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State of the Union

State of the Union: Interview With Admiral Mullen; Interview With Congressmen DeFazio, Price

Aired March 01, 2009 - 09:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: I'm John King. This is our "State of the Union" report this Sunday, March 1st.

A day is set for the end of the combat mission in Iraq. It is not the date candidate Obama promised, and up to 50,000 troops will be left in harm's way. We'll break down the plan with the nation's highest ranking military officer, Joint Chiefs chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen.

Plus, the president's $3.6 trillion budget plan includes record deficits and dramatic shifts in government priorities, but complaints are coming from both sides of the aisle. This morning, two congressmen, a Republican and a Democrat, on what they would do differently.

And another downbeat week for the economy and for Wall Street. Savings are shrinking and more jobs are at risk. Suze Orman is here with some common-sense tips to help you ride out this recession. That's all ahead on "State of the Union."

A beautiful look at the White House there on a Sunday morning, a chilly Sunday morning here in Washington. Before we get to our guests, a quick glance at what we'll do this Sunday and every Sunday morning on this program.

Here in our 9:00 a.m. Eastern hour, interviews with top newsmakers in the United States and around the world. At 10:00 a.m., Howie Kurtz and his "Reliable Sources" take a critical look at the media. At 11:00 a.m. Eastern, members of the best political team on television, our reporters and analysts, will discuss and debate the day's major stories, including highlights of the Sunday morning talk shows. And at noon eastern, we're the only live major interview Sunday program. More newsmakers and, for one, the "Last Word." And through it all, we keep our promise to get outside of Washington and add your voices to our Sunday conversation. So let's get started.

This past week underscored the enormous challenges facing the United States and its new president. The economy continues to drift from bad to worse, shrinking at the fastest pace in 26 years. Congress will tackle a $3.6 trillion budget proposal, and the global challenges just as daunting, beginning with a divisive debate over what next in Iraq.

The president announced Friday he'll withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq by the end of August 2010. It's a few months later than he promised during the campaign, and Mr. Obama says he will leave as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq even after declaring combat operations over.

So what are the risks and is this the right timeline? Joining me now is the nation's highest-ranking U.S. military officer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. Admiral, a pleasure. Thank you for joining us on "State of the Union."

MULLEN: Good morning, John.

KING: Let's start. America is just getting to know its new commander in chief. He is proposing a timeline that is about three months later than what he promised during the campaign and he will leave behind up to 50,000 troops, a residual force or a support force, as he calls it, larger than most Democrats at least thought they would have left in Iraq when they were voting for candidate Barack Obama. What does that tell us about our new commander in chief and his willingness, I assume, to listen to men in uniform like yourself?

MULLEN: Well, I am very comfortable with the decision and strongly support the decision. And the president listened to all of us who were involved in this -- General Odierno on the ground in Iraq, General Petraeus, who is responsible for the Central Command area, as well as all the joint chiefs, myself and Secretary Gates.

And in that listening, we had a very thorough review, discussion, debate, and it was the cumulative discussion that got us to the point where we made a recommendation for the 19-month withdrawal plan, and the president accepted that and has made that decision.

KING: You say has accepted that and made that decision and you're comfortable with it. But about six months ago, you said you didn't like any timeline at all. You were on another Sunday television program and you were asked, "what about a timeline of getting all combat troops out within two years? What do you think the consequences of setting that kind of a timeline would be?" And you said, "I think the consequences could be very dangerous in that regard." So you say you're comfortable with this timeline, but you would prefer no timeline?

MULLEN: Sure, that's exactly what I said, and that was last July. And conditions have changed fairly dramatically since then. Security has gotten a lot better. We've had a successful election in Iraq. All the trends continue to move in the right directions.

Also, since that time, we've got a specific timeline. I mean, we're required by the SOFA agreement to be out of Iraq at the end of 2011. And then the third thing, which I think is probably the most important, we got a president who has made a decision and we're going to carry out the decision. And now that that's made, make sure that we do it in a safe way and in a way that will continue to conserve the gains that have been made, in particular over the last couple of years. KING: As you do that and deal with the decisions to come up, I want to contrast some might say different communication styles of a president who is the commander in chief but an elected political leader with yourself, a military leader, a man who wears the uniform. Let's listen first to the president. This is speaking Friday at Camp Lejeune with some clarity about what's next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So let me say this as plainly as I can. By August 31st, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.


KING: A date certain there. You were speaking just after the election and you gave a very different way of characterizing when you would like to come home from Iraq. Let's listen.


MULLEN: I do think it's important that it be conditions-based. From the military's perspective, I think it's best to be conditions- based.


KING: So the president has set this timeline now. And, yes, you mentioned there is an agreement with the Iraqi government, but are you convinced, sir, that if you went to him, say, in early 2010 and said, sir, we can't get down to 50,000, we need 75,000, or the Iraqis need a little bit more time, that this president, as he was in accepting this different timeline, is open to changing his mind down the road?

MULLEN: If I were to use the process we just went through with respect to his making this decision in Iraq and his willingness to listen at every level in the chain of command, certainly my expectations are in the future that he would continue to do that.

And then specifically with respect to this decision and the 19 months, I think it's important to know that at the end of this year, there are elections. General Odierno's biggest concern was that election timeframe, and what the president has done has given us the flexibility to keep the forces on the ground through that highest risk period, and then look at how we pace that coming down, to be done to basically have that mission change from where we are right now, which is a combat mission, to a new mission of advising and assisting and training the Iraqi security forces at the end of August.

KING: President Bush said repeatedly during his tenure that he would make these decisions based on what the commanders on the ground and the joint chiefs told him, not based on any political calculation. Are you convinced that our new president shares that way of doing things?

MULLEN: Again, he was very deliberative, very thorough. He listened to us all. We had a good debate and I'm very comfortable with the process. I was able to give him my best military advice, and I strongly support the decision that he made.

KING: And let's talk about the residual forces, as the president calls them, who will be left over. Up to 50,000. He says maybe 35,000, maybe 50,000. That is a decision you'll make down the road a little bit. But from your perspective, when you go to bed at night, those are combat troops, right? They could and likely will be involved in some violent actions.

MULLEN: Well, this transition force has a new mission, and it's not -- it's no longer a combat mission. It is to advise and assist and train the Iraqi security forces, who will clearly have the lead.

That said, every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, coast guardsman that's in Iraq is in harm's way, and we will need to provide force protection for them. In addition, force protection for our civilian counterparts who will still be there.

There will be specific counterterrorism requirements to be met, so we will meet those needs and certainly that there will be some kind of combat action is very much part of the potential that's there.

That said, it's the mission change which is so important.

KING: And let me ask you about that force protection measures. Are you concerned -- I know my trips to Iraq, commanders on the ground have been that as you shrink any force, it becomes more susceptible, because it has fewer friends to help defend it. What are you doing specifically to make sure that protection is in place when we do have a smaller footprint in Iraq?

MULLEN: One of the most important parts about this decision and the plan that's associated with it is the linkage of the drawdown throughout -- principally throughout 2010 and its connection to that transition force. Again, new mission, but as best we understand it right now -- and, again, it's 18 months out, difficult to predict -- but as best we understand it right now, very comfortable that we will be able to provide the kind of protection that we need for our troops and for our civilians that will be there.

KING: Much more to talk about. Our conversation with Admiral Mike Mullen will continue after a quick break.

And later this hour, will green jobs give a boost to our struggling big cities? We will go to Philadelphia to assess whether the president's new plan will bring desperately needed new jobs.

And the news business is hardly immune to the big economic shifts. In our 10:00 hour, Howie Kurtz talks to four reporters who have been recently laid off.

At 11:00 a.m., financial expert Suze Orman tells you how to manage your money as the stock markets reaches its lowest level in years.

And at 12:00 noon, President Obama taking heat from Democrats over his plan for Iraq. We'll hear from an old family friend, Congressman Neil Abercrombie, who thinks 19 months is far too long to wait. A lot more ahead on our "State of the Union" report after a quick break.


KING: We continue our discussion now with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.

Admiral, I want to move from Iraq to Afghanistan. Because, as troops begin to come home from Iraq, they all won't come home, and (inaudible) troop levels overseas, as we have a buildup now in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's interior minister is quoted this morning as saying he believes there are upwards 15,000 Taliban forces operating within the country right now.

Is that number about right in your view, and how dangerous is that?

MULLEN: Well, I think -- I mean, General McKiernan, who is our commander on the ground over there, has asked for additional forces, up to 30,000.

The president recently approved 17,000 of those forces, and, I think, in recognition of the growing security concerns that we all have with respect to what's going on in Afghanistan and the need to address that as rapidly as possible, and that those -- and that 12,000 of those will flow relatively quickly, here, in the next few months.

We're also undergoing a strategic review the president has directed. And so where we go beyond that, in terms of our strategy objectives...

KING: I don't mean to interrupt, but many people are befuddled by that. They say, why are you sending more troops in the middle of a strategic review?

If you're not sure where you're going to end up in the end, why send more troops now?

MULLEN: Well, I'm very encouraged by the strategic review, in the first place. Because I think we need to all understand, you know, what the strategy is and what our objectives are, specifically.

But it's very important that we get these security needs met for the growing insurgency. And you certainly alluded -- I wouldn't pick a specific number for the Taliban, but certainly, the growing insurgency that we have there and also the -- and the need to protect the people. This is classic counterinsurgency. And we've to be able to protect and provide security for the Afghan people.

In addition, we've got upcoming elections in Afghanistan that we need to provide security for as well. So it's to meet the security needs. And I think that, at this point in time, we recognize the need to get them there as soon as possible, because of those needs.

KING: You mentioned the upcoming elections. There are a lot of people, if you talk to privately, in your business and on Capitol Hill who are not happy with President Karzai, who has moved up the election timetable.

And you mentioned part of getting those additional troops over there was to protect the people of Afghanistan, heading into those elections.


KING: Has President Karzai gotten in the way of your plans, essentially?

Is he undermining the plan of the United States to protect the Afghan people for those elections by speeding them up?

MULLEN: Well, this is an area that certainly other people than I will decide how this ends up. The elections were scheduled for August, and that was a date that was set by the International Elections Commission. And they are -- as I understand, anyway, they are the final authority in this.

Certainly President Karzai, I think, yesterday, asked, or talked about a decree which indicated they should be moved to April or May. And so I think it's still to be determined. But...

KING: But that would not be helpful?

MULLEN: I'm on a pretty tight timeline, right now, to get security forces there in order to provide the kind of security for the elections. And so moving those dates to the left certainly generates a higher level of risk with respect to security for those elections, which we want to be free and fair as well as secure.

KING: I want you to listen to something Senator McCain said recently about the war in Afghanistan.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: When you aren't winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And in Afghanistan today, we are not winning. Nearly every indicator in Afghanistan is heading in the wrong direction.


KING: Is Senator McCain right? Are we losing in Afghanistan?

MULLEN: I said last September, in my testimony in Congress, that I didn't think we were winning, although I thought we could. And I would also agree that if we're not winning in a counterinsurgency, we are losing.

And that just speaks to the growing security, the need, quite frankly, for a much improved level of governance, not just at the national level, but at the provincial level, the district level, the local level, in addition to getting the rule of law set and moving forward on their economy.

So all those conditions are what brings us, I think, to the situation that we're in right now.

KING: I want to move to another challenge facing the new president. That is, he has said he would close Guantanamo Bay, the detention facility.

You, during the Bush administration, said you wanted it closed because you thought it was a recruiting tool for the enemy, a propaganda tool for the enemy and a potential stain on America.

But I want to ask you not about the location but about the practices.

Are you comfortable, now, with the decision the new president has made about no more waterboarding, no more what he calls torture?

Or do you agree with Vice President Cheney, who says that, by getting rid of some of those practices, Americans could be less safe?

MULLEN: Well, in fact, on the military side, we comply with -- with Article 3, and, in that regard, we never did and don't conduct any kinds of those activities that you talked about.

President Obama has made it very clear what his policies are here, and we'll carry out those policies. And part of the challenge -- you know, he said we're going to close Guantanamo in 12 months, so we are working hard, in our particular areas, to execute that -- that decision.

KING: Do you foresee any circumstances where you would go to the White House or the Justice Department, now that they take these cases out of military tribunals and try to do more of them in the federal court system -- do you foresee a circumstance where you might say, we can't bring this case, or we can't bring it as strongly as we would like because I don't want this piece of intelligence shared in a public courtroom?

MULLEN: I -- that's really a decision for us to make in our -- in our judicial process and in accordance with what the president has decided to move forward.

I certainly will, I am sure, have an opportunity to provide advice with respect to those possibilities. But, again, you know, in the end, we'll make -- the president will make those decisions and we'll carry them out.

KING: All right. More of our conversation with Admiral Mullen after one quick break.

America's watching closely something unfolding half a world away, an upcoming launch, perhaps, by North Korea. The U.S. says it could be a test for a long-range missile, one that perhaps could reach Alaska. The possible threat and how to deal with it, just ahead.


KING: We're back now with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.

Admiral, I want to talk about this part of the world where you spend a lot of your time. It has been now 2,727 days since the 9/11 attacks, and many people have said since then that they assume Osama bin Laden is somewhere in here. Is that your assessment? And it's a simple question, one you don't like getting asked all the time, but the American people say, why can't we find him?

MULLEN: I think it is a fair assessment. And he's, obviously, a very, very difficult individual to find, I mean, extraordinarily difficult. It's not as if we don't have a considerable amount of effort pursuing that, and I'm certain that will continue, but he hides pretty well.

KING: He hides pretty well. You have spent a lot of time, including just this past week, talking with military leaders from Pakistan.

MULLEN: Right.

KING: Obviously critical not only to what happens here, but to what happens just across the border in Afghanistan. Are you convinced the new administration in Pakistan and the military leaders under that new administration are doing everything they can? Or are you worried that they're still worried about a potential war some way -- some time down the road with India and not worried about dealing with this in their own country?

MULLEN: Well, this particular area, John, I mean, it's an extraordinarily complex area, and it's got a rich history that I study hard and try to understand and engage with leaders from all the countries and trying to improve my understanding and seeing it a little bit from -- from their perspective.

It's one of the reasons I've been to Pakistan. I mean, I've met with General Kiyani again this week. I've met with him 10 times since last February and will continue to do that, have that personal, professional relationship of engagement.

And -- and he knows and -- and his leadership knows very specifically they've got a serious threat here. Not only does it threaten us in terms of Al Qaida leadership, but it's also threatening them. They've -- they've seen great violence go up dramatically in their own country, and he's addressing that.

Clearly, they also are concerned about the situation on their other border with India. That's longstanding. And I'm hopeful that leaders will continue to -- to use the kind of judgment and rhetoric that -- that tamps that down over time.

KING: Let's do a couple other things quickly before we run out of time.


KING: If we come down to the right here, Iran, obviously, the International Atomic Energy Agency said last week they think that they were wrong in the past, that Iran might now have enough fissile material to make a bomb. Does Iran have enough to make a bomb? MULLEN: We think they do, quite frankly. And Iran having a nuclear weapon I've believed for a long time is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world.

KING: I want to come over to -- in this part of the world. North Korea, we are told, is preparing a missile launch. Do you believe that that missile launch is a long-range missile that could potentially reach Hawaii or Alaska?

MULLEN: Watching North Korea very carefully, they've certainly launched -- launched missiles before. There have been no decisions with respect to what America might do. The president's made no decision. Secretary Gates and I have made no recommendations. But it's -- it's an area that we watch with great concern. And I would hope that North Korea would not be provocative.

KING: When you say no decisions, no recommendations, you mean to try to shoot it down?

MULLEN: There's been no recommendations one way or the other. There are -- obviously, there's a lot of focus on this. And -- and then recommendations and certainly policy discussions will come based on the timing and what North Korea does.

KING: Let me ask you, lastly, as I just shrink the world down and we look at it, this is your job. On January 19th, George W. Bush was your boss; on January 20th, Barack Obama is your boss. How are they different, in terms of when they come into the room or when you're on those secure video conferences, in how they conduct the business of being commander-in-chief?

MULLEN: What -- what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and actually every member of the military does is serve the president, no matter who the president is. And we did so with President Bush, and we are doing so now under President Obama.

KING: Different stylistically, though? Different in how they carry themselves?

MULLEN: Well, I think individuals are always different. But, you know, I mean, I wouldn't characterize them one way or the other.

What I'm -- as I've seen President Obama since he's took over, he's listened to us. He's anxious to get the military's input to all his decisions. The discussions have been broad and deep, and I've been very comfortable both with the access and the ability to give that advice.

KING: Admiral Mike Mullen, thanks for joining us on "State of the Union" here today.

MULLEN: Thanks, John.

KING: And when we come back, breathtaking, astonishing, jaw- dropping, all descriptions used in reports on the president's budget. Even Mr. Obama admits it won't pass easily. Ahead, one of the budget's sticking points, a number so large a member of Congress says it will choke American families. Stay with us.


KING: I'm John King, and this is "State of the Union." Here are stories breaking this Sunday morning.

Rush Limbaugh fired up a crowd of conservatives with an impassioned call for them to take back the nation. He accused President Obama of inspiring fear in Americans to push a liberal agenda of big government. Limbaugh spoke to a gathering of some 9,000 activists at the annual CPAC convention, the Conservative Political Action Conference.

A big announcement expected at the White House tomorrow. Two administration officials tell CNN President Obama has chosen Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his nominee for health and human services secretary and she has accepted.

KING: Death has silenced one of the most familiar voices in radio. Broadcast pioneer Paul Harvey died at his winter home in Arizona yesterday. He was 90. Former President George W. Bush says Harvey's commentary entertained, enlightened and informed.

That and much more ahead on "State of the Union."

Supporters and critics alike agree on this: The president's new budget proposal is bold and ambitious. The bottom line: $3.6 trillion. Allies says it boldly shifts Washington's focus to the needs of the middle class. Critics say the boldness is in how much debt the president is passing on to future generations. Their biggest sticking point: a $1.75 trillion deficit.


OBAMA: While we must add to our deficits in the short term to provide immediate relief to families and get our economy moving, it is only by restoring fiscal discipline over the long run that we can produce sustained growth and shared prosperity. And that is precisely the purpose of the budget I'm submitting to Congress today.


KING: The plan calls for big changes to health care, energy, and increased taxes on the wealthy. Republicans see it as old tax-and- spend liberalism, and some Democrats have concerns, too.

Joining us now, two very different voices in the United States Congress, Democrat Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Republican Tom Price of Georgia.

Congressman DeFazio, I want to start with you, because if I go to your Web site right now -- and I have it right up here on the screen -- you have a debt clock right at the very top where you say hello to people who visit your page, $10,162,805,000,000 and counting, as you go through. Your share, every American, $33,876. If you have that on the top of your Web site, sir, and you look at the president's budget, are you comfortable with those deficit numbers? And I assume the answer is no, so what will you do about it?

DEFAZIO: Well, I'm not comfortable with them, but I'm comfortable with the fact that instead of increasing the deficit off the books like President Bush did -- we fought a war off the books. The spending didn't count. We fixed the alternative minimum tax every year off the books, never counted. And then he cut taxes for the wealthy at the same time. So between spending off the books and tax cuts, he doubled our debt in five years.

Obama -- President Obama is putting us on a path to restore fiscal responsibility, but he's starting in a big hole. So I'm going to work with the president to tighten this budget wherever we can.

I would do away with the Bush tax cuts for people over $250,000 a year income today. I would tax the guys who run those hedge funds on Wall Street the same as working Americans today. So, actually, I would take steps to increase revenues more quickly than he's willing to do, but I'm going to work to make this a better budget.

KING: Congressman Price, are deficits more acceptable as long as you're honest and open about them?

PRICE: Well, the era of big government clearly is back, John. And deficits are -- I believe deficits are not acceptable in the level to which this president has put them on the table.

The budget that he put out there is going to have the largest debt in the history of the nation over the 10-year period of time. There's more debt in this budget than there has been in this nation from 1789 until today. That's not the kind of change that the American people are interested in.

To have the next 10 years have deficits that are higher than any deficit ever in the history is just not acceptable. There are positive solutions, though, and I hope that we're able to work together to come forward with those positive solutions that would, in fact, restore economic vitality to our nation.

KING: Well, Congressman DeFazio, you said you would work with the president to tighten the budget. Families -- I've been traveling a lot in recent weeks, and families around the country are facing layoffs if they work for G.M. or Caterpillar. They're sitting around. Maybe they make $36,000 a year. They don't know what a $3.6 trillion budget is.

But they're making tough choices, canceling vacations, not going out to dinner, all sorts of things to fix the family budget. This is the president's blueprint. We'll get the details in April. This is the blueprint of the president's budget.

Name for me a tough choice in here that says, "You know what? I like this program. This program has a good goal, but it's a time we need to tighten up." DEFAZIO: Well, a tough choice in there would be we're going to stop subsidizing the banks and lend money directly to students. That means we can lend money more -- you know, more cheaply to students, and the banks are going to have to tighten their belt a little bit. We're going to make the hedge fund managers pay the same rate as taxes as an Army captain in Iraq, whereas right now they pay half the rate. So there are some tough choices.

KING: Is it a tough choice to make...


DEFAZIO: Those really aren't tough. Those are easy for me. So -- but beyond that, we're going to have to look to other areas of the budget. The president has promised to review every department, every program, and proposed to actually do away with things, something that didn't happen during the Bush era.

Remember, Congressman Price said he is ready for, you know, for these tough decisions. Well, I'd like to know what ones he's going to make, because during the Bush years, we doubled the national debt in eight years, eight years, spending off the books and tax cuts. And all I hear from the other side is, "More tax cuts." We are going to have to increase revenues, and the president is just starting to deal with that. I would deal with it more quickly.

KING: Well, Congressman Price, answer that question, because Republicans under President Bush did commit many of the sins they're now accusing President Obama of making in this budget. So I want to ask you. Congressman DeFazio says raise taxes on hedge fund managers. I don't know that that's necessarily a tough choice politically. But you help me, then, and -- and give the president a few ideas to make this blueprint a better document when we get around to the debate in April.

PRICE: Well, what I hear from our friends on the other side of the aisle is that we spent too much when we were in charge and therefore they're going to spend a whole lot more. That's not a solution.

Solutions would result in freeing up the kind of credit that needs to be freed up, and you can do that by insuring (ph) programs as opposed to taxing individuals out of the incentivization for creating jobs, providing real tax relief for families all across this nation, instead of a tax gimmick, which is included in the president's budget, and making certain that we decrease the amount of spending at the federal level, not increase the amount of spending.

This budget that's been put on the table, again, has the largest amount of debt in the history of the nation. This is not the direction in which we need to go. It's not the direction that will result in economic vitality for our nation.

And I'm hopeful that we'll be able to have an honest, open, sober, calm, reasonable discussion that will result in the kind of solutions that the American people will, in fact, be able to embrace. KING: Well, let's have a sober discussion about the challenge you face this week. The Obama budget will come up in the weeks and months ahead for debate. The government is now operating under what we call in Washington a continuing resolution, meaning you did not appropriate the money for this year's budget last year, so there's a big -- again, Washington term -- omnibus spending bill making its way through Congress, has to get to the president by the end of the week to keep the government open. It is loaded with earmarks, the things the president has said he would like to go away.

Congressman DeFazio, in your own district, in your own district, you get some $58 million in earmarks for water and transportation and energy portions of the bill we've looked at. I want you to listen to something the former speaker, Newt Gingrich, said this weekend about all these earmarks.


GINGRICH: To suggest to us that he is opposed to earmarks...


... when, the very next day, the Democrats are going to bring up a bill with 8,000 earmarks in it, and then to suggest that that one doesn't count, because they started all the pork before he got here, I was looking for change we can believe in.


KING: Congressman DeFazio, you're shaking your head at the sight and sound of your old friend, Newt Gingrich. And I think I understand why, but...

DEFAZIO: Well, I assure him...


KING: But why give him a platform? Why give him a platform? Maybe it's hypocrisy. You are welcome to call it what you will.

DEFAZIO: Well, come on.

KING: But why give him a platform by sending the president a bill with all these earmarks in it?

DEFAZIO: I'm happy to defend any and every earmark in my bill. Is all the wisdom in this country in the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., or the political appointees in Washington, D.C., or in my state capital? No.

I represent my district; I know where the needs are. And I put money toward those needs, and I put my name next to them, and I send out press releases, and I stand for election every two years.

That is good spending, when you repair a jetty, when you help a city with a water system to meet federal mandates. That's good spending, and I'm proud of it. I don't share the president's aversion to earmarks. And this is half the amount of earmarks the Republicans had the last year they were in power under George Bush, half.

KING: He has a point, Congressman Price, in that you do not have any -- we could not find any in your name -- but many of your leaders on the Republican side in Congress have loaded their share of earmarks in this, too. PRICE: Well, I believe the whole earmarking process and the budgetary process right now is corrupt and it's corrupting. The fact that the president has said that he won't sign a bill with any earmarks in it and then is embracing the bill that's on the floor right now is just disingenuous.

Going back to his budget, the budget that he has put on the table will change the very character of the nation because it will remove the ability to make charitable contributions deductible. That means that churches across this nation and synagogues across this nation and community groups all across this nation will not be receiving the same kind of support from their citizens in their communities. That's not the kind of change that the American people desire.

So what we need to do is -- is to step back, say in a cooperative fashion, look, there are good ideas on both sides, but let's come together and come up with solutions as opposed to keep throwing these stones on -- on past times.

KING: Gentlemen, we're out of time, unfortunately. We'll invite you back in the weeks and months ahead, because this is a discussion worth having. I thank you both for joining us this morning.

PRICE: Thank you, John.

DEFAZIO: Thanks, John.

KING: And just how much is President Obama moving away from the words of candidate Obama on the Iraq war? The message, then and now, just ahead.


KING: This week, we saw the president standing before a joint session of Congress, then before Marines who will soon be sent off to a very difficult mission in Afghanistan. He offered the Congress and the country a budget he says will change the status quo in Washington, and he offered surprising praise of the mission in Iraq, even as he vowed to bring those troops home.

Plenty to dissect and debate in our Sunday conversation with the best political team on television. Joining us now, veteran Democratic activist Hilary Rosen, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

I want to start there with the theater, because, again, 30-plus days, we're still learning a lot about this new president. His first time standing up there in the House of Representatives before a joint session of Congress and then, some might say more importantly, his first time standing on a military base eyeball to eyeball with the men and women he will send into harm's way. Hilary, let me just start with that. Impressions of him as the -- speaking to the nation and as a commander-in-chief?

ROSEN: Well, you know, I think the speech to the nation was critically important. We saw what the statistics were. I thought the more important speech to Congress was when he was engaging one on one on television and we saw that with the fiscal responsibility summit.

The troops, though, are such an interesting story. We saw during the campaign, when -- when candidate Obama went to Iraq, the troops surrounded him. They loved him. You know, and then they saw him play basketball and even loved him even more. So there was a real connection, I think, and a real enthusiasm for this commander-in- chief.

And I think, when he went there and said, "We finally know our mission and that's to get out," because these guys have been wondering what their mission was for the last six years. And he said, "We understand it, and now we're going to take care of you." I think that meant a lot.

KING: More on -- more on that in a second, but I know you disagree with the policy, but as a performer?

CASTELLANOS: Well, I think, as a friend told me once, that -- listening to Barack Obama give a speech is like sex. The worse there ever was, was excellent. He -- it's just terrific performance.

KING: It's 9:35 in the morning.

CASTELLANOS: On a Sunday. And it's a terrific performance. He's -- he's reassuring. He demonstrates strength. You can see that he's gotten stronger and more confident in the job.

But the problem, of course, is the split personality disorder. He gives a speech to Congress in which he talks about, "We don't want to spend, we want conservative government." He touches all right-of- center chords while proposing just the opposite.

So, at some point, there's just an inherent conflict between what he says and what he does, same thing with the military speech. I mean, it was really stunning in a way to see him say that, gosh, these troops succeeded beyond all expectations. Well, actually, no, succeeded beyond his expectations.

KING: Well, let's -- let's jump in on that point.

CASTELLANOS: Bush thought he would.

KING: But let's jump in on that point, because being president is very different from running for president. Every president learns this -- Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative -- the job is different than you think it might be when you're campaigning.

So let's listen to a little taste of Barack Obama then as the anti-war candidate and now as the commander-in-chief. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I have always believed that our invasion of Iraq was a strategic blunder for all of the reasons I've talked about, distracting us from Afghanistan, the enormous costs in blood and treasure.

You have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor and succeeded beyond any expectation.


KING: Hilary Rosen, did the anti-war Democrats who thought he was the better nominee because he was saying it was a strategic blunder, is that what they voted for, a guy who says you went in and gave a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq and you have succeeded beyond anyone's expectations?

ROSEN: There is a little irony in that, but I don't need to go there.

KING: Just a little?

ROSEN: Because we've already processed that. I -- I think what you saw, though, on these two speeches wasn't so inconsistent. What he said early on was, it was a mistake to go into Iraq. And what he said yesterday was, we know that the people, the men and women of the Armed Forces who served there have done the best they can.

But, look, the reason we're getting out is because this has never been good and he was right all along and right today. We -- we still don't have political reconciliation between the Shia and the Sunni. We still don't have an agreement on the oil revenues. We've spent a trillion dollars. Alex is freaking out about the deficit? That trillion dollars...

KING: Then why not get out now? Why wait until 2011?

ROSEN: ... would have helped a lot. Because what he did say all along during the campaign was he was going to listen to the commanders on the ground about the best way to get out. And that's the critical difference. George Bush never had a strategy there; Barack Obama's strategy is to get out safely.

CASTELLANOS: I'm sorry. I'm having trouble processing that. What he should have said is, the reason we're able to do this is because George Bush was right and I was wrong. I kept...

KING: How about John McCain?

CASTELLANOS: I kept -- and John McCain was right.

KING: When it comes to the surge, how about John McCain?


CASTELLANOS: It worked. Our troops did their job. That's why I kept the generals, George Bush's generals. That's why I kept his secretary of defense. He should have said, "George Bush was right. I was wrong. Mission accomplished, George Bush. Thank you."

KING: I don't think you're going to get that.


KING: But let's -- we only have about a minute left. I want to focus on the budget. And since we only have a short time left, let me just ask you each to sort of define for me where you see the pressure points in this debate. As you know, Republicans say, "Where are the tough choices, Mr. President? Those are huge deficits." And as you know, you guys don't have the votes.

So let's start with you, Hilary. Where's the pressure point in the budget battle?

ROSEN: I think the significant pressure points are going to be on the revenue side, because Barack Obama has made it clear -- and the Democrats in Congress believe this -- that they were elected to make change, to make investment in health care, to make investment in education, to make investment in energy. Those things will pay off for this economy over the long term. How do you pay for it? You do it the way that he promised all along. Two years from now, we're going to let those Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest expire. We've given a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of Americans. This economy is going to be built back up on the -- on the backs of working men and women the way prosperity has always happened.

KING: A 30-second rebuttal?

CASTELLANOS: Pressure point is spending. This -- this budget is five times the deficit that -- of the -- I guess each of the previous five years here. And it's -- it's stunning spending. It's indebting the next generations.

And what you're going to see Republicans do is push -- see how they made the sausage, pull out, open it up, look at every little bit of spending in there, and take that to the Democrats for the next two years.

ROSEN: George Bush never promised to cut the deficit in half.

KING: We're out of time. We'll continue this conversation. I suspect it's going -- this debate is going to live for a while. Alex Castellanos, Hilary Rosen, thanks for joining us.

A blue-collar city forced to re-think its job market, bringing new energy ideas to old industrial plants. But are green jobs really the answer to the problems of big cities? That's just ahead. Stay with us.


VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN, JR.: Investing in green jobs means two critical things for the middle-class family: one, more jobs to keep up with the 21st-century needs; and lower energy costs; and I'd add a third, a much cleaner environment.


KING: Green jobs are something many Americans are willing to try right now, even in a blue-collar city. Philadelphia is an aging industrial city, once defined by its factories and its mills. But over the years people in Philadelphia and all across Pennsylvania have watched as those jobs disappeared.

Let's take a closer look on the map. If you look at the numbers, they are stunning. A 7.0 percent unemployment rate statewide, it is even higher in the city Philadelphia. Nearly 40,000 manufacturing jobs lost just in the last year. Nearly 15,000 construction jobs, again, lost just in the last year.

So in their place, many are grateful for what President Obama sees as the future, green jobs in these cities. But will they come fast enough in a city and a state that desperately wants a way out of this recession?


KING (voice-over): Downtown Philadelphia, its struggles are hardly new, but a punishing recession, deep in despair. At Bright Hope Baptist Church, the tablecloths and plastic flower mask the grim reality. This spaghetti dinner is a lifeline to 100, maybe 125 people a day. The church relies more and more on donated canned goods, because supplies from area food banks aren't keeping up with the growing demand.

Trying times in a city and state once defined by a rugged blue- collar legacy. To some, including the new president, this is the new jobs revolution, giant wind turbines being built at a plant deserted years ago by U.S. Steel.

PECK: We're de-rusting the rust belt. We're creating good manufacturing jobs, showing that in America we can make things again and we're rolling back climate change. So it's a three-for-one. KING: Spanish company Gamesa employs 900 people in Pennsylvania. Michael Peck expects more jobs as the company expands, in part because of new energy investments in the Obama stimulus plan.

PECK: I would definitely say that people who want jobs should keep their eye on Gamesa.

KING: How many jobs is the big question. The president sees this new green economy ultimately replacing many of the manufacturing jobs that have disappeared in recent years.

Jim Bauer once had one of those jobs in the very building where he now works for Gamesa; 145 in this building, 300 in all at this location just outside of Philadelphia. The jobs math here was different, though, when U.S. Steel was thriving.

BAUER: Nine thousand to eleven thousand.

KING (on-screen): But those jobs are...

BAUER: Gone.

KING: ... gone. And you don't think they'll ever come back?

BAUER: I don't think so.

NUTTER: This is the new economy, and it's still manufacturing.

KING: This new bakery will recycle rainwater and have state-of- the-art energy efficiency, but, at the outset, Mayor Michael Nutter is told, the same 350 workers at a older Tastykakes facility across town.

(on-screen): Answer the critic out there who says they keep hearing they see no -- in a blue-collar city, talking about these green-collar jobs, who -- answer the critic who says, "They're great. That's great. We want as many of them as we can get, but it's a tiny piece of the solution."

NUTTER: You know, if you're unemployed, I think you're pretty excited about the opportunity to get one of these jobs. You know, we don't necessarily live in an environment where you can just swing for the fences and you're looking for the -- you know, the 2,000-person job opportunity. I think, you know, singles, doubles, triples, moving folks around the bases, as well.

KING (voice-over): In time, Mayor Nutter echoes the president's view that new green construction and energy jobs will grow at a much faster pace, though at the moment he isn't even sure when the first wave of stimulus money will reach the city.

NUTTER: Maybe summer, into the fall, after, you know, the rates get situated, you know, plans or applications get reviewed, and somebody checks off all of the boxes that need to be checked off.

KING: That could test patience in a city where the unemployment rate is more than 8 percent overall and in double digits among African-Americans and Latinos.

This state career help office is packed all day by people searching online for vacancies or using the hotline that rings directly to the office that processes unemployment benefits.

The Gamesa plant sent word of a few job openings, but for most the search is beyond frustrating, and they can find no evidence it will get better any time soon.


KING: The green jobs debate there in Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, also on the front pages of today's Los Angeles Times, job with the rush. It talks about a boot camp to train workers in this new wind energy business out in the California desert, so this debate will continue all across the country as we see whether we can replace old manufacturing jobs with new green jobs.

And as you know, one of our goals is to get out of Washington as often as we can. We've traveled everywhere, from Vermont to Arizona, some states in between. Now, where should we go next? You can e-mail us at -- Tell us why we should come to your community.

We want to say goodbye now to our international audience for this hour.