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JOHN KING, USA

Hurricane Alex About to Make Landfall; Wall Street Reform Bill; Poll Says President Obama Did Not Meet Expectations

Aired June 30, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST. Thanks, Suzanne. And good evening. A busy hour ahead, including a marathon day of questioning for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. And a road show from a president who says he's doing all he can to get the economy revving again and all he can to redirect your economic anxiety toward the Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problems we face aren't going to go away over night. No president, no politician, has the power to make that happen. There will be some who'd tell you that the closer you get to election day.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But we begin tonight with the hurricane about to make landfall and the impact on the oil spill cleanup and recovery efforts, even though the season's first big storm is far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon leak site.

But last report Alex was about 100 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas with sustained winds of 90 miles an hour. Southern Texas is already reporting tornadoes caused by the outer bands of the storm.

Reynolds Wolf is in South Padre Island, Texas. And you can see, he's beginning to feel it. And Chad Myers is at the CNN Hurricane Headquarters in Atlanta.

Let's start with Reynolds Wolf.

Reynolds, what's latest? I can see the stormy seas behind you.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, John. Right now, this is the strongest storm on the planet. I can tell you, the rain has been intermittent. The wind has been coming and going. But the surf behind me has been just a nonstop feature we've seen all day long.

Yesterday the waves are coming in very gently. Now it's just a full-blown, just sea of white foam. Everything coming on shore. And in terms of the beach, there is no beach. The water's all the way up right to the sea oats, right to the very corner.

Thankfully I'm on top a sand dune, the sand dune held of course by some of these grasses. This is not going anywhere.

This storm, although strong, cannot really be compared with the storm that struck here about two years ago. We're talking about Hurricane Dolly. Hurricane Dolly made a direct hit on this island. The center of this storm will make a direct hit much further to the south in Mexico which is certainly good news for people here.

There are plenty of worries here. Flooding was a big concern. City of Brownsville, John, actually set up about 60,000 sandbags in the area in preparation for the potentials of flooding. Also there's been shelter provided for some 2,000 homes or 2,000 people.

The National Guard has been activated by Governor Rick Perry and 19 counties have already been declared disaster areas. So there is a -- certainly the sense of people being prepared, being ready for everything the storm can dish out.

Power outages are certainly going to be a possibility. They've got utility crews available. And just yesterday we saw convoys of National Guard coming in with large generators, ready to help provide some at least temporary power for many of the people.

They certainly dodged a bullet. We're not going to get a direct hit here but people are still watching, waiting, and obviously, John, hoping for the very best.

Let's send it back to you.

KING: Reynolds, you stay safe out there. I know you know the drill. But stay safe as this goes. We'll check back in as developments warrant.

But one of the concerns, even though where Reynolds is and where that storm is hitting, is off this map, even, to the west. One of the concerns is what will the impact be over here as we bring in Chad Myers from the CNN Hurricane Center.

Chad, this is a map of the oil. The red dots being where the oil had hit the beaches in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. And here is the forecast right now over the next 48 hours. You see so much more oil projected by the government to hit the beaches.

I have to assume that that is, in part, because even though the storm is way to the west, there will be tough weather all the way across the Gulf.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Seventy-two hours, John, of wind from the wrong direction. That's from the southeast. The hurricane, 100 miles south of Brownsville. Our little Reynolds Wolf right there.

But the winds spinning around here, that's where the heaviest wind is. But as you get farther away, even if it's 60 and 50 and 40 and 30 miles per hour, the problem is, as you get closer and closer to the oil, that's when you are going to see this onslaught of wind pushing the oil on to the shore. It's what we expected because of where the hurricane was. If the hurricane went to the other way, wouldn't that have been great? Sure, it would have made some wind for Florida and so on, but the wind would have been this way. It would have been blowing the oil away from shore and into the middle of the Gulf of Mexico where they could have either rounded it off or burned it off, or whatever they're going to do with it.

But because now it is going to be such a quick, on-shore flow, this oil will be different than all the other oil we've seen so far. This oil will not be a tar ball. This oil will not be a moose. This oil will be liquid. It will be oil like you pour out of your 10-W-30 bottle as you put it into your car.

It will be that discus. And it will more deadly than a tar ball. Tar balls are what they are. They can be picked up. They're not as terrible to the wildlife. It's this liquid oil that's on its way now with hours and hours of on-shore flow that will be all the way through the bayous of Louisiana, up through Mississippi and Alabama.

Now there is a slight east from component, wind from the east here that will help drag it away from the Florida beaches, but pushing it directly into the Chandelier Islands, pushing it directly into Chandelier Bay.

All these areas we've been talking about, how hard they've been working to keep this oil away, boy, I think all that work is going to go for naught.

KING: So, Chad, let me ask you this question, I don't know if you know the answer yet, BP says the skimming boats have had to come ashore because of the weather. Obviously they can't do the work out right out here at ground zero where the leak is coming because of this weather.

When, when does the forecast say these waters will be calm enough again to get out there and start the skimming work and the other work?

MYERS: Well, really, we've had a worst case scenario for that today as the storm got deeper and deeper or stronger and stronger and winds of almost 100 miles per hour. So those waves now are just being generated near the eye.

Those waves will propagate across the Gulf of Mexico for many, many more days. And the threshold for the wave action for the skimmers is six feet.

You have to think, even if these skimmers are only a foot and a half or two feet high, as they're dragging these booms behind the boat, a six-foot wave will just going to take the oil and slosh it right over to the other side anyway, so you need this to be almost down to 2 or 3 feet, and I don't believe that's going to occur.

We're not going to settle this water down immediately. I don't think that that will occur for another four days. So maybe end of the weekend? KING: A sober assessment from Chad Myers in the CNN Hurricane Center. Chad, we'll check in with you as well as when developments warrant. Thanks for that update. Tough words, though, for the people along the Gulf of Mexico.

And some breaking news to report to you. The House has just passed the Wall Street reform bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Senate won't vote on that bill however until after next week Fourth of July recess. But progress for the president and the Democrats in the House. Just moments ago.

You see a live picture of the House floor there.

Again, the House has now passed a sweeping Wall Street reform bill. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll discuss that legislation and other economic matters with two key members of the United States Senate.

Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It was another down day on Wall Street. The Dow lost almost 100 points as doubts about the strength of the recovery spread.

Wall Street and Washington are bracing for what many believe will be more discouraging news Friday when the government releases June unemployment numbers.

The president hit the road today to suggest as bad as things might look and feel, they would be worse if his stimulus plan hadn't passed last year. And worse still, the president says, if Republicans still ran the country.

Racine, Wisconsin was the site of his town hall meeting. The city has a 14 percent unemployment rate. And one presidential target was a comment from the House Republican leader comparing the sweeping financial reform bill Democrats say is critical to curbing Wall Street abuses to killing an ant with a nuclear bomb.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Do you think that the financial crisis was an ant and we just need a little ant swatter to fix this thing? Or do you think that we need to restructure how we regulate the financial system so you aren't on the hook again and we don't have this kind of crisis again?

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Here to debate the numbers and the politics of the economy, two members of the Senate Budget Committee. Ranking Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Senator Gregg, let me start with you because the House has just passed the Wall Street bill and it's going to come now to the Senate and there's a question about whether Leader Reid has enough votes.

Republican Scott Brown has said, I'm not so sure. I want to think about it. Will you help bring this vote to the floor for an up- or-down vote? Or would you participate in blocking it?

SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, I presume that the Democratic leadership will have the votes to pass this bill. They did once before.

KING: Will they have your vote?

GREGG: Oh no. No. This is not a constructive bill in my opinion. It will create more spending. It will create more government. It will create less credit. And in my opinion less jobs.

It's a bill that will create a very significant contraction and credit on main street in my opinion. And it doesn't address the basic problems. It doesn't address Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which is half a trillion dollar cost to the taxpayer that's sitting there, that we're going to have to pick up.

It doesn't address underwriting standards very well. The derivatives language is not well thought out in my opinion. And I don't think Wall Street's all that upset about it. They'll figure out how to work their way around it.

But who should be upset about it and who I think will be upset about it as they figure out how this thing works are small banks and community banks and medium sized banks because it's going to be much more difficult to lend and the bureaucracy is going to be really difficult to deal with for those small banks.

KING: Senator Whitehouse, is it as horrible and as destructive economically a bill as Senator Gregg suggests?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: No, it's the most significant reform of the financial system since the Great Depression. It creates firewalls so that banks are no longer investing in highly speculative matters with other peoples', regular folks' money.

It separates the investment side from the regular banking side. It requires derivatives to go through a transparent market before they can be sold, and put some transparency and a spotlight onto all of that. And it puts a very important --

KING: Well, then let me ask the question this way. If it's so good -- you describe it as great -- then why can't the leadership find -- right now you've got one or two Republican votes. Why aren't six or eight or 10 or 12 or 20 or 30 Republicans coming over?

WHITEHOUSE: We have, I think, probably now, over 100 exercises of Republican obstruction on the Senate floor. There is a strategy that the Republicans regrettably have pursued to basically block anything that Barack Obama wants.

I think they've said he's promised change. If we can stop any change, we can blunt his promise to America. And that gives us a better chance in the election. And the consequences for the financial system of not having these safeguards in place are secondary to the political goals of blocking everything that the president wants to achieve.

KING: Let's come back to that point, Senator Gregg, and specifically --

GREGG: I'd like that pick up on that --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Specifically I want you to come in, but I want you to also address specifically Leader Boehner's comments over in the House that this financial reform bill -- you've made clear you don't like it. Is it like dropping a nuclear bomb on an ant?

GREGG: No, I would not characterize it that way at all. It's an attempt to address the issue of what caused the significant financial crisis we had late 2008. But it doesn't address it. It misses the point.

Now there was a very strong bipartisan effort to move forward on this bill. I was very much involved in that. I went and negotiated for months with Senator Jack Reid, Sheldon's partner from Rhode Island, on the issue of derivatives reform. Bob Corker -- negotiated for months on the issue of resolution authority.

There was a lot of efforts to try to get this into a bipartisan form. Unfortunately, it didn't come out that way. It came out in a way that really, in my opinion, does not get to the core issues.

And the core issues are how you make sure that we do not have, going forward, a systemic threat to our system and how you keep the United States the best place to go to if you've got an idea and you want to go out and take a risk and create a job to get credit.

Both of those issues are not addressed in this bill. In fact, the ability to get credit is significantly undermined. And I think Sheldon's comments were really unnecessary and rather partisan, to be kind, when he says that we're just trying to obstruct this bill.

Just the opposite. Most of us on our side of the aisle who were involved in negotiating this bill wanted a bill that we could all vote for. And Bob Corker said at the end of the conference, we could have gotten a 70 or 80 vote bill here in the Senate.

We could have gotten that. But for reasons which I think were rather politically, basically, the issues involving Blanche Lincoln and a few other issues, this bill went very hard over in a direction which was not constructive to getting credit markets under control, especially --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let me try -- let me try another -- no filibusters here. Let me try another issue. The president talked about it in Racine, Wisconsin today. The Democrats have tried for weeks and some Democrats have been among those objecting to the price tag of this, an extension of unemployment benefits and some other things.

They have pared the bill down. The president made the case today for passage. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We want an extension of unemployment benefits for workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We want to help small business owners get the loans they need to keep their doors open and hire more workers.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We want relief for struggling states so they don't have to lay off thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Gregg, I want to give Senator Whitehouse some time, but again, this is an issue of Republican votes. Have they pared it down enough that Republicans would now support this so that the millions of unemployed Americans out there whose benefits have been cut off will get those restored?

GREGG: Well, I think we all want to extend unemployment insurance but we don't want to do it by passing the bill on to our kids. And this bill still has $39 billion of costs which are unpaid for.

You know, the president listed three or four things there. If he was willing to pay for those things, we would be willing to vote for those things. But the simple fact is we're running a $1.4 trillion deficit.

All those bills are being given to our kids. We should not continue to add to our debt. You can't get yourself out from underneath massive debt by adding more debt. And so a responsible way to approach all these issues -- unemployment insurance and the issue of teachers -- is to pay for the spending --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: But, Senator Whitehouse -- to Senator Gregg's point, there is a growing concern in the country about spending and the deficit. Why can't the Democrats find the money, the offset, somewhere else or use or unused stimulus money? Find the money somewhere to pay for this bill?

WHITEHOUSE: The stimulus money is on its way out to continue to create jobs. So to take the money away from creating jobs and put it into supporting unemployment insurance doesn't make sense.

What makes sense, while we are still pulling out of the crash dive that the Bush economy left and that President Obama inherited, is to make sure that we can support the continued economic growth we've seen.

President Obama came in with 700,000 jobs being lost in America every month. That was a serious crash dive course that we were on. President Obama, thanks to the stimulus and thanks to TARP, has turned that around and the spending that has supported families, the spending that has grown these jobs, has been an important part of it.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And more deficit spending -- more deficit spending is OK to deal with that?

WHITEHOUSE: There is a pivot that you have to make but very responsible economists say that if we get out of that spending too soon what we do is we pitch ourselves back into the Bush recession.

And at that point, the catastrophe begins to continue. You have to make sure that you're really healthy, that you've really got yourself in the recovery before you cut off the spigot. And particularly when you're cutting off people like, you know, Bill in North Kingstown who wrote to me, 57 years old, engineer all his life, heart condition, two notices of eviction, and he's coming up on getting evicted out of his house, and he's got no COBRA.

I mean there are human stories behind this that I think require our attention.

GREGG: There are going to be a lot of human stories around it when we basically find ourselves with the debt that our kids can't afford. And it's not a heavy lift for us to make the tough decisions down here to set priorities and pay for the things that we think are important. And that's all we're asking this administration to do.

I listen to Sheldon Whitehouse, you know, we're 18 months old --

KING: Senator, I need you to be quick.

GREGG: We're 18 months into this administration. When are they going to accept responsibility? The buck never seems to stop at the president's desk under this administration for anything. On the spending issue --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITEHOUSE: -- history is pretty clear on how we got here. And it's important to recognize that if we go back to the policies that got us here, we'll get more of the same.

KING: We are having here the back and forth and a feisty but polite back and forth. It will continue through the election in November. WHITEHOUSE: Always. Always.

KING: Gentlemen, we'll have you both back. I need to call a timeout for tonight though. But next when we continue the program and the clash, we'll continue our conversation about issues just like this.

We come up for the clash, one of the things we'll talk about is the battle for the base. The economy has a lot to do for that. And we're going to ask you, is the president meeting your expectations? We'll share some new numbers there.

And do you know that today is Social Media Day? If you do, then you probably know the name of today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know." He's trying to change everything about how you interact online.

And in the "Play-by-Play" tonight, you won't want to miss this. We're going to introduce you to what you might call -- you'll get it when you see it -- a high-caliber candidate.

And who is Mr. Bipartisanship and does he really like the label?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: In this corner and in this corner.

KING: An interesting day to point from the Marist poll today. Take a look at this. I'm going to walk over here. For the first time since he took office, Marist poll says, do you think the president is not meeting your expectations? Fifty percent of Americans say he's fallen below their expectations, 36 said he's met those expectations., 8 percent, though, said he's actually exceeded those expectations.

Remember that, 50 percent say he's fallen below their expectations.

Here's the biggest divide in the country right now. Fifty-eight percent of independent voters, critical voters, they say he has fallen below expectations. Only 28 percent of independents say the president has met their expectations and 6 percent say he has exceeded those expectations.

One barometer of how things are going. So what is the source of that disappointment and how's the Elena Kagan nomination playing with the liberal and conservative grassroots?

CNN contributor Erick Erickson is the editor in chief of the conservative RedState.com and Amy Goodman is host and executive producer of the radio and television "Democracy Now."

Amy and Eric, let's start on that point. If 50 percent of Americans say the president is not meeting their expectations, Amy, that means a decent number of people who voted for this president say that. AMY GOODMAN, HOST, DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG: Oh, that's right. You know, John, I was just in Detroit where more than 15,000 people marched at the U.S. Social Forum for progressive change. And then I went up to Toronto. Thousands of people were in the streets outside the G-8/G-20 summit.

And I -- there are a number of issues that are on people's minds, but number one is war. When it comes down it as President Obama's talking about the economy in Racine, Wisconsin, we can't afford war. And it wasn't just progressive activists.

I mean, we can turn to the Republican president, the General Eisenhower, he was the one to talk about, warn us about the military industrial complex. He was the one who said every gun that's made, every warship that is launched, every rocket that's fired, in the final sense, is a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed. Those who need to be clothed.

I think we should turn to that Republican president to heed those words today.

KING: I'm going to venture a guess, Erick --

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Wow.

KING: -- that that is not why the president is not meeting your expectations.

ERICKSON: Yes. Going back to Eisenhower, that's pretty impressive. But you know, war not -- I think that's why he's losing some Democrats. I was interested, though, when you drilled down into this data that young people, Democrats and black voters, tend to like this president and expect things are about to get better.

Those are the people who helped him get elected. And it's not going to be much longer if we keep dragging it on that some of those people are going to start getting disenchanted. The key, though, is that independent voter class. The Democrats are panicked headed into November with these independent voters.

They've turned on the president. And they're not going to come back. You know we can laugh about what John Boehner said today which wasn't that bright. But doesn't matter. In November, all they're going to think about is they're still unemployed.

KING: Well, let me ask you this question. Both liberals and conservatives have been studying the Supreme Court nominations hearings the last few days, trying to learn who is this woman, who is Elena Kagan, what kind of judge would she be.

I want you to listen to something the ranking Republican Jeff Sessions said, essentially, and many Democrats agreeing with him, saying, I'm not quite too sure who you are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We see again some graces in many different ways. Those are revealed in her humor and her knowledge, but I think we -- some of the critics are saying who is this nominee, exactly what do you believe, and might find it from the testimony difficult to know if Miss Kagan, whether you'd be more like Don Roberts or more like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you know the answer, Amy?

GOODMAN: Well, I think it is true that we don't know that much about what she thinks. But what I found fascinating about Senator Sessions going after Elena Kagan was how he went after her on the military. When here you had Elena Kagan actually supporting the military, saying it should get larger, that it should allow gays and lesbians, shouldn't discriminate.

That issue that they keep raising on her being anti-military is just ludicrous. She wasn't against it. She was trying to expand it.

ERICKSON: Oh, good grief, no. She kept them off campus. She didn't want to support the Solomon amendment. She went to court to block them. The military supported the Solomon Amendment --

GOODMAN: Because she said the military shouldn't discriminate. So the gays and lesbians would be allowed with everyone else in the military.

ERICKSON: Yes, and so --

GOODMAN: That's very straight forward.

ERICKSON: She told the military that she couldn't go on -- they couldn't go on campus to recruit, they couldn't use career services. She blocked the military.

GOODMAN: Until they stopped discriminating.

ERICKSON: She's against military. Until they stopped discriminating --

GOODMAN: No, she's against discrimination and she's for the military.

ERICKSON: Oh, so she's for the military because she supported a policy that the military was against so therefore she's -- no, she's a progressive. Look, when you look at who the Supreme Court has had on it from Earl Warren to David Souter to Anthony Kennedy to a degree Justice O'Connor, Republicans have a good history of putting people on the bench who later betray conservatives.

Democrats never had that. So Democrats aren't that worried about Elena Kagan. It's the Republicans. And we had this moment the other day when John Cornyn was questioning her and he was asking her about judicial activism. And basically she said, yes, either the Constitution can be amended or we can let the Supreme Court do it.

And he stopped and didn't go any further because the issue she brought up was Plessy versus Ferguson, which conservatives and liberals agree was a terrible decision, overturned by Brown versus Ford, but it was the court that did it.

And republicans of course aren't going to go there and be painted racist.

KING: I need to call a timeout on this one. We'll invite you both back because we haven't had a confirmation vote yet. And I suspect I might enjoy a longer conservation about this.

Amy and Erick, thank you very much.

GOODMAN: Thanks, John.

KING: Do you Tweet? Do you Tweet? Do you have a Facebook page? Happy Social Media Day. A man who is covering and shaping the revolution is today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Happy Social Media Day. You can thank today's most important person you don't know. He's Pete Cashmore, the founder of Mashable, a leading tech news blog, covering websites, and social network. He's in his mid-20s, started Mashable from his home in Scotland back in 2005. Mashable declared this Social Media Day to celebrate the revolution of media becoming social. You can see it all around. Facebook, MySpace, take a look right here. Twitter, linked in. They get more than billions of page views a month. Just look at that right there, 260 billion on Facebook, 1.9 billion have linked in Twitter and MySpace in between.

Or you can take a look at the Elena Kagan hearings. During the 18 1/2 hours she took questions, people in the hearing room weren't just listening, they were typing away on Blackberries, iPhones, and laptops. Members of congress don't just talk, nowadays, some 236 of them tweet. For that matter, so do we. Drop us a line any thought on twitter and on Facebook. A couple others who tweet with us right here, Joe Johns and Dana Bash. Let's start with that. You're just in the Kagan hearings. How many people are actually listening and how many are doing their banging away?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of banging away. Look, I mean, it has made a huge difference on how we do our jobs as reporters and the impact that we have especially up on Capitol Hill. Everybody is watching their twitter feed. So, if I'm in the hallway talking to a senator and I get a little nugget and I send it out in a tweet, and this happened to me before, for example, I've talked to one Democratic ranking file senator who said something that really infuriated the leadership, it got to them in a nano second. It brought into them in a leadership meeting, and it changed the internal dynamics. That kind of stuff happens all the time this day. JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I use it not just to give information out, I also use it to get information. So, I'll put up sort of a provocative question on Facebook. And people will respond to that and give me all kinds of ideas and sort of threads and things to think about that I never even thought about before. So, I sort of use it to gather information, sort of the voice of the people, writ small.

KING: Exactly right especially breaking news stories like the Gulf story. You download the Gulf, you post something on Facebook, you tweet it, you read other people and you follow it. It's a great way to do it. Let's move on to those Kagan hearings where a lot of people were tweeting. She was 18-plus hours in the chair. Dana, you were there for most of it, if not all of it. I want to play one exchange today. This is Elena Kagan and Lindsey Graham talking about an evolving issue in the abortion debate which is medical technology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Is it fair for the court to consider scientific changes when a fetus becomes viable as medical science evolves?

ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Senator Graham, I do think that in every area that it is fair to consider scientific changes. I've talked in the past about how different forms of technology influenced the evolution of the court's fourth amendment jurisprudence.

GRAHAM: I'm glad to hear you say that --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's an important discussion because Nebraska, for one, and other states, have moved forward with laws trying to move the date of viability back.

BASH: Exactly. I think that exchange is interesting on two levels. Number one, to show that Elena Kagan is, as her supporters say, a member of the real world and is willing to understand what goes on and to use that if and when she is on the Supreme Court. Secondly that illustrates what happened in a big way today which is Republicans talked about social issues much more than they did yesterday. Not just abortion but same-sex marriage and a whole host of issues trying to pin her down as an activist on those issues. And she got around it by saying I'm just going to be the impartial observer and decider.

JOHNS: I really feel like I didn't learn very much from these hearings. You always say that after a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, but for some reason, this one was, you know, a set of talking points almost going back and forth.

KING: If you're a lawyer, you're supposed to be smarter than that.

JOHNS: I just didn't see how Kagan really gave much of anything. She was very agile, you know. She found a way to answer questions without answering them, which is what all the nominees do. But I didn't learn much. And that's a tragedy of these hearings that you don't learn much.

BASH: I think it's interesting (ph) because Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican, started the day today by saying, I don't know if you're closer to Ruth Bader Ginsburg or if you're closer to John Roberts which got him in trouble because the Democrats said, see, we told you, she's a middle of the road mainstream--

KING: One of the legal terms that comes up sometime is results- based judging. And Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware had an exchange about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAGAN: I think results (INAUDIBLE) is pretty much the worst kind of judging there is. I mean, the worst thing that you can say about a judge is that he or she is results oriented. It suggests that a judge is kind of picking sides, irrespective of what the law requires, and that that's the absolute antithesis of what a judge should be doing, that the judge should be trying to figure out as best she can what the law does require.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: She did, at least, give us one thing. She gave us -- she gave us a view of what judges do, and that's something that I think I heard someone else, maybe Suzette Malveaux on previous program talking about that. Really got a feel from her about what judges do and how they try to strike a balance, how to try to deal with difficult issues, so that was useful. That was useful.

BASH: And reassuring them that she will follow that model.

JOHNS: Right. Even though she's never been a judge --

KING: If you listen to that answer, it would be hard as the conservatives want to say she's some, you know, crazy liberal activist who wants to go on and pull the leverage of society, but they don't buy it right?

BASH: You know, in fact, it's actually interesting that you ask that question because you did see some Republican sort of the wheels turning after they tried to push her as a liberal activist, kind of, you know, shrugging, giving up because it was hard to do that. She made the case that she wouldn't be. Just very quickly what she was responding to, as you said, Sheldon Whitehouse, or actually several Democrats, they used their time today, not a lot of Democrats talked today, they used their time not really to talk about her but to talk about the current conservative court, calling that an activist court and that's what she was responding to there.

KING: Elena Kagan, John Roberts, Sam Alito, Clarence Thomas, they were up (ph). They're all being confirmed at once, I guess, or debated at once in the same confirmation hearing. Dana Bash, Joe Johns, thank you so much.

Next, among the items on my radar, could California be turning to a red state? Don't laugh. We have the latest numbers from the races for governor and U.S. senate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's look at some stories on my radar tonight and talk them over with Republican pollster Ed Goeas, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and Democratic strategist, Kiki McLean. Attention, Democrats, where would you like to spend most of the week of September 3, 2012? A letter from the party chairman, Tim Kaine, says, "Dear DNC member, I'm excited to announce that four cities have been selected as finalist to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention. We assume that convention will re-nominate Barack Obama as president. Charlotte, North Carolina, Cleveland, Ohio, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and St. Louis, Missouri.

The Republican convention, by the way, will be in Tampa, Florida. Ed, as the Republican in the room, where should the Democrats meet?

ED GOEAS, PRES., AND CEO, THE TARRANCE GROUP: Well, my experience in Minneapolis was not particularly good. We spent more time watching hurricanes than we actually did putting on the convention. So, I would say anywhere but Minneapolis.

KING: Those were nice people. They gave you a great hockey jersey.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They're nice people.

KIKI MCLEAN, MANAGING DIR., PORTER NOVELLI: Look, I have been a communications director at several Democratic conventions, and John, I believe you were there reporting in the summer of 1991 when we went to Cleveland with the Democratic Leadership Council and a guy named Bill Clinton, they gave a big speech that a lot of people took notice of. So, I'll say Cleveland really had some good markers, but I think we'll --

KING: That's the first time I heard about the Democratic Leadership Council since the Obama election.

MCLEAN: Yes, I think -- listen, those are four great cities. And all of them, I know, will put on the show for Democrats.

BORGER: How about doing some toss up states like Ohio, Florida --

MCLEAN: Cleveland is in Ohio. Missouri.

BORGER: Missouri I meant, sorry, Missouri I meant, yes.

KING: Depending on --

MCLEAN: And some people think North Carolina is a --

KING: If you could look at this way, depending on how this year goes, these could all be tossups.

GOEAS: That's true.

KING: All right. Let's move on, let's move on. Here we go. It's unanimous. The Senate voted 99 to nothing (INAUDIBLE). Today, that vote was to make General David Petraeus the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. It was quick, too. The confirmation hearings were only yesterday. At those hearings, Petraeus told senators who's having dinner with Vice President Biden. There you go, right there. There's the picture. It sparked some interesting captions on the internet, to say the least. I won't quote them here. This is a tough challenge.

BORGER: Very tough challenge.

MCLEAN: That he's taking on?

KING: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Dinner with the vice president.

MCLEAN: I didn't say it.

BORGER: I did.

MCLEAN: OK.

BORGER: No, but it was interesting who was talking in that picture, Joe Biden. Yes. But you know, when they had the Afghanistan review, Joe Biden proposed something else other than the policy that we have right now. And I think it's very clear that the of two these men getting together is a signal from the administration that they are on the same page.

MCLEAN: Well, look, it's also clear that perhaps if Mr. -- if General McChrystal had had more conversations with the vice president rather than just talking about him, it would have turned out better. But, you know, this says something about General Petraeus, about his commitment to service, to his country. It's not an easy job, as you said. And in fact, the circumstances get more difficult every day, and he stepped up to the plate because his president and commander in chief called on him to do it and he ought to be congratulated for doing that and I'm appreciative --

KING: Is his fame -- he's the most recognized general I can think of, now, maybe General Powell when he served the joints chief back then or shorts Kauff (ph) at the height of the (INAUDIBLE). Does his fame help in terms of where public opinion goes in a way?

GOEAS: My reaction to the picture of him having a glass of wine with the vice president was he could have drank through the entire hearings and probably gotten 99-0 vote, he is that popular, he is that good. I think one of the signs of that is he actually took a step down from his position to do this. It shows how committed he is to doing the right thing for the country. And I think he couldn't have picked a better person.

KING: Let me sneak this one in before we're out of time. Not counting (ph) Governor Schwarzenegger, Republicans are more competitive in California than they have been in years. The latest look at the governor's race shows Republican Meg Whitman only 6 points behind Democratic Jerry Brown. The Senate race even closer, Carly Fiorina just 4 points behind incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer. That's within the poll's sampling error.

Ed, Republicans always say we're going to get California back. We're going to get the big one back. And the Democrats, especially in presidential politics -- and with the exception of Schwarzenegger who's a different kind of Republican and who won it in a recall election, Republicans haven't done well statewide in a long time. Does it changing?

GOEAS: We're seeing some real signs there. What this poll doesn't tell you is -- what's not said about this poll is it's all voters, it's not likely voters. And we're seeing this intensity gap continue. We saw it in the battleground in April that it was 14 points. Gallop just came out and showed that it's 16 points. You can look at any of those numbers and kind of assume that's worst case scenario. So, very competitive and it's still be very competitive until --

KING: If California's competitive this year, the Democrats are having a tough one.

MCLEAN: Well, is that news to anybody? The Democrats are having a tough year.

KING: That would mean extra tough?

MCLEAN: Let me make this very clear, Ed has a ton of expertise, but I don't need his level of expertise to know that this is a tough year. I would have expected in this complete wipeout moment that you would have seen these races, given the dollars that have already been spent by some Republicans in those races to be right in there. I mean, if you were doing a dollar per vote count, their numbers are not great.

BORGER: But the question for Meg Whitman in California in particular is has she moved so far to the right that she can now not race back to the middle to win that --

MCLEAN: She's cornered herself out.

BORGER: To win that race in California.

GOEAS: I don't think so. Most of the voters aren't watching at this point in terms of the independent voters -- and what's not discussed about this election is the independent voters are the angry voters. The angry voters, the angry independents, are where you're seeing the vote on the boxer vote.

KING: I vote we all go to California, I vote we all go to California and track this race from -

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Hang on one second. Next to the "Play-by-Play" , we're going to introduce you to, trust me, a high-caliber candidate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know right now. Alex is now a category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 100 miles an hour. It's expected to make landfall in Northeastern Mexico in a few hours. Just minutes ago, officials report a tornado on the ground in Brownsville, Texas. That from a storm generated from hurricane Alex.

By vote of 237 and 192, the House passed the Wall Street reform bill, but the Senate probably won't vote on it until the week of July 12th.

ANNOUNCER: Here comes the "Play-by-Play."

KING: Back for the "Play-by-Play" tonight to break down the tape. Still with us, Republican pollster, Ed Goeas, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and Democratic strategist, Kiki McLean. Scott Brown came to Washington. He was a big star. He won that Massachusetts seat Ted Kennedy had held for a half century. He was the flavor of the month in the Republican Party. Most senators love the spotlight. Scott Brown seems to be saying, find somebody else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SCOTT BROWN, (R) MASSACHUSETTS: Seems like everybody's following my voting record. And it speaks for itself in that I've worked to work across party lines, to solve problems, but the thing that's a problem is it needs to be a two-way street. Bipartisanship isn't just from the new senator from Massachusetts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Come on, you know? I mean, honestly, in financial reform, they just went back to conference committee and revoked a $19 billion tax on banks to get his vote. So, what's he complaining about? I don't understand that.

KING: He's trying to use his leverage. He wants more.

BORGER: I don't understand.

MCLEAN: It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or Democrat, you come from Massachusetts, you come from the world of Tip O'Neill, all politics is local. He is following in the mold of a great Massachusetts politician. You know, you can debate about who his mentor is but he's playing it.

KING: How does he balance that as a Republican pollster? How does he balance being he's a star in the Republican Party right now because he won that seat. He gave them much more leverage in the United States Senate because of the rules, yet he has to run for re- election in Massachusetts.

GOEAS: He has to run for re-election showing that he's reached across the aisle. I didn't find his comment surprising. I mean, I've known for years the Democrats idea of compromise is you do it my way.

(CROSSTALK)

GOEAS: Little bits and pieces but not the big parts of the bill.

BORGER: The big question is how he's going to vote on Elena Kagan. I mean, he was one of the people who introduced her.

KING: He's still not definite on the financial reform bill. He said thanks for making the change, but I'm going to study it.

MCLEAN: There's a little bit of false humility going on here, saying, oh, no, don't pay attention to me. Oh, wait is everybody waiting to hear what my vote is? I mean, he'll play that out for a while. He is the flavor of the month, and there will be a new one after November.

KING: All right. We've seen a lot of interesting ads in this year's campaigns. And some of them have involved weapons. Here's one now. Pamela Gorman, she's running for the third district in Arizona, and she wants you to know what kind of a caliber candidate she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This year, a lot of folks think this is our best shot at change in Congress. Of course, that all depends on the caliber of our candidates. (GUNFIRE). Meet Pamela Gorman, candidate for Congress in Arizona 3, conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot. (GUNFIRE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Who wants to criticize Pamela Gorman, anybody?

BORGER: Certainly not her opponent.

GOEAS: It is very interesting. I've been telling my campaigns out there, this is the year to connect, not to convince. I don't know that this quite is the connection that you're looking for in a broader sense.

MCLEAN: I can't decide what's more disconcerting is just the sound of the gun or the sound of the voiceover on that ad. Because the voiceover sounds a little "Saturday Night Live"-ish, you know

BORGER: Look, guns have always been a tough issue for the Democrats.

MCLEAN: Sure have. Famous hunting pictures. BORGER: Particularly tough for -- given the fact that Barack Obama's president and the NRA doesn't like Barack Obama. So, anytime, a Republican can raise the gun issue, am I wrong --

MCLEAN: Well, it becomes news when a Democrat gets -- Ted Strickland got the NRA endorsement over John Kasich in Ohio --

KING: Conversation that maybe Harry Reid will get it in Nevada. We'll watch that (INAUDIBLE). I want you to listen. Elizabeth Edwards is on "Larry King Live" tonight. And she talks about the difficulty of supporting her husband after she became aware of his infidelity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, AUTHOR, 'RESILIENCE': I knew about one incident. Understand the whole time that he ran for office, I knew that he had had one liaison. It still tore me up, I mean, personally tore me up. I think that one liaison would disqualify him to be the president? And so sometimes I had to, you know, bite my tongue. I talked a lot about his policies, which I still believe were the best policies and set the standard for the other candidates on a lot of issues, health care being one of them, but environment and poverty, and corporate interference with government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLEAN: Listen, I think Elizabeth Edwards provides the best analysis on her own situation. She hasn't been afraid to talk about it. And I think the reality is, we should take her at her word about her own experience. I think there is something admirable to someone who is devoted to her children, who is devoted to the issues she cares about, and politics are secondary to that at this point.

BORGER: You know, I give her a lot of credit. There's an elephant on the table, and she takes on the elephant and she's talking about it.

GOEAS: And the only thing I think of in situations like this, and we've seen it on both sides of the aisle, is I never understand who are these consultants that have the wife stand up next to the husband when they're talking about what's happened. I mean, you take a situation that has angered women to begin with and then you force the wife to stand up and go through that, but it's just unconscionable.

MCLEAN: But, you know, one thing I will say is I don't think any wife can be forced to do something she doesn't want to by a consultant. So, I give women the benefit of doubt --

BORGER: Maybe by her husband but --

MCLEAN: I give women the benefit of the doubt. I also give them the benefit to make those choices for themselves.

KING: I'm going to end it there. Ed and Kiki and Gloria, thanks so much. Gloria, I'm going to tell everyone, enjoy your vacation.

But today is it father knows best or even the Brady button (ph) gone forever? Not a good thing. "Pete on the Street." He's our culture reporter. He'll be here after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Representative John Boehner, the House Minority leader says, Democrats running Washington are, quote, "snuffing out the America that I grew up in," end quote. Were the good old days always that good? We sent our offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick, out on the street to find out -- Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: John King, I actually learned something really important out there asking this question. And it's subjective as to when was the best time to grow up. Everybody thinks it's whenever they grew up. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1960s. I grew up in 1960s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 1950s was better than now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People had more respect for each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The music sucked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1950s and 1960s.

DOMINICK: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The economy was better. Life was simpler.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 1940s.

DOMINICK: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because children could go play on the streets.

DOMINICK: What did you like about the 1950s?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Job was easier to find.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 1970s was the best time of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I loved growing up in America now, but my grandparents say they had a great time growing up, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably the 1950s.

DOMINICK: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People thought a lot less about -- they had a lot less stress. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1950s was great.

DOMINICK: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the 1970s was the bomb.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss 1960s.

DOMINICK: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because that's when I grew up.

DOMINICK: Really the question is iPhones or no iPhones? What's better to grow up with?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: iPhones are better, really.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1960s.

DOMINICK: Why the 1960s?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because America was involved in the 1960s.

DOMINICK: You love growing up, you love being a kid?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: yes.

DOMINICK: What's your favorite thing to do?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Play soccer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 1950s and 1960s.

DOMINICK: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Life was still quiet and peaceful. Information didn't move at such as Pete.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just feel like technology has taken over.

DOMINICK: I can tell, by the way, you're walking at the sidewalks with your phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes with my phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think cougars right now are having a great time so why not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: Cougars are having a great time. John King, I say 1980s and 1990s, no argument.

KING: I'm not so sure about. When I was growing up, my dad had one of those old crank-up Victrolas just to play the big bands on them, just like that music we're just playing during your piece. I thought that might have been pretty cool.

DOMINICK: I didn't know you grew up in the 1930s, John.

KING: I didn't, but I used to enjoy, you know, listening to the music.

DOMINICK: The question I asked was, what was the best time, 1950s and 1960s or the last 30 years, and it was always whenever those people grew up. It's subjective, I think.

KING: As someone who is growing up right now, Pete, I would say right now is the best time to grow up because I'm right in the middle of it.

DOMINICK: I agree.

KING: We'll see you tomorrow, my friend. That's all for us tonight. Campbell Brown starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.