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Parker Spitzer

Pentagon Releases 'Don't Ask/Don't Tell' Report; Interview With Rep. Jan Schakowsky

Aired November 30, 2010 - 20:00   ET


ELIOT SPITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Eliot Spitzer. Welcome to the program. Kathleen Parker is out tonight. Filling in is a good friend of the show, Will Cain, a Texas lawyer who wisely gave that up to be a writer for "The National Review."


WILL CAIN, NATIONAL REVIEW: Thanks. Glad to be here, Eliot.

SPITZER: And glad to have you here.

So, you know what? Everybody is talking about that scripted, not terribly useful, not terribly important meeting at the White House between the president and the congressional leaders, but something important did happen in Washington today at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon released its report about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and they said very clearly repeal it. The military is ready to say gays can be in the military openly. It is time to repeal a law that is out of date, that is a blight on the civil rights record of this nation.

CAIN: You know, Eliot, I'm agnostic on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I had outsourced my judgment to that of the military --

SPITZER: Right. Outsourcing is a dirty word, you know?

CAIN: Outsourcing, yes. Look, I don't think the military is meant to be a representative body. We don't need to have a proportional representation of women, gender, race, and sexual orientation.

The military has a sole specific objective and that is to kill our enemies.

SPITZER: Wow. That is tough.

CAIN: To the extent --

SPITZER: To kill our enemies. OK.

CAIN: It's specific and righteous. But to the extent that gays help or hinder that effort, I will leave that up to military leaders. I will defer to them. SPITZER: I do see this as a civil rights issue. And I disagree with you about that. This is, in fact, a civil rights issue of the moment. Discrimination against gays should end. It is wrong.

CAIN: But --

SPITZER: It's where we are going as a society. And it's time that the military took that final step in that frontier.

CAIN: You're missing the point of the military. And it sounded outlandish when I said it, but the point of the military is to kill our enemies. It's not to be representative of our society.

SPITZER: Wait a minute. But wait a minute.

CAIN: That's why this is not a civil rights issue.

SPITZER: Will, there are many organizations that have many different purposes. The purpose of a law firm is to represent people. But that doesn't mean you say --

CAIN: One that is so important, the defense of our country.


CAIN: Should not be lumped in with that of a law firm.

SPITZER: The defense of our country requires that organizations embody the core values of our society. Discrimination is not one of them. But here's the critical point, and this is point three that you make.

The military has now embraced the notion and said --

CAIN: That's right.

SPITZER: -- we understand this is not something that is a barrier to our fulfilling our functions. So even though you and I disagree about how to get there, it would seem to be at this point you would be compelled to say the military has spoken.

The secretary of defense, the generals have said -- the joint chiefs -- this is something that we should do.

CAIN: And I want to impress upon this point. The point is not that the military leaders are infallible. But only that they're in a better position that you -- than you or I am to judge what the military should look like.

SPITZER: The good news is the military leaders have spoken. And in fact, let us listen to what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spelled out as his position earlier today.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: In summary, a strong majority of those who answered the survey -- more than two-thirds -- do not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in uniform.

The findings suggest that for a large segment of the military, repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," they'll potentially disrupt even the short term, would not be the wrenching traumatic change that many have feared and predicted.


SPITZER: Expect a lot of push back from Capitol Hill. Among those in favor of repeal is our headliner, former Army Captain Anthony Woods.

Woods is a West Point graduate who attended graduate school at Harvard while in the Army. After coming out as gay, Woods was honorably discharged from the Army.

Tony, welcome. Thank you for being here.

ANTHONY WOODS, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: Thanks for having me.

CAIN: So Tony, you graduate from West Point, and before long, you're leading a platoon of soldiers in Iraq. Tell us what it's like when you first led troops into battle.

WOODS: It is an absolutely an amazing experience to be an officer in charge of soldiers. I had -- certainly had disagreements with the war but I thought everyone should do their part in making sure that every American soldier over there comes home safely to their families and that we act ethically in every single thing that we do on the battlefield, and that was something that I was proud to do over the course of two deployments.

I led some of the best soldiers that our country has to offer. Eighty-one of them, in fact. And was proud to bring all of them home after those two very tough deployments.

SPITZER: But it is an amazing thing to actually see battle, the heat, the screaming, the things that go on, you witnessed. And did it change you as a person to actually need to be in charge of -- in that context?

WOODS: You know you certainly see a lot of unspeakable things and you -- and I -- you know fully aware of the very real challenges that our soldiers are facing. This is an extremely complex, dangerous enemy that we're facing in Iraq, in Afghanistan and other parts of the globe right now.

And I always got the sense that we were always one step behind our enemy. They really were outthinking us and outmaneuvering us, and which made it extremely complicated, which -- what I think we're seeing, you know, it takes quite a while for us to start making progress in both of these countries so we can bring an end to the wars.

SPITZER: Now, look, when you were there, you had doubts, as you said, about the rationale for being there. But you also had doubts necessarily about a policy that has been at the centerpiece of debate here domestically, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

Did you ever air that with any of your colleagues, any of the other officers in the forces?

WOODS: You know it's certainly something that came up. It wasn't something that I was comfortable discussing openly about myself, but you know certainly talked about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and the impact of gays and lesbians serving in the military.

I came to the conclusion that it is unprofessional and immoral for me to lie about who I am in order to abide by this law.

CAIN: Why didn't -- why didn't you talk about it openly? Were you afraid?

WOODS: I certainly was afraid that there was a very real possibility that I could be kicked out of the military. My career could be impacted negatively, even though I was performing extremely well. I earned the Bronze Star for my service and consistently got great evaluation reports from superior officers.

CAIN: Right.

WOODS: But I just didn't want to take on that risk of having my career jeopardize because of a policy that is discriminatory in nature and essentially asks gays and lesbians to compromise their integrities.

CAIN: Let's follow up on that. You have a unique perspective on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." And I want to ask you a question that you can bring light to.

So for many Americans, there is a fear -- and it may be unfounded -- that they can imagine a gay soldier posted in a remote location, surrounded by hundreds of men, might become attracted to one of his fellow soldiers.

Is that not a possibility?

WOODS: You know I certainly believe that the military has done a fantastic job of setting up rules and regulations that govern any kind of inappropriate behavior.

If someone believes that someone is making inappropriate advances towards them, whether it's a man towards a woman, a woman towards a woman, or a man towards a man, there are laws currently on the books that take -- you know, that take that into account and certainly swiftly and appropriately make sure those sorts of actions are brought to an end.

SPITZER: And you would, I assume, argue then that those rules apply, whether it's between gays or heterosexual relationships?

WOODS: Absolutely.

SPITZER: The issue is the same in either context? WOODS: Absolutely. And I think that's one of the most amazing findings that we see in this Pentagon report that came out today, was it said that we shouldn't set up special treatments, special rules, special barracks. Treat everyone the same in the military and I think you're going to see that that's going to be a phenomenal outcome when it happens.

SPITZER: And based on your experience, is the military ready to take that next step and basically say sexual orientation simply isn't material to somebody's capacity to perform in the military?

WOODS: Absolutely. And I made my decision to be honest about who I was after leading soldiers in battle. I realized that someone's sexual orientation has nothing to do with their ability to accomplish on the battlefield.

And if we have a policy in place that ultimately hurts our military by firing experienced people, these people need to stand up against that. I think the military is more than capable and more than professional enough to handle the change that certainly will come.

CAIN: Tony, were you ever discriminated against?

WOODS: I don't believe that I was. I don't believe that I was.

CAIN: Would you reenlist?

WOODS: I absolutely would. And I certainly plan to. I'm looking forward to the day that I'm able to put on our nation's uniform and once again say that I am ready and willing to serve anywhere you want to send me.

SPITZER: Now the analogy that a lot of people used -- in fact, I've used this in debates. They're saying, look, we've just got to overcome this vestige of discrimination just as we overcame discrimination based on race. We go back 50, 60 years, the military discriminated based on race and it was similarly traumatic. Many people said to the military to overcome that.


SPITZER: We've succeeded. Any reason to think we can't succeed with respect to this form of discrimination?

WOODS: I think there's more of a reason to think that we're going to succeed with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," because unlike when we desegregated the military along race, or when we allowed women just go to the service academies and start servings in other parts of the military, gays and lesbians are currently serving and doing their job extremely well right now in every single unit in the military.

SPITZER: Since you came out and announced to the world you were gay, have you had this debate with others in the military, those who are still in the military, who have disagreed with you? WOODS: I certainly have. And you know I've stayed in constant touch with the soldiers who I led overseas. And my classmates from West Point who I -- who are serving overseas right now. And consistently -- you know people have differing views, some of them are religious conservatives, all of them always circle back to the fact when I mention that, look, we are a professional military who is capable of overcoming any challenge and focusing on the mission. They all agree with that.

CAIN: You know, Tony, for me, this has never been a civil rights issue. This has been an issue about whether or not gays serving the military helps or hinders the purpose of the military -- fighting our battles for us.

Were you surprised then that the military leaders have come out today and said "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repealed?

WOODS: I wasn't surprised at all. And I couldn't agree with you more that this is as much as quality that as very important issue for me. This is actually a national security issue. And I think that's what people -- that's why, you know, almost eight out of 10 Americans believe that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, simply because they recognize that firing people who are battle tested, combat proven, well trained, at a time when we're fighting two wars is completely inappropriate and ultimately detrimental to keeping our country safe.

SPITZER: Have you met with McCain in person?

WOODS: I have not.

SPITZER: I would love to see that meeting. I don't think anybody could hear you speak on this and not say this is somebody I want in the military protecting our nation, and if that means repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I certainly hope they do so.

WOODS: I hope so, too. I'm looking forward to serving again.

SPITZER: All right.

CAIN: Tony.

WOODS: Thank you.

SPITZER: Tony Woods, thanks for a fascinating conversation. Hope we get a chance to speak with you again after they've repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

WOODS: Absolutely. Thank you.

SPITZER: And still ahead, where do most of the potential 2012 Republican candidates work? You got it. Right there at FOX News. We'll examine how their ties will impact the race to challenge President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RALPH REED, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Tragically, we're 31 days away from the end of the year and when 26 million small businessmen and women get up on January 1st, 2011, they're not going to know what their tax rates is -- are and that's economic malpractice by this president who's supposed to be CEO of the economy.

SPITZER: Well, look, you're putting all the blame with the president. Let's not get into that.



SPITZER: Welcome back. Our friend Will Cain of "The National Review" is in for Kathleen Parker tonight.

Will, glad you're here.

CAIN: Glad I'm still here.

SPITZER: And you know what, Will? That much anticipated, much scripted meeting between the president and congressional leaders took place today weeks after he was shellacked -- that was his word.

CAIN: Right.

SPITZER: In the midterm elections. Everybody came out, of course, saying the right thing. They're going to work together. Everybody wants to get a compromise in all of the big issues but, will this era of good feelings last, is the big question.

CAIN: Well, that will depend on the issue dominating the conversation. Tax cuts. And after the meeting the president admitted that the two sides are a long way from holding hands.

Let's take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republicans leaders want to permanently extend tax cuts, not only to middle class families but also to some of the wealthiest Americans at the same time.

And here we disagree. I believe, and the other Democrats who are in the room believe, that this would add an additional $700 billion to our debt in the next 10 years. And I continue to believe that it would be unwise and unfair, particularly at a time when we're contemplating deep budget cuts that require broad sacrifice.


SPITZER: Joining us from Atlanta to discuss today's meeting is chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reid.

Welcome, Ralph. REED: Thank you, Eliot. Good to be with you.

SPITZER: You know, Ralph, we have all been trying to parse what was going on in Washington today. The meeting between the president and the Republican leadership. Of course the Democrats were there as well.

Does it mean anything? It seemed to me it was a lot of the same old language, everybody pretending they get along, even though they really don't. Is there a compromise in the making between now and the end of the year? And from your perspective as a leader of the Republican Party, what do you think that compromise will look like?

REED: I think everything was cordial. I think everybody was civil. But as President Obama himself said, that's not going to diminish the chasm philosophically that separates the two parties.

The president believes that only those tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year as a couple or $200,000 as a single filer should be extended. The Republicans believe they should all be extended.

I can't imagine a circumstance under which the Republicans will retreat from that position and I don't see President Obama, frankly, playing this poker game with a very strong hand.

So tragically we're 31 days away from the end of the year and when 26 million small businessmen and women get up on January 1st, 2011, they're not going to know what their tax rates is -- are and that's economic malpractice by this president who's supposed to be CEO of the economy.

SPITZER: Well, look, you're putting all the blame with the president. Let's not get into that bickering.

What I think is interesting is you're so pessimistic. I actually am a bit more optimistic than that. I think somebody will not blink but somebody will realize there is a middle ground here.

Isn't there an easy middle ground? You raise the cap from -- of 250 to a million, or to pick a number, 750,000, so that you really increase the marginal tax rate only for those who are really exceptionally wealthy. Anybody who's making that much in one year can afford the extra three points, or, alternatively, the Republicans can see it and say, we will unemployment insurance.

Or, we will do something else that is on the Democratic agenda so both sides can leave claiming some elements of victory, and give the American economy and the American taxpayer what they all need, which is some certainty and a tax rate that is commensurate with the economy right now.

Doesn't that make sense to you?

REED: We are in the deepest, longest recession since the great depression. And in the midst of that downturn, with unemployment at 9.5 percent or higher for 16 months in a row, you don't raise taxes, period, especially on the people that you're asking the risk capital, create jobs and expand their small business.

CAIN: I want to -- Ralph, I share your pessimism on the ability for compromise. Let me ask you about what is a seemingly unrelated move. This morning the Obama administration suggested they're going to freeze the pay of all federal workers.

And what I'm curious from you, Ralph, is do you think this is an opening salvo? Is this Obama saying, hey, look, I can compromise, Republicans, and now it's your turn? Compromise on tax cuts. Is that what this move suggests?

REED: Well, I think what it suggests, first of all, is a little bit of attempted gamesmanship. Remember this was actually a Republican proposal that was introduced on May 25th of this year by -- drum roll please -- Michele Bachmann. So apparently now just -- you know just a few weeks ago, folks in the Congress like Michele were -- according to this administration -- way out of the mainstream. Now they're stealing their ideas.

CAIN: What I think this shows is the mindset of a man who has never had to make ends meet, who's never had a job in the private sector. And that makes me very pessimistic on his ability to compromise with Republicans on tax cuts that can help the economy.

REED: Well, I'm afraid you're right. And I think what really concerns me is that everything that's going to happen on a policy level over the next two years is going to be viewed by this White House through the prism of whether or not it advances the president's reelection or not.

And you know that's politics. That's reality, I understand that. But I wish that this administration -- from day one, January 21st, 2009 -- had been focused instead on the kind of fiscal trade and monetary policies that would have actually created jobs.

SPITZER: I happen to agree with you. The pay freeze is a very small bore issue in the grand context of both the economy and the deficit. And I think that is why -- when he's willing to say, folks, who are earning above $1 million or some threshold, have to pay a bit more, so we can pay for unemployment insurance for people who desperately want to work but who can't get a job in this economy.

That is both fair. It is good for the economy.

Would you support that sort of trade? Do you support even extending unemployment benefits to people who are desperately looking for jobs and can't get them?

REED: I think we're reaching a point of diminishing marginal returns on that where the evidence is the more we extend unemployment benefits beyond what used to be 26 weeks, it then turned into 52 weeks, we're now past 96 weeks.

What we're doing is we're basically subsidizing unemployment at a certain point and not encouraging people to reenter the private sector. So I'm not philosophically oppose to extending unemployment benefits, but where do you draw the line? Is it going to be at 250 weeks?

I think at some point we've got to be about creating jobs and the eye ought to be on that.

SPITZER: Ralph --

REED: Not on how long you can pay people to be without work.

SPITZER: Nobody disagrees that the primary focus has go to be job creation. On the other hand, as a simple matter of compassion, humanitarian values, when about half of those who are unemployed, have been unemployed for over six months because there simply are no jobs.

REED: Right.

SPITZER: It's impossible to get a job out there. You cannot say to those folks -- we should not as a society say, we won't give you enough money to put food on the table for your kids. And the threshold that you're talking about, everybody agrees there should be a threshold. And you know what? We can set it when unemployment gets below 7 percent, 6 percent, 5 percent -- pick a number that we can agree upon that makes sense but not when it's 9.6 percent, or realistically, 16, 17, 18 percent.

This is simply not humane to say to people we won't give you food -- money for food and yet we're giving a tax break to millionaires. That's not the society I believe the United States represents.

REED: Well, that's the problem with making fiscal policy based on the misplaced compassion that doesn't work. The empirical evidence, Eliot, is very clear, which is that people are more likely to reenter the workforce and find a real job that carries with it dignity, self support and no longer being dependent upon the government when those unemployment benefits run out.

That's the empirical evidence.

SPITZER: All right. Ralph, as always, thank you for joining the conversation.

REED: Thank you.

CAIN: Thanks, Ralph.

SPITZER: Coming up, we'll talk about the network of presidential candidates and I'm not talking about this one. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DAN ABRAMS, FOUNDER, MEDIAITE.COM: I think the media has blown up individual conversations and made them effectively the policy of the United States or the policy of the government. And I think that that has -- that has made it that much worse.



SPITZER: Welcome back. Our friend Will Cain of "The National Review" in for Kathleen Parker tonight.


CAIN: Thank you.

SPITZER: What do the following five people have in common? Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and John Bolton. They're all running for president and, perhaps more important, they all work for FOX News.

In a blog post yesterday, Republican political analyst Dick Morris even said the 2012 Republican presidential nominating process, and I quote, "will come to resemble 'American Idol' where we watch the candidates perform and vote on who we like best," end quote.

Only this version of "American Idol" will be held on FOX News, not as entertainment. Perhaps it is entertainment. Who knows?

Joining us for the "Culture of Politics" Dan Abrams. Dan is a media analyst, founder of

Dan, welcome.

ABRAMS: Good to be with you.

SPITZER: Thank you.

CAIN: Dan, I got the first question for you. It's complicated. So what? What's the big deal that the Republican primaries are going to take place on FOX News?

ABRAMS: Look, I don't know that they're going to take place at FOX News because remember, these people are commentators. These are not hosts of shows. If these people were hosting primetime shows, then I might say, you know what? This is going to be a real vehicle for them to get their positions out there, to advocate.

But as commentators, they are answering questions. And sure, that means they get publicity but they're also not the only ones in the country -- these five -- who have considered political -- or political aspirations and they are commentators on TV.

SPITZER: Wait. Dan, I don't think the commentator/host distinction is that meaningful.


SPITZER: I think what -- well, because I think everybody is going to be articulating views. And that's fine. I have no problem with --

ABRAMS: You have much more autonomy as the host of this show.


ABRAMS: Than you ever did as a guest. Fair?

SPITZER: Not necessarily.

CAIN: Like me.


SPITZER: But here's what I think does matter. Never before that I can think of -- I'm not sure I disagree with your underlying conclusion, but never before in our history that I can think of has one media outlet with one coherent ideology had almost a monopoly on -- or at least access to half of the presidential nominees and controlled one political party this way.

ABRAMS: But how -- but how many of these people are serious candidates, right? I mean --

SPITZER: Sarah Palin? Mike Huckabee?

ABRAMS: Sarah -- yes. Sarah Palin might be a candidate.

SPITZER: John Bolton.

ABRAMS: Do you think John Bolton is really going to be a serious candidate?

SPITZER: I think he will emerge as one. Certainly Sarah Palin is.

ABRAMS: Sarah Palin. That's right. Sarah Palin --

SPITZER: And then so I think you're looking --

ABRAMS: But Sarah Palin is the occasional commentator on FOX News.

SPITZER: Well --

ABRAMS: I mean so what? Look, I'm just saying, I wouldn't be surprised if Eliot Spitzer at some point ran for office again.


SPITZER: I don't know who you're talking to. But let's switch back to FOX News for a minute which is clearly not going to be my home. But --


CAIN: Let me -- I want to support his argument. Not only -- this is a good thing. You can argue this is a good thing. The majority of the Republican electorate is watching FOX News, and to have presidential hopefuls on night after night espousing their views essentially leads to a more informed electorate.

ABRAMS: Well, but look, what we're seeing now is media figures become leading political figures. Right? I think we can all agree that there's not a senator or governor in the country who could probably get 200,000 plus people to a rally in Washington. Right?

But Glenn Beck or Jon Stewart can get that. That shows us -- and look, it's part of the reason that media has been successful is that because people are really interested in what media figures have to say about politics and here we're seeing this kind of blend of political figure-slash-media figure.

CAIN: This is the potential bad thing, Dan. There are many presidential hopefuls on the Republican side --

ABRAMS: Right.

CAIN: -- who aren't on the FOX roster. Some of my favorites -- Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie. Aren't they at an automatic disadvantage?

ABRAMS: Maybe a little bit. But it sounds like we're having a discussion over the fact that there are some famous people --


ABRAMS: -- who are going to be running for office.

SPITZER: But which --


ABRAMS: And we're sort of like acting as if we're like -- can you imagine these people are kind of famous? They are on TV. And they are running for political office.

SPITZER: All right. Let's move. Maybe you're right. Maybe this attempt is going to keep popping. But it is a fascinating fact that they've all converged at FOX.

ABRAMS: Absolutely.

SPITZER: And so all right. WikiLeaks, which has certainly changed the debate this week about Afghanistan and the Middle East.


SPITZER: What, in your view, somebody who is commentator about the media, among many other things that you do, what is the responsibility of a media outlet that receives this data dump to verify it, to check it, to screen it, to make sure that there isn't harm to individuals and the threats apply?

ABRAMS: Well, those are very separate questions. All right?

SPITZER: OK. So take us through it.

ABRAMS: Yes, yes. I think that in terms of making sure that there's no harm.


ABRAMS: I don't know that that's the media's responsibility across the board. I do think that this is uniquely harmful. People compare this to the Pentagon papers, right? There's no comparison.

The Pentagon papers was a report prepared for the government which someone then leaked. These are individual cables and messages that will certainly be taking enormously out of context. And it will be blown up and have been blown up by the media.

That's where the media's responsibility is. I think the media has blown up individual conversations and made them effectively the policy of the United States, the policy of the government, and I think that that has made it that much worse.

CAIN: So your lesson for us is that the WikiLeaks dump is actually no a big deal?

ABRAMS: No. No, no, no. The WikiLeaks is really big deal, as far as I'm concerned. And look, I think that -- I think that we need to treat WikiLeaks as effectively -- as an organization that is not a media organization.

But this is an organization that is assisting in the dissemination of this information. Now whether that makes them criminal, separate question. But I do not view what WikiLeaks is doing as a classic heroic media effort to let the public know what's happening.

SPITZER: Have you been in newspaper that received this?

CAIN: Yes.

SPITZER: It came in on the desk. Would you have run with it? Or would you have said no, we don't think it's right?

ABRAMS: You know, I'd like to say that I would have said no, but I think that knowing -- one of the factors that you include in just making that decision is everyone else doing it.


ABRAMS: And by the time everyone else did it, you not doing it wouldn't have an impact.

CAIN: And is Mediaite doing it? Is Mediaite running clips of WikiLeaks stuff?

ABRAMS: Yes. Mediaite is covering the WikiLeaks story. It's not really a big Mediaite story, but there's no question that Mediaite is covering the coverage of it, which includes some of the details.

SPITZER: Dan Abrams, fascinating as always. Thanks as always. Thanks for joining us.

ABRAMS: Good to see you, guys.

SPITZER: Thank you.

Still ahead, it's not just Republican women going rogue. Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a member of the president's deficit commission, has gone public with a budget plan of her own. We'll be right back.


REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), MEMBER OF DEFICIT COMMISSION: Medicare beneficiaries, they pay out of pocket right now 30 percent of their income. That's about the same amount as they paid when Medicare was first initiated in 1965. Should old people be paying more out of pocket than they do right now even though dental care, eye care is not even covered by Medicare right now?



SPITZER: Welcome back. Will Cain of the "National Review" in for Kathleen Parker tonight. Welcome.

CAIN: Thank you.

SPITZER: The president's deficit commission is going to release its plan to slash the deficit tomorrow, meeting the president's deadline but delaying the commission vote until Friday. So far, they're having trouble finding any agreement whatsoever. The commission co-chairs spoke this afternoon about the challenges they're facing. And here's what co-chair Erskine Bowles had to say.


ERKSKINE BOWLES, CO-CHIAR, DEFICIT COMMISSION: There are enough reasons to vote no in this plan, for anybody to vote no. There are things I don't like. There are things Al doesn't like. As we say at home, there are plenty of reasons not to vote for this plan. But one thing is certain, the problem is real, the solutions are painful, and there are no easy choices.


SPITZER: At least one member of the commission is unveiling competing plan of her own. That's Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. And she joins us now.

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us.

SCHAKOWSKY: Oh, thank you.

SPITZER: Let me ask you very simply, is this commission becoming a train wreck? I mean, it just seems hard to imagine, there are going to be 14 votes for any plan or any even piece of this plan as it's been rolled out it's been met with derision and opposition. What do you think? Fourteen votes in the cards for this plan?

SCHAKOWSKY: I don't see 14 plans in this plan, but I do think that if we would trim back our ambitions and make more of a laundry list of things that we could all agree on, and I think there would be some that point us at least in the right direction, that we could make a powerful statement, nonetheless. It seems, however, that Bowles- Simpson have done sort of Bowles-Simpson 2.0 that they're going to introduce -- we may even get a copy of it tonight that will be discussed tomorrow and then voted on Friday. If it still has a lot of the things that hurt the middle class, I'm an old-fashion Democrat and think we ought to stand up for middle class people, that cut social security benefits, that add to the cost of Medicare for the elderly that put very tough caps on discretionary spending which is mostly programs that help ordinary people, then I don't see how I can vote for this plan. And also, it doesn't have any kind of investment in the economy, helping to create jobs, which really does promote deficit reduction through growth.

CAIN: Hi, Congresswoman, Will Cain here. You said the votes aren't there for the Erskine Bowles plan. Some, like Eliot had said, that the committee is turning into a train wreck. I'm curious as to why. Now you've put your own plan forth. One that concentrates a lot of cuts on defense spending, raises taxes and leaves entitlements virtually untouched. I'm curious, if your plan were adopted, you'd be pretty happy, I assume, right?

SCHAKOWSKY: I would be. But I want to say something about entitlements. I don't leave them untouched. I come with a plan on how to make social security solvent. It's just that I take it out of different pockets. You know, we talk about shared sacrifice. But look, the sacrifice has not been shared over the last 20 years where ordinary Americans have seen their income either stagnant or actually fall. Whereas almost all of the wealth has gone to the top earners in the country who right now, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the disparity is greater than ever.

CAIN: And I'm trying to figure out why you even feel the need to address social security. In fact in the past you've said, "Social security has nothing to do with the deficit. Addressing social security as part of the deficit question is like attacking Iraq for retaliation of 9/11."

SCHAKOWSKY: That's right.

CAIN: Simply have no relationship. Congresswoman, you found an island with that point of view.

SCHAKOWSKY: No, no, no.

CAIN: Former and current leaders of the CBO, writers from liberal magazines like "The Nation" don't support that point of view. In fact, your fellow congressman, Kent Conrad, has said that he believes social security is integral to any kind of deficit reform.

SCHAKOWSKY: No, no, no. You're confusing the deficit with the long-term debt. Eventually in 2037, social security would have an impact on the debt. But right now, even Erskine Bowles agrees that for the deficit and for our first charge which is to reach budget balance, primary budget balance by 2015, social security has nothing to do with it. We are in agreement on that. And long-term solvency for social security is an issue. It is not being considered as debt reduction, even under Simpson-Bowles. It is how do we achieve solvency by 75 years. So there's agreement across the board left and right on my definitions, and so I wanted to clarify that for you.

CAIN: Congresswoman, I asked you at the top of the interview if you'd be happy if your proposal, if your plan passed.


CAIN: And you said yes. But I can't imagine that you think that's a likelihood, that that could possibly happen. So when I see that you don't address social security as part of a deficit reform and you have a plan that you're putting out that doesn't have any possibility of being passed, the message to me is that the deficit commission panel is unserious, that there is no prospect for coming to a reasonable compromise.

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, you know, we talk about political viability. You know, actually, out in the real world, in the country, there is not a lot of support for cutting social security. In fact, there's been all kinds of polls that say people would actually rather pay more than to have a cut in social security. So I think we have to redefine political viability by talking to actual people out there. Medicare beneficiaries, they pay out of pocket right now 30 percent of their income. That's about the same amount as they paid when Medicare was first initiated in 1965. Should old people be paying more out of pocket than they do right now, even though dental care, eye care is not even covered by Medicare right now? So, you know, I think that we're getting mixed up about who is, you know, maybe inside the beltway. And do you really think that it's politically viable to say we will eliminate altogether the mortgage interest deduction? That's part of the Simpson-Bowles plan. Do you think that that's realistic?

SPITZER: Look, Congresswoman, this is going to be a continuing dialogue. Obviously, I think we're in the early stages and we're going to watch the report when it comes out tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have a chance to talk to you in the coming weeks and months as obviously this is going to be a contentious and important area for us to have a conversation about. So thank you for joining us and we look forward to you joining us in the future.

SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you. Thank you.

SPITZER: Still ahead, "Our Political Party" in which we'll debate something fascinating. The good news about WikiLeaks. Don't go away. We'll be right back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


NOELLE NIKPOUR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it should be shut down.

ZIRIN: No, I think what's insane is the fact that we're looking at people who are yelling fire in a theater and blaming them for the fire instead of the arsonist who started it in the first place. This is a democracy. It's either a democracy or it's not.

NIKPOUR: So you're defending it.

ZIRIN: Absolutely.

NIKPOUR: You've got to be out of your mind.

ZIRIN: No, what's out of your mind is the idea that you think collecting the DNA of foreign diplomats is somehow good policy.



SPITZER: Welcome to "Our Political Party." Let's meet tonight's guest. David Zirin writes for "The Nation" about sports and politics and Dorian Warren is an assistant professor of political science at Columbia.

CAIN: And we've got Republican strategist Noelle Nikpour.


CAIN: Welcome, everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to be here.

CAIN: All right, guys. So it's day two of the WikiLeaks scandal and the biggest lesson for me is hey, we, the United States, we're not such a bad guy. The whole world and a lot of the Muslim world has been asking us to hit Iran in the mouth and we have basically abstained, we've been measured, we've been smart. And this is in the face of vision has been paid over the last decade that the United States is a bad guy. It shows that that reputation is unearned, that we're a world bully. What do you think, Dave?

DAVE ZIRIN, AUTHOR, "PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF SPORTS": Well, I think maybe the fact that there have been two occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as serious military interventions that have killed innocent people in Pakistan, I think that's what makes people think the United States is a bad guy. Look, if anything, if this WikiLeaks thing is exposed, anything to me has been a reaction about how incredibly authoritarian in a bipartisan manner both political parties are about what they think we have the right to know. And frankly, it's been mind bending and disgusting to see both parties finally come together on the question of the right to know is now absolute.

DORIAN WARREN, AMERICAN POLITICS PROF., COLUMBIA UNIV.: Look, Dave, I think there's an issue here about the security of the United States government the fact that all these documents, 250,000 documents got released. But, secondly, three million government employees have access to those documents already. So that's not what's being talked about in this hysteria over the leaks. I am glad, however, that the WikiLeaks is going to focus on the banks and on corporations.

SPITZER: That's going to be interesting. I think Bank of America if that's the bank is sweating bullets these days --

WARREN: That's right.

SPITZER: -- wondering what's on those mega disks.

WARREN: That's right.

NIKPOUR: Yes. I don't think anybody would be on them if they were exposing something with bank fraud of some sort. But I think the fact that they're putting national security at risk, I don't care what they're putting out. WikiLeaks should not be putting it out, number one.

And number two, I think it's funny how Homeland Security can find out, you know, people selling online fake Prada and Gucci and shut that down but yet they can't manage to control and try to shut down the WikiLeaks, which I think is insane.

ZIRIN: I think what's insane --

NOELLE NIKPOUR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it should be shut down.

ZIRIN: No, I think what's insane is the fact that we're looking at people who are yelling fire in a theater and blaming them for the fire instead of the arsonist who started it in the first place. This is a democracy. It's either a democracy or it's not.

NIKPOUR: So you're defending it.

ZIRIN: Absolutely.

NIKPOUR: You've got to be out of your mind.

ZIRIN: No, what's out of your mind is the idea that you think collecting the DNA of foreign diplomats is somehow good policy.


CAIN: We should have no national secrets, in your opinion.

WARREN: -- we didn't know before. Have we learned anything just yet from any of these documents? And that put us at risk. SPITZER: No, I don't think --

CAIN: That's why WikiLeaks hasn't been taken down. That's why a computer worm hasn't been sent to WikiLeaks. Honestly, that's why Julian Assange is still alive because what was released actually wasn't all that important.

SPITZER: There's an element of truth to what Will said, which it has been interesting to see a lot of nations pretending to protest our actions, Middle Eastern nations when they are with us in terms of the effort to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb and they cry publicly about our oppressive use of force and yet they want us to do what is important and right in that context. Also, a critically important point that David makes, which is we are a democracy. And you know what? Very often it is those who release information and are criticized for it who give us the risk to keep government honest.


SPITZER: Whether it's the Pentagon papers or it is WikiLeaks, it is reviled at the moment. I don't know if they're going to be risks buried in those documents. We haven't read them all, but this is what keeps government and democracy honest.


SPITZER: You've got to applaud it. That's the First Amendment. We've got to move on.

Much more important, much more important, the "Slurpee Summit." We've got to talk about the "Slurpee Summit." It's much for important. We all know it was weeks in the coming. You know, the president finally got the congressional leaders to sit down with him at the White House. This is going to resolve all the problems of the nation. We actually got some inside footage from inside the White House. Nobody else has seen what went on inside the conference room where they met. Let's take a look. Here it is. There it is. There it is.

That looks like Mitch McConnell and the president. You know what? I don't know who -- it's the yellow flag.

NIKPOUR: Oh, that's how he got the stitches?

SPITZER: That's the real story. Exactly.

All right. We know that was the Titans game over the weekend. Good game to watch, anyway. So here's the real question. Did anything useful come out of this staged vapid meeting at the White House today?

ZIRIN: No. First of all, I don't think Mitch McConnell could punch a hole through a wall of Jello. I don't give him that much credit. But second of all, what you have is intransigence on behalf of the Republicans versus incompetence on behalf of the Obama administration. So I don't want positive you can get there.

SPITZER: Who wins --

ZIRIN: Nobody. The American people --

WARREN: What's important here, the president better be very careful here. There are 100, over 100 liberal millionaires who are arguing that the Bush tax cuts should expire and they are willing to fund a primary challenger to the president in 2012 if he can't win on this issue. If he can't win on the Bush tax cuts, then what is he good for? I mean, he hasn't really --

SPITZER: I want to give you some confidence that made me feel good. He announced -- Tim Geithner was going to negotiate for him and the negotiations with --

NIKPOUR: Whatever --

SPITZER: Yes, that was my view too. I think everyone in negotiations is involved --


WARREN: We're going to see a serious primary challenge in 2012 if the administration can't figure out a winning strategy on the Bush tax cuts.

CAIN: If that's true, liberals are the most unthinking group of people I've ever heard of. This is a president who passed the biggest health care bill in history. A president passed 600, $700 billion stimulus bill. If his presidency rides on the Bush tax cuts --


CAIN: That is completely --

WARREN: No, no, it's not about the legislative accomplishments. There is a clear record of accomplishment. It's more of a posturing and the way in which he's negotiating or the lack of negotiating skills with this new GOP Congress, well in the House at least.

SPITZER: Or the majority.

WARREN: So it's partly substance but it's more style, actually, is that if he won't stand up and give the base something.

SPITZER: The style became substance.

WARREN: That's right. Then what's going to happen in 2012.

SPITZER: Right. Noelle --

NIKPOUR: The two sides are going to have to come together and work something out because our national debt is going through the roof and the entitlement programs have got to stop.

SPITZER: We'll be right back for more of "Our Political Party" in just a moment.


SPITZER: Welcome back to "Our Political Party." Time for only one more question.

Yesterday, President Bush -- former President Bush, we should say, took his endless book tour to Palo Alto, California, and met with Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook. Fascinating interview. The former president said he was smarter than Zuckerberg, something like that. Take a look at this thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Education is a shared interest, a shared passion of both yours and Mark's.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that Mark --

BUSH: He didn't graduate from college.





SPITZER: This is the new side to the president.

NIKPOUR: I love it.

SPITZER: You can like him now that he doesn't have his finger on the button maybe.


SPITZER: So what do you make of this?

NIKPOUR: I think it's funny. I think it's absolutely funny. I think he's the kind of guy that now you want to have a beer which years ago you wouldn't even want to be in the same room with. I think he's showing a funny side. I think he's selling his book and I thought it was hilarious that he did that to the founder of Facebook.

WARREN: I think it's interesting that blood wasn't dripping off his hands what he did to -- I mean, how soon did we forget about his eight years in office and the mess that we're in right now because of his previous policies.

And to see the lighter side, there's nothing funny about him to me making a joke about education -- ZIRIN: Yes.

WARREN: -- or someone dropping out of college.

ZIRIN: I'm just a sportswriter here. As a sportswriter, I've gotten to know Pat Tillman and Pat Tillman's family and the NFL player who died for war-based on lies in Iraq. And the idea of this guy yucking it up on his book tour and I'm just supposed to smile and good win, Georgie boy, give me a break. There's an expression in Italian about somebody who is content to be an idiot. And I think it would be good if he just took that to heart and was content to be an idiot.

SPITZER: All right, guys, quite a party. Dorian Warren, Noelle Nikpour, David Zirin, thank you very much for being here. We'll be right back.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, I'm Randi Kaye. More of "PARKER SPITZER" in a moment. First, the latest.

The Pentagon's long awaited study on the military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy released today concludes that overturning the ban on openly gay and lesbian troops would do little long-term harm to morale or military effectiveness. Defense Secretary Gates is urging the Senate to act soon to repeal that ban.

In Michigan, the father of three missing boys has been charged with parental kidnapping. The brothers have not been seen by anyone outside their family since Thursday. Investigators said today they, quote, "do not anticipate a positive outcome."

And tonight on "360," Anderson is live from the border in southern California where another incredibly sophisticated underground tunnel has been discovered.

That is the very latest. "PARKER SPITZER" is back right after this.

SPITZER: Time for "Fun with Politics." You know what, Will? We think we're the best, smartest species form of life out there because we have democracy. Turns out, we're not the only ones. Professor up at Cornell, Thomas Seeley, has written a book called "Honeybee Democracy," lays out the rules for democracy and the beehive.

CAIN: A, I'm shocked the bees participate in democracy. I thought for sure the queen bee ran --

SPITZER: Actually, I burned my biology, but what do we know?

CAIN: And B, let me tell you my favorite rule.


CAIN: Minimize the role of the leader. SPITZER: What are you? An anarchist. You don't want somebody in charge is going to make decisions? I thought you wanted a strong authoritarian regime, a president who can make decisions, go to war, all that stuff.

CAIN: Minimize, not abolish the role of the leader. And no, I think we invested way too much power in the executive branch. I don't want to minimize just the role of this leader, although that would be plus reducing Obama's role.

SPITZER: I want to give President Obama -- give him more power. He's got the agenda. You Republicans are off. You know, just don't know what's good for this nation.

You know my favorite rule?

CAIN: What's that?

SPITZER: Debate, debate, debate. You know why? We're good at it. It's the one thing we know how to do. We talk nonstop. We don't make decisions. Somehow we're acting like bees and maybe it's a good thing.

CAIN: Says the guy whose job is to talk.

SPITZER: Well, you know, I found where I'm confident to do it. What can I tell you?

CAIN: I totally agree. I'd rather we debate, debate, debate and not do anything in government for as far as the eye can see.

SPITZER: Yes, so you don't really want government to do anything like educate our public, go build the infrastructure we need to create jobs, all those things.

CAIN: Get out of our lives.

SPITZER: All right. We'll have that debate some other time, Will.

Anyway, that's our show for tonight. Will Cain, it's been great to have you here.

CAIN: Thanks.

SPITZER: Thanks so much. It's been a pleasure.

Be sure to join us tomorrow night. Good night from New York. "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming right up.