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CNN Larry King Live

Live Report from the Root Ball; Panel of Actors, Politicians Reflects on Inauguration

Aired January 18, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, history is less than 48 hours away. And the stars are out tonight in D.C.
Springsteen ...


KING: ... and Bono -- get the party started.


BONO VOX, MUSICIAN: On this spot where we're standing.


KING: In a patriotic and powerful concert for the president-to- be.

And we have more. Stevie Wonder is here, Kal Penn, New York Governor David Paterson, and former NBA star-turned-mayor, Kevin Johnson, joins us, too. Plus, "Entertainment Tonight's" Kevin Frazier reporting live from the red carpet at one of the hottest tickets in town.

All on this inauguration special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

(on camera): Good evening. We're going to meet a great panel in a moment. Right now, we'll take you straight to a party. It's a big one.

"Entertainment Tonight's" Kevin Frazier is live at the Root Ball.

Kevin, where is the celebration? Who do you see? And what's the Root Ball?

KEVIN FRAZIER, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT: Well, Larry, first of all, the Root Ball is an inaugural ball thrown by the It's an offshoot of the and it is a place for serious discussion, especially, that is political, online for African- Americans.

Now, we're inside the American History Museum. And if you've ever been here, you know this is one of the special places to be. Upstairs where the flag from -- that was "The Star-Spangled Banner" flag was flying. It's covered up tonight, but that's where the main party will be. Everybody will be packed in there, Larry.

The food theme tonight is Hawaiian. But more importantly, and I know you'll love this, there is food from Ben's Chili Bowl here and I know you visited Ben's Chili Bowl the other day.

We're expecting folks like Oprah Winfrey, Chris Tucker, Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee. It's kind of a slow-arriving crowd, but this being the place to be tonight. You can expect lots of A-list stars.

And oh, and, Larry, I know you don't want to miss this. Later on, Biz Markie will take over. He'll be your D.J. tonight, and I know how you love Biz Markie.

KING: I love him. I love him, Kevin. I'll see over there.

FRAZIER: I know you do.


KING: I'll be over there later, too.

FRAZIER: (INAUDIBLE) all night long.

KING: Kevin Frazier, he's going to be there. We'll be there live.

FRAZIER: All right.

KING: OK. Let's meet our panel. James Carville, CNN political contributor, Democratic strategist.

Mayor Kevin Johnson, great NBA basketball star, was elected mayor of Sacramento in November. The first African-American to hold that position. He played, of course, so many years with the Phoenix Suns.

And, Kal Penn, the actor who co-stars on the hip television show, "House." He campaigned extensively for Barack Obama.

Tomorrow is a national holiday, James, it's Martin Luther King Day and then the day after that, a black will be installed, will be inaugurated president. What goes through you?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm 64 years old; I grew up in the Deep South. I'll just -- I'll be honest with you, I would have never thought anything like this could remotely happen. I think come Tuesday, people are going to have a lot of emotions. I don't think we know, particularly, for African-Americans in this country of my generation, I cannot imagine what this would mean or how they'll feel. It will really be something for people to experience.

KING: What goes through you, Kevin?

MAYOR KEVIN JOHNSON, SACRAMENTO: It's just still overwhelming, you know, for me. It's hard to put into words. I would have never thought in my lifetime that I would see an African-American president. I mean, he represents change, and he represents hope, and people were so disillusioned with government, and this young guy came around with a funny name that somehow struck a chord in our country. And right now, people believe that the government can make a difference in their lives. And, again, it's just a profound occasion for all of us.

KING: Are you touched it being the day after Martin Luther King Day?

JOHNSON: The irony of it all.

KING: That's back-to-back for you.

JOHNSON: Yes, it really is. And, you know, when we talk about Martin Luther King and it happens within a generation, 40 years later, here in Washington, D.C., not too far from where he makes a speech, President-elect Barack Obama will be accepting office. Unbelievable. It's the best for America.

KING: Where is your family from, Kal?

KAL PENN, ACTOR: My parents emigrated from India in the '70s. And so, my grandparents were actually very active in the Indian independence movement. So, when I was growing up, I would hear, you know, stories at the dinner table.

KING: For Gandhi?

PENN: Yes, exactly -- about how my grandparents marched with Gandhi. You know, my grandfather was thrown in jail several times, beaten up by British soldiers. So, it's interesting because I grew up in a, you know, a generation my friends and I who kind of view ourselves as post-racial. You know, I have friends from a bunch of different backgrounds, but obviously, the significance of what's going to happen on Tuesday isn't past any of us especially considering my grandparents' stories.

KING: Obama spoke at the Lincoln Memorial concert today. Here is a bit of what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because there is no obstacle that can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change. That is the belief with which we began this campaign, and that is how we will overcome what ails us now. There is no doubt that our road will be long, that our climb will be steep, but never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard. I ask you to help reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation and one people.


KING: James, where do you rate him in the eloquence department?

CARVILLE: (INAUDIBLE) -- very high, but the thing about him, he's very consistent. He's very articulate. He's very calm all the time. So, these are really troubling times and he gives you a sense of sort of confidence. In -- just his whole demeanor is something that I think the country finds really refreshing. But, yes, he's a great speaker. But more than that, he has a demeanor or a way about him, I think, that in troubling times that people find very, very reassuring.

KING: Mayor, can you picture him getting angry?

JOHNSON: You know, he does a great job of maintaining his composure. You know, I haven't got him on the basketball court yet.


JOHNSON: If he catches an elbow, that might get him a little flustered and off-kilter. But, you know, I think that's why so many people have rallied around him is because, he somehow makes all of us believe that things can be better, and that we have a sense of trust in him. And when the economy is as tough as it is now, it's truly a testament to him, that he has garnered so much enthusiasm and so much community engagement.

KING: You were part of that today, Kal. What was it like?

PENN: It was incredible. You know, I think that all of us who were there or who were part of it in some capacity, really felt like this was history in the making. You know, those of us who were on stage, I can tell you, were incredibly humbled by the experience.

Backstage we were just saying, you know, "I'm just an actor. I read lines that people much smarter than me write for me. And here we are having this great opportunity to participate in something so incredible." I mean, you could see people as far back, literally, as the eye would take you, and it was phenomenal.

The way I described it was I know there were a million people there, but when you walk out on stage, it felt like there was one person in the crowd, because everyone was there for the right reasons. They were there for the same reasons, really celebrating what it means to be American.

KING: The public wants so much from Barack Obama. Can he deliver? We're having fun tonight. Stick around.



KING: That was Bruce Springsteen today at the Lincoln Memorial concert.

Might we have, James, too much expectancy?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't know. I mean, the poll insists people are pretty patient and I think people are. I think that this president's got a calm demeanor; I think that he understands that. I think his people are very aware of that. I think you can see a lot of conversations with the American people. I think it ...

KING: Fireside kind of chats?

CARVILLE: I don't know. It will be in his own style. I think you'll see big news coming up, you see the banks in enormous trouble and have to deal out right away in this administration. But, my guess is that, just given his demeanor and his style is, he's going to take people into his confidence and explain what they're trying to do and why it may take a long time.

He's going to have to have some patience because this thing is not going to go away anytime soon.

KING: What effect do you think on mayors will he have?

JOHNSON: Well, I'm here also this weekend because the national conference of mayors is going on, and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, spoke to us the other day.

KING: It's on tonight.

JOHNSON: Yes. He said something very interesting. He said, "Look, this is the most challenging time that our country has had in our lifetime." He said, "And we as an administration are not going to squander it."

Meaning, we're going to take advantage of this opportunity, and he said to us mayors that you need to do your part to actualize it at the city level. We're going to do -- we're going to move quickly. We're going to make sure that we have transparency in a big economic stimulus package. We're going to make sure that there's accountability. We're going to tackle education and infrastructure and health care.

But it's up to mayors to make it real. So, we're feeling that sense of urgency and we have to ride that wave of enthusiasm that's happening in Washington at the local level in our cities. And that's our responsibility.

KING: Kal, what David Geffen tonight, who was a major contributor, a much expensive loss of a friendship with Hillary, I think ...

PENN: Sure.

KING: ... to help Barack Obama -- do you think he will stay close and is appreciative of the Hollywood community, your community?

PENN: Well, you know, I remember one of the first things that then-Senator Obama had said when he was at a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. He said, you know, "There are a lot of you in the audience tonight who are involved in film and music and theater, and whether you like it or not, young Americans of every political background, you know, they have a bay day at school or work and they come home and they turn on the TV or they put on your CD." And he said, "You can sit back and do nothing, or you can get involved in helping to make the country a better place, no matter what your political affiliations are."

And I think that's what going out and campaigning on behalf of Barack Obama, you saw that in college students, and you saw them get involved. You know, it's not just actors or NBA players or politicians, it's the average college student, the average student who maybe can't even afford college, is being challenged to do something -- tomorrow is a National Day of Service, for example -- for that particular reason that these problems aren't going to be resolved miraculously, they're going to resolve if we each do our part. And that's what I saw reflected in him.

KING: And you think of -- think of things miraculous, just looking back, James. How did this neophyte beat Hillary Clinton?


KING: I mean, looking back there.


CARVILLE: Yes, first of all, he was -- he was a very, very, very skilled guy who had enormous communication skills, and you have to give, you know, David Axelrod and David Plouffe, and those guys had a plan. They knew it was going to be a long haul.

You go back, you look over this campaign. I have thought about it a lot, I have written about it a lot -- and they took advantage. And I mean, they had a big advantage when Senator Clinton voted for the war. She thought it was the right vote when she did it, but that made an opening.

And I think that this president -- one of the things that gives me a lot of hope is, is that he is someone who is willing to seize an opportunity when it's presented to him. In politics, he saw this opportunity and he saw a line that he could do it, and he did it. And it wasn't easy, by the way. It was a long haul, and I think it tested him.

And I just remember watching the debate and he was looking at McCain and it was like, you know, like -- you know, like "Gee, is this all he's got?" I mean, after he'd gone through 25 debates in the primary, it was -- he was so -- he was so sort of steeled and prepared and ready for this general election.

JOHNSON: That's right.

CARVILLE: And he just sort of went through it. It was kind of amazing.

KING: Have you played against some players, what are they saying, "That's it"?

JOHNSON: Yes. When they have to look him in the eye, when they flinch, you know you got them in trouble. And I think that's what he's talking about. I mean, if you look across, and you look at your competition, if they don't have that look, that eye of the tiger, they're in trouble.

KING: We're going to take a break. By the way, James and Kevin and Kal will be back with us throughout the program.

Hollywood has lost some of their stars, that's because they're all here in Washington right now. "Entertainment Tonight" reporter, Kevin Frazier, is coming back. Celebrity sightings -- 60 seconds.


KING: Don't go away because my singing partner, Stevie Wonder, is going to be here in a couple minutes. Oh, we shared -- we shared a mike one night.

But right now, let's go out to the Root Ball and my man, Kevin Frazier, the weekend host of "Entertainment Tonight" for the latest.

Is the crowd picking up?

FRAZIER: You know what, Larry? The crowd is picking up, but, as you know in this business, it's a lot of hurry up-and-wait, and we are waiting for the arrival of all the A-listers that are expected here tonight.

But I got to tell you, Larry, we were backstage today during the concert at the Lincoln Memorial, and it was simply amazing. We had a chance to talk to Beyonce as she came off the stage, and it was almost like she was shaking, she was bubbling, and she talked about being up there, singing America, and looking out on that sea of people, and also the importance of being included in this process, the inauguration of a president, and that she was right there and so was and Jay-Z -- people that you may not normally see at inauguration.

KING: What, Kevin -- frankly, what has it been like for you?

FRAZIER: You know, Larry, it's been a lot of -- oh, my gosh, there's so-and-so and there's so-and-so. We've seen a lot of people out and about as they've arrived in town. But really, things are just starting to ramp up. We've been here all week long, and we've gone to a couple of the balls and the parties, but really, the next three nights are the big nights where you will see a lot of stars.

I have to say, I was amazed by some of the folks I saw today, including Sharon Stone. When she walked up, she had on sunglasses, people didn't really notice her, but Sharon was so moved by the moment. And I think everybody was moved by the moment.

Jamie Foxx talked about that so many prominent African-Americans told him, "You know what? I don't want to deal with the crowd. It's going to be too crowded and I just don't want to go to Washington. I'll watch it on TV." And he said, "They have really missed something," because being up there today, being near Barack and watching the crowd and the music, was a life-changing moment for him.

KING: Thanks, Kevin. We'll be checking back with you. And you can see Kevin on "ET's" inauguration coverage Monday and we'll see him throughout the evening as we check in later.

I got four words for you: Stevie Wonder is next.


KING: He's a legendary entertainer, Stevie Wonder is. He performed at today's concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Barack Obama told "Rolling Stone" magazine that Stevie Wonder is his musical hero.

Here is a little bit of what he did today at the Lincoln Memorial. Watch.


KING: He was also performing on an upcoming inaugural CD. We're looking forward to that as well.

What was that like today?

STEVIE WONDER, MUSICIAN: You know, it was one of those days that you experience and you say, "Wow, this is one that you will never forget." It's almost like you walk for the first time or you go to school for the first time, or you read a book for the first time, or you have your first child or ...

KING: Yes.

WONDER: ... you have a son that's born the same day as you. You know, you experience working for something and ultimately, it becomes a reality. It's the King Holiday. And here we are, having the celebration that's -- the day of inaugural, celebration, and Barack Obama.

KING: Did you ever, ever think in your lifetime you would experience a black president?

WONDER: Without question, I did.

KING: You did?

WONDER: Definitely.

KING: Wow.

WONDER: Because, you see, let me tell you why -- first of all, you know, I see the world very optimistically. And I think that I see the better of people than the worst and I think that I have confidence far more in America than those who don't. We have to move forward in order to be a great country.

And I have always said throughout my career and, you know, throughout the last few years of my working on the road and stuff, I've been saying, we must become a united people of the United States. And I just believe that, and I know without question that President- elect Barack Obama is a man who has that kind of spirit -- reminiscent there of King and Kennedy, and the best of some of the greater leaders in our country.

KING: Did you know Martin Luther King?

WONDER: I met him when I was like 14 years of age -- briefly. I think he was going to be in Kaminski (ph) Park in Chicago speaking. And I was, actually, with my tutor and my music director. We had flown a Cessna plane, which he let me fly.


KING: And you landed.

WONDER: I sure did. No other choice. And, you know, I was performing in Chicago. We were about to leave to go to New York, and I the pleasure of meeting him one Sunday, early afternoon before his event.

KING: Do you -- Stevie, do you imagine what people look like? Do you have your own thoughts, framework, of what Barack Obama is?

WONDER: Physically?

KING: Yes.

WONDER: Yes. I mean, a lot of what I see in how a person looks isn't how their character is. I mean, you know, obviously there are those who can have, you know, a great look and have a nasty character, and vice versa. But I think he's probably a handsome man.

KING: He is.

WONDER: Well, you know, Michelle is satisfied.

KING: Yes. Can you read people through the way they are?

WONDER: A lot, I can, yes.

KING: Do you think it's ...

WONDER: Larry, me and you are fine, we're good.

KING: Yes, we worked together.

WONDER: Come on. We did "Ebony and Ivory" better than Paul and myself.

KING: We -- Larry King Cardiac Foundation, he and I sang "Ebony and Ivory," and we killed them. We killed them. Well, actually ...

WONDER: I remember you back when you were on radio when you interviewed James Brown.


WONDER: Way back.

KING: He was a piece of work.

What does -- we're asking this of a lot of people so we ask it of you. What does this inauguration mean for you?

WONDER: It means a chance for America to pull together. You know, I think the success of this that has happened for the parameters (ph) of American people says, "OK, we have made our decision. Our decision, our goal, and our goal has been met."

Now, I think, is where the work begins. The real commitment to making it not just that slogan of "We are one" for just now, but we have to really become one -- truly. We have to move to do things to help each other on every single level. And, you know, for the God that I serve, tells me impossible is unacceptable. Impossible isn't acceptable.

So, I think that if we can come together as I believe has brought, you know, various people of various parties together, to make this thing happen, we can have an incredible United States of America again.

KING: Are you optimistic?

WONDER: To say the least.

KING: You're an optimistic person, right?

WONDER: Yes, I am. I mean ...

KING: By nature.

WONDER: I think so, yes. I mean -- but being optimistic doesn't come just by just being that. I mean, you got to see both sides of it. So, I think I'm pretty objective, and, you know, obviously, I know the other side of the coin.

I know that, you know, there are haters, but I think that, you know, haters -- hating is unacceptable if we're going to move forward. We have to find a common goal and a common bond. I think we can.

KING: Will you be at the inaugural?

WONDER: I will be.

KING: We're very honored to have you here. Thanks, man.

WONDER: Thank you. Great to see you again.

KING: The great Stevie Wonder.


KING: You're a great man.

When we come back: Governor David Paterson of New York. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Governor of New York just pointed out something to me, that this may be the first television show in history to have two blind men back-to-back. I say (ph), "Hey, sets all sorts of records all the time."

GOV. DAVID PATERSON, NEW YORK: That's a record, Larry.

KING: That's right.

Before we talk with Governor Paterson, quickly, let's go back to Kevin Frazier at the Root Ball. He's got a special guest -- Kevin?

FRAZIER: Hey, Larry, we are live on the red carpet with Spike Lee and his wife, Tonya, the lawyer and author. You know, Spike is a filmmaker, but, they really, I have seen Spike the whole way with Barack Obama in Chicago, at the DNC in Denver. What does it mean to be here now?

SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: I think it's like deliverance, promises, some promises fulfilled, but big ones. And Tonya and I are grateful. We're blessed to be here to witness it for all our ancestors, our relatives who aren't here with us who made it possible for us to be in-- for our country to be in this position.

FRAZIER: It is a special night at the Root Ball. Spike, one of the A-listers, along with his wife, that have arrived.

Larry, it should be a great night and should be a good week. Spike, of course, will be there when Barack Obama is sworn in.

Let's go back to Larry.

KING: Thanks, Kevin. See you over there later.

We welcome the governor of New York, Governor David Paterson, on the eve of Martin Luther King Day and then 48 hours later, the inauguration.

Did you think you'd ever see this?

PATERSON: No. I certainly appreciate Stevie's optimism, but I didn't think I would see it in my lifetime. I thought it would come one day. When I was a kid, Robert F. Kennedy said, he thought that America could elect a black man in 40 years. And he was almost right on target. And at the time, I felt, well, maybe it will be someone I know, and it turned out it was.

KING: What does he need to say on Tuesday?

PATERSON: I think this will be the most important inauguration speech since the one on March 4th, 1933, offered by President Roosevelt. And I think that Barack Obama, to me, is going to be the Roosevelt of the 21st century. I think the stimulus we need in this country is psychological as much as anything else. When 2 million people have lost jobs, we need a president that says he's going to do everything he can to put everyone back to work.

KING: What's the unemployment in New York?

PATERSON: The unemployment in New York is 6.1 percent. In Upstate New York, it's over 7 percent.

KING: Too much.

PATERSON: Way too much.

KING: All right. We can't dillydally around it. You have an important decision to make to select the new United States senator from New York who will replace Hillary Clinton. The decision is solely yours, as the Constitution reads, right? It's only yours.

PATERSON: It doesn't feel that way when I read the newspapers.


KING: But it is yours.

PATERSON: Yes, it is.

KING: OK. How close are you?

PATERSON: I'd say -- a week away.

KING: Hillary, she'll be probably approved by the Senate maybe tomorrow, maybe this week certainly.

PATERSON: Right. She can be approved once President Obama takes office.

KING: Right.

PATERSON: And then, I'd say two or three days, I'll make an announcement.

KING: You don't want to go any period of time without a senator?

PATERSON: No, not at all.

KING: Are you leaning -- I know you're not going to tell me tonight, but are you leaning?

PATERSON: Well, Larry, I think I'll surprise you. When I was growing up, and I didn't have much access to information, I used to listen to your radio show. Started airing in New York in the '70s. The first interview I ever heard you do was with Vincent Bugliosi, the former district attorney from Los Angeles who prosecuted the Manson case.

And I remember your stories about going out for ice cream late at night, winding up in Connecticut.


PATERSON: So, I thought in tribute to you, I would tell you that the next senator from New York, the United States senator, will be announced in just a few days.

KING: I'm humbled that you would give me this big shot. All right.

Frankly, the pressure from the Kennedy people, has it been tough to deal with? Whether you pick her or not, I don't remember an onslaught like this.

PATERSON: I think there have been a number of different pressures, pro and con, based on the candidates who are better known. And I think a lot of times, people have made types of statements to project themselves. They're actually hurting the candidates when they make these statements.

So what I have to do is not to let the advocates interfere with my selection of the actual senator. In other words, I have to filter all of that out and figure out who can help New York the most in this critical economic time.

KING: Are you affected that the polls show that the public likes Andrew Cuomo?

PATERSON: Well, the polls have showed Andrew Cuomo at one point ahead, and Caroline Kennedy ahead, but I think those are vanity contests and name-recognition contests. We have some great elected officials in New York State and a couple of people who are just civic leaders who are outstanding, but the public doesn't know them so they won't poll well.

So, I don't think I'll be paying much attention to the polls. I have to figure out who would win the poll in 2010 when the public will make the final choice.

KING: Has President-elect Obama discussed this with you?

PATERSON: Only once. The day -- I saw him the same day that he nominated our senator, Hillary Clinton, to be secretary of state, and he walked up and he said, "I'll bet I just made your life a lot easier."


PATERSON: No. There had been no interest expressed by the White House. I contacted them once about a message that was sent to me, I think, erroneously left by someone who was trying to, you know, project themselves, and they had no idea of, you know, this message. And most of the people in leadership have left me alone to make the decision.

KING: And whoever you pick, they will hold it until 2010?


KING: An election in 2010.

PATERSON: Do you know what's interesting, Larry? Since 1960, governors have appointed senators 50 times in this country. Two have not stood for re-election. Of the remaining 48, 10 of them just became caretakers. They didn't run for election. Of those who ran, the 38 who ran, two years later, 18 won, 20 lost.

So, as much pressure as I feel to make this decision, the public has not chosen -- thought of these replacement senators as real incumbents. So, I'm relieved by the fact and in a short period of time, such as 18 months, the public will make the final decision.

KING: Governor, I thank you. We look forward to many visits with you, and I'm so happy that tonight, you would choose this night to announce on this show ...

PATERSON: Exactly.

KING: ... that your selection is a few days away.

PATERSON: Yes. Right after I consult ...

KING: I'm humbled.

PATERSON: I'll come back and tell you.

KING: Governor David Paterson, governor of New York.

Is the party already over for Obama? He's got a lot of problems to address. Even some Democrats are already taking issue with the issues. We'll take you back to a celebrity ball, too. It's all ahead.



BONO VOX, MUSICIAN: On this spot where we're standing, 43 years ago -- 46 years ago, Dr. King had a dream. On Tuesday, that dream comes to pass.



KING: We're back, I think, with our panel, James Carville, Mayor Kevin Johnson, and Kal Penn. A little musical show here tonight.

Anyway, we mentioned about issues and possible disagreement. Nancy Pelosi indicated she disagrees with Obama on two issues, tax increases and investigating the Bush administration. Is he going to have more trouble with his own party?


CARVILLE: I mean -- absolutely. And that's what the Congress has, its own power. And I think what happened is, a lot of Republicans were telling these Democrats, our big mistake is we just -- you know, we did whatever sort of Bush told us to do and look how few we are. So, you're going to have some tension between the Congress and the executive branch. That's kind of to be expected.

But, I think right now -- and I think the speaker understands this and the senators and everything, is a lot of like, on the bigger things, I think you can see a lot more agreement. But there's going to be some tension, and I'm not sure that that tension is not healthy to some extent. I mean, certainly, the founders thought it would be healthy. And, you'll have some of that.

KING: Mayor?

JOHNSON: I think he's definitely going to have. What happens is, everyone was excited about his candidacy. People were excited on both sides of the aisle, both Democrats and Republicans.

Now, that he's about to take office and be sworn in, Democrats who embraced change and hope are going to default, kind of back into the normal way of operating. And I think that's going to be a big challenge, internally -- having people really accept the change that he's talking about, his vision for our country, and not the status quo. I think people default back into what they're comfortable, he's really going to challenge that.

KING: Kal?

PENN: I would agree with that to some extent, but I also think that what we saw on the campaign season -- if that's any indication -- then, maybe we're in for some pleasant surprises. You know, everyone on the left and right said, "OK, you're rejecting federal lobbyist money on principles, so you can't run an effective campaign." He did.

Mobilizing college students, everyone said, you know, "How do you know they're actually going to come out to caucus and vote?" They did. They remain involved, and hopefully, they'll continue to be involved. And I think, in that sense, hopefully, he'll shake up the left/right paradigm that's been restricted to politics for so long.

KING: On stem cells tonight, John King asked him if he's going to sign an executive order. All he has got to do is sign one.


KING: And he said, well, he kind of likes the legislative approach, which seemed like a compound.

CARVILLE: Well, it is. But if you think about, if you pass something by an act of Congress -- if you do it by executive order, the next president may be a Republican, and you can undo an executive order. In order to undo an act of Congress, you have 41 senators can stop that or a president could veto it even as Congress did it. So, it's preferable if you really want something and you want something to last, it would be preferable to go through an act of Congress because it has more ...


KING: But if you do it right now, you could save lives.

JOHNSON: Certainly. And I think, you know, for me, education is a huge deal as well. I mean, this is one of them. I'd really like to see this president take on the education issue head on in our country.

If we're going to compete globally, that connects to our economy, certainly, you know, where, when you think about math and science, we're 18th and 25th around our country. We got kids languishing in our schools. And, you know, that's what I think the big challenge and a 21st century issue for civil rights is education.

KING: Kevin and Kal will be coming back. Mr. Carville is leaving with us. Another appointment. He has a very busy schedule.

Got to go check on scores.


KING: More on the greatest show in Washington, invasion of the celebs. We're going back to the Root Ball live with "Entertainment Tonight" in 60 seconds.


KING: James Carville loves this panel so much ...


KING: ... he's decided to stay.

But let's check in back at the Root Ball with Kevin Frazier. By the way, tune in to "ET" on Monday for coverage of star-studded inaugural entertainment and events. That's a big night on "ET" tomorrow. Big night tonight with us.

Kevin, what's the latest?

FRAZIER: Well, folks continue to kind of trickle into the Root Ball here at the American History Museum, Larry. And as you mentioned, yes, we'll have all the backstage reaction tomorrow on "ET" from the concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

You know, as we look down the line at the rest of the stuff coming up this week, tomorrow night will be the Huffington Post Ball and, of course, you guys will be there blogging. Your guy David is here, blogging tonight. He will be there tomorrow. And, of course, on Tuesday night, we will be inside the Washington Convention Center, where there will be six balls, and we're going to try to sneak in a couple of them. Of course, the big ball, the Neighborhood Ball, where every one of the A-listers in town is going to participate in that show. Beyonce will sing, we believe, "At Last," for the first dance for the Obamas. It will be a fantastic night, Larry.

KING: Thanks, Kevin. You're going a great job. Kevin Frazier. Don't forget to watch him on "ET" and watch him tomorrow night with a big night at "Entertainment Together."

Back with our panel right after this.




And we're back with our panel: James Carville, Mayor Kevin Johnson, and Kal Penn.

How much of the positive view of Obama is because of what he's inherited, what he's following?

CARVILLE: Well, I think part of it is like people understand. I mean, this guy is batting clean-up and we got to get somebody on our own home base until people are really pulling for him. I mean, there's a real kind of sense that he's a talented guy and the country, if we don't do something pretty quickly here, you know, things the wrong way, but ...

KING: But, will they do what he's following is a failure, is what you're ...

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, if you go on like -- if you look at the polls, there are certain people who are not very pleased with the last eight years here in the United States, and I think that the new president is really trying to focus on the future as much as he can, and he's doing a pretty good job of that now. But, yes, I think people are happy that there's a change. There would not 3 million people showing up here because they want more of the same, I promise you.


KING: Kal, doesn't he have a big plus -- Obama?

PENN: Definitely.

KING: He's got a lot going for him.

PENN: I would agree. And I think the last poll that just came out reflects, I think, it was a 68 percent approval rating right after November 4th; 78 percent as of last week. But what that indicates, I think, is really the willingness of a lot of people -- like you just said, 3 million people aren't going to come to D.C. this week if they weren't looking forward to something. And what we're looking forward to, I think, that type of change, is something that we have to all get involved in.

KING: I want Kevin to comment on a moment. But we've loved hearing from you on our blog especially now. What you are seeing tonight is our own David Theall.

David, what's up?

DAVID THEALL, LARRY KING LIVE PRODUCER: Larry, we are broadcasting live from the Root Inauguration Ball. I have been doing some live blogging during the event, letting people know what's going on, letting people on the blog know what's going on. This is, of course, happening at Look for that blog link. Click it, come on in.

As you know, Larry, we've been asking people what this inauguration means to them. We heard from people who say there are no words. "It just feels right," says someone. "America has told the entire world that all men are born equal," says another.

And we also heard, Larry, from something that we really want to talk about right now. Robi of Newark, she says, "I'm an 85-year-old woman and I have been through many storms, my cup runneth over with tears of joy." This conversation is happening on the blog at Jump into it, join the conversation -- Larry?

KING: Thanks.

By the way, Kevin, great basketball player, 12 years. Would you play, would you invite, would you like to go against the Prez?

JOHNSON: That would be his first mistake in office if he calls me out of retirement, Larry.


KING: You would not let up.

JOHNSON: I would not let up.


JOHNSON: The integrity of the sport, James, I cannot let up. And I would throw air ball and I would do everything I can. I will skunk the president of the United States of America.

CARVILLE: But it's not polite (ph), ain't a change, (INAUDIBLE), I mean, come on. I got to talk to you about this. You know, this is kind of funny. You know, Larry, this whole panel is like an opening line for a joke. You know, a Jew, a cage, and a black, and an Indian walk into a bar. I mean, this is ...


KING: This is not a majority panel (ph).

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: This is Obama's America, right? This is a change you got right here.

KING: This well suits it. Is he going to address the mayors?

JOHNSON: Well, the mayors, already got a chance to meet with his senior staff. We're not going to see him in this go around. But he's -- again, he sent his chief of staff. He sent Valerie Jarrett, so he had a lot of people talked to the mayors.

What he did was really challenge us to say that we have to actualize the economic stimulus package in a real way. And I think for mayors, I mean, there's a lot of times that dollars flow into the cities and we don't deliver, and he's saying that, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity. We've got to make them happen in a real way.

KING: Do you think he might take over some banks?

CARVILLE: I think they're going to do something this week. I don't know about taking over banks, but they're going to establish something because, obviously, they just keep throwing money, it's not working, I think this about. I anticipate that before Friday, that they'll have a big sort of announcement. What they're going to -- and I do that from reading the paper. You think you see that, you can just sense that something is coming here, and it's going to be pretty dramatic.

KING: Where does Hillary go first?

PENN: Oh, gosh. I wouldn't even ...

KING: They got a cease-fire and -- Hamas and Israel, that's on, right?

PENN: Yes.

KING: They got a cease-fire today.

PENN: I wouldn't even begin to speculate. What do you -- what do you think?

CARVILLE: I think, you know -- I think, South Asia, if you think about it. I mean, I think that's going to be one of the places she's going to be right up front. But I wouldn't suppose to sort of guess where they're going to focus, but from everything that I see, that this president and this vice president want to return some primacy in foreign policy to the State Department and I think that's a good thing.

And so, I'm looking forward to it. And I think that they do.

KING: If approved, do you think Eric Holder will be a good attorney general?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

KING: He's been around. He's got a long ...

CARVILLE: He's very smart guy and somebody told me today that Lanny Breuer (ph) was going to be the head of the criminal division. And if I was a bad guy, I would be very nervous right now.

KING: We got to break soon; we got a great ending coming up here. Pardons coming from Bush tomorrow, expect any?

CARVILLE: Sure. I go with it at all.

KING: There'll be some?

CARVILLE: I can't believe that there wouldn't be.

KING: Do you expect some?

JOHNSON: Yes, I do.

PENN: Of course.

KING: But he won't give a lot, though.

CARVILLE: No. I don't have (INAUDIBLE) the other night.


KING: Just trying to guess.

We want to thank Mayor Kevin Johnson and James Carville who, you know, left us in the last segment, but miraculously returned; and the brilliant Kal Penn. We'll be right back.


LARRY: This is their new CD, "Ashford & Simpson: The Real Thing." It will be out January 27th and they're going to close the show for us tonight, Nickolas and Valerie are, with a remake of a 1984 single that was a major hit called "Solid as a Rock." It's now become "Solid as Barack." How did that happen?


NICKOLAS ASHFORD, MUSICIAN, ASHFORD & SIMPSON: Actually, our fans actually decided to -- they wanted to hear that. We were in California.

SIMPSON: And I just threw the mike out to a lady and she started singing "Solid as Barack" and we picked up on it ...

ASHFORD: Three thousand people started singing.

SIMPSON: It sounded good to me.

ASHFORD: It sounded good, right?

(LAUGHTER) SIMPSON: "Saturday Night Live" picked it up for parody, you know. We felt we should pay a tribute.

KING: So, now, we've got to give it to him. And we'll do that.

SIMPSON: You do that.

KING: We'll get this tape to him.

ASHFORD: That would be a good thing.

KING: We're going to close the show with the two of you. Did you -- I gather you supported him in the campaign.

ASHFORD: Of course.


KING: Did you meet him?

SIMPSON: 1995.

KING: Oh, he was a senator.

SIMPSON: 2005.


KING: 2005.

SIMPSON: 2005.

ASHFORD: All right. That's right.

KING: All right. Changing the lyrics, was that hard to do?

ASHFORD: Actually, it wasn't because, actually, in some of his speeches in the extended version, you hear solid, I will say, brick- by-brick ...

SIMPSON: ... and we were saying that. I think he got it from us.

ASHFORD: I want to steal it right.


ASHFORD: So, it wasn't hard, though, because, you know, you want to pay a tribute to a wonderful man.

KING: Yes.

ASHFORD: So, it wasn't hard at all.

KING: And you'll be thrilled tomorrow, won't you?



KING: OK. We're going to close the show tonight with two brilliant performers, Ashford & Simpson, and their new version of an old tune, "Solid as Barack." Watch.