Return to Transcripts main page


Tea Party Movement; Chris Coons Interview

Aired September 21, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. I'm Jessica Yellin. As we speak John King is up in Massachusetts to moderate tonight's four-way debate among the candidates for that state's governor. We will check in with him on that debate in a little bit. But first, tonight's big political story is the Tea Party elitist or populist.

Well there's no doubt where Sarah Palin stands on that question. Just listen to this new ad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Tea Party movement is not a top down operation. It's a ground up halt to action. It is so inspiring to see real people, not politicos, not inside the Beltway professionals come out and stand up.


YELLIN: But if the Tea Party really is populist and not elitist, where's the money coming from? Here to dig into that, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, CNN contributor John Avlon who is also a senior -- well that's not John Avlon. That's Joe Johns, our own senior correspondent -- also John Avlon who is a senior political columnist for and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, who is editor-in-chief of the conservative blog

OK, gentlemen, first to you, Cornell, let me ask you real people, not politicos is what Sarah Palin says. Is that an effective message? Does it work?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: It an effective message. It's part of sort of, you know is the Tea Party going to be a mobilizing arm for the GOP, but there's real questions about where the money comes from and a lot of the consultants sort of tied to this are established, old-time Republican operatives. It's interesting to sort of see, you know, are they using the anger and sort of frustration of so many of these people for their own political gain for the establishment.

YELLIN: Joe, you're nodding.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean look, this is for me a work in progress because I've sort of been looking into the financial funding. YELLIN: Yes.

JOHNS: But the spokesperson for is on the record as saying that their money comes from things like health care professionals, believe it or not, which is fascinating. Also from, you know, financial concerns, retirees, and one of the big questions, of course, is how much Charles and David Koch, the big conservative funders, are actually putting into that. It's not clear to me, I mean, I don't know that. So it's sort of dribs and drabs.

YELLIN: Well let's look at -- first of all, I think we have our New York guest joining us, John Avlon and Erick Erickson joining us (INAUDIBLE). Well there's John -- hi -- and Erick -- hi, guys.


YELLIN: I don't know. I hope you can see this, but let's take a look at some of the different groups that have tried to influence the Tea Party. I think we have a graphic of that. They are -- there's the Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks and of course, the Republican Party, all of whom, in one way or another, through money or organizing, say that they're helping to influence the Tea Party. Erick Erickson, is that proof that this really is a corporatist or not a grassroots movement?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know frankly I think that's one of the dumbest stories out there and I hate to be blunt like that, but you go to these Tea Party rallies, these aren't K-Street lobbyists. These aren't hacks that are out there.

These are average Americans who are out there. Yes, some of these groups are involved. Yes, they help them get permits to protest. Yes, they help raise money for buses to get them to Washington, D.C., but at the end of the day, these are average people giving up their vacation time to go to Washington or New York or Atlanta or Austin, Texas, to protest and complain about the direction of the government.

YELLIN: Erick --


ERICKSON: -- no more pulls their strings than I do.

YELLIN: Right, I get that, but can I press you on this because it seems to me one thing that doesn't always break through to the public when they're talking about the Tea Party is there's a difference between what's going on in the grassroots level among these people who are getting on buses that you're talking about, and what like Dick Armey's group is trying to do, trying to influence it from above?

ERICKSON: Well you know a lot of these upper-tier groups like FreedomWorks I'm a big fan of. They come up with the ideas and they push people. They recruit candidates, but at the end of the day, they are largely driven by their volunteers on the ground. I mean I know a lot about FreedomWorks. They don't have the money to be controlling Tea Party groups nationwide. They're in a handful of races nationwide, picking candidates and then relying on volunteers in these states.

YELLIN: All right --



BELCHER: But to me -- yes, but to me this is the big question.


BELCHER: Whether or not you got a group of people who are the most upset and angry about sort of what's going on economically in this country you know, going to empower a group of Republicans, who quite frankly never met a special big interest, corporate interest that they don't like.

YELLIN: Well let me bring Bill Clinton into this conversation.


YELLIN: Let me bring Bill Clinton into this conversation and John Avlon, I'll give you a chance to comment on this. This is what former President Clinton had to say about the Tea Party today. Listen to this.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In their purist form, the Tea Partiers are saying, I've been let down by big business and big government. The funders of the Tea Party movement tend to be pretty far right extremists who want -- their goal is to destroy the power of government to mediate the power of corporations.


YELLIN: So, John, Avlon, again, he said to take down the power of government and essentially to increase the power, his point, of corporations. Does he have a point?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I agree with him on the first point. That this is fundamentally always been about anger at both big government and big business, but I think the second is a little too simple. Bill Clinton is one of the smartest strategists out there, but especially on the Democratic side.

These groups that are funding the Tea Party movement, it's important to appreciate that they pump up the Tea Party movement as a partisan interest, but if they didn't -- if the Tea Party movement wasn't a genuine grassroots uprising, these folks' money wouldn't make any difference. And of course there's a lot of money on the other side as well with unions and other liberal organizations that try to fund grassroots movement and pump them up. And they've been notably less successful, so that needs to be taken into account to see this whole thing in a sense perspective.

YELLIN: Joe, also there's a recent "New York Times" poll that says about half of Americans just don't have an opinion of the Tea Party one way or another. Now clearly, they're not watching cable news --


JOHNS: Yes, that's right.


YELLIN: But that said, what's going to change that? Is Palin's message going to break through, do you think --

JOHNS: Yes, you know, it's a work in progress, again. And the more you learn about it the more you can draw an opinion. For example, one of the guys who is sort of behind the scenes right now --


JOHNS: -- Tea Party Express is a guy named Sal Russo, spent some time on the phone talking to him today, very interesting character. You would think because this guy's running it that he's sort of a grassroots individual. This is a guy who was with Ronald Reagan for a really long time and then broke out to go to Ross Perot and -- but has always been extremely conservative and extremely inside with the Republican Party. So that's the kind of thing you'll find. It's different pieces here, different pieces there, and you can't always just take one thing and make a conclusion about it.

YELLIN: What does this mean, Cornell --

BELCHER: A conflict and for my friend Erick, I mean one of the interesting things going to be over the course of time is like you know they are grassroots and they are angry at the establishment, both Democrat and Republican and you see this -- you know this eat up Republican establishment candidate. What happens, you know, how does it conflict you know --


YELLIN: That's a perfect segue --


YELLIN: Erick, listen to this one because if you listen first of all in Palin's ad, she make no mention of the Republican Party, you know. She doesn't say I'm a Republican or this is Republican. And somehow said the Tea Party is causing a civil war within the GOP. But listen to what Glenn Beck said on his radio show last week. This is Glenn Beck.


GLENN Beck, "THE GLENN Beck PROGRAM": Everyone today in the media is going to say, well, the Republicans are in civil war and the Republicans and in way, it's true except it's not brother against brother. Here's what it is. It's establishment versus the people. It is the elites versus the people. That's the civil war here.


YELLIN: All right, Erick, is that true or is that just the spin they want to put on it?

ERICKSON: No, that's absolutely true when you look around the country from Ken Buck challenging the establishment favorite Jane Norton in Colorado or the big race in Kentucky with Trey Grayson being defeated by Rand Paul or Utah, Bob Bennett being thrown out by Mike Lee or even Florida, Charlie Crist versus Marco Rubio. The list goes on and on. You've got grassroots Republicans led by people like Jim DeMint throwing out the people that Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn in Washington have deemed the Republican pigs.

There is an uprising and it's headed to Washington. And frankly, I think the Republicans, the establishment Republicans if they don't get what's going on and there's no sign that they really do, they're going to be in a lot of trouble after November. People like Lamar Alexander and Mitch McConnell.

YELLIN: John Avlon, your take on that is it really an uprising of the people?

AVLON: Look, I think that there's no question there has been an anti-elite, anti-establishment uprising by the Tea Party candidates. That's just a fact. Look at the tale of the tape of those primaries. That's a fact. I think there are other fault lines under this as well though. A lot of the Tea Party rank and file are really committed libertarians and yet a lot of the tea party candidates are really hard-core social conservatives.

There's a tension there. I think one thing that the Republicans should understand that's consistent is that there is a lot of anger and resentment against the overspending that occurred by Republicans when they were in power during the Bush era. And if that's -- that's a message of the establishment that I think can unite the Tea Party movement and their criticism and help it bridge with Independents.

YELLIN: All right, fun discussion to all of you gentlemen, thanks very much. And I think it's one we'll keep having until the election and beyond.

All right, coming up, my next guest is on the Tea Party's hit list. He's taking on Republican Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. We will go "One-on-One" with candidate Chris Coons. And a reminder, I'm filling in for John King tonight because he's moderating the Massachusetts governor debate right now in Boston. Let's listen in.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What does it have to get and how do you do things in a way, when you came to office, you promised you would run the state government in a way that allowed (INAUDIBLE) -- (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

YELLIN: Chris Coons may not be a household name yet, but he has suddenly gotten a much better chance of becoming Delaware's next U.S. senator. He's the Democrat running against Christine O'Donnell. Here's something else you might want to know about him. Coons has degrees in chemistry, politics, law and religion, those last two from Yale University.

He studied in Kenya, worked as a lawyer for the company that makes Gore-Tex. He's also won local elections. Right now, he is the county executive of New Castle, Delaware's largest county. And he is here to go "One-on-One" with us. Mr. Coons, thank you for being with us. First of all --

CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: Thanks for a chance to be with you today, Jessica.

YELLIN: Good. For much of the year prognosticators really didn't think you had a chance to win this race at all, but now you're actually the odds on favorite not only on the left, but even many on the right, so how has your life changed since Christine O'Donnell won? I bet you're getting a lot more calls returned.

COONS: I am getting a lot more calls, but frankly, Jessica, this is the same race today that it was two weeks ago. For the nine months that I've been running I've been going up and down the state and my wife Annie and I have been hearing the same thing. Folks are frustrated, they're anxious, they're angry, and they want to know what my plan is to get our economy back on track to restore manufacturing in this country, to deal with the deficit and spending. That's what I've been focused on. I do have a different candidate running against me after the primary than the one I expected to be running against, but it's still the same race about Delaware's real needs.

YELLIN: You have sparkling credentials, some of which I mentioned, including you're a national debate champion. Now, you're running against a woman who has dabbled in witchcraft in her youth. We've talked a lot about that, heard a lot about it. Is witchcraft relevant?

COONS: I really don't think so. I think it's up to the voters in Delaware to decide when they go into the booth six weeks from now which of the many things they've heard about my opponent and about me are relevant when they make a decision. This really is a job interview.

And what I've heard over the last nine months is that what folks want to know is what experience do you have, what ideas do you have to get us back on track and to get this economy fixed. And are you willing to stand up to the special interests and try and fix what's wrong with Washington. I think at the end of the day that's what Delawareans want to know.

YELLIN: All right, well let's talk about something you do think is relevant. At a candidates' forum two days after last week's primary, you repeated a line that you have used on the campaign trail before. I'll play it for you and we'll talk about it.


COONS: For many of us who worked, who volunteered, who voted for change in 2008, we have not yet gotten the change that we hoped and worked for.


YELLIN: All right, pretty harsh on President Obama, didn't get the change you hoped and worked for. If you had been in the Senate over the last two years, what would you have pressed President Obama to do differently?

COONS: Well, first, the TARP bailout bill that I think was a poorly constructed way to try and put a floor underneath the collapse in the financial markets. It was hundreds of billions of dollars. It wasn't structured with enough accountability. Some of how it was managed I would have disagreed with --

YELLIN: Would you have voted no?

COONS: If I'd been in the Senate I would have -- I'm sorry?

YELLIN: Would you have voted no on TARP?

COONS: I would have voted against the bailouts. I also would have strongly voted against as I did as a candidate -- I stood up and spoke against the proposal for offshore oil drilling. But if I could I do think that the Obama/Biden administration has worked very hard, has made real progress and has delivered a lot of the things that folks hoped for.

My point there in the debate as it has been in many other public settings is that I think there's one party that has consistently voted no and has been unwilling to work with the Democrats in the Congress to find common ground and to find common sense solutions. So there isn't enough change in terms of how Washington works, but that really wasn't intended solely as a slap at the president.

YELLIN: OK. Most voters know very little about you at this point, but one of the few things that has gotten some attention is an article you wrote in college. In it you described yourself as quote, "a bearded Marxist". Would you explain to us what that means? Are you a Marxist?

COONS: No, I'm not, Jessica. And I hope folks will a moment and actually read the article because it is clearly a tongue in cheek reference to how Republicans on campus, friends of mine, former roommates of mine, viewed my transformation from a young Republican to a Democrat.

I am not now nor have I ever been a Marxist or an enemy of the people of the United States. And frankly at a time when we've got 35,000 Delawareans out of work, when we've got real economic problems to tackle, I'm just disappointed that we're spending time talking about the title of an article written in a student newspaper 25 years ago.

But I think it is important to speak to it and put it to bed. I'm not a Marxist. I've never held Marxist ideas. I believe strongly in the free enterprise system and have worked hard for eight years in one of Delaware's most innovative private sector manufacturing firms and have a good and strong working relationship with the private sector as county executive.

YELLIN: OK, now, you say you're disappointed in the coverage of that. Your opponent Christine O'Donnell is actually getting a lot more negative attention for things she did in her past than you are. To what do you attribute that?

COONS: Well, I think both of us, as you put it, are relatively unknown on the national stage. And my opponent has been more than a decade as a pundit on television, so there are lots of clips of her saying things that I'm sure she wished there weren't files of right now. But again, what really matters is not what was said in some student newspaper or what was said in some interview 10 or 20 years ago. What matters is what are our ideas for getting this economy back on track, for improving America, for fixing what's wrong with Washington --

YELLIN: Can I press you on that --

COONS: -- for tackling education, the environment.

YELLIN: Is she qualified to be senator?

COONS: Well, I think that's a judgment that Delaware's voters are going to have to make. She certainly doesn't bring to this job -- to this job interview with Delaware voters the same sets of background and qualifications and experiences I do. But what I hear up and down the state is folks are mad, and they want change. They want folks who are willing to work for them and fight for them.

And if they end up making the judgment that Christine O'Donnell is qualified enough, well that's their choice. But at the end of the day, I believe that I've got the skills, the strength and the experience from working the private sector, from balancing a budget in the public sector, from lots of service and exposure in the nonprofit sector to the real human needs of people. I've had the experience of good times and hard times, and I know how to make hard choices that will improve our state and our country. And I'm hopeful that on November 2nd, six weeks from now, those are the skills and the experiences that folks will say qualifies me to be their next senator.

YELLIN: I want to ask you about Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader. In an interview with "The Hill" newspaper twice referred to you as his quote, "pet". Now South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint is running this ad in your state. We'll play a clip of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: Harry Reid calls Chris Coons his pet. Delaware doesn't need a Washington career politician's pet. (END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Ouch. Now I'm sure you'll say that you're not on Harry Reid's leash, but what is your relationship with the majority leader?

COONS: Well, I've met the majority leader, I think, twice. He called me soon after I stepped up and entered this campaign and he offered me some personal advice and encouragement. And he's been someone who has checked in regularly and offered me some encouragement, particularly about staying on focus. Staying interested and engaged in, responsive to the real concerns of working people. But I think that was a very unfortunate choice of words on his part and it doesn't really reflect our working relationship or how I would vote if elected to the Senate.

YELLIN: All right, finally, you're going to be back here on CNN on October 13th for a debate between you and Christine O'Donnell. We're excited about that. What's one question that you would like our own Wolf Blitzer to ask her?

COONS: What are your ideas for how to get America back on track, to improve manufacturing, to restore balance to our budget and to make America competitive again?

YELLIN: All right, Chris Coons thanks so much for your time. We look forward to talking to you again.

COONS: Thank you Jessica. Thanks for the chance to be here.

YELLIN: And still ahead, political attacks on Sarah Palin are nothing new but just who's attacking her might surprise you.


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

JOHNS: Jessica, trouble for Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Today he announced he is deeply sorry for having disappointed some supporters regarding his relationship with a female social acquaintance.

The two Democratic senators from Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Prior, joined with Republicans today to block debate on the defense bill that would repeal "don't ask, don't tell".

The White House confirms Larry Summers, the Obama administration's top economic adviser, will be stepping down from his post.

And Christine O'Donnell's campaign hit back even harder today at allegations she illegally spent campaign money, calling them libelous and threatening to sue. So certainly, we see those were fighting words when Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington started alleging that this was criminal behavior.

YELLIN: Quite a back and forth already there, Joe. Thanks so much.

All right, still to come, the Tea Party women, what took them so long for the next generation of strong Republican women to emerge? We're going to dive into that.

And why did it take an outside group to empower them? In a clash Bill Clinton versus Sarah Palin, he's pointing to her and saying we're now in an era of fat-free politics.

And we promise this is politically relevant in "Pete on the Street", our off-beat reporter, Pete Dominick asks how you handle the boss who thinks you're hot.


YELLIN: This year we've seen the emergence of headline grabbing conservative women like Christine O'Donnell, Nikki Haley and Sharron Angle largely thanks to the Tea Party. At the same time, Republicans like Congresswomen Marsha Blackburn and Michele Bachmann and of course the original mama grizzly Sarah Palin were from Republican B-listers to political superstars.

CNN political contributors James Carville and Mary Matalin are here tonight to talk a little bit about this. And Mary, I think it's a fair question, I wonder if you do. Why did it take an outside group to empower so many Republican conservative women?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's the times that empowered conservative women. What is propelling the grizzly mama is a primal concern, which is a political concern this cycle. What -- this is the first generation that thinks they are not going to leave the country as well off for their children. So when you are going after the (INAUDIBLE) you are going to inspire mothers, all those women have something in common.

They are mothers, so there isn't any resistance to women running as Republicans. These are women who are doing something specific. (INAUDIBLE) they are not trying to get into power. They don't want go up the hierarchy; they want to work on real issues that affect their kids.

YELLIN: James, let me ask you if you agree, because before Christine O'Donnell became a household name, there were a lot of doubters. These are some of the things that Republicans said about her. The chair of the party in Delaware said she could not be elected dog catcher. FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said she was not capable of winning the general election. And of course Karl Rove initially had this to say.


KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH SENIOR ADVISER: There are just a lot of nutty things she's been saying that just simply don't add up to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sounds like you don't support her, but I will tell you I think -- ROVE: I'm for the Republican, but I've got to tell you, we were looking at eight to nine seats in the Senate. We're now looking at seven to eight.


YELLIN: So I've seen male candidates say some pretty nutty things, but their own party doesn't always take out the trash on them.

CARVILLE: Well but again, this woman's got some real issues here. She didn't pay her student loans back, she didn't pay her mortgage. Apparently she didn't pay some taxes. Now, she's got some kind of issue with the campaign contributions. I think that the Republicans obviously could have done a lot better. I think they could have done a lot better in Nevada. Look, this is politics. You're running for the United States Senate, you don't pay people back, it's going to be an issue.

YELLIN: You don't think they're particularly vitriolic because it's her?

CARVILLE: It could have been a man. No, I don't think it's like they're ganging up on her because she's a woman. I think they're ganging up on her because she's got a pretty past that doesn't lend itself to being vetted very well in the United States Senate. I'm trying to say it in a kind of elegant, kind way.

YELLIN: Mary, something that RNC co-chair -- go ahead.

MATALIN: Because this -- the day after Karl said that, she raised $1 million in one day. What James doesn't get, maybe a lot of Republicans, too, I'm not saying Karl because I know he is brilliant. This is not about her. It's not about Sharron Angle. It's not about Sarah Palin. This is a much bigger not anti-incumbent, it's not even anti-Obama. It is what is the scope and size of government. How can we make government work? How can it be transparent? The issues that are precipitating the follow-up orders for Obama and the Democratic Party, the same ones that are animating and inspiring these people, Washington is not working anymore.

YELLIN: Is it just a coincidence --

CARVILLE: I were running this slate of candidates, I would say it's not about our candidates, it's not about Jan Brewer that goes blank to 18 seconds, you're going to be governor of Arizona and you can't issue an open statement, of course, it's about the candidates. If the country is in the shape that it's in, you can't have somebody that can't pay their bills and somebody that can't speak for 18 seconds. Of course, it's about candidates.

YELLIN: This is what the co-chairwoman of the RNC, Jan Larimer, once said about women candidates. She said "Women sometimes need a little more hand-holding or they need their friends to help them make their decision. And by going in and talking to them and recruiting and educating and training them to get involved or become a candidate, we give them the tools so they can do it on their own." Does that say something though about the attitude of women candidates?

MATALIN: No, what it says, it is that women don't automatically get up in the morning and are totally full of themselves like a lot of males who just naturally think they're God's gift to women.

YELLIN: James, you have to agree with that, right?

CARVILLE: Look, I think Hillary Clinton is eminently qualified. My friend Senator Boxer of California, people that like that. There are a lot of women that get up every day that are very, very well prepared, very articulate. In fact, are a lot tougher than most of the men, if not all of the men that I know in American politics. If you look at the kind of job that she's doing as secretary of state, it's just -- if you have -- if you're a certain kind of woman, and you don't have the background or you don't have the sort of record, well, yeah, people are going to do it. It's not a gender thing.

MATALIN: Well, it is a choice thing. Some woman choose to focus on and have the premier responsibility for their kids.

YELLIN: But is it a coincidence that it's this time when there's a Tea Party movement that you suddenly see the emergence of women candidates on the Republican side, so many of them? It's purely coincidence?

MATALIN: No, I don't think it's a coincidence. I think it's a direct result of these women who take care of their family budgets, who look to the future, who are very practical, who don't want to be in power. They really have just had it up to here. And they're willing to do something they don't normally do which is put themselves out there and sacrifice.

YELLIN: Let's have fun for one second.

CARVILLE: In American politics, Nancy Pelosi who didn't run for office until she was 48-years-old and raised five kids. She didn't run until her youngest was a senior in high school. That's something that you can really admire in somebody. And by the way, she's had a pretty successful political career. I get it that these women can come in and do things and really make a difference, of course, they can. But you can't come in if you don't have a set of policies or your background is such that it's not conducive to being a United States senator or a governor.

YELLIN: I want to play something that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said about Sarah Palin. Listen to this.


TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I think she's a great spokesman. I think that she challenges the status quo. She says what a lot of people think. But, you know, a lot of people sometimes realize we shouldn't say everything we think. And that, maybe it is that she is more of a cheerleader and one who rallies conservatives together. As opposed to maybe being their top choice.


YELLIN: OK before I ask you about that, I want to put up some facts we gathered which is how many Facebook followers Sarah Palin has, versus Tony Perkins. She has more than 2 million. He has 5,700. On Twitter, she has 200,000, he has 898. You get the idea. So Mary, is this about ego? Some of these people are a little threatened by how successful she is?

MATALIN: Tony Perkins is very successful at what he does. I don't think it's an ego thing. It's anybody who wants to get in the news just has to say Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck. So it's a pretty tried and true tactic. But I bet in a couple days, he's going to take his own advice and not say everything --

YELLIN: Do you think he's going to take it back?

CARVILLE: Look -- I would like to say something -- but, yeah he should follow his own advice and not say everything that he thinks. Because I guarantee you that that just irritates Sarah Palin to no end. You got a certain role here. We throw the stick, you go fetch the stick and bring it back to us. I don't think she's very enamored with that role -- I think mama grizzly is going to --

YELLIN: Come roaring back?

CARVILLE: She wants to be -- you can't set a blame on that. I think that a lot of smart Republicans, I'm sitting right here next to one, are sort of like why don't you try to get into -- comment on your family values or your coalition because you're really going to irritate her.

MATALIN: It mama ain't happy, nobody happy.

YELLIN: All right, we heard it first, if he takes it back, I'll remember this. Thanks you guys.

CARVILLE: He won't say it again, I promise you that.

YELLIN: All right, you're back in the next segment so don't go anywhere. But we do need to take a quick break. When we do come back, Bill Clinton's advice to President Obama.

Also, John King is moderating the Massachusetts governor debate right now in Boston. Let's listen in for a moment.

JILL STEIN, MASSACHUSETTS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'd keep them in after-school programs that gives them jobs. Most of that hasn't been restored. We have an epidemic of violence going on in our low- income and communities of color.


YELLIN: We keep seeing reports that Democrats are debating whether they should go after the Tea Party. Bill Clinton isn't waiting. Listen to this.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think we should just play it straight. If they got a Tea Party opponent who says something weird like the guy running for senator from Alaska says unemployment compensation is unconstitutional, or the man running for senator from Arkansas who says we should have a 23% increase across the board sales tax instead of an income tax which would raise taxes for 85 percent of us or the governor running in Colorado who says Denver's bike paths are a U.N. plot to take the sovereignty of Denver away from the United States.


YELLIN: All right -- don't you miss him?

So James, we're back with James Carville, Mary Matalin, Gloria Borger, Joe Johns, OK, you know the team. James, should the Democratic Party adopt Bill Clinton's strategy and go after the Tea Party?

CARVILLE: Well Gloria was making a point, we were talking in the green room, he actually kind of went more after the funding than after the tea party members and he was going after the candidates. But what he does that's very smart is, saying, well, activists out there trying to do something. You notice in the part that you showed, look, if their candidates say something really dumb like the guy in Alaska. But now he's far -- although they're unconstitutional, he's now far from it.

BORGER: He doesn't want to make the Tea Party seem kooky, but then he points out the sort of out of line stuff that some of the candidates are saying. It's very smart. And again, it goes after the people --

MATALIN: This is an old Nixon tactic.

BORGER: It's Clintonian.

MATALIN: He says, I'm going to play it straight and then he completely distorts everything.

YELLIN: But we did fact check --

CARVILLE: The unemployment conversations --

YELLIN: We fact-checked what he said and what he said was mostly true, for example he said this about Joe Miller, the Alaska Senate candidate said unemployment is unconstitutional, we have the sound bite.


JOE MILLER, CANDIDATE FOR ALASKA SENATE: The unemployment compensation benefits have got it -- first of all, it's not constitutionally authorized. I think that's the first thing that's got to be looked at, so I do not favor their extension. (END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: OK. So that's pretty clear. Are you concerned that this extremist label could stick?

MATALIN: No, I'm not at all. Because if you ask the American people, they think expanding and extending unemployment benefits over 99 weeks doesn't have a deleterious effect on job hunting, there's no data that supports otherwise. So you could call these extreme positions, but right now, half of America is saying, Obama has extreme positions and 10 percent more people say that Sarah Palin better represents their views.

JOHNS: There's an old saying in the art of war, when they advance and they retreat, they're trying to lead you. And this is what he's doing. He's sort of attacking the leadership. But he's saying how wonderful the rank and file is. Because the people who are the rank and file are the ones he wants to lead over into the D column which probably is never going to happen at this stage. Clearly it's a tactic and it's a pretty good one, too.

BORGER: But he also said, what the Democrats ought to do is say, give us a couple more years. It took us eight years to get into the ditch, as Barack Obama likes to say. Give us, as Bill Clinton put it, give us half as much time to get out of it as they took to get into it, all right? Smart, too.

CARVILLE: Yeah, this is to lead up to the CGI, and he comes out, and I think you know, it's a campaign -- the CGI's very, very important to him.

YELLIN: The Clinton Global Initiative is big.

CARVILLE: Yes, it's huge. And I think he strikes me, I hope I see him Thursday, but he strikes me as a man who's having a pretty good time right now.

BORGER: Because everybody wants him, by the way, on the campaign trail.

YELLIN: Well let me ask, because this is what he has said about Sarah Palin and sort of the environment we're in. It's a provocative comment. This is from today.


CLINTON: I do think she is a resilient character. And we may be entering sort of a period in politics that is sort of fact-free where the experience in government say negative.


YELLIN: OK, Gloria. Oops?

BORGER: Resilient character, experience as a negative, not exactly a ringing endorsement of her. And I think it's about as -- it's one of the most negative things, you know, politics are afraid to criticize Sarah Palin because she's so popular out there.

CARVILLE: Republican politicians. Democrats aren't afraid at all.

BORGER: But you know, some Democrats don't want to attack her either, right? She's a popular woman. She has a big following.

YELLIN: Mary, this is also an indictment of the media. In other words, this is a fact-free era of politics where people can get away with saying whatever they want and we're not going to ride them on it and no one else is going to check them.

MATALIN: You know, there's a poll that came out this week, 67% of Americans, likely voter Americans, say they're far more informed than they've ever been in their life?

YELLIN: More informed?

MATALIN: More informed. There's all kinds of places they can go and get their news, they can validate their news. This is an election cycle where people are getting the facts and it's about something way bigger than these individual candidacies.

YELLIN: James, you used to give advice to this president. Listen to the advice that the president is giving to President Obama.


CLINTON: My advice is answer the throw them out after 21 months, say give us two years. That will give us half as much time as you gave us. And if it's not better, throw us out. You have to give -- say, throw us out if we're not better. And then say now let's talk about what we're going to do, who's more likely to do it. Treat the American people with respect. Tell them what you're going to do, who's more likely to do it. If it's a choice, we can win. If a referendum, it's not good.


YELLIN: Yes, do you agree?

CARVILLE: Yeah, I do. And I agree that he's the person to make the case. If you look at the rolling averages now that the Republicans are actually slipping a little bit.

YELLIN: President Clinton is the person to make the case or President Obama?

CARVILLE: I think President Clinton can make it more effectively in some ways than President Obama can. If President Clinton says look, some of the things that are working is more of a validation of a third party. If President Clinton says, because he was president, if he says do it like this, I think sometimes another person is better to carry some of these messages.

I think that President Obama can come in, and say, look, as President Clinton was saying. It took us eight years to dig us into the deepest hole we've been into. It's more or less that he's being self-aggrandized and that he's bragging but he's on the attack. He can use him and that's one of the things he can do -- as a shield as they go forward. And we'll see.


JOHNS: It's really hard for Obama to go out and say, hey, look, look at all of these great things I did. Because people look at him and say, why don't we have more jobs? It's pretty simple. He's sort of handicapped in that way so maybe Bill Clinton does help.

BORGER: And their message is so hard because the message right now in the midterm is, look, things would have been worse if they had stayed in charge.

YELLIN: Right.

BORGER: And trying to tell people things would have been worse doesn't make them feel any better about the way they feel right now.


MATALIN: Particularly when the facts are this, we have lost more jobs than the beginning of the Obama recovery than we have gained. The season of the recovery is over. And the upshot is we've lost more jobs than gained.

YELLIN: Their response that he's grown more jobs than there were in the Bush --

CARVILLE: He'll grow as many jobs this year as Bush grew in eight.

YELLIN: Let me ask you this one last thing because we've learned that Michelle Obama is going to hit the campaign trail and she's really going to take a full swing in the midterm season. Do you think that's going to make a big difference?

MATALIN: Yes, because they have a real problem with drop-off voters, and she has not alienated them the way he has by transforming Washington.

YELLIN: Define what do you mean by drop-off voters?

MATALIN: Young people, African-Americans, Independents. The Democrats made the margin of difference is victory difference. They are all falling off voters. Their enthusiasm and their numbers are infinitesimal compared to the enthusiasm of the opposition. None of these are her problems. She can go out there and pump them up. Be a cheerleader.

YELLIN: Oh, right, she can do it?

BORGER: And she's very popular.

JOHNS: Obama's not on the ballot. That's the bottom line. The Obama surge voters, where are they?

YELLIN: We've got to wrap it. Thanks to all of you. A total treat. Thank you. Good conversation. Joe, you're sticking around for TNT coming up. Ahead is Bristol Palin ripping off her mother? We'll explain what that means after the break.


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

JOHNS: Hey Jess. A CNN poll or polls has President Obama's approval rating at only 46 percent, with 49 percent disapproving. Senator Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign in Alaska got off to what you might call a rocky start when her first campaign ad misspelled her name. It has been fixed. CNN's own John King is moderating tonight's four-way governor debate in Massachusetts. Incumbent Democrat Governor Deval Patrick is being challenged by an Independent, a green rainbow party candidate and Republican healthcare CEO Charlie Baker who John asked about the Tea Party.


KING: The biggest force -- new force in our politics nationally is the Tea Party movement. Some say for the better, all this grassroots energy. But some, including a lot of establishment Republican politicians look at this movement a bit suspiciously. How about you? Does Charlie Baker consider himself to be a Tea Party candidate?

CHARLIE BAKER, (R), MASSACHUSETTS GOV. CANDIDATE: I think the Tea Party has been a welcome addition to our political discourse. I've always been a big believer in civic engagement. I spent most of my life following politician. My mom's a Democrat, my dad's a Republican. I grew up listening to them argue the issues of the day across the kitchen table. And I think at the end of the day, I think you grow up fundamentally, that's a good thing.


JOHNS: Finally, Mark Ballas led Bristol Palin in a cha-cha performed to "Mama Told Me Not To Come" on "Dancing With The Stars." Now, isn't that great?

YELLIN: I wish you could play that video again because do you catch what she's -- she's like wearing her mom's -- she rips it off. Can we do instant replay?

JOHNS: Yeah. I want to see that again.

YELLIN: I just love it. And you know what, she was good.

JOHNS: Yeah.

YELLIN: Which is you know, whatever, you think, it's a relief, you don't want Bristol Palin to go through more hard times. JOHNS: No you know, Dallas rhymes with Ballas which makes me think of Tom DeLay.

YELLIN: Was he on "Dancing with the Stars"?

JOHNS: Yeah.

YELLIN: But I did hear that Sarah Palin was watching, cheered her on and tweeted out "I'm very proud of my daughter." I love that, can't get enough of it. Thanks, Joe.

All right, do you think it is OK for your boss to call you hot? That happened to a U.S. senator today. Pete on the street gets the take on the street next.


YELLIN: Rick Sanchez is up next. And he's here ready to tell us what's ahead at the top of the hour. Hey, Rick, what you got?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Oh, my, god, you're not going to believe this story, Jessica. I'm already getting literally thousands and thousands of tweets on this. This is a pastor who's known all over the United States, has 25,000 people as part of his congregation, has met with many, many presidents, written many books, flies in private jets all over the world. And tonight, it is alleged that he was using the funds from his church to try and coerce young men into having sex with him. It's a helluvah story. It's one we're going to be on throughout the beginning of this newscast. Back to you.

YELLIN: So you could say in some sense Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is Kirsten Gillibrand's boss. She's a senator too. So imagine the response when Reid called Gillibrand's the Senate's hottest, the Senate's "hottest member." Let me make that clear. Harry Reid called another senator the hottest member. Pete Dominick joins us now from New York. So Pete, what's the word on the street on this?

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Jessica, when politicians put their foot in their mouth, it's my job to go out and blow it way out of proportion, check it out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's all in the approach. If you do it in a nice way, then I don't think ladies have a problem with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a guy says, if a guy's your boss --

DOMINICK: Forget you. Excuse me, miss, hi, if your boss told you he thought you were hot, how would you take that? Would you think it would be inappropriate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It's inappropriate.

DOMINICK: You think it would be inappropriate?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At my age, I'd be flattered. But if I was a young woman, I would.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Honestly, it wouldn't bother me. I'd probably just say OK, thank you.

DOMINICK: If your boss says you're hot, is that inappropriate, sir?


DOMINICK: What about you, miss?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it would be a nice thing.

DOMINICK: It would be a nice thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't be offended.

DOMINICK: If my boss told me said I was hot, I'd probably pay him.


DOMINICK: Flattering.




DOMINICK: You'd be flattered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I don't believe in nonsense of being harassed in the workplace. I'm all for it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can be offensive.

DOMINICK: It can be?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that my answer is politically incorrect.

DOMINICK: That's good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Personally? I'm flattered.

DOMINICK: Young lady at school says she thinks you're cute. Is that OK with you?



DOMINICK: Jessica Yellin, I think you're a really, really, great reporter.

YELLIN: Thank you, Pete. All right, and that's all for us tonight. "Rick's List: Primetime" starts right now.