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'Monday Night Football' Fumble; Interview With Senator Harry Reid

Aired November 17, 2004 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome to PRIME TIME POLITICS. Glad to have you with us tonight.
This time, call it a locker room malfunction. The FCC says it got complaints about this promo on "Monday Night Football" featuring a star of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and an NFL player. We think it's an issue that is just begging to be looked at.

Also, one man leads his party in the House, the other in the Senate, but for both Tom DeLay and Harry Reid, the game of politics has turned into a game of survival.

And if you think today's big merger between Kmart and Sears is all about shopping, think again. We're going to show you how the mega-chains are shaking up American culture.

We start tonight with ABC's "Monday Night Football" fumble. In an average "Monday Night Football" telecast, you get lingering shots of muscular men in tight uniforms, frequent shots of cheerleaders dancing in tight, skimpy outfits, and a host of commercials for alcohol and erectile dysfunction fixes. But you don't normally get what viewers saw just before Monday night's game started. According to the FCC, it resulted in multiple informal complaints. And it's led to an apology from ABC, condemnation from the NFL, and criticism from FCC Chairman Michael Powell. And it's all because of this, a risque promo for ABC's hit show "Desperate Housewives."



TERRELL OWENS, NFL PLAYER: Oh, hell. Team's going to have to win this one without me.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Oh, my God. Who watches this trash? Sex, lies, betrayal.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: And that woman is just so desperate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I know what we should watch.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESSES: Are you ready for some football?


ZAHN: And joining me now from Baltimore, "Philadelphia Daily News" sports columnist John Smallwood, who thinks everyone is overreacting to this, and from Los Angeles, nationally syndicated radio talk show host J.T. "The Brick," who says it's an outrage.

Great to have both of you with us tonight.

So, John, let me get this straight. This opening segment airs at 9:00 on the East Coast, 6:00 on the West Coast, when a lot of families are watching football. You didn't have any problem with it at all?


I saw the segment. I thought it was rather funny. You know, as I digest what was going on, I understand the argument about family and kids watching this, but this was relatively tame. I mean, it was very tame. There was no nudity. It showed her back. There are a lot worse things going on, on television right now. There are a lot worse commercials, frankly, during the NFL telecasts than what went on in that opening segment, in my opinion.

ZAHN: What about that, J.T.? A lot of people point to the scantily clad cheerleaders and the multiple sexual dysfunction commercials you see during these NFL games.

J.T. "THE BRICK," RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: A lot of people have issues with that, Paula, for the right reasons, but this was over the top.

When you tune into "Monday Night Football" and you're a dad and you have a couple of little kids and you're watching the game, you don't want to have to stop and explain to your son or daughter why a beautiful blonde is dropping a towel and then jumping into the arms of a football player. You don't want to do that where I live, in Los Angeles, at 6:00 at night, where kids are turning off Nickelodeon while their parents are turning on "Monday Night Football." It's out of line.

And this is why ABC and the NFL apologized for it, because, coming off the Janet Jackson fiasco, no one wanted to see anything like that.

ZAHN: But, John, you don't even think they should apologize for this, do you?

SMALLWOOD: Well, I think it's ironic that ABC would apologize for a show that's being shown in the same time slot, at least on the East Coast. We're talking about a show, "Desperate Housewives" that comes on 9:00 on a Sunday night on the East Coast. This was done at 9:00 on a Monday night.

And for the NFL -- I just find the NFL extremely hypocritical in this situation, certainly to say -- to lay all the blame on ABC and to claim that they didn't know what was going on.

ZAHN: Yes, J.T., that seems kind of hard to believe, doesn't it to you?


ZAHN: That, first of all, ABC didn't think it would be any trouble for this in the first place, and the NFL sort of saying, we didn't know this was coming?

J.T.: Well, first off, "Desperate Housewives" is on at 9:00 on the West Coast, so that argument doesn't really make any sense when you talk about who could be watching on the West Coast.

Paula, let's go one step further. What happens if no one says anything? This coming Monday night, New England and Tom Brady travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. Should ABC put the new "Bachelorette" in a bathtub and have her come out naked and jump into the arms of Tom Brady? You have got to draw a line with decency somewhere, and I think football fans don't want to see this when they're getting ready to watch a sporting event.

ZAHN: But, John, even a lot of people think the ABC response was hollow, because what are we doing right now? We're talking about their hot new show. So doesn't ABC win one way or the other?

SMALLWOOD: Oh, it's a win-win situation for ABC.

And, frankly, if ABC really thought that someone was going to have a problem with this and this wasn't going to be an issue, somebody should lose their job, because, after the Janet Jackson fiasco, the idea that ABC would think that this wouldn't cause an uproar, it's ridiculous. Of course they knew what the response was going to be. And if they didn't, somebody really wasn't on their P's and Q's about this.

But as far as the -- what J.T. said about "The Bachelorette." I could be wrong, but last year's "Bachelor" was an NFL player, which was celebrated by the NFL.

ZAHN: What about that, J.T.?

J.T.: They don't have the bachelor running around taking towels off before football games. This is different. This is a sporting event. And parents -- Paula, again, this isn't about the 25-to-30- year-old young guy who loves it and says, let's see this every week.

This is about the mom and dad in the Midwest or anywhere else in the country that don't want to have to stop what they're doing and explain to their kids why a woman is taking a towel off before a football game. No one wants to have that conversation, especially on the West Coast at dinner time. There's no need to. If you're watching "Desperate Housewives" and you want to explain that to your kids, go ahead and do it, but not during "Monday Night Football."

ZAHN: John, you get the last word.

SMALLWOOD: Well, I would say, well, how do you explain the scantily clad cheerleaders who are shaking pom-poms every game? How do you explain the beer commercials which ooze sex during NFL telecasts, such as the twins? How do you explain all the sexual dysfunction ads that are going on in the NFL?

ZAHN: Well, J.T. says he has a problem with those too, don't you?

J.T.: Well, it has nothing to do with it. Again, those are beer commercials. But, again, when we're watching "Monday Night Football," we're talking, Paula, about a blond dropping a towel, perceiving that she's naked. And they're not going out to dinner. She was going to have sex with Terrell Owens. That's what this was all about. And I talk to listeners on my radio show who are outraged about it.

ZAHN: Well, gentlemen, you know what I would like to see the public get just as outraged by? The chronic defiling and dehumanization of women in prime-time television and the dozens of murders we see every night of women. Wouldn't you like to see people get exercised about that, John Smallwood?


SMALLWOOD: Certainly. I would definitely agree with that. You're talking about shows where you have got "CSI" and "NYPD Blue" and "Law & Order," where people are dying. We're seeing autopsies in prime-time television. So don't tell me this was over the edge compared to what's going on, on television.

ZAHN: J.T. "Brick," a quick last word.

J.T.: Well, my last word is this. We've got a lot of cleaning up to do. But when I watch a football game, I think there should be a line that is drawn after Janet Jackson. Janet Jackson caused all of this and everyone has to take a step back.

ZAHN: All right, J.T. "The Brick," John Smallwood, thank you both for joining us tonight.


ZAHN: And that brings us to our voting booth question tonight. Was ABC's opening to the Philadelphia-Dallas game inappropriate? Vote at And we'll have the results at the end of the hour.

And there's much more ahead, including a corporate merger with consequences far beyond the shopping mall.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a fantastic blue light special for you.

ZAHN (voice-over): It's the blue light bounce, from bankruptcy to big time. Kmart swallows Sears. Should Wal-Mart be worried? Should you? Lower prices, lost jobs, and a new kind of culture, tonight the marting of America.

And like him or not, he's still a political superstar. And she stars in the Senate for now. America's power couple, the Clinton dynasty -- all that and more as PRIME TIME POLITICS continues.



ZAHN: So, if you don't like the rules, just change them. Today, Republicans in the House approved a rule change that will let majority leader Tom DeLay keep his leadership position even if he's indicted by a Texas grand jury investigating corruption charges. So far, there's no indication that's going to happen. So today's decisions by Republicans is just in case.

Here's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fearing indictment of majority leader Tom DeLay in Texas, loyal rank-and-file House Republicans moved to protect him from losing power. They see the Texas case, led by a Democratic prosecutor, as politically motivated.

REP. HENRY BONILLA (R), TEXAS: We are trying to protect members of our leadership from any crackpot district attorney in any state in the nation from taking on a political agenda.

JOHNS: House Republicans voted to change a rule that requires members of the leadership to step down, at least temporarily, if under indictment. The new rule says they only have to step down if convicted. In the case of an indictment, a steering committee of Republicans first decides whether the charges are serious enough to require stepping aside. Delay steadfastly defended the decision.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: The Democrats have decided that they're going to use politics of personal destruction to gain power, and what we are doing is protecting ourselves from those assaults.

JOHNS: Three of DeLay's associates have been indicted in the Texas case for alleged violations in 2002 of a state law against corporate contributions to political campaigns. DeLay denies wrongdoing and says he hasn't even been questioned in the case.

Still, some House Republicans, like Chris Shays of Connecticut, oppose changing the rule, because it rolls back a reform they put in place 10 years ago to distinguish themselves from ethical lapses by some top Democrats.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I just think it's a slippery slope, that we're building momentum in, and we're losing our uniqueness and our difference.

JOHNS: Democrats went on the attack.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: That the first order of business following the election on the part of the Republican majority is to lower their ethical standards for their leaders in the Congress by saying that, if indicted, you can serve.

JOHNS: For the record, the rule for House Democrats says committee chairs have to step down if indicted, but it doesn't apply to the elected party leaders. The office of Nancy Pelosi says she learned that only today and now plans to change it.


ZAHN: And that was Joe Johns reporting for us tonight.

Joining me now from Washington, Republican Representative Henry Bonilla of Texas.

Always good to see you, sir. Welcome back.

BONILLA: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: I want to start off tonight by sharing with our audience some comments of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday, where she said -- quote -- "If they make this rules change, Republicans will confirm yet again that they simply do not care if their leaders are ethical. And she isn't the only one concerned about it."

Even Republican Congressman Chris Shays is saying, if you go down this path, it's a pretty slippery slope. Do you agree with him?

BONILLA: Well, again, I think the recent election showed that Nancy's a little out of touch with what the mainstream American is thinking these days.

ZAHN: Is Chris Shays out of touch, too?


BONILLA: We enforced -- I disagree with what Chris Shays says as well.

What we did today was say very clearly that if you're convicted of any felony in this country, you are out as a leader in the House of Representatives, or you are out as a chairman. And we also added credibility to this whole process by forcing our steering committee to take a look at indictments, and we put a timeline on it as well.

But what we also did was prevent any local district attorney out there that may have a partisan agenda or they might like seeing themselves in the headlines or pictures in the paper and therefore go after elected officials to indict them. Anyone can be indicted in this country for just about anything on hearsay. And it's wrong.

Most Americans, at their normal jobs that they go to every day, if they are falsely accused of something, don't have to leave their jobs until there's an actual court action or they're convicted. And we're just trying to align ourselves with what most Americans are facing out there every day.

ZAHN: But, sir, don't you also understand how some Americans looking at this from the outside are saying, wait a minute, they're just changing the rules to accommodate their circumstances here?

BONILLA: Well, these rules apply to anybody in leadership or any committee chairman or subcommittee chairman. This is not designed for one particular individual. I know there's speculation that it is, but anyone falls under this umbrella.

And for the Democrats to stand up, like Nancy Pelosi does, and talk about what this may or may not do to the perception of Congress here is hypocritical. There were no -- as of today, there were absolutely no comparable rules on the Democratic side dealing with their leadership at all whatsoever. We at least had a previous set of rules in place. Today, we made them stronger and gave ourselves more credibility with a process that deals with indictments. So for her to stand up and...


ZAHN: Congressman, to be perfectly fair, a lot of people thought those rules never would have gone through if it hadn't been for the Democrat Dan Rostenkowski being in trouble. And they felt that the express purpose of putting these rules into effect was to embarrass and humiliate them.

BONILLA: Well, again, what may or may not have happened with that person many years ago is ancient history.

We're dealing with the future here from today forward for any leadership office holder or any committee chairman or subcommittee chair.

ZAHN: Sir, we're going to leave the debate there this evening. Congressman Bonilla, thanks for dropping by.

BONILLA: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: And coming up next, we'll cross over to the other side of the aisle to talk with the new Senate minority leader about the future of his party, Senator Harry Reid and the survival of the Democrats when we come back.


ZAHN: Well, it's been a pretty dreadful month for most members of the Democratic Party, with one notable exception.

My next guest was reelected even though he's from a red state. And this week he won another election. He's now the Democratic Party's leader in the United States Senate.


ZAHN (voice-over): You might be tempted to ask, Harry who? But you won't find Democrats or Republicans asking that on Capitol Hill. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is now the country's highest ranking elected Democrat. He's a man of great faith, opposes abortion, and has a reputation for working with Republicans up to a point. SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: We're going to work with the president. He said four years ago he wanted to be a uniter. He called me the day after the election and said he wanted to be a uniter. It didn't work too well the first four years. We hope it works the second four years.

ZAHN: Don't doubt his toughness. As Nevada gaming commissioner, he lived with death threats from mobsters, who didn't care about his reform agenda. The Senate's No. 2 Democrat since 1998, he's been overshadowed by Majority Leader Tom Daschle. But he's become a master of the Senate's rules and procedures, a skill that will come in handy if the 55 Republicans in the new majority try to change the rules and break the minority's powerful weapon of the filibuster.

REID: I'm not an untested vessel. I've been in the Senate for 18 years. I've served six years as Senator Daschle's assistant, and I think my record speaks for itself, and I always would rather dance than fight. But I know how to fight.

ZAHN: The onetime amateur boxer faces some big ones, conservative judicial candidates, possibly including Supreme Court nominees, Social Security, and tax reform, even the president's desire to store nuclear waste at Yucca Flats in Reid's home state.

But consider this. In a year that Nevada and 51 percent of the nation went Republican, Harry Reid was reelected with 61 percent of the vote. He must be doing something right.


ZAHN: And Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Congratulations, sir, and welcome.

REID: Thank you. Thank you very much, Paula.

ZAHN: So, Senator Reid, it strikes me, with the Republicans' control of the House and the Senate and the presidency and the courts, that you're going to be doing a lot more fighting than dancing. Do you think you'll accomplish any more in the next four years than what you've done in the last four?

REID: Well, I think the president has to make a decision, whether he wants to leave the presidency as having accomplished little, if anything, or he wants to leave the presidency having accomplished something.

We're willing to work with the president. You know, the founding fathers, when they set up this country and the Constitution, they gave the Senate great power, even those in the minority great power. Now, we have that power. We are going to use it to represent the millions of people who believe that we are on the right track to solving the problems of this country, dealing with health care and jobs and all the other things that people feel are so important. So it's really up to him, not up to us. ZAHN: But, Senator, you have rather pointedly said that you don't think anything got done over the last four years. You've had what you have described as a cordial conversation with the president. Do you have any confidence that he will move in that direction, where there is a bipartisan consensus?

REID: The president this morning in a meeting that I had with him, a breakfast meeting, he says, look, I'm a lame-duck president. I'm not running for anything. I only want us to try to accomplish a few things that he believes in.

That's fine. I think that's good. I have a good relationship with Bill Frist. I'm willing to work with him. I've had experience working the floor. But the ball is in their court. We're the loyal opposition, and we're going to work as one should, to do what's good for this country.

ZAHN: Do you think you'll find a consensus when it comes to Social Security?

REID: It's now up to the president to act and give us some legislation that he thinks should be enacted to change things. I'm not one who jumps up and down with glee that he wants to privatize Social Security, but if he has a reasonable plan, I'm willing to take a look at it.

ZAHN: How about tax reform?

REID: Tax reform, I think the people that are talking about tax simplification, I think they're right on the mark. All Democratic senators are willing to work with the president to come up with a more simple system.

ZAHN: I want to talk about what's happening within your own party. We have seen some very public displays of self-loathing among Democrats, particularly coming out of the loss of the presidential election. Do you think your party's out of touch with the social mores of the society?

REID: At the grassroots level, we did extremely well. We took over legislatures all over the country, including places like North Carolina. We did extremely well.

Where we didn't do well is where the president, a wartime president, and all the negative advertising that they had in the Senate races. And I think that we should not walk around with our -- as my mom would say, our tail between our legs. I think we did OK, certainly not great in the federal races, but it's nothing that we have to hang our head in shame. If you add them all up, we did pretty well.

ZAHN: But don't you think Democrats bear some responsibility for losing seats in the House and the Senate and for losing the presidency? It's not just all about negative advertising.

REID: Sure. We could have done better. It would have been good if our presidential candidate had gone to places like Alaska and done more work in North Carolina and South Carolina, just to change that a little bit. You only needed to change that a little bit. We cannot in the future ignore the so-called red states.

ZAHN: Back to the reality of what you face over the next four year. With a Republican-controlled House, Senate and presidency, the GOP says it's going to try to strip Democrats of their ability to filibuster, particularly when it comes to judicial appointments. Is that going to skate through?

REID: Well, that's up to the Republicans. Everyone understand this; 203 judges were approved during this first four years and 10 turned down, 203-10. It doesn't sound like a lot of obstruction to me. So if they want to change years of tradition in the United States Senate, always remember, the majority they have now is only temporary, certainly by constitutional standards.

And if they change it, we're going to come back, and we'll have those same rules to look at them with. I think they better be very, very careful changing, especially when you understand the actual numbers, 203-10.

ZAHN: Senator, do you think Republicans are taking what you just said seriously?

REID: No. I think they're believing their own rhetoric. I think they really believe that judges were obstructed. And, as I say, any number you play, whether it's in a football game or the judges the president had, 203-10 is a pretty good victory for them.

ZAHN: Senator Harry Reid, again, congratulations.

REID: Thank you very much, Paula.

ZAHN: And thanks so much for your time. Good luck to you.

And the word values can mean different things to different people, whether you're talking politics or purchasing power. Kmart and Sears, another retail giant is about to be born to compete with the world's largest retailer. What it means for consumers and the cost to American culture when we come back.


ZAHN: Sears and Kmart are merging to create the nation's number three retailer behind Wal-Mart and Home Depot. It's a business story that raises a lot of political questions about the mom and pop stores that compete against the mega-stores, about the employees who work for them, and about who decides what the rest of us get to buy. Here's "Fortune" magazine's Andy Serwer.


ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE (voice-over): In the span of only a few decades, Wal-Mart, once a tiny retailer out of Bentonville, Arkansas, has become the largest company in the world. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your company was the first company on the planet to report one quarter of a trillion dollars in sales. $256 billion.

SERWER: A new PBS documentary, "Is Wal-Mart Good For America?" captured the company's annual shareholder meeting, filled with thousands of enthusiastic employees, part revival meeting, part pep rally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love Wal-Mart. When you walk in the first thing they say is welcome to Wal-Mart.

SERWER: Wal-Mart has taken a stand in the nation's culture wars as well. Wal-Mart won't stock Jon Stewart's new book called "America The Book" because of a photograph it deems tasteless, and it won't sell "Maxim" and other magazines and CDs it considers too racy.

Even more than Standard Oil or General Motors in generations past, you could argue that Wal-Mart has amassed more power than any company in our nation's history. Wal-Mart's impact on our economy is monstrous. That $250 billion in sales is about 2.4 percent of the total U.S. GDP. Wal-Mart's sales on a recent day $1.42 billion, were larger than the GDPs of 36 countries. It is the biggest employer in 21 states, with more people in uniform than the U.S. army.

KIM GARDY, PRES, NATL. CMTE. FOR WOMEN: In many towns, as you know, Wal-Mart is the only large employer and has actually driven out a lot of the smaller employers, so some people really don't have any choice but to work at Wal-Mart.

SERWER: Critics also charge that Wal-Mart discriminates against women, is anti-union, and pays substandard wages. Wal-Mart chairman Rob Walton responded, quote, "some of what they are saying is right, and it hurts to be vilified. But some of our opponents have agendas too. The unions are looking to organize. When you are the biggest company in the world, you get this kind of attention. We're getting better, though, and in the end it will make us stronger."

And then there's the issue of exporting the American economy overseas. "Is Wal-Mart Good For America?" reports that 100 million Americans are shopping at a store that produces many of its goods in China. But all that must be balanced by this simple fact. Millions of Americans like to shop at Wal-Mart, and they do so to get those low prices, and that, Wal-Mart boosters say, has enabled those millions of Americans to buy CD players and clothes and even groceries that they might not otherwise be able to afford.


ZAHN: And that was Andy Serwer, reporting for us tonight. And joining me now to talk about the Wal-Marting, Targeting, and now Searsing of America, Steve Forbes, the president and CEO of Forbes Incorporated. He's also a former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Always good to see you, welcome.

STEVE FORBES, PRESIDENT & CEO, FORBES INC.: Good to be with you, Paula.

ZAHN: So we've seen a bunch of analysts take a look at these large retailers that seem to be growing bigger and bigger every day, and they feel that these companies have suppressed wages, and they're not so good for the economy. What do you think?

FORBES: What these companies do is supply low prices, which enable people to keep more of their income, spend more, and that's why these companies succeed. Wal-Mart, for example, is probably the only entity in the world with more than a million people that makes money. We've had armies with more than a million, post offices with more than a million, but they don't make money. Wal-Mart manifestly does in two businesses, both groceries and retailing, with very low, tight margins. So they do pay going wages. They are able to hire people. But it's a competitive environment.

ZAHN: Competitive environment? A lot of people are losing their jobs, they say, due to the outsourcing that's done to provide the kind of inventories you have to have to provide for these large retail chains.

FORBES: You're always having industries where you have contractions and expansions. Railroads in the last 40 years have shed a million people, same with the steel industry, as other parts of the economy grow. So the overall standard of living goes up, but the cost for these goods and services come down, which enable people to invest more in other areas of the economy.

ZAHN: And on to an equally controversial subject, and that is the subject of tax reform in this country. I've talked privately with a number of senators who suggest that this president does not have the will to push through tax reform, nor does this Congress have the guts to see it through. What do you think?

FORBES: I think the president, having made the pledge in the campaign, will make a very serious effort to push for tax reform. One of the things I think that the Treasury Department will be tasked with in the next few months is to appoint a commission and come up with recommendations by year end. Before then, I think the president will push to make the tax cuts that he passed last year permanent, and I think right now, when you undertake something as major as reforming the tax code, you are going to be tested. And he's already being tested now, and I think with this president, when you test him, he fights back.

ZAHN: And a lot of people are going to come after him. There are a lot of interest groups that would be deeply impacted by tax reform.

FORBES: Well, that's right. And that's why I hope, when they decide to make formal proposals instead of trimming around the edges, they go for something big. You know, 1986, we had some tax reform, rates got down to 28 percent, two brackets. But they left the code in place, so like a monster movie in Hollywood, the monster came back again, and we have more credits, more amendments, more words than ever before. I hope they just scrap the thing and start over with something simple so come tax day you can fill out your return on a single sheet of paper.

ZAHN: Wouldn't that be a relief to all of America? Do you think the political will exists to do what you're talking about?

FORBES: I think, if the president makes it a priority, takes his case to the American people, I think he'd find a lot of support. Nobody believes this tax code has any moral justification. It is a sewer, source of corruption, something that is absolutely incomprehensible, no need why free people should put up with it.

ZAHN: Final question about the tax cuts you mentioned. A lot of independent analysts suggest that a third of the deficit we see today is because of the tax cuts the president implemented.

FORBES: Actually, the deficit would be higher today if those tax cuts of 2003 had not been enacted.

ZAHN: So you don't even subscribe to the view that it has added to the deficit?

FORBES: Of course not. The economy has grown. After those tax cuts of May 2003 the economy really started to grow again. America today, for all of our problems, has the highest growth rate of any developed economy in the world. The stock market, for all of its volatility, is now worth $3 trillion more than it was a year and a half ago. So the thing has already paid for itself. And in terms of the deficit itself, the real problem has been unrestrained spending. I think now where you're starting to see a little bit of restraint, a little bit of restraint would go a long way. Washington did go on a binge on spending, and we've got to reign it in.

ZAHN: Steve Forbes, good to see you. Thanks for dropping by. Appreciate it. Always great to see you.

ZAHN: It's been a while since Bill and Hillary Clinton have called the White House home, but they've still got plenty of star power. The Democrats get ready to salute the former president and the senator at the opening of the new Clinton Presidential Library. That's next.


ZAHN: Tomorrow thousands of guests will celebrate the opening of Bill Clinton's presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas. And earlier this morning, CNN cameras were allowed inside for a preview of some of the exhibits.

And as you can see, they include a presidential limousine, as well as a life-sized model of the Oval Office when the president served. Visitors will also hear from former cabinet members about the challenges the president faced during his administration.

The opening of the library is one chance for Democrats to actually have a post-election party. It's also a chance to shine light on a pair who remain the Democrats' No. 1 power couple, four years after their White House days ended.

Here's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is perfect: an outsized complex for a larger than life politician. Architectural critics complained it looks like a $165 million 148,000 square foot doublewide.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The London "Economist," in typical snide form, compared it to a glorified house trailer. And I thought, well, that's me. I'm a little red and a little blue.

CROWLEY: How the Democrats miss him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He could be president forever as far as I'm concerned.

CROWLEY: It's been only four years, for heaven's sakes, but two agonizing elections have made Democrats feel like they're living dog years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was just a sense of this was a person to whom we could connect.

CROWLEY: So as 30,000 people from Hollywood to Armenia gather to honor the blue state's favorite politician with the red state appeal, they are not just vetting the old days, they are fretting the days ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they're going to have to find another Bill Clinton, or they're going to be in trouble.

CROWLEY: Aye, there's the rub. He casts a shadow so long that even in retirement, Bill Clinton remains the pulse of the party, and not everyone seems thrilled.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), INCOMING MINORITY LEADER: We have to lean on him when we can, listen to what he has, and weigh what he has to say with what he doesn't have to say. I don't think that the Democratic Party is dependent on Bill Clinton.

CROWLEY: Still, Democrats fumble when pressed to name the next Bill Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the next four years there's going to be a big shake-up, and we'll see some people float to the top. But I think that Dean has done a great job kind of rallying the base, and we may see Hillary in '08, so you never know. CROWLEY: There's an awful lot of that Hillary '08 talk in Little Rock this week.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think that I wouldn't underestimate her.

CROWLEY: And barring some kind of constitutional rewrite, what is closer to Clinton than another one?

PODESTA: She's had a tremendous run in the Senate. She's become a great senator, and she's got -- she's charismatic. She's got a lot of talent.

CROWLEY: And she is one of few Democrats who have thrived in the shadow of Bill Clinton.


ZAHN: And that was Candy Crowley reporting for us tonight.

Joining me now from Little Rock, former Clinton campaign manager James Carville, co-host of "CROSSFIRE," and former Clinton administration press secretary Mike McCurry, who was also a senior advisor to the Kerry campaign.

Good to see both of you. Welcome.



ZAHN: Thank you.

So James, before we get to the issue of the library, I want to start with all the Hillary talk here today, the continued speculation about her political future, her aides confirming that she will run for her Senate seat again in 2006.

Do you see her running for president in 2008?

CARVILLE: I don't know. I'm just trying to get -- just trying to get to the library opening.

It's hardly a surprise to anybody that the senator would be running for re-election. I suspect that she and a lot of people around her are going to get through this opening and get through the holidays, and I'm sure they'll get to her political future beyond the yard sometime.

ZAHN: James, you don't think I'm going to let you get away with that dodge there, do you?

CARVILLE: Well, let me get away with it or not, I'm going to dodge it anyway, because I don't know the answer to it.

MCCURRY: Paula... CARVILLE: She's going to run for re-election.

MCCURRY: Sometimes you have to dodge when you have no earthly idea what the answer is.

ZAHN: Are you in that camp, Mike? You have no idea what she might do in 2008?

MCCURRY: I think -- I don't know what the answer is. I do know that she's done a great job in New York.

You know, I used to work for Pat Moynihan when he was senator from New York. And Hillary really went upstate New York and won the hearts of people up there. That's hard to do, because that's pretty much red state country in some of those counties up there.

But I think she proved that she's got that kind of appeal. Now, whether you can translate what she's done in New York nationwide or whether you need to run for Senate first and establish the fact that you've got statewide appeal in New York, that's something that her folks will have to look at and calculate.

But she's a formidable presence on the national scene. She'll be as much in the spotlight here as President Clinton in some ways, because she played an exceptional role in this administration.

So you know, I'd say all the more power to her. She's got an important voice, and the Democrats need right now important voices that are talking about issues.

ZAHN: James, onto the issue of the opening of the library here. I guess I was struck by the fact that this is a president that is not shying away from the controversies that might have ended his presidency when it comes to the Whitewater investigation, the impeachment, the whole Monica Lewinsky chapter of his presidency.

Why do you think the president wanted that out there in the library?

MCCURRY: Well, go ahead.

I mean, it's part of his record. It's part of the history of that administration. There was a determined effort to, you know, bring him down. There was the impeachment. There was some things -- some things of his own making that he acknowledged and he apologized for. But that's part of who he is.

I think this is a library that's very genuine, very authentic, and speaks to his true record. And I think that's what most Americans would expect out of a presidential library.

ZAHN: Don't you think, James, it would be pretty disarming...

CARVILLE: I think it would be a record of employment, the service we had, the respect the United States had around the world, the fact that we're able to grow the economy with low inflation, the fact that he was able to expand this economy, unlike this current crowd, which has turned a surplus into a deficit, which has turned worldwide respect into almost contempt for America around the world.

So I look back on President Clinton's administration as a time of great accomplishment for not just President Clinton, but for the United States, and something I was very proud to be against.

And the fact that some of the most wretched people in modern American history came after him is nothing but a source of pride to me that I was able to help him during that time.

MCCURRY: Paula, it's extraordinary the number of foreign dignitaries that are coming here. I ran into Shimon Peres in the lobby of the hotel here.

There are a lot of people who remember the Clinton years as a time in which America's prestige in America counted for something. And we offered some leadership. We weren't having to apologize around the world for what we were up to.

And I think that's a real problem that President Bush is going to need to address as he looks ahead to a second term.

ZAHN: What has happened to his party, James, since he left office? Why didn't you do better in this election?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, you know, Paula, I'm here to celebrate the opening of a guy whose campaign I ran in 1992. You haven't asked me one question about his presidency, about what it feels like to be here today.

I'm sure there's going to be plenty of time to reassess what happened in the campaign. I'm obviously very disappointed about what happened, but I'm very proud of what's going on here in Little Rock today.

ZAHN: Well, as you walk through the library and you're confronted with the multi-faceted picture of the presidency, James, what is it that strikes you the most?

CARVILLE: What strikes me the most is that I worked very hard in 1992 to change America. We turned record deficits into surpluses, that employment was at an all-time high, that America was united like it never was before, that I traveled around the world as an American, and I was respected everywhere that I went. That people felt like the United States really stood for something good, that we were part of the world.

And I have a great deal of pride in what we accomplished in 1992. I have a great deal of pride in what President Clinton accomplished in eight years of the presidency. I was very proud to stand at his side when people tried to overturn the 1996 election.

And I was very glad that we were able to beat that back. I think it was a very historical achievement, and I'm very proud of it. ZAHN: And Mike, finally tonight, we know that the opening of this library is the end of a long emotional journey for the president. I know you both have spoken extensively with him.

Mike, what is he saying about the impact of tomorrow and what it means to him?

MCCURRY: Well, first of all, it's not the end of a journey. I think one of the extraordinary things is all the work he's doing now through his foundation, through the work he's doing around the world for AIDS, through economic empowerment, through helping people, bringing some of that hope that characterized his presidency to people around the world.

I think there's a lot of work that he intends to do going forward from here. There's a foundation office that's based here nearby, as well as the library, and a lot of work that he is proud and excited to do.

And I think -- going back to the other question, he also gave Democrats a formula on how to win, on how to broaden, you know, our lens a little bit so we're talking to a big cross-section of America. That's a lesson that, I think, Democrats will be thinking about as we celebrate the opening of the library.

ZAHN: Well, maybe you have to clone James Carville again, Mike. Maybe that's the answer.

CARVILLE: Maybe we get that.

MCCURRY: He's up to it.

CARVILLE: I don't know. I'm 60 years old, Paula. Unlike the United States, my best days are behind me. I think America's best days are ahead of it. I'm 60 years old.

MCCURRY: I don't know about that.

CARVILLE: I'm an old washed up guy coming back here for a little nostalgia. That's all.

ZAHN: All I can tell you is we've never seen anyone run a war room quite like James Carville.

James Carville, Mike McCurry, congratulations.

CARVILLE: Thank you, Paula. Appreciate it. Bye-bye.

ZAHN: Thank you for joining us on the eve of the opening of the library.

And Senator Hillary Clinton is Larry King's guest tonight. It is her first prime time interview since the election. And it starts in just a few minutes at 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And here's a quick look at late night television's take on what's making news in Washington and Little Rock.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Have you heard about this down in Washington yesterday? A man tried to jump the White House fence. Tried to jump the White House fence. However, good thing he was knocked back over by fleeing Bush cabinet members. Knocked him down.

There are big shake-ups in the Bush White House. I don't know. You know, it's hard to picture the Bush administration without Spencer Abraham, isn't it? Anybody have wet socks?

JAY LENO, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": And the library will be officially dedicated on Thursday. I suppose there will be some sort of ribbon cutting ceremony?

FRED WILLARD, COMEDIAN: Not exactly, Jay. President Clinton will just pull down a really big zipper.

LENO: I see. OK. Let me ask, what did you do before you were hired as library director?

WILLARD: I ran an adult bookstore on 42nd Street in New York. Damn Giuliani ran me out of business.

LENO: I see.

Well, how did you meet President Clinton?

WILLARD: I just told you. I used to run an adult bookstore on 42nd Street.


ZAHN: Ouch.

And it was President Bush that appeared at a White House event today that for once didn't ruffle many partisan feathers, but the annual pardon of the Thanksgiving turkey gave Jeanne Moos some ideas about turkey, sushi, the Virgin Mary, and grilled cheese sandwiches. That's next.


ZAHN: So today President Bush pardoned the national turkey, two of them, actually. Granted them the traditional Thanksgiving reprieve. Somehow that got our Jeanne Moos musing about turkey, sushi, and the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich. Talk about food for thought.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Turkey, sushi, and grilled cheese? Something's fishy about that combination. We begin with the president's annual turkey pardon. A turkey named Biscuits and his backup named Gravy got the reprieve. Their names the result of a close vote at the White House web site.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You might say it was neck and neck.

MOOS: Biscuits wasn't laughing. Biscuits and Gravy beat out Patience and Fortitude. The president joked about the hard fought name campaign.

BUSH: There was a scurrilous film that came out, "Fahrenheit 375 degrees at ten minutes per pound."

MOOS: In JFK's day, the turkey came with a sigh, good eating, Mr. President. Now the pardon has become a tradition.

But that didn't stop the animal rights group PETA from saying "pardon me." PETA wrote the president saying, "the average life expectancy of the six birds you've pardoned so far is less than three months," thanks to the way turkeys are bred.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm allergic to birds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you're not.

MOOS: Even as PETA defended turkeys, the group spawned this headline. "Sushi, smarter than you thought." PETA wants people to stop eating fish, arguing that more and more scientists say fish have intelligence and long-term memory.

But if sushi is too smart to eat, what's next? Grilled cheese?


MOOS: This grilled cheese is off limits because a Florida woman claims the image of the Virgin Mary appeared on it ten years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I went to take that first bite, she was looking back at me.

MOOS (on camera): Maybe if we took a bite, something would stare back at us.

(voice-over) No such luck.

The Virgin Mary grilled cheese is being auctioned on eBay for over $69,000. It's spawned a hoast of hoaxes from the pope pork chop to the grilled cheese Olsen twins.

Upon closer inspection of the original...

(on camera) This does not look like the Virgin Mary. This looks like Greta Garbo.

(voice-over) Someone even created a grilled W. Grilled but at least he didn't get drilled at the turkey pardon. This is one photo op where you can't expect the turkey to say cheese. The president squeezed to avoid what happened three years ago, when the turkey tried to spear him like sushi.


ZAHN: Our Jeanne Moos.

And we'll be right back with the results of tonight's "Voting Booth" question.


ZAHN: And here are the results of tonight's "Voting Booth" question. Just a random sampling from those of you who voted on our web site, not a scientific poll. Thanks for logging on.

And thanks for spending the hour with us tonight. Tomorrow, religion, politics and the IRS. Did some churches step over the line during the presidential campaign? That debate tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next with his guest, Senator Hillary Clinton. Have a great night.


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