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JOHN KING, USA

Gotcha Politics; Bailout Politics; Andy Griffith in Middle of Political Storm; Prop 8: Clarifying White House Position

Aired August 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, Wolf.

I'm Jessica Yellin. John King is off tonight.

Tonight's big political story, the polls are just about to close in a race where the outcome may be determined by candidate gaffes that were caught on video and went viral on the Internet. Tennessee does primaries on Thursdays, and this year's Republican primary for governor features something you'll see in your state soon, candidates with someone trailing them with a video camera catching every embarrassing moment, every answer that should have been thought about a little longer or maybe said a little better.

It all gets caught on camera and played over and over. Take a look at this. One of the candidates in today's Republican primary for Tennessee governor was caught saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. GOV. RON RAMSEY (R), TENNESSEE GOV. CANDIDATE: You can even argue whether Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life, or cult or whatever you want to call it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Welcome to politics in the age of new media. You may have seen this one, too. North Carolina Democratic Congressman Bob Ethridge (ph) publicly apologized for his actions during this ambush interview. It got a little aggressive and it went viral.

Well, the Internet it was supposed to make politicians more accessible, more accountable, but instead, like in Tennessee today, it may actually have them clamming up while the rest of us cast votes based on gotcha moments. Here to talk about it is CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns, in Atlanta, Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com and in New York, Andrew Rasiej (ph), the founder of a blog about how technology is changing politics.

Thanks to everyone for being with us. And let me start with this summer where we have seen one politician after another get caught on tape inserting foot into mouth. It certainly seems like the summer of gaffes. Take a look at just some of the highlights. Everyone watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should you vote for me? Because I do not wear high heels.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The federal government, yes, can do most anything in this country --

(SOUNDS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wants to engage in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you?

(SOUNDS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Oh, some of that is painful to watch. To you, Andrew. You would think that politicians would know better, but shouldn't they assume that anyone with a cell phone can record their every word and move. Are you surprised these things are still getting captured on tape?

ANDREW RASIEJ, FOUNDER, PERSONAL DEMOCRACY FORUM: Well we have a clash between 20th Century politics and 21st Century politics, so the politicians who are still living in the 20th Century don't realize that people actually have cell phone cameras and can actually capture everything and haven't yet figured out how to make, you know take advantage of this opportunity to be able to communicate with voters, to be authentic, to participate -- to increase the amount of participation and engagement between the citizen and the politician. There's still this sort of top-down mentality in 20th Century politics that hasn't quite, you know, entered the lexicon or the brains of most politicians today.

YELLIN: Gloria, you're nodding.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think -- I think they're kind of, you know, getting used to it is as much as they can, but you know I think there's a problem here for us in the press and for the politicians. First of all, there's no off Broadway anymore. You know, you used to be able to sort of start out Iowa, New Hampshire, get your feet wet.

YELLIN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: It's all the big time. BORGER: It's all the big time, and from our point of view, and I don't know if you feel this way, Joe or Jess, is that we're -- we end up with less access than we used to have because everything is on the record. Every -- you can pull out your phone. Look at the McChrystal interview.

YELLIN: Right.

BORGER: And what that did to him, so I think in the end you democratize it, but you also let us -- we have much less access to see politicians as they really are.

YELLIN: Erick, former Bush and McCain adviser Mark McKinnon (ph) said this. It's a quote. "Candidates find themselves in a technological environment that exploits authenticity so rather than show more of themselves as voters want, candidates are showing less of themselves for fear of revealing too much." Are we ending up with politicians who are revealing too little because they are afraid of what they might say wrong?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I very much think they are. It's the downside of this, and, you know, the Democrats were very good in 2006 and were emboldened with the George Allen macaca (ph) moment that really struck and then Republicans of course it was payback and everybody hires a kid from college to go around and follow someone on the other side, trail them, and ask them questions.

YELLIN: Macaca (ph), right.

ERICKSON: Yes or what have you. I mean I've got my iPhone right here. It's got a high def camera now (INAUDIBLE) I've got my iPad. I mean not only am I an Apple guy, but I mean it's that easy and that accessible. But the problem becomes when you start taking stuff out of context which is very easy to do in the age of YouTube. Someone takes a snippet, puts it on YouTube, gets it out there and everyone says oh, my gosh, look at what he said.

(CROSSTALK)

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: The other issue though is the power of it. I mean, we've had gaffes in Washington forever. Pete Stark (ph) has been a gaffe machine across, you know, the full span of his career. What's different now is that you can actually see him say it, so in some ways the camera is just keeping people honest.

BORGER: Well and you go instantaneously from a gaffe you make at a little campaign appearance to YouTube to "The Jon Stewart Show" --

YELLIN: Right.

JOHNS: Right.

BORGER: -- boom, you know in one minute.

YELLIN: But Andrew earlier this month the Democratic National Committee launched what they called an accountability project. It's a Web site where anyone can upload videos and the Web site says quote, "For too long our politics has been poisoned with misinformation and negative attacks. The most powerful way to combat these shadowy tactics is to drag them into the light of public scrutiny." Here is the problem. There is so much (INAUDIBLE) the Internet would make democracy more accessible to everyone. Is it instead elevating gotcha moments?

RASIEJ: Well it is actually making politics more accessible to everyone. Listen to this statistic. In the 2008 presidential campaign, there were 1.5 billion views of online video that mentioned in the title Obama or McCain. Only 150 million of those videos were views of videos that were produced by the campaigns themselves, so that means that nine out of 10 videos that were watched during the presidential campaign were actually produced by citizens trying to influence each other and -- and everyone can now use the power of the Web to connect to their friends to engage in a conversation in politics, and, in fact, this year, in fact yesterday, a site got launched called TenQuestions.com that allow citizens to vote questions up to the candidates running for the midterms, vote on the top 10 questions that they want the candidates to answer, gives the candidates four weeks to respond in online video and then gives citizens two weeks to vote on whether the candidates actually answered the question.

YELLIN: But how many people are going to watch that versus watching all the funny gaffes and what --

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: You sort of wonder is it really advancing our knowledge?

BORGER: No.

RASIEJ: For the politicians -- for the politicians who recognize that they have to be a media operation and embrace this technology, it's a huge opportunity to connect with voters and get their message out. For those who are going to hide and are afraid of gaffes, it's going to continue to be this gotcha moment.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right, but what about --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But what would you say -- remember when John Edwards was combing his hair --

YELLIN: Right.

BORGER: And it was put to music and he seemed to be combing his hair --

YELLIN: Let me go because we have some historical footage of gaffes. Let's look at some -- to see if this is all that new.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: Some historical gaffes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So welcome -- let's give a welcome to macaca (ph) here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, 2008: And it's not surprising then they get bitter. They cling to their guns or religion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that old -- that old beach boy song "Bomb Iran, bomb, bomb, bomb -- anyway --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent -- I'm not joking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: I mean, wow. Erick, which one makes you cringe the most?

ERICKSON: They all do. Although you left out my favorite, the Reagan one. The bombing starts in five minutes --

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: Yes, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

ERICKSON: The real downside here though is that everyone says they want more authentic grass roots politicians. Everyone says we don't want the professional politician. Well, the grass rootsy guy, the folksy guy, the average Joe who runs for office, he's more likely to make the gaffes than the professional guy, and negative campaigning, whether we like it or not, it works, and when he gets the snot beat out of him for doing something goofy on camera, the professional politician --

YELLIN: Joe is agreeing --

JOHNS: I mean television, the lights, the camera, everything we've got here it's a very artificial environment --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

JOHNS: -- and the candidate who can look authentic and look off the cuff all the while staying on message is -- is the candidate that's going to win more often than not.

BORGER: But it may not be the best --

JOHNS: Right.

BORGER: -- the best person for the job.

YELLIN: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: (INAUDIBLE) headroom candidate, right --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But this is the reality --

YELLIN: OK I -- I had my own personal experience with a video going viral, not to toot a horn but to explain a personal intersection with this. I asked former President Bill Clinton in South Carolina about critics who compared him to Lee Atwater (ph). Take a look at his response. You've probably seen it before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people of South Carolina, because of people of South Carolina coming to these meetings and asking questions about what they care about, and what they care about is not going to be in the news coverage tonight because you don't care about it. What you care about is this, and the Obama people know that, so they just spin you up on this, and you happily go along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more story -- shame on you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Shame on you. Shame on you --

BORGER: Well, that's a tired candidate and he wasn't even a candidate.

YELLIN: No.

BORGER: That was -- but that's what happens when you get somebody who is exhausted and cranky and the cameras were out in the open, Jess --

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: What astonished me about that was within 10 minutes of it happening I started getting phone calls and e-mails from people who were in the West Coast, reporters all over the country --

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: And so it sped at the speed of light and everybody characterized it on the evening news that night as Bill Clinton yelling -- it wasn't my experience that he was yelling and so it was out of box. They framed it as yelling and the question here, I guess I'll ask you, Andrew, is once one of these moments is spun, is there any way they can get the genie back in the bottle? Could Bill Clinton recapture that as no, I wasn't yelling?

RASIEJ: Well if he's -- you know, constant open format and always talking and people are used to seeing him this way, then people are going to be less likely to pull out something out of context. I mean authenticity is the key to all of this and -- and the politician who recognizes that the video and the network is his friend is going to learn how to take advantage of it.

BORGER: But look at what happened to John McCain. It's a perfect example in the last presidential campaign. John McCain when he ran the first time had the bus and talked us all to death, right? We couldn't get him to stop. Then in this last campaign, what did he do because of all the flip videos and all that?

YELLIN: Yes, very disciplined.

BORGER: Very disciplined and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what happened to his campaign?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well --

YELLIN: For many reasons.

BORGER: That may not have been why --

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: Let's continue on the other side --

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: Many reasons he lost but that wasn't it.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: I need to continue --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That may be one of the --

YELLIN: I need to get a quick break in, but we want to continue this discussion, and before we take a break in light of our discussion we're going to go to our most important person you don't know today is the person in charge of new media at the White House. Macon Phillips has the 221-year-old executive branch doing state of the art online tricks.

His revamped version of the White House Web site rolled out on day one of the administration, and these days there's a video of the president himself using a laptop to introduce you to government's new health care reform Web site.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the first time ever, you can see all your insurance options, public and private, in one place. Let me show you how it works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: The salesman in chief not only gave Phillips the new media job, he elevated what had been a mid-level position during the Bush administration to the rank of special assistant to the president. Phillips is a 30-something from Huntsville, Alabama. He joined the Web design from Blue State Digital (ph) in 2004 and the Obama team in 2008.

Coming up next President Obama on the campaign trail in his hometown -- we'll discuss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: President Obama is doing political fund-raisers in Illinois today. He, of course, is not on the ballot, but he seems to be running against Republicans in general, and someone else who isn't on the ballot this year either. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: They haven't come out with a single solitary idea that is different from the policies that held sway for eight years before Democrats took over. Not a single policy difference that's discernible from George W. Bush, not one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: You heard the name, George W. Bush. Back again with us are Andrew Rasiej, the founder of a blog about how technology is changing politics, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of the conservative blog RedState.com and here in the studio our own Gloria Borger and Joe Johns.

Erick, first to you -- Democratic polling shows that voters prefer President Obama's economic policies over Bush's, are you worried that by starting to name Bush again Democrats are finding a strategy that's going to work for them in November?

ERICKSON: No, I don't think so. I think a lot of polling is also showing that voters are kind of over blaming Bush and hope that the Democrats will kind of own some of this. You know, it's easy for polling to pick up that voters like Barack Obama's alternatives to George Bush because George Bush still gives people a visceral reaction, even a lot of conservatives, but at the same time they also see what the results are, and they don't like the results.

YELLIN: Gloria, I mean, Bush's name still --

BORGER: Right and there's been a lot of internal polling.

YELLIN: Yes.

BORGER: Bush's name, not good.

YELLIN: No -- right.

BORGER: And so if you poll people and you say what about -- would you elect this generic Republican with these generic Republican economic policies, they are like, sure, OK, fine, but when you mention what about a Republican who supports George W. Bush's economic policies?

YELLIN: It's toxic.

BORGER: They say absolutely not, which is why you're going to hear Democrats talk about Bush more and more even though lots of folks say, you know, the statute of limitations ran out on Bush a while ago.

JOHNS: Which is a lot like something -- just about the only thing this administration can do. If I remember correctly, Bill Clinton right before that disastrous mid-term that he had was running around the country talking about, you know, the previous policies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

JOHNS: So it doesn't necessarily work even though that's all you can try.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: And Andrew, Republicans are still blaming Bill Clinton for problems today so is it ever too late to blame the past, the past guy?

RASIEJ: Well it's election season, so you know why should we be surprised? Our politics is broken, so here we go again.

YELLIN: Nothing surprises these days. I want to play some of the sound in the Tennessee gubernatorial race, because polls are closing in less than an hour and the Republican primary there is particularly interesting. Some of the candidates have made controversial comments, to say the least. Listen to the lieutenant governor, candidate Ron Ramsey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAMSEY: You can even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult, whatever you want to call it, but certainly we need to protect our religions but at the same time this is something that we are going to have to face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Eke. Erick is that a gaffe or could it actually help him win votes? ERICKSON: Oh good lord a Republican primary in Tennessee is going to do nothing but help him. I think looking at the polls it's probably too little too late.

YELLIN: I love your honesty.

BORGER: Right --

YELLIN: Do you have -- Gloria, do you have concerns that there are so many people running who take very controversial points of view, we should say, that when they get into office, are they going to be able to work together, compromise, govern?

BORGER: No, well but this is a gubernatorial race, and his opponent, to be fair, suggested that Tennessee should secede because of health care mandates so, you know, he may be trumped by his opponent, but I guess the problem for Republicans is if you elect all of these folks who are against government spending at all, who are against the wars -- the war in Afghanistan, for example, when -- if they win control of the House and they have to govern, are they ever going to vote for a spending bill?

YELLIN: Right. Well that's one of my questions. We have actually the quote from Zach Wamp (ph) that you were saying, his opponent, also made a gaffe. His primary opponent Zach Wamp said, quote, "I hope the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government."

Secession didn't go over so well last time it came up in this country. He then backtracked, but, Joe I hear other extreme ideas from candidates when I'm out there --

JOHNS: Sure.

YELLIN: -- like we should have an up or down vote on every rule or regulation proposed by any agency or we should repeal the 17th amendment. Are these kinds of notions productive?

JOHNS: Well you know you have pendulum swings, and out there in the electorate, when people get angry, people express anger, and you get people, a lot of times in the midterms, who are not normally involved in the process to some extent, so and it's a melting pot. I mean, come on. People in America can say anything and everything --

YELLIN: And get elected for it.

JOHNS: It's a free country.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: And why not talk about it.

ERICKSON: There's a larger issue here as well though. The larger issue is that you've got these primaries where every Republican really believes the same thing and every Democrat really believes the same thing, so you're arguing at the fringes and the extremes to prove, for example, here in Georgia we're in a runoff between two conservative Republicans, so they are fighting over who is going to be more pro-life.

JOHNS: Right.

ERICKSON: And who is going to be more anti-gay.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: Thanks to all of you. I'm afraid we have to wrap it there. Erick, so much -- such a pleasure to have you on, Andrew, thank you, and Gloria is going to stick around. I'll see you, too, Joe in a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

YELLIN: Suppose members of Congress can put aside their bickering and actually get some work done when they come back from vacation next week? Are there any new ideas? I'll ask members of each party's leadership.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JOHNS: Hey, Jessica. A short time ago President Obama praised the U.S. Senate for confirming Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. The vote was 63-37 with five Republicans supporting Kagan and one Democrat against her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Today's vote wasn't just an affirmation of Elena's intellect and accomplishments. It was also an affirmation of her character and her temperament.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: A couple hours ago, BP announced it is finished pumping cement to further seal its well in the Gulf of Mexico, and this didn't take long at all, did it? Official notice went out today that there will be an appeal to yesterday's court decision throwing out California's ban on same-sex marriage.

And Jess, you'll love this. Local politics gone awry, a county health department in Oregon confirms it closed down a lemonade stand at a northeast Portland art fair because its operator didn't have $120 in the restaurant license. The operator was a 7-year-old girl.

YELLIN: That's ridiculous.

JOHNS: This happened in San Francisco too. You would think that the authorities would be chasing people doing other kinds of unlicensed retail out there on the West Coast -- YELLIN: You think so? No --

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: They have to go after the lemonade stand girl. It's so frustrating. Thanks, Joe.

And coming up, the party-crashing Salahi's (ph) will be there. Are you going to watch "The Real Housewives of D.C." tonight?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: In this corner and in this corner.

YELLIN: Members of the House of Representatives will be back here in Washington next week to vote on a bill that's supposed to save teachers' jobs and pay for poor people's Medicare -- medical care, but a final vote, assuming there is one, won't come before we get another dose of partisan name calling, bickering and venting.

Can't they all just get along? Joining me are two members of leadership, Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra of California and Republican Mike Pence of Indiana. Thanks to both of you for being with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Jessica.

YELLIN: Before we get started, Congressman Pence, I'd like to play something that you said in the weekly Republican address two weeks ago just before Congress went out on recess. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: With nearly 15 million people unemployed and the Pelosi-led Congress poised to take a six-week paid vacation, the American people deserve better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So, Congressman Pence, Speaker Pelosi has cut short what you called Congress' paid vacation in favor of a bill that your leader, Congressman Boehner, says is nothing but special interest money. Do you agree that this teacher pay is a special interest bailout?

PENCE: Well I think what we have is more borrowing, more spending, more bailouts from a Democrat majority that spent an entire summer failing to do a budget and failing to complete any of the people's business on spending and announcing that they intend to allow taxes to go up on small business owners and family farmers on January 1 of next year, and I --

YELLIN: But on this specific issue --

PENCE: Look, if the Congress is in session we'll be back. We'll do our job. We'll debate the issues and we'll vote, but I have to tell you, I think the American people are tired of more spending, more bailouts, and I think they're going to be frustrated with Congress coming back from a recess when we should be listening to the American people to do more of the same.

YELLIN: OK, and fiscal discipline, Congressman Becerra, is an issue that's close to your heart. You're on the president's Fiscal Commission (INAUDIBLE) so the question is when do you start making those tough choices that politicians like to talk about to trim the deficit because clearly it's not going to be next week when you vote on this $26 billion bill?

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Jessica, it started yesterday, today. It started way before tomorrow, because as you just mentioned, and talking to Mike, this legislation that will keep a lot of police officers and fire fighters in Mike's congressional district employed, as well as mine, and keep a lot of those teachers coming back in September, working, is fully paid for.

Those are tough decisions to paid for that, because it's the state that is employing and the counties and cities that are employing these police officers and firefighters and teachers, not the federal government. But because those states are hurting tremendously, we're stepping in to help out again, fully paid for, no addition to the federal budget deficits. And so what we've done is we're acting fiscally responsibly and we're hoping that Mike is willing to have his Republican colleagues come back to work next week to get this done for the American people, who want to see us --

YELLIN: He said he'll be back there. He'll be back here.

BECERRA: Well, good. We can put aside the bickering and go back to work.

YELLIN: Congressman Pence, I'm looking here at a list of times that you have said you can't support new programs unless they are paid for, whether it's stem-cell research, unemployment benefits, even relief for Katrina. But now that the House is going to decide if Bush-era tax cuts should continue, you're in favor of extending them across the board without a plan to offset the impact on the deficit.

So how do you reconcile that?

PENCE: Well, I reconcile that because I think that there's a difference between spending more money in Washington, D.C., or rearranging the way government is spending, and allowing the American people to keep more of their hard-earned tax dollars. I know that the accountants in Washington, D.C., tend to view them exactly the same way, but, you know, the unbroken history of tax relief in the past when President Kennedy had marginal rate reductions, President Reagan, President Bush, is that when you -- you can reduce rates of taxes, or, in this case, please, we're asking them to preserve the lower tax rates, and in that create an expanded economy and even grow government revenue.

YELLIN: Congressman Becerra, here's a new idea. And we're talking about new ideas. Last week, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner lost his temper on the House floor over a bill that many Democrats thought would be a no- brainer, it should have been above partisanship. Here's what he wrote in an op-ed afterwards about it.

He said, "Democrats make a mistake by pretending there's a bipartisan spirit in Congress these days, and would be better served by calling out Republican shams."

Do you agree?

BECERRA: Well, remember, Anthony Weiner has been working along with the New York delegation for a long time to get the relief for those brave men and women --

YELLIN: I'm not asking about the specifics of that bill, I'm talking about the tone of bipartisanship in Washington. Is it so bad that it's --

BECERRA: But Jessica, understand the reason Anthony was so upset was that what should be a no-brainer bill, that should be a bipartisan bill, became a very partisan bill, not because there was anything wrong in providing assistance to those brave people who went in there to save lives and clean up after the terrorist attack. It's because it's just a partisan year, and that's what I think set off Congressman Weiner.

Can we work bipartisan? You just heard Mike say that he and I are friendly. We've been friends for quite some time. Absolutely, we can.

YELLIN: And Democrats don't need to change their tone or tact?

BECERRA: I think we have to put aside, as you said at the beginning, put aside any bickering. We should help police officers, firefighters and teachers next week. We should also recognize that we can't return to the Bush economic policies.

Mike, those are not new ideas if you're just resurrecting Bush economic policy. That's zombie economics again. We don't need that.

What we need are really, truly new ideas. The tax cut that President Obama put forward gave a tax cut to 98 percent of Americans. The two top two percent of American earners didn't get it.

YELLIN: OK.

BECERRA: The Bush tax cuts gave most of the tax cuts to the wealthy two percent. We're talking about making a wholesale approach that goes to the middle class and puts America back to work.

YELLIN: OK.

Congressman Pence, I just want to ask you quickly before you go -- you've been raising a lot of money for your colleagues, but there's also talk that you might have some interest in running in 2012. Are you going to run?

PENCE: Well, I'll tell you, Jessica, I'm always humbled any time we're mentioned in any category for higher office, but here in Indiana, at the state fair tomorrow, crisscrossing the state, crisscrossing the country, my focus is entirely on electing a conservative majority to Capitol Hill in 2010, and we'll let the future take care of itself.

YELLIN: And your governor, Mitch Daniels, is also rumored to be interested in 2012.

Do you think he has what it takes to be commander in chief?

PENCE: Let me tell you what, Indiana has the best governor in America. Mitch Daniels is an outstanding leader. He would succeed in anything he made an effort to do.

YELLIN: All right.

Thanks to both of you for being with us. I'm grateful.

PENCE: Thank you.

BECERRA: Thanks, Jessica.

YELLIN: And guess who is filling in for Rush Limbaugh next week? We'll tell you when we return.

And later in the program, it's no laughing matter. A '60s sitcom star in the center of a political brouhaha.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Welcome back.

Joining me tonight, Don Baer, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton; CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger; and Robert Traynham, senior adviser to the Bush/Cheney '04 presidential campaign.

All joining me -- thank you -- to look at some of the stories on our radar.

Earlier today, the president visited a Ford plant. He was touting the administration's efforts to save the auto industry, even though Ford didn't take the bailout money.

Here's an instance where the White House says they saved endless numbers of jobs, but they are really not giving any credit.

Let me ask you, Don, is there any way to turn this one around and for the president to get traction on the auto bailout?

DON BAER, WORLDWIDE VICE CHAIRMAN, BURSON-MARSTELLER: Repetition, repetition, repetition. They just need to stick with it. And the more concrete they can make it, the more visits to those plants. If I were helping them, I might put him together with some of the workers and have them talk about the difference that his administration has made. But the only way they are going to get any traction, if they get any in time, is just to keep with it.

YELLIN: Robert, let me ask you, because I hear on the trail a lot Republicans and Independents using against the president. They say he -- it was a government takeover.

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, FMR. SR. ADVISER TO BUSH/CHENEY '04 CAMPAIGN: Well, not only was it a government takeover, as we all know, but here's the problem -- there are a lot of folks out there that simply cannot afford the cars that Ford and GM are making. They can't get the credit in order to buy the actual product. That's part of the problem.

YELLIN: For him.

And Gloria, does he run the risk if he's seen with the auto folks, it reminds the people who are angry about the bailout that he did it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Bailout, bailout, bailout. Is that repetition?

I think there is. I would argue that when he did his stimulus package and the bailouts, he should have been out there doing what Don is saying all along.

YELLIN: Then?

BORGER: Then, showing how many jobs he has saved, showing the actual people and the actual lives that he has affected.

YELLIN: And now it's a little late.

BORGER: Well, it is.

BAER: I don't know that it's late. I don't want to underestimate how much water has gone under the bridge and how difficult the task is now, but we're just coming into the period where people are going to really be paying attention to this for the purposes of the election.

YELLIN: OK.

Wait. Let's move on to an eyebrow raiser that will -- you'll have something to say about.

Karl Rove is going back to work in a new role for a day. Rove, who was, as everyone now knows, George W. Bush's go-to guy for politics, will be the fill-in host for Rush Limbaugh's radio show next Monday.

Robert, is this a new career for Karl Rove? TRAYNHAM: Possibly. You know, he does have a face for radio, there's no question about it.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: You're going to get in trouble for saying that.

TRAYNHAM: Well, Karl is a friend. But there's no reason why. I mean, there's no surprise here.

Karl Rove is a conservative. Obviously Rush Limbaugh is a conservative. And what better way to have a former presidential spokesperson/adviser talking about how bad the Democrats are doing right now in the context of the Rush Limbaugh, with his 12 million or so listeners? It's a no-brainer.

BORGER: It's going to be the kinder, gentler Rush Limbaugh show.

YELLIN: Yes.

BORGER: Really.

(LAUGHTER)

BAER: It's August. You know, why does this surprise anyone though? You know, Karl is out there. He's looking for things to do. It's a perfectly fine thing for him to do.

BORGER: Absolutely.

YELLIN: It worked for Rush. It could be a new good career for him, huh?

According to "The Huffington Post," next story, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has reaffirmed that he will not go to Nevada to campaign for Sharron Angle. She is challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Angle also will not be getting help from the mother of a guy she beat in the primary. Danny Tarkanian's mother says she will campaign for Reid.

So, is this a surprise, that McConnell is not going to go campaign for Angle?

TRAYNHAM: Not really. Typically, the sort of etiquette is the majority leader and minority leader do not campaign against each other. The only person that broke that rule and got a lot of hot water for it was Bill Frist, who did it, obviously, against Tom Daschle.

So, this is somewhat unusual to a certain degree, for McConnell to come out so forcefully and say he's not going to campaign, you know, for Angle. Probably, he should have said, you know what? Harry Reid is my friend, I'm not going to vote against --

YELLIN: Right.

One side of decorum still exists, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, it's shocking, isn't it? But remember back in 2008, Reid did not go into Kentucky against McConnell either.

YELLIN: Right.

BORGER: So I think there's a gentleman's agreement there, although, of course, McConnell, I'm told, is maxed out on his political action committee, contributing to her. He's raised money for her, but he's just not going to set foot in the state.

YELLIN: OK.

Let's go on to Bill Clinton, because he is setting foot in a very powerful state.

He's going to be in Florida a week from this coming Monday to campaign for U.S. Senate candidate Kendrick Meek. Meek and Clinton have known each other since Clinton was the governor of Arkansas and Meek was just a highway patrolman assigned to Florida's lieutenant governor then.

Now polls show that Congressman Meek is trailing billionaire businessman Mark Green heading into the August 24th Democratic primary.

And, Don, we have seen Clinton go into states and deliver victories.

BAER: Makes a difference, right?

YELLIN: Yes.

Is he the winning ticket this year?

BAER: I don't know about in Florida whether he will be. It demonstrates his loyalty. He's very loyal to those people who have stuck with him. Don't forget, Kendrick Meek was a big supporter of Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and so you can draw a straight line between that and a lot of the candidates that President Clinton has been this time.

YELLIN: But Meek needs a lot of help.

BORGER: Yes. But don't underestimate Bill Clinton.

I think the question is, where is Barack Obama, right? And why isn't the president going down there for Meek? And you may have answered my question, which is he was a Hillary Clinton supporter.

BAER: Well, there's that. And I think there is a closeness between Charlie Crist, the governor, who is going to run as an Independent -- and (ph) the White House, too.

BORGER: Well, that's the other point.

TRAYNHAM: And to Gloria's point, it's not just Florida that Barack Obama is not going to. It's Kentucky and some of these other states. And the reason why is because there are a lot of folks out there that are very angry with this president, either, A, because of the whole race-bait politics that they perceive that's going on in the White House, and/or, B, they feel like this president does not understand their pain. And remember, Bill Clinton always felt other people's pain.

BORGER: What race-bait politics are you talking about?

TRAYNHAM: Well, there's a lot of folks out there that would make the argument. I mean, I saw a latest poll that showed that blacks think that President Obama is doing a phenomenal job. Certain whites do not believe that way.

They believe that with the beer summit, they believe that with Shirley Sherrod, you're going down the list, that there are some issues there. And the president obviously is very, very sensitive to that in this White House.

YELLIN: But are you glad to see that the president is not out campaigning with a lot of Democrats? Is that a sign to you that he's going to be hurting in 2012?

TRAYNHAM: Well, I think it's a sign of a little bit of fear, obviously, on the White House's part, that they don't want to put the president in an embarrassing situation. Remember, he went up to Massachusetts a couple of months ago, and we obviously know what happened there. But I think this is also an issue of knowing that Bill Clinton clearly is the star this year as it relates to getting some of these candidates to the finish line.

YELLIN: Well, he's been successful so far. We will see what happens in time.

OK.

I want to thank Gloria for joining us for so much of the show.

BORGER: Thank you.

YELLIN: And the gentlemen will be back with us on the other side of this break.

And we also want to follow up on a story we told you about earlier this week. The CEO of Target is now apologizing for a $150,000 political donation to a conservative group after employees complained. The company will set up a review process for all political contributions. Interesting.

Next, Mayberrygate? Sheriff Taylor at the center of a new political controversy coming up after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) YELLIN: Time now for the "Play-by-Play." Just like in the sports shows, we replay the tape, stop the action, and analyze the moves.

First up, some Republican senators are demanding that the Department of Health and Human Services stop running a commercial in which actor Andy Griffith praises the new health care reform law. It is supposed to educate the public, but Republicans say it's government money being wasted on Democratic talking points.

You watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY GRIFFITH, ACTOR: 1965: a lot of good things came out that year, like Medicare. This year, like always, we'll have our guaranteed benefits. And with the new health care law, more good things are coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: All right.

Joining me now to discuss this again, Don Baer, Democrat; Republican Robert Traynham.

Gentlemen, Mayberrygate? Why do people care?

BAER: Come on. Are they going to get upset if Aunt Bee and Opie and Barney do something, too? What's the big deal?

I mean, the sheriff of Mayberry is as mainstream as it comes. And if they're trying to help people understand and be educated about what's going on, especially that age demographic, because they remember Andy from the show, it's great.

YELLIN: Is it still Democratic talking points if it's now become law? It's the law of the land.

TRAYNHAM: It is the law of the land, there's no question about it. But it's still obviously Democratic talking points, because obviously Democrats voted for it and Republicans did not.

YELLIN: Right.

TRAYNHAM: However, if the sheriff wants to go out and campaign on behalf of President Obama, that's his right. You know what? It's also his right to obviously tout something that he believes in.

The question becomes philosophically, is it right for government, taxpayer-paid money to go to this? And that's an iffy question. It really is.

YELLIN: Wouldn't some Republicans object no matter what they did to explain and educate about the health care law because so many people are upset about the health care law? TRAYNHAM: Remember this -- back in 2001, when we had those rebate checks coming in the mail, when President Bush -- there was a huge letter saying, you know what? President Bush signed this into law.

YELLIN: Right.

TRAYNHAM: Democrats said that was a big propaganda thing. So it goes back and forth. It's a big seesaw.

YELLIN: Whoever's in power, the other side is going to knock it. OK.

Another story, a ruling after -- a day after the ruling on California's Prop 8, senior White House adviser David Axelrod was on television trying to thread the needle on President Obama's position on same-sex marriage.

Let's listen to David Axelrod and then talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, WHITE HOUSE SR. ADVISER: The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for guy and lesbian couples in benefits and other issues.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: Does the president support states trying to go their own way on same-sex marriage?

AXELROD: Well, he does believe that marriage is an issue for the states. And he did oppose Proposition 8.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: So he's on with Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie. They're trying to push him to commit.

Wiggling a bit, Don. At some point is President Obama going to have to come down and say, yes, I support same-sex marriage or, no, I don't?

BAER: You know, this thing still has to go to the Supreme Court. There's a lot of decisions that have to go into it. So I think at some point, yes, but I think it's also prudent for the time being, while still working its way through the courts, to let it work its way there.

YELLIN: Is this an issue that Democrats can never win on and you're happy to see him in a bind over it?

TRAYNHAM: Well, he's clearly very uncomfortable answering this question, which is very unfortunate, because as a gay American, I would hope that he would come out and say yes, the president's for this, or even yes, the president's against this because we know exactly where they stand. But, yes, this will become an issue in 2012. This is exactly what the White House does not want. And the reason why they don't want this is because they thought they had this battle, or Democrats thought they had this battle, back in 2004, when John Kerry was running for president.

The real issue here, Jessica, is whether or not this is a constitutional right for guys and lesbians to be able to marry, and the answer, in my opinion, is yes. And clearly, the White House should have said so. In my opinion.

YELLIN: Well, they're going to put off saying it for a while, right? OK.

No signs of remorse today from New York Congressman Charlie Rangel. He was giving a speech today, and he talked about why he's fighting accusations of corruption made against him by the House Ethics Committee.

Listen to what the embattled congressman had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: If you want to give me a deal, let's give me a deal based on the facts. But don't give me a deal based on what makes you feel comfortable. So you can threaten, but when you know that you have the facts and your people and your community are behind you, it means that I don't expect to have another bad day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: All right.

He looks pretty relaxed given what he's facing. But is this -- how bad is this for the Democrats?

BAER: It's not good. I don't know how much it's playing out in the country. I don't know that much of anyone is paying attention to it out in the country. It hasn't reached the level of some of the problems that the Republicans faced in 2006 yet, because there was this mounting sort of --

YELLIN: The Mark Foley --

BAER: -- a drum roll that kind of kept coming. There's not where we are with it this yet.

YELLIN: But we could be with Maxine Waters also potentially facing a hearing.

(CROSSTALK)

BAER: Again, I think if you were to do a poll, I think you'd find very little awareness out in the country. YELLIN: Is this manna from heaven for Republicans, or does it tar all members of Congress because Congress is so unpopular to begin with?

TRAYNHAM: Let me hit the rewind button, and let's play Nancy Pelosi, who said that she was going to run the most ethical Congress in the history of this republic. She said that she was going to drain the swamp. And what we see with Charlie Rangel, first of all, I should also say you're obviously innocent until proven guilty. That's what we believe in this country. But the height of arrogance, for him not to at least acknowledge some of the wrongdoings --

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: And yet --

TRAYNHAM: Thirteen allegations.

YELLIN: And yet, a Democratic Congress going after two of their own might be a sign of draining the swamp.

BAER: Exactly.

YELLIN: If they have an ethics system that goes after their own, arguably.

TRAYNHAM: Well, you could make that argument, yes. There's no question about it. But one could also make the argument they should be a little bit more forceful by saying, look, with all due respect, the facts are pretty clear, especially with Rangel.

YELLIN: OK.

I want to move on, only because this is my favorite story of the day. The anticipation over "Real Housewives of D.C." -- sorry to cut you off for that, but it premieres tonight. And the beltway here is abuzz.

Here's a snippet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "REAL HOUSEWIVES OF D.C.")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, this is a power player. As you know, this is the who's who.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You'll see senators, delegates, congressmen. It's a big event.

(END VIDEO CLIP, "REAL HOUSEWIVES OF D.C.")

YELLIN: OK.

First of all, have you ever seen anyone dress that way in Washington, D.C., not on television?

(LAUGHTER) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the time.

YELLIN: I've never seen it.

Are you looking forward? Will you watch?

TRAYNHAM: I must admit, I am looking forward to it tonight. I'm a huge "Housewives" fan. I hate to say this, but I love New Jersey, I love New York, and I definitely love Atlanta. So I'm looking forward to it tonight.

YELLIN: OK. We'll be watching.

BAER: I'm really conflicted on this. I know the producer of the show, so I wish her well. But I would much rather watch "Mad Men."

YELLIN: OK.

Well, we'll be watching CNN here, but we'll TiVo that.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Washington gets battered in political ads across the country. So why would anyone want to come here?

"Pete on the Street" finds out next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Millions of tourists are expected to visit Washington this summer, but if you watch political ads like we do, you know this city might as well be Hades.

So, tonight's question for our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick is, if it's so bad, why come here?

Pete?

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jessica.

All these national political ads trashing this town all day. Why would anybody want to come and visit Washington, D.C.?

I'm going to go find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: Why are you in D.C., this terrible, toxic place?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I wanted to come to the Smithsonian.

DOMINICK: Has anybody tried to give you any money under the table to -- no?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not yet. No. I'm going to see -- DOMINICK: What are you seeing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- the first lady's dresses.

DOMINICK: Ooh. Now, that I could get into.

Where are you visiting from, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came to see the National Museum of American History.

DOMINICK: The National Museum of American History? Sir, you're lying to me. You're a corrupt lobbyist lobbying on behalf of big cheese.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, that is true.

DOMINICK: You're guys are having a terrible time, aren't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

DOMINICK: Are you lobbying on behalf of the big lollipop lobby?

Stop, don't come to Washington.

The money's changing the hands. Nothing is what it seems here, Miss. I'm a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, you look like one.

DOMINICK: You know what's in the fountains? Congressmen are meeting in there, and they're meeting their special interest cohorts. Did you know that? You keep your eyes peeled.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no corruption here.

DOMINICK: You didn't see any corruption in the Smithsonian?

What on earth are you doing in this corrupt, lobbyist-ridden, crime-ridden, special interest, terrible town?

What are you thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm thinking it's really hot.

DOMINICK: Well, I know it's hot, sir. I'm a mammal.

There you go. One, two, three -- D.C.!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: D.C.!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: D.C.! (END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: There you go, Jessica. A lot of good reasons to come to Washington, D.C., after all. Maybe I was a little too cynical.

You know what? I'm off to check out some of those inaugural ball gowns. I'll see you tomorrow.

YELLIN: Thanks, Pete.

And that's all from us tonight.

"RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME" starts right now.