people off.

KING: But the question --

TANTAROS: -- is the Republican brand. The Republican failure --

KING: But the question Andrea -- given all that, do you think there is a strong enough element of people who will just vote against him because he's black that will affect the election? Forget the other issues.

TANTAROS: You know, I don't. I think it's very hard to tell. And I don't. I don't think it's about race. I don't think Barack Obama has made this about race. When he makes it about race, and he makes these comments that Republicans are going to use race against him, I think he loses, because he was able to transcend race and talk about the issues. And I think that's what he needs to continue to do.

HOLMES: And, Larry --

KING: Let me get a break and we'll come right back. Barack Obama's vacation, does that hurt this campaign? Don't go away.


KING: Before we discuss the vacation issue and other things, Senator Obama has talked about race during this campaign and when I interviewed him last month. Watch.


OBAMA: I'm somebody would comes from a mixed family. My mother was white. I was raised by her and my white grandparents in Hawaii, a place where there was great diversity. And so I think it's important just to recognize that I am rooted in the African-American community. There are flaws within the African-American community, just as there are in any other community. But the basic approach that I've taken, not just to race issues, but to all issues has been the need for us to come together as Americans, and to perfect our union over time.


KING: Paul, is he wise to keep talking about it? I'm sorry, Peter.

BEINART: I think he speaks about it very well. I think he could amplify his own message that he represents unity rather than division by saying more loudly what he's already said, but which most people don't know, which is he believed in class-based affirmative action, which would help under-privileged people of all races. I think that would strengthen the message he's already sending about the fact he represents racial unity.

KING: Images and what they mean. Amy, was Obama hurt by going to Hawaii while McCain was doing so many busy things and getting in the news?

HOLMES: Honestly, I don't think so, Larry. I think most people are on vacation. Traditionally, historically, people don't really look closely at the campaigns until at the campaigns and after. Even 60 percent of Americans are undecided until the conventions, until they start watching this campaign roll forward. So I say he should take a break, beet the press, get his energy. It's going to be an intense next three months as he tries to battle to the White House. And what we have seen with the Obama campaign is that, despite the fact that he is on vacation, he is still making statements. His campaign is responding to the McCain attacks. So, I see this vacation as much needed time for him. Just take a break.

KING: Mark, how about the reverse? Any parallels between Obama versus McCain images -- images of Obama in Iraq with General Petraeus, McCain is in a golf cart with Bush 41.

THOMPSON: Well, as far as this -- these images are concerned, Obama's image being in Iraq, being in that helicopter, was a far more positive image. I think he needed that, because people want to see that he can be an effective commander in chief, that he can tackle foreign policy. And frankly, I know Andrea said that McCain should be eating Obama's dust. To some extent, I think he is.

Think about it. He goes on vacation. The conventional wisdom was that the Olympics would overshadow a lot of the news. No one expected the Georgia and Russia crisis or situation. But even while Barack Obama is away, as McCain has attempted to stay on top of the Georgia issue, and be in the front of it, even though his top foreign policy adviser is a lobbyist for Georgia, he still, himself, has not been able to take advantage of Barack Obama being away.

Again, I think Barack Obama is fine. I think the trip to Iraq helped, and even the vacation didn't hurt him at all. KING: Andrea, Colin Powell, big rumor spreading all day today that Colin, the former secretary of state, chief of staff, et cetera, was going to support Obama. And he, of course, late in the day denied that. As a Republican strategist, do you fear that happening, should it happen?

TANTAROS: I don't fear that happening, but I certainly think it would be a huge coup for Barack Obama. General Colin Powell is very much respected. He is a very powerful figure in the Republican party. And it certainly would bolster Obama's list of support, no question.

But I do think it was a missed opportunity staying in Hawaii. I think that presidents cancel trips all the time when crisis break out. I think he had an opportunity to look presidential and to fly back. Instead of talking about body surfing and boogie boarding and getting Hawaiian Ice, or whatever he was talking about, I really think that he gave new meaning to the expression you snooze you lose. This was his largest vulnerability, foreign affairs, and I think it was a missed opportunity.

BEINART: But, Larry, he is not president. He is not president. Republicans kept attacking him when he went to Europe for acting like he was president. He's not president. I think that one of the things that Obama recognizes, which is very shrewd, is that one of the most dangerous things for a presidential campaign is fatigue. When you start making gaffes, you can destroy your campaign. Remember when John Kerry said, I voted for the 87 before I voted against it? It's because he was tired.

Obama is very smart to make sure he doesn't get overly fatigued. It's part of the reason he's made so few gaffes.

KING: More with this terrific panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.


KING: We have a caller from Warrenton, Georgia. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. Listen, I'm no McCain supporter. In fact, I think these tell-all books are very useful. In fact, I want to learn more about Mr. McCain's convenient divorce to his first wife. In fact, Mr. Obama --

KING: What's the question, sir?

CALLER: The question is, if anything in this book is not true, why wouldn't he be getting his brigade of lawyers up to file a slander lawsuit against this author?

KING: Peter, should Obama sue?

BEINART: No, I don't think Obama wants to give this any more attention. I don't think this is going to have as much impact as the book in 2004 did. First of all, because the Kerry campaign was very passive in responding, and the Democrats are more aggressive this time. Also, that was playing into Vietnam and controversial things that John Kerry had said. There was a whole resonance that had been there for a long time, anger about Kerry's comments. They had a very deep history that was being tapped into. I don't think the same thing exists with Obama.

KING: Mark, what do you think?

THOMPSON: I would agree with that. I would also say, I think the American public is wise. Once bitten, twice shy. We see the results of Bush being in office and the swift boating of John Kerry. I don't think the American public is going to fall for that a second time.

KING: Amy?

HOLMES: I agree with Peter. I don't think Barack Obama should give this any more attention, any more oxygen. But I would like to say that so much of the criticism in this book is being laid at the feet of the GOP, as if this is a concerted conservative smear machine, which it's not. Let's remember, back in the Democratic primary, it was Bill Clinton questioning Barack Obama's love of country, when he said he thought if McCain and Hillary ran, you would have two candidates who loved their country and are devoted to their country. I would like to put his out on the table, but a lot of this was coming from Democrats, long before this book.

BEINART: Mary Matalin is the head of this publishing house.

KING: Yes.

HOLMES: I understand that. But so much of the attacks on this is that this is only the GOP and that it somehow is coordinated and concerted, when, in fact, in the Democratic primary, we saw left wing blogs attacking Barack Obama on religion. Hillary Clinton herself said she wasn't -- she thought he was Christian, as far as she knew.

KING: We got about a minute left. So each of you, Andrea, who should be your candidate's running mate?

TANTAROS: I really differentiate. I go off the beaten path a lot. I like Carly Fiorina a lot. I don't think he's going to go in that direction. I like Tim Pawlenty a lot, and I like Fred Smith.

KING: Peter, who should be Obama's running mate?

BEINART: I think that the names that you have been hearing a lot floated around, like Evan Bayh and Tim Kaine and Joe Biden, are all pretty strong candidates. I think they all would complement Obama well.

KING: Amy, who would you select if you were McCain.

HOLMES: Well, months ago, Larry, I said on this show that I liked Joe Lieberman. There seem to be reports that John McCain does to. I do know that would make the conservative base very unhappy.

KING: Mark?

THOMPSON: Wesley Clark or Colin Powell.

KING: Two military men to strengthen that angle?

THOMPSON: Maybe I know too much, be we learned the theme of Wednesday night is supposed to be America's security, and securing America's future. I'm just kind of thinking that's a hint. I don't know.

KING: Thank you all very much. Terrific session. We have an exclusive for you tomorrow night, Mikhail Gorbachev will be here. The former president of the former Soviet Union, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, will tell us what he thinks about the conflict between Georgia and Russia, and why he believes the U.S. is making a big mistake in that part of the world. That's LARRY KING LIVE Thursday night.

Check out the latest about that and other upcoming shows on Time now for my man Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?