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CNN Larry King Live

President Obama Appears on 'Daily Show'; Is Palin Running for President?

Aired October 28, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, President Obama goes on "The Daily Show."

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to lump you in with a lot of other pundits.

KING: And Jon Stewart goes after him.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I don't mean to lump you in with other presidents.

KING: Will his appearance help or hurt the Democrats? And was it OK to call the world's most powerful leader "dude".

OBAMA: Larry Summers did a heck of a job trying to figure out how to --

STEWART: You don't want to use that phrase, dude.

KING: Plus Sarah Palin running for president, for certain? Is Karl Rove trying to kill her career? Election clock is ticking. Next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: So much to cover, so little time to do it.

The one and only Stephen A. Smith, the nationally syndicated radio host, joins us here in L.A., Ben Stein t, the economist, former presidential speechwriter, columnist for "Fortune," contributor to CBS' "Sunday Morning," and the author of "Little Book of Bulletproof Investing". He is in Washington.

And in Las Vegas is Penn Jillette, magician, comic, author, libertarian. The verbal half of "Penn and Tiller." He appears at the Rio in Las Vegas, and Penn and Tiller star on "B.S." on Showtime.

Barack Obama made history of a sort last night, becoming the first sitting president to appear on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Here's a sample of the Q&A. We'll ask our guests about it as well. Watch.


OBAMA: Jon, I love your show, but --


OBAMA: But this is something where, you know, I have a profound disagreement with you and --


OBAMA: I don't want to lump you in with a lot of other pundits, but this notion --

STEWART: You may.

OBAMA: No, no. Look. This notion that health care was timid -- you got 30 million people who are going to get health insurance as a consequence of this.


KING: OK. Let's discuss it with the panel. Good idea of him to go there, Stephen?

STEPHEN A. SMITH, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: I have no problem with it whatsoever. I mean the fact of the matter is, even though he's the president of the United States of America, he's also a human being. He knows how to laugh, he knows how to bring a little levity to the situation. He knows how to engage with his public.

And more importantly than anything else, he is the individual that ultimately accumulated 69 plus million votes. I'm quite sure everybody that voted for him would have a problem with such a thing. I think one of the problems that exist in our country today is that you've got an abundance of people who look at stuff like this, completely overreact and they're the ones that are not in tune with the American voter, not somebody like him.

KING: Ben, what do you think?

BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHWRITER: I think it's fascinating to see Jon Stewart condescending to the president of the United States. I mean Mr. Obama is a very thoughtful, careful, judicious guy, even as a Republican, I have to admire him in many, many ways.

He's the president of the United States. And I thought that Jon Stewart was being a little bit condescending to him. Maybe that's the way modern life is. I'm an old guy by now, I'm expecting more respect.

But is a little bit of a comment on the media aristocracy are the real ones running this country. The media aristocracy and the Wall Street aristocracy are the real powers in this country.

KING: Ben -- Penn, rather, what do you think the president was trying to accomplish?

PENN JILLETTE, ILLUSIONIST: I don't know. I think -- I think it's just America at its best. I think the idea that the leader of the free world goes on a comedy show is just terrific and so purely American.

I don't know what President Obama was trying to accomplish. It doesn't seem like he got out of it what he wanted to. But seeing Jon Stewart -- and I thought -- I kind of disagree a little bit with Ben.

I thought Jon's tone was perfect. I thought he was still funny. He was still edgy. He was still Jon Stewart but also showed I think the right amount of respect. I thought it was just perfect, perfect American.

KING: Do you --

SMITH: I thought he was -- I thought he was very deferential. I thought the "dude" comment was a slip of the tongue. He says it all the time. He's accustomed to saying that.

Obviously you've got the president of the United States of America on the show with you, you've got to be very, very careful about how you address him. But at the same time none of us are infallible. We're all flawed. I think he made an honest mistake and it's being completely overblown.

KING: And speaking of that, let's see the --

JILLETTE: Can we talk about --

KING: Let's see the moment when it happened. It was during last night's interview when Jon Stewart used the word. Never been publicly applied to a sitting president that we can trace. Anyway, watch.


OBAMA: In fairness, Larry Summers did a heck of a job trying to figure out --


STEWART: You don't want to use that phrase, dude.


KING: You say nothing wrong with dude. Ben, you think anything wrong with saying dude to the president?

STEIN: Well, I don't think -- I mean the president still has this full range of constitutional powers. He still has enormous juice for the press and with the -- with the voters and the people of the United States and the world.

But I don't think it's right for a person in the media, unelected, unappointed person to be using a kind of condescending buddy-buddy term to the president. The president is not his buddy. The president is the president of the United States.

This may be an old-fashioned idea, but I think the president deserves more respect. I think right at the beginning of the show when Mr. Obama said, I don't mean to lump you in with other commentators, and Jon Stewart said, you may, I thought that was a condescending way of approaching that.

I mean -- I may be wrong about this. I often am wrong, but I think there's a little condescension going on.

JILLETTE: What's more interesting --

KING: Penn?

JILLETTE: -- about that, what's more interesting about that is not Jon Stewart saying dude. That seems to be part of the phrase and not really addressing directly the president. What I thought was interesting is that Obama clearly did not mean to do a reference to "heck of a job" from the Bush Katrina thing, and yet after Jon Stewart makes a joke about it, he goes and says, "pun intended," which it clearly wasn't intended and it wasn't a pun.

And it just kind of broke my heart that his immediate response was not to tell the truth there. He didn't intend to do that. It wasn't a reference. He was surprised by the laugh. And then -- and then he says he intended it and mislabels it a pun, which is --


JILLETTE: -- a little thing that I'm kind of a stickler on.

KING: Stephen, isn't all this kind of a culmination of this whole wacky campaign anyway?

SMITH: In what respect?

KING: What respect?

SMITH: I mean --

KING: The weirdest campaign ever.

SMITH: There's no question about that.

KING: You know, a lot of different people are running.

SMITH: Well, a lot of different people are running. There's no denying that. And the president is going out there because he knows the Democrats are in trouble. They're going to lose a bunch of seats in the House. We all know that.

We see the handwriting on the wall. And he's trying to go out there sort of soften that blow as much as he possibly can because there's still a tremendous amount of work to be done.

But the reality is, I don't think there's anything that can save them right now, the way that they've conducted themselves in the eyes of the American public. I think he recognizes that. And I think that part of the problem is that you've got a lot of people using every bit of ammunition they possibly can against this man.

I don't always agree with the president. I'm a registered independent, OK? There's a lot of stuff that I don't agree with him about, but having said that, I find significant things to disagree with him about, as it pertains to the economy or as it pertains to the war in Afghanistan.

I got a problem with little stuff like this that's overblown because at the end of the day that does not -- you know, significantly affect the lives of the American people.

KING: Ben -- Ben. I was going to say Penn. And Ben, it's funny. Ben, is Stephen right? Is this thing a done deal on November 2nd?

STEIN: Well, I was just in communication with an extremely well known Republican strategist whose name I won't use but you've already used it once on your show. And I said to him, are we going to have the kind of gains that we all think we are. And he said, simply, yes. So I think it's already baked into the cake.

And in a way it's kind of unfortunate for Mr. Obama because I don't really think he's done that much terrible wrong. He inherited a terrible situation. He made it worse with Obamacare, which I think he did with good intentions.

But when you're in an economic situation as bad as this, you're going to suffer. There's just no way around it.

KING: Penn Jillette, Clinton had it happen to him in '94 and came back and romped in '96. So what does it mean?

JILLETTE: I don't think we have any idea what it means. It's too -- it's much too early. I don't think that a Jon Stewart appearance makes any difference one way or the other. I think it's a great thing for him to do it. It's a great thing for Jon. I mean Jon gets to make jokes with the president. How boss is that? But I don't think it makes any difference politically at all.

KING: Let me get a break. By the way, we'll repeat our recent interview with Jon Stewart tomorrow night because it was a very funny hour.

By the way, Congressman Kendrick Meek will be holding a news conference in about 20 minutes. We'll see if he's going to drop out of the three-person Senate race in Florida as Bill Clinton apparently has asked him to do to do it for the sake of the Democrats.

We'll continue with this outstanding panel right after this.


KING: We'll discuss that Florida situation in a little while. Back with the panel.

Stephen says something during the break which interested me. You hope the Republicans win control of the House.

SMITH: Yes, I do. I think that the Democrats have been an impediment to Barack Obama. He'll never admit that, he'll never say that. But in terms of the hit that he's taken, some of the ridiculous hits, mind you, that he's taken into his presidency. I think one of the problems is that you've got such ingrained hatred between the parties themselves. The Republicans and the Democrats.

Since they won the House in 1994, I'm talking about the Republicans, it was like the Democrats were trying and waiting and starving for that opportunity to get back at them. Once they were able to succeed in 2006, and then win the presidency in 2008, I think the interests of the American people have taken a backseat to people having their own individual agendas in --


KING: How will that change?

SMITH: Well, what happens is that the Republicans ultimately win back the House. I think Obama has the charisma and the intestinal fortitude to walk across the aisle in assisting getting things done for the betterment of this country, as opposed to sitting there and owing something to his party.

KING: Ben Stein, what do you think?

STEIN: I think -- the main thing I think is that Mr. Smith is totally right in saying that Mr. Obama has charisma. The guy just wreaks of charisma. I mean he's just -- he's the most charismatic guy on the national scene by a billion miles.

And I think that's something good. But I think there's another reason why it'd be good for Mr. Obama if the GOP took the House, which I hope they do, which is he could then blame any problems that happen on the GOP having the House.

It'll be like Harry Truman and the do-nothing whatever '76 Congress, or whatever it was, and he'll be blaming them for everything. And I talked to a very prominent Republican fundraiser today. And I said, well, what -- if we win what is our program? And he said, well, we'll just make sure that nothing much happens.

And I said, well, there's an awful lot of people out of work who need something to happen. And I said, I don't think we Republicans have yet got our act together about what we're going to do if we do take control of the House. So we better do it soon because it looks awfully good for us controlling the House.

KING: Penn Jillette, if that happens and the Republicans are going to take control of the House, what has been their message?

JILLETTE: I don't know. I mean, everybody seems to be not voting for but voting against. I mean, everybody voted against Bush and the Republicans to get Obama in. And now after Obama, they're voting against him.

But I don't know what Ben means about Obama blaming the Republicans because he already is. I mean it doesn't change that.

STEIN: But he has been able to accomplish quite a lot of his program anyway.


STEIN: I mean passing nationalized health insurance was a gigantic achievement. If he's not able to get a single thing done in the next two years then he can blame that on Congress and if the economy is still in bad shape, I think that gives him a kind of a very strong hand to play against the Republicans.

SMITH: I think one of the things that's hurt Obama a lot is the fact that he has blamed his predecessor on far too many occasions. I think a lot of people in this country look at that as classless.

We all know what George Bush did and didn't do and we all know that he deserved to be vilified for the job he did in some respects. But at the same time, ultimately, it is your responsibility. You've chosen to take this task on.

And we get tired of hearing about what your predecessor did. I mean that's something that Obama has to live with and Ben is absolutely right from the standpoint that if the Republicans win the House, that he could continue to blame them. He can say that, you know what, they're not supportive of our agenda.

Nobody wants to hear that when Democrats have control of the House and the Senate and you're the president. We don't want to hear those kinds of excuses because you know what? Guess what? The 69 million people that voted for you didn't vote Republican for a reason. They weren't looking for the support from the right. They were just looking for you to do what you wanted to do.

KING: Good point, Ben?

STEIN: It's a very, very good point. But -- I think the problem we have here which is a really, really bad problem, is that nobody knows what to do. Nobody knows what to do about Afghanistan, which is a quagmire. I mean I was just at an event where incredibly brave Navy SEALs who have died there and to support their families. These are the bravest people in the world.

If those guys cannot turn the war around, what are we going to do? We don't know what to do about the recession and the jobless recovery. We don't know what to do about the collapse of education. We just don't know what to do.

SMITH: Get in or get out. Get in or get out.

KING: So that -- SMITH: Don't send 30,000 troops.

KING: If that's true, Penn Jillette, what are the Republicans saying? Give us a chance and maybe we won't know what to do?


JILLETTE: Well, I don't think -- I don't --


JILLETTE: The nutty thing is that nobody's claiming hardly to know what to do. I mean, there's the Afghanistan thing, there really isn't even a serious peace movement going on.

At least during Bush there was enough hatred of Bush that there was a peace movement that was speaking out about that. And with Obama, since all the people voted against Bush who were against the war, they now kind of just go along with this, and we're not getting any more peace.

We're not getting out of any places. We're still having Americans dying overseas and not -- don't really know what we're accomplishing.

SMITH: Here's the big thing that's not being said. It's not that they don't know what to do. It's that they're a bunch of chickens. They're scared to just do it because they want to remain in office. That's the reality of the situation, fellas.

JILLETTE: What do they do?

SMITH: Here's the bottom line. What I'm saying to you is this. You can't be scared to make a mistake and you wouldn't be if you were more concerned about what you believe is in the best --

KING: What are you telling --


STEIN: What would they do?

SMITH: If it was me.

STEIN: What would they do?

JILLETTE: What do they do?

SMITH: I'm answering you right now. If it were me, when General McChrystal requested 40,000 troops, either I'm going to give him the 40 or I'm not going to be there. I'm not going to shortchange what the general requested.

If the man wants 40,000 troops, you don't send 30, you don't send 20. He's on the ground. He's the guy you chose.


SMITH: Send all 40, or back out and say this is not a war I want to be --

JILLETTE: Or back out.

KING: Let me get a break.

By the way, the story in Florida has been --

JILLETTE: As long as back out is in there.

KING: Hold on. Congressman Meek, who's running a distant third to an independent Charlie Crist and the favorite Mr. Rubio, apparently now Representative Meek said it is absolutely not true that he ever agreed to any kind of a deal with former President Clinton to drop out of the Florida Senate race.

That is from CNN contributor Roland Martin.

Meek is holding a news conference at the bottom of the hour. We'll take you there live. Back with Penn and Ben and Stephen -- sounds like an act. Back after this.


KING: We're back. One more clip from the president's appearance on the Stewart show. Watch.


OBAMA: I look over the last 18 months and I say we prevented a second grade depression. We've stabilized the economy. An economy that was shrinking is now growing.

We've had nine months of consecutive private sector job growth. We have passed historic health care reform, historic financial regulatory reform. We have done things that some folks don't even know about.

STEWART: What have you done that we don't know about?


STEWART: Are you planning a surprise party for us?


KING: Ben Stein, was President Obama better campaigner than he is a president?

STEIN: He's an unbelievably good campaigner. I would not rank him as a great president at this point, although he may yet become one. But I think he was completely misleading us when he said that he prevented another great depression. It was the TARP bill, the bailout of the banks by -- and that was put in place by the last gasps of the Republican administration that prevented the depression. I don't think any economist in America believes that Mr. Obama did that. That was done by Bush.

To be fair, it was letting Lehman Brothers' failure which was also done by Bush that got us into the problem in a big way. Not all of it but a big part of it. But he didn't prevent another great depression. That's just a fantasy.

KING: Penn, the question was, do you think he was a better campaigner than he is a president? Ben thinks he was. Do you?

JILLETTE: I think -- I think he definitely is. I mean he's a fabulous campaigner. He talks great. He just comes off wonderfully all the time. And I think those are qualities that are a little better for a campaigner than for a president.

But I think winning the presidency of the United States is so hard, it's very hard to even imagine someone who's a better president than they are a campaigner being elected. I mean it just seems logically, you have to be the best campaigner around to win.

STEIN: Very good point.

SMITH: That's why I'm laughing. Because of course he's a better campaigner than he's been a president. You actually have to do something once you're the president. As a campaigner, you just get to talk about what you're going to do.


SMITH: So that's clearly -- that's clearly obvious. There's no way around that.

KING: For anybody.

SMITH: Anybody. I'd be a better campaigner than I was as a chief executive. There's no doubt about it. Vote for me, America. Vote for me. Feel free. Please. But at the end of the day, what it really comes down to simply is this, Larry.

You know, he's done a so-so job in my estimation because as far as I'm concerned as long as there's 9.6 percent unemployment and you have -- you remember they told us during the TARP that it wasn't going to go above 8 percent, and we know that is not true.

You look at a lot of people out there, 8 million jobs lost, more than 15 million people unemployed. The reality of the situation is until you address that, it's going to be a problem.

And when you look at a lot of people in America, I don't care what anybody says, universal health care, beautiful, beautiful idea. No doubt about that. But at the end of the day when every idea you seem to come up with touches upon employers receiving tax hikes or giving a disincentive to hire and an incentive to lay folks off, then ultimately what it comes down to is that the American people are not going to be happy.

Because at the end of the day, if you tell somebody I want health care or anything else, as opposed to a job, they're going to say, bump that, give me the job, put money in my pocket. I'll figure out the rest of the stuff.

KING: Stephen, thanks again for being with us.

SMITH: Thank you.

KING: You should have your own show. You should be on television every day somewhere.

SMITH: Thank you.

KING: Great seeing you.

SMITH: Great seeing you, buddy.

KING: Penn Jillette and Ben Stein will remain. They'll be joined by Stephanie Miller on the left, Tanya Acker on the right. And after a break we're going to take to you to Florida for that press conference involving a Senate race and we'll meet he new panel. Stay with us.


KING: As soon as Congressman Meek, who's running a distant third in the Florida polls, takes to the podium and tells us whether he's going to leave the race or not, we'll join him as soon as he does.

We're back with Ben Stein and Penn Jillette, they remain. Joining us is Stephanie Miller, the progressive radio talk show host of her own program. And Tanya Acker, rather, Tanya Acker, political analyst and contributor to the Huffington Post.

Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" is going to be held Saturday on the National Mall. We talked to him about that event last week. He says it's not a political rally and it's not an anti-Glenn Beck rally.

Here's what he said it is.


STEWART: What we are doing is we are using the rally format to do the same thing we do with our shows. The message will be a very similar type idea. It's just using the rally through a satirical format, like the book is like our show in book form.

We're going to also develop our show in capsule form, in powder form, maybe a drink form the astronauts can use up in the space shuttle.

It's not -- you know, everybody should just wait and see what it is and make their own decision. (END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Stephanie, what do you make of this rally?

STEPHANIE MILLER, TALK RADIO HOST: I don't know. I had a 6- year-old call my radio show today and tell me that he was going to the rally. So not sure what this means about America, Larry, but I don't think it's good.

KING: Tanya, what do you think?

TANYA ACKER, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's so many things to satirize in the current political culture. I feel every day I turn on the news I'm seeing an episode of "The Real Housewives." I mean it really has come to that. And I think that the rally, you know, to the extent that he wants to point out some of these inconsistencies that that's what will happen, then more power to it.

KING: The whole race, Ben, in a sense has been a satire, hasn't it?

STEIN: Well, it's a satire of reality, that's for sure. I mean what I can't get over -- I've got to go back to this, is that a few minutes ago I was in a room with widows and parents of Navy SEALs who've been killed in a very, very unfortunate war in Afghanistan.

And then we have a few blocks away a big comedy event and we have on TV "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," spending thousands of dollars on chocolate to be eaten in a few minutes. And then we have on TV the candidates for the control of the most powerful legislature in the world just hurling mud at each other, instead of dealing with the real problems of the country.

It just doesn't seem that anyone is coming to grips with the fact that we've got really serious problems.

ACKER: And if I can jump in, to Ben's point, I think what we're seeing are so many wild inconsistencies that people on both sides of the aisle are very easily able to articulate. For instance, we've got Joe Miller in Alaska, who was my law school classmate -- I don't remember him from law school at all, but by all accounts he was a very nice guy -- who is talking about things like cutting the minimum wage in Alaska.

Now, Alaska, at least as of 2008, was the largest recipient of federal pork in the country or at least one of the largest. But yet still, you've got this groundswell of candidates that are talking about cutting big government. It doesn't mean anything.

MILLER: He was a nice guy in that he didn't have his own private security force yet to harass anybody. Hey Larry, I think that's the point. The Jon Stewart rally, we don't know which is the comedy and which is real. Look at Christine O'Donnell. When did you ever think you would see an ad saying I'm not a witch, I'm just like you. She's never held a job or a house, and she doesn't masturbate. She's not like anyone I know. KING: Wait a minute. If a guy came here from Mars, he wouldn't believe it. All I did, Penn Jillette, was ask about the rally. Do you plan to attend, Penn?

JILLETTE: I don't intend to attend because I'm in Vegas. But I think it's fabulous to do comedy in any form you want to do it at all. I think that Jon Stewart is really funny. We disagree on some political stuff, but I absolutely love him. He's hysterically funny. Doing a rally, it's like when I was a child Pat Paulson running for president. It's fair to do comedy in any way at all.

And my heart goes out to what Ben Stein's saying about people dying and suffering and all of that. But that's always been true while comedy is going on. As soon as we think about what's happening, it's terrible, terrible, terrible, but also comedy does go on. No, Stephanie, go ahead. Tell me.

MILLER: That's right. Penn, Ben raises a great point. My favorite movie is "The American President".

KING: Who?

MILLER: The character says these are serious times and we need serious people to solve these problems. Christine O'Donnell, in my opinion, is not a serious person.

JILLETTE: Your favorite movie of all time?


MILLER: The with you one you were in or --

JILLETTE: "Car 54" that I was in. I've been in terrible movies. But the best movie of all time?

MILLER: I love it.

JILLETTE: Really? Wow.

MILLER: Ben is right --

JILLETTE: No one is going to listen to anything you say ever again. The best movie ever?

KING: OK, Penn, control yourself.

JILLETTE: Really? I can stand people talking about Afghanistan, but that kind of crazy talk.

KING: Ben, we'll get back to you in a minute. This program tonight capsulizes this entire campaign, which will, by the way, end on Tuesday to the thanks of 300 million American. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back. President Obama isn't the only political figure trying to use the entertainment media to spread a message. Sarah Palin's done an interview with "ET's" Mary Hart. Watch.


SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: For me, Mary, it is going to entail a discussion with my family, a real -- a real close look at the lay of the land, and to consider whether there are those with that commonsense conservative, pro-Constitution passion -- whether there are already candidates out there who can do the job and I'll get to be their biggest supporter and their biggest helpmate, if they will have me, or whether there's no one willing to do it, to make the tough choices and not care what the critics are going to say about you, just going forward according to what I believe the priorities should be.

If there's nobody else to do it, then of course I would believe that we should do this.


KING: She was talking about running for the presidency. Ben, what do you make of that comment?

STEIN: Well, my first thought is, God help us. But the -- you know, I like her a lot. I think she's an intelligent woman. I think the speech she gave at the Republican convention when she was nominated was one of the best speeches I have ever heard. But she didn't write it. She's an intelligent woman. I think she needs a little more leavening.

And by the way, I am going to be at my apartment at the Watergate just a short walk from the mall. I am going to the rally. I'm going to cheer on Jon Stewart because I want to have sanity, too.

KING: Tanya, what do you think of her statement to Mary Hart?

ACKER: Sarah Palin is the gift that will not stop giving. She just keeps giving.

KING: None of the other candidates are constitutionalists.

ACKER: What does she mean if none of the other candidates are constitutional and fiscally responsible? Is that like, if they're not like me and they don't take money for a bridge to nowhere --

KING: Don't care for fiscal irresponsibility --

ACKER: Here's my issue: what we have in this current political environment -- and it's not new in this campaign cycle -- are people who just feel like they can adopt these identities, make things up and somehow make it true. Sarah Palin took money for a bridge to nowhere before she became the big guardian of fiscal conservatism and the Constitution. When you look at what a lot of these folks who are running now from the far right -- when they talk about this fiscal responsibility and we hate gig government -- There was a guy that the "Washington Post" profiled a few months ago, who was egging people on to vandalize Democratic buildings after the health care bill passed. He's like, I hate big government. This guy was on disability. He was getting his government check every month.

John Boehner's plan to -- his new Contract for America or whatever they're calling it is going to add 700 billion dollars to the deficit. So Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell, whoever it is, they make things up and they think that it's true because they say it earnestly, and it is not.

KING: Penn Jillette, do you think she's going to be a serious candidate?

JILLETTE: You know, every time I hear smarmy people making fun of Sarah Palin, it just rubs me the wrong way and I want to defend her and stick up for her. I just hate the way people make fun of her. Then I read one thing she says or hear her for a moment and I just can't find anything to defend about her.

I want to. I don't like the people making fun of her. My heart goes out to her. I always go for the nut. I always go for the underdog. I find myself defending her violently until I read anything she says, and then I'm totally beaten. Just beaten. I want to stick up for her.


JILLETTE: Just say one thing. Just say one smart thing, I would be so thrilled.

MILLER: Let me jump in as a smarmy person that makes fun of Sarah Palin.


MILLER: I had sort of the -- I did have a reaction like Ben Stein, who thought, God help us, except as a comedian I thought oh, please, God, let it be so. Because she is great for comedy, horrible for the country. And no offense to Mary Hart, but I guess she had to find some interview that she would appear to have some gravitas with. Maybe Snooki from "Jersey Shore" can interview her next.

KING: What did Mary Hart do wrong? She asked a question and she answered.

JILLETTE: See, that's my point.

MILLER: If you want to be president, you do an interview with Mary Hart? She can't answer any reasonable questions like what do you read? I mean, come on. This is -- you know, even Karl Rove is saying she does not have the gravitas to be president.

JILLETTE: Doesn't that make you want to defend her? But you can't. You can't do it. MILLER: And you don't even like me, Penn. You don't like me. You don't like my taste in movies. Yet you can't defend her, can you?

JILLETTE: Listen, no, I can't defend her. But I certainly can give you a double indemnity, psycho, dawn of the dead --

KING: Hold on. Let's go Miami Gardens, Florida, and hear from Congressman Meek.

REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FROM FLORIDA: All I have to say is the press reports that are out there -- or the press report that's out there from "Politico" is inaccurate at best.

President Clinton and I are good friends. That's well documented. Everyone knows that. He came down last week. We had a great rally. He's continuing to be a supporter of this campaign. I count on his support. And any rumor or any statement by anyone that says that I made a decision to get out of the race is inaccurate, at best.

At best it's inaccurate. And I think it's very, very important that everyone understands that. I thing the people of the state of Florida are counting on me to be their next United States senator. I think some of the questions that are out there as it relates to polling numbers or who said this or who said that -- the people of Florida have to vote. So let's let them vote. Let's let them pick the candidate of their choice.

I believe that I'm in the running to be the next United States senator. So I look forward to doing that. And I think it's very, very important that everyone understands that I am in this race until Tuesday, 7:00, Central Standard Time. And I look forward to being the next United States senator. I meet Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist at the finish line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- former President Clinton or anyone from the White House or the DNC ask you at any time during this campaign to drop out of this race and throw your support behind Charlie Crist?

MEEK: Absolutely not. The president did not -- President Clinton did not ask me to drop out of the race. No one from the DNC. Of course, there's been rumors going on, the White House. No one has called me and said, hey, you need to get out of the race.

As you know, we're dealing with the governor. As far as I'm concerned, he's -- I don't know who he is right now. He's trying his best to push Democratic voters in his direction, not because of his record, because he wants to climb on my back and get those voters. I think that there are voters in the state of Florida that is looking for someone who is not willing to cut deal, willing to leave their votes uncounted and willing to give them someone to vote for.

I have always been a person of integrity when it comes down to keeping my word. And I have more democracy behind my campaign than any other candidate on the statewide ticket, because I qualified by petition and won overwhelmingly the Democratic primary. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where do you think the rumors are coming from?

MEEK: I don't know. I think that there's some people that would like to fuel rumors.

KING: That was Congressman Meek denying -- this is one of those classic examples of much ado about nothing. "Politico" reported this. Where did they get it from, Ben Stein? Where did they get this story that ain't a story?

STEIN: I imagine it was true at one point. "Politico" is extremely reliable. I imagine it was true and Mr. Meek changed his mind. I saw him in the debate a few days ago. He's an extremely intelligent guy. I think it is very good for the voters of Florida that he's still in the race.

KING: You think they're all -- Bill Clinton's going to deny what he apparently asked him to do?

STEIN: I don't know if Bill Clinton's going to do. He probably did ask him to do it, but he probably will deny it. They're politicians, you know. They're not saints. They're politicians.

KING: Stephanie, what do you think?

MILLER: Not since I've been bumped off television for Balloon Boy has there been such a non-story, Larry. Everybody assumed, right, he's having a press conference, he's dropping out. I thought the same thing Ben did. I saw the debate. He's a really, really solid candidate. I think Charlie Christ is just -- as we've implied here, has flip flopped every which way.

I think this is still a solid race. With Sarah Palin calling Marco Rubio mavericky, he's solid, down the line Republican party, doctrinaire Tea Party. He's not, by any stretch of the imagination, some kind of maverick. I hope Florida voters really take a look at this before Tuesday.

KING: Tanya, what do you make of this?

ACKER: I was bumped from TV because of Balloon Boy. I guess that's two things I have in common with Stephanie, on top of being smarmy. I also got bumped.

KING: Where does a story like this come? This is classic 24 hour news.

ACKER: It's one of those things, because, again, it's classic 24 hour news, Larry. It's classic reality show component. Did big bad Bill Clinton come in and tell the young upstart to step aside?

KING: I tell you how this happened. You want to know how this happened?

ACKER: Yeah. KING: Someone said to Meek, you want to get some national attention? Say Clinton asked you to leave, and I'll get you five minutes on national television in prime time.

ACKER: And he got it. Yeah.

KING: Good move, huh, Ben?

STEIN: The guy is -- it's very smart and very plausible.

KING: Penn Jillette, maybe this was all contrived?

JILLETTE: I have no inside information whatsoever. All I'm sure of is that Clinton did not call me. No one talked to me about this. I have no information whatsoever. I wasn't bumped for Balloon Boy. So I got nothing to say.

KING: Stay tuned. Balloon Boy will be back. Only five more days, folks. Five more days. We'll be back after these words.


KING: First Lady Michelle Obama's hit the campaign trail in recent days, trying to rally Democratic troops. She appeared on "Ellen" and talked about coping with criticism of her husband and his policies. Watch.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: There are always two worlds in politics. There's the stuff you hear on TV, and then it's what you feel when you go out in to the country. But people are kind. And they're kind to us when we go into communities. I think people know that my husband -- his intent is good and that we're making good progress.

And that's what we feel. That's the energy that we get back. And you can choose to take in the negative, or you take in the good stuff.


KING: Tanya, should she have been out sooner?

ACKER: I think there are a lot of folks who think that she should have been. But I think that if she had been, then we would have seen the 24-hour cable news cycle go into deep spin mode about how she was secretly plotting to try to take over the presidency. I think that Michelle Obama has always been able to strike exactly the right balance and the right tone for the country.

People like her. She's not particularly partisan or divisive, and she's taken on issues, frankly, like the health crisis that a lot of America's kids are in that really resonate with people.

KING: Ben, is she too little too late? STEIN: I think it's way too late. I'm not sure anyone does like her. I must say, I've been to a lot of --

KING: Doesn't like her?

STEIN: I'm not sure everyone does like her.


STEIN: To me, she seems quite likable. I think her point is quite correct. American politics on TV is much tougher and meaner than it actually is you're actually out there in the heartland. But I'm not sure anyone likes. Anyway, it's way too late. This thing is already baked in the cake.

KING: Stephanie, what do you think?

MILLER: Oh, I hope that not cake -- but I hope Ben Stein has egg on his face on Wednesday morning, but we'll see. I agree with Tanya. I think Michelle Obama is fabulous. But I literally had a caller -- a right-wing call to my show this morning. He said, Michelle Obama is trying to tell me what I can eat and what I can't eat. Like, it doesn't matter -- she just said maybe you should try to eat healthy. You know, I mean, you're right. People use First Ladies like that, Larry, like they did Hillary Clinton as a weapon. I think she's fabulous.

KING: It's time now for Heroes. Tonight, actress and singer Selena Gomez invites you to Evans Wadongo to meet the young wonder who created solar powered lanterns that re bringing thousands of rural Kenyans out of the darkness and into the light. Watch.


SELENA GOMEZ, ACTRESS AND SINGER: Hi, I'm Selena Gomez. Two years ago at CNN Heroes an All Star Tribute, I had the honor of helping to recognize the great works of everyday people changing the world. As an ambassador for UNICEF, I'm committed to protecting and caring for children around the world. and I'm thrilled to help CNN introduce one of this year's top ten honorees. Now more than ever, the world needs heroes.

EVANS WADONGO, CNN HERO: I have problems with my eyesight due to prolonged exposure to smoke. I had to use firewood to study during my childhood. We don't have electricity. It's only kerosene and firewood that we use for lighting, for cooking.

It's very, very frustrating. I couldn't compete effectively. A lot of other kids just drop out of school. They remain poor for the rest of their life.

My name is Evans Wadongo. When I made the first lantern, I thought, I must find a way of using solar to light up the rural homes. The amount of money that every household uses to buy kerosene every day, if they can save that money, they can be able to buy food.

It give me satisfaction knowing that I'm lifting people out of poverty. I just feel like it's right.


KING: You can vote for Evans or any of our top ten Heroes as 2010 CNN Hero of the Year. You can meet your favorite hero in person and win a trip to L.A. to see "CNN Heroes, an all-star tribute" Thanksgiving night. It's hosted by Anderson Cooper. Go to for more. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back. George W. Bush's memoir "Decision Points" hits bookstores on November 9th. He's already pitching the book on Youtube. Here's an excerpt.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I sat down to write my memoirs, I decided to take an untraditional approach. Rather than providing an exhaustive chronological account of my life and years of office, I wanted to give readers a glimpse of the presidency from my perspective. That meant focusing on the most demanding and focusing part of the job, making decisions.


KING: He's keeping out of the race so far, Penn Jillette. Good idea?

JILLETTE: Oh, yeah. I think so, yeah. I think you're still able to blame everything on Bush, and you're still probably right to do it.

KING: What do you think, Ben Stein?

STEIN: I don't think he would help the Republicans a lot by being in the race, although he is still a hero in Texas, but the Republicans already have Texas. I think he's made the right decision. By the way, Mr. Bush, I love you, but the word is nontraditional not untraditional.

MILLER: And the book should be called "Bad Decisions," by the way. And just a point of order on this Florida race, Charlie Christ actually said on the CNN debate that he thought going into Iraq was a good decision. Who thinks that was a good decision? Think about it, Florida.

KING: Stephanie, getting a little wound up here.


KING: Tanya, George W. Bush, smart --

ACKER: Everybody knows George Bush would do -- would only help Democrats by reminding people of at least part of the reason why they voted for President Obama. I really want to read the memoirs. I'm sad that Ben didn't proofread or spell check the book, apparently, because I don't know how many times I'm going to run into "untraditional" as I read it.

I would be very interested to see what he has to say. I don't know what a nontraditional memoir looks like. I hope he doesn't leave out the juicy details. I suspect he will.

KING: Let's go around. What's going to happen Tuesday night, Ben?

STEIN: A lot of wins for the Republicans. But I'm not positive they'll take either the House or the Senate, but pretty good chance of taking the House. I would say big gains and the Obama agenda is stopped dead.

KING: What do you think, Stephanie?

MILLER: I think the Tea Party is going to implode in a lot of places and there's going to be a lot of screaming in the Palin household.

KING: You won't get off it. All right, Penn, once again, you can defend her in your own way, because she just knocked her again.

JILLETTE: I would say that in the next two weeks, at least five movies will come out that are better than "The American President," at least. Maybe six.

MILLER: You are never going to be invited to Rob Reiner's house with me.

KING: It wasn't a bad movie, Penn.

ACKER: That was a good movie.

JILLETTE: Favorite? Favorite?

MILLER: Oh, hush.

KING: OK. Which way do you think it's going, Tanya?

ACKER: The only thing I can tell you about this race is that Meeks is staying in it. He's going to be there at the finish line. Breaking news.

KING: He's staying in.

ACKER: He's staying in the race.

KING: You're telling me that Congressman Meeks is staying in the race?

ACKER: He's in it.

KING: Despite the stories running all afternoon?

ACKER: He's in it, Larry. That's my prediction.

MILLER: I think the story line is wrong about this Republican tsunami and a Democratic blood bath. And they've been pounding it for months and months and months. And as you know, a lot of these races are tightening all over the country.

KING: We'll repeat our interview with Jon Stewart tomorrow night if you missed it. You're going to get a big kick. If you saw it, you'll love seeing it again. Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?