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JOHN KING, USA

Boycott Arizona?; Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies; Dead Man Talking

Aired May 13, 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. Some breaking political news tonight, John McCain and Sarah Palin take different sides in a big 2010 governor's race and the commanding general fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan says at the moment, no one is winning.

But our "Lead" tonight, we are raising Arizona. One state's controversial new policies on immigration and ethnic studies are driving a national debate and talk of boycotts and more.

In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight, call it asleep at the drill. Investigators beginning to put together just what caused that massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We will show you how it happened and also ask the question, would more regulation have made a difference?

In "One-on-One" tonight, you will meet a hero, dead man talking. An Army captain who was flat lined no pulse, no heartbeat for 15 minutes. He remembers everything and he is still serving his country.

And in "Play-by-Play" tonight Nancy Pelosi starts her weekly meeting with reporters with a four-letter word, more than once.

Plus the issues, Arlen Specter is in trouble in his primary campaign. He says he has a scoreboard for political survival.

Arizona is just one of 50 states but it is driving a good deal of our national political debate and stirring passions. First, it was the new state immigration law, which allows police if they believe they have reasonable cause to ask someone to prove they are in the United States legally. Now, a ban on teaching ethnic studies is making waves. Those who back the ban suggest these classes promote a radical agenda and cast the United States as oppressive.

Supporters call that nonsense and say these classes give Latinos and others a place to learn more about their heritage -- period. Culture wars make for dicey politics and Arizona's actions are being debated coast to coast. The fight over ethnic studies in a moment, but first two mayors on the frontlines of the immigration debate and calls by opponents of the new law to punish Arizona with a tough economic boycott.

Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix opposed his state's law but says his city will bear the brunt of the boycott. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calls the Arizona law unpatriotic and his city is now cutting off most travel to Arizona and city contracts with businesses there -- gentlemen, thanks for joining us. Mayor Gordon, to you first -- Los Angeles is now joining Boston, New York City, Oakland, St. Paul, San Diego, San Francisco, a number of labor unions, civil rights organizations, saying they don't like that law, they will boycott your state and your city. How much is this going to cost you?

MAYOR PHIL GORDON (D), PHOENIX: Well, right now, we estimate it has already cost us almost $150 million, at a time when we are just starting to recover on the economic front. And this is about all businesses, not only immigrant businesses but, you know, major corporations. We hire people from all states. We sell goods all over.

This couldn't come at a worse time. In fact it shouldn't come at all. This law is wrong. It doesn't do anything for security. It doesn't do anything but really lead the racial profiling. And it should be overturn and the government should do its job. But I plead everybody not to boycott and paint us all in the same picture.

KING: Well one of the people you are pleading with is sitting right next to you. You believe this is important? You believe it is a matter of principle? And yet your friend here opposes this law, his city will be punished and the people in his city, Mayor, 42 percent of them, are Hispanic in the city of Phoenix. So do you worry that in making this point of principle that you feel is important, the people you will be hurting are the wrong people?

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: Well first of all, let me just say that I have the utmost respect for Mayor Gordon. He has been absolutely courageous in his opposition to this law, in his support for comprehensive, fair immigration reform. We both agree that the federal government has abdicated its responsibility here that we encourage folks to do what's being done in Arizona when we don't address the problem of a broken immigration system.

Boycotts have been used in the past. They were used, frankly, against Arizona when the state refused to support the Martin Luther King's birthday as a holiday. This isn't the first time that cities or states or civil rights groups have engaged in this effort. Yes, there will be consequences for a law that, on its face, is unconstitutional. On its face, divides not just Arizonans but all Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So --

KING: Let me jump in (INAUDIBLE). You say divides Arizonans and all Americans, and yet, and yet, if you look at the "Rocky Mountain" poll, inside the state of Arizona, 53 percent support this law, in Arizona. If you look at national polls it is around 58 percent. One more number for you from a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll -- does immigration help or hurt the United States? Thirty-seven percent say helps; 53 percent hurts. Something has changed in public opinion in recent years and a majority in your state, Mr. Mayor say they support this law.

GORDON: Let me, first of all, not understate anything that the mayor has said. This law is wrong. We agree on that. We are going to fight it together and having the mayor of Los Angeles partner with me is unbelievably --

(CROSSTALK)

GORDON: We are going to have this I think it is important to note the law doesn't go into effect for 80 days, so I'm asking people to wait, allow the Justice Department to intercede. But let me tell you something, first of all this country was founded on protecting everyone's rights, not just the majority but the minority. That is how come people from England came here and other countries first. So nobody took a poll.

Number two, just in the last 30 days, since this law has been signed by the governor, those numbers have dropped dramatically as people are learning what this law is about. What it's supposed to do secure the border, protect us, reform immigration, when it doesn't do any of that. In fact, it makes us less safe. So, all what is happening is you are hearing expressions, for the most part of, of people that are frustrated, whether they are in Arizona, whether they are in California, Texas, across the country.

What you are not hearing is the federal government saying we need a new immigration policy. It hasn't been changed since the '20s. It's broken. It only rewards the smugglers, the coyotes that are willing to kill anybody and hurt anyone, irrespective of their nationality or what state --

KING: Let come in on this point. You in your state of the city address a while back talked about extremists hijacking state government. One of the people you don't get along with very well is your county sheriff, Joe Arpaio. We had him on the program a long -- short time ago, and he supports this law. You both oppose it.

But he says the problem is not in Arizona. He agrees with you. The problem is right here in Washington. Listen to the sheriff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: Well I think when you have that billion-dollar fence and hop over the president should say you are automatically going to jail. No one talks about what happens. And also, let the -- follow the sheriff's programs and start arresting the illegal aliens that happen to be in our country. That's what I would say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, neither of you agree with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but do you agree with him on this point? We have a Democratic president who promised the immigration reforms you are talking about. We have a large Democratic majority in House and a large Democratic majority in the Senate. Is the source of this law that you both oppose right here in Washington, D.C., not the Arizona legislature, not the Arizona governor, if President Obama to you first, to you Mayor Villaraigosa, if he had kept his promise, would we be here? VILLARAIGOSA: Well we all agree this is a broken immigration system. We all agree that in a post-September 11th era, we ought to be able to secure our borders. And according to the Pew (ph) study, the vast majority of Americans, more than 70 percent, believe that we need to provide a pathway for citizenship --

KING: Whose fault is it we haven't done that in 15 months of a Democratic administration?

VILLARAIGOSA: It is primarily the fault of the federal government because it is a federal responsibility. It's not a city responsibility or a state responsibility. Under our Constitution that responsibility for enforcement of our immigration laws lies with the federal government. And that means the solution, the fixing of that problem starts there.

KING: He is being diplomatic. He says the federal government. Does it lie with President Obama and the Democratic Congress, in your view?

GORDON: It lies with the Democratic Congress and the Republican Congress. It is going to take both parties. I started four years ago going to Congress, when then-President Bush was there, asking for the border security, more agents on the border. Mayor Villaraigosa helped me as chair -- when I was chair of homeland security and border reform -- deaf ears. The same right now in the sense of everyone is saying we've got to wait until after the November elections.

Let me tell you, violence is a real, real possibility, not just in Phoenix, but across this United States. You have armed militias. You have anarchists that want this thing to explode. We have criminals that are crossing our border, now knowing that in Arizona, officers are going to be looking for dishwashers and hotel workers and not doing the investigative work. And we have let the pressure off Washington. It is about the Democrats and the Republicans having the courage to stand up and do what is needed now. It is a national priority, not waiting until January.

KING: Mayor Gordon, Mayor Villaraigosa, thank you both for your time today. It's an important issue. We will keep on top of it.

And our next guest created the ethnic studies program that Arizona is now banning. Does it really promote one race over another?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We all know things get hot in Arizona but being in the center of one national political fire storm apparently wasn't enough for state officials. This week, the governor signed another new law -- this one banning ethnic studies programs in the public schools. With us now, the co-creator of the curriculum that the state school superintendent singled out as the reason he wanted that new law.

Augustine Romero teaches in the Tucson Unified School District -- sir, thanks for joining us. You teach in a program -- I want to you answer this question straight up. The law says that these programs cannot promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of one race or class, be designed for one ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity over individuals. Is that what you are doing, sir, in the Tucson program?

AUGUSTINE ROMERO, DIR. OF STUDENT EQUITY, TUCSON SCHOOL DISTRICT: No let me be very clear. We do none of that. None of that happens whatsoever. Our classes are for all kids. The idea that someone would promote to over throw the U.S. government -- there is already laws against that -- that is called sedition. As I said before, the courses are open to all children and what we do know is that children that participate in our courses is that they perform better on our high-stakes -- our high-stake graduation exam.

They graduate at a higher rate. And the children in our program matriculate to college at a percentage that is 193 times greater than the national average. Our question is, given the academic success of the program, why are we being targeted versus being replicated?

KING: Well that is our question as well if what you are saying is true, sir. So let's walk through some of this. Tom Horn (ph), the state superintendent of the schools, he says that in Tucson they divide the kids into different races, African studies for the African- Americans, Raza for the Latino kids, Raza means race in Spanish, Asian studies for the Asian kids, Indian studies for the Native American kids. Is that what you are doing or does the superintendent have it wrong?

ROMERO: Absolutely incorrect. As I said before, these classes are open to all children. All children -- what we are hoping for is all children experience all of these different courses so that they have a better understanding, they create a better understand of who their neighbors are so that we can all create a better future together.

KING: You say open to all students. What is the representation if I were to show up for the African-American studies class or the Latino studies class, what I would find in the classroom in terms of how many students decide to take them? Is there a mix in there or do students self-segregate, if you will?

ROMERO: No, there is a good mix, but because of the culture relevance, what you are going to find is that a stronger representation from each of those cultures in those courses, just because the idea that the courses are more culturally relevant to their experience and to their culture, and which is not a bad thing. What we know, given the research, is that curriculum and pedagogy that is culturally relevant helps advance student's learning, helps create greater engagement, which leads to greater academic achievement.

KING: And I'm going to come back to Tom Horn (ph) one more time because he is driving the debate in your state, the superintendent of schools. He's talking specifically about your program in Tucson. He says in the Raza studies, they taught a very radical agenda, a separatist agenda. We have testimony from teachers and ex-teachers that they were teaching kids that they were living in occupied Mexico, that the United States is oppressive. They were making them angry -- fact or fiction?

ROMERO: Fiction -- totally fiction. What happens is what we are being -- what we are being accused of, what is being said to be anti- American is the idea that we examine history critically. We look at some of the less-favorable aspects of our history and we fully study those, but we don't study those as a means of pointing the finger. We study those as a means of drawing the understanding of what were the social policies and what were the social condition of those times so that our students are more critical and more aware so that we move towards a better future, we don't make those mistakes over again. It's important we fully understand what were the social conditions, social policies at the time so our students are aware so that we can move to a better future.

KING: So help me -- I'm going to play devil's advocate here. Help me understand why you think these classes set by themselves are necessary as opposed to, say in literature class, talking to Latino students and African-American students about the contributions of Mexican authors or writers or African-American writers or authors and then in science class, about the scientific achievements of those various cultures and in political science class, about the political movements in the various countries around the world, why not do it -- integrate those kind of studies in a regular class, if you will? Why do you have to do it separately?

ROMERO: That is the hope. At some point in time these courses and these topics become more fully integrated, but in our current state we are not there. In the current condition that exists in education, we are not there and because we fully understand the benefits of doing education this way in terms of exposing children to a much broader understanding of what has happened, we see the benefits in that and we just -- and we hope to move to that in the future but where we are at right now isn't the case. Hopefully in the future, what you just described becomes the status quo. Right now, that is far, far even from being the exception.

KING: Let me ask you quickly in closing, if everything you are telling me is true tonight, sir, then what is motivating your state superintendent of school who as you are saying is talking fiction?

ROMERO: Well from our perspective it is very much a situation where this is politically motivated. If you take a look at Mr. Horn's (ph) political history, in 2002, he ran on an anti-bilingual ed platform, which is in essence, anti-Latino. And fast forward that eight years and here we are in 2010 and he is choosing Mexican- American studies, ethnic studies as his political platform, hoping that that same political strategy gets him elected to his next position.

KING: Augustine Romero joins us from Tucson. Sir, we appreciate your help understanding this tonight.

ROMERO: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. Take care. There's still a lot more to come tonight. Next in "Wall-to-Wall", asleep at the drill -- we will count down the hours before the explosion that caused the massive Gulf oil spill.

And you won't want to miss tonight's "One-on-One", a U.S. soldier who was shot by a sniper in Iraq and flat lined for 15 minutes -- hear his remarkable story.

And among the items on my "Radar" tonight, a new book reveals what you might call President Obama's one-term wondering.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight, 23 days since the tragic explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Many of you probably seen this video now, let's go back to the beginning if we can. You see the oil first coming out 23 days ago at the very beginning. Then, this is the effort to cap it right here. And they had to bring this cap down on top of it. That failed and they are trying to have a new way now to cap the spill of it.

That is one question, how do you stop the spill, but also investigators are having a better sense now of just what went wrong. Let's walk over to the "Magic Wall" and get a sense. Congressional hearings and other hearings down in the region starting to put together some of the pieces of just what happened. One point of inquiry is right here, the cement plug. They were pouring down cement from the rig into the ground, part of the effort to cap it, to change this from an exploration to then ultimately an oil drilling platform.

Cement was being poured into this. There was a problem with the mixing of the cement -- it didn't quite take. One point worth noting, the government is working on new regulations, a new formula to certify that cement not in place at the moment. That is one thing they are looking at. Another big thing, this is the blowout preventer right here, essentially the fail safe, if there is a problem the blowout preventer is suppose to shut it down to keep the flow of the oil from coming up from underneath the ocean surface. A hydraulic problem in this caused that to have a problem and that's another thing there once these are in, they are not regulated.

They're not -- sometimes there aren't safety checks on them -- another big question for investigators, this, the blowout preventer. There is supposed to be a backup system, but what investigators have found out the battery on the secondary system also was not working. Again, once these are put in place, they are often not tested. No rules requiring to do that, so that is a piece by piece of what investigators do know went wrong. They are still trying to piece together exactly the sequence but they know of those problems underneath.

So the question now is what are the possible solutions? Here's one thing they are thinking about -- a tubal insertion -- essentially a tube coming down from the ocean surface to go into the lines now where the oil is coming out, a detour. Put this tube in, take the flow of the oil out, and take it up into a safer place. That is one proposal. Even if that works, they believe they will need another one of these top hats, the big giant one that they put down failed because of ice crystals. Another top hat would go down to plug part of the leak as well -- the leak as well. They are working on that and here is the fail safe plan. If neither of those work or they still need more help, it seems pretty basic but shredded tires, shredded golf balls, essentially debris that they think they can plug into the hole to block it up, at least temporarily. That is one of the backup plans as well. Those are the proposed solutions. Still big questions about what happens legally here.

Transocean (ph), it owns the Deepwater Horizon. It has a big shareholder's meeting tomorrow. Look for some fireworks, there are a lot of questions for the company executives about what this is going to cost and what comes next. Transocean, by the way, is seeking a limit to $26 million in damages. It says that is the limit of what it should have to pay here, but key members of Congress introduced today legislation that would raise the overall liability cap up to $10 billion. Right now, federal law sets it at $75 million. That is a huge jump up to $10 billion.

Worth watching, all of these developments as we still try to figure out exactly what went wrong. Stay with us because when we come back, you are going meet an American hero, an Army captain shot in Iraq. Many doctors would have given him up for dead. His doctors didn't. He is still alive, still serving and what an inspiration.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

KING: It isn't every day you get to talk with someone who died. Three years ago in Baghdad, a sniper shot Army Captain Joshua Mantz. He flat lined for 15 minutes. That means no heart beat, no breathing, nothing. But his buddies and his doctors wouldn't give up and because they didn't Captain Mantz is both a hero and an inspiration.

You were flat lined for 15 minutes, no breathing, no pulse, and you say you remember the last moment?

CAPT. JOSHUA A. MANTZ, U.S. ARMY, SHOT IN IRAQ: Absolutely, sir. You're taught in emergency catastrophic injuries that your body pools blood to the vital organs to protect itself. I could actually feel that happening? It started with my legs and as the blood crept up my legs and then -- and all the blood left, they locked up. Then the feeling crept up to my quads. When all the blood left my quads they locked up.

As the blood-creeping sensation moved up towards my chest cavity it became harder and harder to breathe. When the feeling got to my stomach it felt like I was running wind sprints around a 400-meter track breathing through a straw and unable to stop. And then when the feeling got to my chest, I knew that that was it. I consciously said my last thought, took my last breath and died.

KING: And at that moment you know some people say that there is -- there's lights or there's some internal music -- anything? MANTZ: Sir, I get that question a lot and I actually had no out- of-body experience after I took my last breaths. So that either means it doesn't exist or it means I need to seriously reconsider the way I'm living my life, so --

KING: And then you woke up in the green zone and --

MANTZ: Sir, I woke up in the green zone two days later to learn that I had flat lined for 15 minutes straight. The vascular surgeon in the green zone, who performed a perfect vascular surgery on me, gave me nearly 30 units of blood to save my life. What was interesting about this and why I consider this injury a gift today is because I can remember every detail from the moment I woke up.

Being flat lined for that long, they expected me to not 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.

KING: I want to go back because you shared some photos with us.

MANTZ: That was the last picture taken of Staff Sergeant Marlin Harper (ph) and I actually took that picture about 16 minutes before he was killed. The bullet was similar to a 50-caliber round. It went through Staff Sergeant Harper's left arm and exited out his chest, fused to his plate on the way out and a chunk of metal about the size of my fist ricocheted to my upper right thigh and severed my artery.

KING: And you tried to save him?

MANTZ: I did, sir. And it wasn't -- it wasn't a conscious thing. It was purely a result of the great military training we received. It was -- it was a pure instinctual response.

When I severed the femoral artery, I did drag him out of the way, about 30 or 40 feet, and begin to perform aid on him, 275-pound guy, dead weight, plus my gear. And he felt like a feather. It was a pure adrenaline rush.

KING: And when you tell your story now, you don't just tell your survival story, you talk of the field medic who had to make a choice --

MANTZ: Yes, sir.

KING: -- when he found you and Staff Sergeant Harper.

MANTZ: Sir, one bullet took out two men within five seconds. My medic was 19 years old. And he had two catastrophic injuries to deal with. He had had to -- he had about 10 seconds to make a decision that would -- he would have to live with for the rest of his life. He had to assess us both and determine who he was going to try to save, knowing that one man would live and the other man would die. And at 19 years of age, he had to make that decision.

Now, as far as the physical -- as far as the psychological counseling that that medic may have received after that traumatic incident, he really didn't. So, this may or may not go on to haunt him but because he was not physically wound, because the medic was not physically wounded, he really doesn't have -- he really didn't have anyone pushing him to go to psychological care, just to make sure he was OK.

KING: And you view this as part of your mission now. I mean, you're a miracle? You are a miracle in many ways.

MANTZ: Yes, sir.

KING: And do you this as part of your mission?

MANTZ: Yes, sir. It is -- what we are trying to do to use this story for the good. Our wounded warriors, our physically wounded warriors, are in great shape over at Walter Reed and across our army. They have immense resources. They have streamlined access to the best medical care in the world.

But my question is: what about the soldiers who are not wounded but who still suffer from the emotional consequences of war? That's what I'm talking about my medic. How is that going to affect him for the rest of his life?

KING: You insisted on going back and your doctors and others told you -- no, sir, no, sir, no, sir. And you insisted on going back. And not only did you go back, you will rotate back overseas again in the near future. When you first went back, you had to be afraid.

MANTZ: Sir, I absolutely was and I went back for two reasons. The -- I redeployed to Iraq only five months after this injury, despite everyone telling me not to.

But there's two very good reasons for that. The first was for my men. They lost two of their senior leaders in five seconds on one day.

A month later, our platoon sergeant was struck by an IED and he was medivaced out of theater. This left a group of junior staff sergeants to run a complex sector in a complex counterinsurgency environment. They did a great job but they needed leadership and they need a morale boost.

The second reason was more on the personal side. I needed to know for myself, as an infantry officer, that I would be mentally capable of continuing to perform my duties as an infantry officer. You can say you're fine all you want back here in the States, but the true test happens when you are sitting in that truck and you are ready to leave the fog to go out on a mission again. And I thought I was fine, up until the point that I left the wire, at which point, my first control back, I completely froze up.

KING: This is on your -- you're on the road to recovery here. When you look back at these pictures -- most men, most human beings, if they flat line for five or six minutes, the doctors give up.

MANTZ: Yes, sir.

KING: As you noted, most don't survive; those who do usually have significant brain damage. When you look at these pictures and remember these moments and think of where you are now -- what does that do to you, your faith, your inspiration, your motivation?

MANTZ: Sir, the toughest question I have had to ask myself after this happened is why am I still here. And, fortunately, we've been able to use this -- use this story for the good, to help benefit other people.

KING: Just an absolute honor to meet Captain Mantz and share his story.

When we return, stories on my radar, including President Obama's thoughts about whether maybe he should just serve one term.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: There's no question, there is, at this moment, an anti-incumbent mood.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (D-OH), MINORITY LEADER: It's clear there is a political rebellion going on in America. It's politicians beware.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not often we hear the House Minority Leader John Boehner and the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, potentially on the same page. It's all because of today's most important person you don't know.

Mike Oliverio beat 14-term Democrat incumbent Alan Mollohan in this week's West Virginia primary. He did it by stressing Mollohan's history of ethic investigations. Oliverio also has serious reservations about the Democratic health reform. He supports traditional marriage and wants to find, quote, "someone better than Nancy Pelosi to be speaker."

He maybe this week's poster boy for anti-incumbent fever but Oliverio is actually a long-term incumbent in the West Virginia State Senate since 1994. One thing he isn't -- a shoo-in. Oliverio faces former West Virginia Republican Party chairman, David McKinley in November.

Two guys who know politics well join me right now to talk this over: Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and Republican Neil Newhouse.

Anti-incumbent, more than anti-Democrat?

NEIL NEWHOUSE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It is part of both. Number one, it is -- it's anti-Democrat. But voters aren't happy with anybody in Washington right now. And the congressional ratings are at historic lows, at 20 percent. Any incumbent ought to be -- ought to be aware that they could be in trouble. They could be the next Alan Mollohan.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. There's only two ways to run, political consultants like me always say: scared and unopposed. One of those two.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: This year, even if you are unopposed, you should be scared. But it's more broadly anti-incumbent, not just anti- Democratic. And Neil is right, that the Republicans face some peril, but Democrats face greater peril.

KING: Let's start the radar tonight with some breaking news. This is important. Some blunt talk tonight from the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Listen here -- this is General Stanley McChrystal talking just a short time ago on the PBS "NewsHour."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: I think I'd be prepared to say nobody is winning at this point. Where the insurgents, I think, felt they had momentum a year ago, felt that they were making clear progress, I think that's stopped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Paul, General McChrystal says nobody's winning is progress. To a Democratic Party where you have an intensity gap politically this is a big policy question. But in a political year, how is that message going to sell?

BEGALA: You know, I hear -- I talked to Tommy Sowers, a young army major now out of the Army. He's a ranger, Green Beret, really heroic young man. He's running for Congress in Cape Girardeau, Rush Limbaugh's old district. Even there, he's telling me, he's hearing more and more concerns.

He's military man himself, so maybe hears more. But even in a very conservative district, he's picking up that people are very nervous about Afghanistan more than Iraq now because it looks like Afghanistan, we are plussing (ph) up the troops there.

KING: It's costing us more money now than Iraq. And there'd be -- in a short period of time -- more troops in Afghanistan.

BEGALA: A lot to worry about.

NEWHOUSE: But, you know, it seems like Americans are satisfied with Obama's approach over there. I mean, you see, you've seen his numbers edge up just slightly in terms of handling Afghanistan. There is a sense among Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, that this is a -- you know, that a serious war and a lot of stake here and I think that you see it in the numbers.

KING: Let's see if these guys think this matters or not. John McCain and Sarah Palin parting company when it comes to the South Carolina governor's race. McCain is backing his one-time state campaign chairman, Henry McMaster. Palin will be in South Carolina tomorrow to endorse State Representative Nikki Haley.

Family feud. Does it matter?

NEWHOUSE: I don't think it makes that much difference. In South Carolina, you've got the conservative, you know, religious fervor and evangelical side behind Sarah Palin. You've got the military side and Republican Party behind John McCain. They may even each other out.

BEGALA: You have the Cro-Magnon wing and the Neanderthal wing.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I don't know which is further to the right. But it doesn't matter, it's not going to determine the outcome.

KING: All right. Here's another one, Jonathan Alter -- we all know Jonathan -- has a new book out, "The Promise." It's about the first year of President Obama's first term. Apparently, despite all the frustration, of course, the president is already thinking about a second term. Alter writes that around Thanksgiving, the president told a friend, "Who would really want this job for more than one term? I have to run now, otherwise it will mean letting someone like Mitt Romney step in and get credit for all the good stuff that happens after we've been through all this crap."

The president's plain-spoken, I guess.

BEGALA: I don't think that would be etched in stone above the Obama presidential library. But, you know, I think every president probably goes through the moment of doubt, but I think most of them don't put it out there so publicly. I would think. I mean, you got to -- I just got the book there -- Alter looks like he has just done a mine meld with President Obama. He really seems to understand his thinking and has stuff like that I've never heard.

KING: Well, here's another one. He talks about health care in the thing as well. And he says, the president is thinking on election night, "What am I going to do and let's pick one thing the American people will care about," and he settled on health care, even though that was not the biggest thing in the campaign.

BEGALA: That's remarkable. I saw that in the book today, and I was struck by that, that's a deep insight. I would have bet on election night that his one thing would have been energy. He seemed to talk about that more, he seemed to have more passion, it seems to be a jobs issue to him. And, yet, to his credit, he made history on health care.

NEWHOUSE: But I would argue. You know what -- he made history in health care, I argue he may pay a price for that in this year's elections, by not focusing as much in the economy and jobs, letting that slip, focusing on health care. I think his party is going to pay a price for it. He may get rewarded two years from now. But right now, they're paying a price. KING: Short-term price, do you think long-term reward maybe.

All right. Up next -- don't go anywhere. We'll do the play-by- play and you hear the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's four-letter rant.

And later, "Pete on the Street" with a question to take back to the office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE DOMINICK, "JOHN KING, USA'S" OFFBEAT REPORTER: Do you never palm sleep?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never.

DOMINICK: What do you do for a living?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I teach singing.

DOMINICK: How about I sing? Let's see if you fall asleep --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on. Come on.

DOMINICK: Ready?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next!

DOMINICK: Simon Cowell of the sidewalk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KING: Breaking news on an important subject. "The Washington Post" is reporting now that the Pakistani government has arrested a suspect with alleged connections to a militant group there. "The Post" reports that the man is alleged to be an accomplice to the accused Times Square bomber. CNN is trying to get independent reporting of this and to get additional developments. When we have them, we will bring them to you.

ANNOUNCER: Here comes the play-by-play.

KING: Now in our play-by-play tonight, you get the drill, we have the day's best tape. We break it down with our experts, Republican Neil Newhouse, Democrat Paul Begala.

We want to start with this -- a short time ago, the president of the United States was at a Democratic fundraiser in New York. Listen to this, and tell me if this is the right election year message. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is, the problems we face are too great for us to be playing politics all the time. And all of us, Democrats and Republicans, need to come together to solve problems and that is what Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Caucus has done. They have not played politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right. Paul Begala, to you first, because I know you want the president to play more politics. Is what he should be saying?

BEGALA: Not all the time, but certainly, at a political event, it's OK, Mr. President, to play politics. I mean, come on, at some point, get on the team for you -- get on the field for your team, sir.

No. I think that the indictment of the Republicans from the president and the Democrats ought not to be -- oh, they just play politics. Or as he said in Buffalo, they sat on the side lines. It ought to be -- they ruined the country, you know? And then we're trying to fix it, but their policies ruin the country. They want to return to those policies -- that should be the Democratic indictment.

KING: So, the president just said that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Caucus don't play politics. I'm not going to let you -- that's a freebie, that's a freebie, that's a t-ball. I'm not going to let you do it.

But I do want you to listen. The House speaker has a weekly meeting with reporters and she started it today with her favorite four-letter word.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our mantra here: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs -- the four-letter word that we keep our attention focused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We can stop that one there. That's what she should doing, yes?

NEWHOUSE: John, if that's her four-letter word, she must have forgotten it the past 12 months. I mean, this is -- you know, this administration and a Democratic Congress has been sidetracked by every other issue, by, you know, cap-and-trade, by health care. And now, they get back to jobs what's been the number one issue facing the country for the last year and a half, two years.

KING: Do you have a point? Sidetracked by other issues?

NEWHOUSE: When Obama talks about Nancy Pelosi, she is the most unpopular politician in the country right now. God bless him. BEGALA: Well, this is because Sarah Palin is not an active politician right now.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ouch.

BEGALA: Look, I think what the speaker and the Democrats need to do is to explain that health care is a jobs issue. That energy is a jobs issue. And that if the greatest collapse of jobs in history was because of Republican economics when they made the elite --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Hold up. Hold on. We're going to continue this, time- out, time-out, time-out.

We're going to continue this but I want to bring it more in context. The speaker at the same event today talked about how she really loves the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I think, as far as politics are concerned I take -- I assume nothing. I take nothing for granted. And, in fact, I enjoy campaign season as you may have noticed. And I think the whole assumptions are false when it comes to politics, I really do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, a big smile there. The big question is: will she enjoy it in November as much as she's enjoying it now?

And as we discussed that, let's look at some numbers. New NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll comparing 2006 when the Democrats had a huge year to right now. Among independent voters, the Democrats at this point in 2006 had a 16-point advantage. Right now, Republicans have an eight-point advantage.

Let's look at voters over the age of 65, the most reliable in the midterm elections. 2006, the Democrats were up eight; now, Republicans up six.

One more, very important in a lot of the big states this year: suburban women. 2006, 24-point advantage for the Democrats; a slight advantage for the Republicans right now.

NEWHOUSE: John, do you have the power to call an early election?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: I do not. This is not a parliamentary system and the name may be King but we don't have a monarchy.

(LAUGHTER) NEWHOUSE: Among those groups, the key groups in the midterm elections: independents, seniors, moderates and right women. Republicans have picked up between 13 and 15 points compared to two years, four years ago. This is -- this is a terrific political environment for Republicans. It's setting the stage for major Republican gains.

KING: Why? Why?

BEGALA: Why? Well, first off, it stinks to be the party in power when you got 9.9 percent unemployment.

For Democrats, I said this before to you, John, I'll say it again, my strategy had been three words: build an arc, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: But, here is, I think, the ark. The ark is in the same poll, the Republicans' favorability is only 30 percent; Democrats, 37 percent. So, as the Democrats have moved down, Republicans have not moved up, which means the three things to build your ark: attack, attack, attack. Pick up that hammer, Madam Speaker and Mr. President, and starting hitting those Republicans for trashing the economy.

KING: All right. One more -- one more quick one --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: One more quick one for the numbers because I want to get two more things in. But look, here's one place that Republicans have not made progress among Latino voters. A 36-point Democratic advantage this time in 2006, a 35 percent advantage right now. Neil, why?

NEWHOUSE: I don't think we got a real message right now to Latinos. I think that -- you know what surprises me so much, it's not Latino voters voted for Obama this past election year, but they went to him and drove, even after supporting Hillary Clinton in the primaries, his lock on those voters is really interesting. And you know what? Long term, for him to win the 2012 voters, we need to break into those voters. In 2010, they're not going to be as significant a factor on those key states.

KING: Look, I'm going to give you, be patient with me, one quick shot at your favorite senator, Arlen Specter, Republican-turned- Democrat, was asked today if the Kagan vote for Supreme Court is key to his political survival.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Oh, there are so many things that are putting me in a tough position politically, I wouldn't say that it even gets on the score board.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BEGALA: He's right. He's right. The Kagan vote is not going to be dispositive here. The Bush is. He voted for the Bush tax cuts. He's being attacked for that. That's his biggest problem.

NEWHOUSE: Bush is the albatross.

BEGALA: Yes, that's irrelevant. I mean, this race is -- looks pretty settled.

KING: All right. It looks pretty settled. Neal and Paul, thanks for coming in. We'll check on that one Tuesday night.

You want to be with us Tuesday night, a huge night.

But next, a U.S. senator allegedly caught snoozing at a hearing. Have you ever taken a nap on the job? Our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick will be with us after the break, if he's awake.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: John Roberts is filling in for Campbell Brown tonight. Let's head up to New York and get sense of what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Hey, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John. Good to see you.

Here's a provocative question for you: What if Wall Street was run by women? Well, the new top cops on Wall Street are all women. Will it take women to clean up the economic mess?

Also, the American flag, is it offensive? The controversy over the four high school kids who were sent home on Cinco de Mayo grows, and we'll have the very latest on all of those terror arrests -- another one coming just a few minutes ago in Pakistan. All of that is just ahead at the top of the hour -- John.

KING: We'll see you, then, John. Thanks.

(MUSIC)

KING: Very important question offbeat reporter Pete Dominick is working on, because of a couple of recent examples of people maybe nodding off in the dugout or maybe at a big intelligence briefing -- Pete.

DOMINICK: Yes, apparently one senator may have dozed off during a Senate intelligence meeting on the Times Square bomber. I went out to ask people if they've ever fallen asleep on the job, John King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: A U.S. senator fell asleep during a key intelligence hearing on the Times Square bomber.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess he or she felt very safe.

KING: He get dozed off. But to fair, he's an old Democrat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. What is he doing at night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's like, hey, bomb didn't go off, I don't know.

DOMINICK: Bomb didn't go off, take a nap.

Do you like napping? He's not into napping?

Wyatt for U.S. Senate. All right. Thanks for staying awake, Wyatt.

Do you ever take a nap at work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the time.

DOMINICK: Do you really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the time.

DOMINICK: What do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're bank attorneys.

DOMINICK: No wonder we're so screwed up because you guys are always down cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have fallen asleep while on the bench as a judicial hearing officer for small planes.

DOMINICK: Oh, really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. I guess we'll see after this is aired.

DOMINICK: Raise your hand if we need a siesta in America?

How many of you will sleep with me? All right.

I, of course, would never, ever doze off while shooting the "Pete on the Street" segment.

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Wake up, Pete!

DOMINICK: Oh, Wolf, back to you.

KING: Oh, funny man, that Pete Dominick.

DOMINICK: Hey, John, have you ever fallen asleep at work, John King?

KING: I can't on a live television admit to that. I will admit to maybe getting to not a few times at a White House briefing back in the White House days. I won't say who was briefing at the time.

DOMINICK: Really?

KING: Really.

DOMINICK: You can't tell us who you are listening to? Or what it was about?

KING: I can't tell you that. But I will tell you now my lesson of that, a little espresso machine in my office, Pete, and it keeps me ticking.

DOMINICK: That's when know you made it big when you get that espresso machine in your office, or when you have an office. Mine is on the street.

KING: It looks wonderful. I love it. You got a great little office right now.

Pete Dominick, thank you.

That's all for us tonight. Thanks for spending some time with us.

John Roberts sitting in, and he starts right now.