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STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING
Sound of Sunday
Aired November 15, 2009 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KING: I'm John King and this is STATE OF THE UNION.
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KING (voice-over): It's 11 a.m. Eastern, time for STATE OF THE UNION's "Sound of Sunday." Fourteen government officials, politicians and analysts have had their say, the secretary of state and the Senate minority leader and the senior adviser to the president of the United States. We've watched the Sunday shows so you don't have to. We'll break it all down with Donna Brazile and Bill Bennett and the best political team on television. STATE OF THE UNION "Sound of Sunday" for November 15th.
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KING: The Obama White House is forcefully defending its decision to bring the alleged mastermind of 9/11 attacks and four of his co- conspirators to trial in a federal court instead of a military commission. Top adviser David Axelrod says an open trial in the city hit hardest on 9/11 is the right way to proceed.
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DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: We believe that these folks should be tried in New York City as you say, near where their heinous acts were conducted in full view and in our court system which we believe in. We've had, you know, since 2001, about 195 terrorism cases in the courts and we've been successful 91 percent of the time. We're very confident about these cases.
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KING: The man who is New York City's mayor on that fateful day says he takes issue and says prosecuting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the others in the military system is smarter and safer.
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RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: The reality is this is unnecessary. First of all, it's an unnecessary advantage to give to the terrorists. I don't know why you want to give terrorists advantages and secondly, it's an unnecessary risk to the city of New York which already has any number of risks. If it was necessary, if this were the only option, well, of course, I'd be in favor of it and of course, the city would do everything it could as it will to try and make it safe. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Also speaking out this Sunday, the secretary of state Hillary Clinton who acknowledges the president has a tough sell as he considers sending thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
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HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I understand that there will be people who are maybe critical or unconvinced or not persuaded, but I think the majority of Americans will know that this president has gone the extra mile. In fact, more than that, to make sure that whatever decision he makes is in the best interest of our country, that it is aimed at making our country more secure and supporting our men and women in uniform as they fulfill the mission.
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KING: As you can see, we've been watching all of the other Sunday shows so maybe you don't have to. Let's bring in the best political team on television as we do every Sunday at this hour to break down these issues. Joining me in Washington, CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, national political correspondent Jessica Yellin, CNN political contributor and host of "Morning in America," Bill Bennett and CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. Welcome all.
Let's start with this decision to have the trials in New York City, in federal court, not in the more secretive and some would say more favorable to the government military tribunals. You just heard Secretary Clinton there in Afghanistan. We'll talk about that in a minute. But let's listen to her, former New York senator, now the secretary of state, talking about the president's controversial decision.
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CLINTON: I'm not going to second guess any decision that the attorney general made, but I think it's important that Mayor Bloomberg, that our law enforcement officials in New York, you know, all believe that New York City not only can handle this, but that it is appropriate to go forward in the very area where these people launched this horrific attack against us.
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KING: Candy Crowley, it is a legal decision, but also it is a huge political decision.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Political risk, I think, for President Obama. And it's now a debate. It's not -- we are not -- there's no end to this. The decision has been made. I called up on Capitol Hill this week saying is there anything you all can do to stop this from Clinton? They said no, not that we know of. So we're now just debating for debating's sake in the public forum. And I think the question, we won't know the answer to whether this was a good political risk or a bad political risk until we get to the end of the trial because I don't think anyone doubts New York's ability to make the place safe for this trial.
The question, I think is who wins the propaganda war in this because what the president has decided is we want this system out there for people to see. Well, does it also become a tool for recruitment in al Qaeda? And I think that's where we really won't know this until we see the end of the trial.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It was all about a propaganda war, really, to the administration, I think, when you look at the question of whether the September 11th attacks created fear. Certainly they did. Did they cause the United States to change its way of thinking and the way it does things? That's another question entirely and the outside world looking in at this sees Gitmo as a very bad place where very bad things happen and the United States ought to be rid of it.
So are you going to hold a trial there for the very people accused of these crimes? Are you going to put them into the American system which has repeatedly shown it can handle terrorist attacks before September 11th and after?
KING: So Bill --
CROWLEY: Some of the trial will take place in a military commission. I think that's where he kind of loses his argument.
KING: So on the imagery here, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four guys who allegedly were the masterminds, the architects of 9/11. You can put them in a military tribunal, men in military would be across the table from them. Or you put them in federal court where it's men and women in business suits across. If you are talking about al Qaeda using that as a propaganda, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others certainly will get their time on the stand if they want and get to make their case. What's the up and down?
BENNETT: They'll get plenty of time. As Candy said, we are now arguing with ourselves about this. This was unnecessary. The outside world thinks Guantanamo is a horrible, terrible, cruel place. The outside world is stupid, it isn't -- many people have been there and they know it's not a horrible place. But this gives Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a propaganda opportunity like unparalleled, unequaled, the cameras will be rolling. Also, he'll have very good lawyers.
KING: No cameras in the federal court.
BENNETT: All right. Trump that. Outside of federal court, those lawyers will be talking. What kind of challenges? Did he get a Miranda warning? I don't think he got a Miranda warning? What about the use of water boarding? Well, we heard all about that from the Obama administration. That's not the last thing you're going to hear about this. Look, the problem is the president acts like a lawyer, thinks like a lawyer. He is solicitous of the legal community. He is not -- I wish he were solicitous of the soldiering community. He does not use the phrase Islamic terrorism. He has not used any locution like that since he's been president. He doesn't know that we're in a war against Islamic terror. He thinks this is a legal matter and it's a big mistake.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is also a commitment he made and if he weren't doing this, we would say he's breaking his promises. This is a man who believes that this needs to be done. And if he were to allow Gitmo to proceed with its own system of justice, there would be an exception carved out here. There would be a different set of rules and he would be held accountable for that as well.
KING: Well Donna, I want you to jump in, but first I want you to listen to the opposing view. You heard Secretary Clinton, you've heard Attorney General Holder and the president. Here's the man who was mayor on 9/11 saying this is a bad call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIULIANI: The Obama administration is repeating the mistake of history. Many, many people have regarded that as a mistake that it was treated just as a civilian act. It should have been treated as an act of war and it's part of a bigger picture here, John. It's part of Barack Obama deciding that we're not at war with terrorism any longer. So this is not treated as if it was an act of war which it should be treated like. Remember, he told us we can't use the term war on terror. The only problem with that, John is, the terrorists haven't stopped going war with us.
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BRAZILE: Well, first of all, as you all know, John, and you pointed out in your excellent interview with the mayor, back when Mr. Moussaoui was on trial here in Alexandria, this same person said that this was a display of how judicial systems work. President Bush used federal courts to prosecute and indict many terrorist, hundreds of terrorists so there's nothing wrong with our judicial system.
I think for those who are now criticizing the president, first we've got to understand that these are people who would criticize the president if he got up one morning and proclaimed the sun was shining. And second and most important, John, they're injecting once again fear into this debate. This is a president who is trying to get this ball down the road. We've had these criminals now in handcuffs down in Gitmo Bay for eight years or seven years or six years. It's time to bring them to justice. I think there's no better place than to bring them to justice here on our soil right before the American public as well.
KING: In the big debate about this, one thing I found interesting this morning. We're watching everybody out there, everyone is giving their opinion about this. Jack Reed, senator from Rhode Island, a Democrat, served in the military. He made the case that he thinks this is the right thing to do, put them on trial in the federal court system, let them have their day in public, it's transparent.
KING: But he also said, and if you lose; if Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is somehow acquitted, well, that's OK; the government could use its power, then, to just hold them anyway.
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SEN. JACK REED, D-R.I.: Under basic principles of international law, as long as these individuals pose a threat, they can be detained, and they will.
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KING: So -- so help me out here. So we're going to have a trial because we're the United States of America and this is the way we do things, but if we lose, we can hold them anyway?
CROWLEY: And actually, the president has said -- has hinted at this before, that, in fact, enclosing Gitmo, that there are going to be people that they are not going to bring to trial precisely because of some of the information that they would have to make public.
So they are going to hold people indefinitely, which was something that he did argue against in the campaign. But what they've seen is there just really are some people they are going to hold indefinitely.
JOHNS: I talked to attorneys, federal prosecutors, former federal prosecutors, both Republicans and Democrats. And that's just about the only thing they seem to agree on.
KING: Double jeopardy does not apply?
JOHNS: Right, that -- that, no matter what happens, this guy is not walking down the courthouse steps. He'll be stepped back in a second.
And the real political challenge for the president -- it's obvious where it comes from on the conservative end. They're going to attack -- criticize him for making America less safe. But he really faces a much greater challenge, as well, within his base, for detaining folks without -- without charging them long-term.
So closing Gitmo is a lose-lose, politically, for him. And bringing them here is a political nightmare, in every sense. It's just something he committed to and has to do.
BENNETT: And I'm not talking about the politics of this. I'm not trying to score political points. I have praised the president on any number of occasions, unlike a lot of conservative people; when he does the right thing, I say so.
It is a mindset. The president goes to Fort Hood and says, "No faith could justify treacherous acts such as these." He's out of his mind. We have a faith shared by about 300 million, Wahhabi Muslims that says this is absolutely justifiable. Go down there like Inspector Clouseau, fine, make the case, you know, with the magnifying class.
This guy's giving out a card that says "Soldier of Allah. Allahu Akbar."
Is it possible for the president to say -- he could even say Islam has been kidnapped -- that's fine with me -- but to say there is a serious threat in the world; it is in the mind of people, and we have to oppose it, and they are at war against us; we need to be at war against them.
KING: Do you worry about that?
BRAZILE: Well, we're not at war against Islam.
BENNETT: Radical Islam.
BRAZILE: Radical Islam clearly has to be challenged, but it's not going to be challenged just from the citizens of the United States. It must be challenged from other Muslims who probably want to reclaim their faith.
And -- but I think this goes back to our original point. This is a victory -- this is not just a campaign promise. This is a victory for the rule of law and due process. And I do believe that this man, Mr. Muhammed, and others will be brought to justice.
BENNETT: Military commissions are part of our system of law. Why do people think this is somehow a deviation of the rule of law? That's why they're established, to work in just such circumstances as these.
CROWLEY: We should also just add quickly that it's not just -- by and large, it is conservative criticism, but we saw Senator Webb, a Democrat, and we saw Senator Lieberman, independent, both saying, bad idea.
KING: It's a controversial idea. Hold on. Hold the thought. We'll have much more of this. As you can see, it's a lively discussion. We'll continue it right after a quick break. Don't go anywhere.
KING: We're back with our panel, Joe Johns, Candy Crowley, Jessica Yellin, Bill Bennett and Donna Brazile.
Let's move to the president's big decision about sending troops to Afghanistan.
Mitt Romney, the other day, to a conservative group in California, gave a speech. He said, number one, why is David Axelrod in the room? He's a political adviser. What's he doing in big national security conversations? Number two, he said, why is the president taking so long, and went on to say, you know what, he had, like, 30 campaign events this past year; why can't he sit down and get this decision about troops in Afghanistan?
So I put the question to Mr. Axelrod.
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AXELROD: I know that Governor Romney has never had responsibility for any decision akin to this, and so he just may not be familiar with all that it entails. But I think the American people are being well-served by a process that is assiduous, in which every aspect of this is considered. Because, after all, lives of American service men are -- are involved here.
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KING: Bill, you know, the battle lines here. Among those speaking out in the past week was General Powell, who said, Mr. President, take your time; get it right.
BENNETT: Yes, well, I notice Axelrod was going to say a lot of American service men are involved here -- are at risk. But he didn't want to say that. They need help; they need support. We'll see what the president does.
He has decided to take more time, now is in the position, as far as I understand it -- and I think this is from most accounts -- where he says he shares the goals and aims of McChrystal and Petraeus, but he may not share their recommendations. I want to see how he says he shares the goals and ends that they have but he will substitute his judgment for their judgment and make that a better judgment. We shall see.
KING: Let's continue the conversation, but first let's bring in the voice of the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who says, you know, Mr. President, we're with you, but we're losing our patience.
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SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY., SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We are a little bit perplexed about the length of time it's taken to make this decision. I think the president, as difficult as this decision is, needs to make it, needs to follow the advice of his generals. And if he does, he'll have overwhelming support among Republican senators. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Does anybody care about how long it takes to make this decision or do they care, in 2012, when he's on the ballot, about what Afghanistan looks like?
CROWLEY: Bingo. I mean, you know -- how long he takes to make this decision is only something to talk about until he makes the decision, and then it totally goes away. So it's absolutely about what is this decision.
YELLIN: And can we remember that, when President Bush was deciding on the surge, it took him just as long. About four months, he was deciding, while we were all focused on the Iran Study Group. All the attention was being paid to Baker and Hamilton coming up with this other study. And the president announced the surge two weeks later, and we all forgot how long it took him.
KING: And yet this is pretty messy. General McChrystal, Donna, has been very public: I need these troops; I need them as soon as possible; I think I need around 40,000.
Ambassador Eikenberry, a former general -- these cables are mysteriously leaked this past week that he's sending cables to the president saying, don't send more troops, Mr. President, until we know whether the Karzai government is up to speed, up to snuff on corruption.
Can you have a policy in such a crazy, dicey place in the world, when your top diplomat and your top general are publicly at odds?
BRAZILE: Well, you know, I've seen so many leaks over the last couple weeks. And I hope the president tries to crack down on the number of leaks.
But I thought General Eikenberry's comments, or his written cable to the president, was spot-on. He said, we don't have a reliable partner in Afghanistan. And one of the key ingredients of this counterinsurgency strategy -- we know our military, the men and women, can go and clear the territory, but how do we hold it?
BRAZILE: We need to have a reliable government in their country in order to ensure that we can not just build a peace and also strengthen the Afghanistan military and the infrastructure. And we don't have that yet.
So I think the president should put all of this on the table and he should not be rushed into making a very important decision of his administration.
KING: Not that we in the military would ever be against leaking classified memos, Joe, but has this process gotten a little messy?
JOHNS: Oh, yes, well, sure. It has gotten messy, but it is also clear that we're all in the room, aren't we? Every time we read another headline, we know a little bit more about the kind of information the president is getting.
I'm one of those people who has always believed that leaks are for a purpose. They're for a reason. And it's pretty clear that the last leak came to sort of balance the McChrystal leak so that everybody knows what the president is thinking of.
Also, I mean, you have to think of the fact that his chief of staff is the person who is absolutely an engineer of media. So they're trying to bring the public in the room and usually when you see this sort of advance and retreat thing with media coverage, it means they're trying to lure the public to a certain place.
YELLIN: I just get the sense these leaks are Pentagon-driven more than White House-driven.
CROWLEY: Well, except, didn't you think the leak about how the president has sort of rejected all four plans, to me, that was -- it had White House written all over it because that was like, by the way, we're going to have an exit strategy. we're not just going to put out, OK, send more troops.
KING: On that very point, the person in the cabinet who says she has the least political job, the secretary of state, who says she is trying to stay out of the politics and seems acutely aware, to Candy's point just there, that there's a debate about the number of troops. There's a debate about whether the enemy is the Taliban or whether we're supposed to be nation-building, but she gets that the American people want to know when will this be over. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM ABC'S "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS")
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: We're not interested in staying in Afghanistan. We have no long-term stake there. We want that to be made very clear. We came to do a mission. Unfortunately, it was not achieved in the last eight years. In fact, the mission was changed because it could not be achieved or no longer was the primary goal that was expressed in the prior administration.
Well, our goal is very clear. We want to get the people who attacked us and we want to prevent them and their syndicate of terrorism from posing a threat to us, our allies, and our interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bill, how important is it, just whatever number he picks, whether it's 10,000 more, 20,000 more, 30,000 more, 40,000 more, that when he makes that case to the American people, he also says, look, maybe I can't give you an exact date, but here are the three benchmarks you should judge me by and I'm going to get the troops out of there?
BENNETT: Well, it is very important that he makes that decision, announces it, and asks the American people to be behind him. I want to be behind, and I hope the American people will be behind him. But he needs to say why. You guys are all journalists, fascinated with leaks. I've leaked some myself, they're not that important, actually.
BENNETT: My leaks weren't very important anyway, and that's the problem. But look, what Secretary Clinton says I think is not quite right. The mission there is to be sure, as Peter Bergen has written any number of times, to be sure that Afghanistan is not again a base from which people attack the United States.
And if that's the main mission, to protect us and our allies from another attack, it really doesn't matter whether the Karzai government is reliable or not. That's an issue down the road. Afghanistan, as the scholars have pointed out, has been the base from which these attacks have been made in the past that we have to secure.
BRAZILE: But I disagree with you...
KING: How important -- as you answer him, how important for Democrats who don't want him to send more troops -- if he does, as we all believe he is likely to do, how important is it that he be very clear about when this will be over?
BRAZILE: It is very important that we have an exit strategy. And it is very important that we have a reliable partner, Bill. We cannot secure these territories and then depart because there's no government in place to provide the infrastructure.
Right now the Taliban is the government. They're emboldened by the people because there's no reliable partner. So we have to ensure that the Karzai government now reaches out and bring in some of these tribal leaders, some of these provincial leaders, so that there's some functioning government.
At the end of day if we're not going to, you know, force Mr. Karzai to end the corruption, reform his government, and to reach out to these tribal leaders across the country, we're going to be there for a long time and we're not prepared to stay there for a long time.
BENNETT: Well, for the sake of our security, we may have to. If you look at history, most of the wars we have fought, you could not state it was a condition of fighting that war that you had a reliable government behind you when you went in.
Many of them, it was a hostile government, such as when we went in the first time. We may have to be there a long time. It's a tough world and we have got 300 million people out there who are armed and want to kill us.
CROWLEY: Donna, if Democrats continue with the argument, as they will, which is, we need this stable government, we need this stable ally, don't you then bring up the question of, then look, if we don't need a stable ally, what are those 68,000 U.S. troops being there? Shouldn't we -- OK, fine. bring them out if we can't stabilize the government.
So isn't that -- I mean, isn't that sort of counter what -- the Democratic argument at this point?
BRAZILE: Well, the argument is that we should -- our troops should have a defined mission. And if the mission is to train the Afghanistan military and policemen so that they can secure their country, then that's the mission. When we finish that, bring them home.
The bottom line is, the Democrats are worried that just sending troops without a defined mission, without a reliable partner is basically sending them to fail. And that's what I think many Democrats will oppose.
KING: All right. A quick time out here. We're going to -- when we come back, we will redefine our mission and go "rogue." Sarah Palin's book comes out Tuesday, we're going to have some fun. Don't go anywhere.
KING: A shift to politics now as we rejoin our panel, Joe Johns, Candy Crowley, Jessica Yellin, Bill Bennett, and Donna Brazile. All right. This is our test of the day. On newsstands this week, these two right here. Sarah Palin, this picture taken from Runner's World, I believe, and now put on the cover of Newsweek. Here TIME asking is Major Nidal a terrorist? You walk into the supermarket and you would buy, Joe Johns?
JOHNS: And I've got to go with the Palin. I'm sorry. I just absolutely have got to go with it. I mean, she is just, at least for us, the gift that keeps on giving. You know, people love her, people hate her, but people listen to what's going on in the life of governor -- former Governor Sarah Palin.
BENNETT: Answered like a journalist and not like a man.
BENNETT: Come on, we know why you chose that cover.
Look. it's a great picture and that's one of the reasons they hate her. There are a lot of people who hate her. It's amazing to me how many people hate her. You know, I want to see what she has to say in the book, I haven't read the book, we'll see what happens over the next two years.
But it is just remarkable to me -- a friend of mine in New York, a woman, told me she was walking down the West Side, and this woman, lifelong friend, just saw her from 30 feet away, and said, I hate her, I hate her, I hate her, I just hate her.
BENNETT: Everyone knew. Everyone in the West Side knows who you're talking about. And you know, she's selling a lot of books, she's got a lot of electricity. Whatever she does, whether she runs for president or not, she's going to be very good for the Republican Party because she is going to bring in a lot of money to the party, a lot of events, a lot of charge, a lot of electricity, and a lot of debate.
KING: Well let's listen, as we continue the conversation, you mentioned the West Side. Here's a guy who spent a little bit of time on the West Side, the former mayor of New York City. He's a moderate Republican, supports abortion rights, has marched in gay rights parades, so maybe you think he would be at odds with Sarah Palin. Nope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIULIANI: I think Sarah Palin is great for the Republican Party. I think the fact that "Newsweek" has her on the cover and is criticizing is a great indication of how good she is for the Republican Party and how much enthusiasm she's created.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is enthusiasm good?
BRAZILE: Well I was at the Republican convention and I thought she turned the four-car funeral into an exciting convention. But that aside, look, she's an interesting figure and I intend to buy the book for one simple reason. I want to read about her background and what led her to the political arena and of course, I'm very interested in her experience as a vice presidential candidate inside the McCain campaign. That's the political side.
As a woman, look, we don't have a lot of women in national politics. This week, Jodi Rell, the governor of Connecticut decided not to run. We are down from a historic high from 10 female governors to three female governors. So I'm also interested in whether or not she is going to use this book tour to help inspire a new generation of serving, inspire women to serve.
KING: Why is she so polarizing? I held this calendar up. I bought this because I was in Alaska recently and I bought this calendar and I was showing it to Betty and T.J. earlier this morning on CNN and if you look on Twitter, a lot of people are saying, why is he saying that? He is a tool of Sarah Palin. I was trying to have some fun. Why is she so polarizing?
CROWLEY: Stop having fun, John. That's lesson number one. And lesson number two, because the nation is polarized. For all that we're all coming together and you know, we're going to move forward in bipartisanship, and you look at the polling and the nation is still split apart and she's a lightning rod. I do think that there is a female component to this.
BENNETT: You don't get this with Tim Pawlenty.
CROWLEY: It's different, but she has a much higher profile than Tim Pawlenty.
KING: She does and to Candy's point, let's look at this. This is our latest polling on Sarah Palin. Does she share your values? About half of the country think she does. Do you agree with her on the issues? About half, 48 percent. Is she a strong leader? Again, about half, 47 percent. Here's the thumper, is she qualified to be president, 29 percent. So seven in 10 Americans say no to that question.
YELLIN: And from the campaign time polling, we know that women were more likely to find her more unqualified. She was much less popular among women. I think there is another layer to all of this which is about gender and there are a few factors at play there. One is that unlike other female candidates who have run away from gender for so long who said look at my qualifications, don't judge me on the basis of gender, she embraced it. But she embraced it at times as a defense when she didn't have answers to questions, when she didn't have substance there at times and many women found that enraging.
We have studied so hard, women would say, we have worked so hard, to not be judged to the basis of our gender, why would she use this as a fallback?
On the flip side, I challenge you to find another successful female candidate who if I may say so, is sexual in this way. And generally in public, we do not accept powerful women in important roles in politics as sexpots the way she looks on this cover and that's a very, very controversial and edgy thing in our culture that we're not comfortable with yet.
BENNETT: And that's why the guys maybe like her better than some of the women do. She is also very unlike Tim Pawlenty who is consistent on the issues. She is loudly and proudly pro-life, loudly and proudly pro-Christian and she is quite publicly, quite beautiful and that does tick off some women.
JOHNS: I think it also has to do with the way she was introduced to the national political stage. She was defined and kept very quiet while a lot of people formed a lot of opinions about Sarah Palin at the very beginning. Then when she finally came out, she was so carefully engineered by the handlers, that I think she was not able to say a lot of the things she would have naturally said. So they sort of messed up her image there at the very beginning and she was never able to get it back. And by that time, the entire public was polarized one side or the other against her.
KING: Let's take a quick break because I want to follow up, I want to continue on that very point. Her dispute with the handlers, her dispute with those who were around her in the campaign. We'll be back with our panel, more discussion about Sarah Palin's new book in just a minute. Don't go anywhere. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: I'm John King and this is STATE OF THE UNION. Here are stories breaking this Sunday morning.
President Obama says time is running out for Iran to agree to a diplomatic deal to ship enriched uranium out of the country for further processing. Mr. Obama made that statement today after meeting with the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two met on the sidelines of the Asian Pacific Summit in Singapore.
An auction of Bernie Madoff's personal belongings brought in a lot more money than anticipated. Hundreds of the disgraced financier's possessions went on the block yesterday and sold for about $1 million, double what auctioneers had expected. That money will be divided among Madoff's ponzi scheme victims.
Funeral services today for Michael Cahill, the only civilian killed in the Ft. Hood massacre. Funerals were held yesterday for six of the 13 killed. The accused shooter, Major Nidal Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder. Those are your top stories here on STATE OF THE UNION.
We'll continue with our panel, we'll continue our discussion about Sarah Palin's new book, "Going Rogue." It's out in bookstores on Tuesday and then she will go on a national book tour promoting her book. And let's look at among the stops where she is going, mostly small town America, Grand Rapids, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Cincinnati, Columbus, Ohio, Washington, Pa., you get the picture. Roanoke, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Ft. Hood, Texas, Dallas as well, Sioux City, Iowa, that's an important state. Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Candy Crowley, Bloomington, Minnesota, Albuquerque, New Mexico, small town America, places where she has a base, not just about selling books, is it?
CROWLEY: It isn't except for that those are the places that I imagine her books will sell well and it also keeps us talking about it.
CROWLEY: It is so difficult when the needs of publishing run into politics, because when she goes to Iowa on a book tour, we go oh, my goodness, she's in Iowa on a book tour. So if I'm a publisher, I'm thinking, ooh, let's take her through some of those really important -- like Michigan, that's a big state, Iowa, yes, let's do that.
So it's really tough to kind of tell how much of this is politics and how much of this is publishing. And, boy, what a great idea to travel through the Upper Midwest in the Winter.
KING: You betcha. How much of this is big, introducing again -- reintroducing maybe, who she is. And how much of it might be perceived as petty and small? Because she's in this fight back and forth about the way she was handled and managed in the campaign. Now some say she's dead right, others say she's dead wrong.
I'll give you some words. I spoke with Steve Schmidt. He was the McCain campaign manager. We spoke yesterday at length on the phone. And here are a couple of things he said. It is fanciful, total fiction, he says, of how he is described in her book. He also said, why is the bald guy always the villain?
KING: All right. Joe, you will get the first hit on this one. But if she's 100 percent right, they say she's not, but even if she is, if she wants to have a future in national politics, is this what you want to be writing about? They wouldn't let me do this interview? They thought I was this. They told me what to eat?
JOHNS: Well, you have to get started somewhere. And who knows? I mean, maybe she will run for president, for example. Maybe she really is looking at the big picture down the road and the run for the White House and all, but at the very least, I think what she gets is establishing herself as a real voice among conservatives, which is important right now.
And that's something that you can do no matter what. So that book sort of, it can serve that end if she explains herself.
CROWLEY: But that has been established. I don't think anybody doubts that she's a conservative voice in the Republican Party. And when you talk to Republicans and let's say that we haven't read this entire book. maybe there are big treatises on how she feels about energy policy, but if you talk about -- first of all, you sell books by this sort of insider gossipy stuff.
But when you talk to Republicans, even those who like her and support her, they say, what she needs to do is turn the corner now. That she's so much in this kind of celebrity box that she needs to be the political person and get serious here.
KING: One of the things she says in the book is that -- she disagrees with her on just about everything, but she admires Hillary Clinton, now the secretary of state. Secretary Clinton put this question, would you sit down and talk to her?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM ABC'S "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS")
CLINTON: Why I absolutely would look forward to having coffee. I've never met her, and I think it would be, you know, very interesting to sit down and talk with her. And I've got more than I can say grace over to read, but obviously in the next week there is going to be a lot of attention paid to her book, and I'm sure that, you know, I'll see excerpts printed and snippets of interviews as I, you know, channel surf in Singapore and in Shanghai and in Beijing.
But, you know, I'm ready to have a cup of coffee. Maybe I can make a case on some of the issues that we disagree on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: They have a lot in common. Palin and Clinton have a lot in common, because they both know about being caricatured.
YELLIN: But I also think it goes back to the point I made before. Senator -- now Secretary Clinton, was always the person who said, don't pay attention to my gender, pay attention to who I am and my accomplishments. Part of that is because she was a wife.
But this is a woman who is the exact opposite. She is very much present about her gender, and pay attention to me because of the difference that represents. It just represents a cleavage in our culture, we see things in different ways. And about the point you were making earlier about her tit-for-tat about the campaign, when right after she was unveiled at the Republican Convention, I was in Anchorage and she came to do a rally in Anchorage. And I was struck because she stood up so she was just brand new on the trail and she said to the crowd there, I talked to everybody on my staff, and they gave me permission to stay for a few more minutes and shake hands with everybody here, because I'm in my hometown, so thanks, you guys on the staff, for letting me do this and I'm going to come out and shake hands.
I've never heard another candidate thank their staff for letting them do something. CROWLEY: Ronald Reagan...
CROWLEY: ... as an excuse to leave the room.
CROWLEY: ... lots of politicians go, oh, I've got to go, my staff says I have to leave.
YELLIN: But she genuinely seemed new to this. She thought she had to listen to them. So I do think this is a real telling of her experience. When she got there, she didn't know how to handle the situation.
BRAZILE: It is difficult -- as somebody who has handled politicians running for the highest office, it is difficult when you're dealing with someone who has not been exposed to the national media, who is new on the political landscape, you have to give them some of the ins and outs.
So -- but I also think it would be a huge mistake if she spent the next two or three weeks just grumbling about her experiences inside the campaign. She needs to move on. She needs to become a person of substance, someone who can talk about the difficult issues like Pakistan and like Afghanistan without notes, without Cliff notes.
But I do believe this is an opportunity for her to remake her image and to once again demonstrate that she's ready for prime time.
BENNETT: That is exactly right, a person of substance. If this is all about a fight with Steve Schmidt, it will not done it, even with the covers and a million -- several million...
KING: Now we've shown you -- we showed you TIME and Newsweek. To be fair to my friend, Bill Bennett, all books may not be created equal in the buzz, but in book stands not just will be "Going Rogue," but also will be Bill Bennett's new book "The True Saint Nicholas." So buy them both, if you're going to buy a bunch. That's what I say.
BENNETT: No covers for me, that's for sure.
KING: When we come back -- where's your book tour, we'll put it on the map.
When we come back, our "Lightning Round," we're going to ask our experts when is a bow not a bow. the answer just ahead.
KING: "Lightning Round" with Joe Johns, Candy Crowley, Jessica Yellin, Bill Bennett and Donna Brazile. Two images we'll show you. One of them is already the subject of a big debate, especially on the right and on the Internet.
Saturday President Obama in Japan bowing before the emperor in the greeting. You see him on the left of your screen, on the right, that's Vice President Dick Cheney, the same meeting with the emperor, Akihito, back in February 2007.
The vice president with a handshake, familiar to all of us here in the States. The president of the United States bowing down, the White House says, yes, that's protocol. That is what you do when you greet and meet the emperor.
Bill Bennett on the right, some are saying that this is somehow some horrible offense.
BENNETT: I'd rather focus on policy, but it's ugly. I don't like seeing -- he has really got to stop. He should stop, that's clearly a bow, but I want to focus on policy.
KING: What's wrong with the president bowing to the emperor, if it is tradition to bow to the emperor?
BENNETT: Because we don't defer to emperors. We have a long history of not deferring to kings or emperors.
BENNETT: The president of the United States -- and this, when it's coupled with so many apologies from the United States, is not a good thing. But I'm not going to talk about it on my radio show.
KING: Bill Bennett right, the presidents of the United States should not bow to emperors?
BRAZILE: Well, John, I bow to just only, you know, the -- my good Lord. I think it's a gesture of kindness, arigato. Maybe he was looking -- trying to look the man in the eye. I don't know.
But it's -- it's clearly a gesture of good will between two nations that respect each other.
CROWLEY: Bill touches on what's wrong with this picture, politically, which is it feeds into preexisting opinions. So if you are prone to think that this president has gone too far, has apologized too much, has not taken on the role of the leader of a superpower, much less the leader of the Western World, you're going to say, you see, here he is, bowing down, and he shouldn't be. If you like the president's outreach to other nations, to understanding their cultures, to trying to make this a more global -- the U.S. more of a partner in world affairs, then you're going to say, well, he was -- he's bowing down because it's culture.
JOHNS: It's a symbolic thing. And you've really got to watch the symbols, over at the White House. We know there are handlers over there -- we've been talking about them all day -- who can, sort of, work you through this. And we also know, in all likelihood, the president has practiced the salute. So why not practice the bow?
YELLIN: This couldn't have been an accident. I mean, he must have known. They walk you through protocol before you go and do this. To Candy's point, I interviewed Mitt Romney last week. He made many of the same points that we were talking about earlier. But one of his points is he believes that this president has a philosophical view of the world that America is in a slow decline and we have to accommodate ourselves to this decline.
That was Mitt Romney's take on President Obama. A picture like this ratifies that perception among people who already have it.
KING: The debate will continue. We want to thank our panel, Donna Brazile, Bill Bennett, Jessica Yellin, Candy Crowley, Joe Johns, a feisty discussion. We'll do it again.
And when we come back, our weekly diner conversation. This time, to fit the day, we go to Wasilla, Alaska, good food and good conversation about the state's most famous resident and author, Sarah Palin. Stay with us.
KING: We showed you this a couple minutes ago. This is Sarah Palin's book tour, when the book comes out on Tuesday all across the country.
But what about her home state of Alaska? What do folks think up there, that she's about to put this big book out. Well, we traveled to Wasilla recently, her home town.
Let's remember this about Sarah Palin. She was the mayor of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002. Then she became the first female governor of Alaska and served for three years.
Nationally, 42 percent of the American people have a favorable opinion of her. Only 29 percent, though, think she's qualified to be president.
Well, what do they think back home in Wasilla? We went to the Matsu family restaurant, sat down with people who know her best and asked the question.
KING: Let's talk a little bit about the woman who lives up the street here, your former governor. Did all of you support her in the last election?
(UNKNOWN): Would that be Sarah Palin?
KING: That would be Sarah Palin, yes.
Do you have another former governor who lives up the street?
I've known her for probably 12, 15 years, and I'll tell you she has the intestinal fortitude of a tiger. She's a -- she's a strong person, and no matter what you may or may not like or think about Sarah Palin, she's -- you never have to wonder where you stand or what her goal is. She'll tell you.
(UNKNOWN): I like Sarah. I mean, I like -- I like her honesty. I don't agree with all of her policies. She's -- she was a big fan -- or a big supporter of the oil industry, but I did vote for McCain and Palin in this last election. And personally, until she got into it, I wasn't going to vote for either one. I was not a supporter of McCain until she got into the election, and I think I just did it just because of some local pride.
KING: Local pride. OK. What do you think?
(UNKNOWN): I like Sarah Palin. I like McCain, and I'm (inaudible) we hope Obama to do good job for us, too. You know, I don't say nothing bad. But, of course, everybody wait for something -- lots of people wait for something good because people suffer and tired, to wait for a good president.
(UNKNOWN): I'm going to buy the book just to see where it goes.
KING: Are you open -- if she ran for president in 2012 against Obama, would you support her in a Republican primary if she were the nominee, or...
(UNKNOWN): It's too early to say. I mean, I -- I don't know if she's ready for the national stage, but, you know, things can change in a couple of years. I don't think she was ready for the governorship, but she proved me wrong there, too.
KING: Do you think it was a smart decision that she left? Some people have said, oh, she's a quitter.
(UNKNOWN): I, kind of, disappointed that she quit.
(UNKNOWN): (inaudible) I don't know. Maybe she make good decision. We hope.
(UNKNOWN): I think, given the reality of today's politics, she had to resign to take that -- to get ready to take that next step. And I think that's what I'm looking forward for her to do. I think this book is going to come out a bestseller. And it's going to be a primary funding for her campaign for president in 2012.
KING: You don't have any doubt about that?
(UNKNOWN): I don't have any doubt about that.
KING: What was the reaction here? As you know, she came out of the campaign a polarizing figure. There are people who love her and think that she's the conservative hero and they want her to fight on.
And there are other people -- and, you know, you hear people say, oh, she's not ready or she's not that bright. They made fun of her, you know, "I can see Russia." Was it fair?
(UNKNOWN): I don't think it was fair. Also, I don't think she was ready for that stage, but she got a -- Ph.D in a very short amount of time.
KING: Has she ever been in here?
(UNKNOWN): Three times.
KING: Three times?
(UNKNOWN): Three times, she eat here.
KING: What's her favorite?
(UNKNOWN): She ate the French Dip. She likes French dip.
KING: French dip?
(UNKNOWN): Yes, French fries. She come with the kids, you know, talk nice. She told me -- she says, thank you so much for opening in Wasilla and good business. We have appreciation to you. And this make me happy inside.
(inaudible) you can see Russia from Alaska. This make me funny. Why you say these words? These words make me -- but she's good people. I like her.
KING: Remember, you heard it here first. When Sarah Palin goes to the Mat-Su Family Restaurant, she gets the French Dip sandwich.
We'd like to welcome back our international viewers. I'm John King and this is STATE OF THE UNION.
KING: Pressing global and national security challenges for President Obama as he travels across Asia.
AXELROD: He is determined to get Afghanistan right. KING: The president's top adviser, David Axelrod, joins me from Singapore. A firestorm over the decision to try suspected 9/11 terrorists in federal court in New York City. We'll get perspective from the man defined by those attacks, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
And crunching the numbers on the economy and health care. Perspective from two of the Senate's top deficit hawks, Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.
And our "American Dispatch" from Wasilla, Alaska. It's Sarah Palin's hometown. Her new book "Going Rogue" is reigniting an old political divide.
And he compares Republicans to the belly of a snake and says Democrats better learn some fast lessons, too. Montana's colorful governor and the head of the Democratic Governors Association, Brian Schweitzer, gets "The Last Word."
This is the "State of the Union" report for Sunday, November 15th.