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Same-sex Marriage Ban Overturned

Aired August 4, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, GUEST HOST: Thanks, Wolf. Welcome to JOHN KING, USA. I'm Jessica Yellin. John King is off tonight.

Tonight's breaking news a federal court overturns California's Proposition 8, throwing out the ban on same-sex marriage. It's our big political story.

And it's the perfect opportunity for us in the media to play more of this video -- gay couples kissing. Have you ever noticed that we rarely show straight couple kissing when we do stories about heterosexual marriage? Is it all for the shock value? Well, maybe once upon a time, images like this were shocking. But are they still?

Or does gay marriage no longer have the same old spark politically speaking? Here's what I'm talking about -- back in 2004, many conservative activists went out of their way to put same sex marriage bans on ballots in 11 states. Many believed it turned out social conservatives who then voted for George W. Bush clinching his re-election.

Tonight's big political question -- could that even happen again today? Or is gay marriage no longer a powerful wedge issue in the face of questions about jobs, deficits, health care and immigration? Well, let's go to our panel with that topic and more. "Washington Post" columnist Michael Gerson is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger did a documentary on Proposition 8 and the court fight over it; "Huffington Post" senior political reporter Sam Stein and CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns.

Thanks to all of you for being here tonight -- big news tonight and Michael, first to you. I want to play for you a sound bite from Ted Olson after his victory today. Listen to what he said.


TED OLSON, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: The Constitution requires equality now and there's no basis, no rational basis or any good reason to prevent this continuing damage for going -- from going on.


YELLIN: He is a Republican who brought the challenge against Prop 8. My question is shouldn't your party continue to fight gay marriage? MICHAEL GERSON, INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT: Well, it's really not a matter of party in a certain way. If you look at Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and John Kerry, they all were pro-gay rights and opposed gay marriage. That's the position many Americans are in, in both parties, to be honest.

The reality here is that I think the gay rights movement has been very, very successful for 20 years in pushing for equality and acceptance and had a very successful run here. But if the Supreme Court eventually -- and this is very early -- if the Supreme Court rules that gay marriage should not just be in California but Louisiana and Mississippi and all of the country, you could well see a major backlash very much like Roe v. Wade provoked a major backlash.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well it could be -- I mean if you talk to Ted Olson about it and I have, you know he says well look back to a case more than 40 years ago in which the Supreme Court overturned a ban on interracial marriage. Very unpopular with the public at the time --


BORGER: That's right --

YELLIN: Good call, Joe.

BORGER: And it took the Supreme Court -- it took the Supreme Court to do that and eventually public opinion caught up with the court, but they say that's what the courts are for.

YELLIN: Let me play a sound bite because you did an interview with the two attorneys who brought this case, a Democrat and a Republican.

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: And they're a political odd couple, but --

BORGER: You bet.

YELLIN: -- they are on the same side of this page. Let's listen to some of Gloria's interview.


DAVID BOIES, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: The idea that civil rights and human rights is exclusively a liberal preserve, I just think is flat wrong. I think that some of the staunchest defenders of individual liberties have been people that would be labeled as conservative. So I don't view this as a conservative or liberal issue.


YELLIN: Sam is gay marriage no longer -- gay rights no longer a liberal or conservative issue?

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: I tend to agree with that and I'll cite as evidence Steve Schmidt, the guy who ran John McCain's presidential campaign, who made a very big show, going in front of the Log Cabin Republicans a while back saying conservatives need to realize that this is an issue of fundamental rights and he wants the party to move there.

I think it is actually not a political issue. It's a philosophical one. And I wouldn't be surprised actually if you saw more Republican candidates, more conservative candidates, especially in this anti-government movement that's going on right now, they don't want the government telling them who they can marry. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw more going to the line of Ted Olson and Steve Schmidt --

YELLIN: But Joe, he makes a point that Steve Schmidt made -- when Steve Schmidt came out with this, he made a big splash but not a lot of Republicans followed him. He was sort of a lone voice.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Well you got to remember this is -- it's religious.


JOHNS: There's also generational issues. There's geographic issues. You know, I sort of come from Ohio, yet -- southeastern Ohio, West Virginia, there's places, there's pockets of this country where it's much less accepted than it is in the large cities. And what have you. So it doesn't necessarily go along conservative --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the (INAUDIBLE) thing is probably the most important.

YELLIN: That's -- if we have a poll -- I think we do have the poll that shows the generational divide on who supports gay marriage and who doesn't, if we can put that up. If you're under 50, then you're 52 percent of folks are likely to say it's OK. If you're over 50 only 34 percent of folks are likely to say it's OK.

BORGER: It's usually generational and even among evangelicals there are polls, when you poll evangelicals, young evangelicals, old evangelicals it splits the same way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would only say I think these ideas have made a large kind of amount of progress in America. But for conservatives, this becomes quite different. If the Supreme Court imposes a unitary solution through really a raw exercise of political -- of judicial power on the whole country on this matter at this point, I think we're likely to see a significant backlash. It's more -- it's less like, you know, Brown v. Board of Education, more like Roe v. Wade, where it would seem like the court is imposing a liberal solution, even though you know much of the country was not prepared for that solution. BORGER: But they would argue it was just the equal protection clause of the Constitution --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- exercise of power, it's a constitutional prerogative --

YELLIN: Let me say -- I joked at the top of the show that the media often tries to get shock value out of playing a clip of gay people kissing but some of the high-rated network shows on major network TV now have gay people in prominent roles. Let's look at some of this video we put together.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a smile on my face. There's a spring in my step. And there's a ring on my finger --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come give us a hug before you go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hug her, that's what she's there for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're being ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're being ridiculous. Your daddies are being ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've known how I was since I was 5. I adapted. Being different made me stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dads are gay. And unless you want the full force of the American Civil Liberties Union coming down on you, I'd work something out.


YELLIN: And I'm told even the "Today" show is now allowing gay marriages in some of the marriages that they're featuring, so it sort of -- Joe, do you think the media, Hollywood is driving politics on this?

JOHNS: Well I think there's a sense out there certainly on the coast that it's pretty clear it's a civil rights issue and this is one of the arguments. You know you go to a law school or whatever, one of the great arguments in constitutional law is always about whether it's a civil rights issue or not.

And it's interesting to see how people fall down. But more interesting than that is that even among a lot of African-American ministers, I've seen parades of them, people who fought in the civil rights era -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Opposed?

JOHNS: -- opposed to gay rights. And so it's kind of amazing to see that --


JOHNS: You're right, it's generational --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well but it's more than that --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Proposition 8 in California was supported with large numbers of both Hispanics and African-Americans.


GERSON: And concerning in all this is you know whether people feel disenfranchised. Whether there's any Democratic role here. If it's just a matter of individual rights, the exact equivalent of race then there is no role, I agree with that. But a lot of people including in the minority communities don't view it as the exact equivalent of race.

BORGER: And you know overwhelming numbers of states, more than 44 states I believe, oppose gay marriage. Only a handful have supported gay marriage, so clearly, and this is a problem for Olson and Boies, they're asking the Supreme Court to do a very heavy lift here, particularly a conservative court.

YELLIN: Let me -- let me actually play the sound from Steve Schmidt because he makes a nuance point that we can talk about. This is the former McCain campaign manager, Steve Schmidt.


STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: If you put public policy issues to a religious task, you risk becoming a religious party. And in a free country a political party cannot remain viable in the long term if it is seen as a sectarian party.


YELLIN: Sam, is he right?

STEIN: Yes, I think so and I think you know to tie this into a broader theme, you know the tea party movement -- I don't have the poll numbers in front of me but if you actually asked tea party goers what they think about gay marriage, you'll be shocked. About half of them don't really care. It's not what they want to focus on. They don't care about it. They don't want the government telling them who they can or cannot marry. And you know as we see the Republican Party move towards a Tea Party movement I wouldn't be surprised if more people started talking like Steve Schmidt.

YELLIN: OK, we're going to talk a lot more about that, whether the tea party is moving our issues into a different category.


YELLIN: Coming up after the break -- no I loved it -- perfect segue. Stay right there though. After the break, I want to ask all of you whether social issues or jobs will get voters to the polls this November and how will the tea party fit into all of it.


YELLIN: There's a lot of talk about today's court ruling throwing out California's ban on same-sex marriage, but will politicians still be talking about it in the fall? Let me bring back in our panel.

Michael, first to you, Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels, who is a possible candidate for the White House in 2012 raised some eyebrows when he told "The Weekly Standard" -- this is a quote -- quote, "The next president, whoever he is, would have to call a truce on the so- called social issues. We're going to have to just agree to get along for a little while, until all these economic issues are resolved" -- end quote. So the question is with all these troubling issues, jobs, the economy, should the GOP refocus away from social issues?

GERSON: Well, I think there has been a shift. I mean we're used to culture wars that have been on social issues in America. That's been true for 30 years. We now really have a culture war in America on the size and role of government. And I think that the president in many ways has provoked that with spending and the health care bill and other things.

And we now have a major two-sided argument, but it's not on the issues of the past. I think there's a lot of truth to that. Mitch Daniels, like a lot of Republicans, is pretty conservative on social issues. But I think he's prioritizing economic issues particularly deficit and debt issues at a higher place. That's likely with a lot of the candidates.

YELLIN: Gloria, it's true we don't hear about these social issues in the same way anymore, abortion, even gay marriage, but after Mitch Daniels said this, he had to sort of back pedal because he got a lot of criticism.

BORGER: Because he got attacked by Republicans.


BORGER: But look, the Republican Party is split as is the Democratic Party about how much weight you give to social issues versus how much weight you give to other issues. I would argue that not only has big government become a social issue but in many ways, immigration has become a cultural wedge issue. So what you do is you have new wedge issues that replace -- YELLIN: The old wedge issues --

BORGER: -- old wedge issues -- not that they die. They just kind of fade a little bit.

YELLIN: Sam, let me show you this poll. Americans were asked this summer, what government's priority should be. And if you look at that list, jobs are all the way at the top and social issues are all the way at the bottom of the list. Is it actually harder to run against the GOP? Is it harder to motivate Democrats when the Republicans are actually talking about social issues instead of talking about abortion?

STEIN: Perhaps, I mean it makes sense. That term makes complete sense when you have unemployment at 9.5 percent. You're waging two wars. There's a massive oil spill. You know you can't get energy legislation. Why would you care about social issues like gun control and abortion especially --

YELLIN: But they're emotional and so sometimes that --

STEIN: True, but we have to recall how weighted the debate is in Washington. During the health care debate, who won the debate over abortion? It was the pro-life forces within the Democratic Party. Who's winning the debate on gun rights? It's the pro-gun forces within the Democratic Party. These are issues that Democrats can't even take up within themselves. They're already settled. They're not going to be resurfaced --


BORGER: The Democrats are arguing with each other?

STEIN: Oh, no, never --


JOHNS: They want to stay away from the gun rights issue. It's not good for them. You know a lot of people on the Hill have said, you know, I know this helped my base but it runs a lot of, you know people in the middle away.

STEIN: When they were crafting legislation, the disclose act for campaign finance reform they made a loophole for the National Rifle Association.

YELLIN: Right.

STEIN: And that was the Democratic legislation --


GERSON: It's also fair to President Obama to say he hasn't really picked fights on these issues. He hasn't gone out and had a very liberal social agenda that would place these issues at the center. They really are kind of rule of government issues that have been raised.

BORGER: In fact if he had wanted to do that he could have done an executive order on "don't ask, don't tell", right?

YELLIN: On "don't ask, don't tell", something they have carefully stayed away from to date.

BORGER: Exactly --

YELLIN: Let's move onto something else that happened today, a group representing the Tea Party Express had a press conference in Washington, D.C. and addressed the issue of race. Listen to this.


SELENA OWENS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: This is not a movement driven by race but of love of country, of our Constitution, and for the principles of liberty and freedom that are dear to all Americans.


YELLIN: Obviously she's respond to the charge by the NAACP that the Tea Party is racist. Do you think, Gloria, the fact that they're even in this debate that the Tea Party is having this debate hurts the Republican Party's chances with minorities down the line? If you look at our census statistics --


YELLIN: -- the expectation is less than 50 percent of the country will be white --

BORGER: Sure, I think it hurts their chances. But I'm not saying that minorities would naturally embrace a Republican platform --

YELLIN: Anyway.

BORGER: So, you know look, Republicans have problems right now with minorities and with Hispanics. So yes I do think this certainly doesn't help their argument that they want to become a more inclusive party which by the way started when you were in the White House with George W. Bush, who really reached out to Hispanic voters and tried to get an immigration bill passed.

YELLIN: Does the party's turn-around surprise you that under -- when you were there under President Bush there was this embrace of immigration and this effort to reach out to minorities --

GERSON: Well this is clearly the most dangerous element of the Tea Party movement I believe in the long term, is to have the Republican Party characterized in its public utterances by (INAUDIBLE) sentiment. You know I think you would talk to people, experts on this Republicans can't win national elections in the long term without maybe 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, which is about what George Bush got in his re-election campaign. And so this is a survival issue, an existential issue for Republicans that they're not taking very seriously.

YELLIN: But Sam, let me ask you, when I'm out covering the Tea Party, these are energized people who tell me that they used to go out, some of them, and protest about -- for pro-life or they were passionate about other issues. It was a Christian right and now that that energy has been redirected into these economic issues. In a way, is the Tea Party helping, arguably, the Republican Party by refocusing on to the economy?

STEIN: Yes, I mean this is really the weak point of the Obama presidency is that he's spent all this money and a lot of people don't think there's much to show for it. Now I happen to think that the Recovery Act has done a lot of good, but when you have unemployment hovering at 9.5 percent it's very tough to make that case to the American public. What the Tea Party is doing is they're really blaring focus and spotlight on to that discrepancy and I think in that sense they do help the Republican Party.

JOHNS: Yes, the other thing you have to say, and you can't say enough, is when you talk about Tea Party, you're talking about a lot of moving parts here.


JOHNS: But equally when you talk about the African-American vote, there's a lot of moving parts there too and there are people out on the wings who will say things that go too far. And there are some people who will get accused of not going far enough. So this is all part of the political system. And it's frankly all healthy.

BORGER: But it's not a way to really introduce yourself to American voters. If you look at the polls on the Tea Party movement particularly with independent voters, it's going in the wrong direction for the Tea Party movement because people liked tea partiers and the idea of it at first more than they do now. So they're introducing themselves to the public and the public is kind of saying, wait a minute, maybe you're not as great as we thought you were at the beginning because we agree with some of your anti-big government sentiment but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you dig a little deeper --

BORGER: Right.


YELLIN: We'll see in November --


YELLIN: -- how powerful they really are. We'll see in November. OK, well that was a very interesting and civil conversation, fun to have it. Thanks, everyone, for being here --

(CROSSTALK) YELLIN: Right, civil on cable TV? Still ahead, BP's well, if finally plugged, what are they saying at the White House? Is it plugged? Here's a hint. It isn't quite mission accomplished.


YELLIN: Welcome back and let's check in with Joe Johns for the news you need to know right now -- hey Joe.

JOHNS: Hey Jessica. It's taken 107 days but BP says the well in the Gulf of Mexico is now sealed with mud and no more oil should leak out.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end. And we are very pleased with that.


JOHNS: President Obama is spending tonight, his 49th birthday, at his own home in Chicago. Tomorrow he attends political fund- raisers and visits a Ford plant.

In a speech today, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said borrowing money to extend the Bush tax cuts would be a $700 billion fiscal mistake. And Bill Clinton's going to campaign for Pennsylvania U.S. Senate-candidate Joe Sestak. Last year, you may remember, the White House asked Clinton to try talking Sestak out of running. So I guess that means that the administration was against Sestak before it was --

YELLIN: (INAUDIBLE) he's against it before -- it's a little political schizophrenia --

JOHNS: Right, right, exactly. It's amazing you know.

YELLIN: Can't keep up with it. Thank you, Joe, so much. All right and next up on the show, back to work. I'll ask a couple of congressmen how they feel about being summoned back from their vacations to spend money, yours.

We'll also consider one tough nerd, probably the best political ad of the season, and some other new primary winners. Among the other items on my "Radar" like Joe Johns said, it's President Obama's birthday. But why do polls show so many Republicans still think he wasn't born in the USA?

And who are the Republican Party's young guns? Finally in a "Play-by-Play" is the country's toughest sheriff running a misleading campaign ad and what the president's spokesman calls very good news -- coming up.


ANNOUNCER: In this corner and in this corner. YELLIN: Have you ever been called in to work during your summer vacation? Well now you can sympathize with our next guest and with your member of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today announced that she is summoning the House of Representatives back to Washington next week to vote on a bill that would give $26 billion to the states to prevent teacher layoffs and help pay poor people's medical bills.

But that means new travel plans for California Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy and Maryland Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen -- a little easier for you to make the trip. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Congressman McCarthy, first to you, it's no secret that states are hurting. Can you support this measure?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: Well the most important part is always how do we pay for it? You know we're borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar. There's lot of places to stay if you look at within the stimulus, the money not used, not creating jobs. There are lot of places to find where you could pay for this bill. But I think that's what the debate would really be about.

YELLIN: Well let me put it to you. He just used the word stimulus. You know Republicans are going to say this is just another unfunded, unpopular stimulus. How do Democrats rebut that?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Well first of all, a lot of people are planning to send their kids back to school and it's important that we have enough teachers in the classroom to actually teach those kids and so that's why it's important that we move quickly to avoid these layoffs.

But just to go directly to Kevin's point, this is all paid for. I hope Kevin will look at the details of this and his Republican colleagues will support it. One of the ways we pay for it is to use some of the funds for the recovery that have not been used. But the main way we pay for it is to shut down some of these loopholes, perverse loopholes that encourage big American corporations to ship jobs overseas.

So we say we're not going to reward those companies for shipping jobs overseas. Let's use that money instead for teachers in our classrooms here at home. So I really hope that our colleagues will come on board.

YELLIN: OK, let's talk a little bit about last night's primaries because there's a lot to chew over. But one thing I wanted to get right to is Rick Snyder, the winner of Michigan's Republican gubernatorial primary and Congressman McCarthy, watch this ad for a minute or listen to it if you could.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: Rick Snyder for Michigan, he's one tough nerd.


YELLIN: One tough nerd. He's also the candidate who is not associated with the Tea Party, not an incumbent, and sort of an outsider. What does this say about the Tea Party's influence right now?

MCCARTHY: Well, the one thing you'll find with the Tea Party and others, it's an organically grown frustration with where this country is going, with the direction, with the lack of jobs, the amount of deficit. So here you have an individual that's been successful in his own right running against the establishment in a state that has one of the highest unemployment's. They want to see a change. They want to see something different than what's been coming out of Washington. That's why it was not a good night for the Democrats. It won't be in November either.

YELLIN: But he was not associated with the Tea Party and yet he won, so is this a sign that people can resist the Tea Party and still win on the Republican ballot this year?

MCCARTHY: Well, the thing you see from the Tea Party is the frustration with the amount of spending in Washington and their lack of solutions. I think people would be able to go and run on a lot of different issues. But that brings intensity out and helps them from the process that he's a tough nerd. He's going to get stuff done. He's going to find solutions. He's going to put people to work.

YELLIN: There is a new Tea Party caucus in the House. Have you decided will you join the Tea Party caucus?

MCCARTHY: I have not, because the one thing I found, I've been to the Tea Party rallies right here in Bakersfield, where 2,500 people showed up. But it's organically grown. I'd hate to ever put a zip code of 20515 on to the Tea Party. It is a national growing across the country frustration, trying to bring common sense and a check and balance back to America.

YELLIN: I just want to move on to something that just happened today. A federal court ruled California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Congressman McCarthy, to you first, will this continue to be a wedge issue moving forward?

MCCARTHY: Well, I think the issue itself will continue to move forward. If you talk to both sides prior to the court's decision, they said they would appeal it. I think this issue will probably end up in the Supreme Court.

YELLIN: But will it motivate your base to go out and vote? And will it become -- will we see it in states?

MCCARTHY: Well, you've seen it in states for the last numerous years across the states with a number of individuals passing the initiative that marriage is between a man and a woman.

YELLIN: Do you still think --

MCCARTHY: Just as California voters have done, and now you have courts turning it over.

YELLIN: And to you, Representative Van Hollen, do you think this is going to drive Republican voters? We will see new ballot initiatives across the country in maybe 2012?

VAN HOLLEN: I don't think so. I mean, this is obviously a California case. It could have repercussions in some of the California races. I don't see in this current economy, and given all the other issues at stake in this election, that that decision will have a driving impact in the other elections.

YELLIN: People are just too concerned about the economy.

MCCARTHY: The number one issue is going to be about jobs. You have the Democrat plan that passed the stimulus which cost us more than $1 trillion when it came to the interest, as well. And more people -- if you take the polling today, more people in America believe Elvis Presley is alive than the stimulus actually created jobs.


YELLIN: OK. There have been sightings.

VAN HOLLEN: Does that include your Republican members who are showing up at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and the groundbreaking ceremonies across the country? Are they waiting for Elvis to show up?

YELLIN: Taking credit.

VAN HOLLEN: I mean, come on. These are guys who are showing up -- Kevin?

MCCARTHY: It includes these Republicans who are showing up at small businesses, where 70 percent of all jobs are created, where we wrote a stimulus bill, gave it to the president. He even said it wasn't --

VAN HOLLEN: Kevin --

MCCARTHY: But that was not what your party --


VAN HOLLEN: It's a perfect example of your guys trying to have it both ways. They're showing up to groundbreaking ceremonies that would not have happened except for the economic recovery bill. Otherwise, they would not have happened, and they're taking credit for it. At the same time, they're running around and saying this is going (ph) to create jobs. So, look, people can --

MCCARTHY: Chris, do you realize in your -- VAN HOLLEN: Kevin, people can disagree on this issue, but what they don't like is the hypocrisy they're seeing in many of these cases.

MCCARTHY: What we don't like --


YELLIN: And this is the debate we're going to see going forward. We are out of time, gentlemen. I am sorry to end it there, but I think we'll hear a lot about this before November.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

And next among items on my radar tonight, Tea Party and Sarah Palin favorite Nikki Haley has a new problem to explain to South Carolina voters.


YELLIN: Today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know" is the fourth challenger to knock off a sitting member of Congress during this year's primaries.

Michigan State Senator Hansen Clarke beat seven-term Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick in yesterday's Democratic primary. Five years ago, he lost the Detroit mayors race to Kilpatrick's son, Kwame, who's now in jail.

Clarke grew up in Detroit. In third grade, a teacher noticed that he was good at art. His widowed mother who was a school crossing guard got him a grant for art lessons and his talent got him into college.

Clarke went in as an artist but came out of college as a lawyer. He was elected to Michigan's state house in 1990 and the state senate in 2002. He will be the favorite this November.

Joining me now to discuss this and more, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Paul Begala, and Republican strategist Adolfo Franco.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being here.

So, the race, was that, Paul, to you, another message to incumbents that it was a bad year, or was this really about the ethics hangover?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: A little of both. Of course, Congresswoman Kilpatrick's son, as you mentioned, the mayor -- former mayor, left in disgrace -- Hansen Clarke, just in full disclosure, I worked with him over 20 years ago. I haven't kept up with him, but I knew he was always interested in politics, a great commitment to public service.

So, Hansen, welcome to Washington. Congratulations. Your old pals from the Dick Gephardt campaign in 1998 are all proud of you.

YELLIN: Nice. So you didn't work for him as a candidate. You worked with him as --

BEGALA: He was a baby. Are you kidding? He was like 12. I'm an old guy.

YELLIN: Do you think the ethics hangover is a big problem?

ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think the ethics -- this was an ethics case. There's no question about it.

She had a tough race two years ago, actually. She barely made it two years ago to reelection. He's not only -- her son was not only in jail because of corruption, he violated his parole, he got into continued hot water --

YELLIN: There are the text messages.

FRANCO: I mean, this just ran its course, Jessica. Yes, the text messaging back and forth with the girlfriend. This was about as dirty as it got. What used to be really quite a golden name turned into a huge liability for Carolyn.

YELLIN: I know. That's a chapter over.

OK. Now let's look at some of the stories on my radar.

Today is President Barack Obama's 49th birthday. It is a fact. Here is his birth certificate. He was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

At that point, Hawaii had been a state for almost two years. Yet, according to the latest CNN poll -- yes, we asked this question -- 41 percent of Republicans currently think that President Barack Obama probably or definitely was not born in the United States.

OK. Paul, it's irrefutable, he was born here.

Why does this continue to be an issue?

BEGALA: Because people continue to lie about it. These folks are not uninformed, they are misinformed. Right?

They know something that's simply false. They believe they know something that is simply factually false.

It's because there is a right wing media in this country that feed these lies to people to try to delegitimize his presidency. By the way, Republicans also -- there was a Harris poll that surveyed Republicans. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans think this president is a Muslim. He's not. He's a Christian.

Twenty-four percent say he might be the Antichrist. I don't want to get too theological, but the Antichrist can't be a Muslim. It's in the Book of Revelations. So, they have crazy views about our president, and it's a shame.

YELLIN: And Paul points out that it's being pushed by certain parts of the right wing media. Is it a mistake for the Republicans, any Republicans, to be pushing this because it just alienates the majority of people who don't believe it's true?

FRANCO: I agree with Paul on virtually everything, except I don't really think it's being pushed by the right wing media -- whatever that means, right wing media. But let me say that I think it's a nonsense issue. There's no question about it.

Ironically, both candidates for president were born outside the United States because John McCain was born on the Panama Canal. I think we'd be hearing, quite honestly, had John McCain been elected, people questioning his citizenship.

YELLIN: They do?

FRANCO: So I think it's a nonsense issue. I don't think the Republican Party and any serious -- I know there are elected officials that have questioned this. But, really, it's not a Republican Party issue.

There's absolutely no legitimacy to this at all. It's one of those questions that a certain segment of the population continue to bring up and have to be dealt with in the media, but not in a conventional way.

YELLIN: A certain number of people also think UFOs exist.

BEGALA: When you get to 41 percent -- come on, 41 percent of Republicans believe something that is factually false?

And Adolfo, I just want to correct you. You said both were born outside the United States. They weren't. President Obama was born --

FRANCO: You're right, I stand corrected on that.


FRANCO: I should have said there'd be allegations that both were --

BEGALA: I disagree, because Republican leaders have not stood up. Where's John Boehner today? Where's Mitch McConnell today? Where's Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney and leaders of the Republican Party saying, hey, gang --


FRANCO: But every time that question's been asked of the leadership, I think leadership has said, let's talk about jobs --


YELLIN: OK. Enough. We'll move on to South Carolina, where Republican governor candidate Nikki Haley, she has been in the news a lot. She has some new explaining to do.

Questions are being raised about her tax records which show that Haley and her husband have repeatedly filed for an extension on their income taxes and were assessed late fees. Haley, by the way, points to her accounting experience as a good reason she'd be governor.

OK. So there's a little flap over this. I have to say, I file for an extension every year, so I guess I better never run for office.

Is this a big problem?

BEGALA: Well, there were also apparently penalties. First of all, I haven't heard back from state Senator Haley's campaign, from her side. So we ought to hear her out as well.

I will say, as a Democrat, it makes me cringe the same way it did when it came out that Tim Geithner, the man President Obama put up to be our Treasury secretary, had not paid all of his taxes.

YELLIN: But that's skipping taxes. Paying your taxes late is different.

BEGALA: Being fined, apparently, repeatedly over five years. And not simply getting an extension.

According to the AP today -- and I've not heard from Senator Haley's campaign -- but according to the AP today, she was fined multiple times. It is a problem if you're running as an anti-tax candidate to find out --

YELLIN: On your accounting expertise.

BEGALA: -- that you haven't always followed the tax laws, yes.

FRANCO: Well, here's the good news. She actually paid the fines. And she paid the fines on time.

I think they've tried to throw everything they can against Nikki Haley from the beginning. Of course there were allegations about her so-called supposedly infidelity earlier on during the primary campaign.

I think she's obviously a very popular figure. A lot of people compare her as a southern Sarah Palin. So I think she's under this type of scrutiny.

Obviously in politics, that's what this is about. It's fair game. You're right, Mr. Geithner and others have been --


FRANCO: However, at the end of the day, I think the issues again are going to be other than late -- a lot of Americans, Jessica, file late and have paid fines to the IRS.

YELLIN: Yes, I can attest to that.

OK. I don't know about the fines, but late, definitely.

OK. We've got to look at this picture. This is all about family values.

Arizona congressional candidate Ben Quayle -- he is the son of the former vice president -- recently sent out this campaign mailer showing him playing with two beautiful young girls. You might think of course they're his daughters. But no, Quayle and his wife don't actually have children.

Now one of Quayle's opponents in the upcoming primary, Pamela Gorman, she's a single mom, she lives with her 14-year-old son, but you'll see she's not posing with him.

So, Adolfo, what is this, family values but not his family?

FRANCO: Well, he's never said they're his kids. And he's pro- family, he's pro-children on it.

I think the press release was they're really cute kids and they wanted to be in an ad with a couple of cute kids. So I think there would have been a story here had there been a misrepresentation, saying, here are my kids, or so forth.

Again, I think at the end of the day this is a distraction from the issues that are really going to define the candidates --

YELLIN: Paul --

FRANCO: And it's fun, but I don't think it's going to really amounts to a hill of beans in the election.

BEGALA: It's a shame, because he comes from a storied political family. He does, with real roots in Arizona.

Now, Dan Quayle was a senator from Indiana, but the family has real roots in Arizona. So I don't know why he was trying too hard to show that he has roots.

The text of that brochure says he and his wife Tiffany intend to raise their family in the district, but it was intending to mislead people. And it's just an embarrassment. Watch, this could be on Jay Leno tonight.

YELLIN: Is that a tip?

BEGALA: Well, Quayle was an automatic punch line, unfortunately.

FRANCO: I think that might help him in Arizona, if he's on Jay Leno.

YELLIN: If he's on Jay Leno? OK. Let's leave it there. We'll come back at the other side of this break.

Mitch McConnell's Kentucky Mega Mix for $500? Janet Reno's dance party as a daily double? Jeopardy gets a Washington twist.

That's coming up after the break.


YELLIN: It is time now for the "Play by Play." Just like in the sports shows, we replay the tapes, stop the action, and analyze the moves.

And joining us once again, the panel to talk now about California.

Meg Whitman's campaign launched Spanish language ads today. And here's a little sample.




YELLIN: OK. So this translates as, "Meg will streamline regulations to make small business stronger, and she will reduce the tax on new factories and on employers so they can start hiring again."

But on the other side, a union coalition has its own Spanish language ad against her.




YELLIN: OK. This ad is translated as, "Whitman says one thing when she speaks in Spanish and the opposite when she speaks in English. The real Whitman has no shame." "She -- and this is a quote -- "she's a two-faced woman."

OK. So what's going on here?

BEGALA: I think this is completely bogus. I looked at all the ads. I looked at what she was saying in both English and Spanish.

Obviously, they're not identical messages, but I don't think there are two faces to Meg Whitman. I think she's conveying the same message, and I think she's conveying it a little bit differently, but I don't think they're fundamentally different messages.

YELLIN: Paul, lost in translation, or they have a point?


BEGALA: She has a real problem, particularly on the immigration issue, where Republicans have been destroyed in California by being on the wrong side of the Hispanic community there and seeming to be anti- Hispanic because of their position on immigration. She's aligned herself with Pete Wilson, who is persona non grata --

YELLIN: But she came out against Arizona's immigration law.

BEGALA: That's what I mean. So she's hanging out with Pete Wilson. I think he's her campaign chairman. He's got some big roll with her campaign.


BEGALA: And yet, she says, well, I'm against a Pete Wilson-style law that they passed in Arizona. And I think that's causing her some problems.

FRANCO: But Pete Wilson's not on the ballot. He's not running for this. Just because Pete Wilson was a former governor, Republican, is her chairman, doesn't mean that she's --


YELLIN: Or a major part of the vote in California. So she has to be very careful.

And could this sort of thing hurt her?

FRANCO: Well, you know, to be honest, I think it's an uphill fight in California for Republicans. There's no question about it.

YELLIN: -- but she has the money to beat it back.

FRANCO: She certainly has the money to beat it back, that's for sure.


FRANCO: But I think she's doing a good job of getting the message out to Hispanic voters. And she's had a lot of television in Spanish, and I believe she's going to make more of a concerted effort in the next few months.

YELLIN: OK. Talking about immigration, the immigration fight ground zero is Arizona.

I want to play you a campaign ad for Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona. You need to know two things before you see it.

One, Arpaio is not up for re-election until two years from now. That's in 2012. And second, the guy being attacked in the ad isn't even running against him. He's running for a completely different office, county attorney, this year.



NARRATOR: Special interest groups and politicians like Rick Romley oppose Sheriff Joe's policies on enforcing our illegal immigration laws. Rick Romley? Just wrong.

Support and vote for Sheriff Joe Arpaio to enforce our laws.


YELLIN: Again, Arpaio not up for election for another two years.

"The Arizona Republic" reports that Romley filed a former complaint with the county Elections Department claiming the ad is false, misleading, and violates Arizona law.

Paul, what do you think?

BEGALA: Well, it might be false and misleading, but there still should be a First Amendment. I mean, Sheriff Arpaio not very big on freedoms and individual liberty. But, my goodness, he should have a right to run an ad.

It's a little nutty. I mean, he seems to be building some sort of fiefdom there. Apparently, he doesn't like this guy running for county attorney.

I hope there aren't -- there ought not be in a country under a First Amendment laws that say you can't attack somebody politically in an ad. It just is politically noteworthy that he's going after somebody when he's not even on the ballot.

FRANCO: Well, I completely agree. It's a free country, he can run the ad. Who knows? Maybe the guy wants to run for sheriff in two years and Arpaio's getting an early start on his race.

YELLIN: Very early.

FRANCO: It's his prerogative to do so. So there's obviously bad blood between the two of them. But to say that an ad's misleading in politics, oh, my.


YELLIN: Right. Horribly shocking.

FRANCO: I've never heard that.

BEGALA: And the poor guy is so camera shy, he has to buy ads because we never put him on our air or any other networks. This is most dangerous place in America, between Sheriff Joe and a camera.


Let's move on to our last item. It is official. Ray LaHood, he has made the big time. Not because he is President Obama's secretary of transportation. It's because he is now what everyone wants, a category on Jeopardy.

Check it out.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST, "JEOPARDY": Janet Reno's Dance Party is where we're going to go.

Ray LaHood's transpo-looza and Mitch McConnell's Kentucky Megamix.


YELLIN: OK. First of all, which category would you go with?

BEGALA: I was hoping Eric Holder would have his own dance party as well, not just Janet. But I would definitely go to Janet's dance party.

YELLIN: Do you remember why we have a Janet Reno dance party?

FRANCO: Yes, I remember that. But let me tell you, on this one, I think the average Joe in America would have trouble picking one of these categories. I think it's the best publicity Ray LaHood has had in years since most Americans can't identify who he is. So it's the best thing to ever happen to him.

YELLIN: Or the Kentucky Megamix. I don't even think congressional correspondents could do that one.

FRANCO: True. True.

BEGALA: This is great though. I love when pop culture and politics collide and intersect. It can only be good for Mitch McConnell or the people --

FRANCO: Hopefully it will educate a lot of people about the leadership in America, too.

YELLIN: And the dance party, Janet Reno's dance party.

All right. Adolfo, Paul, thanks for being with us.


FRANCO: Thank you, Jessica.

BEGALA: Are you going to dance again?

YELLIN: I'm dancing.

OK. Coming up, legal problems for the daughter of a law and order former mayor.

"Pete on the Street" is up in the studio next.


YELLIN: And now you see him, Pete Dominick, AKA "Pete on the Street" is here, not on the street, on the set again.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Thank you for inviting me in again, Jessica.

YELLIN: I know. We decided you'll be allowed.

DOMINICK: It's nice to be here.

YELLIN: You haven't totally offended yet.

So, I understand while you were here you missed a huge story in New York. Tell us.

DOMINICK: Yes. Apparently, Rudy Giuliani's daughter was caught shoplifting at Sephora. She was stealing makeup.

And they said -- once they found out who her father was, they said they weren't going to press charges. That's got to be nice, really.

I got arrested for bashing mailboxes in high school. When they found out my dad was an insurance agent in Syracuse, they still actually arrested me.

YELLIN: A, there is so much good stuff at Sephora. And B, she has the money to pay for it. Don't you think?

DOMINICK: Yes. Well, if it's daddy's money. But do women generally think about stealing makeup when you walk in?

YELLIN: No! You just think, I want it, but you kind of think you have to pay for it. At least that's me.


YELLIN: And so they just waived the charges?

DOMINICK: I'm not quite sure what's going on there.

YELLIN: It's good to be the daughter of the king. Yes?

DOMINICK: Yes, I guess so.

YELLIN: Nice. I don't know, does he shop at Sephora too? He used to be into that whole --

DOMINICK: No. Once he ripped the combover out.

And Mayor Giuliani, when you took the combover out, that's when I respected you as a bald American.


And we also talked earlier in the show about the shock value of showing same-sex couples kissing.

So, Pete, you were telling me in the break that comedians have been having a gay old time with the topic, huh?

DOMINICK: Oh, yes. Gay means happy. And comedians are happy to talk about them.

No one's approaching this gay marriage issue from the job creation point of view.

YELLIN: Which is?

DOMINICK: Imagine all the weddings, all the jobs, the caterer, the photographers. And don't forget the tuxedos. You've got double if it's men. The big tuxedo lobby is all on board with gay marriage. And divorce lawyers.

YELLIN: Divorce. I was just going to say, twice as many divorces.

DOMINICK: Divorce lawyers. Yes, this is a job creator, gay marriage, America. Get behind it.

YELLIN: Can I tell you -- I actually think I saw a study on this, and they said it would be a nominal impact on the economy. But somebody's actually studied it.

DOMINICK: Oh yes. A few hundred million dollars at least. Hey, listen, you can't legislate love, can you, Jessica?

YELLIN: You can't legislate love.

Do you think we show those videos too much of the gay couples kissing on TV?

DOMINICK: No. No, listen, I'll do anything to get on camera.

Can we get one of the guys to come on here? My wife won't mind.

Come on. Come on. A little smoochy?

No? All right.



DOMINICK: I love it.

YELLIN: And do you think that -- you're missing John King this week? Let me ask you.

DOMINICK: I'm sorry, who? John King? He's a Red Sox fan. Let him have a break.

No, Jessica, you and I, great chemistry.

YELLIN: Yes, you already told me about your wife and all that. I don't need --

DOMINICK: Yes. She's fine with it. She says hello. She says you have the greatest calves in television. She's a yoga teacher.

YELLIN: OK. We can just leave it there. Can we leave it there?

DOMINICK: All right. OK. If you say so.

YELLIN: All right, Pete. Pete, it's so good to have you on.

Do you have a topic coming up for us tomorrow? What's your topic coming up?

DOMINICK: Yes. Well, we're going to find out why people come to Washington when it's such a corrupt place, according to all political ads in the world.

YELLIN: You mean why people still want to run for office? I like that. People do still want to run for office because they're idealists and they believe they can make a difference.

DOMINICK: Is that what they say?

YELLIN: I think so.

DOMINICK: All right.

YELLIN: You think it's about ego. You're a cynic.

DOMINICK: And then they get here.

YELLIN: And then they get here.

All right, Pete. Thanks for joining us.


YELLIN: That's all for us tonight.

"RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME" starts right now.