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JOHN KING, USA
Biden to Dems: Stop Whining; President Obama's Credibility
Aired September 27, 2010 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Thirty- six days until the midterm elections and Vice President Biden tonight has a blunt message to the Democratic Party's liberal base, stop whining. Yes, he said stop whining. But if you don't think whining is why the Democrats are in trouble this midterm election year, then maybe you agree with the party's 2004 presidential nominee, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the problem in Senator Kerry's view is that the voters are not really paying that much attention, and as a result are too easily swayed -- these are his words -- by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth.
Whatever the cause of the Democratic doldrums, it's sure to be a fascinating week; the president and much of his cabinet are fanning out across the country to college campuses hoping to recreate a little of his 2008 get-out-the-vote magic. Some new CNN polling tonight raises the question of whether it might be too late.
Seven in 10 Americans tell us things are going badly in America today, and when 70 percent think the country is on the wrong track in a midterm election year history suggests the president's party is in for a big hit. No whining allowed here, but a great group to get us started. CNN contributor Erick Erickson, author of the new book "Red State Uprising" and John Avlon, a CNN contributor and "Daily Beast" columnist and with me here, former George W. Bush strategist and now "National Journal" columnist, Matthew Dowd, our senior political analyst Gloria Borger and Neera Tanden of the liberal leaning Center for American Progress and Neera, I'll start with you, because now I have this year figured out. Either the voters aren't that smart because they're not paying enough attention or you Democrats just need to stop whining, is that the solution?
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: Well I do think that the vice president was talking about a particular phenomenon on my side of the aisle on the center left which is that you have a number of prognosticators who are complaining that the president hasn't been progressive enough and at a time when we have had bold and fundamental change like health care reform, financial regulatory reform, other issues that have been really hard in this election cycle and so I think the vice president had a real message which is you know what happens when Democrats don't vote, Republicans win, so the most important thing to do is actually get out there and vote.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But it would have been good if he had said that actually --
BORGER: -- but he did not say that.
TANDEN: He didn't call me right before --
BORGER: It's not really a good idea to blame voters right before an election because they actually might sit at home instead of going out --
KING: You've (INAUDIBLE) a lot of polling and a lot of focus groups in your life, Matthew, when you say things like that, do voters stop whining? Or you know you're just not paying attention? You know you're not just listening to me?
MATTHEW DOWD, FMR. SCHWARZENEGGER CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well it goes to voters are now going to take that and pile it on everything else, which they think Washington is disconnected from their lives. So not only are the policies things that they don't think have improved they lives and they don't think people are listening to them and they don't trust government, now they hear people in Washington think they know better than them about what should happened.
John Kerry's thing is a perfect example of the fact that voters just do not believe Washington listens to them. And when they believe that, they get to decide these elections, not John Kerry, and when they hear that they're going to decide against John Kerry's candidate (ph).
KING: I want to bring John and Erick into the conversation, but first I want both of you gentlemen to listen to the president today because he did an interview this morning with NBC News, and he had a slightly different message and if you listen to the president here drawing specific issue with what the new House Republican plan, the "Pledge to America", let's listen to the president and we'll talk about just why he's saying this on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They say they want to balance the budget. They $4 trillion worth of tax cuts and 16 billion in spending cuts and then they say we're going to somehow magically balance the budget. That's not a serious approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: John Avlon, you have the vice president yelling at the liberal base, stop whining. My take on what the president was doing right there is saying uh-oh, all the Independent voters in this campaign seem to be running to the other guys. But Independents care about deficits and red ink. That's the president's way of reaching out and trying to pull them back.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's exactly right. He realized he's got a credibility gap when it comes to spending so he's trying to make the issue, actually the process of governing, don't just be angry, take a look at what they're proposing, and if you care about balanced budgets, if you care about fiscal responsibility as opposed to just fiscal conservatism you know pro-growth philosophy, then these numbers don't add up, trust me, with governing, don't just trust the slogans on the other side. It's a very different appeal than Vice President Biden trying to play to the base by chastising the base.
KING: And so Erick Erickson, the vice president of the United States, he didn't just tell the left to stop whining, he was trying to give his dissertation on Republican and conservative economic philosophy and you know back in the Reagan days, they call it trickle down economics, cut taxes up here and the wealth and good jobs will trickle down to everybody, listen to how the vice president put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They really do -- it's a trade (ph) expression -- they really do think it trickles down, it's like snowflakes, they think somehow -- you know, no, I'm serious, they believe it, otherwise they wouldn't say the things they're saying, by the way, they wouldn't say the things -- they really believe it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Erick, are you going to stop whining and watch the snowflakes?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well you know the last time they seriously attacked Republicans on trickle down economics I believe Ronald Reagan won all but Minnesota and Washington, D.C. in 1984. I don't think it'll have any merit in the election. And listen to what Barack Obama said at the end. It's not a serious approach.
The problem for the Democrats is that most voters have now decided the Democrats really don't have a serious approach. It didn't help them to have (INAUDIBLE) invite Stephen Colbert to Congress last week to jokingly make jokes about gay Iowa farmers in a discussion of immigration on the taxpayer dollar. None of these people in Washington are serious it seems like to most voters, Democrats or Republicans to Independents and yet, Independents say Republicans are largely to blame for the problems in Washington and they still want the Republican Party to come back and fix it.
DOWD: I think that's partly (ph) because Barack Obama has this saying that he always says throughout this election is why would you trust the people that drove it into the ditch. The problem is, is the American public has waited 20 months for the tow truck to show up and they're tired of waiting for the tow truck to show up.
And when Barack Obama makes an intellectual argument in an election that is an emotional, passionate election which we have seen race after race. He has to connect or talk somehow to their heart or gut and those kinds of intellectual arguments are just not going to work --
BORGER: It all plays into the elite problem the Democrats have right now. By the way, you would really have liked health care if you only understood it, OK? And you're not -- Republicans aren't serious, right? And I think that's a problem for them --
TANDEN: Look, the president and the Democratic Party does need to communicate, not only how the economy is right now, but how they actually are going to make it better and they actually have to communicate a series of ideas of how -- of what their leadership really means and what their Republican leadership really means, how they have a vision for the future and what the Republican vision is. It's not just talking about what he's done, he's got to talk about what he will do and continue to do --
KING: But the fact is --
TANDEN: And that's why the small business bill today was so important.
KING: The small business bill is important and we will get -- we'll spend some time (INAUDIBLE). But the fact that you're making that case now and you have made it before suggests that the party isn't getting the communication part just right and here's what happens if that's the case here. This is what the American people think to Erick's point earlier.
We asked people in our new polling who's more responsible for the economic problems in the country today? Forty-one percent say Republicans in Congress; 35 percent say Democrats in Congress. So the public accepts essentially the president's argument the Republicans are more responsible for getting us into this mess.
Now who do you trust to get us out? Who is more likely to improve economic conditions? Republicans in Congress, 47 percent; Democrats in Congress 41 percent, so to Matthew's point that the tow truck hasn't shown up in 20 months and they're willing to call the guy who put them into the ditch to pull them out now.
ERICKSON: Well John you know if -- let's just hypothetically take John Kerry at his word that voters buy into slogans -- that they bought into yes we can in 2008 and they have clearly already bought into no you can't in 2010 and I think that's ringing message for Independents is they're really tired of business as usual in D.C. and they're happy to send the bums in they threw out four years ago to fix it what the present bums haven't done. The Independents hate everybody it looks like in the polling, but they're perfectly happy to throw out the incumbents.
DOWD: I think he's making -- I think they're making a big mistake. In an election that the Republicans want nationalized, they're helping them nationalize it by making all these big arguments. What I think they should do if they really want to be successful is go state after state after state after state and make a particular argument in a particular place about why somebody might be unqualified. There are enough people that are potentially unqualified on the Republican side --
DOWD: -- they're nationalizing at a time the Republicans want a national election.
BORGER: But now you know why they're trying to nationalize it by talking about George W. Bush, because people believe, as you put it, that he drove us into the ditch --
DOWD: But it doesn't matter.
BORGER: So what -- they'll blame the Republicans, but they don't associate these Republicans in Congress who are running for reelection necessarily with George W. Bush which is what the Democrats would like --
KING: So Neera, what do you do --
TANDEN: I do think that you have seen stories of how you're actually --
TANDEN: They're actually trying to localize the races, candidates themselves are talking about their opponents and their opponent's past and people and Independents when they see some of these actual backgrounds of some of these candidates Republicans have put up in their fury, do get recoiled from that, so I do think that the right has taken over the Republican Party, gives us opportunities district by district to make that case. Obviously you know we have to continue promoting good ideas, but we do have (INAUDIBLE) outside the mainstream and that provides opportunity --
KING: Go ahead, John.
AVLON: That will hurt them -- that will definitely hurt Republicans in some individual races, Independents who might otherwise be voting for Republicans on fiscal responsibility grounds are turned off by the apparent extremism of some candidates. But I think the contradiction between these numbers was really well captured by Bill Clinton who said the other day that look if it's a referendum we lose, meaning if it's just anger at the status quo Independents are going to be angry at the folks in power.
If it's a choice, he said, between a Democratic record of governing and Republican policy proposals, then they've got a better shot. And that's what I think the president's trying to do, but there's still this I feel your pain gap he's facing, and he's got to understand that Independents have been angry since day one because of the economy. They're angry at both big government and big business and I think --
AVLON: -- the parties in Washington have a hard time understanding that.
BORGER: It's not just Independents though who are angry, it's the electorate, it's Democrats who are angry and it's Republicans --
KING: Different people angry for different --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our side is a little more depressed.
KING: Quick time out here, we're going to keep everybody together, keep your energy. When we come back, do you think the country is on the right track or the wrong track? Consider your opinion. We'll show you how it matches up with our new national poll. Don't go anywhere.
KING: Thirty-six days from now, you decide who controls Congress and whether the president will have an easier time or a much, much harder time getting his agenda through that Congress. Let's continue our conversation with our great political group. Matthew before we went to the break, you recommended Democrats go state by state, race by race, candidate by candidate and make their case. I think that's what David Axelrod, the president's top political adviser, meant when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think that this is going to be an idiosyncratic election. You're going to see Democrats winning in places that you didn't expect them to win. And so I'm eager for November 2nd, I think it's going to be an interesting night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I think we call that putting on a good public face, I'm not sure he's so eager, but --
DOWD: I have known David for a long time. We have actually done races together back years ago. When he says idiosyncratic that's code for we're going to lose and I'm just --
DOWD: If you gave --
DOWD: Neera, if you gave (INAUDIBLE) serum and David Axelrod true serum you would both say let's get past this election as quick as we can.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there's a big wave coming at the Democratic Party and there's nothing we can do about it.
TANDEN: We all heard of the wave and Mark Critz won in Pennsylvania. We all hear about the wave and then we have a candidate outside the main stream in Delaware. So you know each race, I have been on campaigns; people thought we were going to win completely. I know what that feels like. You have to -- we have to work every day to win.
KING: And so when you talk to people who are involved in these races, some will tell you they are up to 55 or 60 when they're looking at a map of the House districts. Others say they still have about 30, 35 they think are certain Republican gains and then it gets kind of iffy as you go.
My question to John and Erick, first of all, bring you back into the room, is how much do you do the race by race look in figuring this out or how much do these numbers -- how well are things going in the country today? Seventy percent of Americans say badly. Seven in 10 Americans think the country is heading in a bad direction right now.
And normally, especially in a midterm election year, the two biggest factors on Election Day are right track, wrong track. How do people feel the country is going and the president's approval rating, somewhere around early to mid October? If those numbers hold, Erick Erickson, will Republicans have any excuse if they don't get at least one chamber of Congress?
ERICKSON: Yes and no. Every race is really decided at the end of the day ultimately on the caliber of the candidate and we see this year Democrats going in and in some places really viciously attacking, like Alan Grayson down in Florida, his Republican opponent sometimes with distorted attacks, sometimes with divorce records and other things. It's kind of icky out there in some of these races.
I do think Republicans though are setting themselves up for a failure if they don't take one house of Congress. John Boehner in particular is going to be out of a job probably if they don't, given the expectations that they're going to. But you know around the country though it really has become a nationalized election and it doesn't help when you have the Economic Research Board coming out last week and say guess what you rubes, the recession was over last year, Jay Leno's great line the other day that it's as imaginary as your job.
KING: John Avlon, I want you to listen to this ad because as Matthew was just saying, if you go state by state, race by race, you will see some interesting things. You see a lot of Democrats running against Nancy Pelosi, some Democrats running away from Barack Obama. We're going to take you to North Dakota; this is a Democratic incumbent House member and listen to who he praises here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, POLITICAL AD: When George Bush proposed a Medicare prescription drug plan Earl Pomeroy voted yes, putting seniors before party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: George W. Bush, John Avlon, he's the Democrat secret weapon.
AVLON: Yes, look, two years is a long time in politics and Bush is looking pretty good to a lot of people these days. But I mean that's clearly a guy running in a red state trying to keep his job, but the overall fact is, look, we do have a Republican wave coming. Democrats should not be in denial about that.
And at the end of the day midterm elections are always high intensity low turnout elections. Right now that favors Republicans. But they're going to be a couple of races where Democrats are showing surprising strength. For example, (INAUDIBLE) poll came out the other day showing Jack Conway within two points of Rand Paul. Not a lot of people saw that coming, now he's still behind and the wave is still coming, but you're still looking at a couple of races where things could be idiosyncratic as Axelrod --
BORGER: And Democrats are prepared. Well unlike 1994, you know when this wave came and Democrats were shocked by it, at least now they understand what's coming at them.
KING: Republicans are a little shocked by 1994, too. They're prepared too --
BORGER: Right -- exactly --
TANDEN: I do actually think we also will see big fluctuations. We see women changing, women voting, seeing more support for the Democratic Party from women. I think there's actually a lot of people who are reacting to the polarization and some of the crazy statements coming out from some of these people and you'll see a big change --
DOWD: There's not a lot of historical evidence that says for the party that's in power the numbers get better in the final six weeks of a midterm. It's always usually the challengers who get better as people get madder and madder and madder. They're not going to get madder and madder and madder and then vote for Democrat --
KING: As someone who has been inside a White House --
KING: As someone who's been inside a White House dealing with this tough dynamic, what can you do or is there much you can do to pull the levers using the greatest power in the world, the Rose Garden, the bully pulpit, the presidency, is there much he can do if he is viewed by the key voters out there as part of the problem or is an issue, what can he do?
DOWD: I think they should feed the expectation game at this point for the Republicans and feed it as much as possible. Get off the intellectual economic arguments, get off of nationalizing elections and let the Republicans, let it feed, so that whatever happens with the Republicans is not going to be as good as people thought it was going to be. That's what I would be doing if I (INAUDIBLE).
DOWD: Feed the expectation --
DOWD: I would say --
DOWD: And start having meetings --
TANDEN: I think if they came out of the White House, if that kind of Robert Gibbs like statement where you know the -- we're going to lose the House comes out, you'll see Democrats, the problem with that advice is that it will depress turnout even more. And what our party needs --
TANDEN: What our party needs is --
DOWD: So John Kerry's (INAUDIBLE) should have been aimed at the White House and the truth, they don't want to pay attention to the truth because that's the truth.
ERICKSON: You know though -- John, I got to say going back to Gloria's point -- the Democrats have been saying (INAUDIBLE) we've seen this coming unlike 1994 when we didn't know it. We've been seeing it coming, yes and the rapture fleeing the ship a lot faster now, you got guys openly attacking Obama, you've got Democrats fleeing for Nancy Pelosi, you've Pomeroy campaigning with George Bush in ads. They didn't have that in '94 because they didn't see it coming.
KING: All right, we got to call a quick time-out here.
KING: Quick time out here -- we've got to get a break in. We're going to see a little bit of John and Erick a little bit later in the show. Neera, Gloria and Matthew, thanks for coming in. We'll see you again very soon. We got a lot to talk about here.
And when we come back, one of the things we'll talk about is your privacy; cyber security is a big issue. The government wants the power to keep track of terrorists and drug dealers, but might it be snooping on your private messages if it does so? We'll take a close look at that.
Also a lot more politics tonight, you have a Congress who is here for the rest of this week. You might argue there's plenty to do, are they wasting their time? One big issue on the floor of the Senate tonight, outsourcing your jobs, is it about policy or just politics.
And Pete is on the street tonight, he knows the election is coming close and he's looking at campaigns that are going negative.
KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the latest political news you need to know right now -- hey there.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just convicted -- just granted a convicted murderer a one-day reprieve from his scheduled execution. This gives his attorneys until Thursday to finish filing appeals.
President Obama is on his way to New Mexico now; it's the first stop on a campaign swing that also includes Wisconsin, Iowa and Virginia. Senator Susan Collins says an inspector general's report reveals the U.S. Postal Service which wants to raise stamp prices is wasting at least $800 million a year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The I.G. found stunning evidence of contract mismanagement at the collapses financial waste and excessive executive perks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: One perk Collins cited the government picks up the full cost of health insurance for 835 top postal executives.
And "Congressional Quarterly" C.Q. reports a pair of Senate committees have compromised on what could become the nation's first comprehensive law addressing cyber security but it probably won't pass this year and as I understand it, John, "The New York Times" is also reporting today that the administration would like to wiretap encrypted communications, (INAUDIBLE) file sharing, that kind of thing. It's fascinating, but you have to wonder whether the people even understand what it is.
KING: It is fascinating and I was e-mailing with a couple of people in the administration after that "New York Times" story -- you know you have one of these, right --
KING: I have one of these. You can send Blackberry messages or pen (ph) messages on this or maybe you Skype at home, maybe you peer- to-peer message with your friends on Facebook -- let me walk over to the "Magic Wall" and show you what this debate is about.
What the administration says it wants is power to wiretap -- to get wiretap power in case terrorists or drug dealers or some other criminals could be using this technology because so many people now communicate on the Internet, not in the old-fashioned way on the telephone or not even on the cell phone conversation. So what they want to do is be able to look at what you're doing on here.
And let's take a closer look at how this would work. Essentially I could send, you know, I send my wife sometime a message, what time would we meet for dinner. This is what happens. It gets encrypted as it goes out and then it comes into the receiving device and it gets decoded. Well what the government wants is the ability to get this key, the encryption key so that it can keep track of the bad guys with a warrant.
Now what it says (INAUDIBLE) the government wants to be able to unscramble those encrypted messages; intercept messages sent from non- U.S. providers to people here in the United States. You can imagine terrorists or drug dealers having conversations like that and to intercept those peer-to-peer messages, again that are encrypted now and the government can't just go through a traditional wiretap.
One of the concerns about this, well it could be very expensive for the technology firms to set up that gateway, the portal for the government to get the information. Some are worried giving the government this new power could slow and impede innovation using these technological devices and Internet communications. And here's another big concern.
It could be exploited by others, hackers and spies once you open a portal to get the encrypted communications that could be a problem as well. So it is a huge debate about privacy. The administration says it's a huge law enforcement debate as well. Who's right, who's wrong? Do you want the government to have this power?
When we come back, Joe, we're going to have a great debate. We've got the general counsel of the ACLU here, Fran Townsend, who is a counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush, different views on a huge, huge emerging issue.
JOHNS: What about my privacy? Seems like the bottom line.
KING: I'll send you a message.
JOHNS: All right.
KING: We'll be right back.
KING: Congressional committees are working on legislation and the administration wants new powers when it comes to cyber security. The administration says that's necessary to fight terrorism.
But already, it's raising red flags about privacy and giving the government too much power to read virtually every electronic message that anyone could be sending.
Joining us to debate this now, the former White House Homeland Security adviser and CNN national security contributor, Frances Townsend. She's also a member of the CIA External Advisory Committee and a partner of the international law firm Baker Botts.
And in our New York bureau, Laura Murphy, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Washington legislative office.
So, Laura, I'm going to go to you first because I know you object to some of this. Why shouldn't the government, as long as it exercises it's power carefully, have the right to monitor these communications?
LAURA W. MURPHY, DIR., ACLU WASHINGTON LEGISLATIVE OFFICE: The government needs to establish why it needs to monitor these communications and present us with the evidence why they don't have access to these communications.
The government also needs to establish some sort of check and balance. We just can't give them a blank check to the Internet. Our financial information, our health care information, our personal communications, everything we do nowadays goes through the Internet. And if the government has access to it, what makes us so secure that the hackers won't have access to it?
So we need the government to come before Congress and put evidence before Congress that they need new authorities because this is a huge transition that will be very costly that will change the structural architecture of the Internet and it will make a big difference to the American people.
KING: Big brother is her argument, you can't give the government such unfettered access and unfettered power?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: You know, John, really what the government is asking for is the ability to keep up with technology. What's happened is, the government actually has less access to the kinds of information that they're legally entitled to intercept because technology has moved on and their authorities haven't.
So what the government is really asking -- the FBI general counsel issued a statement today -- they're really just trying to keep up with the bad guys and the technology that's available today.
KING: Here's the -- here's the FBI general counsel issues this statement, Valerie Caproni is her name. "We're not talking expanding authority. We're talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security."
Essentially let us do on the Internet what these communications what we can do with a hard line, telephone or a cell phone. But there are 50 million, just of these BlackBerrys. Fifty million of these worldwide and you can do peer to peer. People go on Skype, people go on Facebook.
When the government is looking for drug dealers or looking for terrorists, what is to stop it -- to Laura's point -- of saying, you know, maybe over here, and casting a wide net and looking at everybody until maybe they find something or maybe they don't, but then my privacy has been invaded.
TOWNSEND: Well, no, John, there is a legitimate concern. I think the government does need to do a better job at explaining what's -- what are their current legal authorities, what they can do and what have they been prevented from collecting because of the advances in technology.
And they haven't done a very good job of communicating that. There's been an ongoing conversation with Congress. I testified before Susan Collins' committee on the cyber security bill that their committee is putting out.
The government needs to do better in terms of explaining how they'll protect this information and to your point what the protections and oversight of Congress will be. And I think that's an important piece here.
KING: Is there a --
MURPHY: I agree.
KING: Go ahead. Is there's a reasonable compromise, Laura, so that -- so that the bad guys out there, you know, just to protect my rights and your rights, that the bad guys aren't protected as well?
MURPHY: Well, listen, before we get to the issue of compromise, I think we need to get to the issue of what is necessary. This happened in 1993, the government said, look, people are going to wireless phones, we need to switch from copper wire land line phones to wireless phones and we need new authorities.
They went through a rigorous process of presenting evidence of making their case before Congress. They need to make their case to the American people. This is not a mere transfer of authorities. We're talking about a different technology, a different platform, and we're also talking about international components.
What they want is a master key to the Internet. It's like us giving master keys to the local police to our houses. We need to have our values carried forward in this new age of searching for terrorists. We need to make sure that the government has checks and balances.
That they just don't go through our e-mails, our personal records, our health care forms, our bank records. We have over a trillion dollars a year in cyber crime. What is the government going to do about cyber crime?
Before we create a backdoor to all of our Internet communications, they need to establish what they're going to do to protect our rights. They can't just have unleashed authority and say we need it because technology's changed.
KING: I'm exaggerating a little bit. Answer her point. But I'm exaggerating a little bit, but you have had access to the most sensitive intelligence in the United States government. Is there evidence that Osama bin Laden is on Skype?
I mean -- again, I'm exaggerating. But the terrorists are using these technologies at such a level to communicate in critical ways?
TOWNSEND: There is no question. There is intelligence. There is law enforcement information that they are using advanced technologies like the Internet, like peer-to-peer, like Skype, to get around law enforcement capability.
They do keep up. We know that bin Laden himself was using a Thuraya satellite phone. When it was reported in the press that we had the capability to intercept it, all of a sudden he never used it again.
And so we know that they look for advanced technologies to get around us. And it really isn't about a broad expansion -- a collection of all things in the Internet. This is not the master key. What they're looking to do is consistent with their legal authorities, have the capability to intercept those materials.
KING: Laura, we're short on time. But let me ask you. Have they reached out to your community at all? Has the administration looks for this, is there a good dialogue or is it my way or the highway?
MURPHY: No. No. And we've had many meetings with the FBI but not on the subject in particular. And it's time for them to open themselves up for public discussions. We have stakeholders who are very concerned about these issues.
The FBI has made many mistakes. There was just an inspector general report about unwarranted spying released today and the "New York Times" commented on it.
So the FBI isn't a perfect place. They're made up of human beings and they need to be held accountable by interest groups, by Congress, so that we can really be protected.
KING: Laura Murphy, Fran Townsend, appreciate your time tonight. It's a fascinating debate. We'll continue it on another day.
And when we come back, we'll continue the conversation with some of our reporters and analysts about your privacy and about some other dramatic political news today including some words from the loser in that Delaware Republican Senate primary. You don't want to miss what he had to say.
KING: Privacy and government power and some good old fashioned politics.
Joe Johns, our senior correspondent, is here. Dana Bash, our senior congressional correspondent and our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin.
Also with us Erick Erickson from Atlanta and John Avlon, a senior political columnist for "The Daily Beast." He's in New York.
Let me start with the conversation we just had. And, Eric, I'll go to you first. In your industry, you work in this community, you're posting all the time. Obviously the government has some law enforcement interest in these communications. Where is the line?
ERICK ERICKSON, AUTHOR, "RED STATE UPRISING": You know, it's not an easy line to draw. I do agree with Fran's point, though, that this isn't the government trying to encroach on to other technology in a new way, but to extend its existing powers to a new technology.
Government does a very bad job of keeping up with the times, with technology. I mean goodness we were still paying the phone tax for the Spanish-American war up until a few years ago. It's very hard for government to evolve.
I would say, though, that politically this is going to be a very tough battle for Barack Obama and his base, and not a fight with Republicans because it's his base who wanted Guantanamo closed and is still open, and these national security powers restricted and they're not.
KING: It's a fair point, isn't it, John Avlon? Because when you talk to people on the left, it's one of the things they do grumble about, not only that the promise to close Gitmo hasn't been kept, but they think in fighting for -- anti-terrorism powers, that this administration is equal or in some cases, the ACLU and others believe, even gone beyond what the Bush administration did.
JOHN AVLON, SR. POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: That has been the criticism. A lot of these original round of concerns were written in the Patriot Act. But the responsibility is their governing are very different than some of the statements that can be made when people are out of power.
This is deeply complex. Privacy concerns are one of the real urgent issues of our time, as is cyber security. And the reality that we can't wait for a digital Pearl Harbor to take these issues seriously.
It's about the balance between protecting the rights of law- abiding citizens to privacy and terrorists' desire for invisibility. And the fact that we are digitally communicating now.
And I think it does make sense to keep the role of government up to the pace of change, but we need to be vigilant about whenever government asks for more power, we should question. That's not a conservative or liberal virtue. That's simple common sense.
KING: Is the government up to the pace of this? I was on the train. It was several months back. I ran into George Tenet, the former CIA director. He says he's doing a ton of work in this field now, advising corporations on cyber security and his take was that the government was sort of asleep at the switch.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Funny thing, I talked to a Democrat who's sort of plugged into this debate on Capitol Hill today and they were basically stunned when they read this in the newspaper.
They didn't know the administration was coming with a lot of this stuff in this fashion at this time. And it's difficult for them, too, because there are also privacy advocates on the right who don't like it either and they squeeze the middle and it's what you call the Halloween coalition and basically nothing gets done.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But this underscored that point. The Senate majority leader, the Democrat in charge of the United States Senate, just told our congressional producer Ted Barrett he didn't know about this until he read it in the newspaper and he's not going to be briefed until tomorrow.
Same with Senate Intelligence chairman Dianne Feinstein who just in the -- hallways of the Senate just moments ago that she has to see, to see exactly what they're talking about. But she did say -- to John's point, John Avlon's point -- she did say she sees enough intelligence material that she knows how important it is.
KING: The debate about communication sharing is always left hand, right hand?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's such a reminder, though, of the difference of the president on the campaign trail versus governing. I mean he was a fierce critic of the NASA wire tapping, of rendition, of course, Guantanamo. And then the reality of governing is so different.
Yes, he will have challenges with his base but this has never -- I don't think proven to be one of those issues that becomes complicated, broadly politically because independents and moderates tend to support it.
KING: This is what --
ERICKSON: Well, you know, I got to question here. Remember, it was, I guess, four weeks ago a lot of Democrats were complaining that the president was engaging on Middle East peace during the election instead of talking about the economy. And now all of a sudden this, an issue deeply divisive for the base.
I got to wonder if I'm a Democratic strategist what is the guy doing bringing this up when the Democrats aren't even going to be meeting for more than another week.
KING: I think this was a beat reporter doing his or her job more than anything. The fact the administration bring it up, you can bet they're not so happy about it at the White House that somebody talked to this reporter.
We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, you know, elections are about moving people on. You might say some incumbents might be outsourced. There's a big debate on Capitol Hill tonight.
Yes, your Congress is actually at work on outsourcing. Stay with us.
KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the latest political news you need to know right now.
JOHNS: John, a senior Democratic strategist tells CNN the party may release campaign ads attacking former Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove and his ties to a new conservative group called American Crossroads.
And in his first extensive interview since losing Delaware's U.S. Senate primary to Christine O'Donnell, Mike Castle blames his losses on distortions of his voting record by conservative commentators and the Tea Party Express.
Castle also defends his vote for the bank bailout telling the "News Journal," quote, "Some of the smarter people understood the bailout probably was essential to keep us from going into a deeper recession. Also I think people now understand that it's getting paid back. It was not the loser it was painted to be."
But, you know, the one thing about it, John, is you kind of wonder whether people are really concerned about the TARP, not because it's getting paid back or not, but because the TARP was the kind of thing that, you know, people still didn't see any real results in their own pocketbooks. KING: Mike Castle is still considering -- he says it's a distant possibility. He's still considering a write-in campaign if he were to run, not that I'm in the political advice business, but look across the country, what's happened to campaigns this year, I wouldn't be out there singing the praises of TARP.
KING: I think there's a lot of -- a lot of results to prove maybe that's not such a good idea.
BASH: No. I think you're exactly light. And he was talking about this in the context of the Republican electorate, but it's not just the Republican electorate, it's the electorate at large.
We've all heard this out on the campaign trail talking to ardent, ardent Democratic voters. They are mad at their Democratic representatives because they voted for this. They say it's just a fairness issue. We haven't even seen any help, why are you bailing out Wall Street?
YELLIN: It's the original sin of this political cycle to most people you talk to right now, when you talk to tea party activists, they go back to the bailout, the bailout.
It's the principle of it and the idea that the Wall Street folks got so much quick help while other people are still suffering. And it's proving a negative. How do you prove things would have been so much worse with that?
KING: Erick Erickson, what happens on the right if Mike Castle mounts a write-in campaign?
ERICKSON: Well, all the polling has showed this helps Christine O'Donnell, though the irony. You know, listen to his words at the beginning of the statement, the smarter people. I was asked the other day if this was a liberal versus conservative Republican versus Democrat election. It's really not in my mind.
It really is more Washington versus those not in Washington and you see that polling reflected in Democratic races as well as Republican. And this view that somehow, voters are -- some voters are smarter than others and they go along with me. Well, maybe so but the majority of the voters didn't vote for him in the primary.
KING: Erick has a point, does he not, John, that even if the politicians think that, they shouldn't say it that way?
AVLON: Well, look, elitism doesn't play well ever in America and the American people are smart but especially during a recession. The problem is it's a matter of getting out the facts.
First of all, this is Delaware. There are a lot of banks in Delaware. So hostility to TARP may not make all the sense in the world. Second of all, the key issue in his race was a close partisan primary. Fundamentally unrepresentative of the state as a whole. And most of the money that came in to fund Christine O'Donnell at the time was out-of-state money. And the reality is with TARP is that it actually, dirty little secret, has worked pretty well and is going to paid back, probably on time.
Not saying it's a political winner but sometimes practicality in fact matter more than politics and spin.
KING: All right. So we're nearing 8:00, 7:51 here in the East Coast. We want to show you a live picture now in the United States Senate. Have a seat if you want. That's the United States Congress and your Senate is at work tonight.
KING: They're at work tonight, but we can't promise you what they're debating is ever going to actually reach the president's desk.
Dana Bash, tell us what's going on here.
BASH: Not only can you not promise, you can guarantee that it won't happen, certainly won't happen in the next four days. And that's the amount of time that Congress has left before they go home before the election.
The reason why they're there late tonight is because Senate Democrats are desperate to try to -- and Democrats in the House as well, desperate to try to put votes on the floor in the time that they have left to try to use against Republicans.
This particular issue is outsourcing. In an atmosphere where Democrats are really in trouble with regard to the jobs and the economy, this is the one thing in races across the country that they think that they can use against Republicans.
They want to send your jobs overseas. They have done it with votes on trade deals, in positions that they have had business, and we will try to help keep that there.
KING: Well, let's give a little sample before we bring Jess and Joe and the others into the conversation. A little sample of campaigns out there. These are all Democratic ads against Republicans. Here's a flavor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fiorina shipped jobs to China.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Rob Portman knows how to grow the economy in China.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Politician Adam Kinzinger says one of his main goals is more trade agreements, deals that ship our jobs overseas. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Spike has pledged to support tax loopholes for companies that ship our jobs overseas.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I think we get the point.
YELLIN: It works for Democrats because it is a twofer. One, it stays is not helping the unemployment economic picture and two, it ties into their larger message that Republicans stand for corporate interests over the little guy.
Whether it will really play out, we have yet to see. I do know that since Barbara Boxer started airing her Fiorina attack ad on this outsourcing issue, she's really pulled a strong lead ahead in the polling, eight points in the latest polling.
There's still reason to believe she could lose that, but for now it really did help.
BASH: And Democratic strategists point to this particular ad. They say that they believe that is the reason.
YELLIN: That's she's pulled out.
JOHNS: Yes. Anger, anger, anger. And you know -- and Democrats going negative early and often is just about the last thing they're left with here. You know you can sort of drag somebody's positives down now and hope at the end of the day you can have -- you know, throw a knockout punch before they go to the polls.
KING: John and Erick, come in quickly on this as we close the conversation.
KING: Go ahead.
AVLON: There is something bigger going on here. There is a neo- protectionism we have seen on the fringes of politics and it's getting mainstream, especially in the Democratic Party because of the union base. But there's also a constant refrain you hear, China.
China is becoming a subtle election year issue in large part because of the debt. People get the fact that China owns our debt and that is a subtle refrain you're also hearing throughout these ads.
ERICKSON: Well, you know, I would say that this is a message in desperate need of a message. I mean the Democrats have gone from -- attacking on Social Security to attacking on Medicare to now attacking on this jobs front.
I think it's pretty much locked in, particularly with independent voters, that the Democrats have been bad on jobs and the Republican response is they wanted to do a dog and pony show in the Senate this week on this issue instead of dealing with the tax cut issue, and it's not going to help them overall in the long-term.
KING: To John's point on China, pollsters in both parties tell me if you look at focus groups, you look at polling data, Americans now believe within a generation China will surpass the United States as a world power.
That's what's driving that right there. We're going to take a quick break. Thanks, everybody, for coming.
When we come back, "Pete on the Street" goes negative. Hmm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: If you were ever running for office -- look at the camera. Look at it. Look at this face. Look at this face.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME," just a couple of minutes away at the top of the hour. Let's check in with Rick Sanchez. He's in New York tonight for a preview.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I've got an interview tonight with Ingrid Bettencourt. She was running for president in Colombia. And she suddenly gets kidnapped, ends up in the jungle dealing with -- she's abused, some really bad guys out there, crocodiles, piranhas.
The story she tells, John, is amazing. You've got to hear what it's like to be in captivity for six and a half years. We will have it on "RICK'S LIST."
KING: Going negative. Well, you'll hear that a lot for the next 36 days until the elections. Our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick found out one reason going negative is so popular. Why?
Pete, because it's easy to do?
DOMINICK: That's right, John King, exactly. I proved today that I can make anybody, even the nicest people, seem like evil villains with a couple of the right elements.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINICK: Eric regularly strokes his beard in an evil fashion. Barbara ice skates on dry land. Bob gets tired of being carried around. Is this the kind of man you want for office?
Orlando can't smile. John has a little bit of chest hair coming out the top of his shirt. Is that the kind of man you want running Washington? Eddie thinks he is invincible from rain.
This guy looks like Anderson Cooper if he was dressed up as Barney. Bishop won't even take the sticker off his hat. Loretta is the friendliest looking human I have ever seen. She'll never win in Washington.
Bob won't get off the phone for one second. You think he'll do work for you?
Aaron's too big and tall for Washington. Abby doesn't want to spit food out while she's talking. Debbie likes to exercise and be healthy. Is that the kind of woman you want in Washington?
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINICK: There you go, John King. All you need is the evil guy voice. You take a really bad photograph of a good-looking person and add a couple of other graphic elements, villain, automatic villain. That's the recipe, sir.
KING: Keith, those were nice people. Why did you do that to them?
DOMINICK: To prove the point. They can be nice people but you can make them look really bad.
John King, good night.
KING: Professor Pete, the adman.
That's all for us. "RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME" right now.