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JOHN KING, USA

No More Bailouts?; Florida's Feisty Senate Race

Aired April 22, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Suzanne. A number of developing stories tonight, including the Pentagon uninviting evangelist Franklin Graham, he was supposed to speak at a prayer breakfast next month. The Pentagon says no thanks because of his controversial statements in the past about Islam.

And also, the vice president, Joe Biden, invites himself to a big meeting on Capitol Hill, going to see the Senate Democratic and Republican leaders to complain President Obama's nominees aren't getting confirmed fast enough.

But our "Lead" tonight financial reform and the president's big trip to New York today -- Mr. Obama went there to tell Wall Street it is critical that we have no more bailouts, but we have with us tonight a Democratic dissenter who says the president's plan as it now stands won't keep that promise.

We'll also go "Wall-to-Wall" -- this is Earth Day plus 40 and as we say happy birthday to Earth Day we will get an assessment from way up in space of the state of the health of our planet, we'll also show you some remarkable new images of the sun that keeps us healthy.

In "One-on-One" tonight, you might call Congressman Kendrick Meek the odd man out, he is the Democrat, the primary Democrat in a Florida Senate race that is spicy, fascinating and right now dominated by all the talk on the Republican side.

Also tonight, on our "Radar" James Carville and Mary Matalin join me and among our topics, Dick Cheney's latest political move.

The big banks and investment firms are making big money again. Many of you are not. And that disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street was a big part of the president's focus today in a big speech in New York. But if you were expecting red-hot in your face rhetoric, you are disappointed tonight.

For starters it isn't the president's style. He would be the first to tell you he is not a natural-born populist. Plus, he thinks the political debate is trending his way and the speech was more about gaining momentum, not about making enemies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here today specifically when I speak to the titans of industry here because I want to urge you to join us instead of fighting us in this effort.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I am here because I believe that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country but in the best interest of the financial sector.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The details are complicated, but the goal is fairly simple, new rules to prevent financial institutions from the risky and reckless shenanigans that led to the 2008 collapse and new rules to give consumers more protections. As we spend some time on the policy and the politics tonight we begin with this question, would the president's plan get you out of the bailout business? Meaning, does it guarantee that if there is another Citigroup or Goldman Sachs teetering on the edge because of its greed, your tax dollars won't be used to prop it up. The president says yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The goal is to make certain that taxpayers are never again on the hook because a firm is deemed too big to fail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now the top Republicans in the House and Senate say the president isn't telling the truth and so does the Democratic congressman joining us tonight. Brad Sherman of California, a member of the House Financial Services Committee; also with us, CNN national political correspondent Jessica Yellin and CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash; welcome all.

And Congressman, I want to get straight to this key debating point and I want to again bring the voice of the president into the conversation. Because as you know the White House is pushing the Senate bill and agrees with most of what's in the Senate bill. The president went up to talk to Wall Street today and he assured the American people in that speech that they would not be in the bailout business. Let's listen to a little more of the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What's not legitimate is to suggest that somehow the legislation being proposed is going to encourage future taxpayer bailouts, as some have claimed. That makes for a good sound bite but it is not factually accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And again, among those saying it does, especially the Senate bill does guarantee endless bailouts, the House Republican leader, John Boehner, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell went to the floor today and again he backed off his rhetoric a little bit but he continues to pose that big question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Yes, the bill says taxpayers get the money back later, but that sounds awfully familiar. Isn't that exactly what we did with the first bailout fund, a bailout fund Americans were promised would be repaid but which the Democrats are now trying to raid in order to pay for everything else under the sun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let me ask you a simple question, Congressman. Who is telling the truth? Is Mitch McConnell right when he says it is endless bailouts or is the president right when he says that's a good sound bite but it is not the truth?

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well regardless of who is right today, tomorrow, the president will be right. I just got off the phone with Senator Dodd. I have been working with him -- my staff has been working with his staff to deal with Section 210. More specifically, 210 N-10 (ph) of the bill and the senator has agreed to changes that will prevent borrowing by the FDIC that is -- that could have been enormous.

I don't know whether this is a technical change or a policy change but in any case the FDIC will only be able when it takes over a defunct entity, they will only be able to borrow 90 percent of the value of the assets they have taken over so that they have a liquidity to wind that entity up. And that is considerably different, just by taking a couple of lines out of Section 210.

KING: Now, you had called that bill, and that specific part of the bill, TARP on steroids. You believed that the Senate bill would get us down this path again. You are saying now that Senator Dodd has given you his assurance that the language will be changed and if a Citigroup, a Goldman, somebody is teetering on the edge, the FDIC steps in. It cannot use more taxpayer's money than that firm is worth. So, if it has to sell the whole thing the day after tomorrow, the taxpayers would not lose a dime?

SHERMAN: Exactly. Now, there will be money collected in advance from Wall Street, but that's Wall Street's money. That's not taxpayer money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But this doesn't change the criticism of the Federal Reserve's involvement in giving some taxpayer money to these institutions?

SHERMAN: Well there are two other things I would like to change in the bill. One is to deal with a statute that's been on the books since 1935. It's been used by the Fed to risk up to $2 trillion of our taxpayer money. Now, Bernanke has been good in that he has not taken big risks. He has lent an enormous amount of money but only on very secure basis.

But some other chairmen of the Fed could use Section 13-3 in the future. You can't blame that -- the existence of that section on this bill, but this is a bill that can cut back the bailout powers of the executive branch.

KING: And Dana, let me bring you into the conversation. Based on your reporting, if the change that Congressman Sherman just outlined that Chairman Dodd has agreed to, that has been one of the key sticking points of Republicans in the negotiation, saying Mr. President, you don't get one of our votes let alone 10, 12, or 15 or maybe even 20 of our votes until you change this. Is that enough?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not going to be enough. There are lots of other issues. That is a big issue. When you heard Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader talking about the fact that there still are taxpayer bailouts in this bill this whole issue of the FDIC, meaning you and me, the taxpayer being on the hook for creditors was still a big issue. You feel that that was pretty much taken care of.

SHERMAN: Well I've done my own analysis. I can't speak for McConnell and the Republicans. They may focus on --

BASH: But you just -- but you did agree that was an issue that they agreed with you on or you agreed with Republicans on?

SHERMAN: I have done my own analysis.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not going to get you to --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Yes, I understand your point. You're a Democrat and you're trying to be a good Democrat, but this is one of the things people don't like about Washington is that if they are right, why can't we say they're right? Mitch McConnell -- in your view, Mitch McConnell, maybe his language, rhetoric might have been hyperbolic, but on the point he was right in your view?

SHERMAN: Well in his biggest request to change was to move in the wrong direction. If I read him correctly, he was saying don't collect the money from Wall Street in advance, but it's OK to --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's separate issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a separate issue, specifically on the question of taxpayers --

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN: I'm not sure that the change he was focused on the most would have exposed taxpayers to even more risk.

KING: Right.

SHERMAN: And I -- the change that Senator Dodd and I have discussed will keep taxpayer money from being put at risk for the failing institution. Now, I still need to talk to Senator Dodd about this emergency financial stabilization fund, which is not for failing institutions, but could also put taxpayer money at risk.

KING: And let me ask you this then, based on this we will continue the conversation in a minute -- before we take our first break -- based on these changes being made tonight, we have spent all of our oxygen this week looking at the Senate bill which, of course, like health care would have to be married up to the House bill. If the Senate bill changes in the direction you say it will tonight, will we have to appoint where there is a compromise in sight or will we have, like health care a Senate bill, a House bill and then lord knows what in between trying to find a compromise?

SHERMAN: Well, the health bill was an extraordinary circumstance, where you had 60 Democratic senators were it passed but only 59 Democratic senators when it was time to go to conference, so we didn't go to conference. This bill, I think, should be handled in regular order. The speaker has been very clear, we go to a conference, we iron out the differences, there are aspects of the House bill that I think are much better than the Senate draft, especially in dealing with that 1935 statute that concerns me that has been the biggest risk of taxpayer money, albeit, it has been treated conservatively by Chairman Bernanke.

KING: All right, we'll continue the conversation in a minute, more on the policy of this and on the politics of this as well, but first our look behind the numbers.

Wall Street gained about 30 points during the president's speech but investors' reaction was generally ho hum. The Dow industrials ended the day about nine points higher. We're also seeing the trickle down effects of the big banks' bit profits. They've set aside more than $39 billion for their employees' paychecks, a nine percent increase from last year and the first quarter of 2009. And get this -- they also have money to spend on lobbying, $6.6 million in the first quarter. We will dig deeper into that number when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back again Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman of California, CNN national political correspondent Jessica Yellin and our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Let's talk more about this debate and how different it is -- yes there is a big policy difference, but politically it is very different from the health care debate. And you had an example in the Senate today where the Democratic senators called a press conference and they started playing video of Republicans saying things about this bill, essentially trying to call them and saying these are not true. Now the Republicans of course would disagree with the Democrats in a very aggressive strategy, and as they played these videos, Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, wanted to make this point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Bottom line, on the health care bill, we allowed too many lies to get out there without rebuttal because we thought they were so obviously untrue. But we have learned our lesson and the minute these things come out of the mouths of some of our Republican colleagues we rebut them and we rebut them again and again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Congressman, to you first, since you're in the middle of the politics, a lot of people make comparisons to the last big debate and that was health care. Democrats handling this better with more discipline, obviously you disagree with some of your Democratic friends about some of the language?

SHERMAN: Well I think this is going to be at least a 60-vote bill in the Senate so it will probably end up being a 70-vote bill. I expect substantial Republican support. The politics of this bill are different in two ways. First, we need 60 votes, which means that we need some Republican support and second, we have much broader public support.

You can argue -- we'd like to argue that a majority of Americans like the health care bill, but there was a strong rebuttal to that. Americans want us to control Wall Street. Now, you know, it's a 1,400-page bill and it's up to us to talk about the details of the bill. But they want derivatives controlled. They want consumer protection. They want higher capital requirements.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So you have (INAUDIBLE) you didn't have in the health care debate?

SHERMAN: Exactly, there are a lot of Republicans who want to vote for a good Wall Street bill. Now I'm not sure they wanted to vote for health care --

KING: And did you guys see that in your reporting in the sense that remember a week with ago, Republicans were saying no, no, no. And then all of a sudden, Senator Shelby was back in the room negotiating. Senator Corker was pushing negotiating. Something happened when the Republicans said let's get back in the room.

BASH: They see the train leaving the station. I think the congressman is right. Republicans see the train leaving the station. But what was so interesting to me about the Democrats and their political tactics today, you just played that from Senator Schumer that they are so, so intent on learning the lessons from health care, really how they botched the politics of health care. I was told by Democratic sources the goal is define or be defined. So that's why you heard that very, very harsh rhetoric from the Democrats, which belied what's going on, which is, as the congressman said, really earnest bipartisan talk.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the other piece of this is they approach this very differently even from the beginning. The administration unlike health care when they were endlessly criticized for never presenting a plan to Congress, the administration gave almost 800 pages of legislative language to Capitol Hill last summer on Wall Street reform and has been quietly working with Democrats behind-the-scenes, so they knew all along what the White House wanted. They guided this -- big difference.

KING: Also working behind the scenes are lobbyists for these financial institutions that don't like a lot of this. Now I want to put some numbers up on the screen because there are new numbers out from the Center for Responsive Politics, which does a great job tracking the money in our political system.

First quarter Wall Street lobbying -- the first three months of 2010, as this bill has been -- being debated in Congress, Goldman Sachs lobbying up 70 percent. Morgan Stanley -- this comparative to last year's first quarter -- Morgan Stanley up 50 percent; Wells Fargo up 46 percent; Bank of America up 38 percent; JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup up in the teens.

Congressman, you are on the receiving end of this. We could argue this is America, they have every right to lobby their elected representatives, but you can also look at that list and say a lot of those people got taxpayers' money. You know they can say we paid it back, but is it unseemly, the process, or is it how it works?

SHERMAN: Well they haven't been lobbying me all that much because I was against TARP to begin with --

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN: They don't have me in their persuadable (INAUDIBLE) in -- I think they've paid back the TARP money, but the key thing for us to do --

KING: But when you walk the halls, are you proud to be a member of Congress when all this is happening? I mean are we wrong to say, oh, my God, look at all that money being spent to lobby or is it just the American way?

SHERMAN: It has been the American way. We have a political system we are used to. And it certainly has some problems, perhaps public financing would be a good direction to go in. But they have a right to have their voices heard. It's just --

YELLIN: You have been critical of this bill, though. Are they getting something for this money, in your view?

SHERMAN: Less and less. I would say that I wasn't a real fan of the original Wall -- White House proposal or rather Treasury Department proposal.

YELLIN: Right.

SHERMAN: I think we made major changes in the House. We are seeing the Senate move in the right direction and on issues this big that are front page day after day, 50 lobbyists -- 50 lobbyists per member are less important. It is on the issues that the public isn't focused on where lobbyists can be effective.

KING: I appreciate the conversation tonight. Congressman Brad Sherman, Jessica Yellin and Dana Bash thanks so much. We have a lot more to learn about this and we will continue as it moves -- apparently moves through the Senate and then maybe you'll let us in on some of the conference committee hearings --

For 40 years now, we have been observing Earth Day and trying, trying to be nicer to our planet. Next I will go "Wall-to-Wall" to show you some spectacular images from space and see if we are making any difference.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" today, we reflect on Earth Day and as we do we remind you, many of you have seen these images in the past couple of days, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in flames, collapsing, many of the workers on that still missing -- a reminder of a tragedy in the Gulf today and also a reminder that Earth Day came about because of an oil spill some 40 years ago. So, what is the difference between then and now?

Let's head over to the magic wall, not only to look at the health of our earth but also some fascinating new images from space. And we start there, because without the sun, we can't have a healthy earth and we are getting fascinating new pictures of the sun because of this new technology. A new solar orbiter up taking pictures of this, look at these, look at this here (INAUDIBLE) out it comes. Watch it come out again, all in high definition coming out again and scientists learning so much from this because the quality of these pictures is so much improved from anything they have seen before.

As you see it play out, let's say -- show you where it is coming from -- here is the satellite where it is coming from and watch as we play this out. Here is the sun, of course, and you have this satellite up in space, these four lenses here, taking images of the sun, sending them back to earth. Imagine downloading a half million songs on your MP3 player a day. That is what that satellite is sending back down to earth in these images and that is what you get.

Now let's come back and look at the earth, some of this is quite sad. And we will at some of the devastation. Here is a rain forest area in western Brazil. Look at this area here and this is only over the last decade or so -- watch as this plays out, the deforestation, you see more and more land expose the rawness. This land here -- land mass larger than the state of West Virginia deforested over the past decade, a sad statement there.

Another one here if we look up into the Mount Everest region of Nepal, 1990 here, 2007 here. Look at the disappearing of the glaciers up here, one of the huge concerns of environmentalists as they mark Earth Day. Again, just look at those images, then and now and that is only in the last 17 years. Not all the news though is bleak. Let's pull out a little Earth Day 2010 postcard, the Yellowstone fires, you might remember those back in 1988 -- look at the devastation there. Now look at the pictures now of the thriving area there. And the Bald Eagle, once endangered, is now off the endangered species list and beginning to thrive here in this country, so not all the news is bad, in some cases, evidence of an environmental bounce back. We'll leave the debate to you over whether Al Gore is right or he's wrong, but on Earth Day today, interesting perspective from up above.

Now when we come back, we will go "One-on-One" with the man you might call the odd man out in Florida's Senate race, the Democratic candidate in a race dominated by Republicans, but as we go to break, a little musical tribute to Earth Day.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: Florida's U.S. Senate race is one of this year's most fascinating contests in the same way a slow motion train wreck can be fascinating. The state's Republican Party is in the process of splitting apart as moderate Governor Charlie Crist loses more and more ground in the polls to conservative primary challenger Marco Rubio. Crist may run as an Independent, which leaves Congressman Kendrick Meek the likely Democratic nominee, watching from the sidelines for now and wondering whether he will face Rubio or Crist or both.

The congressman is here to go "One-on-One". Do you have any doubt in your mind that you are going to have a three-way race? I was talking to some sources down in Florida today who say the governor next week they believe will drop out of the Republican primary and announce he is going to run as an Independent. That is sources saying that. The governor, of course, has not made any announcement, but do you have any doubt?

REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: Well I can tell you this. I haven't been I guess (INAUDIBLE) focusing a lot of time on the movements of what the governor does and what Mr. Rubio has done. But I can tell that you I do know Charlie Crist is going to do what is in the best interest of Charlie Crist and if that is running as an Independent and staying alive until November then that is what he will do.

KING: And how does that affect you? I want to show a recent Quinnipiac poll. It shows in a three-way matchup that you the Democrat, Kendrick Meek, runs third with 24 percent, Rubio would get 30 percent. Governor Crist actually in the polls right now leads in that race if he runs as an Independent. Do you feel like the odd man out in a sense that if Charlie Crist, the moderate Republican drops out maybe he'll bring some of his Republican votes with him, but maybe even tap into your base?

MEEK: Well I think a lot of Democratic voters are going to get to know me more, a of independent voters, even some Republican voters, I think a lot of people are turned off about discourse that has been going on in the primary. The governor makes a decision he is going to run as an independent automatically I become a factor in this race. There will no longer be debates with just the two of them. I will be invited as another major candidate in the race. So to say that it will just be a two-way battle that it will continue it will turn into a three-way battle.

KING: What is happening in your state? Governor Crist was very popular not all that long ago, was on John McCain's list looking for vice presidential candidates, was viewed as a national figure not just because he was a Republican because he was a big state Governor. What is happening in your state?

MEEK: Well, the governor has really been the kind of governor that hasn't stepped out on major issues. I mean he has had a super majority legislature. He hasn't gotten in the way of stopping them from doing anything, he hasn't pushed them to do anything outside of the casino gambling pact -- compact that just passed recently, but that was because of hard economic times and not because of the strong arm of the governor.

Vetoing Senate bill 6, which was the merit pay bill in Florida, it was not a good bill, he should have vetoed it, and he did and because he vetoed it, folks feel that there is some new life there. But I believe as it relates to those that were against the bill, I mean I chaired a class size amendment in Florida to bring about smaller class sizes, so I feel that the lack of leadership is the reason why he is in the position where he is now.

KING: But let's look at your challengers, to that point, the bill he just vetoed. Some think he might tap into some of your teacher's union support, but we'll leave that for another day if he runs as an Independent. How do you feel running as a Democrat right now? The health care bill gets mixed reviews in your state. The president's political standing, even though he carried Florida, is not as high in your state right now. When you look at the Democratic agenda that you will have to go home as a member of Congress, an unpopular Congress and campaign on, what's missing? What would you tell Speaker Pelosi and President Obama hey look, if I'm going to be on the ballot in November in a big Senate race, we must do this before November.

MEEK: First of all, I'm running as Kendrick Meek running for United States Senate. That's the reason why over 13 months, I went throughout Florida, history making, qualifying by petition. Floridians appreciate that hard work. I've always been the guy that kind of went out and stood out on behalf of the people, and I believe, when you look at --

KING: There's an anti-democratic tide out there that no matter who Kendrick Meek is he's going to get caught up and that unless you distinguish yourself.

MEEK: But when you look at health care, I mean, health care is getting better reviews in Florida than it is in a lot of states. The burden (ph) still -- his approval rating is still over 50 in Florida, which is good. He won Florida. A lot of stimulus dollars have been placed in Florida, and there are a lot of people there, they feel that we have major issues, health care, foreclosures, all of those issues, the president --

(CROSSTALK)

MEEK: You can always do better, but it's better than nothing at all, and when you have, not only Mr. Crist and you have Mr. Rubio who have said that they won't fight for individual projects for cities to help them rebound as it relates to member request, that's problematic in a statewide race where you have cities and counties on an IV, and we have to have a return on our federal tax dollar.

KING: Can you run statewide without the Democrats bringing up immigration reform this year? Would you prefer they do that yes or no?

MEEK: I prefer they do it. I believe, Floridians understand the importance of having people come forth and pay taxes and knowing who's in the state of Florida. Diversity is not a new word to Florida, and I believe that dealing with the right immigration reform is going to be important, requiring people to come forth and pay taxes, requiring people to step forward, so that number of undocumented individuals can get smaller so that law enforcement can eject those individuals from the country.

KING: Kendrick Meek, the Democrat often unheard of Democrat in what is a wild Republican primary right now in the state of Florida. We'll have you back as this race sorts itself out.

MEEK: Thank you. So am I, it's nice to be here.

KING: Thanks for coming in.

And next up, today's most important person you don't know is responsible for giving millions of girls and boys a day off from school today. Find out who and why, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Today's most important person you don't know is Marie Wilson who co-founder of Take Our Daughters to Work Day. It's today, although this day, it's Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Wilson, the first woman elected at large to the Des Moines City council was president of the Ms. Foundation for Women back in 1993 when it started Daughters to Work Day in New York City. It went nationwide a year later. The idea was to focus on girls' abilities rather than their appearances. Last year, 18 million sons and daughters participated, although some school districts are telling parents their children really shouldn't miss even one day of school.

First lady, Michelle Obama hosted an event today at the White House for the children of executive office employees and the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, you see her right there, did the same on Capitol Hill. Let's bring back into our conversation, our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Were you a daughter who went to work with that?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, she founded it in 1993, and you know my age, though, no. But I will tell you that one of my most vivid memories as a kid was going into work with my father. He just retired from another network and because of our crazy business, it was really how I got to spend a lot of time with him, and it made such a huge impact on me, and I saw the kids walking around Capitol Hill today following around reporters, following around members of Congress and staff and could I see it really is a fabulous experience.

KING: Now, we take time in this portion of the program often I ask you what stories are we missing, maybe I should put it this way what will members of Congress soon be missing?

BASH: Money. Money in their wallets. Very interesting story on Capitol Hill today. The Senate with a bipartisan vote, that doesn't really happen very much, actually a voice vote, they voted to get rid of their pay raise next year. And this is something that happens automatically. Let me show you exactly what happens in terms of their money.

Lawmakers on average make $174,000 a year. Next year, as part of a cost of living increase, thank is automatic, they were going to get as $1,600 raise. They voted to forego that in the Senate. We expect the House to probably do that later.

KING: Now, the automatic raises put in back late 1980s in exchange of ethics deal. They could make money on speeches and other things. A lot of people said, you know, that's not right, that's tainted. So, give up the speech money and we'll give you automatic raises.

BASH: Right. Exactly. That's the only reason they have automatic raises, but it has certainly become a big political issue for all of these members of Congress, especially an election year and it was a bad economy, it is very difficult for them to justify giving themselves a pay raise. And Russ Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, this has been his big issue. He said, not many Americans have the power to give themselves a raise whenever they want, no matter how they are performing. Congress set up a system that gives ourselves raises automatically.

It's just mind-boggling to many people out there. That's why a no-brainer politically for the senators to get rid of their own pay raise. No-brainer politically, no pay raise for the senators next year. Dana, thanks for coming in.

Next, I compare what's on my radar with James Carville and Mary Matalin, starting with a new political move by the former vice president, Dick Cheney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This is the part of the show where we bring in smart political players to talk about stories on our radar, and today, two of the smartest, Democratic strategist, James Carville and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin, both, of course, CNN contributors. So, here among the things on my radar. I just can't get enough of this Florida Senate race story. Today, former vice president, Dick Cheney, not only endorsed conservative, Marco Rubio, he took a big shot at Rubio's opponent, the Florida governor, Charlie Crist saying, Crist can't be trusted to take on the Obama agenda. Cheney's statement continues lately, it seems Charlie Crist cannot be trusted even to remain a Republican. That's because, of course, there's a talk Charlie Crist may drop out of the Republican primary and run as an independent.

Mary, you worked closely with the former vice president for a long time, you're still close to him, why does he want to get involved in this race?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: For the same reason all good conservatives won and get in this race, Rubio has become the poster child for real conservatism, the constitutional conservatism. The kind of conservatism that when we lost it, we lost control of the Congress, so that was a good move, good for the candidate, good for the vice president.

KING: A sitting Republican governor, it is different, James, for establishment politicians in a party to get involved in high-profile primaries.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is, but Mark Rubio needs a lawyer. He didn't need that change because he is about to go to jail because IRS, they spent like $100,000 double-billing the Republican party of Florida. This is one of like the great scandals that are going on.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I'm not demeaning. I'm just saying the man is going to -- look, I've seen Mark Rubio. He's not going to do well in Rayford (ph). He better go to the federal penitentiary. He's not going to do very well there.

KING: There's an inve --

CARVILLE: Big investigation --

MATALIN: It should the last thing the Democrats want is --

CARVILLE: Hundreds of thousands of dollars.

MATALIN: A solid constitutional conservative like Rubio winning and pushing out of the -- out of the conservative movement, people who aren't conservative. Cheney right about this? Rudy Giuliani is right about this. Fred Thompson is right about this. He's been a superstar for a long time.

KING: Let's stay on this because you mentioned the rally around Rubio part of this, there's more fallout from the race. If Charlie Crist does run as an independent, the Republican party making clear essentially that they have a loyalty oath, and that any of the Republicans are not elected, allowed to support him, even in this free country we have. CNN's obtained a state party memo, and it cites the loyalty oath in the parties bylaws and reminds Republican leaders they have to revoke their support for Crist and demand their contributions back if he runs as an independent.

And here's one more little nugget. We know his polling firm is base here in Washington, D.C., Governor Crist's polling firm, they're still working for him right now, but I was told today that if he runs as an independent, that Republican polling firm will say, you're on your own, Charlie.

MATALIN: Obviously, he's Republican governor who is not going to run as a Republican. If he thinks he can win as a republican, that he is conveying constitutional conservative principles, then he should be able to do fine in the primary. This is a complete political move. Why should Republicans go spout off on the loyalty oath? This is a principle (ph) oath. This is not a party oath. It's above loyalty to principles and the absence of loyalty to those principles was the presence of the diminution of our party. I think it's smart.

CARVILLE: You know, Republicans, they crack me up. Why Joe Lieberman let the democratic party run as independent. (INAUDIBLE). Joe Lieberman, he is a man of principle. Again, to win in all this is a good friend of mine, a contributor to this campaign, is a fine gentleman, name of Kendrick Meek and Rubio is in a world of trouble. These guys can't control themselves with that party credit card and that's against the law. If you don't pay tax on, maybe Rubio paid taxes on his champagne tastes to Florida donors, but that was a federal offense, and he's on a world of hurt right now.

KING: All right. We'll watch how that investigation folds out. Let's talk about another investigation that threatens or at least in theory to bring in the president. Rod Blagojevich, everybody remembers him, another political gift that keeps on giving all of the Obama administration, perhaps, at least a temporary headache. Now, Blagojevich wants a judge to subpoena the president for testimony at his upcoming corruption trial.

The former Illinois governor, of course, is accused of among other things of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat when he was elected president. In a motion filed today, he says the president's public assertion that he had no involvement in any talks about filling the vacancy for that seat will be contradicted by another witness in the case. Can the president of the United States be dragged into this?

MATALIN: Probably not, but it is political theater, and it will certainly have an impact on an already tanking Democratic stronghold of my former home state. It's sad. It's really a mess that the Democratic -- what happened to Democrats in Illinois and that -- and we're going to have a Republican Senate pickup in that state. That's just amazing.

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, yes, Blagojevich, it is a tank on the business (ph). It's not a good thing. The judge would be highly here -- have to be some heck of a case where the judge would allow the president to be subpoenaed, and I can't say that it can't happen. Clearly, Blagojevich is entitled to a defense, but he doesn't make a pretty good case for --

KING: And lastly, this one made my radar, not only because it's cute, but because you guys are coming in today. Politics just seem to run in certain families, listen to Michelle Obama today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we are big tiger savers because Malia, Malia's one issue for her father is saving the tigers. So, we talk about the tigers at least once a week, and what he is doing to save the tigers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

The daughters are lobbying the president. He needs to do more about the tigers. What do your girls say mom and dad, you guys disagree on a lot of things. Here's what we need to agree on?

CARVILLE: I said, God, I don't know these kids were LSU fans.

(LAUGHING)

CARVILLE: I didn't know Malia likes or she loves LSU --

KING: But maybe in four-legged tigers that the Obama.

CARVILLE: Our kids, I can understand that our kids are very -- they love the pets. We have animals and that is completely --.

MATALIN: We have cats all over the house. The cat in his face, he hates cats.

CARVILLE: Everywhere. That's a good thing. I think every parent, Obama's, anybody, your children get in, their interests become your interests.

MATALIN: You need to send them like a tiger postcards.

CARVILLE: Yes.

KING: I should have to bring your clothes in for bring your daughters to work day. Everybody hold on.

Next in the play-by-play, we'll break down President Obama's road trip to take on Wall Street.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Here comes the play-by-play.

KING: You get the idea of play-by-play just like in the sports shows, we replay some highlights, maybe compare them to past performances, breakdown the tape. Back again with us, democratic strategist, James Carville and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin. Fascinated by the president's tone today, he goes up to Wall Street. The White House signals on advance, this is not a lecture. He's going to be polite and just make his case. But I want you to compare, here's a couple of examples of the president in the past venting his anger at Wall Street.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of, you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, there's a more populous tone from the president then. Listen to the president now, today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Some on Wall Street forgot that behind every dollar traded or leveraged, there's a family looking to buy a house or pay for an education or open a business, save for retirement. What happens on Wall Street has real consequences across the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So clearly, critical there today, but no fat cats, no private jets, no, I'm not letting you guys buy your fancy drapes. Why the different tone?

CARVILLE: He's making a case here (ph). He is absolutely right. Down the fact Wall Street did not bring the American family down. It brought the world down. And had it not been for aggressive government intervention that had to save these people from themselves, the whole world economy would have collapsed, and I said this before, they can't be trusted to be on their own. They need to be regulated. People have known this from time immemorial. They bored the executive structure.

They can't be trusted with this kind of thing and I think that's the point. They literally, the United States financial markets, literally almost brought the whole world down with them.

KING: But there's something to be said for being polite. That if you're going to call the fat cats or criticize their private jets when you're in Washington, D.C., don't you need to call them out the same way you were in their backyard?

MATALIN: Probably, the difference in his articulation is going to the fact that Wall Street fat cats overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama to the tunes of tens, scores, hundreds of thousands of dollars including Goldman Sachs. He has this rhetorical ability to be snarky and haughty and demeaning. It's very unpresidential setting this aside. There is a course corrective in a free market. There needs to be transparency in these CDOsm but what he is proposing today, the complete bureaucratic takeover. The government gets to determine how much risk, how much is too much risk.

CARVILLE: Of course. But we didn't have a course correction. Because Wall Street destroys everything around it. One thing if the dry cleaner goes out of business and you have to redo it, but they went -- and by the way, they literally, they're like you don't let kindergarten children play unsupervised.

(CROSSTALK)

MATALIN: Where is this coming from?

KING: Let's get --

CARVILLE: It's coming from every rational economic thinker in the world now.

KING: Let's change the subject. Let's change the subject. Another guy, number two in the operation was out today. He was appearing, the vice president Joe Biden with the ladies on "The View" and he was talking about all the good assignments he gets because of his relationship with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president and I are philosophically in sync and we trust each other and he's just handed big chunks of responsibility over to me. He got a lot in his plate. And so everything from Iraq to the middle class task force to nuclear security to, our -- things and I run on a day-t-day, and so, it's good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's a long list. They are an important list. So, in some ways, just the optics of that, the vice president with the ladies of "The View." It's interesting. But is this a tradition in a sense of Al Gore had a lot on his list. Dick Cheney certainly had a lot of his portfolio as vice president. Does Joe Biden have a significant portfolio here?

MATALIN: You know, my mother taught me when I was a teenager that the more boys talk about something, the less it's happening. He never fails to talk about how important he is and how much he's doing and -- you know, to me, it is unseemly. It does not comport with the way Dick Cheney behaved. When people have power and have authority, they don't have to brag about it.

CARVILLE: Yes, yes. He's verboten sometimes. I just like the guy.

MATALIN: I like him fine.

CARVILLE: I was in South Carolina. I realized that Joe Biden gave the eulogy at Strom Thurmond's funeral? He's one of the most popular people to ever be in Washington. The reason people like him is people say the politicians they ought to just say what they think. Well, there's one politician that says what he's thinking.

KING: He does, indeed. We appreciate you two for saying what you think. Guys, thanks. We need to conserve a little time for Pete on the street. After all, it's Earth Day and he is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Campbell Brown just a few moments away at the top of the hour. Let's check in again our preview. Hi, Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, john. Well, the governor of Arizona right now sitting on somewhat of a political time bomb. She has just days to decide if the state is about to get a lot more aggressive, tracking down illegal immigrants. Tonight, the pressure is on.

Plus, a highly controversial solution to a serious problem, a program that actually pays drug addicts to get sterilized. The woman behind the crusade is here live. We got that and a whole lot more coming up in just a few minutes -- John.

KING: Sounds fascinating. We'll see you in a few.

In our "Pete on the Street" is standing by in New York because Pete, there are few picks in send Bradford Wood first defensive tackle second and third. You still haven't been drafted my friend.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: I have not been drafted, but I'm holding out. I'm holding out. We'll see what happens, but we wanted to celebrate Earth Day today, John. And it's the 40th anniversary. I went out to get some tips from the people on the street what they're doing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you got to recycle you got to reuse and that's why we're singing the birthday blues

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to teach my students about recycling and how important Earth Day is. That's why we came to Central Park to enjoy everything that the Earth has given us.

DOMINICK: Look at this, he got a reusable bag. I never would have thought a guy that look like this would have a reusable bag.

Are you doing anything to conserve energy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We started recycling.

DOMINICK: You just started recycling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bought our first-like recycling containers.

DOMINICK: You bought your first recycling container in 2010?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, two weeks ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just trying to be honest.

DOMINICK: Are you concerned in Brazil about global warming?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, we are very worried.

DOMINICK: The whole country, is there any controversy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's catching - you know, it's becoming very strong because we have the rainforest so everyone's really worried.

DOMINICK: What about the bags? The bag really kills me (ph), the bags and the plastic bottles. What are you doing about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are big reusable bag users.

DOMINICK: Did you make this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

DOMINICK: That's great. You should sell this

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I should.

DOMINICK: Very nice. Make your own bags, everybody. Make your own bags.

You got to recycle man. Ride your bicycle to work now, come on, you know what to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: So, get yourself a reusable bottle and reusable bag and change the world, John King.

KING: Pete Dominick in the Earth Day band. I like that in Central Park. Pretty cool.

DOMINICK: That was fun. It was a good day.

KING: Here in the District of Columbia, they charge you a nickel for bag. They say it will help. Pete Dominick, thanks to you. Happy birthday. That's all we got tonight. Thanks for being with us. Campbell Brown starts right now.