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JOHN KING, USA

Red Carpet Treatment; Real Changes or Hot Air?

Aired May 12, 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, Wolf. A busy day in Washington and in politics, the voters throw out another incumbent and the president's choice for the Supreme Court begins making her courtesy calls up on Capitol Hill.

But our "Lead" tonight, just weeks after raising questions of corruption and confidence the White House gives President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan a red carpet welcome. We'll go behind the reasons for that big visit.

You won't want to miss meeting today's most important person you don't know -- Captain Joshua Mantz back in 2007 was shot in Iraq and he flat lined, he was dead for 15 minutes. Wait until you meet this remarkable hero.

Our "One-on-One" tonight is actually one-on-two. I sit down with Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. They have a new energy and climate change legislation, but the big question is has today's political climate changed to make their hope impossible.

And in our "Play-by-Play" on this tough time in politics find out who says politicians beware and you won't want to miss as the former first lady takes us inside a Bush family divide.

You might call it a red carpet day here in Washington from his meetings with top U.S. officials to his East Room news conference with the president; Afghan's President Hamid Karzai got the full VIP treatment today. Not bad for someone who a few months ago was being accused of stealing his election and of running a corrupt incompetent government.

And who just weeks ago was pointedly blaming outsiders for his problems, not bad at all. So what's behind this kinder gentler tone from the Obama White House and what's ahead for the U.S. and Afghanistan and the increasing thousands of young American troops putting their lives on the line there.

With me tonight Michael Gerson, a former policy advisor to President George W. Bush who has complemented this president's goals in Afghanistan but at time raised questions about what he sees as mixed messages and Maryland Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards who's just back from Afghanistan.

Let's start with what we learned today. If you listened to the president today, it was quite different, because Michael and Congresswoman, you remember the White House saying is Karzai corrupt? Is he incompetent? Is he up to the challenge, but listen to the president. Today he was saying this man is my friend and ally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Karzai agrees that we have to deal with the extremists. President Karzai agrees with me, that we can't win through a military strategy alone. I am very comfortable with the strong efforts that President Karzai has made thus far, and I think that we both agree that we're going to have to make more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Congresswoman, let me start with you, you were just in Afghanistan, a congressional delegation was there on Mother's Day, just a weekend back and you have said that you're very skeptical about the long-term prospects there, the president is sending in thousands more U.S. troops. After today do you think that's the smart policy or sending more troops right now with all this uncertainty a mistake?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well as I said before, I remain a skeptic. I think it's really important for the president's vision to really be matched by a polity and a strategy that would result in long-term success and that's still not clear to me.

KING: Stop the troop -- stop the troop increases until you see that or --

EDWARDS: Well I'm not sure yet. I mean I think we better wait until this week is over and see what the president comes back to the Congress with, but I have to tell you, I think this is going to be a very heavy lift, particularly for Democrats in Congress.

KING: So Michael, follow on that, and also what we heard today, is this happy talk because they realize they don't have a better option if it's not Karzai or do you see substantive substantial progress in dealing with those big issues, corruption, governance, the quality of the economy, the quality of life?

MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER G.W. BUSH POLICY ADVISER: Well I think it's a little bit of both. I mean the reality here is the strategy they pursued in March which was public criticism of Karzai didn't work very well. He reacted very negatively and counterproductively.

But now they're pursuing another strategy, which is roll out the red carpet but pressuring him in private. That's probably what they should have been doing all along. It's more effective approach. Karzai has made some progress in fighting corruption, in meeting with local leaders in Kandahar, trying to be responsive. He's showing signs that he wants to you know make this work, but it's going to be very important what happens, particularly in Kandahar, which is the decisive battle front in this war right now.

KING: And so if you were still in the White House and advising this president, would you say keep sending troops or would you say hit the pause button until we see if he can deliver on some of those challenges you just laid out?

GERSON: No, I think that it won't be until August that everything's in place, that his generals, McChrystal and Petraeus want in place in order to pursue a new strategy. They're not doing the same thing that's been done in the last seven years. They're trying something different, a fully resourced counter insurgency strategy of the kind that worked in Iraq in a lot ways. Afghanistan is very different, a number of challenges, but I think they deserve a chance now with a new strategy to make it work in the next year.

EDWARDS: Well you know let me just say that you know being on the ground in Afghanistan, I mean the challenges are magnified, you know, out in rural province like Zabul and in Kandahar, where you have got Taliban with a capital "T", but you also got Taliban with a lower case "t". We don't know who they are, tribal chiefs, I think there's something like 800 tribes in Afghanistan. This is a monumental challenge, and the word on the ground especially coming from women is security, security, security. Education is about security. Women's participation is about security and we haven't really quite addressed that yet.

KING: I want you to listen to something the president said today, now a little bit of a history lesson, but the president was asked today essentially what's the state of the relationship because of all these publicly stated disagreements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: With respect to perceived tensions between the U.S. government and the Afghan government, let me begin by saying, a lot of them were simply overstated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president seems to be saying there that the media or others, maybe his critics were simply overstating these things. But I want you to listen. This is the voice of the president's national security adviser Jim Jones just a little over a month ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM JONES, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: To make him understand that there are certain things that he has to do as a president of this country, things that have been not paid attention to almost since day one and that is things like battling corruption, taking the fight to the narco traffickers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was Jim Jones in late March. Here's the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs in April.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are times in which the actions that he takes are constructive to governance, I would say that the remarks he's made, I can't imagine that anybody in this country found them anything other than troubling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And these doubts are not new. Here's senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama to our Fareed Zakaria back in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think the Karzai government has not gotten out of the bunker and helped to organize Afghanistan and government, the judiciary, police forces in ways that will give people confidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Those concerns seem pretty deep, and yet is it your conclusion that even with all your skepticism that they view that they have no choice, that they need to send those more troops in there and hope that Karzai turns around?

EDWARDS: Well there are a couple of things. One, the president -- President Obama has to deal with President Karzai who's the head of state of Afghanistan, I understand that, but at the same time, we actually have to have some markers on the line for our taxpayers, but also for our servicemen and women who are giving 120 percent and what that means is that we can't (ph) have a situation where parts of the government are peeling off billions of dollars and sending them to some foreign banks, so we have to deal with the corruption and the Karzai government has to do that and the only partners who can help them deal with that is the United States.

KING: When you say markers, do you want a firm withdrawal deadline, not just to begin in July 2011, but a firm withdrawal deadline.

EDWARDS: Well let me just say I never believed from the beginning that July 11th meant that much of anything and the reason is because all of the experts across the board whether they support this surge in ramp-up or not say that Afghanistan is a 15 to 20-year project. I think it's really going to be important for the administration to tell the American people just that.

KING: And Michael this conversation is almost meaningless if we don't look across the border. No matter how good Hamid Karzai is over the next several weeks, several months and several years, no matter how successful General McChrystal is on the ground in Afghanistan, if you don't have a partnership between Afghanistan and Pakistan, it's largely wasted, is it not.

GERSON: I agree with that. In fact the president made that point today, which is if you're serious about Pakistan, and we should be, (INAUDIBLE) unstable nuclear power, you have to be serious about Afghanistan, is one of the arguments he made today. They're related. There's no real border there. It's just Pashtun tribes that go back and forth. And what happens there affects the rest of the world, stability there. But also I would say to your point, no one has a greater stake in the success of American, NATO and Afghan forces than the women of Afghanistan. Having seen what the Taliban does, executing women in soccer stadiums, preventing girls from going to school they're the ones with the most at stake in what's happening here.

KING: And so then do you trust Karzai talking to the Taliban, trying to bring them into his coalition partners if that's their history?

EDWARDS: I think that's the big question and so here's what -- here's what we have to ask. We have to say well in this peace process, in this peace jurga (ph) that's coming up, what is the level of participation of Afghanistan's women? And I believe that it has to be at a level that they have made a commitment, 20 to 25 percent participation of women, that there has to be an agreement to adhere to the Constitution and to renouncing violence and terrorism. And so you get those things and maybe a peace process can work but I'm telling you with certainty, nothing will work if Afghan women aren't engaged and so we can't have them thrown under the bus because we want to cut a deal with the tribal leaders and the Taliban.

KING: Congresswoman Edwards, Michael Gerson, thanks so much for coming in. An important issue, we'll stay on top of it.

And when we come back, today's most important person you don't know has a remarkable story to tell, he died for 15 minutes and he's here in Washington today telling the country's wounded warriors, don't give up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: No matter what your politics, no matter what happens to you this week, no matter how you feel about your job, some things like this next story put life in perspective. Today's most important person you don't know is in Washington because he died. Three years ago in Baghdad a sniper shot Army Captain Joshua Mantz. He flat lined for 15 minutes, no heart beat, no breathing, no pulse, nothing, but his buddies and his doctors didn't give up. And not giving up is the message Captain Mantz brought to Walter Reed Medical Center today and to us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. JOSHUA MANTZ, U.S. ARMY: I can remember every detail from the moment I woke up. Being flat lined for that long, they expected me not to wake up at all, first of all, but if I did wake up they expected me to be seriously brain damaged and I had absolutely no trace of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Captain Mantz's story is utterly fascinating and incredibly inspirational. You won't want to miss tomorrow's show when we sit down and go "One-on-One" with this remarkable, remarkable hero. Up next, Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, they have just put out one of the most controversial, most expensive and arguable most important issues facing the country, they put it right back on the front burner.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Financial reform, jobs, maybe immigration as if Congress didn't have enough hot button issues on its front burner, Democratic Senator John Kerry and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman today unveiled their long delayed, long awaited energy and climate change bill. They did it significantly without the help of their longtime partner, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

Let's take a peek at just what this proposal would do. Number one, the senators proposed dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, 17 percent by 2020, 83 percent under this plan by 2050. It would affect 7,500 factories and power plants all across the United States. Any state that allowed offshore drilling off its coast would share in some of the revenues from that oil exploration.

Now there would be a 75-mile limit, the rigs would have to be 75 miles out, but the states could opt out of that and allow the drilling closer to shore. Seven billion dollars in investments in so-called green energy, natural gas, electric cars, other projects. This plan envisions up to 12 new nuclear power plants in the United States.

And Republicans -- some Republicans say it's big tax increases, but the authors insist that two-thirds of the savings would be refunded back to consumers as part of rebates in their energy bills. Will this sell? Well a little bit ago I went over to Capitol Hill to go "One-on-One", you might call this two-on-one with Senators Kerry and Lieberman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Let me start with this premise. I called around today to the Democratic leadership, to the Republican leadership and senior people on both sides say admirable effort, but dead on arrival this year, do you accept that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

KING: Why? You don't have 60 votes; there are some Democrats who aren't necessarily with you on this day.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well we believe that as people see who is supporting this bill, the prep that the support that it has, the urgency for shifting Americans' energy dependency, making America more secure, creating millions of jobs. You know there's a compelling reason to do this bill that has nothing to do with politics. It strengthens America. That's what we're supposed to be here to do and we hope our colleagues will embrace that.

KING: That's what you're supposed to be here to do, but we are five months from an election, what has turned out to be a very volatile, very contentious election year. Let's even just start with the Democrats. There are a lot of Democrats -- you know them well -- in your caucus and even people across the House who don't want this to come back up this year. They passed their one bill, but they don't want to deal with this again this year who don't want to take anymore tough votes.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Yes. Well here's I think what we're going to argue, that this bill is the best thing members of Congress could pass that would actually create jobs here in America. I mean it not only stops the flow of dollars out of our country to buy foreign oil, it stops the flow of new energy jobs out of America to places like China and for the first time, an energy independence climate change bill has broad support from the business community. And I think that's going to have an effect on Republicans and moderate Democrats.

There's another clock ticking here -- we say it's the election -- and it's the clock that goes off on January 1st next year when the Environmental Protection Agency has the power and has promised to begin to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, carbon pollution by executive order. The businesses don't want that. I think they're going to go to members of the Senate and say hey, this is a good bargain for everybody including our country. Please vote for it.

KING: Your politics would be better if there were three senators here. You had Republican Lindsey Graham working with you for the longest time. And the legislation reflects a lot of work that he put into it and that he helped build this coalition you have. He has walked away for now, he applauds the effort, but he says he doesn't think the time is right in part because he thinks Leader Reid has poisoned the political environment by saying immigration reform will come up this year.

Now I know you've both spoken to Leader Reid about this. Did Leader Reid put his personal Nevada politics maybe ahead of the greater goal of passing this legislation this year? Where I don't think he will disagree with me that the chances for immigration are way down here. This bill faces a struggle but it's in better shape than immigration. Is that right?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, that's -- it's a very important point. This bill has real potential for bipartisan support, there's not a single Republican including Lindsey Graham who has said that they would support immigration reform. Look Senator Graham's support is all over the bill that Senator Kerry and I introduced today. He said he supports the policies in it.

The reason he's not with us today is because of unrelated political concerns mostly around the immigration reform bill. So I hope that we can put that all to sleep and Lindsey will be considered to have been on a brief sabbatical and he will rejoin us quite soon.

KING: A brief sabbatical -- how did that play out though? When you went to Leader Reid and said hey wait a minute. We're going to lose Lindsey here. Why can't we do this first? What happened? KERRY: I think that the idea that I or Joe or any of us are going to you know somehow take a major issue like immigration, which is a major issue and side track it or suggest that the leader you know doesn't have a right to represent those interests is just crazy. That's not what we did and that's not what we're trying to do.

KING: But you don't think it can pass this year, so the leader would bring this up --

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY: I don't want to get caught up anywhere near the struggle between one issue or another issue, that's not what -- what will drive this issue is simply the value of doing this because it creates jobs in America, this is the next big transformational economic change for our country. This is going to create millions of jobs, it makes us more secure. As we sit here we're sending $100 million a day to Iran. What are we doing that for?

We need to put that money here in the United States into our energy sources, and we think this bill is compelling, leave aside all the extraneous issues, whatever the issue is, immigration or otherwise politics, this issue is important because it represents a bipartisan effort in order to try to push America's economy to a very important place. Ability to compete with China, India, Brazil, Mexico, create the jobs of the future, reduce pollution, clean our air, our water and make America stronger in terms of national security.

LIEBERMAN: John, let me add a word -- just to back up John Kerry's contention that this is a bipartisan bill, the group that we had behind us was very diversified. We had strong environmental community support, but we had the kinds of businesses and business leaders that are really part of the normal Republican political base, and I think that's going to have an affect on our Republican colleagues and a lot of the moderate Democrats.

KING: A former Democratic presidential nominee who came back to the Senate and said I'm going to do some big things, a former Democratic vice presidential nominee, now an Independent, who says you want to work in the Senate to do some big things. There's another guy who spent the whole last presidential campaign as a Republican and took some heat for it, John McCain who talked about this issue. Where is he now? Is the primary in Arizona driving John McCain away from this conversation?

KERRY: You know once again can I just say we're not fixated on or focused on what the rationale is for one senator or another --

KING: But you need those votes.

KERRY: Yes we do --

KING: I'm not fixated on the rationale.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I'm fixated on the math.

KERRY: But John, what's important is we know to a certainty there are well more than 60 votes that are in play, and whether it's John McCain or someone else, that's not the key. The key is there are those votes in play. Now what's going to change their minds? We believe that the force of the legitimacy of the arguments that major business people made today, when you have companies like Florida Power and Light and, you know, Brute (ph) and DOW Corning and General Electric, and you know other -- Duke Energy --

LIEBERMAN: Honeywell.

KERRY: Honeywell saying we've got to do this because this is about jobs for Americans. This is about our ability to compete in the world. It's about American leadership. It's about our strength in terms of being energy independent. Those are unbelievably compelling reasons for us to get this done. And those guys, you know they're not -- they're wearing a Republican hat, a Democrat hat, they're wearing an American hat as a business person who wants to hire more people and win in the marketplace, that ought to be persuasive to people.

KING: Much more to talk about with Senator John Kerry, Senator Joe Lieberman. We'll be back in just a minute.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Let's continue the conversation with Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. I want to talk to you both about this remarkable political year we are in and I want to start with you Senator Kerry.

I read your statement the other day when you decided to speak out in favor of Senator Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary. And you could read that statement over and over again, and you said nice things about Senator Specter. You condemned some of the tone in the campaign there. I had to call your office to make sure that you were actually endorsing Senator Specter, tough decision for you. Explain why you decided between Congressman Sestak, Admiral Sestak and Arlen Specter.

KERRY: Well I -- what I did was I vouched for Senator Specter's character, which was under attack. I don't think I started getting involved in the race directly. In fact I very specifically said I do not want to be the arbiter of swift boating in America and my crew and I would love it if that term were given back the honor and the appropriate place that it deserves. It is not a political term. It's an experience, and a meaningful one. I think that what I was trying to do is simply say that I don't think that Arlen Specter deserved the kind of challenge to his integrity and I was trying really to get both people to sort of look at this thing a little bit differently.

KING: But when you called -- when we called your office, they say but yes that was an endorsement of Senator Specter.

KERRY: Well it is --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Do you not view it that way?

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY: Sure, yes.

KING: Yes, but his candidacy --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: No, not just --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: His candidacy.

KERRY: Yes.

KING: You think he's a better candidate than --

KERRY: I think he deserves our support and I support him.

KING: As a man who was a Democrat, who is now an Independent, who talk a lot of beef for supporting the last Republican nominee for president, when you look at what's happening in the country right now, your colleague Bob Bennett, a Republican, just denied the endorsement of his party by the Utah Republican Convention, Mollohan a Democrat of the house loses a primary last night, what do you see going on?

LIEBERMAN: What I see going on is a lot of people in our country who are anxious about our future, particularly economically, who are angry that people in Washington seem to spend most of their time in irrelevant partisan political fights, we're going to give them an opportunity to say it's not right. I think the net effect of that is that every incumbent in either party up for election this year is anxious now, I think overall the trend lines seem to favor Republicans in terms of the November election, but anybody in a primary who's an incumbent right now in either party is concerned and the Republican party, they see the tea party coming on with real energy and force and are worried about what change that portends for the party. So it's -- in a way, the way I put it, the established political order in America is under attack, by people who are dissatisfied with the way people in office have gambled their lives and their country.

KING: NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" are out with a new poll, 80 percent of America see a problem with the two-party system. Some say it can be fixed, others would like a third party. You mentioned your bill. It's a big huge issue. Climate changes and energy is one big issue. I know you disagreed with President Bush when he tried on social security, back in the Clinton days they tried on some of the big entitlements. Is that the frustration that this building and the people who work in it can't do big things because of the polarization?

KERRY: I believe personally that the problem in American politics is the amount of money that's in it. And I think that's the polarizing factor, and it distracts people from their ability to both be focused all the time on the things they ought to be and number two it sets too much of the agenda, period.

KING: You have to fight the Supreme Court to change that.

KERRY: Absolutely. And I think it's a very dangerous decision that the Supreme Court made.

LIEBERMAN: And there's legislation introduced which I co- sponsored so essentially try to put back some limits on the amount of money being spent in political campaigns, consistent with the recent Supreme Court decision, but the system's not working, and the public is -- they're -- people in this country are anxious about their own lives and they feel that the people in power in Washington today are not only not helping them, in some sense they're hurting them and the only way they can express it that they feel right now is to vote no. And I think that's where the best thing that we could do here in Washington is get some big things done that really make life better for the people in the country, and I think our energy independence climate change bill will do that, most of all because it's the best way to create millions of new jobs that otherwise will not be created here in America.

KING: The chairman of the homeland security, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, President Karzai is in town, he was in this building a short time ago, he was at the white house earlier today. You and I spoke when you were in Afghanistan just after the election trying to help broker some say calmness, we'll put it the polite way there. This administration had been very hard on him, saying they didn't think he was dealing with governance, getting services out to his people, stepping up to the plate as a commander in chief. Rolled out the red carpet for him here in Washington. Are you convinced now that President Karzai has changed enough to be that reliable, trust worthy partner?

KERRY: I believe President Karzai has the ability to be a reliable partner and obviously these next months are critical. We're going to be having lunch with him tomorrow and I look forward to welcoming him up here, we'll ask a lot of good questions and have a good dialogue about it, but my judgment is that he does that have ability, I think he's a patriot, he's a man that cares enormously about the future of his country, about Afghanistan and he's taking great risks to be where he is today. We haven't always agreed, there were real differences a few months ago about certain things, but that's not unusual among friends and allies, and I think the important thing is he's here with a very significant portion of his cabinet. There have been three days of really good talks and work and effort and I'm convinced everybody's going to go back now with a better sense of strategy and of the stakes.

KING: Convinced to the point that 87,000 troops in Afghanistan are about to - the paths are about to cross as the draw down continues in Iraq. There will be in a very short period of time more troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Are you convinced that that is worth the risk and the cost to the American people that President Karzai now gets it and is doing what it takes to eventually starting next July, if the president gets his way, reversing that and starting reducing troop size?

LIEBERMAN: No question about it, it's worth it for American troops to be there, remember this is the country Afghanistan from which we were attacked on 9/11, if we let the Taliban come back; it's really an insult to those who we lost on 9/11 and the troops who have been fighting in Afghanistan. The U.S. Afghan relationship was in a bad place a couple of months ago. There are always disagreements among allies and unfortunately the disagreements between us and the Afghans went public, that was a bad thing, that's behind us, it's been settled. And I think President Karzai is getting some of the respect he deserves, you can always fault any leader, but Hamid Karzai is by far the most popular individual in Afghanistan, the most popular political leader and he's the only one who really represents national unity. As Senator Kerry said, he's a patriot, he's returned some very excellent cabinet ministers, the minister of defense, the minister of the interior. He really wants a long-term partnership with the United States that goes beyond the war on terrorism, not with 100,000 American troops there, but a real alliance and that's only good for him and that critical part of the world, it's good for us. So I think we have learned a lot, both sides from the last couple of tough months in the U.S.-Afghan relationship. President Karzai and President Obama and their staffs seem very happy with the way the meetings are going in Washington this week and that's good for both countries.

KING: All right, thanks to Senators Kerry and Lieberman for their time on Capitol Hill today. Still to come here, don't go away, when we come back, on my radar new numbers show the deficit soaring and a state has just passed a law banning ethnic studies, we'll show you just who that is. In play by play tonight, which politician in the wake of this awful year is saying politicians beware. And Laura Bush takes us inside a big family political divide. And Pete is out on the street tonight and he wants to answer this question, who's in charge across the pond?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This just in tonight, an important political development, two New York lawmakers are furious with the Obama administration tonight. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Congressman Pete King said the department of homeland security has just announced it's going to cut millions of dollars of security spending for New York's mass transit system and its port authority. Remember the Times Square attempted attack just a short time ago? The president will be in New York City tomorrow on tough politics.

So let's talk about some stories on my radar tonight, and joining me to help us through it all, veteran Republican strategist, Robert Traynham, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. Before I get to some other things, let's just start there, that's a tough one. They're trying to save money in the administration, but homeland security and New York always tough politics, in the wake of the Times Square bombing, how does he sell that?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't know how he sells that. This is the second major PR gaff and also political gaff for the Obama administration. You recall air force one flying over lower Manhattan and no one knew about it. So you've got to be very, very careful when you're dealing with New York politics but also with New York personalities as well as their emotions. Bad move for the Obama administration.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I don't know what the details are there, but certainly on the face of it, the optics don't look good especially in light of what just happened in New York. I assume there's some other programs that the president and the administration are going to underscore, they're going to be helping New York and everything related to security.

KING: We'll watch that one. It adds drama to the visit to New York City tomorrow. Here's another one on my radar, and this one is quite interesting, proof that Americans are more than a little fed up with politics as usual, more than 80 percent of the people in a brand- new NBC-"Wall Street Journal" poll tonight see problems with America's two-party system. 31 percent say it's seriously broken and maybe we need a third party, 52 percent say there are real problems, but we could still fix the two parties with a little bit improvement, only 15 percent of Americans say the two-party system works well. So which one of you guys can going to start the third party.

TRAYNHAM: I'm encouraged by the 52 percent who say it works. There's always room for improvement. The two party system has worked.

KING: Sounds like they want a lot of improvement.

TRAYNHAM: There's no question about it. There's a lot of bumps and scrapes along the way, but the Republican system works, the Democratic system works, the problem is that we have a lot of people, no disrespect to your program or to cable news programs, there is all this yelling back and forth, and I think you can back me up on this, is we need to step back and listen to other people's ideas and then we need to move forward hopefully in a bipartisan way.

CARDONA: I think that's true. I think the American people are fed up with what's going on in Washington. I think you saw a lot of Republican obstructionism this year and people are fed up with it.

KING: He was trying to be bipartisan there.

TRAYNHAM: Bipartisan leaf and she just rips it out.

CARDONA: They have been known as a party of no, but you're right, people are sick of it. I think though what we need to focus on is that people are voting. There are millions of people who are registered to vote who don't and millions eligible to register who haven't.

TRAYNHAM: And the reason they don't is because they're apathetic. KING: Some of the problem's here. Some of the problem is with you at home I guess is what Maria is saying. Here's another reason they're so upset. The U.S. government, this is one of the reasons people are so mad, the U.S. government ran up a nearly $83 billion deficit last month. Here's why that's important, because April 15 is the tax deadline. The government almost always has enough to pay its April bills, this is only the third time in 30 years that they had a deficit in April. The second time was last year when the April deficit was about one quarter the size of this year. It tells you about the serious fiscal issues, short term deficit spending and long- term structural debt and no one wants to talk about it before the election.

TRAYNHAM: It's embarrassing on so many different levels but it's frustrating that we're the United States of America and we can't even pay our own bills for one month and of all months April when we obviously collect revenue for that month. And it's very unfortunate. It's an insight to why Americans are so frustrated with Washington but also we have to take a realistic hard look at the way we pay our bills.

KING: Let me sneak in one more Maria. We're going to run out of time but this one is important. Today the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona businesses, to protest Arizona's new immigration law. Here's the thing most people in the country are on Arizona's side. According to a new Pew poll out today, the approval rating for Arizona new immigration law is 59 percent. We're seeing some of these boycotts, but by and large, the public says if you have a reasonable right to stop somebody, the police do, why can't you ask them to prove who they are?

CARDONA: I think it proves that again the American people are fed up with how Washington has not been able to focus on the issues that are affecting all states. I think it's an issue and we need to deal with it. Comprehensive immigration reform is the way to deal with it. The majority of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform. I think the boycott is unfortunate, but it is a way to call attention to how wrong headed the Arizona law is.

KING: And it's not the only thing Arizona is giving us to talk about. Governor Jan Brewer has just signed into law outlawing ethnic studies in classes that exalt exclusivity in Arizona. The state's school superintendent says the law was written to target classes in the Tucson school district which he says teach African American, Latino and Native American students that they're oppressed by white people.

TRAYNHAM: I don't even know where to begin with it. Were minorities oppressed a long time ago? Absolutely, are they oppressed now from a government standpoint? I don't think that's the case. I think not knowing all the intimacies of the law, I think that the governor has a right to say, wait a minute, if in fact the teacher or a certain school district is teaching this, that's way over the line. It's one thing --

CARDONA: Oh, come on. TRAYNHAM: Whoa, it's one thing to talk about our nation's history and talk about slavery, and talk about segregation, it's another thing to say right now in 2010, white people are oppressing African-Americans.

CARDONA: And it is outrageous to say that the curriculum is actually teaching that.

TRAYNHAM: That's what she said.

CARDONA: They have not been able to prove that any class is teaching what Governor Brewer is saying is going on in the bill. I had one reaction to this John, w-t-f, Governor Brewer what is going on?

KING: I assume she'll receive the message, she's got a lot of support, she's got a lot of people yelling at her. Arizona is going to stay on our mind for a long time to come. Everyone, everyone was on their best behavior when Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan made her courtesy visits to the hill. But was this as picture perfect as it looked? Play by play after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You get the drill, play by play, we break down the tape of the day. We have our expert analysis right here, Republican Robert Traynham, Democrat Maria Cardona. Let's start with the great rituals in Washington, D.C. The president nominates someone for the Supreme Court, that nominee then has to go say hi to the special and important people so you watch, here's Elena Kagan with Jeff Sessions. He's very important. He's the top Republican in the judiciary committee. Dick Durbin, number two in the Democratic leadership, he's an important person and the big important guy, the chairman of the judiciary committee, this matters very much. Senator Dianne Feinstein, she gets a vote here. Here's my favorite moment of the day. Early this morning here on the Senate floor, listen to Senator Mitch McConnell. He is the Republican leader. Most Republicans are expected to vote no. It is his charge to explain why.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: It is my hope the Obama administration doesn't think the ideal Supreme Court nominee is someone who would rubber stamp the policy. But this nomination does lay the question.

KING: You get the picture. He's starting to lay the groundwork for the tough questioning and yet two hours later, voila!

MCCONNELL: I want to welcome Solicitor General Kagan to the capitol. Congratulate her on her nomination. I know this will be a challenging process to go through.

KING: Robert, you spent a lot of time up there, you've been through this dance. So politics on the floor and diplomacy in the office?

TRAYNHAM: Absolutely. McConnell was speaking to really two things. He was speaking to the general American people when he was speaking to the camera there but also was speaking to Democrats on the other side saying you know what? It looks like this nominee probably will pass but we're going to give her a thorough rubbing over the coals and the reason why is because we have to.

CARDONA: I actually think he was speaking to his base, because clearly he's getting a lot of pressure from the right wing to say that you can't support this president's nominee and he's trying to lay the groundwork for those who aren't going to support her.

KING: It is fascinating to watch the politicians in Washington try to get a handle on what's happening in the country. Bob Bennett, senator from Utah, stripped of the Republican nomination at his state convention. Last night in West Virginia, Democratic Mollohan incumbent loses his primary. John Boehner hopes to be speaker in January if Republicans have a good year. He says everyone should be worried.

JOHN BOEHNER: It's clear there's a political rebellion going on in America. Senator Bennett found that out on Saturday, Representative Mollohan on Tuesday night. And it's politicians beware. The American people are weak, they're more involved in their government than at any time in our history, and what's, irritates the American people most is the arrogance of Washington.

TRAYNHAM: John, this feels like 1994. Just in terms of how the Republicans are positioning themselves as literally the anti-incumbent party. The Republicans have no leader right now. Newt Gingrich was the face of the party in 1949. Fast forward to today there is no one out there, ala Sarah Palin if you want to call her the leader. The point is it's anti-incumbent, anti-government and that speaks to the whole tea party movement and the whole anti-incumbency movement.

KING: He mentioned 1994. Larry King did an interview with Laura Bush about her book and they talked about an issue in 1994 she was hoping her husband was not emphasized too much.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Gay marriage, you tell us during the 2004 campaign you talked to George not making it a significant issue. Do you think we should have it?

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: I think we ought to definitely look at it and debate it. I think there are a lot of people who have trouble coming to terms with that, because they see marriage as traditionally between a man and a woman, but I also know that when couples are committed to each other and love each other that they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has.

KING: So would that be an area where you disagree? You can't agree on everything.

BUSH: I think that is an area that we disagree.

CARDONA: She's a class act, I have to say. She's the best thing that the Republicans have going for them and I agree with her on this issue, I believe during the rest of the interview she said that it was generational. I've had some conversations with folks, we don't think this is going to be an issue that's going to be an issue five or ten years from now and I do think it's going to happen.

TRAYNHAM: I know you're short on time. As a gay American, good for Laura Bush for saying that.

KING: She just started the Laura Bush for president here. Thanks so much.

When we come back, Pete on the street doesn't just cover American politics, he is tuning in to what's happening in the United Kingdom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: John Roberts in for Campbell Brown. Let's get a sense of what's coming up in a few minutes. Hi, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: John, thanks so much. Good to see you.

There is outrage tonight over yet another new law in Arizona. This time the United Nations is getting involved.

Also, DIY DNA, Walgreens is selling over-the-counter genetic testing kit. What can the results tell you that your doctor can't? We'll have that for you.

And the video of the gulf oil disaster BP did not want America to see. We'll show it to you tonight. That and a lot more coming your way in a couple of minutes.

KING: See you then, John, thank you.

Most nights we call him our offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick. Tonight how about Mr. Prime minister.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hello, John King. How are you young fellow? I wanted to go out on the street and ask American folks what they thought about the British elections. Let's see what they did.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: How much does it affect Americans what the British people, who they elect?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably quite a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We depend on each other.

DOMINICK: You know who the winner is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

DOMINICK: What's his name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not Brown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know he's a Torrey.

DOMINICK: You know who the prime minister is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tony Blair is the last guy I knew about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't watch TV.

DOMINICK: You know his name, John King will give you $5,000.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. British prime minister.

DOMINICK: You cannot phone a friend. Five grand. Five seconds, four, three, you don't know. I have a huge cash prize if you get right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It begins with a "c."

DOMINICK: It does, that is correct. $5

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cameron.

DOMINICK: Sorry we need the full name, sir, and you have one shot at it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Mr. Brown had a radio face. Mr. Cameron has a lot of it.

DOMINICK: He's a good-looking guy. You said Mr. Brown had a radio face? How dare you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Pete Dominick I hope you're saving my money out there my friend. That's all the time we have tonight. John Roberts standing by in New York. We'll see you tomorrow.