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JOHN KING, USA

Should Michael Steele Resign as RNC Chairman?

Aired July 5, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Suzanne. And good evening. I'm Jessica Yellin in tonight for John King.

As we wind down the Fourth of July holiday weekend, more and more Republicans are declaring independence from their own party's chairman. Michael Steele is still hanging on tonight, but the question is, once Republicans get their minds off backyard barbecues and start looking toward their big push to retake Congress, will their mistake-prone leader be ignored, pushed aside, or even thrown overboard? Here to talk about the rift in the Republican party, we are joined now by our own Ed Rollins, a CNN contributor and a longtime Republican. Ed, a big kerfuffle in the Republican Party. Michael Steele, will he stay or will he go?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, it's really up to him. To remove him it takes two-thirds vote of the 168 members of the committee, and there hasn't been an inclination to do that. But serious republicans all over, including john McCain, who was our party nominee, several former party chairmen, are calling for him to step aside. He's a distraction. This latest one is a big policy differential. It's not just a mistake on who does what fund-raising wise, but this is a big significant policy differential for the leadership and the Congress and certainly will make a lot of members out there very unhappy about his positions.

YELLIN: Ed, would you like him to go?

ROLLINS: I said this back in April. I thought, you know, no one's bigger than the party. The party's job is to help elect Republicans, and when the party chairman gets in the way of electing Republicans, then it's time for him to step aside. If we had the White House, I promise you, as the White House political director, I would have fired him a long time ago, and I think to a certain extent, the committee ought to basically seriously think about moving him aside.

YELLIN: I want to let our viewers know that we're going to be interviewing shortly Dr. Ron Paul, who's one of very few Republicans who has come out in defense of Michael Steele. Before I go back to asking your views, I want to remind our viewers what started this all. So, this was Michael Steele commenting last Thursday, in Connecticut, on the war in Afghanistan. Let's listen briefly to his comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL STEEL, RNC CHAIRMAN: This is a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: All right. So, that's what Michael Steele is essentially alleging that this is a Democrat's war. Two Republicans have come out, both john McCain and Lindsey graham on the weekend shows, essentially saying that Michael Steele is flat-out wrong. My question to you is, is he speaking for any part of the Republican Party? Is there a minority that shares Michael Steele's view?

ROLLINS: It may be a very small minority. I think Congressman Paul may share his views. But the vast majority -- first of all, he got his facts wrong. This was a war that got started after 9/11. The Taliban was protecting Bin Laden. We went in there and chased the Taliban out. We asked NATO to take over. NATO did and we're part of that. We went off and tried to settle the Iraq situation, and then we got dragged back in when the Taliban came back in.

This is an American war. These American boys, men and women have been there for nine years, and Republicans have been extremely supportive of this, starting with President Bush, Republican majorities in the Congress, and certainly Republican majorities still today. We want this war to be ended, but we want it to be ended in a way that basically creates some stability there.

YELLIN: All right. Ed, don't go anywhere because we'll be coming back to you, but I want to bring in the other side of this discussion. Here to talk further about that rift is a man who's had his own share of differences with Republican leadership. That is Texas Republican congressman, former presidential candidate, Ron Paul. Dr. Paul, thanks for joining us, and let me start, first, with this. Why are you the only Republican defending Michael Steele?

REP. RON PAUL, (R) TEXAS: Well, I don't know exactly why there'd be just me, but I'm sure there are a lot of others that are very sympathetic. But I think it has to do with who the media goes to. They go to people who want to condemn him and stir up a fight and see if they can have a battle in the Republican Party. I think that's what is going on. But I think the better question is not whether there's three or four or five who have declared themselves leader of the Republican Party. I just wonder how much -- how many grassroots Americans believe that an individual who blurted out the truth, that he sort of backtracked on should be kicked out of office because of that.

The majority of the American people agree with what he said. Now, this whole thing, and I think Ed distorted this a bit about what Chairman Steele said about this being Obama's war. This is sort of like Nixon in 1968 saying, this is Nixon's war, Vietnam war, and he went on and managed that war and 30,000 more Americans were killed. So, yes, yes, I think it is Obama's war because he has called this the good war, and he fought for more troops over there and the war is going badly. We had a worst month in June -- YELLIN: All right. Let's break this down. First of all, you have said this previously. You came out defending Michael Steele, so, I'm curious, have you spoken with him or had any contact with him?

PAUL: No, no, I haven't. I just thought that he did not deserve to be punished through the media in the sense that, get out, we don't want you. We don't need you. I think the party's doing reasonably well.

YELLIN: Well, hang on a sec because this was --

PAUL: And we're going to do well in November.

YELLIN: Listen to what John McCain --

PAUL: Why should we change --

YELLIN: Listen for a moment to what John McCain and Lindsey graham, two very respected leaders in your party had to say over the weekend. This is not just the media. This is what McCain and Graham had to say if we can play that sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I think those statements are widely inaccurate, and there's no excuse for them. Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that he was, his remarks were misconstrued. The fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: It was an uninformed, unnecessary, unwise, untimely comment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So, my question here is, does the Republican Party not brook dissent?

PAUL: Does not look what?

YELLIN: Does not brook -- does not accept dissent? Is there a reluctance to listen to dissenting points of view? Is that what you're frustrated about?

PAUL: Well, the whole thing is, I think his statement was rather accurate. I mean, what he was saying, he was expressing the way millions of Americans feel frustrated that this war has gone on too long, has cost us too much money, hundreds of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of casualties, people coming back here, deaths up to 5,000 people of all the wars that we've been fighting over there. People are tired of the war, and it's going badly. I mean, we just fired our general, which means that things aren't going well over there.

They can't even continue the plan to go into Kandahar, and Marjah was a total failure, and they're going to pretend they're painting it over, and they're deceiving the American people just as they were deceived in the 1960s. I lived through that. I was in the air force then, and I don't think the American people want to be deceived anymore.

YELLIN: With respect, sir --

(CROSSTALK)

PAUL: -- and a private conversation --

YELLIN: The latest CNN polling shows 66 percent of Republicans favor the war in Afghanistan. Favor it. Now --

PAUL: OK, but 66 percent of the Republicans can't elect a president. You have to appeal to 66 percent of the Americans. And believe me, the biggest party in this country right now are the independents, and they're sick of this war. And if the Republican Party wants to truly become the number one party, they have to speak to the independents, which they're not doing. And this is what they did in the 1980 -- 2008 election. They lost because of the Iraqi war and the foreign policy that they were managing. And you just can't continue to do this. This country is broke! We're spending $1 trillion a year on our foreign policy --

YELLIN: Sir, are you and Michael Steele speaking for a quiet minority in your party? Do you think there's a growing minority in your party that opposes this war?

PAUL: Well, I think it's a growing number, but I think it's close to the majority, but it's the majority of the American people. Think of all the progressive Democrats that have to put up with Obama. Why is it not good political talk for what Steele said? I mean, here, Obama is trying to appeal to his base by saying, oh, we're going to be out in a year. At the same time, he's appealing to the neocons who say, we want more war.

He says, I'll take all the troops we can because we're going to win this war. But the truth is, the politicians and the military people do not believe there's a chance of a military victory. So, our troops are being trained to fight wars, and they are not allowed to fight wars. They're tired themselves, and this is not a very good policy that we have. This is a --

YELLIN: OK. O think that's something --

PAUL: This is a war that is not really a war.

YELLIN: General Petraeus would disagree with you, and we will follow up with that after this break. Please stay with us.

Coming back on the other side of this break, more with Dr. Ron Paul. And also, some big news from your district, sir, oil from the BP spill is washing up on Galveston County beaches. We'll be right back with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Late this afternoon, Texas officials confirmed that tar balls found on Galveston County beaches this weekend are from the BP oil spill, even though, the well is 400 miles offshore. Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul's district includes Galveston. So, Dr. Paul, it's day 77 of the oil spill. Tar balls today reportedly washed up in Galveston County. That's your district. In your view, is the Obama administration doing enough to stop the oil spill?

PAUL: Well, no, not really. And I think they've done a lot to interfere. For instance, a lot of local official property owners and state officials have wanted to do more over in Louisiana and Mississippi, and the federal government, the fish and wildlife people and the EPA and others, they come in, and they prohibit them from doing it. For instance, you know, one thing I would like to do as related to our previous subject is, you know, if all our states had their guard units back here, maybe they would have the manpower to do more to help cleanup the beaches and prevent this oil from coming in, but, no, our guard units all around the world fighting wars that we don't need to fight.

So, I would say, let's fight this war here at home with our borders as well as the oil coming on our shores. But you know, I've lived on the beach down here for 18 years. I don't presently have a house there now, but I did. And every time we went to the beach, we had to scrub our feet because we had tar balls. So, even though, they say this has come from this oil, I will wait and see just exactly where this has come from to see if they're absolutely right.

YELLIN: Let me turn to another member of your family who's in the news these days. Rand Paul, your son, is running for Senate in Kentucky. He has been criticized by some national figures, who -- including Senator Mitch McConnell, while he didn't overtly criticize him, at one point said he's done enough national media and maybe should keep it quiet for a while. Do you feel that your son has been given a bad rap by either the national media or the leaders of your party?

PAUL: Well, I think it's just generally, yes, he got some bad raps, but I don't -- I guess I didn't warn him enough and prepare him enough. That's what this political stuff is all about. You can expect it. Especially after you win a primary and beat the establishment. You can sort of expect something. And then expect it from both, you know, not only your opponents in the party, but then your opponents from the other party as well. So, yes, but he needs, really, he needs to become a senator.

He has a great chance of doing -- his polls show him ahead, and he needs to be at home campaigning, which he's so good at. I mean, he campaigned very, very hard in the primary, and he had the tea party move it behind him. And his turnouts in the tea party were sometimes two and three and four times bigger than any Republican Party turnout. So, starts to realize what's happening.

YELLIN: Let me ask you about that because he vowed to the tea party faithful who were supporters of his that he would not hold fundraisers in Washington or take money from folks who voted for the bank bailout, which is so unpopular among them. He was here, he held a fundraiser with some of those very same people. He's been criticized for that. Is your son being unfaithful to his principles?

PAUL: Well, that's -- you're just putting some words out there, whether you're right or not, somebody else is going to have to determine that. I know, I've gone to two fundraisers for him in Washington and both were for the young people and I think they paid $25 to come. And we had large turnout of young people because that's exactly the groups that are attracted to what I've been talking about. So, I was very, very pleased. What he's doing with PAC money? You know, I always say, you know, I don't get any PAC money, you know, but I would take it, because it's in the law. I'll take PAC money, but I don't get it because it's not worth the investment.

So, it's perfectly legal to take PAC money, and what he has done, you'll have to ask him. Don't ask me about it, because I do not know the details of the campaign. I did him one big favor. I let him run his own campaign, and I didn't get involved in any details of what he was doing.

YELLIN: All right. Dr. Paul, it's always a pleasure to talk to you, and we will do it again on this show, I'm certain it, in the future. Thanks so much for joining us.

PAUL: Thank you.

YELLIN: All right. You heard Ron Paul's thoughts on those various issues. We're determined to bring you into the conversation, especially on the tea party. So each week, we ask you to make your case on an important topic. This week's question, one week from now -- one year from now, will we still be talking about the tea party? Record your opinion and post it at CNN.com/JohnKingUSA. We'll play the best video on Friday, and there is lot more ahead today, so stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Michael Steele's attacks of foot and mouth disease are testing Republicans' patience, and the tea party is testing the notion that Republicans can have a big tent. It's all in a year when people are guessing the tea party, the party has a chance to taking back Congress, that is the Republican Party, if they can get their act together. The question is, can they? Joining me now from New York is Republican strategist and CNN contributor, Ed Rollins, and in Philadelphia is an associate of Michael Steele, Columbia University professor, Marc Lamont Hill.

Thanks, gentleman, for being with us. Let me start with you, Ed, again, for rejoining us. Ron Paul said that the Republican Party needs to do a better job of reaching out to independents, many of whom are against this war. Do you agree?

ROLLINS: Listen, any time you want to run a general election, you have to have independent voters in order to be successful. But when you're the party chairman, your responsibility is the base, your responsibility to Republican voters. And in this particular issue, it is so contrary to a very significant portion of both our platform, our nominee, John McCain, and others. It's Mitch McConnell.

It's major Republicans in the House and the Senate, who are all on the opposite side of where he is. And I think to a certain extent, this is a policy differential that is very, very significant. And it's not his job to set policy. It's his job to raise money, help elect Republicans.

YELLIN: Mark, a lot of frustration with Michael Steele. He's a friend of yours. You called him today. What was your message to him?

MARC LAMONT HILL, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, I wouldn't go so far as to call us friends, but I would say that I've known Michael for a long time, and I do reach out to him from time to time just to offer support and tell him to fight the good fight. As someone the left, I'm glad to see Michael Steele in office, and I hope that he stays there a long time. I think part of the challenge here, though, from the right is not just that Michael Steele's made gaffes, and certainly, Michael Steele has made a lot of gaffes, but it's also that Michael Steele upset the Republican Party establishment from the beginning.

He emptied out many of the old Bush-era consultants, made the (INAUDIBLE). He's had an uphill battle from the beginning. So, some of it is Michael Steele and some of it is the Republican Party fighting back.

YELLIN: There is, Ed, in your party, a range of views when it comes to Afghanistan and even the military. I want to play you sound from Glenn Beck. This is something he said about the war in Afghanistan in June if we have that sound bite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, HOST, "GLENN BECK": I have not seen the government do anything except cause problems, with an exception of maybe defense, but I'd like to give it a whirl on, you know, defense that wasn't solely run by the government. I think you have private individuals that could probably take care of things in Afghanistan better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Sounds like he's suggesting outsourcing the war. Is the Republican position on Afghanistan fracturing?

ROLLINS: No, it's not. And first of all, Glenn Beck is an entertainer who does -- used to be on this network, he's now on another network. The idea that you would fight a war as a nation with mercenaries is just absurd. You can have consultants, you can have a whole variety of things, but we have the greatest volunteer military in the world, which is the greatest military in the world. When we basically think it's in our national interest to go to war as we have in Afghanistan, then we have our own troops that can go do that, and we can do it very well. That's what we're in the process of doing at this point in time. A majority of Republicans in the Congress support that. A majority of republicans, according to your poll, support that. And it's not the place of the national chairman to basically have a differing point of view.

YELLIN: Marc, Steele did try to clarify his position on Afghanistan. He issued a statement that said, in part, "during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now as president, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy." Did he backtrack? Was that a real clarification?

HILL: Oh, no, that was a huge backtracked, but it was also the appropriate statement to make. And I think those of us on the left, particularly the anti-war left would agree wholeheartedly. Barack Obama ran as a peace candidate, but in reality, he wanted to shift the site of war from Iraq to Afghanistan. Barack Obama does endorse the Afghanistan war, and in many ways, he is responsible for this strategy. And as such, he needs to be held responsible for it.

I think that's a reasonable stance to take from the left or the right. But what Michael Steele said from the beginning was something very different. He said something that was simply unfactual and ahistorical, which is somehow that Barack Obama initiated and began to prosecute the war that give Bush administration went in no part of when, in fact, obviously, the Bush administration went into Afghanistan trying to chase Taliban out as early as 2001. It's just not true.

YELLIN: Ed, let me turn to something that Ron Paul said at the end of the interview. He said that he didn't warn his son enough about what it would be like to run with the national media focus on him. Do you think that Rand Paul has gotten an unfair shake?

ROLLINS: No, not at all. I mean, it's a tough game. You know, he's a senate nominee in the state of Kentucky. He may end up winning this race, but it's a tough game. Every time you're in this game, you know, it's not the media that does you in. And in his particular case, it's his own statements that did him in. You're going to be scrutinized. That's what the public's role is, the media's role is, to basically tell its story to the public, to tell your story, in some cases.

The only issue I want to make here is going back to the chairman, the chairman doesn't represent the left. No offense to my fellow guest here. You k know, you say you're from the left and you want to represent the left, you're from the anti-war, that's perfectly all right. That's your point of view. Michael Steele's responsibility is to represent the Republican Party.

HILL: Yes, but --

ROLLINS: The Republican Party today, and has been since the beginning, and we did chase the Taliban out once. We turned it over to NATO, had to come back again, is we have been supportive of the Afghan effort.

HILL: I agree with that. My point wasn't to suggest that Michael Steele should be representing the left. What I'm saying is that facts are fact, and whether you're on the left or the right, you have to agree that George Bush initiated military action in Afghanistan, and Barack Obama has carried on that strategy. That's my only point about saying the left or the right.

ROLLINS: No question about it. And Secretary Gates, who has held on probably to one of the most important appointments that President Obama did, I'm sure this war effort would be exactly the same if President Bush had had a third term or John McCain had been elected.

HILL: That's the sad part.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: Gentleman, we'll have to call it quit there, but we could go on all night. Marc Lamont Hill, thanks so much for joining us, and Ed Rollins, as always, and Ed will be back later in the show because we can't get enough of you.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

YELLIN: And still ahead, Manhattan and the queen. Check this out. The queen is coming to town. We'll tell you about it.

Also, just one day after -- just one day after the Independence Day, Vice President Biden is on message. He has been in Iraq. We will talk about that.

And in our final segment of the show, girl power. Former senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, talking about woman power. She was visiting overseas. What were they asking her? Was there a woman wearing a T-shirt from her presidential campaign? That happened way over in the Republic of Georgia.

All of that, plus, who's behind a political commercial that quotes (ph) a republican U.S. senator in oil?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Never mind we just celebrated the 234th anniversary of the declaration of independence, the British are coming tomorrow. Queen Elizabeth will be in New York City to address the United Nations. It is a big deal. Most Americans may only think of her as an 84-year-old woman who wears hats, but in reality, she represents, get this, nearly 30 percent of the world's population. 30 percent.

Among her subjects, CNN's Richard Quest, who is in New York tonight. Richard, thank you for joining us. What message will the queen bring with her tomorrow?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: I think the important thing is that the Queen is speaking at the United Nations. And get this for a fact. The last time Her Majesty spoke at the U.N. was in 1957.

Now, to put this fully into context, the Queen has met every U.S. president since Truman, with the exception of President Johnson.

Time and again, of course, she's been in the United States, but this is only her third visit to New York -- 1957, 1976 for the bicentennial, and this trip which will be less than maybe six or seven hours when she arrives in the Big Apple just after lunchtime -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Now, we in the U.S. have a special relationship with England. We found out that you have a special relationship with the Queen. And we wanted to play some video we found from November 2001 in the CNN London bureau.

Apparently you got to know her royal highness just a tad bit. I don't know if you can see the video, but she's wearing some quite bright green. And --

QUEST: Believe me, you do not forget that day in a hurry.

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: Look, I have seen the Queen on many occasions -- state, official. That was the first time I actually got to meet the Queen. To say I was nervous is a vast understatement.

YELLIN: What's she like?

QUEST: Oh, no one really knows what she's like. I mean, you know, sort of -- I'll tell you what she has got. She has absolutely, completely, and totally got the ability to make the person she's speaking to feel completely at home.

And that comes about, because one on one, she is extremely personable. Now I think when we see her before the United Nations tomorrow, you're likely to see perhaps of more of a stilted speech.

She's going to be talking about leadership. She'll be talking about the challenges facing the U.N. Maybe how the Commonwealth can assist. All those big themes. And she will speak very deliberately, very slowly. That's the way the Queen does it.

But when you meet her one on one, the eyes twinkle, the smile is there, the hand goes out. She's very, very personable.

YELLIN: She sounds like a good politician. There's another issue, obviously, complicating the relationship right now, and that is the oil spill. It's a fact that almost every pension investor in Britain has a stake in BP. And I -- and as we've heard, they're quite upset in some ways with the U.S.'s response.

Will the Queen be addressing this tension tomorrow?

QUEST: Absolutely not.

YELLIN: Not?

QUEST: If she does address it, and I've not been instructed, it would be to express regret and remorse of what is happening. But no. I mean, I've not heard a scintilla of suggestion that there would be anything that the -- the point is, the dispute on this point is not about the damage that is taking place on the Gulf Coast at the moment, off the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, and right the way across through Florida.

That is not the dispute. The dispute and the ill feeling, if such there is in Britain, is the way in which perhaps some of the members of the administration have arguably used it for political gain.

They have obfuscated over maybe some of their own shortcomings and in doing so, chosen to blame totally BP.

Now that is the dispute area, Jessica. I'm not taking sides one way or the other. But, for instance, when the administration says keeping the boot on the throat of BP, that is the sort of thing that back in the UK had eyebrows raised, bearing in mind, of course, that 40 percent of BP's shareholders are right here in the United States.

YELLIN: That is true. OK. And then a lighter question, now we've got to go on this one, has the Queen been following the World Cup? We know that her home team has not pleased her subjects.

QUEST: Oh, boy.

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: You're determined to dwell on private grief, aren't you?

YELLIN: Sorry.

QUEST: The princes were there, everybody agrees, if you're talking about fiascoes, embarrassment and shambles, England's performance, particularly against Germany, when we were knocked out, was a disgrace spelt with a capital D.

Saved only by the later, of course, (INAUDIBLE) when Germany beat over Argentina. All in all, there is enough blame to go around.

YELLIN: All right. Well, let's not forget the tie with the USA. Maybe we'll both do better in four years.

QUEST: Hey, hey, we couldn't do much -- actually, we could do much worse.

YELLIN: Don't say it, right? Don't say it.

QUEST: Absolutely.

YELLIN: Richard Quest from New York City, thanks so much.

QUEST: Good night. YELLIN: All right.

And among the items "On My Radar" tonight, Vice President Biden and General Petraeus, talking about the way forward in Afghanistan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know" is the first Army journalist to die in the Afghanistan war. Twenty-five- year-old Staff Sergeant James Hunter was killed by a bomb on June 18th. He'd been in Afghanistan for less than a month. He'd also served in Iraq.

A relative tells the "Morning Journal," a Cleveland area newspaper, the family's tradition of military service goes back to the Revolutionary War. Hunter was a photojournalist. People who knew him say Hunter felt it was important to fight public apathy about Iraq and Afghanistan, and to help people understand what a soldier's daily life is like.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 18 journalists have died in Afghanistan since September 11th, 2001.

And with me again, from New York, is CNN contributor Ed Rollins. I'm also joined by Republican strategist, Rich Galen, and Democratic strategist, Cornell Belcher.

Thank you, gentlemen, for --

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We've got Cornell surrounded, Ed.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm a dead man.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: I'll protect you all.

BELCHER: Two old men versus one young man.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: I'll keep the peace. I want to look at some stories that are "On My Radar." You've heard the saying that loose lips sink ships, particularly pertinent right now. General Stanley McChrystal found out they can also sink careers.

So I guess we shouldn't be too surprised by the statement from the man now in charge of the troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES AFGHANISTAN: In the National Security Council meeting that followed the meeting that I had with the president in the oval office, at which the president laid out what the future was going to be and described his expectations, the vice president grabbed me and said, you should know that I am 100 percent supportive of this policy, and I said that I'm reassured to hear that. Is it OK to share that with others?

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: All right, that was last week. Well, today, Vice President Joe Biden said this to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The president's strategy is General Petraeus' strategy. It is the Defense Department's strategy. It's Bob Gates' strategy. It's a unified strategy.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: All right. Cornell, first to you. It's your party. So is everyone here really in agreement?

BELCHER: You know what? One thing we used to do really well in the Obama campaign is stay on message and get messages straight. Clearly, some people have had conversations and I -- don't be surprised if everyone is on message now and everyone is in line on this behind the president. No mixed messages coming out on the war moving forward.

YELLIN: But it sounds like he's suggesting that they weren't on the same page before, Rich.

GALEN: It's hard to say. One of the things about Joe Biden that I'm unbelievably disappointed in is I thought he would be a daily -- he would provide daily fodder for people like me. And he's done a really good job, I hate to say that.

But I think Petraeus is to -- or McChrystal is to Petraeus as George Patton was to Dwight Eisenhower. General McChrystal is a great warrior general, but they tried to make him into a diplomat and it didn't work.

I think what you've got now is the entire administration, military and civilians at the highest command authority saying this is the direction we're going, and we'll see how it works out.

YELLIN: Wow, Ed, would you agree with Rich that this is potentially a plus for Obama to replace McChrystal with Petraeus now?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think McChrystal is a great general and I would not have replaced him, but that's irrelevant. I'm not the commander in chief. I think you've got a super general in Petraeus who also can be a diplomat and was very effective in the first battle.

The key thing I think is having Biden and everybody on board, which he always hasn't been on board, is it now you can go forward for a year, 18 months, however long it takes to get this thing to start moving forward.

We still haven't got all the surge troops in there and the fighting is tough and it's going to continue to be tough and it's going to be critical that this administration hang tough with the Congress' support.

YELLIN: All right, the Democrats -- Ed, everyone, the Democrats, they have their poster boys for the midterm elections. Guess who it is, Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton and House leader -- House minority leader, John Boehner. Look at this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet Joe Barton. He apologized to BP after they were forced to set aside $20 billion for the Gulf.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: So I apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet John Boehner. He's against reforming Wall Street, comparing the financial crisis to an ant.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An ant? Eight million jobs lost and Boehner still sides with Wall Street.

Barton and Boehner, fighting for Wall Street and big oil. That's how Republicans would govern.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: All right, Rich, we're going to hear this message from the Democrats from here until Election Day in November.

GALEN: There's not world enough or time for them to drive this home. When I was working for Newt back in the '96 cycle, we calculated that the Democrats spent about $60 million, with an M, on ads to demonize Newt Gingrich, and it worked. He became the poster -- he was like the golden arch, so all you have to say is Newt likes this and 56 percent of the people didn't.

Nobody is going to remember it, other than here in Washington, and people like Ed in New York know who John Boehner or Joe Barton are, and they're not going to have enough money --

YELLIN: It doesn't matter.

GALEN: -- to drive it on.

YELLIN: Cornell, are you worried that Democrats are grasping at straws?

BELCHER: No, because I think this is part of a larger narrative. I mean these are proof points to a larger narrative. This is one story and one tale, one chapter in a larger story that we're trying to tell about sort of who's on your side, who's fighting for you, when it comes down, who can you trust, who shares your world perspective.

If these guys are apologizing to BP and saying that this economic crisis was like an ant, you know, we're trying to make those proof points that these guys don't see the world the way you see it and they can't be trusted. That they can't be put in charge of government.

YELLIN: All right, well, this will be the issue maybe that the election will be decided on. We'll see.

I want to ask Ed the next question.

Ed, there's a new surge in Arizona's battle over immigration. It's a power surge. Follow us here, a candidate for the state's Utilities Commission is running on the following platform.

Exploring the idea of cutting off electric, gas or whatever utility it is to illegal immigrants, saying cutting off utilities to illegal immigrants protects rate payers from price hikes.

Ed, is this a good idea for your party?

ROLLINS: It's not a good idea for our party. What a good idea for our party is to make sure illegals don't come across the border, and when you find them, put them back where they belong.

But I think if they're here and you start penalizing them and getting into things like this, I think it backfires. The key thing is that the federal law enforce the federal law, and that is that people can't come into this country illegally.

YELLIN: Rich, do you worry that -- what happened to compassionate conservatism?

GALEN: Well, I mean, this is one guy who's running for some unknown office, you know, that -- I mean, nobody would know his name. I don't know his name and nobody else is going to know his name.

So I mean it is -- it's only good for fodder for CNN on a Friday night. But the fact --

ROLLINS: Monday night.

GALEN: The fact is --

YELLIN: A holiday.

GALEN: The fact is that -- yes, on a holiday, Monday night. The fact is that Republicans have a view of the world that provides, allows for people to make their own way, to kind of plow the field, to let them decide for themselves whether or not they want to plant, sow, reap, whatever job they want to have.

And, you know, people have to fend for themselves with certain -- with obvious, you know, exceptions and safety nets. But I mean that's not going to catch on. That's silly.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: I've got to tell you, you know, I agree with pops as well as Rich here. The party issue here --

YELLIN: What did you call him?

BELCHER: Pops.

YELLIN: Does he know that?

(LAUGHTER)

GALEN: You do know he's a Golden Glove champion, right?

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: You be respectful of your elders, young man.

BELCHER: But the problem is, and you know, either on the left or right, there's a meanness about this that's un-American. And I think we've got to take responsibility from candidates both the left as well as the right and sort of say, this mean-spiritedness is not American, is not the way forward, and it only sort of, you know, works towards our worst demons, and nothing good ever came out of mean, angry, American politics. Nothing good ever came out of it.

YELLIN: And politically there's the question of where will Latino voters go in the future if they're no longer feel welcome in the Republican Party.

GALEN: Well, 75 percent went for Obama, so I'm not sure there's much growth -- it's not exactly --

YELLIN: So you should cede the population?

GALEN: Well --

YELLIN: Cede that voting --

BELCHER: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: All right.

GALEN: I mean, that's right. I mean, Latinos -- but Latinos don't -- as we know, don't vote in the proportions that their population would represent. And I think one of the things that the president was doing the other day was probably reaching out on behalf of Harry Reid alone with that immigration speech to try to generate some enthusiasm amongst the Hispanics in Nevada.

BELCHER: But, you know, they're still a swing group. I mean, look, Bush did fairly well among -- GALEN: Forty-four percent.

BELCHER: -- among this group, so he was being competitive. But when you look out west, Rich, like Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, I mean it is an awfully important group. And we're hoping what some of you all do out west now is what Pete Wilson did for us in California, is give up that group of --

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: That's what the Democrats sure do want.

GALEN: No. You can whistle past the graveyard if you want, but most people, the overwhelming number of people that are -- it's a 57/37 polling item, 57 percent of the American people --

YELLIN: But a growing population.

GALEN: Fifty-seven percent agree with the Arizona law, only 37 percent are opposed, plus 20. We'll take it.

YELLIN: All right. I've got to go to a break now. I want to thank Ed Rollins for sticking with us for the hour.

ROLLINS: Thank you. My pleasure.

YELLIN: Enjoy the rest of your evening. Gentlemen, we'll be back with you and we will look at the latest headlines on the other side of this break.

Still to come, how the politics of the oil spill are expanding well beyond the Gulf Coast.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: If you're just joining, here's what you need to know right now. Tar balls from the Gulf oil spill are turning up in new places. In Galveston County, Texas as well as Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain.

The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center says there is a 60 percent chance a low-pressure system off of Morgan City, Louisiana will generate tropical storm force winds before it comes ashore this evening. The storm's main threat to the region will be heavy rain.

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

YELLIN: It is time now for the "Play-by-Play." Just as in sports shows, this is -- I think this is John King's favorite part of the show. We play the tape and break down the action.

So still with me, Republican strategist Rich Galen and Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher.

All right. North Carolina, we're starting there. It may not be on the Gulf Coast but that doesn't mean the politics of the oil spill hasn't found its way there. A new ad by environmental and union groups shows what's supposed to be an oil soaked Republican Senator Richard Burr himself being pulled out of the Gulf of Mexico as if he were a rescued pelican.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We pulled one out of the water this morning completely covered in oil. Name Senator Richard Burr.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Richard Burr's record is a little -- oily. Big oil has showered him with hundreds of thousands in campaign cash. And when it came time to hold polluters accountable, Senator Burr voted no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're trying our best out here. But until he supports clean energy legislation, I don't think we can save him.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: All right. Richard Burr called this gutter politics, quote. What is that really about?

BELCHER: Well, I think sort of the step back and take a larger view of this. I think what is really interesting is that what we're saying is, you know, we're not seating those states that went from red to blue again.

You know, we've got a strong candidate down there in Elaine Marshall, and we're going to be putting money and resources there. Progressives as well as the Democratic organization.

I mean, you know, this is a candidate who has taken money from BP and guess what? The oil industry has now replaced Wall Street as the most despised group in America.

YELLIN: Can Democrats use BP against Republicans?

GALEN: So -- no. Two things. A, so did Barack Obama. Just to make that point. Take money from BP. Number one. And number two, I think it's a strategic -- a strategic error to politicize the Gulf oil spill in that way.

I think that opens a door that Democrats may come to rue when they see that when these kinds of ads starting coming back the other way that using that as a joke -- and it's not a joke to the people in Plaquemines County. It's not a joke to the people in Destin. It's not a joke. And to play it as a joke, I think, is a strategic error.

YELLIN: All right. I want to show you something else that happened overseas. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is finishing up a five-country tour of the former Soviet bloc nations. And today she arrived in Georgia where a fashion statement of sorts was made. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I saw two women wearing t- shirts from my presidential campaign, which reminded me -- if I needed reminding -- that I ran a very hard race against President Obama.

I tried with everything I had to beat him. And many people around the world have said, well, how could you be a political opponent and now be working with your former adversary?

But there is a very simple answer. We both love our country. And in a democracy, there comes a time when politics stops and governance must start.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Who was she talking about there?

BELCHER: I mean that's -- well, there's a couple of great stories here. I mean one of --one is that, you know, Hillary Clinton is a hero to women all around the globe. She is an important figure. The other part about this that's interesting, we're doing this Fourth of July holiday is that the truth of the matter is, she was right. It was a really tough-fought battle. Two years of my life doing that.

But the truth of the matter is, look, unlike a lot of countries we can put aside our differences and fight hard and put aside our differences and rally around the flag and come together. I mean it's a great story.

YELLIN: Was she taking a dig at the Congress there?

GALEN: No. I don't think. No, I -- I think Hillary Clinton is a great secretary of state and I thought she was a great U.S. senator as well. I have three words to say about those women in the t-shirts. Great advance work.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: You won't think they gave them to them. I don't believe that for a second.

GALEN: Absolutely I did.

BELCHER: That is cynical. Now that is cynical.

YELLIN: That was --

GALEN: In Tbilisi, Georgia they happened to come up with two of those t-shirts.

BELCHER: She was -- I'm telling you women all around the globe were watching Hillary's campaign.

GALEN: I want to see the --

YELLIN: They can get it online.

GALEN: Sure. Sure. Fed-Ex goes there every day.

YELLIN: That's right.

BELCHER: You should go buy some and help retire her debt.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: OK. All right. We've got to take a break. Thank you so much, gentlemen. Rich Galen, Cornell Belcher.

BELCHER: Thanks.

YELLIN: And next to shop or not to shop? That's the question in this economy. Our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick finds out after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Campbell Brown is up next.

Hi, Campbell. What have you got on tap?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Jessica. Well, we have a sneak preview of new technology to keep the toxic sludge away from the beaches.

And a divisive issue, Wal-Mart being sued for firing one of its employees for using marijuana prescribed by a doctor.

And New York rolling out the red carpet for the Queen. Elizabeth on her way. We'll tell you about that as well -- Jessica.

YELLIN: When I was a kid, double dip was a treat. Two scoops of ice cream instead of one. Now it's a double dip recession that's on people's minds so are folks spending or saving?

Our intrepid reporter Pete Dominick hit the streets to find out.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: All right, Jessica, all of these people are about to rush into Macy's and spend whatever they have. So consumer confidence at least on this corner, not too bad. Right? Everybody got -- everybody is going to spend a little money in there? Stimulate the economy?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINICK: This woman has a leather fanny sack full of hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

DOMINICK: This is a man who knows exactly what he wants. He's going to go in and come right out. What's it going to be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually I'm here with my wife and mother and I'll be buying a lot of shoes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Buying shoes.

DOMINICK: And shoes. How many pairs of shoes does a woman need, though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A pair for every outfit.

DOMINICK: A pair for every outfit? Are you all right with that? You know, that's going to be the rest of your life. Propose to her right now. Come on. You're not going to do any better. Let's go. Right on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should I?

DOMINICK: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no.

DOMINICK: You're not concerned about the economy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

DOMINICK: Your consumer confidence is high?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is.

DOMINICK: Where would you rate your consumer confidence on a scale of 1-10?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Six.

DOMINICK: Where would you rate me on a scale from 1 to 10?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do finance. I do investments.

DOMINICK: All right. So you're good with money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very pessimistic about the economy.

DOMINICK: And yet you can't afford sleeves.

Do you get employee discount? Come on. I got goods.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No.

DOMINICK: Come on, miss. Just walk up to the register and say the password.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, the password. There is no password.

DOMINICK: Yes, there is. It's JOHN KING, USA. You're going to buy a Speedo. Stop telling people that. Is that your visor? Maybe could you buy --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: San Diego Padres.

DOMINICK: Maybe you could buy a full hat during the day with a Yankees logo on it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh no, no, no.

DOMINICK: No? Almost had you.

Sir? Dress?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mattress.

DOMINICK: You're buying a mattress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mattress.

DOMINICK: This is a guy with a mission right here. OK, say bye, Jessica.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye, Jessica.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: Well, there you go, Jessica. People are still coming to New York and spending money and I have to go spend some money myself on my daughter. So I am out of here. Have a good night.

YELLIN: Good night, Pete. And that's all from us. Here's tonight, "CAMPBELL BROWN" starts right now.