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Hillary Clinton Addresses Mortgage Crisis; Interview With James Carville

Aired March 24, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, everybody, we have got a reality check on what voters keep telling us is the most important issue in this campaign, the economy.
For the first time in a while, there is some good news. The market closed up almost 200 points. Home sales were up slightly in February, but the housing crisis, with its bankruptcy and declining home values, is really weighing on people's minds.

Well, Hillary Clinton gave a big speech about it today, complete with a four-point plan to fix the mortgage mess. For some, this may mean keeping their home, but will it make enough of a difference for everybody else? We are going to try to get you some answers tonight.

And, while she's out on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama is on vacation. We have got some exclusive pictures from his Virgin Islands vacation spot.

And Senator John McCain is home from Iraq and telling people he has proof the Democrats are dead wrong about ending the war.

The best political team on television is listening to the candidates. Tonight, they're joined by one of CNN's smartest money guys, Ali Velshi.

So, let's start now with the economy.

As we said, it's one of the voter's biggest concerns, from what they're telling us in all the polls.

Our Dan Lothian was in Philadelphia when Senator Hillary Clinton proposed a detailed solution to the mortgage crisis.

Dan, tell us what she had to say today.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, really, Campbell, she painted a very dark picture of the economy and then she went after President Bush, and she said he really hadn't been aggressive enough in sort of heading off this problem, even though there were many warning signs long before it got to this point.

And then she laid out that four-point plan, which I know we will be getting into details in just a bit. But one of those points was setting up a working -- an emergency working committee, an emergency committee made up of some of the top financial experts, like Alan Greenspan. And they would come up with some new ideas in order to deal with the mortgage crisis.

She also brought back something, Campbell, that she put out on the campaign trail last week. And that is calling for another stimulus plan, which would provide up to $30 billion not only for individuals, but for communities, for states, in order to deal with the foreclosure problem.

BROWN: And, Dan...


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Congress has tried to combat a recession caused by the housing crisis without doing anything to address that crisis.

Well, if the Fed can extend $30 billion to help Bear Stearns address their financial crisis, the federal government should provide at least that much emergency assistance to help families and communities address theirs.


BROWN: So, Dan, why now? What's behind the timing of this proposal?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, you have been talking about it, how this really is an issue that's so important for all voters. And we have been saying that it's issue number one. When you talk to both Republicans and Democrats, the economy always comes up as the most important issue.

And here in Pennsylvania, they have been hit hard. In some areas of the state, they have been hit hard by foreclosures, certainly not like what we have seen in places like Florida or Nevada. But, nonetheless, it's an important issue here, and Senator Clinton really wants to be strong on the economy.

BROWN: And, Dan, has there been any reaction yet from the Obama campaign?

LOTHIAN: Well, the Obama campaign, obviously, pointing out the positives, saying that there are a lot of good things in what she talked about today, but they also said it's essentially like deja vu. These are things that she's talked about before. Some of these things are things that they have even brought up. They pointed out this working committee sounds something very much like something that they pitched to the Federal Reserve about a year ago.

They were also critical of the Clinton campaign saying that they have received tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists who have been involved in the subprime mortgage mess. And the campaign manager for Obama saying -- quote -- "If we're really going to crack down on the practices that causes the credit and housing crisis, we're going to need a leader who doesn't owe anything to those industries, any favors to those industries" -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Dan Lothian for us tonight -- Dan, thanks.

Right now, we want to move past the politics of Clinton's plan.

CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi is here to explain exactly what it means.

And, Ali, we just want you to do this in the plainest English possible.


BROWN: We're going to go through it point by point.

And let's start with her first point, which she's proposing a government guarantee to buy unwanted mortgages. How does that work?

VELSHI: Well, Campbell, what it is, in the old days, it used to be that a bank took deposits from people, used that money, and gave it out as mortgages to other people.

But, in the last several years, that's changed. Anybody can borrow money pretty much from anyone, give that mortgage to someone else, and when they need more money, they basically just package that mortgage into a bundle and sell it off. Well, that's where the market has fallen out. Nobody wants to buy these bundles of mortgages. And that's whittling its way down to the individual mortgage holder.

So, Hillary Clinton is saying, if there's no market for these mortgages, which we have seen there isn't, she wants the government like the Federal Housing Authority to step in and guarantee that mortgages, even subprime, risky, bad mortgages will be guaranteed by the government, so that there's always some place for people to go to borrow money or to refinance or do something if they're facing repossession of their homes -- Campbell.

BROWN: OK. And, Ali, point number two, and this is something that Dan mentioned a minute ago, which is the proposal of this emergency working group of economic big shots. You know, who are they? What would they do?

VELSHI: Well, the idea is -- and Dan mentioned some of these names, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, who was the Fed chairman before Greenspan, Bob Rubin, who was the treasury secretary under Clinton.

The idea is that they're not part of Congress. I think Hillary Clinton's point was that, while Congress moved well on the stimulus passage, it took too long to get the deal, to cut the checks. A group outside of Congress can evaluate what needs to be done fast, and she's talking about within a matter of weeks, and suggest to the president what can be done now.

The interesting thing here, Campbell, is Hillary Clinton's not talking about what she would do as president. She's talking about what the president should do right now.

BROWN: All right, Ali. And our third point is, she wants to give a little bit of legal help to mortgage lenders who are worried about getting sued. Explain how this would work.

VELSHI: Well, let's say you think your mortgage is with Countrywide, because that's who you took it out with, and that's just an example. Many mortgages these days are administered by a mortgage servicer. And that might be Countrywide or Citibank or whomever, but the mortgage was actually resold to someone else and is owned by someone else.

So, when you call to say, I'm having trouble paying off my mortgage, the person you're talking to may want to help you, they may want to help you restructure it, so you can actually refinance and keep on paying that mortgage, but they might be worried about getting sued by the people who actually own that mortgage, who are going to say, that's not the deal we signed out for.

So, she wants the services of the mortgage to know what their rights are and be able to negotiate properly with a homeowner to renegotiate a deal if that is what it will take to keep people in their homes.


And, then, finally, she's talking about funneling $30 billion into local communities. Where's that money going to come from?

VELSHI: Same place the money always comes from, the treasury, or, in this case, you and me.

The bottom line is, she is saying she wants localities and states to be able to buy up homes in heavily foreclosed areas, maybe rent them out, or resell them to low-income people or redevelop them. The idea is that there's a lot of crime that gathers in these places that affects everybody else's property values. She wants cities and states to get access to that money, so they can buy up some of that property and try to keep property values up. That's a little bit dodgy, but I must say, at least her proposals here are very specific. They're pretty detailed.

BROWN: Well, they are detailed. How do they compare to what we're hearing from Obama, from Senator McCain?

VELSHI: Whole campaign, of these three remaining candidates, Hillary Clinton has been first out of the gate with a mortgage relief proposal. Some of the stuff that she's been proposing for a long time is what the government did, that freeze on repossessions.

She's been very detailed. She continues to be very detailed about it. Some of these will work. Some of these will not, but at least she has put proposals in front of the Bush administration for them to actually take a serious look at. They certainly are worth a look, Campbell.

BROWN: OK, Ali Velshi for us tonight -- Ali, thanks. Whether he's talking about the economy or politics, count on my next guest for a strong opinion and some choice words. Democratic strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter James Carville is in the ELECTION CENTER.


BROWN: You were, of course, the architect of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. It's the economy, stupid, was your mantra.

Is the economy something that you think Hillary Clinton should have maybe seized upon earlier in her campaign?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the old saying is that the best time to plant an oak tree is 25 years ago. The second best time is now.

And I think that she's doing a pretty effective job right now. And I saw excerpts of the speech today about the housing crisis. So, I think she's getting in a groove right now. It's obviously something that people, ordinary people, are very, very, very concerned about and having to live with every day.

BROWN: Let me switch gears and ask you about some choice words you had for governor Bill Richardson when he made his decision to endorse Senator Barack Obama, calling it an act of betrayal and comparing him to Judas. I guess my question is, isn't that a little extreme? Why an act of betrayal?

CARVILLE: Well, if you notice that when any of the other people that endorsed Senator Obama, I never said a word. They were friends of mine, and I was on the CNN set with Senator Daschle and Senator Kennedy and Senator Dodd, anybody else, all -- I consider them to all be dear friends of mine.

I thought this was a particularly egregious act.

BROWN: Why? Why was it so egregious?


CARVILLE: Well, I think because I was expressing my view, because I'm rather glad I said it. I thought he had served in the Cabinet in two positions. I think that he was -- other representations were made.

And it struck me as being something that deserved to be singled out and receive special treatment. And I gave it special treatment.

BROWN: What does it say, though, to you, the fact that there are people, like Richardson, who clearly have long relations with the Clintons who are deciding not to support her and who are saying, as he has, that there's something wrong with the tone of the Clinton campaign?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, what does it say about people who know the Clintons that are supporting them, of which there are literally tens of thousands of people?

So, I guess you can pull something out. And I don't what know the tone of the Clinton campaign -- Senator Clinton certainly didn't tell me to say what I did. I said this on my own. And I don't know why -- why is the tone of the Obama campaign any better than the tone of the Clinton campaign? I think that there's too many people going to too many cocktail parties, repeating too many things.

BROWN: Let me finally ask you about the delegate count, because that's ultimately what it all comes down to. And that's what we're all talking about right now.

If, once after all of these contests are over, she remains behind in terms of the delegate count, which a lot of people thinks she will, especially if Florida and Michigan remain out of the mix, how do you realistically make the case for her to be the nominee?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, you're keeping -- it's Obama -- Florida and Michigan are out of the mix because the Obama people insisted on keeping it out of the mix. So, let's get that little fact in here first.

And if she finishes well, if she does well, as I said, if she has to win Pennsylvania, and she does well, and remember, we have North Carolina, Indiana, Oregon, Kentucky, West Virginia, Puerto Rico left to go. We should have Florida and Michigan.

People in the media and the commentariat, and this crowd says that we ought to shut this down. I have a little different feeling. I think we ought to let these Democrats everywhere, let's hear from them, and then we make a decision. There's no case to be made there. We're not counting two critically important states. And this is at the insistence of Senator Obama and his campaign.

BROWN: All right. James Carville for us tonight -- James, always good to talk to you.

CARVILLE: Thank you. Thank you, Campbell. Appreciate it.


BROWN: We have got a topnotch political panel to talk about money and politics. And I'm going to ask them if the Clintons have a built-in advantage when it comes to the economy.

And then later: John McCain says there's new proof that the Democrats are wrong about setting deadlines to end the Iraq war. He is just back from Iraq. He's out on the campaign trail. And we will take you there.

But, first, here's Hillary Clinton at a live campaign event in Pennsylvania. Check it out.


CLINTON: We're going to start moving to deal with the challenges and seize the opportunities that are confronting our...



CLINTON: One day, we drove by this tiny red brick house with a for sale sign in front.

All I said was I thought it was a sweet-looking house, and never thought about it again. Several weeks later, Bill said to me, do you remember that house you liked?

I had never been inside. I had never been outside looking inside. I had just driven by.

I said, what house that I liked?

He said, you know, that red brick house on California Drive. Well, I bought it. So, now you would better marry me, because I can't live in it by myself.


BROWN: Senator Hillary Clinton earlier today telling the story of her first house in Arkansas in 1975.

Well, she's out with a plan to rescue homeowners who are on the brink of foreclosure. And Senator John McCain today promised that he's going to give a major speech on the economy soon, too.

So, here's what Americans are saying. Our CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that right now three-quarters think economic conditions in the country are poor. But on the upside, they don't think the bad times are going to last. In that same poll, 60 percent say economic conditions will be good a year from now. Only 38 percent thought that they would be poor.

So, let's see if tonight's panel is as optimistic.

Kelly[ Evans is a staff reporter from "The Wall Street Journal." Joining us from Washington is Chris Cillizza. He writes "The Washington Post" political blog "The Fix." And we have got CNN contributor Roland Martin, who is in Chicago with us.

Hey there, Roland.

Welcome, everybody.


BROWN: Kelly, let my start with you. Hillary Clinton said today that there's a crisis of confidence out there about the economy. If that's what's really driving it, this fear that people have, which of these candidates do you think they're going to move towards?

KELLY EVANS, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, first of all, I think choosing the phrase crisis of confidence is actually a good move on her part, because consumer spending makes up nearly three-quarters of the U.S. economy, of gross domestic product.

So, when we talk about confidence, it's really important, because confidence is one of the ways that people say, look, how are people feeling, and, more importantly, how are they going to spend their money? Are they going to spend their money?

So, if people are worried about the outlook, if things are gloomy, if they don't feel good about the situation, then it's much more likely they will pull back. And that has huge consequences. So, obviously, we have seen consumer confidence polls at 16-year lows. Things are not going well right now.

And, so, she's trying to appeal to that group of people who are saying, help. I don't feel good about my situation. Things are spiraling out of control. What can you do for me?

BROWN: It's the updated "I feel your pain" message...

EVANS: Absolutely.

BROWN: ... essentially.

She's got her plan today, but aren't all of the candidates -- we're going to hear from McCain soon -- aren't they a little late to the game on this, though?

EVANS: Yes. The economy's the number one issue. This is something that started as far back as last August when we really saw the beginnings of a credit crunch hit Wall Street. So, they have been very late to the game to say, A, that the economy is the number one economy, and, B, what they're going to do about it.

And Clinton not only has that name, her husband's name from what people now think of as the roaring 1990s.

BROWN: Right.

EVANS: But she's also been good about rolling out these proposals and getting her name in there in the news talking about the economy. Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't heard more from Obama and McCain. McCain's been in Iraq stressing his foreign policy. Obama has issued statements saying, Hillary's too closely tied with lobbyists, which is fine.

But Americans right now want an economic solution. And Hillary right now is one of the few providing those.

BROWN: Roland, let me ask you to follow up on the point she just made.

The economy was Bill Clinton's sort of go-to issue. It helped him win the White House. Is she -- is Hillary Clinton taking a page from his playbook? And does she, in a sense, have a built-in advantage on this issue? MARTIN: No, I don't think she has a built-in advantage. I don't think Obama has one. I don't think McCain has one.

Really, the bottom line is, these are three United States senators. Now, here's what's interesting. She threw her support behind the FHA modernization, all right? Now, my criticism is not targeted at her. My criticism is the fact that this bill was introduced in June of 2006.

"The Wall Street Journal" really began to hone in on this subprime crisis in January 2007. These candidates are late. You know what, Campbell? I don't want to see plans from Clinton. I don't want to see plans from Obama or McCain if I am president.

You know what I would love to see? I would love to see these three show some leadership in the jobs they currently have in the U.S. Senate and say, we're going to go to job -- sorry -- we're going to go to work right now to fix your problems.

So, that bill has been lingering there and there's been no action on it. Now, all of a sudden, we're in a crisis. Oh, let's hurry up and do something. Stop putting out plans of what would I do when I'm president and say, no, this is what I'm going to do as a U.S. senator.

So, of those three want to come together, come together on the economy right now.

BROWN: Chris, what do you think? Does anybody have a leg up on the other, or does Roland have a fair point, that they should be sort of more engaged in their day jobs, if you will?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think Roland has a fair point.

I will say, though, that I think that there's a reason politically -- I hate to say it because it sounds cynically, but every policy decision has at least a scintilla of political calculation in it. Remember the states to come for Senator Clinton. There's a reason that this week is going to be an economy week, starting off with her speech today in Philadelphia.

The states to come, Pennsylvania on April 22, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, these are all states that she must win in order to continue to make the case that she is viable against Barack Obama, all states hit hard by the economic slowdown, all states where manufacturing jobs have gone away.

It's in some ways a blueprint of Ohio. Remember, in Ohio, if you look back at the exit polling, six in 10 voters in the Ohio Democratic primary said the economy was the most critical issue. Clinton won those voters by double digits. She needs a repeat of that. And again this is to stay in the game. This is not to win the nomination. But to stay in the game, she's got to put states like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana out of reach for Barack Obama.

Economy is a leading message in all those places, even more so than it is nationally. So, I think you're going to see her stay on it and harp on it between now and when each of those states wind up voting.

BROWN: Let me ask you all just to comment about John McCain a little bit, because we all know how a candidate's comments can come back to haunt them.

And in McCain's case, we will remember, we have reported on it, but not in a while, the quote that he gave "The Boston Globe." It was late last year.

And he said -- quote -- "The issue of economics is not something I have understood as well as I should." He goes on to say, "I have got to get Greenspan's book," talking about Alan Greenspan.

Is this something that we're going to see the Democrats go after him with?



BROWN: Go ahead, Kelly.

EVANS: Right now, he has an opportunity -- he's had an opportunity -- even if he's late to the game, look, things have gotten a lot worse in the last several days and weeks, even, so there's really been an opportunity for his advisers, his economic advisers, certainly, to say, OK, maybe you made these comments. Maybe you have been stressing foreign policy, instead of the economy, but let's keep an eye on things, and if they worsen, let's come forward with a proposal and let's put this information out there and say -- and they haven't done that.


CILLIZZA: Campbell, the one thing I was going to say, just real quickly, is, remember, John McCain criticized Mitt Romney for saying, well, I would have a team of lawyers look at what we needed to do on the national security question in a debate.

BROWN: Right.

CILLIZZA: Saying that you're going to have a lot of smart people around you -- remember, that's John McCain's answer. Well, I have Phil Gramm. Well, I have these other people who are smart about the budget.

BROWN: Right.

CILLIZZA: That sort of contradicts his argument that in the end you are the decision-maker. So I think that quote fits very nicely into a 30-second ad and that's how I think it's going to come back in the fall.

BROWN: And, Roland, you're not going to get... (CROSSTALK)

BROWN: I'm sorry, babe. You're not going to get the last word today. We have got to go on that note.


BROWN: But I will give you to you tomorrow, I promise.

MARTIN: All right.

BROWN: John McCain is back from Iraq and back on the campaign trail. That story is coming up. He's also sounding more convinced than ever that the Democrats are wrong about wanting to end the war. We're going to have that right after this.



CLINTON: Tens of thousands of our brave men and women have also suffered serious wounds, both visible and invisible, to their bodies, their minds, and their hearts.

As president, I intend to honor their extraordinary service and the sacrifice of them and their families by ending this war and bringing them home as quickly and responsibly as possible.


BROWN: Senator Hillary Clinton again promised to end the war in Iraq as quickly as possible if she is elected.

But Senator John McCain is staying on the attack, supporting the war in Iraq and criticizing promises to withdraw. McCain hit the ground running after his international trip, raising funds in California today. But, with all that running, is the senator getting where he needs to go?

CNN's Dana Bash has been with him all day. And she's joining us now.

And, Dana, as we mentioned, he's just returned from overseas. He was in Iraq. He knows full well that the war will make or break his campaign. So, out on the trail today, what was he saying about it?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was really interesting, Campbell.

You know that Osama bin Laden's new audio tape, you remember, it came out late last week while John McCain was abroad. He didn't talk about it. He had press conferences every day while he was in Europe, for example, but he waited until today, until he was back on the campaign trail, to read a quote from bin Laden himself.

And what the quote he read was, "The nearest field to support our people in Palestine is the Iraqi field."

And he wanted to make the point -- and you could see in his face that he was waiting to make this political point -- that he believes that Osama bin Laden and General Petraeus actually agree -- he said that today -- that Iraq is the central battlefield in the war on terror, and the point he also made is that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, they don't get it.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He urged the Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to -- quote -- "help in support of the mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, which is the greatest opportunity and the biggest task."

So, General Petraeus and I and Osama bin Laden are in agreement. It is hard to understand why Senator Clinton and Senator Obama do not understand that. I don't know if it's naivete or what the problem is, but it's obvious that they are dead wrong.


BASH: Now, Campbell, here is what is behind this.

You talk to McCain advisers and they say they know that they're not going to win an argument with either of these Democratic candidates about the reasons for war. So, they're trying very hard, just like George Bush did back in 2004, to make this about what happens in the future, what happens next.

And it did not go unnoticed inside the McCain campaign. A poll that came out on our network, CNN/Opinion Research poll last week, that showed that certainly Americans, the vast majority of Americans are opposed to the war in Iraq. They want troops to come home. But when they were asked which of the candidates, John McCain or either of the two Democrats, they think is best to handle the war, the vast majority actually said John McCain.

So, this is very much trying to play into the fact that they are seeing these polls that have people thinking that he is still the best person to take the country forward with regard to the war -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Dana Bash for us tonight, traveling with McCain -- Dana, thanks very much.

Still ahead: two Iraq veterans who are going to tell me if they think any of the presidential candidates have come up with a real plan to end the war.

That will be coming up right after this.


BROWN: If Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can't get enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination outright, the choice comes down to the party's nearly 800 superdelegates. On the Sunday talk shows, a new argument surfaced about what those superdelegates should consider in making their choice.


SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN), CLINTON SUPPORTER: So who carried the states with the most Electoral College votes is an important factor to consider, because ultimately that's how we choose the president of the United States.


BROWN: Basically, the candidates are trying to define what victory would look like, and CNN senior analyst Jeff Toobin is keeping track of all the possibilities. So what do you think about this new one? We just heard from Evan Bayh, who's defining it now as the lead in Electoral College votes, possibly?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: The key thing about the superdelegates is there are no rules on how they vote. There are no standards, so each campaign is trying to define the standards that puts their candidate ahead.

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: That's why Bayh who is a Clinton supporter, he's saying, well, it's the big states. It's the states you need to win 270 electoral votes like New York, California, Massachusetts. Those are states, of course, that Hillary Clinton has won, thus, he says, superdelegates should look to those states.

BROWN: OK. But that's a tough argument to make when you're up against the popular vote?

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

BROWN: The delegate count, right?

TOOBIN: Well, the Obama campaign is saying, wait a second, we've had primaries. We've had caucuses to determine who the nominee is. Let's look at those results.

And there -- as we see up there, Clinton's won New York, California, Ohio, Texas, but Obama points out that he has won 700,000 more votes than Clinton has. He's ahead in state wins, 28 to 16. And most importantly, as we see up there on the screen, 1,413 to 1,242 pledged delegates.

So he's saying, are you going to go against the will of the people? Because that lead is probably going to hold up even if Hillary Clinton wins Pennsylvania and some other states.

BROWN: Right. OK. So this is a totally "asking you to read the tea leaves" question. I know that. I'm assessing up ahead of time. What do you think is going to have the most weight with the superdelegates? Is it popular vote?

TOOBIN: I think pledged delegates. BROWN: Yes.

TOOBIN: I think pledged delegates is going to be the most important, and that's why I think Obama is clearly the front-runner here. I'd like to make one caveat, though.


TOOBIN: If Clinton wins not just Pennsylvania, but runs the table the rest of the time, wins Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Indiana. If she wins all those states and still is a little bit behind in superdelegates, then she may have a pretty good argument. But she's got to win those states.

BROWN: And the poll numbers make it seem very unlikely that she would.

TOOBIN: Well, those are closer than you think. North Carolina is not as much a big Obama state as South Carolina was.

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: So she's got a chance. But I think it's pretty much her only chance to run the table.

BROWN: Especially if she could have momentum coming out of Pennsylvania to win there?

TOOBIN: Well, that's what she said. And, you know, she's won Texas.

BROWN: Right.

TOOBIN: She's won Ohio. So she's won a number of states in a row, but yet again, we're going to keep going all the way to June.

BROWN: Aren't we happy about that?

TOOBIN: We want that.

BROWN: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, always good to have you. Thanks.

Coming up next, two Iraq vets with very different opinions about the candidates' plans to end the war. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Returning now to the Iraq war, John McCain says that the Democrats are wrong about wanting to set a deadline to pull out U.S. troops. Well, joining me now, we have two veterans who served in Iraq. They both agreed to fight in Iraq, but they disagree over whether the war is worth the cost now. And joining me once more, Mark Finelli and Jon Soltz. Welcome to both of you. Appreciate your time tonight.

MARK FINELLI, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I'm good. How are you?

BROWN: Good, thank you. Let me ask you both to address this question, generally speaking. And Jon, why don't you start. You guys have seen the poll numbers, how pretty consistently most Americans are saying that they don't believe overall it was worth it. And you two, regardless of how you feel about it now, have more invested personally in this than any of us.

Do you believe now, now that we've passed yet another difficult milestone for the country, reaching 4,000 dead servicemen in Iraq, do you believe it's worth it?

JON SOLTZ, CHAIRMAN, VOTEVETS.ORG: I mean, I can sit here and tell you that people in the military feel percentage-wise, just like the American public, because we're a representative of the society. We have African-Americans, Latinos, males, females all in the military, so I think that, you know, when you have 4,000 dead troops and a lot of people that I know and I'm sure that Mark knows, you want something for that sacrifice.

And what we have right now with Senator McCain and President Bush is a policy of retreat against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan at the expense of keeping American troops stuck in a bloody civil war where basically they're beholden to the domestic politics of a foreign country, and that is not acceptable. And I think if the 4,000 deaths mean anything, I think it's a time we re-evaluate our strategy to go on the offense and really apprehend the people that attacked our country.

BROWN: Mark?

FINELLI: As someone who was actually a survivor of September 11th, I was on the 61st floor of the South tower, the reason I joined, I ran out of the building, jumped over innocent slain American citizens, and I joined the Marine Corps and lost my friends in Iraq just like Jon did. I could tell you with complete certainty as a September 11th survivor and an Iraqi veteran, this war and the 4,000 heroes who have died, it is completely worth it because we've had zero attacks since then.

SOLTZ: But the war in Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and Saddam Hussein didn't. And every national intelligence estimate, every major investigation into the war, it's completely fabricated. I believed in the war too, but I went for weapons of mass destruction, and they just weren't there. And our soldiers -- they're, you know, this administration, they have never been honest with the American public.


BROWN: Well, Jon --

SOLTZ: And one reason for war --

BROWN: But John -- hold on, hold on, guys. Hold on. I want to be forward-looking and not rehash the Bush administration on this. But Jon, I want to ask you as someone who is opposed to the war now. Both of these Democratic front-runners say they want to begin withdrawing troops within 60 days of being elected, whoever the president may be. I mean, as a soldier, as somebody who knows what it's like there, what do you think is going to happen when that process begins? What do you think is going to happen on the ground in Iraq?

SOLTZ: I think that depends on how you do it, and I think that depends on the diplomacy that would be involved in a new administration. We have no credibility in the world. I mean, we're having problems in Afghanistan right now with our NATO allies, even completing our missions because the president's domestic popularity in these foreign countries is so low that they won't support us, so it depends.

If you deal with the Israeli/Palestinian situation, if you want to start dealing with Iran who is supporting the Shia militias, and for some reason John McCain doesn't understand that, if you want to start dealing with the Syrians and you want to start looking at this from a reasonable diplomatic situation, if you can get some type of stable regional agreement, it could, you know, be OK.

I think the key thing about Senator Obama and Senator Clinton is that they don't offer a plan to leave Iraq. They offer a plan for victory against bin Laden, which is a refocus of troop assets.

BROWN: Right.

SOLTZ: I mean, if you had just taken the surge brigades, which are the five brigades in Baghdad, and you put them in Afghanistan, you would have doubled American force structure in Afghanistan.

BROWN: All right.

SOLTZ: You would have doubled the troop levels.

BROWN: Let me go to -- Mark, let me ask you. Senator John McCain has said that we could be in Iraq for 100 years, and he since tempered those comments a little bit, but what's realistic? And what do you say to the American people? If we stay there, how long would it really be?

FINELLI: Well, it probably won't be 100 years but what I can tell you is history doesn't lie. Every time we go to war some place and we keep a contingent of troops there, you notice that the war kind of ends. Germany, Japan, Korea -- yes, you have a minor skirmish, a couple rounds flying over the DNC here and there, but this is a -- this is a proven way of bringing peace.

Europe is not at war anymore. Japan, Imperial Japan, it's done. Iraq is the geopolitical linchpin of the region. It borders seven different countries. And if Jon wants to talk about Syria and Iran and all these others countries, if you haven't noticed, OK, Iran is bracketing because we have troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Pakistan, a nuclear power, is bracketed because we have troops in Afghanistan and India.

BROWN: Right.

SOLTZ: The biggest victor of the George Bush war policy in Iraq has been Iran. I mean, they have two very strong Shia militias now in Iraq. They have, you know, obviously -- you know, are in a situation of severe influence in Iraq...

BROWN: Right.

SOLTZ: ... because of the amount of supplies they put in there and their militias are in there.

BROWN: All right, guys, we've got to --

FINELLI: Now, Sada (ph) is retired essentially now, too.

BROWN: All right. We've got to end it there, but appreciate your time tonight.

FINELLI: Thank you.

SOLTZ: Thanks, appreciate it.

BROWN: Jon Soltz and Mark Finelli, thanks, guys.

The war, the economy, sniping among the Democrats. America is talking and they've got a lot to talk about, and the radio jocks are listening. Two of the best in talk radio fill us in on what they're hearing from American voters today.

And we are hearing backlash from Florida. Democratic voters in large numbers are saying it's unlikely they'll back the party's nominee in November if their primary votes don't count. Well, we've got a live report from Florida up next here in the ELECTION CENTER.


BROWN: Florida democrats are angry, so much so a recent newspaper poll finds one in four saying they might not back their party's nominee in November if their votes in January's primary go uncounted. The bottom line, in no uncertain terms, Florida Dems want their votes, their January votes to count or else.

Well, John Zarrella is joining us now from Miami with the latest on the Florida backlash. And John, it doesn't look good in Florida. Is there any hope that Democrats can work something out to satisfy these voters?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, you said they're angry and they certainly are, and there's really nothing out there on the horizon to cheer them up anytime soon. There certainly have been all kinds of mathematical formulas floated that would use some portion of the January 29th primary to proportion out the delegates, Florida's 210 delegates to the two candidates. But the bottom line is that every proposal, every thought of any kind of a revote has failed miserably, been taken off the table. And at this point in time, it's really in the hands of the candidates and neither one of them seems very willing at this point to compromise or to do much other than just wait it out and see how things shake out in the next month or so.

BROWN: But do you really expect people to revolt? Would they really skip the election?

ZARRELLA: You know, there are some that really will. There are 24 percent that say they, at this point, they say they just might sit out and not vote at all.

And we went to the town of Pahokee, which is up on Lake Okeechobee, very small rural town. These people deal with agriculture, and they are having a tough time making ends meet. The movie theater closed down a few years ago. It is a very small town, totally dependent on agriculture.

They tell you, look, we don't have time to be worried about this petty politics, and that's what they call it. They're having trouble just making ends meet, and they're saying, yes, we might sit on the sidelines if our vote doesn't count.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see the January 29th election go ahead and count, because we start this revote and a mail-in vote, what we're going to be just like we were with the voting in the election before with the hang up and the chairs (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's making me lose faith in the system, you know? Pretty much it's messed up. That's just the bottom line. It's messed up.


ZARRELLA: But interesting, Campbell, none of them say they're planning on changing party affiliation and voting Republican. They'll still stick with the Democrat Party despite all this mess.

BROWN: So who are they blaming, then? If they are sticking with the Democratic Party, somebody must be getting the finger-pointing.

ZARRELLA: Yes, well, the Democratic Party across the board is getting, which is interesting, because it was a Republican legislature, Republican governor that passed the law that moved the primary up, but the Democrats in Florida are saying, look, you folks still had plenty of time to work out a compromise even though the primary was moved up which cost us the 210 delegates in Florida. You should have worked it out. It shouldn't have gotten to this silliness, as what they call it.

So they're blaming the Democrats in Florida and the national, the DNC, for causing this problem. They're not blaming the Republicans. BROWN: All right, John. John Zarrella for us tonight. John, thanks.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in just a few minutes. Larry, who do you have with you tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Campbell, we're going to cover all the political bases tonight. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is here. He's been compared to Judas today in the eyes of one Democrat. He is the betrayer.

Plus, our political panel will be aboard, focusing on the importance of Pennsylvania. And then the very angry, very funny Lewis Black is here, and he'll take them all on. So we're swinging for the fences on "LARRY KING LIVE."

And Campbell, by the way, I have been losing sleep all weekend. We had a great birthday party for Jon Klein, the president of CNN Saturday night.

BROWN: We did.

KING: And I got -- I had this script. I got to introduce everybody there, and we forgot to introduce you, and it's bugged me all weekend.

BROWN: Larry! Well, I've been mad about it all weekend. I've been losing sleep, too.

KING: Well, you deserve to be introduced, and you will.

BROWN: So I'm glad you're coming forward.

KING: You are the classiest, prettiest person there, if I could say that. So I apologize to you.

BROWN: You're a sweetheart.

KING: I want to go on record.

BROWN: I'm so glad you're on record. You are a sweetheart. That's very kind of you. Have a good show.

KING: You too, dear.

BROWN: All right. What could America be thinking? Whether it's the war, the economy, race or religion, the radio jocks hear it all. And we've got two of the best in talk radio joining me next in the ELECTION CENTER.


BROWN: Race, the economy, the war in Iraq -- the top issues on the minds of American voters and the top issues today all over talk radio. Well, joining me now, Michael Reagan, syndicated radio host and GOP strategist, and Joe Madison of WOL in Washington, D.C. and XM Satellite Radio. Welcome to you both.



BROWN: Michael, let me start with you. We marked a somber milestone, as you know, passing the 4,000 mark in terms of the number of U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq. You talked about this, I know, a lot with your listeners today. What are they feeling? How did -- what did they have to say about it?

REAGAN: I think everybody feels for the 4,000 families that have been affected by this. Of course, there have been a lot more than 4,000 families affected because we're at war. But they also realize what happens in war. Young men, young women do die in war for our country. They have for generation after generation after generation.

As one of your guests said earlier, we haven't been attacked since 9/11. We've been safe in this country because young men and women volunteer. They're not conscripted. They volunteer to go overseas to fight the battle and fight the war in their area of the world, instead of having it being fought here in this area of the world. You pray for those families and you thank God for those families, in fact, have young men and young women who will go out and do battle.

BROWN: And Joe, I know you're hearing something very different from your listeners when it comes to the war. What are they saying?

MADISON: Well, slightly different. They certainly appreciate the sacrifice that the families and the soldiers have made and some the ultimate sacrifice. But what they don't appreciate is the soldiers being sacrificed. I have an audience like many where some of these soldiers have seen three, four tours of duty, unheard of in combat situations.

And then, of course, you know, I'm in a city where once they are wounded, we haven't even talked about the tens of thousands of wounded, the type of treatment they receive that we all became aware of at Walter Reed. So my audience feels very strongly that we were lied to into this war and that these soldiers in fact have been sacrificed.


REAGAN: If I could jump in for a moment...

BROWN: Hang on, Michael.

REAGAN: ... if I could?

BROWN: Michael, hold that thought.


BROWN: We've got to take a quick break, but we're coming back. We have more from Joe and Michael right after the break. Stay with us.


BROWN: When listeners speak out, we've got the key issues on the minds of American voters, and we're back with radio host Michael Reagan and Joe Madison. And guys, we're crunched for time. So I do want to ask you...

REAGAN: All right.

BROWN: ... to talk about the economy a little bit because that's what we're hearing.

REAGAN: I'll talk about the economy, but, well --

BROWN: Go ahead, Michael.

REAGAN: I'll talk about the economy in a moment. But Joe said something about -- so Joe said something about Walter Reed Army house, so I don't know about him. I've been to Walter Reed three times and to disparage Walter Reed and what they're doing, the young men and women are coming back from battle is absolutely outrageous --


MADISON: Oh, Michael. Oh, Michael!

REAGAN: Have you ever been there?

MADISON: Michael -- Michael

REAGAN: Have you ever been there? Have you ever been there?

BROWN: Michael, let him finish. Let him explain. Michael, let him explain his point.

MADISON: Walter Reed than you do. How dare you ask me if I'm been there, and I live in Washington, D.C. Of course, I've been there.


REAGAN: Have you?

MADISON: A general was fired. Get real, man! We all know, it was the families --


REAGAN: Get real! I've been up there with these young men and women --

MADISON: We had a congressional hearing. The families were the ones that complained.

REAGAN: Had to do with the outpatient. Had to do with the outpatient side, not the side of Walter Reed is bringing this young and women --


MADISON: Oh, God. We treat veterans like old shoes. Let's get to the economy now, please. I mean --

REAGAN: I'm sorry, no, we don't.

MADISON: Don't start knowing about whether I've been to Walter Reed.

REAGAN: No, we don't.

MADISON: I live in the city.

REAGAN: You're the old (INAUDIBLE).

MADISON: Give me a break.

REAGAN: We don't treat veterans like old shoes.

MADISON: Oh, we do. We put them, push them to the back of the closet. Go ask a lot of veterans.

REAGAN: No, we don't.

MADISON: All right. Never mind.

REAGAN: A lot of veterans, World War II. Go ahead.

BROWN: Well, now, I want to follow up on this, because it is a very tense issue, clearly, and an issue that's not gotten a lot of attention in this campaign.


MADISON: Because, Michael --

REAGAN: I'll tell you. I go to Walter Reed next week.

MADISON: Because he's been there -- because he's ignored a congressional hearing, he's ignored a report, he's ignored a general that was released on his duty, he's ignored letters to congressmen complaining about the conditions there, he's ignored veterans in the way that many of them are treated. I'm not saying all, but I'm saying for somebody to deny that that situation was horrible is blind to reality.

BROWN: OK, Michael --

REAGAN: No, I'm not blind, sir. I'm not blind at all. We're talking about two different issues. We're talking Walter Reed and outpatient. Outpatient is what you're talking about. I'm talking about what Walter Reed and what they are doing for the veterans, getting them back up, getting them out into the public and doing things and having a life after getting wounded, many of them wanting to go back to their units in Iraq and fight in the war in Iraq, sir.


BROWN: All right. OK.

REAGAN: I don't like the fact that they're being disparaged.

BROWN: OK, Michael, appreciate it. We've got to end on that note. We're out of time, guys. Thank you very much for your time tonight. An issue that deserves a lot more talk for sure. More ELECTION CENTER coming up right after the break.


BROWN: That's it for tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" starting right now.