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GOP Pledge; Death Penalty Politics

Aired September 23, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is 40 days until the midterms and finally, today, Republican leaders did what people have been demanding for months. Put out an agenda. So tonight they're catching flak for it from all sides, even from their own party. This "Pledge to America" is meant to echo 1994's contract with America. Back then, you'll remember Newt Gingrich and company unveiled their contract on Capitol Hill. They had a solemn signing ceremony right in the heart of Washington. Well this year's stagecraft it couldn't be more different. Outside Washington in a Virginia hardware store, no ties, no pledging, and according to the White House, no new ideas.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think John Boehner said and I think most of the American people will see that this is very much in line with what the Republican Party has proposed for the past many years.


YELLIN: So does Robert Gibbs have a point?


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Not going to be any different than what we've been. We are going to stand up for those things that we believe in.


YELLIN: Well you expect Democrats and Republicans not to get along. The real shocker tonight is how much criticism the pledge is getting from Republicans, especially Tea Party conservatives. So here to talk this over and more, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of and author of the brand new book "Red State Uprising", Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, special guest with us tonight, Democratic mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa -- Mr. Mayor, thanks for being with us -- and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

All right, I want to start with you, Erick, if you will allow us to skip you, Mr. Mayor, just for a moment because Erick Erickson has actually gone after this pledge calling it pablum. Other Republicans have called it milquetoast and a pledge to do nothing. What are you doing taking on your own folks -- ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think I said milquetoast and "pledge to nothing" as well. You know I just -- I kind of enjoyed being the party of no. It worked very well for Nancy Pelosi in 2006, it's been working well for us now. I'm disappointed in them. It doesn't have an earmark span which I really thought it needed to have after the big fight they had earlier this year, the big dog and pony show over earmarks. It didn't. It starts off at the very beginning talking about how the ruling class elite have imposed mandates on individuals and businesses. You flip to page 15 it imposes mandates on health care insurance companies. And it -- I'm just disappointed with it.

YELLIN: OK, let me read you what David Frum, former Bush speechwriter has said about the pledge and this is what he said about you. He wants to ask you -- you Erickson -- what did you expect? Here's the GOP cruising to a handsome election victory. Did you seriously imagine they would jeopardize the prospect of victory and chairmanships by issuing big, bold promises to do deadly unpopular things?

ERICKSON: Look you know what's very popular right now is defunding Obama care. All the things that David Frum would want in life are things that Republicans and most Americans are opposed to. I didn't expect them to go in that direction. And unfortunately I think they went more in that direction than what I think the Tea Party activists and what a lot of Americans would like. You know the original contract with America was 869 words. This is longer than the American Constitution. I don't think they needed that much length. It says it's a committee of compromises that put it together which by necessity means it's not very bold or exciting.

YELLIN: All right, Mr. Mayor, I'd like to ask you on the substance. Let's look at some of the things that are in the pledge. Among other things it says permanently extend all Bush era tax cuts. Cut federal spending to 2008 levels. Repeal and replace Obama health care. Require every bill to have a citation of constitutional authority. Permanently prohibit taxpayer funding for abortion. Some of the things that are not in it, a way to pay for tax cuts, a ban on earmarks, a way to lower health care costs. Can you give us an outside the Beltway take? How will this play in Los Angeles and California?

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: First of all, you said stagecraft. I think in Delaware they call it witchcraft. Secondly, you know, I think for most of us in cities across the country the polarization, the vitriol, the finger pointing is something that's just -- it's out of the mainstream. It doesn't -- it doesn't register with most of us. But I'll tell you. When you look at the cost of what they're proposing, what, a $4 trillion addition to the deficit, historic deficit and debt. I don't get it. We need to invest in infrastructure. We need to be creating jobs. I don't know how you create jobs with this plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well you don't create jobs with the status quo. We know that. We haven't created a single job other than census takers. If we can do the census every three or four months we could have 4.5 percent unemployment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that's not -- but that's not -- it hasn't worked. The status quo is not working.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: (INAUDIBLE) simply not true. I mean if you look at the 700,000 jobs we were losing a month when Barack Obama came into office, to where we are right now, where we're actually creating jobs --


BELCHER: -- that's just not true. But here -- I'm not going to let you talk about Obama because we're going to talk about what you guys put out this week. And what you guys put out this week really did double down on what the Bush era policies.


BELCHER: And I agree with Erick on this. This is stagnation --


BELCHER: This is stagnation and he shouldn't carry that water --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As one of America's great pollsters what you ought to do is pose this question. Are you in favor of the Republican plan or the status quo which is what the Democrats are for?


VILLARAIGOSA: The Republican plan created a situation where we lost eight or nine million jobs.


ERICKSON: No, no, the economy didn't go in the tank though until the Democrats got back Congress and created all this uncertainty that the Republicans are trying to --


YELLIN: Let me weigh in just for a minute and play something that Dana Bash --


YELLIN: I know. I know. Let the boys talk for a little while --


YELLIN: -- someone has got to rein you in. (CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: Dana Bash had an exclusive interview with John Boehner after this, the man who wants to be speaker, and she asked him about a voter she ran into this morning. Listen to this.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was a voter, he said he was Independent, he's actually registered in Florida. He says he wants to support the Republicans but he actually took the time and he read your pledge online and he said to me, where's the beef?

BOEHNER: I think if you look at our pledge, it's certainly a more substantive than what was in the contract with America 16 years ago. And if you go through the entire pledge, there are specifics that don't stop.


YELLIN: Specifics that don't stop. You were there when Newt Gingrich proposed a contract with America. Are there more specifics now?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's right about that. The contract with America was a promise to bring 10 bills to the floor of the House for a vote.

YELLIN: But very concrete promises.

RICH GALEN, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIR. FOR NEWT GINGRICH: There were 10 bills -- they were just 10 bills. I mean it wasn't a grand sweeping --

YELLIN: But they had to sign it and agree. This has no commitment attached to it.

GALEN: Of course it does. If you --

YELLIN: No one has to say the pledge, though. They didn't ask anyone to take the pledge.

GALEN: There's nothing to pledge to say, so there's no -- there's nothing to pledge to. It is a document that Republicans are going to run on and it's -- we talked about this a little bit earlier. Independents may not read it because it's too long, but they just want to know it's there. And as we saw earlier today in the Pew poll, Independents are breaking toward Republicans in even greater numbers. I think it's plus seven or eight now.

BELCHER: Well to go back to the (INAUDIBLE), one of the things is actually you've seen a lot of volatility in the polls, sort of a six-point swing in the Gallup poll toward Democrats. But that aside, Rich, you've got -- you've got to acknowledge that they were trying to be a little bit too cute with this because at the same time they didn't want to give us something to run on but at the same time they, in fact, did because not trying to score political points. Right now you know we're trying to make the case that it's a choice and not a referendum. This actually gives us fodder to say this is a choice. Look this is the choice you have and it gives us absolute fodder --


YELLIN: Let's listen really quickly, Rich, to what your boss said 16 years ago on the steps of the Capitol.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Recognize that if America fails our children will live on a dark and bloody planet. If the American people accept this contract, we'll have begun the journey to renew American civilization.


YELLIN: Now he was talking about the war in Bosnia and some of the bloodshed that was really happening, but a pretty dark era he described. Not all of the contract passed. Are we living in that dark era? Did it work?

GALEN: No -- they all got to the floor which was all that he was promising --


YELLIN: It wasn't a suggestion that --


GALEN: I think three or four of them were constitutional amendments. They were never going to pass.


YELLIN: What's the point?


YELLIN: Mayor, Mayor, go ahead --




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The point is it took control of the Congress for the first time in four years. That was the point.

(CROSSTALK) VILLARAIGOSA: The problem with this contract is it doesn't speak to job creation. It doesn't speak to infrastructure investment. It doesn't speak to the crisis of education in America. It doesn't speak to the energy crisis. It's just a bunch of words. And frankly --


ERICKSON: Put this in perspective, though. The contract with America was not why the Republicans took back Congress in '94. Having this document out today is not going to really help or hurt the Republicans, but it certainly gets people saying they're no longer the party of no, they've got something --



YELLIN: We've got to pay the bills for a minute. But we're all going to stay here and come back on the other side of this break. I promise.

And when we come back, we also have another story to touch on. Tonight's breaking news from Virginia -- that state is about to execute its first female prisoner in nearly a century. The death penalty is stirring up passions and political races across the country. And I'm going to ask all these folks about it coming up next.


YELLIN: There's breaking news tonight in Virginia. You're looking live at the Greensville Correction Facility in Jarrett, Virginia. About two hours from now at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Teresa Lewis is scheduled to die by lethal injection for the murders of her husband and stepson. She didn't pull the trigger. She plotted with the two men who did. They got life sentences.

She pleaded guilty and was condemned to die. Sooner or later every state faces these questions. Is the death penalty right? Is it fair? And to discuss these questions with us is our panel again, joining us to talk not only about the issue of the death penalty, but is it a political issue that can win for candidates this year? Rich, your take, this is a woman who is borderline mentally retarded. Some have said this is inhumane.

GALEN: Well the courts have. I mean they're the ones who get to arbitrate these things. I think the death penalty is very much like abortion and gun control. People have made up their minds. They know where they stand on this and the notion of this event, whether you think it's OK, not OK, horrible, whatever, is not going to move any votes because people have already made up their minds on what they think about the death penalty. Now Jerry Brown (ph), of course, you know stuck his -- you know his face into this something, but he was tired because he was just coming back from Neptune where --

(LAUGHTER) YELLIN: OK, well let's give that some context.

BELCHER: Well I don't want -- before we skip to that political point, you know I've been struggling with this story all day because I'm about to go rogue (ph) on you. I've been struggling with this story all day because I don't understand sort of how this rises to this level. We know the system railroads black and brown people at disproportionate rate and this story never comes out, but for this -- for some reason this story is a national story and I'm struggling to understand it. I feel sorry for her. I feel sorry for the family --

YELLIN: Well do you think --


BELCHER: But when you look at this -- how this disproportionately this is --

YELLIN: -- woman? Women are rarely executed --


BELCHER: Well yes, but the system railroads black and brown people at an astonishing rate. That's not at the top of the ticker story. This is. I have a problem with that.

YELLIN: I think we actually have -- do we have a graphic of -- we've researched this and clearly not only are African-Americans more likely to be executed, but I think in your state Hispanics are in California.

VILLARAIGOSA: That's right. There are more people on death row in California than any other state in the country. Let me just say something about Jerry Brown because you mentioned him and I just want to be absolutely clear. For more than 30 years, since 1977, Jerry Brown has said although at that time he didn't support the death penalty, he'd enforce the law and he has enforced the law. He's now calling for the resumption of executions in California. So obviously over that time he's changed his opinion, but what's important is that he's willing to and will enforce the law.

YELLIN: Well let me -- let me put this in context for our viewers. So Jerry Brown running for governor in California, has been governor in the past, was against the death penalty in the past, has now said as attorney general he's simply standing up for the law. It's his obligation as a chief law enforcement officer to enforce it and press the judicial system to allow executions to begin again there.

GALEN: Yes, but he could have said as governor I'm going to introduce a bill to change --

YELLIN: Here's what Meg Whitman, his opponent, Republican opponent, has said about him -- accusing him of flip-flop. Quote, "Even on matters of life and death Jerry Brown is willing to play politics. None of this squares with Jerry Brown's record and must have his supporters scratching their heads."


VILLARAIGOSA: (INAUDIBLE) with his record since 1977 he's enforced the law. And the fact is that even if he now is asking for a resumption of the death penalty, people over time change their opinions through their experiences. And so I don't think it's flip- flopping by any stretch of the imagination.

YELLIN: Erick, you know the death penalty costs five to six times more than actually keeping somebody in prison for life. Is this actually a wise expenditure of taxpayer dollars?

ERICKSON: Oh, absolutely. I think we need to speed up the process. That's why it costs so much --

YELLIN: But you stand --

ERICKSON: -- expand the death penalty as well.

YELLIN: You stand for cutting government spending so if it costs more --

ERICKSON: Yes, absolutely -- oh yes, it costs more because we let these people drag it out and contest their civil rights and issue one point under the I.Q. limit or one point above the I.Q. limit. We should have more death penalties in this country, expanding it to people who do violent rape. I mean I realize this is shocking to a lot of people, but I live in the south.

I live in Georgia and I go to church with people who are thinking when someone violently savagely rapes someone to the point of death, particularly a child, why do these people -- why did the two guys who pulled the triggers not get an execution? You know some people do violent, heinous crimes. They're not going to reform. And I don't have a problem with the death penalty.

YELLIN: Cornell, you're shaking your head.

BELCHER: No, actually I'm not shaking -- I'm shaking my head (INAUDIBLE) that you know if you look at the sort of people -- if we execute one person who's not guilty, you know, we have to live with that as a moral society. And quite frankly, that's a price I don't want to pay. Now I get the sort of death penalty.

If you want to argue that the death penalty is about revenge I'm all in on that, but we can't argue that it is about -- that it's (INAUDIBLE) crime because it's not. But at the same time people should have a right to appeal and have this thing fought out because we do not want to execute one innocent person.

YELLIN: Mayor --

BELCHER: And I bet you we have --

YELLIN: -- let me ask you about this. (CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: This is the cost -- comparing the cost of execution, expenditures versus education expenditures in California. Your state spends about $52,000 per inmate and $1,800 per student.

VILLARAIGOSA: Absolutely --


VILLARAIGOSA: Many of us have talked about in 1994 when I got elected there were about 69,000 people in California prisons. Today there's more than 170,000 people in our prisons. We're not investing in our kids. I want you to watch "Waiting for Super Man" (ph). You'll see --

YELLIN: This new movie coming out.

VILLARAIGOSA: -- the crisis of education in America, the failure of us to address this crisis, to set high standards for our young people is -- and invest in the transformation of our schools is a big reason why we have so many people in prison.

YELLIN: I've got to ask you one question. Jerry Brown is tied in his race with Meg Whitman, more or less. You had toyed with the idea of running for governor. Do you think you would have been a stronger candidate against her?

VILLARAIGOSA: I think that Jerry Brown is going to carry the mantle of Democratic values --

YELLIN: Oh you're such a diplomatic politician --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- he's going to be the governor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mayor -- the mayor would have been the governor. Now it's going to be Meg Whitman. He would have won that race.

YELLIN: Do you really believe that?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that, too.

YELLIN: Cornell?

BELCHER: Jerry Brown is a fine candidate.



YELLIN: All right -- all right. Thanks, folks. Thanks for all of you for being here.

And next up, we will change gears and take a look at tomorrow's news tonight including what Defense Secretary Robert Gates thinks of Bob Woodward's new book about the Obama administration.

And we're going to see what's cooking with John King. He's in Massachusetts. We'll have that up next.


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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey Jess. President Obama won another victory on Capitol Hill today. The House finished work on its $42 billion package of tax cuts and loan guarantees for small businesses. The president will sign it on Monday.

A spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid confirms the Senate will not vote on extending the Bush era tax cuts, even for the middle class, until after the midterm elections.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealed today he may have been the last person Bob Woodward interviewed for his new book about the Obama administration's secret debates over the Afghanistan war. Gates played down stories of in-fighting between the Pentagon and White House telling reporters, conflict sells.


ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Relationship among senior officials in this administration is as harmonious as any I've experienced in my time in government.


JOHNS: So now we know, Jess, just peace and harmony in the Pentagon of the United States -- everything's just fine.

YELLIN: Those Woodward books are always the buzz of Washington. They always get everyone going.

JOHNS: Indeed they are.

YELLIN: OK, but my favorite headline tonight, this one -- in Dorchester -- "The Dorchester Reporter" (ph) in Massachusetts had this up. Yes, who's that?

JOHNS: Look at that --

YELLIN: Yes, he looks good in an apron -- John King trading his anchor duties for a chef's apron for tonight's "Men of Boston Cook for Women's Health" fund-raiser for the Codman Square Health Center.


JOHNS: So I would have figured we would have had a cooking show out here by now, John.

YELLIN: Right.

JOHNS: I mean with all the barbecue and stuff, right?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You know, when you work in television, guys, you get one of these. When you work in the kitchen you get one of these. It's a great event. This is the Codman Square Health Center's annual fund-raiser, and it's an amazing event. This clinic right here behind us, you can't see it for the tent, provides care to low-income women, low-income residents but this fund-raiser is for low-income women to help them deal with breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy complications.

It's a remarkable community center. I grew up less than a mile from here. And the organizers when they invited me didn't even know this. When I was a kid we use to come here -- the youth clinic used to be in the library over there, to the dental clinic. And you see all these restaurants from all over Boston. They all donate the food and people come and they pay to come to the fund-raiser.

This is Joelle (ph) and Emma (ph) from the Ashmont Grill (ph). They're teaching me lessons today. And another great treat if you look down this way about three stations down is a restaurant I actually worked in when I was in high school. Gerard's (ph) in Dorchester and my old boss is here. And lucky for me he doesn't remember we didn't always have such a good relationship.

YELLIN: Is this the one you quit?

KING: That is the one I quit. Jess, good memory, good memory --


KING: We had some issues.

YELLIN: Yes, yes, I can imagine. You know we're going to come back to you, John. And when we come back, I want you to tell us what you're cooking, so save that for later.

KING: Absolutely.

YELLIN: OK -- all right --

KING: You got it. I'll see you in a little bit.

YELLIN: And next we're going off to the races with Carl Paladino, the Republican who is upsetting all the expectations in the governor's race. Could he actually win -- see without John here, can I get it to work -- yes? Later I go "One-on-One" with the billionaire they call "Dr. Yes". Richard Brampton (ph) says American politicians ought to rethink the process and try something the Brits are doing right now.

And later the question Minority Leader John Boehner just wouldn't answer today. Stay with us.


YELLIN: My next guest is turning this year's conventional wisdom on its head. Not only did businessman and developer Carl Paladino beat former Congressman Rick Lazio (ph) in New York's Republican primary for governor, but today the front page of "The New York Times" cites recent polling to say he's dealing a blow to Andrew Cuomo's unbeatable image.

He joins us now from Buffalo and Mr. Paladino, thank you for being with us. You have unquestionably tapped -- tapped into voter anger that's really out there this year. You said that you are mad as hell. You would take a baseball bat to Albany. It's one of your key mottos this year. The question is, how do you plan on convincing voters you'll be able to get anything done with a state assembly that's more than 70 percent Democratic?

CARL PALADINO (R), NEW YORK GOV. CANDIDATE: We've been convincing them right along, and we're going to continue. We're staying on message, same message. This isn't a race between Republicans and Democrats or conservatives or working family party members. This is a race between the people and the establishment. And the establishment sees us coming now. Clearly, the people are speaking. They're listening to our message. They're engaging.

YELLIN: OK, well let me play you the Cuomo campaign's latest ad because it goes after you pretty aggressively and then we'll discuss it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE POLITICAL AD: Carl Paladino got a $1.4 million empire zone tax break to create jobs, but his official filing show only one job was created, a $1.4 million tax break for one job?


YELLIN: All right, that's also the cover of "The New York Daily News" today. You used to be a businessman. You are a businessman and Governor, you pledged that you would drastically slash government spending. So would you return that $1.4 million by your own estimation created one job?

PALADINO: That's not the truth because the truth is that the forms that are sent out by the state requesting information on the success of the empire zone treatment only asked how many jobs you as a developer created.

In actuality we created jobs through tenants. We improved state. We leased to tenants and the tenants made the jobs. There were many, many jobs created by these benefits the state gave us.

We complied with every element of the state requirements and complied to a greater extent than the minimum requirements, to a much greater extent. We were only required to show one --

YELLIN: All right, well, this is a similar argument to what the White House makes about stimulus spending. So why don't we move on to ask you about the landlord issue.

You're the landlord of many buildings that currently house New York government agencies. New York "Daily News" columnist Michael Daly had a suggestion for you. He says, if you want to cut government spending, why don't you just cut the $5 million a year they pay you in rent?

PALADINO: Well, they pay us $5 million a year in rent for roughly 37 leases that we have successfully bid over the years. That means we were the low bidder by far. Our margins are very, very thin.

And the majority of that money goes to pay for the cleaning, the maintenance, the utilities and the property. It's not -- it's not a matter of us putting $5 million in our pocket.

Our margins are very, very thin probably only 1 percent or 2 percent profit on the state leases. By the way, Mr. Cuomo's office has approved every one of those leases. So has the state controller's office.

YELLIN: You're not going to cut the rent? You're not going to return the $1.4 million?

PALADINO: No, I don't think -- no.

YELLIN: Now you have accused Andrew Cuomo of being part of the corruption in Albany, repeatedly you said that. But the Coumo campaigns reply is that they're the ones the exposed much of the corruption including some of the politicians you've highlighted in your campaign materials. So, is it legitimate to say some of these attacks are more rhetoric than reality?

PALADINO: Mr. Cuomo has been very selective in his prosecution, hasn't he? Probably the number one -- the number one conflict at a minimum if not criminal activity is Sheldon Silver, but has he prosecuted Sheldon?

Sheldon blatantly is the one-man dictator in the state of New York. He controls our government with an absolute dictatorial hand. The man takes outside income from Whites and Luxemburg, a law firm in which he is a general partner.

And he draws that income, but he doesn't have to under ethics laws explain how he earns that income and how much, and who he's representing in earning that income.

He uses his public office for private purposes, for private gain. Where is Andrew Cuomo? Why haven't you prosecuted him, Andrew? YELLIN: Let's get to one of the controversies surrounding you in this campaign, ongoing question about racially insensitive comments in e-mails.

Today, you're hometown newspaper, "The Buffalo News." We have a piece of it that says when Betty Jean Grant was a council member you said she and other African-Americans weren't fit for being on the council and has said something worst.

Now you've denied saying this so why do you think these kinds of accusations keep following you?

PALADINO: Because they're surrogates of Andrew Cuomo. What do you expect them to say? They're surrogates of him. He sent out in the past week and a half every surrogate he could from the pool of Albany and city government in Buffalo.

He sent them out. We bloodied them up and sent them back to him in a package. Betty Jean Grant is from the same place, OK? These are Andrew Cuomo's surrogates. He doesn't want to face me himself, but he sends out surrogates to do his dirty work.

YELLIN: You never said it?

PALADINO: Andrew, we're not affected.

YELLIN: And you've never said that?

PALADINO: No, I've never said it.

YELLIN: OK, well, we look forward to continuing our discussions with you in the future and we thank you for being with us tonight. And we should also say that we welcome Andrew Cuomo to be on our show any time.

All right and next, we go one-on-one with a British knight. He says that yanks ought to try something the British way. Stand by for Sir Richard Branson alias, Dr. Yes.


YELLIN: It's been 234 years since we Americans let the British tell us how to run our politics, but that isn't stopping Sir Richard Branson.

I caught up with him in New York while he was rubbing elbows with world leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative.


YELLIN: First of all, thanks for doing this.


YELLIN: Grateful. One of the tensions currently in American politics is what's the role of government and what's the role of the private sector.

There is growing lack of faith in government right now in the U.S. and actual anger in general at government's growth. Do you think it's appropriate for American CEOs to step in and take over some of the social services that government has been providing?

BRANSON: Well, I think when governments do not tackle some of the world's problems then it is certainly up to business leaders to play that part in filling the gap.

Let's say, take, you know, global warming. Government are not talking about global warming anymore, because in America it's something that Americans don't seem to be willing to listen to.

They're not talking about the fact that the world is running out of energies and resources are running low. Therefore, it's up to the business community to step in and make sure that we come up with alternative fuels that are clean fuels, part of the economy.

That we come up with wind power and the solar power and make sure that, you know, the country is not, you know, dependent on the Middle East for our energy supplies. It's up to us to fill the gap and hopefully we can bring the government along with us.

YELLIN: One of the things that seem to distinguish remarkable people like yourself and some of those folks from everyone else is when you hear no you push past it.

What do you hear inside of yourself or what is common among people who don't let the bureaucracy get in the way, don't let it can't be done, it has been done, forget it, get in their way?

BRANSON: (INAUDIBLE) called me Dr. Yes. My favorite phrase is screw it, let's do it. I just think life is a lot more fun if you say yes than if you say no.

And just, you know, I think if people just give it a try, occasionally you'll fall flat on your face, but you know, but life is so much more rewarding if you can try things and even if you full flat on your face you're going to learn from it.

YELLIN: Was there ever a moment when you heard no in something and said you know what, screw it, I don't care, I'm going to try it? Like a particular --

BRANSON: I think when we were discussing whether to start Virgin Galactic, a commercial space ship company, I think everybody said no, and I just thought, look, you know, you only live once. You know, wouldn't it be wonderful to go into space and take other people into space?

And to give NASA a run for their money so it's been tremendous fun and now we have the space ship finished. We have the mother ship finished. The space port is nearly finished in New Mexico. We're at the birth of a new space era. It's a lot more fun to say yes than no. YELLIN: One of the things you have been critical of in the U.S. was President Obama's handling of the BP situation. How do you think it is now that it's been resolved, and what's the view of him overseas right now?

BRANSON: Everybody wants President Obama to succeed, and everybody wants America to succeed. And the sort of divisive politics in America I think a side for us foreigners to see.

There are so many important things that America need to do. They need to take a lead on global warming because of the politics of America, that's not happening.

All I can say is, you know, I hope that the divisive American politics can be put on one side and politicians can be big enough to allow the president to get some positive things done in this world.

YELLIN: A view from a distance, does it seem that much more divisive here, the politics than it is overseas in some ways? We see there are massive protests all the time in France. There are movements in various European countries are used to mass protest movements.

BRANSON: Well, I mean, in England, we're fortunate we actually have a coalition government.

YELLIN: Right.

BRANSON: And it's actually been wonderful and wouldn't it be nice if America could have a coalition government where people were working to actually achieve things for their people?

YELLIN: So our process, from afar, our process seems messed up?

BRANSON: Yes. I mean, I would say that it would be great if some wise men and women could sit back and try to rethink the process of America because it doesn't seem to be working very satisfactory at the moment.

YELLIN: And finally, curious with your generosity, first of all, do you plan to leave a certain amount of your money when you die? Bill Gates has made this commitment. Is that something you've signed up to do?

BRANSON: I haven't signed up to specific commitments, but as I said, I'm a great believer the vast amount of money that I have is on loan to do good things with and I will make sure that we do very good things with it.

Whether I give all my wealth away, whether I leave -- it will largely depend actually on whether I feel like my children are capable of building Virgin up even bigger and making the amount of money it earned even more so we can achieve even more.

YELLIN: Has President Obama been bad for business? BRANSON: I don't think President Obama's been bad for business. I think -- I think that the decisions made by the previous government were certainly bad for business because they left the world in a mess.

And not just the American government, but other governments around the world made some dreadful decisions which left the world in a mess.

But now President Obama and people around the world have got to dig ourselves out of that mess. We have got to invest. We've got get on top as many of the world problems as we possibly can and I think we can do so.

YELLIN: Thank you.

BRANSON: Thanks very much.


YELLIN: Richard Branson is a member of the Blue Panel Ribbon that chose this year's 10 finalists for CNN's Heroes initiative.

And now, it's up to you to go to any time between now and November 17th. Read each person's inspiring story and vote for the CNN Hero of the Year.

The winner will be revealed when Anderson Cooper hosts the CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute on Thanksgiving night, November 25th.

And we need to take a break right now, but when we come back we'll check in with CNN's own top chef, John King.


YELLIN: Welcome back. Joining me now at the table are senior correspondent Joe Johns and senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash to talk more about today's news and the Republicans' new agenda.

Dana, I want to first go to you and play for you the sound you got. You had an exclusive interview with John Boehner and let's discuss it. Listen to this.


BASH: One of the things you said you want to is allow any member, Democrat or Republican, to call for a vote on cutting spending. You won't stop any of those requests.

So let's say somebody comes up and says, I want to have a vote to eliminate the Department of Education, you're willing to do that?

BOEHNER: Listen, I just think it's time for us to fix the institution of the Congress. It's broken. The American people know it's broken. The members know it's broken.

BASH: So is that a yes? If somebody says - BOEHNER: If members want to offer amendments, why shouldn't they be able to? Let's let the House work its will.

BASH: No matter what kind of position it puts some of your other members in?

BOEHNER: All of us can defend our votes.


YELLIN: So, Dana, was that an answer?

BASH: That actually was an answer and I just -- one of the things that fascinated me about this 45-page document they put out is that there were a couple of things that especially all three of us who have covered the Hill for a long time.

This could be interesting if it actually played out in real terms and that particular measure or bullet point said we are going to allow any member of Congress to offer any amendment if it has a reduction in spending.

So, like, OK. Well, you really want to have your members vote on some of the things that they are campaigning on. I mean, you know, you have been out with some of the Tea Party candidates.

They want to abolish not just the Department of Education, the National Endowment of the Arts along with historical lists from some Republicans, but when the rubber hits the road, this is a tough vote.

JOHNS: Sure, this is really tricky business. If you look at the document, they talk about their U-Cut program and they're go on say they will have a vote a week or whatever, or allow a vote every week on budget reductions.

But that is license for mischief in the real world of legislation, because people -- things people love can just go right down the toilet in no fell swoop and the Democrats, no doubt, would be helping if they are in the minority.

YELLIN: Let's get to another piece of your interview really quickly, if we can and we will talk about it.


BASH: Some of your colleagues said, you know what, if it comes to it, we will shut down the government if that's what we have to do to hold the line on spending. Would you go that far?

BOEHNER: Our goal is to fight for a smaller, less costly, more accountable government here in Washington, D.C. It is not to shut down the government.

BASH: But let's just play this out. You're successful -- this is serious. Because what people out there are saying is we want you to prove that you really mean it this time. So if you're successful in cutting spending and the president not happy with what you passed, he vetoes it, does that mean if you are not willing to shut the government, are you going to cave?

BOEHNER: We want a smaller, less costly and more accountable government in Washington and we are pledging to the American people that we will fight for that goal.


YELLIN: OK, so Dana, look, didn't work so well for them before when they shut down government. Is this a political document really?

BASH: It is a political document.

YELLIN: Purely?

BASH: Of course, it is a purely political document and they will admit it is a political document because it is the politics of trying to convince voters that they are for something, not just against something.

But, Jessica, there are a lot of Republicans who -- and you heard Erick Erickson, actually elected Republicans have said, why did we do this?

We are just giving something to the Democrats to put up on the dart board and attack us with, when we were doing pretty well attacking them.

YELLIN: OK, I wanted to pause there we got to go to the big guy who's in Dorchester, Massachusetts, cooking up a storm.

John, we've all had your cooking and you are actually an excellent chef, we have to say. We wanted to tease you, but you're good. So tell us what you are cooking tonight? What are you doing?

KING: Well, one quick point I want to make about that interview, I stopped by to see the Republican challenger running against Barney Frank today a long shot Republican. His name is Sean Belat.

And he said that, you know, he thinks he supports this document, but they didn't share it with the candidates, they didn't reach out to the challengers. That is very different from 1994. The Republicans involved a lot of their challenger in 1994, just a quick observation there.

What am I cooking? I'm working with the folks at the (INAUDIBLE) grill here. They have amazing food, some pork, some Mac and Cheese. Senator Scott Brown just took the last oyster, Jess, I'm sorry to report that to you. He is here tonight.

And right behind me here, I'm going to turn them around real quick, my first campaign for president was covering this guy right here, the former governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, he can't hear you, but say hello to everybody in Washington. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, everybody in Washington.

YELLIN: Is he eating your cooking?

KING: He is eating right now, he is, in fact, eating. They teach you in television not to eat on television. But it is actually -- it is a great charity event to raise money, as I said earlier, for low-income health center here, specifically for women who have to come to it.

In a year where there is no bipartisanship, under this tent tonight there are Democrats and Republicans, Governor Dukakis, his wife, Kitty is here, Senator Scott Brown and his wife is here, the mayor of Boston, I talked to him earlier.

So we're having a lot of fun up here tonight for a good cause.

YELLIN: Dana, what is his best dish? You have had his cooking.

BASH: Salmon. Salmon.

YELLIN: Salmon? What are you cooking tonight?

KING: You're debating my best dish back there what is your best dish?


KING: When you cook, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My best dish? I got a lot of great dishes, many of them Greek.

KING: I will let you guys have your fun and we will get back to you. They're actually working me here believe it or not.

YELLIN: Yes, but you're not telling us what you're cooking. OK, we're going to come back to more of this. We got to take a quick break and pay the bills, but we're going to have more on the other side of the break. Stay with us.


YELLIN: Welcome back. Coming up at the top of the hour is Rick Sanchez in Atlanta. Rick, we want to hear what you have on your show, but I also hear you were making fun of John in his apron earlier today. Is that true?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I just don't think aprons are masculine.

YELLIN: He is a good chef.

SANCHEZ: He may be a great chef.

YELLIN: He needs it to keep the clothes clean. SANCHEZ: It's just the way I was raised. I can't help it, you know? Hey, speaking of the way some people were raised, there is an unbelievable development tonight in that story of that embattled pastor here in Atlanta.

Apparently, he sent some pictures out using his cell phone that show him in ways that we don't usually think about pastors. We have got the pictures and going to be sharing them with you. That is on "Rick's List." Back to you, Jes.

YELLIN: All right, thanks, Rick, that is at the top of the hour. Now, I want to go straight back to John in Dorchester because you got a special guest with you, John?

KING: I have the Democratic governor of Massachusetts. I moderated a debate here the other night. He is one of four candidates on stage. We don't take sides on elections, but we do applaud anybody who does good charity work. Governor Patrick, welcome to this event tonight.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Just some wonderful, wonderful work and the success of community health centers is critical to the success of health care reform here in Massachusetts and the work they do, particularly around women's health, domestic violence, issues around family planning, incredibly important.

KING: And you got you and Scott Brown under the same tent, Governor Dukakis. You haven't had much bipartisanship this year? What you got about an hour here?

PATRICK: We are a very big tent when it comes to issues like this in (INAUDIBLE) health center.

KING: Governor Patrick, we appreciate your time tonight. Jessica, I want to come back to you this is coming back, this might have to go on the set when I get back. I don't think my wife will let me bring it to the house.

YELLIN: You have one of those at home. She thinks you have one. All right, thanks so much, John. You go ahead.

KING: You guys have a great night.

YELLIN: Thanks, John. I think that maybe viewers start writing in. Maybe John and will come and cook for them too? What do you think?

BASH: Possible.

JOHNS: Now we got controversy over the apron -- that along.

BASH: Aprongate.

YELLIN: All right, thank you guys, great show and coming up on the other side, "RICK'S LIST" begins right now.