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CNN Larry King Live

Interview with Michael Moore/Auto Bailout Vote Canceled

Aired November 19, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Michael Moore -- he made his name taking on General Motors and mouthing off about the automaker.
What's he got to say about a $25 billion loan for the big three, grilled again today on the Washington hot seat?

And why are they asking for your hard-earned money when they flew to D.C. on their corporate jets?

What's wrong with this picture?

Plus, President-Elect Obama ran his campaign on change.

Is he filling jobs with the same old faces?

And could Bill Clinton cost Hillary the biggest job in the cabinet?

Right now, on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Drama tonight on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reversed plans to hold a test vote on an automakers' bailout bill on Thursday. Reid had planned to move on legislation that would have taken $25 billion from the $700 billion already approved for Wall Street and diverted it to the big three automakers.

But an aide tells CNN he decided not to do that when it become it became clear it would fail and would fall short of the 60 votes it needed to pass. There's a chance there might be a vote on a compromise of some kind, but not a very good chance, according to Reid.

Where does this leave the auto industry now?

We'll ask our special guest about that. Michael Moore, a filmmaker with deep ties to the auto industry. His father worked for G.M. for 35 years. In fact, in 1989, he became an international figure for his famous film, "Roger and Me," which centered on the auto industry in his hometown of Flint, Michigan.

In fact, let's start with a clip from "Roger and Me," his first big hit. And then we'll see where he thinks things stand today.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Motors doesn't seem to be doing anybody any service if it goes bankrupt. It has to do what it has to do in order to stay competitive in today's economic climate.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Even if it that means eliminating 18,000 jobs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if it means 20,000 jobs.

MOORE: Or 30,000?


MOORE: How about all the jobs here in Flint?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could feasibly happen.


KING: Michael, were you -- was that prophetic?

MOORE: I thought he was really just joking at the time. It -- you know, when I made that film, there were still 50,000 people working at General Motors in Flint. I mean they had eliminated 30,000 jobs, but there were still some jobs there.

Today, I think there's less than 12,000 working in the area. So it has devastated Flint. It was -- Flint was one of the first towns to go. And when I made that movie almost 20 years ago, I hoped that the film would be a warning to other cities that this corporation was intent upon removing jobs from this country and taking them to Mexico and Brazil and other places.

When I made that movie, Larry, that year, General Motors made a profit of over $4 billion. And they were still laying off people then, simply to make a bit more money. And the people who helped to build the company, the workers in their hometown of Flint, Michigan, they just forgot about them and...

KING: So...

MOORE: ...and took the money and ran.

KING: So since the principle was we'll have the cars built elsewhere -- and many of the cars are built elsewhere now -- what went wrong if they were paying less out of the country to build them?

MOORE: Well, what really went wrong is that General Motors has had this philosophy from the beginning that what's good for General Motors is good for the country. And so their attitude was we'll build it and you buy it. We'll tell you what to buy. You just buy it.

And eventually, the consumer got smart and said you know what, I'd like a car that gets a little better gas mileage. I'd like a car that's safer on the road. And so they started to buy other cars. And General Motors still wouldn't change. They still kept building the wrong cars. And more and more people stopped buying them.

And, at a certain point, you know, General Motors lost such a large part of the market share that there probably was -- there was a point of no return.

Now here we are, with this, you know, complete collapse -- on the verge of this collapse. And if General Motors collapses, then there goes hundreds of thousands of jobs, if not millions of jobs of the ripple effect of this.

KING: And the same is true of Ford and Chrysler?

MOORE: Absolutely. Absolutely. I'll tell you, it was hilarious just watching these CEOs there yesterday and today testifying in Congress, saying that, you know, that the problem wasn't their -- you know, the cars they were building. It was the financial situation that we're in now.

The problem is the cars they've been building. They've never listened to the consumers. They've just gone about it their own wrong way. And I'll tell you, you know, I'm of mixed mind about this bailout, Larry, because I don't think these companies, with these management people, should be given a dime, because they're -- that's just going to be money going up in smoke or off to other countries. I mean, G.M. is currently building a $300 million factory in Russia right now to build SUVs, right outside of St. Petersburg.

So that's where your money's going to go no matter what they say.

KING: So why are...

MOORE: But, on the other hand...

KING: Why are you of a mixed...

MOORE: On the one hand...

KING: ...feelings?

MOORE: Well, because -- because we can't let all these people lose their jobs because of the bad decisions, the stupid decisions made by the management of these auto companies. So I think what has to happen here is that Congress needs to pass some legislation, and our president-elect needs to do what Roosevelt did.

When Roosevelt came in and when World War II faced the country, Roosevelt said to General Motors and Ford, you're not going to build cars anymore. You're going to build airplanes and tanks and guns and the things that we need for this war because we have a national crisis. And so General Motors had to do what Roosevelt told them they had to do.

KING: What do you want to tell them now? MOORE: The same thing has to happen now.

KING: What do you want them to do now?

MOORE: President-Elect Obama has to say to them, yes, we're going to use this money to save these jobs. But we're not going to build these gas guzzling, unsafe vehicles any longer.

So, we're going to put the companies into some sort of receivership and we, the government, are going to hold the reigns on these companies. And they are to build mass transit. They're to build hybrid cars. They're to build cars that use little or no gasoline.

And -- I mean because we're facing a national crisis -- not just an economic crisis, but a crisis of the polar ice caps are melting. There's only so much oil left under the Earth. We're going to run out of that, if not in our children's time, our grandchildren's time.

There's got to be a plan set out to find other ways to transport ourselves in other ways than using fossil fuels.

KING: So...

MOORE: So that's what I...

KING: Let me get a break.

Hold it. We'll get a break.

MOORE: That's what I would do.

KING: I've got it. You'd give them the money, but a lot of conditions along with it.

We want to hear from you tonight...

MOORE: Oh, not just the conditions. And a whole new management team. The whole thing has got to be controlled,, just like Roosevelt did, in World War II.

KING: OK. I've got to get a break, Michael.


KING: We want to hear from folks tonight, as well. Go to our blog at and tell us if Michael Moore is on the right track, if he has the answer to the industry's problems.

We're back with Michael after this.


KING: Some -- our guest is Michael Moore.

Some are blaming the United Auto Workers. Your father worked for General Motors for a lot of years. What was it like for him?

Did he like working there?

MOORE: Oh, yes. I mean, we had a great life. That generation that got to work at General Motors were paid a great wage and, you know, full health benefits. We got to take three or four weeks paid vacation every summer. It was a real wonderful life. It provided the middle class life not only for our family, but for tens of millions of families in this country and...

KING: Do you blame the UAW now?

MOORE: And that's...

KING: Is the UAW to blame for this problem?

MOORE: Oh, not at all. In fact...


MOORE: Oh, no, no. The UAW has -- has given back so much to General Motors and the other companies. I'm stunned, actually, at how much they've given back. I think they've given too much back, frankly.

This is not the workers' fault. The workers don't design these cars. The workers don't have this arrogant attitude that the public will buy whatever we make for them.

You know, the workers also don't control the quality of these cars. And for years and years, General Motors and Ford and Chrysler -- their main contribution innovation -- their main contribution to this country was to build things that would just fall apart -- planned obsolescence, so then you could buy more of those things that would fall apart.

And, eventually, people started -- you know, they're working hard for their money. And they're going, jeez, you know, I work hard for my money. I don't -- I don't think I want to make a contribution here to Mr. Goodwrench every two weeks, taking my car in the shop to get this little thing fixed or that thing that's wrong.

I mean, I've wondered for years, actually, why the chairmen of these companies don't just get in a Honda or a Toyota and drive it around the block. I think one drive around the block, they'd figure out, jeez, this isn't bad. No wonder people buy these cars.

But their arrogance has prevented them from doing that. And to see them up there like beggars on Capitol Hill, asking for a handout, when I just think, Larry, of the -- literally, the hundreds of thousands of autoworkers in the last 20 years, since I made that movie, who have suffered as a result of this company -- towns devastated, families devastated. I just can't tell you what I've seen just people I know in Flint.

KING: All right... MOORE: And people have lost their jobs.

Where is their handout.

Where is their bailout, you know?

KING: OK. Harry...

MOORE: You know, the people of this country are sick and tired of this.

KING: Harry Reid, the majority leader, delayed the vote tomorrow. Apparently, he can't get the votes for a bailout. There's going to be some kind of compromise.

Does that disturb you?

Do you think one of these companies could go under?

MOORE: Oh, absolutely. I can't imagine any of those three companies being around next year at this time, let alone maybe even six months from now.

KING: Then...

MOORE: But...

KING: Then who will make cars in America?

MOORE: Well, right. No. We've got a huge problem. That's why government -- this is a crisis. There's a catastrophe about to happen and the government has to step in and say, just like Roosevelt did, this is what you're building. This is how it's going to be built. We're going to have a mass transit system in this country. We're going to bring back light rail. We're going to build more subways. We're going to build more buses. And we're going to employ not only the people that are currently employed, but a lot of the people who have lost their jobs.

We need a huge works program. We need the infrastructure of General Motors and Ford and Chrysler. That's why they can't just -- and they can't file for bankruptcy, either, because once a company says they're filing for bankruptcy, who's going to buy a car from that company?

There's no -- I mean you're like, jeez, I may not be able to get this car fixed next year if the company hasn't come back. So bankruptcy isn't the answer.

What I think is ironic and, again, hypocritical on the part of Congress, is that they're not -- they're holding back. He can't get the votes to bail out the auto companies because that's going to help a lot of blue collar people -- people that don't have a voice, who don't have lobbyists fighting for them on Capitol Hill.

But, boy, as soon as the banks or the financial institutions or the people that just gambled the money away -- as soon as they were wanting some dough, boy, the trough just was laid out for them. Line right up, take whatever you want, sure, no problem. You know, everybody was there to vote for that.

But when it came time, now, to help the people, the working class of this country, it's like, ah, I don't know about that.

So, on one hand, there needs to be a program with money behind it to make sure that these people don't lose their jobs. But we need to restructure these auto companies so they become mass transit companies and companies that build cars that are hybrid or much more fuel- efficient and better for the environment. That's what the country needs. That's what the world needs.

KING: Let me...

MOORE: We don't need...

KING: Let me get a break.

MOORE: ...more crap built by Detroit.

KING: Should the government even think about bailing out the auto industry?

It's your money.

Tell us at

And we'll be back with more of Michael in 60 seconds.


KING: As we've said, the heads of the big three auto companies made their case for a bailout on Capitol Hill this week.



ROBERT NARDELLI, CHRYSLER CEO: This isn't about just a single company and making the decision to let it go down. This is about an entire industry whose tentacles reach broadly, from east to west north to south.

ALAN MULALLY, FORD CEO: This is a really important industry. This is a pillar of our economy. And it's going to prevent the United States from entering into an economic depression, in my view.

ROBERT WAGONER, G.M. CEO: We hope to emerge leaner, stronger and more formidable on the other side. What exposes us to failure now is not our product lineup nor our business plan nor our long-term strategy. What exposes us to failure now is the global financial crisis, which has severely restricted credit availability and reduced industry sales to the lowest per capita level since World War II.


KING: Good point, Michael?

MOORE: No. No. That's -- that's just simply not true. They're in the spot they're in -- and they've been in this spot for some time -- because they haven't listened to the consumer. They haven't been building the right cars. They haven't -- they've created -- in fact, they've not only hurt themselves, they've helped to provide some of the fodder for this economic collapse that we're facing because of the arrogant and wrong decisions that they've made over the years.

They should be removed. They shouldn't give those people, the management, in charge. New management has to come in. The government has to hold the reins on these companies. They just can't give it to these guys, because, I'm telling you, they don't know what to do. And they've proven it.

Just go in their showroom and see what they're still trying to sell, what they've been shoving down people's throats all these years...

KING: All right...

MOORE: ...these big SUVs.

KING: Let me...

MOORE: It's just...

KING: Let me get a break and we'll continue with more.

MOORE: It's just -- yes.

KING: Michael Moore, a tough critic.

We'll be right back.



MOORE: Mr. Smith, we just came down from Flint, where we filmed a family being evicted from their home the day before Christmas Eve -- a family that used to work in the factory.

Would you be willing to come up with us to see what the situation is like in Flint so that people...

ROGER SMITH: No. I've been in Flint and I'm sorry for those people. I don't know anything about it. But you have the...

MOORE: Families are being evicted from their homes on Christmas Eve.

SMITH: Well, I -- listen, I'm sure General Motors didn't evict them. So, you'd have to go talk to the landlord...

MOORE: They used to work for General Motors...

SMITH: Well, they...

MOORE: ...and now they don't work there anymore.

SMITH: Well, I'm sorry, but...

MOORE: Could you come up to Flint with us?

SMITH: I cannot come to Flint.

I'm sorry.


KING: That was Roger Smith and that great movie.

Let's take a call.

Romeo in Michigan for Michael Moore.



My name is Laurie Greenley (ph) and I'm from Elway, Michigan.

I have a question for Michael Moore.

I'm a registered nurse working in a hospital. And I wanted to know what did he think about people in other industries, such as health care now, losing their jobs because of the loss of jobs in the auto industry?

KING: Yes.

The tentacles spread out, don't they, Michael?

MOORE: That's right. It's a horrible ripple effect. That's why they, as an infrastructure and as a company, can't be allowed to go under. My point is, is that we shouldn't be giving the money to the current management team and the current people that are running this thing into the ground.

I mean, Larry, if you -- $25 billion -- if we're going to give them $25 billion, we should be able to own the company.

If you gave me $25 billion to make my next movie, I think you own that movie, Larry.


MOORE: You know, I just don't understand why we just give away this... KING: OK.

MOORE: ...this free money. It just...

KING: By the way...

MOORE: makes absolutely no sense.

KING: For the record, we have invitations out to all three of the big automakers -- all their CEOs, all there -- all of them, out to all of them.

Your father worked at the...

MOORE: Well, after 20 years...

KING: ...A.C. Spark Plug factory...

MOORE: I'd like to talk to one of them.


MOORE: What's that, Larry?

KING: Your father worked at the A.C. Spark Plug factory in Flint for three decades. You gave us a couple photos of you shot there recently. And tell us why -- I think we'll put them up -- why they're so meaningful to you.

MOORE: Well, these were taken, actually, by "The New York Times" about a month or so ago. They're tearing down the factory, finally, where he worked, where tens of thousands of people worked over the years. And it was kind of an emotional moment just being there and thinking about all that we've lost in this country, how we've allowed a few people at the top to get filthy rich.

And I mean those guys that were testifying today, one of -- the Ford chairman is making something like $22 million a year and his company lost $2 billion last year. The G.M. chairman is making $15 million a year. His company lost $39 billion last year. And he's rewarded with a $15 million payout.

I mean this is -- this is just absolutely insane.

But I'll tell you what it really has proven to me, Larry, is that these guys, after all of that stuff they've been telling us all these years about go capitalism, free market, free enterprise, they don't believe in any of that.

They don't believe in free enterprise or a free market. They want -- they want socialism for themselves. They want a handout...

KING: Yes.

MOORE: ...and a net for themselves. To hell with everybody else, but give it to them. KING: As...

MOORE: And I think, really, what we're seeing here right now with them, with the banks, we're seeing the end of capitalism -- the end of capitalism as we know it.

KING: Has...

MOORE: And I say good riddance.

KING: As Mel Brooks...

MOORE: It hasn't helped the people or the planet.

KING: As Mel Brooks once classically said, where did we go right?


KING: Michael Moore, filmmaker and one of the extraordinary documentarians ever.

Thank you, Michael.

MOORE: Thank you very much.

KING: Congressman Charlie Rangel joins the discussion next.


KING: We welcome old friend, Congressman Charlie Rangel, Democrat of New York, joining us from Washington.

What did you make of what Michael Moore had to say about what to do with this mess?

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Why do you have me follow Michael Moore?

The end of capitalism!


RANGEL: You know, Larry, it doesn't bother me in talking about subsidizing our industry. Everybody that we trade with, especially China, subsidizes. I agree with everything he says about the excessive compensation and parachutes and the endless management.

But the real question is we're not going to let down this industry. We're not going to have millions of people in the street. One out of 10 jobs, one way or another, is connected with supplying copper, aluminum, rubber and all these things to make these cars. We are having good technological advancement.

And it's our firm. I can't -- and someone once joked and said that if we had to come to the defense of Taiwan, we'd first have to borrow the money from China in order to buy the cars and the trucks and the jeeps to do it.

KING: All right. It -- we know it's a little bit in trouble in the Senate.

How does it stand in the House?

RANGEL: It's not going to get to the House. We're going to wait and see what happens in the Senate. If they're able to send us something, we're anxious to do unemployment compensation and certainly something to give some assistance to a national treasure -- and that's our automobile industry.

KING: Obama is for it, is he not?

RANGEL: No question about it. Of course, I guess everyone is for it one way or another. The question is to make certain that we're not talking about allowing no strings attached. We have to have oversight. We have to make certain they're going in the direction where we truly -- new technology. And that they're going to be competitive.

It's not just giving a loan as if they're going down the drain. They have to do better than they have.

But everyone recognizes if we do nothing, it could be a hell of a catastrophe in terms of the number of people who would be unemployed.

KING: Did the automakers make their case well, do you think?

RANGEL: No, well...


RANGEL: Well, it was self-serving. But I do believe that they did make a case to how they have improved, the advances that they've made, the new cars that are coming on the market, the hybrids and, also, the fear as to what happens, which has not been really contested, if we do nothing and they go under.

And so we're talking about millions of jobs throughout this great country. And we can't afford to let that happen. We should give them the bridge loans. We should provide oversight. We should make certain they're going in the right direction, that they are competitive and they are going to make certain that they can make American products. I think, also, it's also a question of national security.

KING: Charlie, we'll have you back soon.


RANGEL: I look forward to it, Larry.

KING: Congressman Charlie Rangel, Democrat of New York.

Let's go to the big board now.

David Theall, our man at the blog scene, gives us an up to date of what you are telling us -- David.

DAVID THEALL, LARRY KING LIVE PRODUCER: Larry, we have been talking about this proposed taxpayer-funded bailout/loan to the big three on your blog. We've been doing it through stories that have been posted on the blog and through invitations for comment.

And I will tell you, the overwhelming majority of people commenting on your blog today and yesterday say no -- no to the proposed bailout, no to the proposed loan, no to any taxpayer assistance to the big three. They blame greedy CEOs. They also blame a unionized workforce unwilling to make concessions. That's their sentiments. We want to make that clear.

Dale brings -- rather, Cecil brings us in with this simple statement. "This is America, and we don't reward failure, period."

Now, there are others who are worried about the U.S. auto worker. They're worried about the local economies. They're worried about the suppliers and they are worried about a larger hit on the national economy. There are lot of people that are commenting on your blog about that. Sandy wrapped up this sentiment with "yes, we should make this taxpayer assistance loan because it keeps the auto industry working, paying income taxes and it stops more foreclosures from happening. If you put three million people out of work, the banking and credit industry would be shattered by people not being able to pay their monthly bill, thereby hurting more people."

We're going to continue this conversation, as always, on your blog, When you go there, look for the live blog link. Click it, come on in, join the conversation.

KING: David Theall, as always, right on top of things, checking out our blogs. With the big three auto CEOs caught in the act, the great investigative reporter Brian Ross is here next, telling us about high flying ways. Don't go away.


KING: You look up investigative journalist in the dictionary, you get a picture of Brian Ross of ABC News. He joins us now from New York. He filed a great piece for "Good Morning America" on how the CEOs of the big three automakers flew private planes into Washington. Let's show you some of his report. Watch this.


BRIAN ROSS, ABC INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER (voice-over): The man boarding this 36 million dollar private luxury jet at the Detroit Airport is the CEO of General Motors Rick Wagoner, on his way to Washington to cry poor, to tell Congress that GM is burning through cash and will fail unless tax payers bail out the auto industry with 10 to 12 billion dollars for GM alone.


KING: Brian, terrific reporting. What made you jump on this? ROSS: I'm always interesting in how the corporate royalty live, especially when they run companies that are out of cash, asking for public money. So they took their private plane to go to Washington to ask for public money. Each of the three CEOs flew into Washington, each one in a separate jet worth about 35 million dollars. Round trip cost, Larry, about 20,000. A coach seat would have been about 335. First class, 900. But first class still isn't good enough for them.

KING: You confronted them about it on their appearance on Capitol Hill. Let's watch that.


ROSS: Wagoner, who was paid almost 16 million dollars last year, wasn't eager to talk about the private jet.

Mr. Wagoner, Brian Ross of ABC News. Question for you about your private jet. About the private jet. You say you're willing to make sacrifices, what about traveling in the private jet. Why do you do it?

RICK WAGONER, CEO OF GM: We do it absolutely limited to urgent situations.

ROSS: You have your big jet parked here? Could you not have flown commercial, sir?

WAGONER: Had other meetings earlier in Detroit, actually.


KING: What did he say, Brian?

ROSS: He said he had other meetings earlier in Detroit. There were flights, we checked, out of the Detroit airport that would have got him there in time for the hearing. This is just the way he lives and the way all three of the CEOs of the auto companies live. I don't think it occurred to them that they should ever think about flying commercial. And, in fact, they said that their corporate boards require them to fly, for security reasons, on private jets. That gives them certain tax advantages, by that a requirement.

The fact is they talk about sacrifices. They primarily talked about the sacrifice of laying off tens of thousands of their workers. Not so much their own personal sacrifice.

KING: They get a tax break for flying corporately. That means we're paying to fly them corporately.

ROSS: There is a tax break involved if it's for security reasons. That's the reason they cite.

KING: Why do they need security?

ROSS: They're important men. They run big companies. I suppose they could imagine a kidnapping threat. Others say they have to be able to travel secretly to be able make deals. Nobody sees where they're going. The fact is, this is a nice way to travel. It's really seamless travel. The limousine or the big car takes you right up to the foot of the plane. You get on board, off you go. It's very efficient, no doubt about that. For a company that says it's running out of cash, as Wagoner said about GM, it seems incongruous.

KING: And they got some heat from law makers today when they testified before a House committee. Let's watch that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial. Let the record show no hands went up. Second, going to ask you to raise your hand if you're planning to sell your jet in place now and fly back commercial. Let the record show no hands went up.


KING: Brian, they don't see the irony of this?

ROSS: Not in the least. There was no indication whatsoever that they were in any way ashamed by it or bothered by it. In fact, we had crews out in Detroit tonight. We saw the jet of the Ford CEO, Alan Mulally. It arrived, pulled into the big hangar Ford has at the Detroit airport so they could come out of the plane without being bothered by the cold weather or our cameras. The GM big G-4, Gulf Stream Four jet, a 36 million dollar jet, is running, engines ready to go, out of Dulles Airport, to take Wagoner home to Detroit later tonight.

KING: Here is part of what a GM spokesman said about all this. "Making a big to do about this when issues vital to jobs of millions of Americans are being discussed in Washington is diverting attention away from a critical debate that will determine the future health of the auto industry. What do you make of that?

ROSS: Well, I think what's involved here really is the symbolism. It's not the cost of the 20,000 dollar round trip. That's not going to make the big difference to save the company. But it does go to what one lawmaker called the arrogance of these CEOs and do they get it? Do they understand what's going on in the rest of the country? When you travel the way they do, you're not in long lines, you're not exposed to the average American. Maybe they don't.

KING: Do the Japanese, the Toyota, Honda CEOs, do they fly in their own jets?

ROSS: That's a question that I was asked this morning by Diane Sawyer. To be honest, we couldn't quite find the answer. But I do know that the Japanese are not in front of Congress asking for 25 billion dollars in public money.

KING: Brian, what do you do with this dilemma, bail them out?

ROSS: I sat through the whole hearings yesterday and today, and it's a very tough situation, as you say, as your guests have indicated, Michael Moore and Charlie Rangel. It's clear that there's a belief that it would be a serious blow to the economy if these companies were to go under. And Wagoner probably made the best case. He says his consumer research shows that a company that goes bankrupt, 80 percent of its customers would not buy a car from a company that goes bankrupt, fearing the warranty would be no good. So it's a serious, serious problem. It's way above my pay grade as a reporter to figure out what to do about.

But I can tell you I thin this kind of symbolism, and the PR missteps, flying in in three separate corporate jets to ask for money from the public didn't go over well in Congress. They had a tough fight anyway, but this certainly didn't help.

KING: Thanks, Brian, as always, terrific reporting. Brian Ross of ABC. Does Hillary Clinton have a lock on the secretary of state's job or not? That's next.


KING: We turn now to the question of Hillary Clinton and maybe an impending selection to be secretary of State. In Washington is Christopher Hitchens, columnist with "Vanity Fair," terrific writer who believes Hillary Clinton should not be the next secretary of state. Paul Begala is also in Washington, the Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor. And in New York, Lisa Caputo, the former press secretary to Hillary Clinton and a former deputy assistant to President Clinton. Lisa, what do you know? Is she going to get the offer?

LISA CAPUTO, FMR. PRESS SECRETARY TO HILLARY CLINTON: I think certainly discussions have occurred, Larry. I think she's clearly sorting through what she thinks about all this. There's a real part of her who loves being a U.S. senator and loves having the platform of a U.S. senator, and obviously, health care is near and dear to her heart. She really is I think very torn about staying in the Senate and working through the health care issue and getting universal health care.

On the other hand, she's a global celebrity. That's an enormous platform. I was so fortunate to have the privilege to travel with her all over the world during her time in the White House, and she is truly an iconic figure nationally. She knows all of the foreign leaders. They know and respect her. And she has great command of the global issues. So it would be an incredible platform as well for her to really make a mark for this administration on foreign policy, when we have seen failed foreign policy in the past eight years.

KING: How she might be leaning, you don't know?

CAPUTO: She -- I don't know per se, no.

KING: All right, Christopher, you believe she should not take the job if offered. Why?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, "VANITY FAIR": Just listen to what Miss Caputo just told you. Miss Clinton believes she can do a fan dance like this. Maybe I'll consider it is what she's saying. Now, I think it shouldn't have been offered to her, as you started by saying. But it's even more humiliating for the president-elect if he says will you do it and she says, actually, I'm perfectly happy where I am. I'd rather have something else. He's absolutely booked himself this way for hiding to nothing.

She's the woman who played the race card on him in the election several times. She's the woman who many, many, many of us voted not to worry about anymore. The Clinton era is over. That's why we're voting for Obama. She's now pushing him around, flirting. That's the first thing.

Second thing is she shouldn't be offered the job in the first place. Why not? Because there are about five or six financial scandals in her past, all of them related to foreign donors to her and her husband. The Riaddi (ph) family in Indonesia, innumerable people connected to business in China, not an unimportant country on our State Department's periphery, or our Treasury's periphery if it comes to that. Many, many dozens of whom fled the country before they could testify or rather than testify into the hearings on Clinton fund- raising.

Again, -- and her brothers, her amazing brothers, who tried to get a hazelnut monopoly in Georgia with her help, and who took loans from Mark Rich and didn't repay them. If all of this was balanced by a huge foreign policy expertise, OK, maybe, conceivably, but it isn't. What is the best foreign policy position? She invented a record for herself about Bosnia?

KING: Let's have Paul? Paul Begala, how would you respond.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Maybe the best reason to give her the job would be my masochistic desire to torment Mr. Hitchens for another few years. If, in fact, the reporting is accurate -- I don't have any reason to doubt it -- the president-elect has seen virtues in Senator Clinton that I think Mr. Hitchens has perhaps not seen. That is the person who matters. Should she be nominated, I think it's a forgone conclusion that the Senate would confirm her. Even some of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate, like Jon Kyl, the Senator from Arizona, has already praised her.

HITCHENS: As has Henry Kissinger, if you want --

BEGALA: As Lawrence Eagleburger, another former secretary of state.


BEGALA: Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting, Mr. Hitchens. While she certainly has a few who dislike her, I think the broad consensus is she would do quite a good job. Whether she would take the job, whether she wants to leave the Senate that she plainly loves, I don't know. KING: Is Christopher right, Paul, when he says that when you openly sort of offer it to her, fly her to Chicago, you're put on the hook if she turns you down. You look kind of awkward?

BEGALA: I think the president-elect looks very big. Obviously, I supported Hillary in the primaries, but I have been very impressed that he offered the vice presidency to Joe Biden. Joe Biden accepted that. It showed he wanted Someone big, someone with stature and experience, someone who would challenge him, as Senator Obama said at the time.

I think the fact he's looking to, as he has said, this team of rivals, as Doris Kearns Goodwin describes the Lincoln cabinet, I think it looks nothing but good.

KING: What if she turns him down?

BEGALA: If she turns him down, it would only be because she loves her job in the Senate. She actually enjoys it.

KING: It wouldn't be embarrassing?

BEGALA: Look, I think it would be embarrassing, but I think it's not a major problem. She enjoys her work. Senator Obama knows that. It's hard to take somebody who has a job that they love and ask them to jump to another one.

KING: Let's take a break, come right back with Christopher Hitchens, Paul Begala, and Lisa Caputo. If Hillary Clinton becomes secretary of state, would it mean the end of her presidential ambitions? That's next.


KING: Two veteran journalists came out today arguing that Hillary would be a bad choice. Lisa, David Broder says that Obama needs a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy, not someone who will tell him how to approach the world or to be his mentor in international relations. And Thomas Friedman, who was our guest last night, questions if she is the right person, wonders if she would have the sort of close relationship with her president that say James Baker had with Bush 41. Lisa, do you see any problem there?

CAPUTO: I really don't, Larry. If anything, I think that Hillary Clinton upon coming into the Senate, has shown that she is a team player and can work on both sides of the aisle. I think that she would be a team player in the administration and would carry out the president's agenda full stop. I think she would be an enormous asset, as I said earlier. I do think that she's got such an incredible platform in terms of her command of the issues. She would be value added not just to the president but also to the vice president.

Let's not forget Joe Biden has a deep background in foreign policy. She has also been on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So I think she brings an enormous amount to the table.

KING: Christopher, if she takes the job, does that end her presidential ambitions?

HITCHENS: No. I actually agree with Tom Friedman said. It must be very nerve racking to have a secretary of State who you know is thinking about four years ahead or maybe eight all the time. She never thinks about anything else, never has thought about anything else, except the possibility that she might one day be the president of the United States. Wasn't even a team player in her own husband's administration.

Remember, when Les Aspin wanted to do something about Sarajevo and the rape of Bosnia, Hillary Clinton said no, I don't want you intervening. You will get in the way of my health care plan, which you remember worked out so brilliantly. Someone who simply can't think about anything but her own ego, or sometimes her husband's. If Barack Obama does this to himself, he will never have a minute's peace in foreign policy and neither will we. And every lobbyist and foreign policy interest group from China to Indonesia will be laughing.

KING: Paul, what do you make of that?

BEGALA: I'm a pretty keen observer of the scene, Larry. I'm beginning to think Hitchens is undecided. I think we're marking him down in the undecided category. I think Friedman's point is an interesting one. There is a lot to be said for the relationship between the secretary of state and the president of the United States. But I have never seen a closer relationship than the one between the current president and the current secretary of state. Dr. Rice, in fact, once an odd, kind of creepy Freudian slip referred to the president as her husband. They are terribly close. Yet, I think most objective observers would say they pursued a failed foreign policy.

I think Friedman is a brilliant guy, but I think he is over- analyzing the issue of the relationship. Instead, looking at what those debates produced, 22 times they debated against each other, and they actually share a pretty close world view. Six years ago, Senator Obama was against the war when Hillary Clinton was for it. I happen to think Obama was right. I think history has proved him right. But today, they have essentially the same position. There is no doubt in my mind that Hillary Clinton is an effective advocate and would advocate the Obama foreign policy around the world.

KING: We'll be back with more Christopher Hitchens, Paul Begala and Lisa Caputo right after this.


KING: Some more breaking news tonight, Barack Obama's top choice for secretary of Homeland Security is Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. Multiple Democratic sources close to the transition told CNN on condition of anonymity. One source said he believed the final decision depends on the vetting of the Democratic governor, much like the selection of Eric Holder for attorney general. Lisa, what do you make of that?

CAPUTO: Great choice. I think she is somebody who worked hard on his behalf in the campaign. She has been a fantastic governor. I think it is also very keen of him to add some more diversity to his cabinet in the form of a woman. So it is a fantastic choice.

KING: Will that need a special election in Arizona?

BEGALA: I believe the lieutenant governor would succeed to the office.

KING: Lieutenant governor just succeeds.


KING: Christopher, opinions aside, will she be the next secretary of state?

HITCHENS: Well, by the way, Happy Birthday. Many happy returns. I knew there was something I hadn't said.

CAPUTO: Here, here.

HITCHENS: Well, yesterday, it looked as if she was. The "New York Times" started doing all this stuff about her husband's business interests, forgetting all the stuff about their joint previous conflicts of interest. Today, it looks as if she says maybe I will, maybe I won't. This is not "Team of Rivals." This is not Doris Kearns Goodwin. This is not the Lincoln cabinet. This is more like President Lincoln having to wonder if General McClellan was really on his side and finding out later he wasn't, because General McClellan decided to run as a Democrat against him.

KING: So what do you think?

HITCHENS: I think it makes him look stupid and weak either way.


KING: The question is do you think she will be the next secretary of state?

HITCHENS: I would bet now not, but I'm hoping to change this while talking about it.

KING: Paul, what do you think?

BEGALA: In fact, Hillary doesn't make a move without consulting Mr. Hitchens. So I think this could outcome determinative. Save this tape. I suspect she is watching it in New York.

KING: What do you think?

BEGALA: I think it is a coin toss. She has what you might call a high-class problem. She wanted this job in the Senate. She worked hard for it. It is her adopted state and they love her. She enjoys the work. She also likes, as Lisa pointed out, working across the aisle with colleagues from both sides. Yet, here it is. I think it took her by surprise that the president-elect was reaching out to her. I disagree with Mr. Hitchens. I find him neither stupid nor weak. I think he is showing a lot of strength and a lot of wisdom in reaching out. I think he looks strong and wise simply by reaching out.

So even if she says no -- and I think it is a coin toss, Larry -- I still think it speaks awfully well of the president-elect.

HITCHENS: Why is it assumed that finding her a job is a national responsibility?

BEGALA: The president-elect is trying to find the strongest person he can find to advance America's foreign policy.

KING: Lisa, do you think she'll take it?

CAPUTO: I'll tell you this, Larry, Paul is absolutely right. I think it is a coin toss. I think what she is doing -- I know that she is doing is consulting heavily with her husband and her daughter. It will be a family decision.

HITCHENS: I'm very thrilled and relieved to hear that.

CAPUTO: I'm glad you are, Christopher.

Happy birthday, Larry.

BEGALA: Happy birthday, Larry.

KING: It's been quite a day and quite a night for the Kennedys as our panel leaves us into the dust.

This morning, New York's tri-borough bridge was renamed the Robert F. Kennedy bridge in honor of the US senator from New York. Tonight, a celebration of his life and legacy is underway in Manhattan, a who's who of political power players and some of the biggest names in entertainment have come together on this the 40th anniversary of the RFK Center. Congratulations, a great occasion for a great man.

Go to, tell us what you think. And while you're there, download our latest podcast. It's Judge Judy. We'll see you tomorrow night. Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" are next. Anderson?