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CNN Larry King Live

Democratic National Convention Wrap-Up

Aired August 25, 2008 - 23:59   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: It's show time for the Democrats in Denver, where Michelle Obama made the most important speech of her life and where Senator Ted Kennedy made a -- Kennedy, rather -- made a rousing and remarkable appearance.
But could either of them rescue the evening that some political observers called a dud? And did they help unite a party still smarting from a rift?

The Republicans will tell us what they think. All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

A panel will join us a little later. We'll start with Tucker Bounds, the McCain campaign spokesman, who is in Denver. Day one of the -- of the 2008 Democratic convention is over.

Tonight's King convention clip showcases the evening's emotional high point -- a speech by Senator Edward Kennedy. It was his second public appearance since he had brain surgery in June.

And here's part of what he said.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin a great...


AUDIENCE: Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!

E. KENNEDY: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.


KING: Tucker Bounds, McCain's campaign spokesperson, joins us from Denver.

Tucker, was -- in your opinion, Democrat or Republican, was that the highlight of the evening?

TUCKER BOUNDS, SPOKESMAN, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN: Well, Larry, I think you have to say it was. I think all Americans have to come together and recognize that seeing the lion of the Senate back, being able to deliver powerful remarks like that, it's moving for all of us -- Republicans, Democrat, independents.

Senator Kennedy is a friend and colleague of John McCain's. And I think -- I think it was a moving moment for everyone.

KING: How about Mrs. Obama?

BOUNDS: I think she gave an excellent speech. I would -- I wouldn't take a single thing away from it. I think it was -- it served exactly the purpose, I think, the Obama campaign was after.

I think it was a personal speech. I think it was well-delivered. It was a -- it was a really impressive speech. Wouldn't take a single thing away from it other than to say that this is an important election. This is a big choice for the American people and they're really going to have to rely on more than a few convention speeches.

We have a lot more to come from both conventions and really wheedle down to what these candidates stand for in the experience that both offer. We feel very good that John McCain's record of reforming Washington, he's one that's to work across the aisle, his willingness to keep taxes low and grow jobs. Serious energy solutions.

That's a good record and a good agenda for America. And so we feel very good about where we are.

KING: How do you react to some of the myth pickers, Democrats included tonight on our earlier coverage, who seem to think they weren't tough enough tonight?

BOUNDS: Well, you know, I would have to tell you that there are plenty of criticisms of Senator McCain that I, myself, took some pause to.

But, you know, I think that these conventions, the way they roll out from day-to-day, we expect that the criticisms will be sharper. Certainly we're here in Denver. We're sort of a reminding presence that the things that are going on stage at the DNC don't always necessarily reflect the truth about what this campaign represents, about what Barack Obama represents.

Today we took an opportunity to remind voters that Hillary Clinton leveled some very serious charges against Barack Obama's candidacy. She called him inexperienced, she questioned his judgment. She questioned some of his foreign policy experience.

And those are criticisms that have remained unanswered and despite a powerful speech that I'm sure we're all going to see from Hillary Clinton tomorrow, these are criticisms that are really -- they remain unanswered and we're going to rely on Barack Obama to speak to those in the fall.

KING: Just hours after John McCain announced that his wife was going to the embattled nation of Georgia, Michelle Obama delivered a high-profile speech.

Here's a little clip. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SEN. BARACK OBAMA: What struck me when I first met Barack, even though he had this funny name and even though he had grown up all the way across the continent and Hawaii, his family was so much like mine.

He was raised by grandparents who were working-class folks just like my parents, and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bill just like we did. And like my families they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves.

And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values, like you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond that you do what you say you're going to do. That you treat people with dignity and respect even if you don't know them and even if you don't agree with them.


KING: Tucker, what kind of bounce will Obama get this week?

BOUNDS: Well, you know, we've been saying for a number of days now that we expect that the Barack Obama effect here in Denver is going to lead to a pretty big bounce. We expect that they could get as many as 15 points in the polls.

Certainly you're familiar with the political environment that we face. It's a real challenge. We're outperforming the Republican ballot. And I think that's because John McCain is an independent different type of a Republican who stands for different things and has worked across the aisle, whether it's global climate change, campaign finance reform, taking compassionate posture towards immigration reform.

You know he's been a different type of Republican. That's why I think we're in the position that we are today where we're virtually tied in the polls that even came out today.

But, you know, after the convention, I expect they'll have a big bounce. And that's something that we're going to have to overcome.

KING: Tucker, do you have any idea if he has made his vice presidential selection?

BOUNDS: Well, I know that's an obligatory question, Larry. You know, it...

KING: I oblige.

BOUNDS: It some -- thank you. You know, and I will oblige by saying we haven't announced it yet. We have no intentions of announcing it tomorrow. I can tell you that. But I know that he's been thinking about this very hard.

We don't get into the process and the selection other than to say John McCain is going to pick someone that he feels is the best partner to move toward reforming Washington, changing the way things get done.

So that the problems that the American people face right around their kitchen tables are problems that are being taken up in Washington. Not only in their family budgets and in their households.

KING: Will it be Friday? I can ask you that.

BOUNDS: Yes, certainly can. I can't answer authoritatively because we haven't announced yet where and when or where we're going to make the announcement. But I can tell you there is a window where these things are likely.

And I would expect over the course of the next week there'll be a meaningful announcement from the McCain campaign.

KING: Thanks, Tucker.

Tucker Bounds, a McCain campaign spokesperson who will be in Denver all week like - boil opposition, as we'll be doing all week. Monday through Thursday, that's the nights the conventions run. We'll be on an hour later -- rather at midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific, telling you what the other side thinks.

We'll have various panels and guests every night. Back at our regular time on Friday night. Other John McCain supporters will weigh in on the Democrats after the break.

ANNOUNCER: Coverage of the Democratic National Convention is sponsored by...


KING: Quick note on the interest of partisan balance.

Yes, all of our guests for our discussion of the Democratic convention are Republicans or John McCain supporters.

Never fear, next week, we'll be reacting to the Republican convention with Democrats and backers of Barack Obama.

Turn about, it's fair play, always, at LARRY KING LIVE.

Our panel consists of in Sandpoint, Idaho, Ben Stein. Ben is the "New York Times" columnist, political commentator, best-selling author. His latest book is "How to Ruin the United States of America." He's a supporter of John McCain, although he's been known he disagrees in some areas with the senator.

In Denver is Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, a John McCain supporter and I guess part of this on-looking crew of the opposite side.

And here in Los Angeles, Michael Reagan, talk radio host of the "Michael Reagan Show." His a best-selling author and lecturer. His Web site is TheReaganexchange. He's at and he's a supporter of John McCain. Later, talk radio host Lars Larson will be joining us.

All right, Ben, what's your read on this first night of the Democrats?

BEN STEIN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, I though that Mrs. Obama's speech was a -- just a mass of cliches. I don't get what's so impressive about her. Lot and lots of people are mothers, lots and lots of people have sick fathers. Lots and lots of people have children.

I mean I like the fact she's loyal to her husband. But we assume that a wife is supposed to be loyal to her husband. It doesn't seem to me she did anything much more than do what any wife is supposed to do.

I thought the speech by Ted Kennedy was kind of touching. I do not understand why the Democrats went wild over a person who really did the kind of morally disgusting things he's done., but God bless him, he's an old guy and he's very sick.

I hope he lives a long and productive life. But to cheer for someone who's done what he did just baffles me.

KING: Congresswoman -- Ben, try to be a little more direct from the truth, OK? This wish washy ain't going to work.

Congresswoman Blackburn, what did you make of this first night?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: You know, Larry, I found it interesting that there are some that were completely panning the night and then others that were talking about the energy that was there. Probably the truth is somewhere a little bit in the middle.

I did think that Michelle Obama did a very good job on delivering her speech. The charisma, the comfortable charisma that she has on the stage did come through with her remarks. I'm certain she is a great parent. It's the parent -- she is a loving daughter. She loves her husband.

I will have to say that when it comes to policy, I am 180 degrees the other direction from where she and Barack Obama are. You know, I think that also the evening -- there's this theme that they've talked about -- if there is a theme -- and I know some of the pundits that have kind of panned the evening said that there's really no central message or theme.

And if they want to talk about change, I felt like I was hearing the same rhetoric that I have been hearing since the '60s when I started listening to and following political conventions and there was not a newness there.

KING: All right.

BLACKBURN: So I found it interesting that they were settling on this change theme.

KING: I'm going to ask Michael Reagan to comment in a moment.

But first, there was uncertainty about whether Senator Kennedy would actually address the convention. His doctor said they advised him not to go to Denver at all. But he did. An introduction by his niece Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, he fired up the delegates with a short but strong speech.

Here's an excerpt then we'll get Michael to comment.


KENNEDY: This November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause.

The work begins anew. The hope rises again and the dream lives on.


KING: What did you think of his address, Michael?

MICHAEL REAGAN, TALK RADIO HOST, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: He's been giving that speech at conventions for an awfully long time. There's nothing new from Ted Kennedy. It was great that he showed up, as he called him the lion of the Senate.

But if I'm running a convention like this, I certainly don't put Ted Kennedy before Michelle Obama and let him take the air out of the room. Tomorrow night they're going to put Bill Clinton in before Joe Biden take the air out of the room again. That's why you have some pundits...

KING: Tomorrow it's Hillary. Joe Biden is Wednesday.

REAGAN: Wednesday. But I think that's why some of the delegates are saying, listen, she didn't have much to say, she didn't come across, because the air was taken out of the room by -- you guesses it -- Ted Kennedy.

But that was a nice speech. But as Ben said, (INAUDIBLE) says, everybody loves their husband or loves their wife, the children, all of those things. The argument becomes -- how are you going to deal with the issue she's talking about and the way she's going to deal with them, much different than I would.

KING: But, in her case, what do you think it meant at home, seeing her present herself that way?

REAGAN: Well, they should -- present herself the way -- the only way she could present herself. How else can she represent herself? She's not going to come across like she has been on the campaign trail. She knows she's on national TV. She has to answer the question about, am I proud of America? Am I proud about being an American? She tried to answer that one line. She gave one line to Hillary Clinton. One line to Joe Biden. I think she could have done more.

KING: All right. Capping tonight's first session, a speech by Michelle Obama, a personal address, a response to those who suggested she might be unpatriotic.

We'll have Ben Stein comment on this excerpt.


M. OBAMA: I stand here today as the cross currents of that history, knowing my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me. All of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work. The same conviction that drives the men and women I've met all across this country.

People like Hillary Clinton...


M. OBAMA: ... who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that our daughters and our sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

People like Joe Biden...


M. OBAMA: ... who has never forgotten where he came from and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and faced long odds and needs someone on their side again.

All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won't do. That we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be. And that is the thread that connects our hearts.

That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight with the current of history meets this new tide of hope. And you see, that is why I love this country.


KING: Ben Stein, was there anything wrong with what she just said?

STEIN: Not a thing wrong with it, but every bit of it was a cliche. There was nothing at all new, there was nothing at all novel, there was nothing at all that was any kind of specific response to the problems of this country.

And you know, I would love to have heard somewhere tonight, some kind of tribute to the men and women that wear the uniform of this country and who are bleeding and who are in the wards at Walter Reed and are lying under the ground in Section 62 at Arlington Cemetery.

KING: But...

STEIN: There was a most passing mention of them. But I would have like to hear a lot about them. They're the ones who are carrying the water, not these people on national TV. They're the ones that are carrying the water...

KING: But weren't...

STEIN: ... for the rest of us.

KING: Weren't they sent there by a president you support?

STEIN: They were sent there by a president I support in a cause that Joe Biden voted for. And I think it was at the time, seemingly, a good cause. It turned out to be a very questionable cause.

But let's face it, they're fighting for us. They're giving up their lives and their peace of mind and their limbs for us.

I'd have liked to have heard some kind of tribute to them instead of all this self-promotion and all this patting themselves on the back.

KING: Not much talk of President Bush tonight. Should there have been? That's coming up.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now you know why I asked her out so many times even though she said no. You want a persistent president.

Malia, Sasha, How do you think Mom did?

SASHA OBAMA, SEN. OBAMA'S DAUGHTER: I think she did good.

B. OBAMA: All right.


KING: Our panel is now completed with the addition of Lars Larson. He joins us from Portland, Oregon -- talk radio host of his own program and the "Northwest Show," as well.

As he says on his Web site,, he is known for being right on the left coast, and has not yet endorsed a presidential candidate for this year.

Back to -- we'll pick up Lars in a minute. Back to Congresswoman Blackburn. How does it feel being in enemy territory?

BLACKBURN: Well, Larry, I think that it's a pretty good place to be because it seems that there are a lot of people who are sitting here and saying all the rhetoric, the beautiful words are nice, but tell me what you're going to do. Let's talk about issues.

And I'm running into people everywhere. I was in Kansas today for Congressman Sam Graves and with a lot of women that are supporting him there. People want to hear what the parties are going to do.

They want to know what you're going to do about energy. They want to know what Senator McCain's proposals are going to be and he is bringing those forth.

KING: But...

BLACKBURN: When it comes to what they're hearing in Denver, they're not hearing specifics. I think that is very good...

KING: But this is only the...

BLACKBURN: ... for us...

KING: This is only the first night.

BLACKBURN: ... and provides an opportunity. Well, that's right.

KING: But this is only the first night.

BLACKBURN: But they've been getting ready for this first night for a long time. And, you know, I think it's nice. We all know people vote for what they're comfortable with and individuals they think are like them.

And I think it was a -- it was the right step for the Obama campaign to go in and provide a night of assurance, if you will. That their family is like many other families. I...

KING: Yes.

BLACKBURN: I think they made the right step there. I disagreed, though, in that there were no specifics in how you address these energies of -- issues of jobs and the economy.

KING: When you guess that that's coming? When you guess that's coming...

BLACKBURN: I would -- I think if it's not coming that they're missing their opportunity, but I think that many people, tonight, were disappointed.

KING: Lars? When do we get to President Bush at this convention?

LARS LARSON, TALK RADIO HOST, NOT ENDORSED CANDIDATE: Oh, they're mentioning him in a way. You know that they're disparaging him in the same way Michelle Obama did tonight, suggesting that somehow America's not a place where you can get ahead if you try hard and, of course, all of that is President Bush's fault.

I mean he's like the elephant in the living room. You don't actually have to invoke his name to be talking about him as they are talking about him in a different way.

KING: But Lars, if you were running -- if you are running against someone with a 27 percent rating, wouldn't you run against them?

LARSON: Well, sure. But I would also run on my strengths. I'd want to say, here's my solution for getting the energy this country needs. Here's my solution if there's one need for the war in Iraq, which you notice didn't get a lot of talk tonight because it looks as though they've dropped that one as an issue, although Michelle Obama did talk about getting out of the war responsibly whatever in the world that means.

KING: All right. Let's take -- we'll take another look at an excerpt from Michelle's speech and I'll get Michael to comment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She won millions of votes. But isn't on his ticket. Why? For speaking the truth on his plans.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: You never hear the specifics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the Rezko scandal.

CLINTON: We still don't have a lot of answers about Senator Obama.


CLINTON: Senator Obama's campaign has become increasingly negative.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The truth hurt and Obama didn't like it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.


KING: That, obviously, was not Michelle Obama. That was Hillary Clinton, although they do look alike.

And since...

REAGAN: (INAUDIBLE) she wasn't on the ticket. KING: And since John McCain approved the ad, he likes everybody. So he liked them -- he liked them both.

Michael, you don't have to get tough the first night, do you? I mean, being logical. You take -- you don't take the gloves off?

REAGAN: Well, it depends what the plan of the whole -- you know the whole convention is.

KING: And you don't know that.

REAGAN: There's always a plan. And tonight you really didn't know what the plan was. Ted Kennedy shows up, Barack Obama's wife shows up. Mrs. Obama, he shows up from Kansas City, thought he was in St. Louis. The kid asks the question. So he can it right the second time.

What was it they're trying to accomplish tonight? And I don't think anybody really knows what they were trying to accomplish, except Michelle Obama loves her husband. Good. I'm glad that she loves her husband.

But what did she accomplish? She really didn't accomplish anything and the party didn't accomplish anything tonight by throwing her in and giving her the speech that really was not (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Ben, what is the first night of the convention supposed to accomplish?

STEIN: Well, I think it's supposed to accomplish all the things people have been talking about, namely, to make the candidate likable. Basically all elections are like high school student council elections. You vote for the guy or the gal you like the most. No, you don't really study the platform that carefully.

I don't think they really made him that likable. I don't think they did anything to make him that likable. I thought that this business of having asked his children how his wife's speech was, was kind of silly, that's cult of personality. That's not really like -- being likable.

They have to do something to make him really, really likable. So far he's not getting there. I ran into some guys last night who made considerable size maritime union in Seattle, and they said, they're just -- they're Democrats but they are not going to vote for Obama because they just don't get him.

They don't understand him. They're not getting that across. He's got giant plans and he's got some very, very good economic plans, but they've got to make him personally likable. I don't know how they do it but they've got to do it. .

KING: We'll take a break and will be back with more of this outstanding panel -- the other side, the loyal opposition. Don't go away.


KING: Live shot of Denver, Colorado. Events that took place at the Pepsi Center there where the Denver Nuggets of the NBA play basketball and where Obama speaks Thursday night, will be where the Denver Broncos play football.

Our panel is Ben Stein, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Michael Reagan, and Lars Larson.

We have a question about what you think of the vice presidential nominee, Joe Biden? Do you think that was a good idea?

You can check in on our Web site and let us know what you think.

What do you think, Michael? Is that a good idea?

REAGAN: Well, it's interesting. They rail against Dick Cheney and then they have someone appoint someone who will be his Dick Cheney at the White House.

KING: He won't have the same opinions as Dick Cheney. He won't...

REAGAN: He has his own opinions. He voted for the war in Iraq. He wants to take Iraq, split it in three pieces.

KING: But he's against is now. Cheney's still for it.

REAGAN: It's really nice. I was for it, now I'm against it, which happens to the Democratic Party. They're always for something before they're against it.

KING: You can't change your mind? Is that it? What you should be is richer.

REAGAN: They've been doing it on everything. I was for it before, before I was against it. I was for lower taxes before I was against lower taxes.

KING: Wait a second.

If Biden is for Dick Cheney, then you're for the ticket. You like Dick Cheney.

REAGAN: Am I for the ticket?

KING: You like Dick Cheney?

REAGAN: I would have liked Jim Webb. I think he would have been a good vice presidential choice. But in fact, Dick Cheney -- what

KING: If Biden is another Dick Cheney, you're for him?


KING: Biden is another Dick Cheney. What do you think of Joe Biden, Ben?

STEIN: How does he get his teeth to be so bright? How does he do that? He has a great dentist. It's incredible. It's unbelievable. Those are, like super teeth from outer space.

I mean, he has his problems. We know he's had a number of ethical lapses in the past. I don't consider them gigantic ethical lapses. He's not known for being a rocket scientist. But I think he's basically a good guy and I like him. I've heard him, talked to him in person. He's not Barack Obama in terms of his speaking ability. He's the perfectly likable nice guy. I don't really have a problem with him.

KING: Congresswoman, a very knowledgeable guy, whether you disagree or agree, a very knowledgeable guy.

BLACKBURN: He is acknowledgeable guy. I think everyone would admit he's poured himself and his work into foreign policy and is known for following through on studying positions, arriving at different position, even though in my opinion they're the wrong positions.

I think what you saw with the Obama campaign was an admission they do not have the footing, the surefootedness to address foreign policy issues and international relations issues and therefore, they made a choice of going with Joe Biden, which really seems an odd choice when you say here is someone, a campaign going to be run about change. But then you go and you have an institutionalist who has been in the U.S. Senate since they were 30 years old.

And then you begin to look at it that way and, Larry, you see someone who at their universe of experience, of life experiences, even though they study, even though they pour themselves into foreign policy issues, then their life experience is that they're drawing from is a bit more limited than you would want to have the number two in command have as their life experiences. I just think it's an odd choice, actually.

KING: You wanted to add something, Michael?

REAGAN: I was just going to say, Joe Biden was running for the Senate while John McCain was sitting at the Hanoi Hilton being tortured in 1973. When you bring up the war in Iraq and the trouble you're in today, who do you want to be the commander in chief who really understands it? I think that's where John McCain wins on every count.

KING: You don't want someone with experience, give you bad things?

REAGAN: John McCain gives you bad things with the war? The man who ahead of his time on the surge?

KING: Does experience mean you're better?

REAGAN: I think his experience means he's better.

KING: Because he was in prison?

REAGAN: Because the man understands. Been there, done that.

KING: He supported Vietnam and would continue this war and that's good?

REAGAN: You're putting words in my mouth. He would win the war and leave with honor. It's about that.

KING: What does leave with honor mean?

REAGAN: Leave with honor. Ronald Reagan said when it came to the Cold War, they win, we lose. And that's what John McCain would do, they win, we lose.

KING: They all come out and surrender? How does it end?

REAGAN: You're being cute with it, Larry.

KING: I'm being cute because you're being cute.

REAGAN: At some point -- as of right now, we are winning the war in Iraq. Petraeus is doing the job. I'll go on record, now, Petraeus could be the president of the United States in eight years.

KING: On record.

REAGAN: On record.

LARSON: Larry, Michael's right. We're winning because Iraq is going o be a success story in the Middle East. He's right about the problem Joe Biden has with some of his policy choices that have clashed with those of Obama. We've got a guy who knows how to sell his house for top dollar the way Obama knows how to buy a bottom- dollar house from the right people, even though they end up in prison later. For a guy who wants to distance himself from lobbyists and lobbying and all of that, Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, I understand brings in hundreds of thousands of dollars of fees in being a lobbyist. That's not a lot of distance. It's an interesting choice from that standpoint, too.


KING: Lars, why aren't you supporting McCain?

LARSON: I haven't made a choice yet and I have got a list of about a dozen solid issues that I disagree with Senator McCain on. I could give them to you now. It could take a couple minutes. There are some things he's definitely wrong about.

KING: The theme on the first night of the Democratic convention was one nation. May be why there wasn't a lot of partisanship. One exception was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on John McCain. Watch.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Republicans say John McCain has experience. We say John McCain has the experience of being wrong on the failed Bush policies that have weakened our economy and taken us from the Clinton surpluses to reckless Bush deficits and on raising the minimum rage on millions of American workers. Barack Obama is right and John McCain is wrong. On health care for 10 million American children and on protecting Medicare, a bill so critical that Senator Ted Kennedy left his own medical treatment to cast the deciding vote. Barack Obama is right. And John McCain is wrong.


KING: Ben Stein, was that effective?

STEIN: I thought she was actually fairly effective. I don't really care for her, surprise, surprise. I think she's an extremely angry, highly partisan woman. Interestingly enough, I thought this time she was right. The fact is the Bush economic policies have not been correct. They have been seriously mistaken. I don't think she was at all out of line to point that out.

It's odd, though, because McCain was not in favor of them. Somehow he is. McCain's on the wrong side of these economic issues. I hate to say it, but he's on the wrong side of the economic issue. And I'm a little surprised that they haven't hit him harder on it.

KING: By the way, Michael, he did turn it around, didn't he?

REAGAN: He turns to the right, not the left.

KING: But he did turn.


REAGAN: He turned on taxes, but, you know, he was wrong on immigration, wrong on McCain-Feingold. Lot of things he was wrong on.

KING: Still remains wrong.

REAGAN: Still remains wrong. We look at his wrongs against Obama's wrongs.

KING: The battle of the wrongs.

REAGAN: Wrong could be right.

KING: Hillary Clinton looms in the convention next. Is she helping or hurting Democrats. Don't go away.


KING: Let's start with the lady in the picture. Want everybody's thought. What's the effect of Hillary there this campaign, Congressman Blackburn? BLACKBURN: I think it's going be very interesting to watch the Hillary Clinton effect. Talking to women across this country, Larry, many of them have hoped to see a woman on the ticket. I think that they are a little bit disappointed. They look at a lack of preparedness from Senator Obama and feel as it, you know, he's a good guy. They feel like there's a great future for him, but this may not be the right time for him. That he may not have enough preparation and experience.

KING: Does she help him, though?


BLACKBURN: The energy issue, to tackle the jobs issue. I think it will be interesting to see how committed she is to working on this ticket and where her energy going to lie or if she's going to use this as a time to move on and begin to focus on some issues that are of greater interest to her or focus on her work in the Senate.

KING: Lars, what do you think her role's going to be?

LARSON: Here's the thing, her role should have been as the vice presidential candidate. The fact that Obama couldn't reach across the aisle within his own party and link up with the person most likely to bring the extra 18 million votes to him shows -- leads me to doubt he can reach across the aisle to the Republicans and get anything done. I still think that's an open question. Why didn't he pick the obvious choice of one-half of his party? The answer is his personality or his ego, something won't let him do it. That's a dangerous flaw in the leader to say, I can't reach across the aisle. I think, like Michael does, maybe McCain reach ace cross the aisle a little too much. But Obama hasn't shown any capacity for it.

KING: But what role will Hillary have in running for him in the campaign?

LARSON: She'll do some campaigning. I think northeast mostly she wants to pay off her debt. What's expected of her? She's a good soldier that way.

KING: We'll ask Michael and Ben on their thoughts on Hillary. But first, Senator Claire McCaskill, one of Obama's earlier and most vocal supporters, also took jabs at John McCain today. Watch.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D), MISSOURI: John McCain is running for four more years of the same old politics and the exact same failed policies we had under George Bush. They did tax cuts for the healthiest Americans. They did everything big oil asked and look where we are. Come on, America, let's call on our common sense and stay focused on what's important. We cannot do that path again.


KING: Michael Reagan, back to the Hillary question. How's she going -- is she going to help the ticket?

REAGAN: She'd help the ticket more if she were on the ticket. Not being on the ticket, she'll go out and she'll do her time. She'll make some appearance and what have you. But it's really up to Michelle Obama to lead there. You're not going to have two women leading the charge for Barack Obama. Only one of them can do that.

KING: One is the senator from New York.

REAGAN: And that's -- Senator from New York, female. The number one female in this campaign has got o be Michelle Obama, not Hillary Clinton at this point. She's been put in the dust, in the shack. She'll go out and do a few things in New York to solidify New York. But she's not going to be going many other places.

KING: You think she should have been the vice presidential candidate?

REAGAN: Would have been the best choice for him, other than Jim Webb.

KING: What do you think about Hillary?

STEIN: I think Hillary is a phenomenally effective and intelligent woman. She was a classmate of mine in law school and a very impressive woman even then.

But one thing she does is energize the Republican base. The more she campaigns outside of New York, the more she campaigns in the battleground states, the better for the Republican Party. She really gets the Republicans and people close to the Republicans and people who are close to Republican, in the Independent column really jagged up.

By the way, Senator McCaskill, I don't understand why you're so mad at the oil companies. Ordinary Americans own the oil company. They're not owned by the Rockefellers anymore. They're owned by you and me.

REAGAN: By the way, they also paid $68 million in taxes between 2003 and 2007, Exxon Mobil.

KING: If you pay that much money in taxes that means you had to earn...

REAGAN: The government is making more money on a gallon of gases than the oil companies are.

KING: I'll make a deal with you. I'd like to pay $68 million in taxes next year. You can put the deal with me.


REAGAN: Did I tell you I'm back available for adoption? I could change my name to King, Michael King. How does it sound? BLACKBURN: Look at what you're talking about, the energy issue. That's what men and women across this country are talking about, the price at the pump. That, I think, is one of the frustrations with what we've seen.

Opening nights at conventions are supposed to set the tone. The Democrats passed up a wonderful opportunity tonight to set the tone on what they were going to do about these issues.

Claire McCaskill's remarks about taxes, well, you know, you had Senators Biden and Obama both voting for the single largest tax increase in history, which taxes families making $42,000 a year, increases the taxes on those families. Now, it is very difficult when you have families, middle-class families, working families that are earning $42,000 a year. They know their taxes are going to increase. You hear somebody talking about taxing the rich. You have families that are having a difficult time making ends meet because of the price of gas and the price of food.

KING: I've got to get a break here.


KING: We'll come right back with our congresswoman.

A note to viewers who wonder why our panel is made up of nothing but Republicans and conservatives, rest assured, the Democrats will get an opportunity during next week's Republican conventions.

The polls have Obama and McCain neck and neck right now. Will that change after next week? We'll be right back.



PELOSI: We call the convention to order to nominate a new leader for our times. Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: I've never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them. But I do now -- Barack Obama!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need such a leader, a leader who can heal the wounds of the last eight years. A leader who knows that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

SEN. TED KENNEDY, (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Nothing, nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: Let's stand together to elect Barack Obama, president of the United States of America!


KING: Michael Reagan, what kind of bump will Obama get out of this convention?

REAGAN: You always get a bump. You can't be on TV for three or four nights straight and not get a bump out of it. But when it's over, it's over. The Republicans take over it next week and there will be another bump. Hopefully, it will even up. By the last two weeks of October, it will be almost a dead heat and the race will be on for November 4th.

KING: Ben, is this going down to the wire?

STEIN: It is going down to the wire but I think -- until recently, I didn't think McCain was going to win. I didn't think he had a prayer. But he's gotten his campaign in gear in a major, major way starting with the campaign about Obama being the biggest celebrity in the world. I think once you start pulling on that thread, Obama disappears. He won't disappear literally. I think McCain's got his campaign in gear in a big way.

KING: Lars?

LARSON: here's the thing, he got a large bump out of Europe and Tea Garden Park. This one, I don't think he's going to get as big a bump out of. It's not going to remain very long. Having the Republican convention come right behind it, I think the effect by the middle of September is going to be relatively nil. Most Americans still aren't paying attention to politics at this point in the summer.

KING: Marsha?

BLACKBURN: You know, Lars and Michael are on the radio every day and talking with their listeners and I think they probably have really good feel for that.

I would expect Obama would get his bump. I know some people are saying 10 percent, 12 percent should be the bump they're going to get coming out of this convention.

Larry, I'm going it to tell you what. I'm not sure they're going to get a sustainable bump. I think people will look. I think there are a lot of people out there that are soft on their support for Obama. I think there are a lot of people who have stayed in neutral that are moving to John McCain because they want to be certain somebody's going to focus on the security issues, national security, energy security, economic security.

KING: How much of it, sadly, do you think is race?

BLACKBURN: I don't think that it is race. I think this is an issue of the nation's security. People are very, very concerned about what is happening to our nation's economy. They're concerned about the cost of energy and we hear it every day.

KING: I know people feeling that.

Does the panel -- does anyone on the panel think race will have any issue in this at all? STEIN: Sure, absolutely.

REAGAN: It's really interesting because all during the primaries race was on the side of the Democrats. Bill Clinton was a racist. Everyone was a racist.

KING: The question is, will people vote against Obama because he's black?

REAGAN: Yes. Yes. Larry? Larry?

STEIN: Larry, there are people that will vote against Obama because of his race.

KING: That's terrible.

REAGAN: People don't like me because my last name is Reagan. I mean, people have different reasons not to vote for people -- who are racists.

KING: You went into a booth and say I will not vote for this man...

REAGAN: You're never going to end that, Larry. You're never going to that.

KING: Well, if you keep saying that then you're not.

LARSON: No, you're not.

REAGAN: But you're never going to end it.

KING: What? What did you say, Lars?

LARSON: There were people that voted against Mitt Romney because he was Mormon.

KING: That's also terrible.

LARSON: They may not have said it out loud but we know -- the fact is it's the truth. I agree it's terrible, but it's part of the landscape.

Why don't we ask the question the other way? Is there a sizable percentage of black voters who are going to vote for Obama because he's black? You look at some of those results in some states, 95 percent of the black votes would be for Obama. How in the world do you explain that?

KING: 95 percent? Understandable. He's a minority.

REAGAN: And whites in Iowa gave him a jump in the beginning.

KING: How many votes will Lieberman get from the Jews in Florida?

REAGAN: There you go.

KING: Because the people vote for the minority if they're the minority.

LARSON: Is that terrible, Larry? Is that terrible, Larry?

KING: Not as terrible as someone voting against someone just because of this.

LARSON: Larry, it would be nice to end all this. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there's freedom of speech and thought and there's always going to be those people...

KING: I think the most abhorrent thing on the planet is prejudice. I've never heard a good argument for prejudice.

REAGAN: Remember, I have a niece from Uganda. So don't look at me as a racist.

KING: No. I've never heard a good argument for it. It's pigment of skin. That's stupid.

STEIN: No, it's not good. It's part of the political landscape. You can't get away from it.

KING: Hey, where was John McCain tonight? We'll show you after the break.


KING: Before we get back to the panel, there's been a kind of an on and off breaking story tonight. We're going to check in with Joe Johns, our congressional correspondent in Denver.

Joe, what's going on?

JOE JOHNS, CNN NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Larry, you're right. We've been going back and forth on this thing all night. We wanted to tell you what we know and don't know. The authorities are investigating a possible threat against Senator Obama. How credible a threat that is sort of another matter. What we know is at least three possibly four men have been arrested in the Denver area on firearm and methamphetamine charges. Police said one of those men was driving a rented truck, we believe a pickup truck, with at least two rifles in it and a scope. Police officers said they found other things, a bullet proof vest, walkie-talkies. Police said a second man apparently jumped out of a sixth floor hotel room window when they went to visit him and injured himself.

Now, there are some reasons why this story sounds a little shaky. A source tells CNN that one of the men arrested said that one of the other men had threatened Senator Obama. That's not necessarily a reliable statement. In fact, the other big problem for the authorities is drugs are involved apparently, Methamphetamine. The authorities say they simply do not know whether this was serious or whether it was, quote, "some methed-up yahoos," end quote, high on drugs, talking out of their heads.

The U.S. attorney's office has scheduled a news conference tomorrow. Hopefully, then we'll get some answers. We know, Barack Obama, of course, is not even in Denver right now. That's what we know and we'll keep you applied.

KING: Joe, thanks so much. We'll check with you again tomorrow.

Let's hope it turns out to be nothing, hopefully.

What's John McCain up to while the Democrats were convening today? I'll tell you where he was. He was on "The Tonight Show." Watch.


JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, my friends, I know you've been asking about who I want to be as my running mate. Now, wouldn't it be good to have a person, you don't know what party they're with. They have no political principle whatsoever. They may need a job about that time.

Thank you very much. Thank you, thank you.


KING: That was funny.

John McCain, by the way, has been on "The Tonight Show" 13 times. Obama's been on once. We don't know if that's because Obama had conflicted dates. I'm sure they're trying to make everything equal, but that's the record so far.

REAGAN: Making up for "Time" magazine.

KING: Making up for "time" magazine. You've got a good point.

What are we going see the rest of the week? We're running close on time here.

We'll start with you, Michael.

REAGAN: The rest of the week, you're finally going to get into George Bush. They're trying to make John McCain be George Bush, except George Bush isn't running for anything. John McCain is. That's going for the rest of the week, working up to Barack Obama, speaking on Thursday night, telling the world what he's going to do to change it with giving no specifics.

KING: That would be smart, Marsha. Wouldn't it be smart of the Democrats to hook McCain with Bush?

BLACKBURN: Of course they're going to try that. But I think that people are tired of rhetoric. They want to know what you're going to do to solve problems. That means you've got to take action. So the American people are looking for specifics. That's what I think the Democrats are going to be sort on this week. I think it's a lesson. There's a lesson in this for the Republicans when we get to next week. Have a plan. Tell them how you're going to go about it.

KING: Ben Stein, what do you expect?

STEIN: I expect more of the same, but sharper attacks on McCain. I would plead with them, in case they're watching, which I know they are, please pay tribute to the men whose blood and guts are being spilled for this country. Please, don't ignore them while you're patting yourselves on the back endlessly, please.

KING: Lars Larson, what are you looking for?

LARSON: Particularly, you're not going to hear a darn thing that's going to put a gallon of gas in your tank unfortunately. But I'd like to hear their ideas on doing that. You're going to hear a lot of ideas that will take a lot of money out of your paychecks every week. Like Ted Kennedy's vowed tonight to have health care dedicated as a right. I don't know if he wants to put it in the Constitution. But it will definitely take money out of your paycheck. That's not a good thing for Americans as well.

KING: Lars, do you think anyone should be denied health care because they don't have money?

LARSON: I think in an emergency basis you should be able to get health care. I think it should be a privilege to get health care. It should not be something the government guarantees as a right. If health care's a right, food, housing, power, other things like that should be a right. I don't want to live in that kind of nanny state.

KING: Thank you all so much, Ben Stein; Marsha Blackburn, congresswoman from Tennessee; Michael Reagan, it's good to see him here, and Lars Larson.

We'll be back here tomorrow after Hillary Clinton takes center stage at the convention. What do Republicans have to say about that? Find out on "LARRY KING LIVE" Tuesday night. We'll be on every night through Thursday, special time, midnight eastern, 9:00 pacific. for transcripts of the show. And while you're there, download our latest podcast, Bill Maher. And check out our photo galleries and latest quick vote -- are you pleased with Obama's choice for VP? Tell us at

Stay tuned for continuing convention coverage on CNN. Good night.