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STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING

State of the Union: The Last Word

Aired May 24, 2009 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KING: We see a live picture, there, of Arlington National Cemetery. President Obama, tomorrow, for the first time as commander in chief, will address the traditional Memorial Day ceremonies at that remarkable, remarkable place.

Washington was captivated, this past week, by a remarkable drama, back-to-back national security speeches by President Obama and former Vice President Cheney, disagreements over whether to close Guantanamo Bay and whether waterboarding and other extreme interrogation tactics worked provided plenty of conflict.

But it was more than a debate between the old and the new. Mr. Obama didn't answer the festering question over where to relocate terror suspects held at Gitmo and he reversed a campaign promise by announcing some will be held indefinitely without trial.

With us to discuss where this national security debate goes from here, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, with me here in Washington, and Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. He's joining us this morning from Tuscaloosa.

I want to begin on the Gitmo debate, and take a moment first to remind our viewers how this has played out. Back on his first full day as president, on January 22nd, President Obama signed an executive order keeping a campaign promise. That order would close Gitmo down within one year. But then, after months of controversy, because he has not said where the detainees will go, the Senate majority leader, a Democrat, Harry Reid, said the president won't get the money to shut Gitmo down until he gives the Congress a plan to where the detainees will go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Democrats under no circumstances will move forward without a comprehensive, responsible plan from the president. We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Just two days later, the president gave a big national security speech in which he tried to answer his critics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security. Nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Boxer, I want to begin with you. The president was trying to calm his critics and quiet his critics, but he did not answer the key questions. This is "The Gazette" in the Pikes Peaks region of Colorado. "What about our backyard?" Or, put simply, where are the detainees going? How can you help the president get out of this political mess?

BOXER: Well, I think we're doing it. We basically said that we agree with him, that, in fact, Gitmo has become a real problem for us. As Secretary Gates says, it's an advertisement for recruiting Al Qaida. Al Qaida is stronger than ever. That's why, when I see the vice president out here, he handed us this god-awful mess. He has a right to talk about it, but let's see what we can do here. We want to close it down, but we want to wait and see what the plan is. And I think...

KING: Bring some to California, are you comfortable with that?

BOXER: Well, we only have one maximum security prison in California, and it's right now overbooked. That's the case. And the other thing that Congress voted to do is to make sure that whatever this plan is -- we don't know -- by the way, we already have 350 terrorists in the United States. So, clearly, we've been handling it. But, still in all, we are worried and we want to see what the plan is.

So I think we're helping the president here. And, you know, many of these prisoners may be sent out of the country. Some of them may be executed. Maybe we wind up with 10 or 15 or 20 or 5. We don't know yet. So I think we are helping the president. We're saying, Mr. President, give us the plan. I think it's sensible.

KING: Senator Shelby, I know you oppose closing Gitmo. You think they should stay right where they are, but the president has said he is going to keep this promise. So help him. How do you convince the American people some of those detainees are coming to a prison near you?

SHELBY: Well, I don't think you can convince the American people that you can bring the people from Gitmo to their states and they will be safe.

Now, we realize that there are terrorists in a lot of our prisons that have gone through trials and so forth, they are in maximum security prisons, but we don't need these hard-core, some of the worst of the worst to come to this country. We can do better.

First of all, John, we have a state-of-the-art facility at Gitmo. We spent over $200 million down there. There's no reason at all to move them. But I do believe that we need to evaluate them and see which ones that we need to for long-term detention, which ones need to be turned loose, which ones could be turned loose, but not in America.

KING: That speech became, in many of the media accounts, and maybe I deserve some of the blame, and Obama/Cheney back-to-back duel. But in it, was a very significant policy announcement by the president. During the campaign on the issue of keeping people indefinitely, terror suspects indefinitely without trial, during the campaign, the president said this. "Our greatest tool in advancing democracy is our own example. That's why I will end torture, end extraordinary rendition, end indefinite detentions."

But then on Thursday, he said something very different. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes. In some cases, because evidence may be tainted, but who, nonetheless, pose a threat to the security of the United States. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

Let me repeat. I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, Senator Boxer, he will have some indefinite detentions. In the language of campaigns, we would call that a flip- flop. I think more politely, we would say that sometimes being president, presidents learn, is a little more difficult than running for president. Are you OK with that? Are you OK with indefinite detentions, and would that be here in the United States?

BOXER: I'll tell you what I'm OK with. I'm OK that the president of the United States says that our security comes first and foremost. I agree with that.

But he went on to say, which you didn't show, that he is going to figure out a way how to do this under the rule of law. So he is going to make sure that nobody is released into the United States who will be a threat to us, and that these indefinite detentions will be, somehow, under the rule of law.

And I want to give this president the credit for this. His wife said, one thing about my husband, you know, he's not going to be afraid to change his mind or to nuance an issue. I applaud that, frankly.

KING: Senator Shelby, the Bush administration won some and lost some in the courts on this issue, what rights do they have when you're holding them, and that's in Guantanamo. If you bring those people to the United States, are the constitutional questions different for people you're trying to hold indefinitely? Do they have more rights, and might the president lose?

SHELBY: I believe the courts basically have said once you're here in the United States, that the Constitution or a blanket of the Constitution perhaps cover you. I know that's a general statement that I just made, but I think we better be careful bringing people to this country.

One, the most incorrigible, I would say, of the groups, and, secondly, nobody wants them. We got all kinds of places in the world we can house these people. Other -- if we have to move them from Cuba, from Gitmo, we have got other territory that we can bring them in, but don't bring them to the United States of America.

KING: I want to focus now for a moment on the other speech on Thursday. That was Vice President Dick Cheney, former Vice President Dick Cheney. And on a question that has been in the news, especially up in the halls of Congress about the role of the CIA in all this, the former vice president had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: Some members of Congress are notorious for demanding they be briefed into the most sensitive intelligence programs. They support them in private, and then head for the hills at the first sign of controversy.

As far as the interrogations are concerned, all that remains -- all that remains an official secret is the information that we gained as a result.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Many took that, Senator Boxer, as a shot at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, from your home state of California, who has said that she was never told waterboarding was being used. Now concedes an aide did tell her that he was at a briefing in 2003. Did the speaker make a mistake in escalating this by saying the CIA has repeatedly lied to Congress? BOXER: Well, the speaker didn't say that. The press said to her, "did the CIA lie?"

KING: She said misled, and they said "do you mean lie," and she said yes.

BOXER: And she said, yes, they misled. But let me tell you who out and out said that they lied. Peter Hoekstra, a Republican, who was the head of the Intelligence Committee at the time she was as well.

So this is so political. It's really, to me, you know, just knowing all the players, it's clear what it's about. They want to get Nancy Pelosi.

This whole issue is a matter of not who knew what when, but who did the wrong thing. Who, in fact, broke American law. Who, in fact, broke faith with treaties, international treaties, one of which Ronald Reagan signed, against waterboarding and torture.

So they want to turn it around. They want Nancy Pelosi gone because she's a very effective leader. I've known her for 30 years. Listen, and I've known Bob Graham for that long a time. And both of them said that the briefings were very, very vague. So I will cast my lot with those two, and, frankly, Newt Gingrich, who said the CIA misled the country; Peter Hoekstra, a Republican, who said they lied; Boehner, who said he agreed with Hoekstra. Come on! This is just a back...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let me bring Senator Shelby in, because I want to talk about the Supreme Court choice and I want to close the loop on this subject. Senator, you were a senior member on the Intelligence Committee back in the relevant timeframe here. Nancy Pelosi said she would be fine with the memos being released because she says they prove she wasn't told, or at least don't contradict her account.

Vice President Cheney wants other memos released. Should we just have full disclosure on all fronts here, transparency, let the American people decide?

SHELBY: Well, that's a tough road to go down. What we are basically doing is weakening our intelligence agencies and we will pay dearly for that. I was in that meeting, Senator Graham, Congressman Goss, Congresswoman Pelosi at that time, four of us were in the meeting.

And I came away from there believing that the enhanced interrogation techniques were working, they were getting good information. This was in '02. I thought we had a pretty good description of what was happening by the CIA.

But, you know, they are the ones that were there. It has been seven years. But I believe that we ought to err on the side of national security, I thought then and I know it now.

KING: Let's close on the issue of the big Supreme Court pick the president will make likely in the week ahead. He did an interview with C-SPAN this weekend. And as you both know, there is a lot of pressure to add diversity to the court, perhaps add another woman to the court.

The president was asked, did you talk to Michelle, your wife, maybe your daughters about whether it's time to put another woman on the court? There is only one at the moment, Justice Ginsburg. Let's listen to what the president said on that issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My job is to just find somebody who I think is going to make a difference on the courts and look after the interests of the American people.

OBAMA: And, so, I don't feel weighed down by having to choose a Supreme Court justice based on demographics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Michelle Obama says he doesn't have pick a woman, what does Barbara Boxer say?

BOXER: Of course he doesn't have to. But Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe have crossed party lines, have written to the president, said Mr. President, there's only one woman on the court and there are eight men. Frankly, if it were reversed, I'd be saying appoint a man. You just need that point of view. But, of course it's got to be the best possible person. And we think there are so many great qualified women out there. So I guess it's Michelle and his daughter versus Olympia and Barbara.

KING: That's a dual forth next week. Senator Shelby, I want to close with you. When Republicans were in the majority and President Bush was in the White House, they said 60 days from the announcement to the confirmation. Senator Sessions, who will be the lead Republican on the Judiciary Committee is now saying he needs much more time than that. That he thinks the hearing should not be in July but maybe in September. Senator Sessions right or should the White House -- go ahead.

SHELBY: We have a lot on our agenda, I don't know the time frame, but what we need on the court is not necessarily a woman, not necessarily a man but the best person that is going to follow the law, not somebody that is going to radicalize the Supreme Court.

KING: Will you push for a quick timetable if there's no big issues, questions in the vetting?

SHELBY: Well, I would leave that up to the Judiciary Committee. They have their rules and they have hearing dates and I think we should listen to them.

KING: Senator Richard Shelby is in Tuscaloosa. Senator Barbara Boxer here with us in Washington. Thanks both for coming in and enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day weekend.

BOXER: Thank you.

SHELBY: Thank you.

KING: And up next, the man at the table in those harrowing days after 9/11. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge assesses former Vice President Cheney's claim that President Obama is making America less safe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining me now, the former two-term Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, who was tapped by President Bush in the days just after 9/11, first, to come to the White House as homeland security adviser, and then as the first secretary of the new Department of Homeland Security.

Governor Ridge, thanks for joining us on STATE OF THE UNION.

There has been a fascinating debate playing out the couple of months now, but this past Thursday, dueling speeches, the president of the United States and the former vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.

On the threshold question Vice President Cheney has raised, he says because of the changes in policy that President Obama has made the American people less safe. Do you agree?

RIDGE: Well, I agree that both men in principle are saying the right thing to the American public. President Obama has said we must conduct ourselves and combat terrorism in a way that's consistent with our value system, and I think he is spot-on.

I also think the vice president in his retort saying, look, we need to do everything we can, everything possible to protect American citizens, and I think Americans in large agree with both.

I think the interesting...

KING: But do you -- you had the intelligence. You served in a very sensitive position in those days after 9/11. Do you believe we are less safe today because of steps taken by President Obama?

RIDGE: I do not.

KING: You disagree with Dick Cheney then?

RIDGE: Yes, I disagree with Dick Cheney, but I also disagree with the approach both men are taking.

KING: OK. Let's get to the crux of the matter...

RIDGE: Because at the end of the day, it's -- at the end of the day, John, it's -- the 9/11 event required us to do certain things in response to a threat and an enemy we had never seen before. We did those things. We've made adjustments since that time.

Waterboarding is no longer a matter -- it's a matter of debate but it's no longer an issue because we don't do it. At the end of the day, we're continuing the same policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and the debate around memos and waterboarding does not make us less safe.

What I'm suggesting is that both men in principle are correct. The real issue is what do we do with these prisoners and what do we do with -- when we capture or apprehend other similar individuals in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere in the future. That's nowhere in the debate.

And if you believe it's a global scourge, you had better figure out a way to deal with it.

KING: Well, then let's deal with that question in just a moment. But I want to focus on the policy difference on the issue of the interrogations because in his speech, the president of the United States says that he is categorically, emphatically convinced that no high value intelligence was gained from enhanced interrogation techniques, waterboarding, slamming people against walls, other extreme things.

He says it didn't work and it undermined our moral authority. Let's listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: What's more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us from the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists. And increase the will of our enemies to fight us. While decreasing the will of others to work with America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's the president there. Just moments after that speech, the former vice president comes out with a completely different take. He says those tactics were legal, necessary, and saved lives. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: For all that we've lost in this conflict, the united states has never lost its moral bearings. When the moral reckoning turns to the men known as high-value terrorists I can assure they were neither innocent nor victims. As for those who asked them questions and got answers, they did the right thing. They made our country safer and a lot of Americans are alive today because of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is that last point, Governor Ridge, Dick Cheney says a lot of Americans are alive today because of them. The Obama administration disputes that. You were there, you saw the intelligence. Did those enhanced interrogation techniques save lives, prevent attacks on this country? Is Dick Cheney right? RIDGE: I never saw the intelligence at that depth. We were a consumer of information. We didn't generate it. But I do believe that since President Obama has released the memos that are substantially redacted, then perhaps there may be information that should be released to show that they actually received substantive information that enabled America to better protect itself. You can't have it both ways. I think that's one of the things that the vice president is arguing. Don't delete or redact parts of the memos to gird your point of view. There may be other information. I don't know what it is that may also support the vice president.

At the end of the day, we haven't been attacked since 9/11 in the United States of America.

RIDGE: At the end of the day we have had a lot of professionals working very hard around the world to make sure that doesn't happen.

KING: So he should release the memos in full?

RIDGE: I think he should. I mean, I think you can -- I mean, one of the things I've always thought when I was secretary is that we use classification in a way sometimes just to deny access to those who need to know or should know, and one of the group of people that should know are 300 million Americans.

And so to the extent that you could take a look at those memos, the information we gathered from these terrorists and present it to the public in a way that you don't compromise your sources and methods, I happen to think you can do that. And now that there is so much of that material that is redacted, I think the vice president is spot on.

Maybe he ought to tell America what we learned.

KING: I want you to listen to one more piece of the president's speech on Thursday because he was damning in his characterization of how your administration, the Bush administration, went about the business of fighting terrorism after 9/11. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight. But all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If you were at the table with the president, with the vice president, with others involved in this fight just after 9/11, did you make decisions based on fear rather than foresight? Did you trim the facts and the evidence based on ideological predispositions?

RIDGE: Yes. I'm surprised that President Obama, who I really truly believe knows better, would make such a statement. The men and women in charge of America's security, whether they're military or the intelligence community, the president, the vice president, the attorney general, the FBI director, did everything they could at the time to prevent another attack on America. And it did it consistent with the Constitution and the rule of law. KING: So, are you disappointed in him? And in that speech he also says, you know, this gets too tied up in politics too often, is that politics?

RIDGE: Yes, I think it is. I mean, it's just the whole notion of a Republican vice president giving a speech after the incumbent Democrat president. I mean, it has got to go beyond the politics of either party. At the end of the day, as Americans, E. Pluribus Unum, we're in this together.

And at the end of the day, it is a challenge that we're going to need to confront together. And I'm a little disappointed in the president because he said many, many times in the past, now is the time, we need to look forward, not backwards.

But the pattern for the first 100-plus days as it relates to this, to the war on terror and the tactics that were used has been not progressive and forward-looking, it keeps looking backwards to justify what he's doing now. And I don't think at the end of the day, I think that becomes more politics than policy, and I don't think it's the kind of approach that we need to bring America together on this very important issue.

KING: He's in a bit of hot water when it comes to closing Gitmo, Guantanamo Bay. He said in the campaign he would -- you support closing Guantanamo Bay, you have for some time. But he's in a bit of a problem, the Democrats in Congress have denied him the money to shut it down because they don't think he has a plan. Where did he go wrong?

RIDGE: Doesn't have a plan. I mean, I think the outcome most people would agree with. I mean, the outcome is something that if he had a plan, I think he'd be able to build consensus. But reaching a conclusion that you can shut it down without determining the manner in which you're going to adjudicate those who should stay somewhere -- I had a couple people involved in the interrogation early on.

And one individual told me at one time some of these people should never be off this piece of god-awful barren rock, and others were at the wrong place at the wrong time. How are we going to dispose of them, and at the end of the day, doesn't the world community have another problem?

If you think we're going to be dealing with the international terrorism in many forms for the next decade or two or three, aren't we going to encounter this again, maybe not only in the United States, but elsewhere around the world? How are we going to deal with it?

So let's take care of the 240 that are in there now, what's the process? But we had better think about how we're going to deal with it in the future, unless you think the war of terrorism is over -- against terror is over, and I don't think it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Up next, we'll turn to politics. Governor Ridge shares his thoughts on the influence of Rush Limbaugh and the future of his Republican Party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A moment of reflection and tribute just moments ago at Arlington National Cemetery just outside of Washington. As vivid as a reminder as you can get of the true meaning of Memorial Day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. Before joining the Bush administration, Tom Ridge was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania. As a Republican, he has plenty to say about his party's identity crisis.

Let's turn the page to politics. You were a two-term governor of a pretty important state in American politics. You would be viewed as a pragmatic -- a moderate on social issues, a conservative on fiscal issues.

As you know, there's a big huge debate within your Republican Party about what to do. Thumped in 2006, thumped in 2008. I want your thoughts going forward and, as I do so, I want to bring into debate, there has been, as you know, a lot of chatter about this.

And Colin Powell, who was secretary of state when you served in the Bush administration, gave a speech in Boston this week where he was responding to some criticism from the right.

And Colin Powell said this: "Rush Limbaugh says get out of the Republican Party. Dick Cheney says he's already out. I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge, once again."

Where's Tom Ridge? Are you in the Rush Limbaugh/Dick Cheney version of the Republican Party, or the Colin Powell version of the Republican Party?

RIDGE: I'm in the Tom Ridge version of the party. And my version of the party is simply when you're asked to serve, as I had been by two Republican presidents, one gave me a draft notice and sent me to Vietnam, the other called me away from the office I loved as governor. And neither one asked me where I stood on gay rights or abortion. They said, will you serve?

And I think for the American public, for the Republican Party to restore itself not as a regional, but as a national party, we have to be far less judgmental about disagreements within the party and far more judgmental about our disagreement with our friends on the other side of the aisle.

KING: You have used those terms, need to be less shrill, less judgmental. Who is being shrill? Who is being judgmental?

RIDGE: Well, I think a lot of our commentators are being shrill. I mean, I don't disagree...

KING: Rush?

RIDGE: Yes, I think -- listen, Rush Limbaugh has an audience of 20 million people, a lot of people who listen daily to him and live by every word. But words mean things and how you use words is very important.

KING: I want to be clear, though, you think Rush is among those being too judgmental, too shrill?

RIDGE: Well, I think Rush articulates his points of views in ways that offend very many. It's a matter of language and a matter of how you use words. And it does get the base all fired up and he has got a strong following.

But personally, if he would listen to me, and I doubt if he would, the notion is, express yourselves, but let's respect others' opinions. And let's not be divisive. Let's lead our party based on some principles that have been very much a part of who we are for decades.

RIDGE: And let's be less shrill, in terms of -- and, particularly, not attack other individuals. Let's attack their ideas. Let's explain, in a rational, thoughtful, responsible and reasonable way why our ideas and our approach are more acceptable, why they should be more acceptable to the average citizen.

KING: Let's finish the conversation about politics over at the wall, if you will. Because I've known you for a while and I've come to see you in your stated from time to time.

And I want to take you back in time, a little bit, as we pop out -- this is the great state of Pennsylvania. And I want to take you back. When you were governor, I came to see you once. And that's Tom Ridge, right there. That's Tom Ridge, leading the bike.

This was your annual tour of Pennsylvania.

RIDGE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You would get out, show tourist attractions. This is outside the Utz potato chip factory.

When you look at this -- you're, again, the two-term governor of a state. And I'm going to put to pictures over here for a minute, although you can marvel at your biking skills, there.

First, what do you remember of those days?

RIDGE: Well, I think having -- being governor of a state where the constitution -- the people give you a lot of authorities, it's one of the -- it is the best political job in America. So I loved being governor. I think everybody understood that.

KING: No disrespect intended. I'm going to move the picture off the screen there for a minute.

(LAUGHTER)

Because I want to show you something about your state, here. This is the last election that just happened, and I'm going to use green, down here, to draw a line around the city of Philadelphia, out in those suburbs that you know all that well.

The last time a Republican carried this state for president was back here in 1988. And look at the difference. Look at the difference Republicans carry the suburbs. They carry Pennsylvania. Where has your party gone wrong in the suburbs?

RIDGE: Well, first of all, a lot of the -- there's been a lot of demographic changes in the demographic changes in those four collar counties.

KING: All right. Let's stretch them out. RIDGE: And you've got to give credit where credit's due. I think, for the past couple of years, the party apparatus within Pennsylvania, the Democrat party apparatus, with Governor Rendell, have done a much better job of registering more voters.

KING: You just decided not to run for Senate. You could have run as a Republican. Some polls said you would have won. You decided not to run for the seat.

Arlen Specter has switched from a Republican to a Democrat now. In this race, come November, if Arlen Specter is the Democratic nominee and Mr. Toomey the conservative Republican, the former congressman, is the Republican nominee, Tom Ridge will vote for who?

RIDGE: Tom Ridge has a secret ballot and -- and Tom Ridge will discuss it at the election. I'm going to wait, on the Republican side of the aisle, to see how the field -- I hear a couple of names out there. And I'm going to wait to see if the people that I know whom I might support decide to make the difficult decision to run.

KING: But in the end...

RIDGE: At the end of the day...

KING: At the end of the day...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You just offered the Republican Party all this advice: be less judgmental; be less judgmental; open your mind on these issues, if you want to be competitive in states like this.

Why should any Republicans listen to you if you won't commit to voting for the Republican nominee?

RIDGE: Well, it begins on the message and the messenger. You know, I'm a strong, strong, Republican, but I'd be -- I've never, ever, ever voted straight Republican ticket in my life and I never will.

My mother was a Republican committee woman. My dad a lifelong Democrat who switched once in a primary to vote for me.

(LAUGHTER)

But, at the end of the day, I think it's -- when you close -- close a curtain behind you, it makes America very unique. It's a secret ballot.

KING: And when Tom Ridge, son of (inaudible)

RIDGE: Yes.

KING: ... Vietnam veteran, former governor, former congressman, former Cabinet secretary -- when you close the door on this race for Senate, have you closed the door on running again? Might Tom Ridge say he wants to change his party by running for president in 2012?

RIDGE: Tom Ridge us going to do everything he can to make sure that we have a Republican governor in 2010 in Pennsylvania and will work within the Republican Party so that we win the presidency in 2012. And we'll just leave it at that.

KING: That wasn't a no.

RIDGE: Well, you can interpret it any way you want to, John.

(LAUGHTER)

That's -- those are my present plans.

KING: Tom Ridge, former Cabinet secretary, former governor, thanks for joining us today.

Up next, a viewing exclusively here on "State of the Union," a new Google Earth program that allows you to pay tribute to the men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can go to this new program. You can find somebody from your hometown, find out all about their circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a remarkable new program. You won't want to miss this, just ahead on "State of the Union."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Space Shuttle Atlantis has landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California. You saw it live here on CNN in our last hour.

The seven shuttle astronauts spent 13 days in space. They conducted several space walks, dramatic repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope.

The presidents of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan met today at a regional summit in Tehran. The leaders reportedly discussed economic and security issues.

A spokesman for Pakistan's president said it is critical to get Iran more involved in regional security arrangements.

In Britain, a royal chauffeur has been suspended after a security breach at Buckingham Palace. The British tabloid, News of the World, says two of its reporters paid the chauffeur $1,500, got a tour of the royal fleet and even sat in one of the queen's cars.

Buckingham palace is investigating. That and more, ahead on "State of the Union."

Live images, there, of Arlington National Cemetery, just outside of Washington, D.C., on this Memorial Day weekend, a reminder of the true meaning of this holiday we celebrate.

But, as we mark the holiday, we wanted to debut here, on "State of the Union" exclusively, a new Google Earth -- Google Earth program, excuse me -- developed by one of the company's employees.

If you look at all these figures here on the United States of America, this is each and every one of the U.S. troops, the men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you add in coalition forces, as well, the total right now is up to nearly 5,700. We're going to begin right here. I want to show you how this program works. We touch right here, and we tap again, and you meet Nathan Ross Chapman. He died in Afghanistan on January 4th, 2002. He was the first U.S. combat death under hostile fire in Afghanistan.

You see here how he died, shot in an ambush. You can sign a guest book, if you'd like, down here on this program. You can also visit several memorial sites, right down here.

I want to show you some of the other features of this remarkable program. You see Nathan's picture here and the word "incident." We will tap incident and we will fly around the world to Afghanistan. And it zooms in quickly, there. Let me shrink the map down for you as we go, because I want to show you this. You see the hills of Afghanistan here, and this is back at the very early days. I'm shrinking it down just a little bit more so you can get this context when I play the timeline now.

This is Afghanistan. We're back to January 2002. But as we play the timeline forward, you will watch now as the deaths mount a bit in Afghanistan. I'm going to shrink the map, a little bit more, because you see, as we're into 2005, the war in Iraq is under way, as well. And you're watching -- each and every one of these lines is a line back home to the hometown of either the U.S. or the coalition force, as the toll mounts.

KING: I'm going to zoom in on Iraq, a little bit, now, as we come into 2008 and move on into 2009, 5,679 total, and I'm going to touch right here, bring this out into Iraq here.

Bring this up, this is the first combat death of an American in Iraq. It was back in March 2003 right at the very beginning, General Shane Childers (ph), he is from Mississippi and, again, we can fly back to his hometown as we go back to his hometown and pull out now to show you the United States.

As we show you these United States, you can use this Google Earth function and perhaps you want to see somebody from your hometown. All these lines trace back to where the incident occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan. The blue means that is a woman soldier. This is Anisa Ann Sheros (ph). She is from Grafton, West Virginia. If you think maybe from your hometown, you can click on it there. You can go alphabetically here. If you want to check a last time, you want to check a last name beginning with "H," tap on the "H." Let's try that again here. Come over here, just tap on a letter of the alphabet and you'll get here a list of everybody here by that name. You can check by men. You can check by women. You can check by coalition troops who look outside and, again, the remarkable feature of this is once you get here, not only can you pay tribute maybe a friend, maybe a family member, someone you knew from school, you can also visit these remarkable sites here, often read the obituaries as well. This, a new Google Earth program developed remarkably. It is remarkable and on this Memorial Day it is worth a visit for you to go. If you go to CNN.com/StateOfTheUnion, our program Web site, we can give you the link to get to this program. Truly, truly, an interesting, interactive way to pay tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, a worthy cause this Memorial Day weekend.

And don't forget, coming up right at 1 p.m. Eastern, "Fareed Zakaria: GPS" takes a comprehensive look at international affairs with world leaders, policy experts and journalists. This week, Fareed speaks with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: If Prime Minister Netanyahu decides to have a military strike against Iran, will you support him?

TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI OPPOSITION LEADER: I said to Netanyahu and I said publicly that on the Iranian issue, there is no coalition or position. Iran is a threat to the world, to the entire Arab world and Muslim world and the free world. And now during the next few months and seems this is the beginning of the engagement for the United States and Iran, we need to stay together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Stay tuned for "Fareed Zakaria: GPS" coming up at the top of the hour only here on CNN.

He sounded early warnings about the deregulation of America's financial system. Now, he's telling what he thinks needs to be done to revive and strength on the economy in a new book. Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of South Dakota gets "The Last Word," next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Twenty-four newsmakers, analysts and reporters were out on the Sunday morning talk shows, but only one gets "The Last Word." That honor today goes to the Democratic senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan. He is the author of this new book right here, "Reckless: How Debt, Deregulation and Dark Money Nearly Bankrupted America and How We Can Fix It."

Senator Dorgan, thanks for being here.

DORGAN: Thanks, John. Good to be with you.

KING: I want to start with one of the lessons you point out in your book here. You write this, "Of all the short-sighted, greedy and downright ignorant actions that helped create the economic collapse, none was more pronounced than the action of Congress and President Clinton to repeal the banking protections that were put in place after the bank failures of the 1930s."

I could give you a few minutes to say I told you so, but we'll move on. You voted against them and you opposed them. What about this administration now, when you have a Treasury secretary who comes from Wall Street, who was involved in the bailouts beginning in the Bush administration, was part of that team then? Are you confident that this team has a different approach when it comes to regulation? Larry Summers, another man on the president's team, was part of that Clinton effort you damn in your book.

DORGAN: Yes, well, let me make a point first that you -- this country shouldn't have had to learn the lesson twice. We learned it during the Great Depression. It is linking banking with other risky enterprises brought down the banking system. We put in place protections to prevent it from ever happening again. They were repealed under something called modernization, and then we saw the development of exotic products, dark money, things that were traded off exchanges, trillions of dollars of risk no one knew about.

I mean, this is pretty unbelievable. Everybody is making money, so nobody wanted to ask questions, because everybody was doing well, and then it drove the economy into a ditch. You know, we have a new team. The president has been in office, what, four months or so. He's brought some folks in, and some of them have been involved in what happened in the past, just in terms of their decisions. But this president's incrementally taking steps to try to put some sort of new regulatory system in place.

It's not there yet, and I don't want to be critical until I see what's done. I think they've stepped in the right direction, made some progress. First, you have to pull the economy out of the ditch, then you've got to put in place the regulations that will prevent this from happening again.

KING: I want to go to another piece of your book. You write this in the book. "It is so important we fight for a new era of reform and change to put our country back on track, giving working people and small business the voice and the power to make the changes necessary. This is not about a liberal or conservative philosophy. It's about making sure our economy and the free-market system work for everybody."

You mention people, individuals there, and small business. Perhaps he had no choice, because he inherited a near financial collapse in this country, but right now most of the resources of the government are not going not to the people in the small businesses, but to the big guys, the big financial institutions, to General Motors and to Chrysler. Does that worry you? There's not much money to spend.

DORGAN: Well, as you know, that TARP funding happened under the previous administration. I happened to vote against that, because I didn't think that then secretary of the Treasury had the foggiest idea what he was going to do with the money. Turns out that was right. I mean, my predictions back in 1999, the notion that I was right about TARP doesn't mean I'm clairvoyant or smart. It just means that I think there was some common sense missing in both areas.

But the American people, I think, are concerned. And I understand it. It's sort of counterintuitive that you borrow money at a time when you're deep in debt, and yet this president had to try to get the economy moving again.

They are also concerned, I think, about the amount of money that is going to some of the largest enterprises. We need to make sure there is accountability and transparency. I mean, people...

KING: You see it yet from this administration? They say they will be the most transparent ever.

DORGAN: I think they're moving in that direction in a constructive way. You know, this is an environment in which everything is criticized aggressively, you know, and that's just the way things are these days. Really, too much shouting from both sides and too little, really, serious discussion about policy.

KING: On one of the big issues to come is health care reform, and many members of Congress, Democrats, the president's own party, say the way he proposed to pay for it won't work, because they don't support some of it or they need the money somewhere else. And one of the proposals gaining steam in the Congress in your chapter -- your chamber, the Senate -- is to tax health insurance benefits that most people get from their employees.

I want to get your answer as to whether you could support that. But I want you first to listen to an ad Barack Obama ran against John McCain when John McCain thought we should do just that in the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): John McCain, taxing health benefits, cutting Medicare. We can't afford John McCain.

OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Last week on this program, the budget director didn't support it, but he left the door open to paying for health care reform by taxing health care benefits. Is that the way we're going?

DORGAN: Well, I wouldn't leave the door open on it. I mean, I think it's exactly the wrong incentive, to be taxing health insurance benefits. I want us to encourage employers to be able to provide health insurance benefits, and I want the employers to go to work and be able to get those benefits from the employees. And I think suggesting that somehow they should be taxed is exactly the wrong incentive. KING: And your lesson here is that sometimes Washington gets way out ahead of itself, thinks it's smarter than it really is, and spends too much money. Do you ever have any pause during this administration -- I know you support the president, I know you support his goals -- but when you see him trying to do so much so fast, climate change, cap-and-trade, health care reform this year, do you ever think this is so much money, why don't we remember the mistakes and slow down and do it more slowly, or do you do it all at once?

DORGAN: No, I do have some of those thoughts. I like this president. He has taken over a country during an unbelievably difficult time and he's inherited a pretty good size mess. But you know, he has got to work his way through this, and he has a lot of things he wants done -- energy, climate change, health care, even as we try to pull the country out of the ditch. So you know, we're going to have to do what we can do in a thoughtful way, and we're going to do a lot this year. We've already done a lot. It's pretty unbelievable what we in Congress and the president have done together, but we're going to try to tackle these things one at a time, working on all of them behind it, and then see what we can do to make this a better country.

KING: Senator Byron Dorgan, thanks for joining us today on "State of the Union."

KING: And whether you support him or not, whether you agree or not, it's a pretty common-sense approach. You might want to learn some lessons. Read "Reckless" by Senator Byron Dorgan.

Coming up, an Iraq war veteran guides us through the honor and emotions of a very different mission, burying his fallen comrades. A Memorial Day weekend visit to Arlington National Cometary, when "State of the Union" returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I want to remind anyone watching this Memorial Day weekend of this new technology developed by a Google Earth employee in his spare time. Go to our Web site, CNN.com/stateoftheunion. Touch on any of these figures and you can track people from your town and see those who have given their life, paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan. Learn all about them and pay tribute on some of these memorial sites.

This is normally in the program where we take you outside of Washington to meet new people, new places. And you all know finding new stories and traveling are the job I love the most. But some steps are worth retracing.

On Monday President Obama will lead Memorial Day ceremonies right here at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a place that is numbing and uplifting all at once. And on this weekend three years ago, I met an Army captain, Mike Bandzwolek, then a member of the elite honor guard that, for generations, has escorted heroes to their final resting place. On this Memorial Day weekend, we leave you with his remarkable story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAPT. MICHAEL BANDZWOLEK, U.S. ARMY: I spent a year in Iraq during the invasion and then up into February '04 with 101st airborne division. So, it was different.

KING: Does that experience enter your thoughts at all when you're here, serving, when you're seeing people who served alongside you?

BANDZWOLEK: It does, just because, we've walked already, I saw two graves of guys that I went to high school with, other ones that I recognize, guys I went to college with or guys that I went to college with, soldiers that they've had. So you do think about it, when you see, you know, someone that you knew, and here they are. KING: You do a job here in which you are trained to almost be dispassionate, to pay no attention to what's going on around you, to not be distracted by what's going on around you. You get quite emotional walking through there, because you said you're passing the graves of friends. How difficult is it to do what you do?

BANDZWOLEK: It is difficult. I think at first it is more difficult because you're not only learning a job, but you're dealing with a very emotional situation. As you grow a little bit more comfortable with doing your job, it becomes easier to focus on that and not so much the families that are surrounding you.

But it never gets easier. It's difficult to see someone who, you know, like I said, particularly, someone whose husband or wife or son or daughter just died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to stand in front of them, and to do that job, and to try to remain, not necessarily dispatched but to remain focused on what your job is.

KING: Is it what you expected, or can you not think in advance or study in advance what the experience is going to be like?

BANDZWOLEK: I don't think at the time, when I came here, I knew what to expect. The longer I've been here, it's definitely been an honor to be able to provide a service on the other side of the Army. And there's a lot of people in Iraq and Afghanistan that are doing their job. And there need to be some people on this side that are representing what the Army does and what the military is doing and also provide honors for a fallen soldier from Iraq or Afghanistan.

So it is an honor to do this job, and I'm proud to say that I've done it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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