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CNN Larry King Live

McCain's VP Shocker

Aired August 29, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, John McCain reveals his running mate and it's a political shocker.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: Sarah Palin of the great state of Alaska.


KING: Who?

She's a conservative, a self-described hockey mom -- strategically picked to pull in Clinton voters.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.


KING: But is she a daring choice that will help propel McCain into the presidency or a risky gamble that could cost him the White House?

The pros, the cons, the biggest question of all -- is Sarah Palin ready to be commander-in-chief?

Right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: We have a terrific array of guests tonight on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

But first, we're going to check in Beaver, Pennsylvania, where Barack Obama and Joe Biden are holding a joint rally.

And let's listen to a little of the nominee of the party of the Democrats to be president as he speaks.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: And we need a president who gets it. We need a president who understands that now is the time to bring fundamental change to America. And that's why I'm running for president of the United States.


OBAMA: So Joe Biden and I, we've got a -- we've got a fundamentally different view of what progress means. And that is, is it helping you a little bit to live out your dream. And that's why we've got a tax plan that says we're going to cut taxes for 95 percent of American families, so you've got a little more money in your pocket to maybe buy a computer for your kid or save for retirement or put into that college savings bond.

We've got a different idea about health care. John McCain wants to cut the tax break that employers get for giving you health care.

Well, what are employers going to do?

They're going to stop giving you health care. We don't need more employers saying no to health care. We need more employers to say yes to health care. We need to give them help to lower your premiums. And if you don't have health care, we've got to make sure that you've got the same health care that members of the Congress give themselves, because you're paying our salaries and that's the right thing to do.


KING: It seems like last night, doesn't it?

Anyway, we begin with James Carville, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist. He's in New Orleans, oddly enough.

And Nancy Pfotenhauer. Nancy is the McCain campaign adviser. And she is in New York.

James, what was your first reaction to the Sarah Palin announcement?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, OBAMA SUPPORTER: Well, on August the 15th, on Anderson Cooper's show, I said that Senator Obama would reassure us and Senator McCain would surprise us. But he shocked us. I think this is like the strangest thing I've ever seen. They're going to get Hillary voters with someone who endorsed Pat Buchanan in 2000 and wants to teach creationism in school?

I mean, please.

I'm completely befuddled by this choice. It was first thought up by a blogger at Colorado State and then picked up on talk radio.

As I understand it -- and maybe we can get some illumination on this -- Senator McCain met with her one time before yesterday. Thursday, I think.

KING: Yes.

CARVILLE: I am -- I am at a loss to explain this. This morning on Fox News, somebody, one Steve -- a guy named Steve Deucy actually said the most idiotic thing in the history of television, said she had foreign policy experience because Alaska was next to Russia.


CARVILLE: I'm interested to see what someone's got to say about this, honestly, Larry.

KING: Nancy...

CARVILLE: I am completely floored by this choice.

KING: Honestly put, Nancy -- and it's a fair question -- of all the Republicans, is she the most qualified to be next commander-in- chief?

NANCY PFOTENHAUER, ADVISER, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN: Well, I think that she is eminently qualified to be vice president. In fact, Senator McCain's picking Governor Palin, she has more experienced as the V.P. nominee than Senator Obama has as a presidential nominee.

KING: Yes, but that wasn't the question.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I think she has...

KING: That question was is she the most qualified Republican?

PFOTENHAUER: She has as much or more credentials than Senator Obama. And what James has not...

KING: That wasn't the question.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, what James does not acknowledge is that she's the most popular governor in the United States of America and she's got tremendous executive accomplishments already.

KING: OK. I'll ask you to (INAUDIBLE)...

PFOTENHAUER: So, you can say -- well, you can say who's got, you know, what's your specific skill set. But she has shown executive ability and she has shown herself to be a fierce reformer. She has shown herself to be a great steward of taxpayer dollars. She refused the $400 million bridge to nowhere that people like Senator Obama and Senator Biden, you know, supported. And so I...

KING: All right, here's how it...


KING: Here's how it looked today. Now, I don't mean to interrupt, Nancy, but I've got to get through two segments here.

John McCain introduced his new running mate earlier today at the rally in Ohio.

Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PALIN: I never really set out to be involved in public affairs, much less to run for this office. My mom and dad both worked at the local elementary school. And my husband and I, we both grew up working with our hands. I was just your average hockey mom in Alaska.


PALIN: We're busy raising our kids. I was serving as the team mom and coaching some basketball on the side. I got involved in the PTA and then was elected to the city council and then elected mayor of my hometown, where my agenda was to stop wasteful spending and cut property taxes and put the people first.



KING: All right, James, I asked Nancy. I'll ask you.

Is she the most qualified to be the next commander-in-chief among the Republicans?

That's who he was selecting, among the Republicans...


KING: Is she more qualified than...

CARVILLE: Of course not.



KING: Than Governor Romney?

CARVILLE: No. But I don't think anyone would argue that. She seems like a perfectly nice person. Again, the idea that if this was made as an appeal to the Hillary people, the Pat Buchanan creationism thing is the end of the act.

The other thing is the Republican Party has tried to brand itself as the party of national security for the last 50 or 60 years in American politics and, in fact, been quite effective in doing that. They have just thrown 60 years of branding over the fence. Because anytime that any Democrat ever runs for the Senate, they'll say, well, gee, I got a -- I mean my daughter has as much foreign policy experience as this woman does.

I mean I can't believe that -- I mean what they're giving up here to try to do something cute or clever strikes me as very strange. I've got to be honest, with you.

PFOTENHAUER: You know, that is very dismissive of Governor Palin's accomplishments and it's something, frankly, that we've heard from the Obama campaign earlier today. And you know what, women across this country are fed up with that dismissiveness. This is an incredibly accomplished woman. She took on the entrenched powers that be in Alaska, whether they were Republican or Democrat. She built a team where she reached across party lines. She has Democrats and Independents in her cabinet. She has just gotten approval for a pipeline in Alaska that they couldn't get through for 30 years. She's actually doing real things from an energy policy standpoint.

CARVILLE: Right...

KING: Hold it, James.

PFOTENHAUER: And you compare that with Senator Obama, who's a good orator, but, you know, he was an Illinois state senator and started running for president, you know, in his first year in the U.S. Senate. He has no record of accomplishment. With McCain and with Palin, you have people who deliver. With Obama and Biden, you have people who talk.


KING: All right, hold on. We're going to monitor the...

CARVILLE: Yes, thank you...

KING: Hold it a second.

We're going to monitor the Obama-Biden event in

Pennsylvania. If any news comes from it, we'll bring it to you.

Next, how will Sarah Palin do against Joe Biden in a debate?

We'll debate that, when we come back.


OBAMA: Go to the gates of hell to chase Osama bin Laden. And as I said, he should start by going to where Osama bin Laden actually lives, in the caves between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need a president who is going to go after Al Qaeda and not just talk tough.



KING: We're back.

We've got Barack Obama's public reaction to the McCain selection.

Take a look.


OBAMA: You know, I haven't met her before. She seems like a compelling person. Obviously, a terrific story -- a personal story. And, you know, I'm sure that she will help make the case for the Republicans. Unfortunately, the case is more of the same. And so ultimately, John McCain's at the top of the ticket. As I indicated in my speech last night, I think that he wants to take the country in the wrong direction.

I'm assuming Governor Palin agrees with him in his policies. But the fact that she's been nominated, I think -- or will soon be nominated, I think, is one more indicator of this country moving forward. The fact that you've got a woman as the nominee of one of -- as the vice presidential nominees of one of the major parties that, I think that's one more hit against that glass ceiling. And I congratulate her and look forward to a vigorous debate.

I'm pleased with my choice for vice president, Joe Biden. I think he's the man who can help me guide this country in a better direction and help working families.


KING: Apparently, James Carville, both Barack Obama and John McCain both met her one time.

Does that surprise you?

CARVILLE: Again, I'm floored by it. I mean, you know, a couple of people have told me that today. And as I understand, maybe there's some other explanation that I don't know about. But two people who told me that are pretty reliable people, not necessarily Democrats or journalists in this apparently it's coming out in the paper tomorrow, that they met one time prior to yesterday, which, you know, strikes me, as you know, that's going with your gut, I'll give him that. That's really going with your gut.

KING: How does it strike you, Nancy?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, I think -- I am incredibly proud of him for this decision. He really took the measure of her character and her accomplishments. And it's a testimony to who she is.

And when you learn the story of Governor Palin and you look at how she took on members of her own party and how she fought corruption and passed one of the toughest ethics reform piece of legislation in the country and then everything that she's accomplished as governor, it's really, really deserving.

And I think he admires her grit, her honesty. She's been described as someone whose integrity is "eye-popping," that she's just so strong and she's so honest and she fights for what she believes in.

And she really walks the talk, if you will. And regardless of what your position is on any specific, policy, you have to respect that. You know, on the other hand, you have Senator Obama, who talks about change and then chose as his running mate somebody who's been in the U.S. Senate more than 30 years. And he's a creature of this town. He's been in government longer than he's been out. That's not how you get change.

KING: All right, James, will Hillary's people...

CARVILLE: You know, Larry, I say...

KING: Go ahead.

CARVILLE: No. If Hillary got 18 million votes, a Pat Buchanan creationism Republican will get 18 of them. Look, if we're asking (INAUDIBLE)...

PFOTENHAUER: She's the most popular governor in the country.

CARVILLE: ...President McCain.

PFOTENHAUER: She's the most popular governor in the country.

CARVILLE: We're asked what...

PFOTENHAUER: She's the most popular governor in the country.

CARVILLE: Right. Senator McCain has met this woman one time and we're going to put her one heartbeat away from a 72-year-old heart?

PFOTENHAUER: James, if you have...

CARVILLE: I really doubt that the country is going to go with that.

PFOTENHAUER: You know what, James, if you want to have the conversation about experience, then we are delighted to have that. And you should go top of the ticket/top of the ticket. And we would be delighted to do that, because Senator Obama does not have the record to back up his rhetoric. And everybody knows it.

KING: All right. Nancy, we teased it before -- how about the bottom of the ticket versus bottom of the ticket?

PFOTENHAUER: You know what, I think...

KING: How about Biden versus Palin?

PFOTENHAUER: You know what, I hope that everybody underestimates her because she's going to do a fabulous job in that debate. And, you know, and it happens a lot. And, you know, one thing I will say is I'm sure that Senator Biden will have plenty to say in the debates. He has plenty to say most of the time. And often it's informative and sometimes it's amusing and sometimes it's counterproductive.

But Governor Palin is someone who does not take a back seat to anybody. She could not have accomplished what she has without being a fierce advocate for what's right and just. And that's what she'll do in those debates.

KING: James, what do you expect in the debates?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't know if -- I'm sure that she's got a remarkable story. She seemed to me like a really, you know, smart person. But we're talking about being vice president of the United States of America at probably the greatest time of crisis that our country has had in I don't know how long. And this just -- and I like Senator McCain. And I've said it on any number of occasions.

I'm just completely vexed by this choice. I'm completely vexed that he's met her one time. It's just very strange to me. That's all. And, look, maybe she -- look, if she turns out to be the dynamo and whatever, then he's got the -- you've got to give him credit, he's got one heck of a gut here. But, boy, meeting somebody one time and doing this just strikes me as a really risky thing.

PFOTENHAUER: But, James, this isn't some stranger off the street corner. This is the most popular governor in the United States.


PFOTENHAUER: She's got in excess of 80 percent popularity rating.


PFOTENHAUER: That's from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

CARVILLE: George...

PFOTENHAUER: She's done a remarkable -- she's just accomplished a remarkable amount of things.

CARVILLE: That's like saying, you know, George W. Bush is the most popular president in the history of the United States. He had a 91 percent approval rating. A lot of good that did the country.

PFOTENHAUER: No, no. She...

CARVILLE: I mean what...


CARVILLE: You can take somebody's approval rating in Alaska at one time...

PFOTENHAUER: No, no. But James, you can't...

CARVILLE: ...and draw some conclusion. The truth of the matter is...


CARVILLE: The truth of the matter is we've got someone -- go ahead.

PFOTENHAUER: She is a statewide elected official who defeated a...


PFOTENHAUER: incumbent Republican governor and then went on and Senator McCain Democratic governor. She has a remarkable record of accomplishments. And you can't just dismiss her as if she just walked in off the street.


PFOTENHAUER: She's -- she is more experienced...


PFOTENHAUER: ...has more executive experience than the top of your ticket.

KING: We are -- we're going to have these two back.

CARVILLE: Is that true, that Senator McCain met her once before Thursday?

KING: OK. You keep saying that.

CARVILLE: Do you deny that's the fact?

Is that a fact or not?

PFOTENHAUER: James, it's not like she's a stranger. She is the governor of a state in this country

KING: OK. I think we made that clear. Hold it. I'm going to wrap this up.


KING: He probably met her once and she is the governor of Alaska.

CARVILLE: I agree. I agree with all of that.

KING: Nancy...

CARVILLE: Thank you.

KING: We thank Nancy Pfotenhauer and James Carville. And both will return -- I guarantee it -- in the near future, because they go out and we hope to have them both in the studio.

How are the men McCain didn't pick reacting?

One of them is here. He's Charlie Crist. He's the governor of Florida. He joins us next.



MCCAIN: She's not from these parts and she's not from Washington. But when you get to know her, you're going to be as impressed as I am. She's got the grit, integrity, good sense and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now from St. Petersburg is the governor of Florida, a supporter of John McCain, of course, Governor Charlie Crist.

First, Governor Crist, were you disappointed that you were not asked?

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST (R), FLORIDA: No, I was impressed at Governor Palin being picked.

I think that, once again, Senator McCain has shown his independent streak, his maverick status, his go with the gut call. And I think he made a great choice in Senator Palin. I think that she'll be a great candidate.

I watched her speech today. I was very impressed with not only what she had to say, but the way in which she delivered. I thought she was very effective, very articulate. And she's very bright. I've had the occasion to meet her at some governor association meetings and she's a very impressive lady.

KING: So you did not expect the nomination?

CRIST: I expect to be the governor of Florida and I'm honored to have that job. It's the best job I've ever had, Larry. And I am more grateful for the people of Florida for the honor of serving them -- the almost 20 million people that live in Florida now. It's a great privilege. It's a great honor. And I work hard every day to try to serve them with a servant's heart.

KING: Governor, are they going to have a tough time selling her as the absolute best available Republican to be commander-in-chief?

CRIST: Well, I think the best available Republican to be commander-in-chief is the man who's running for commander-in-chief, and that's Senator McCain himself.

KING: But he's 72 years old.

CRIST: Well, God bless him for that. But I think they will have no trouble talking about the attributes that Governor Palin brings to the ticket. As I say, she is a governor, she has executive experience and I think she'll do a great job.

And, really, let's understand what this race is about. It's about the top of the ticket at the end of the day. I don't think there's any question that this is a race between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. And when you look at those two candidates and you talk about their credentials and their ability to serve as the commander-in-chief, it's hands down John McCain. I don't think there's any debate about that. And that's why I look forward to a great McCain/Palin victory on November the 4th.

KING: Were you surprised he selected her? CRIST: No, not really. I mean I knew that her name had been in the mix. And I know that Senator McCain is the kind of guy who sometimes thinks outside the box. I know some people are describing it that way.

But I think it was a solid choice. I think it was a good choice. And I think it says a lot about the senator. You know, it's a reaching out. It goes way out to the West. I think that's important as it relates to the Republican Party.

She has led well. Obviously, she is somebody -- I mean we are all becoming very, very familiar with her resume now -- that's not afraid to take on the establishment, not afraid to take on big oil companies, not afraid to establish tremendous ethics legislation. She's a reformer, worked incredibly hard in Alaska and will work incredibly hard in Washington to do exactly the kinds of things that Senator McCain wants to do for our country. And that is to move us forward, to stand up for people, to stand up for country first and to do whatever it takes to put the people before any partisan politics.

She's also reached across the aisle, as Senator McCain has done; worked with Democrats, Independents and Republicans to make a difference to the people of her state. That's exactly what we're trying to do here in Florida. And I know it's exactly what Senator McCain wants to do for America.

KING: Is she a plus or minus or a wash in Florida?

CRIST: Oh, I think a definite plus. I don't think there's any question about it. Now look at the ticket. You've got a very refreshing candidate for the vice presidential nominee. You've got tremendous experience for the presidential nominee in John McCain. I think the balance is beautiful. I think that it says a lot about diversity and Senator McCain's confidence that way. I think it's a great ticket for Florida and America.

KING: Is Florida close?

CRIST: Florida's always close. You know, if any state's close, it's Florida. But I think that Florida has really warmed up to Senator McCain. You know, most recent polls show him ahead in the Sunshine State. I think that's great news for this ticket. I know it's great news for America. And it's certainly good news for Florida.

KING: And are you OK with the voting machines?

CRIST: Yes, we are. In fact, we had the -- not the presidential primary, but our state primary this past Tuesday went off virtually without a hitch. We now have a paper trail. And I'm proud to tell you, Larry, that I was convinced to going to having a paper trail at the behest of one of my dear friends across the aisle, Congressman Robert Wexler.

And with doing that, you know, it just makes common sense to me. I think what the people want is the ability to have trust and confidence in our electoral process. Certainly Florida has had some embarrassments in the past and I didn't want that for my state anymore.

And so now we do have a paper trail. And when you think about it, you know, you get a receipt when you go to the grocery store, you get a receipt when you get your gas. You ought to at least get a receipt for this most precious act that we commit as Americans in our democracy, our right to vote. And now in Florida, we have right and that opportunity.

KING: Always terrific seeing you, governor.


CRIST: You too, Larry.

Thank you very much.

KING: Governor Charlie Crist, Republican of Florida.

Hey, want to see a good fight over the Palin pick?

Four of our political insiders putting their gloves on right now -- boxing gloves. They rumble after the break.


CRIST: Larry:

Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

Before we meet our panel, one other question for the governor of Florida.

Governor Crist, what can you tell us about Gustav and Hannah, our two hurricanes in motion now?

CRIST: Well, we're very concerned about them. We just got over Tropical Storm Fay, which horrifically killed 11 of my fellow Floridians. Now we have Gustav coming up the left side and Hanna on our right. We're concerned about them. I've been in touch with Craig Fugette (ph), our emergency management director, all day today. We're just being watchful and vigilant and I would urge my fellow Floridians to continue to watch their weather reports and be safe.

KING: Both a danger to your state?

CRIST: Apparently they are. Gustav, it looks like, could potentially be a danger to the pan handle portion of the state. It looks like Hanna is marching toward the east coast of Florida, moving a little bit more south than we had heard earlier in the day, which is more of a threat to south Florida. That's still days away. We're hoping for a calm weekend. But we've got to be ready for both of these storms.

We all remember Hurricane Charlie, which took a hard right turn. We don't want Gustav to do that. We certainly don't wish it on anyone else, either, but we just have to be mindful and safe. KING: Thanks, governor. We'll keep close tabs with you.

CRIST: Thank you very much, Larry.

KING: Governor Charlie Crist of Florida. Let's meet our panel, Paul Begala in Washington, Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor, supporter of Barack Obama. In New York, Kellyanne Conway, Republican strategist and pollster, supporter of John McCain. In Washington, Kevin Madden, Republican strategist, senior vice president of the Glover Group, former spokesperson for Mitt Romney and a supporter of John McCain. And in Washington Maria Cardona, who was senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and now a supporter of Barack Obama.

OK, Paul Begala, what did you make of it?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it is stunning. You know, John McCain, if I thought I knew anything about him, it's that he's a patriot. His slogan, of course, in the campaign is country first. This is obviously a campaign first thing. It may help him in the campaign. I tend to doubt it. There was a plausible case. She's a charming person. She's well spoken. She's attractive.

But John McCain today is 72 years old. He has had cancer four times. Eight of our 43 presidents have died in office, four by assassination, four by illness. He needed to approach this a different way. He needed to ask himself, god forbid if something happened, who would be the very best person in America to take that job? When you were asking Nancy Pfotenhauer from the McCain campaign that question, she changed the subject and attacked Barack Obama.

This is one man's judgment, and John McCain's. I have to say, he comes out sorely lacking here.

KING: Kellyanne, is she, frankly, the best Republican to be commander in chief, aside from John McCain?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I keep hearing that question. I think the calculation has to be that, plus a bunch of other things. For example, what do the voters always rail against, particularly after 2006, when you had a bunch of corrupt Republicans, including there in Alaska? Voters are concerned about ethics. They're concerned about corruption. They're concerned about runaway spending. This woman single handedly has done more than a lot of folks in Washington.

Look, Larry, everybody in Washington has an approval rating that's upside down, more negative than positive. Hers is different. I think for John McCain, this wasn't just bold and fresh and vibrant and all that stuff. That's great. What it was really is a way to make cohesion in the Republican party. I have heard not a single criticism about Sarah Palin today from the fiscal conservatives, the social conservatives, the good government ethics people, all of whom had a problem with one or three of the candidates running in the primary. This is the first time everybody feels cohesive. That's important. Look, Paul, I think you guys have taken the bait on this. If you really want to have a debate about experience, bring it on.

KING: Governor Palin today paid tribute to the women who paved the way before her. Watch.


PALIN: I can't begin this great effort without honoring the achievements of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, and, of course, Senator Hillary Clinton, who showed such determination and grace in her presidential campaign. It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren't finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.


KING: Kevin Madden, I'll ask it another way, would the American public be certainly content today to learn that our new lady is going to be president?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, sure. Look, I think you have to remember --

KING: They would? There would be no concerns?

MADDEN: I think you have to remember how they're going to use Sarah Palin, what Sarah Palin's appeal is. You look at that clip right now and there are probably millions of women, millions of other voters across this country right now that see somebody that they can identify with, not only as a governor, but as a mother. As somebody who --

KING: I'm talking about as a president.

MADDEN: I'm talking about as a president, too. Look, I think as a validater for a lot of the anxieties that Americans face nowadays, Sarah Palin is a perfect pick. She's somebody who can go out there and talk about the kitchen table issues that Americans are facing all across this country, the economic anxieties that they have, the soaring cost of health care, the way that Washington has become detached from the way the rest of America works, and the concerns that the rest of America has.

So Sarah Palin is going to be somebody who as a governor, as a mother, as a wife, is going to be able to talk to those concerns. And she's complementary to John McCain's judgment, his experience of leading this country forward on a lot of the other issues, like national security and foreign policy.

KING: Maria Cardona, what's your read on all this?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First of all, I think I have to commend John McCain and congratulate Sarah Palin for this. I think that it's actually good that he's following the Democratic example of wanting to make history in this campaign. But I think two things. The first one is that it is clear that this is a campaign and a candidate that is incredibly worried about the enthusiasm and the momentum that was created from the four fantastic days of the Democratic convention.

Secondly, we cannot forget that even though John McCain now has a woman on the ticket, he certainly does not have the interests of women and of America's working families at heart. And Palin herself described herself as against a woman's right to choose as anybody can be. So with her and McCain together, they are going to continue the aggressive assault on Roe v. Wade and they're going to turn back the progress that women have made in this country. That is not something that American women want.

It's interesting also, in her remarks she praised Hillary Clinton. But during the campaign, she actually attacked her and called her a whiner. I think it's a dichotomy here.

KING: We'll have our panel back. We'll get the inside scoop on the Palin's and the McCain's. "People Magazine" has that and we've got the person who interviewed both families for the magazine. Stay with us.


KING: Joining us now in Dayton, Ohio is Sandra Sobieraj Westfall. She's "People Magazine's" Washington -- one of their Washington, DC correspondents. She got quite an exclusive. She interviewed John McCain and Sarah Palin and their families earlier today. She was backstage at the big announcement. There you see a great picture. And all of this will be in the next issue of "People Magazine."

How long did you have this in the works, Sandra?

SANDRA SOBIERAJ WESTFALL, "PEOPLE MAGAZINE": We've been asking them for months to get to know his VP candidate before the rest of the world did. So there we were today.

KING: When did you actually learn who it was?

WESTFALL: I had brought with me to the stadium today a bunch of clips on about eight different people. So I put all but one of them in the trash right before I went back to the interview. I found out when everybody else did.

KING: Was it through McCain himself or the McCain campaign that they said this is OK?

WESTFALL: I'm not sure I get what you mean.

KING: Who OK it?

WESTFALL: The interview?

KING: Yes.

WESTFALL: Oh, no, I was invited along by the McCain campaign to come back and meet the two families and help introduce them to the American people and to "People" readers.

KING: What were your impressions of the Alaska governor?

WESTFALL: You know, she struck me, as a working mom as myself, as somebody that a lot of American women are going to relate to. She talked about juggling the blackberry and the breast pump. And right before she stepped into her photo shoot, she ducked into a side room to change little Trig's diaper. She's juggling a lot. I asked her, you know, do you feel like you're ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? She said absolutely, especially with a good team around us, absolutely.

KING: Were the McCain's quite at home with the Palin's?

WESTFALL: Oh, I think so. Megan, especially, their 23-year-old daughter, Megan McCain was just effervescent. She is such a great role model for me as a young woman, and she was especially delighted to have all these new -- she called them sisters -- on the campaign bus. So it was like being at a family party. The only thing missing was the cake and ice cream.

John McCain, you know, hurried over to the monitor to look at the pictures. And was bringing -- Sarah, come over here. Look at Piper. She's such a little princess. We all want copies of these. It was very festive. They were really excited. They all felt like they had made a good pick.

KING: The baby boy has Down's Syndrome. I know you talked to them about that. They knew four months into the pregnancy, right?

WESTFALL: Yes, she had an amniocentesis that indicated to her that the baby was going to have Down's Syndrome. I asked her about that. And she said she was really grateful that she had all those months to prepare. And that she couldn't imagine what it would be like for a mother to just find out upon birth, that that would be a lot harder road for a mother like that. And it made me think, you know, here's a woman who likes to be prepared. And, you know, she was thrown into this whirlwind just last night when she flew in from Anchorage.

KING: You were impressed?

WESTFALL: We were there to get to know them as people. And they were approachable, unguarded, and fresh.

KING: And we will read about it and see it all in the next issue of "People Magazine" out later part of the week, right?

WESTFALL: You will. It's actually up on as we speak.

KING: Thanks, Sandra.

WESTFALL: Thank you.

KING: Sandra Westfall, "People Magazine." She's got that exclusive. You'll see it in the magazine this week. Paul Begala, are you impressed with all of this in that regard?

BEGALA: The more I think about it, the more shocked I am. Larry, I'm a dad. Here's why. I'm a dad. You're a dad. Most of the people on this panel are parents. There's a moment when you have to sit down, in my case with my wife and our lawyer, and we wrote a will, because now we have to be responsible for those children if, god forbid, we die. Does anyone plausible believe that after one meeting, John and Cindy McCain would trust Sarah and whatever his name is Palin them to raise their daughter if they were to die. Of course not.

You wouldn't hand that responsibility over to somebody you had only met once. He is now entrusting the fate of 300 million families, 300 million people, not to mention three million people in the armed services, to her based on one meeting. It's astonishingly reckless. I know he wants the political pop from it. I guess that's his calculation. But there's no reasonable, responsible person who would make a decision that consequential on so little personal knowledge.

KING: Kelly?

CONWAY: That's just changing the subject. First all, two of the military families who have sons serving in Iraq are McCain and Palin. They have sons over there. No doubt. No doubt. But wait a second, let's --

KING: And Biden.

BEGALA: I've got family in the military, too.

CONWAY: We've been sold for the last year how important biography is and that somehow it's even more important than experience when people want to talk about that. All of a sudden, you're being dismissive of this woman's biography. I was in the church the day that your wife became a Catholic. I know you're a real person with a family that you love. Give these people their due. I'm a mother of three children under the age of four. There are people like me out there tonight, who did not support Harriet Miers, by the way, when Bush nominated her, who are ebullient about this choice. She has connective tissue. She has commonality with so many people across this country. That's going to matter a bunch.

KING: I'll be back with you. Imagine waking up and hearing that someone you know is suddenly on the GOP ticket. It happened to our next guest. And then our panel will be back. Don't go away.


KING: Let's meet mayor Diane Keller. She's in Anchorage, Alaska. She's the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. She succeeded Sarah Palin in this post. How well do you know Sarah?

DIANE KELLER, MAYOR OF WASILLA, ALASKA: Larry, I had the opportunity to serve on the city council while Sarah was the mayor from 1996 to 2002. And she's a hometown girl. You see her in the grocery store. You see her at the post office. And she's extremely accessible to the people of Alaska.

KING: Were you shocked by the announcement?

KELLER: I was extremely pleasantly surprised. There's been a buzz in Alaska for about a year with her name being on the long list. But I think Alaskans were pleasantly surprised this morning when we woke up and heard that she was the choice.

KING: Has she done a lot of international travel, mayor?

KELLER: I can tell you that it wasn't long ago that she was over visiting our troops in Iraq and that Sarah Palin is very active in the national community. And I think that she will surround herself with very intelligent people to ensure she's up to speed on any issue.

KING: So you're a professional associate more than a friend, right?

KELLER: Yes, I would say that's true. However, I go over and visit her at her house.

KING: How good a campaigner will she be?

KELLER: She is going to be one dynamic and show stopping individual. When Sarah Palin puts her mind to accomplish something, she will do it.

KING: Thank you very much, Mayor Keller. Mayor Keller succeeded Sarah Palin as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Let's meet a long-time friend of Sarah's, Karen Rhodes. Karen, how long have you known her?

KAREN RHODES, FRIEND OF SARAH PALIN: I've known Sarah probably about ten years or so, ever since she was mayor.

KING: How did you hear that she was the nominee?

RHODES: I woke up and turned on my computer.

KING: Were you shocked?

RHODES: I was very surprised, very pleasantly surprised.

KING: When did you last talk to her?

RHODES: I spoke with her, oh, about a week or so ago.

KING: Did she discuss the possibility of this?

RHODES: We don't talk shop when she calls. We're long-time friends. We talk about the kids. We talk about how the family's doing and we just encourage each other and just keep tabs on each other. And we don't ever talk shop. So this was a surprise to me like everyone else. KING: How will Americans take to her?

RHODES: I think John McCain said it well today. He said once you get to know her, you will fall in love with her. She is the real deal. She is just a wonderful, wonderful human being. And she's just fun to be around and she's just a really neat person. And I think America will love her like we do.

KING: What's her husband like?

RHODES: He's solid. He's a fabulous dad. He's been by her side ever since she was mayor, ever since she's been governor. He's always right there, very supportive. They have a very strong family.

KING: Thanks, Karen, good luck to you and her. Our panel returns after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I just wanted to say one thing. I think she's wonderful. I'm impressed and I hope she makes it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael, it's a great day for the state and a great day for the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as I'm concerned, I have been betrayed and I think that every voter that voted for her has been betrayed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've always known she's genuine. She's real. And I was so proud of her.


KING: That was from the conservative Michael Duke Show, a call- in radio show on KFAR radio in Fairbanks, commenting on the selection of the governor of Alaska. Back to our panel, quickly, in our remaining moments. Kevin Madden, what concerns you at all about this ticket?

MADDEN: Well, you know, listening to Paul tonight, I think that it's very clear that the attacks are going to be very sharp on the readiness issue. So I think over the next 60 days, and that's not a lot of time until election day -- over the next 60 days, the McCain campaign has to go out there and make this an argument about accomplishment. They have to take a look at Sarah Palin's record, what she's done as governor, the reform minded, maverick approach that she's instituted in Alaska and how she wants to bring that to Washington. Make the argument that this is the ticket that's going to bring fundamental change to Washington and that it's a ticket with actual accomplishment, whereas Barack Obama has never done anything in his political career.

KING: Maria, is the vice presidency going to be more a part of this campaign than previous? CARDONA: I don't know about that, Larry. But I think fundamentally, I would say no, because I think fundamentally it is still about the top of the ticket. And that's what we have to keep in mind. Look, I'm a Latina mother of two. And every single morning, I wake up and I truly worry about whether my husband and I are going to be able to give our kids the same opportunities that we had and whether they're going to be able to live a better life, which is the fundamental promise of this country. It's why my father brought us over when we were very little and worked so hard to give us everything we need.

The problem is that so many people from so many walks of life, Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans, seniors, even young people, are really working harder and harder and falling farther and farther behind. It's fundamentally about whether we want, as Americans, to make the change that we want and deserve or whether we want four more years of the same. And McCain and Palin are four more years of the same.

KING: Kellyanne, do you still see this as a down to the wire close race?

CONWAY: Perhaps. Neither one has been able to crack 50 percent in the polls and stay there, which is telling. I can't imagine that we can have the same conversation about hour different and risky and surprising Sarah Palin is and that she's more of the same? You guys need new talking points. Once in a while, the home team has to say darn, the other team got a good one in today. Listen, nobody talked about -- all of a sudden, the economy is not as important as national security. All of a sudden, experience mattered, not just biography.

Guys, you set the table. We're just coming to eat a little. This is really important, Larry. The air has been thick with the word sexism. I would be really careful if I were the other side to say too much about Sarah Palin.

CARDONA: Larry, can I just say one last thing? As I woman, I absolutely think her story is incredibly compelling. I think that she is decent and very smart and she is and should be an example to women. Again, it's not about her. It's about McCain and the failed policies of the Republican party.

KING: Do you complement the selection of Begala? I'm looking at Begala.


BEGALA: I'm raising four kids. I don't have time to run for vice president.

KING: Do you complement the selection of Biden, Kellyanne?

CONWAY: Yes, absolutely, because I think Senator Obama recognized where he is weak and where people, especially the Hillary voters who voted against him, as well as for her, are concerned is in his lack of experience on foreign policy. So he tried to balance his ticket.

KING: And vice president Begala?


KING: We only have 30 seconds. Do you think this is going to be very closes?

BEGALA: Yes, I do. Kellyanne's a pollster and I think she makes a good point about not being over 50 percent for either one of these candidates. That's why I think that Maria's point is the right one. It's not about the vice presidency. The Democrats should not take the bait, as Kellyanne says. Dan Quayle against Lloyd Benson was the clearest choice of this century. Guess what, Dan Quayle's guy won because people vote on the top of the ticket. I'm more worried about after they win. I'm comfortable with Joe Biden becoming my president, if need be. I'm not comfortable with Sarah Palin.

KING: Still time to take our quick vote. Are you pleased with McCain's choice for vice president? Go to and tell us. Monday night, the Republican's and we'll talk about their convention in St. Paul with some Democrats, live right after the night's events. And I want to remind you about our special time. It's midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific. That's Monday night, LARRY KING LIVE. Now Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?