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JOHN KING, USA

White House Shake-Up; What Awaits Chicago's Next Mayor

Aired October 1, 2010 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf, and good evening, everyone. A busy day in politics including a changing of the guard at the White House.

Out with the boisterous bulldog in Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and in with the kinder, gentler and quieter Pete Rouse.

In a moment we'll take a closer look with an eye on whether the change matters just to the president and political Washington or whether it might make some difference in your life.

But we -- we begin, excuse me with a few big changes in some of this year's big races. And this year's version of a classic stump the politician question. How much is a gallon of milk?

For Connecticut's Republican Senate nominee Linda McMahon, the question was this. How much was the minimum wage? She didn't know. And it took barely minutes for the Democrats to say this millionaire businesswoman was out of touch with struggling working class families.

It matters more perhaps because this slipup in just days after a poll showing after McMahon, who made her name in the professional wrestling business, had pulled surprisingly close and that Republicans hoping to capture control of the Senate began to thinking a McMahon surge in Connecticut might make up form a Christine O'Donnell fade in Delaware.

Thirty-two days out, that's the way the midterm chess game goes. A gallon of milk, by the way, about $3.75 here in D.C. and nationally, the minimum wage $7.25 an hour. In Connecticut, it's $8.25.

I'm certainly Erick Erickson and Amy Good and John Avlon already knew that. So let's begin with the "what now" question?

And Erick Erickson, to you, first. In the sense that earlier in the week, Republicans were saying, wow, maybe we got a chance in Connecticut. Is this the kind of stumble that makes you think maybe not?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: No. I really doubt it. In fact, I'm sure Linda McMahon will be able to afford a commercial tomorrow, a thousand points by saying that she doesn't know what the minimum wage is because she wants all Americans to make more than the minimum wage. The political gotcha question is going all the way back to George Bush and what's the name of the president of Pakistan. They make for grade headlines and for reporters to say we got them but, at the end of the day, I don't think it has a long-term impact.

KING: Amy, you're shaking your head. And we just had up her opponent is the long-time attorney general, Dick Blumenthal, in the state of Connecticut. There are some questions that are stump-the- dummy question and stun questions and reporters trying to make a name for themselves, but in these economic times, is this one that could be more than a speed bump?

AMY GOODMAN, HOST, DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG: Well, absolutely, because this has serious meaning. Here is a candidate who -- in fact, Erick is wrong. She has said she would like to see a reduction of the minimum wage. Now this is very serious.

ERICKSON: So would I.

GOODMAN: It's a billionaire businesswoman who wants low-income workers to get even less? These are the people who are most likely to pump money into the economy, whatever it is they've got. I can't think of anything more cruel.

KING: John, let's -- John Avlon, let's listen to her voice quickly. She's at an event. It's the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small business organization which does opposes increases in the minimum wage which would like either to reduce or create more exemptions in the minimum wage.

And she was talking about it at a news conference. Let's listen to a little bit of Linda McMahon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDA MCMAHON (R), CONNECTICUT SENATE NOMINEE: I think we need to review how much it ought to be and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It was after that event an Associated Press reporter asked her in the parking lot, do you know what the minimum wage is, and she could not answer the question. Damaging or passing?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I mean, it's a stumble. That's a gotcha question. But you should know in running on tough economic times what the basic indicators of your state are.

She said, to be fair, that she thought it should be reviewed, not that she favored a reduction. But the tightening in this race has come from voters who say they're angry. She crushing, 80 percent to 20 percent among voters who say they're angry. Among independent voters she's -- that's where she's made the gains over the last two weeks in particular. This does add credible accusations to the fact that this -- self- made millionaire might be out of touch when it comes to some of the basic working class realities for Connecticut voters. So it's not a good day for her. Anyone who tries to spin it that way is just not telling the truth.

KING: And here's why, to anybody at home, this is why we're talking about one race in Connecticut. This is -- the Republicans need to pick um 10 to get control the United States Senate. To get the control of the United States Senate. And this is one of those, hmm, maybe can we get that one?

I want to show some polling. The recent poll that came out just this past week, Blumenthal 49, McMahon 46. That's what got the Republican Party's attention. Because if you look at the January numbers when she was polled it was 64-23.

So, Erick Erickson, yes, she's using a lot of her own money to fund this campaign. But is this the kind of thing, if you're the national Republican Party, thinking where do we send more money and where do we send ground soldiers? Where do we direct resources in the end of the campaign?

A stumble like this is one of the things those party leaders have to consider when they make those calls.

ERICKSON: Yes, they do. They're also going to look at how quickly she recovers from it. And I don't doubt that she'll be able to recover quickly from this. I mean the question is, Republicans for some reason are always entranced by California. And they want to send money to California.

Karl Rove made that mistake with George Bush. We'll probably see that with the NRSC making the same mistake with Carly Fiorina, who probably can't self-fund. Republicans do have a calculation but I would rather be in their shoes than the Democrats who have many more races that they're going to have to build firewalls around and resources are short for both of them.

KING: Let's move on to what I will call on this Friday evening the case of the mysteriously disappearing Christine O'Donnell in the state of Delaware. She stuns the national political world by beating a guy who'd won 12 times statewide in a primary.

She's the darling of the Tea Party movement. Overnight she raises around $1 million, she gets help, Erick, from your friend, Senator Jim DeMint, who raises I think about $200,000 for her pretty much.

Here's an interesting thing. We came out with a poll just the other day, Chris Coons, the Democrat, 55 percent, Christine O'Donnell, the Republican, 39 percent. It's a simple rule in politics. If you're down that much with a month to go and you have money, you better spend it to get yourself back in the race.

However, in the past 30 days, she has spent zero on television. Zero. And national Republicans are asking, what is she doing?

Chris Coons has spent about $350,000. Christine O'Donnell, zero.

Now our Dana Bash and Ted Barrett reached out to the campaign today. And they said they will be up very soon.

But is that not, John, a fundamental mistake if you -- it's a long shot to begin with.

AVLON: Yes. No, it is a fundamental mistake. It's political malpractice. And the thing about that poll I thought was interesting was it said if Mike Castle had gotten the Republican nomination, he would be leading by the exact same margin, 55 down.

So here you've got a case where, be careful what you wish for. The Republicans nominated a conservative populist, out of step with a state, in a close partisan primary. And guess what, she's losing independent voters. She's hemorrhaging 15 percent of Republicans in Delaware say they're going to vote for the Democrat. That's what you get when you nominate someone from the extremes.

KING: The only way to fix that, Erick, or try to fix that -- anyway, and again Delaware is -- you know it's a liberal to moderate state. So it'd be a tough race for her anyway. But the only chance, is it not, is to be engaging in the fight on television?

ERICKSON: You know, honestly, John, I think that's irrelevant for one big reason. In the past 30 days we've spent more time talking about Christine O'Donnell than Ken Buck, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, Sharron Angle.

She sucked all the air out of the room. Everyone is focusing on her which is a good thing for these other candidates. It's given them some legroom. And when she goes back up on TV in another week or so we'll be talking about her again that she's back up on TV and we're still not be talking about the other candidates the Democrats would like to target.

KING: Every other -- every one of those other candidates, I believe, and I'll be corrected, I'm sure very quickly, if I'm wrong, but every one of those other candidates you mentioned I believe is competitive or ahead.

But she's down 15 points.

ERICKSON: Exactly.

KING: And, Amy, I would assume you would expect her to be spending that money on the conservatives that's sending her.

GOODMAN: I mean she's got a big problem also with -- well, truthiness, we'll put it that way. She can't even figure out where it was or continuously is changing the story about where she went to school, about when she got a degree. There's a lot to distrust with Christine O'Donnell.

KING: John, Amy and Erick, stand by --

ERICKSON: John, there's a bigger issue here and that's where the consultants are getting their money.

KING: Well, that's a good. We'll track the FEC reports for that. That's an excellent point to make. Our panel is going to stand by.

When we come back, a big change today at the White House, it's a huge deal here in Washington. Does it matter to you?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And in the last 20 months Rahm has exceeded all my expectations. It's fair to say that we could not have accomplished what we accomplished without Rahm's leadership. From preventing a second depression to passing historic health care and financial reform legislation to restoring America's leadership in the world.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Changing of the guard at the White House today on your screen there. To the left of the president was the outgoing chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, to the right, the incoming -- at least interim chief of staff Pete Rouse.

Let's put the question back to our panel. This is a huge deal in Washington.

Amy Goodman to you first. Does it matter to anybody out there in America, particularly those who might be looking to Washington for help? Somebody who's unemployed, underemployed, maybe doesn't understand this health care bill coming down the road?

GOODMAN: Well, what I'd start off by saying is that the first act that Pete Rouse should be involved with, what President Obama should do, is send him out tomorrow to the major protest rally that's going to be happening in Washington.

Tens of thousands of people are going. It's called One Nation Working Together. It's unions like AFL-CIO, SCIU, Unite Here, it's single payer groups, it's United for Peace and Justice, anti-war groups.

The media does not pay as much attention, to say the least, to these kind of coalitions that they do to much smaller groupings of the Tea Party. But it's very significant. And President Obama in the last days, talking about the importance of movements, of the abolition movement, civil rights movement, you know, to energize the base, the women's rights movement.

I think he's responding to what's going to happen in Washington tomorrow. And Rouse should be there listening very carefully since he'll be the one who determines who gets President Obama's ear.

KING: It's an interesting point Amy makes, John Avlon. I was e- mailing with a guy, Mike (INAUDIBLE), he's an auto worker, he's working now in Lansing. But he was laid off for a long time. That's when I first met him. And he's coming in to the rally, and he's busing in for this rally. He's getting back on the bus and going right back to go to work.

In the sense of a new chief of staff, what is his responsibility? Amy's point is about the tensions on the left of the president and paying attention to the working class base. What's his responsibility?

AVLON: Well, look, I mean, first of all, to your initial question. The selection of a new chief of staff is hugely important in Washington. It's important to the White House. But it doesn't mean a whole lot to Joe six-pack at home.

It's a pretty in-size baseball position. And what you have between Rahm Emanuel and Pete Rouse is a study in contrast. First of all, it's the fighter versus the fixer. And Pete Rouse is known as an ego-free guy. A much more conciliatory figure.

But Rahm Emanuel offended a lot of people on the far left of the Democratic Party by taking on those constituencies and ruffled a lot of feathers. So we'll see if Rouse can smooth over some of those divides. And certainly some of those divides are with the left wing of the Democratic Party.

KING: In 20 months Rahm Emanuel went once to the Senate Republican leader's office Mitch McConnell and zero times to the House Republican leader's office, John Boehner.

Eric Erickson, do you expect an effort -- after the election is a different question. Between now and the election, any effort to reach out or are we just in war until November 2nd?

ERICKSON: You know, by and large, Congress isn't going to be around until the election. But yes, there will be some reaching out if only for laying the groundwork. The White House knows what's going to happen. Even if the Republicans don't pick up the House and Senate, they're going to get extremely close.

The odds are they will pick up the House. They might as well start putting fires out on the bridges they've been burning with Republicans and try to get them to rebuild some of the framework so they can start negotiating.

Look, the White House knows that after November they're going to deal with a Senate Republican leadership that continues to compromise, that likes to compromise and that thinks on all sides in the Senate that's what you do.

Obama is a fighter. The Republicans are compromiser. Fighters always beat compromisers. But they've got to look like they're working with them. KING: Amy mentioned a minute ago some of the president's recent rhetoric. I want you to listen to something that stirred up quite a bit in the conservative blogosphere. I want to ask you why in just a second. Let's listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We've been through worse as a nation. We've come out stronger from war to depression to the great struggles for equal rights and civil rights.

It took time to free the slaves. It took time for women to get the vote. It took time for workers to get the right to organize. But if we stay on focus, if we stay on course, then ultimately we will make progress.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One of the bloggers on your site, Erick, Redstate.com, today took great offense at this. What's the big deal in your view? The president mentioned this before. He mentioned pretty much the same language on Tuesday at the University of Wisconsin, back in 2009 at a town hall, he used similar language. What's the big deal?

ERICKSON: Well, you know, for me I think it's kind of funny that you've got him going out telling the liberal base they need to buck up. Joe Biden saying they need to stop whining, his campaign tour right now is in essence him whining and refusing to buck up saying you've got to stick with me even though we haven't done what we've intended to do.

I mean maybe he needs to buck up and stop whining.

KING: Amy and John, come in quick.

GOODMAN: Well, I just want to say that one of the organizers of the event tomorrow is the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, A. Phillip Randolph, greatest organizer of the 20th century. He met with FDR and told him about the condition of working people. And FDR said to him -- FDR said to him, I don't disagree with anything that you've said, but you've got to make me do it.

Obama has repeated that over and over. But I think that's what is critical here, is movements making demands. And also the media picking up those demands and making them do it.

AVLON: You know -- with the activist groups on both sides who always try to dominate the debate, is the source of a lot of the disconnect and the frustration with the moderate majority voters out there. And this is not about either side trying to win the debate.

What President Obama is talking about on that speech is totally unobjectionable. He's going through a litany of America's great struggles and how we've overcome them. And the fact that some folks on the far right blogosphere trying to turn that into a political football just shows the absurdity of what passes for debate too often. And the American people are smarter than that. They understand they're being gamed too often by people on either side, folks putting everything through a hyper partisan filter.

KING: John, Amy and Erick, appreciate your coming in on a Friday night. We'll see you next week. One month until Election Day. Appreciate your time tonight.

When we come back, we'll take a closer look at the city of Chicago where Rahm Emanuel hopes to be the next mayor. Is it his kind of town?

And we'll go one-on-one with a "New York Times" reporter who has just finished a fascinating profile of the FOX News host Glenn Beck.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Hey, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John.

President Obama attended today's ceremony where Justice Elena Kagan officially joined the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts briefly escorted Justice Kagan outside for the benefit of TV cameras which are not allowed inside.

Sarah Palin has been using her twitter account to attack temporary White House chief of staff Pete Rouse for -- among other things -- keeping his voter registration in Alaska even though he hasn't lived there since the early 1980s.

Today reporters asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs why Rouse is registered in Alaska.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's not. He's a registered voter in the District of Columbia. I was talking to Pete yesterday. He voted, I think -- I don't know who but -- who he voted for. But he voted in the mayor's race here.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: See there. All politics is local. You know? It was a mayor's race. The Chicago mayor's race that just got him in this thing in the first place.

KING: So Pete Rouse voted in the D.C. mayor's race. He's got his new job because Rahm Emanuel wants to be in the Chicago mayor's race. Let me go over to the magic wall, Joe.

I want to talk a little bit about the challenges the next mayor of Chicago, whether it's Rahm Emanuel or somebody else will face. It's America's third largest city. Let's get the wall to cooperate here. 2.7 million people. The median household income about $47,000 a year.

Look at this fascinating breakdown. Forty percent white, 40 percent African-American, and a 27 percent and rising Latino population.

A lot of problems in the city including crime. Here's the national average on all these crimes. Robbery, rape, murder, assault, property. Look, Chicago is above the national average on everything. So the next mayor has to deal with a crime problem.

Also it's a tough time across the country including in the city of Chicago. The poverty rate nearly 22 percent. The child poverty rate -- this is stunning -- 31 percent. Statewide it's 17 percent. So you can see the urban areas having a harder time.

Unemployment in the city last month nearly 10 percent, at 9.7 percent. And let's go over again, a huge problem for the next mayor, the school system. Citywide the dropout rate is over 42 percent. But look at this. Nearly half of the African-American, 46 percent, drop out of school, 40 percent of the Hispanics drop out of school, 35 percent of the white students drop out of school.

So earlier today I had a conversation about the city and about Rahm Emanuel's chances in the race for mayor with Andy Shaw, a longtime political reporter in the city who's now executive director of the Better Government Association, and our CNN political analyst Roland Martin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: So Rahm Emanuel calls this his dream job. And I wanted you both in so we could discuss the state of the city. We'll get to the candidacy of Rahm Emanuel in a minute. But you have a city with just shy of 10 percent unemployment, a 21.6 percent poverty rate.

Half the African-Americans and 40 percent of the Latino students drop out of school before finishing.

Roland Martin, it's an odd way to ask the question, but can any new mayor fix these problems?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, that is a difficult task that any mayor in Chicago can have. But also understand Richard M. Daley has been the mayor for a couple of decades. His numbers are so low it's unbelievable.

They're also angered that he sold off a lot of city assets. And so you're dealing with a huge debt as well. And I also - I think you got people in Chicago who don't necessarily want a mayor who controls public housing dollars, city colleges, the schools, metro, plus the city budget.

I mean you have one guy running everything. That's going to be a problem for whoever is running for this office. KING: And Andy, it begs the question, you know, and of course somebody will be the next mayor of Chicago, but then who would want the job in the sense of not only do you have all those problems we just listed, but the federal stimulus money is drying up.

That won't be there for the next mayor. The city has profound challenges.

ANDY SHAW, EXEC. DIR., BETTER GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION: You raised the perfect question, John. You know I've a bit hyperbolically that this is probably the most daunting challenge since the great fire in Chicago of 1871.

Chicago is a mess. But here's the good news. We haven't had a vigorous debate on the issues in the city for more than 20 years.

KING: Right.

SHAW: It's been one-man rule, a Democratic dictatorship as it were. And now whoever run -- Rahm Emanuel et al -- we're going to get the kind of vigorous debate about schools, and housing, and crime and all of those things that I think the city is going to be better for it, not more easy to govern, but better off for the democracy.

MARTIN: I agree.

KING: And so let's talk about it. Mayor Daley has been there a long time. There was an African-American mayor, Harold Washington right before Mayor Daley. So the question is, when Rahm Emanuel, an accomplished politician, an accomplished figure in Washington, and a congressman from Chicago -- when he comes home and you have a Latino population in the city that's growing, and African-American population that is shrinking a bit, do they want a white mayor?

SHAW: Well, let me just say that I think Rahm Emanuel starts with only one advantage and that is some of the infrastructure of the Daley organization. That will be helpful for fund-raising. It'll be helpful for alliances.

But you know, there are three or four very talented candidates in this race with stellar resumes and good track records. And I think at the end of the day organizations like ours are going to hold these candidates' feet to the fire.

It's not about who you knew or who you were next to in the oval office. It's about what specifically are you going to do about a $600 million budget deficit, a police department that is terribly demoralized, crime and drugs and gangs running rampant? Still a housing crisis, problems with neighborhoods, problems with education that you delineated at the beginning of the segment.

It doesn't matter if you were next door to the most powerful man in the world and helped him with the issues in Washington. You come back to Chicago. What residents here are going to want to know, Roland, myself and everyone else, how are you going to deal with those daunting problems? And the candidate with the best plans I think is ultimately going to win that race regardless of race, creed or ethnicity.

MARTIN: I'll tell you, John, some people got upset with me with my CNN.com column saying why are you invoking race? Look, Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. And when you break down these wards, you have to deal with those territories, if you will.

Where you talk about south loop, west side, south side, north side, northwest. And understand out of the top 10 voting wards, five are African-American. Out of the top 23 voting wards, 12 are African- American.

You talked about Harold Washington. Many people there still want to see Harold Washington's vision. You have Congressman Luis Gutierrez who possibly could run. You have Robert Fioretti and all of the men (INAUDIBLE) west side, a white candidate also loved by progressives.

You have Reverend James Meeks, the state senator, and full disclosure, I'm a member of his church. He also major, major force on the south side as well. And so the runoff is going to be the key. No one candidate will win the election in February.

So the question for Emanuel is, can you be in the top two? Don't forget, Cook County sheriff Tom Dart. Hugely popular. And I'm telling you. The national media keeps thinking that Emanuel is a shoo-in. He is not a shoo-in to be the mayor or even get to the runoff.

It is going to be a tough race. And he is dealing with constituents. And let me tell you, African-Americans, a Democratic political strategist, major Democratic strategist, told me I will come to Chicago and work for free against Emanuel. There are people who do not like him because of what he did in D.C. I'm telling you.

SHAW: That's absolutely true. But I will say this. I think we're going to have a less balkanized election this time --

MARTIN: That's true.

SHAW: -- than we did in any previous election. I think Chicago has come a long way and I think that it's really going to matter much more what kind of plan you have than the way you look and what neighborhood you come out of.

And let me just say one thing about Emanuel. I'm not even going to say he's a favorite in this race. But I will say when Bill Clinton comes out to Chicago to campaign for him, which I think he will out of gratitude for his service to that administration, and when Barack Obama comes out to campaign to say thank you for his hard work in this White House, I think those two major figures, both of whom are extraordinarily popular in the city of Chicago, that's going to give Rahm Emanuel a big boost.

It doesn't put him over the top, but it will be very important. MARTIN: Ask Terry McAuliffe how that worked in Virginia.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Roland, I want to close in that point.

MARTIN: Yes.

KING: That's the question I was going to ask. With the stamp of approval of the president of the United States who is fond of telling us that he began his political career in Chicago, that's not enough you don't think?

MARTIN: No. Because here's the deal. If you're the president of the United States, you have been dealing with Republicans who have been criticizing you for Chicago-style politics. He has absolutely avoided the state of Illinois in many ways, in terms of the governor's race, even the race of Alexis Giannoulias.

And so I'm not sure the White House is going to want to weigh in on this race. Also the president has been criticized and Emanuel for not having a strong urban policy. The last thing you want is to come in when urban cities have been saying you haven't come up with an urban agenda.

So he's walking to a trap there. I say let Emanuel do his thing. The president to stay out of it. Because you're talking about Republicans are going to come after you. The last thing you need to do is deal with his battle while you have your own battle after November.

KING: Andy Shaw and Roland Martin, we appreciate your thoughts on what will be a fascinating race for mayor of Chicago, as Rahm Emanuel heads home.

Gentlemen, thanks so much. Have a great weekend.

And when we come back, if you pick up the Sunday "New York Times" this week, and on the cover of the magazine, just who is Glenn Beck? When we come back, we'll talk about the controversial host with the author of that magazine piece. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A brand new profile of Fox News commentator Glenn Beck captures the phenomenon he created in one elegant sentence. In record time Beck has traveled the loop of curiosity to ratings bonanza to self parity to sage. The sentence and the profile is written by "New York Times" national political reporter Mark Leibovich. I want to get into the details of Glenn Beck but I want to start by just asking you, you spent a lot of time researching the magazine piece. What surprised you the most?

MARK LEIBOVICH, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Probably what surprised me the most is this is a guy that wants to be liked very badly when you meet him. I mean he's not someone who is very accessible. He doesn't do a lot of interviews. But for such a lightning rod, I sort of expected someone to be a little bit more standoffish. He is someone who has a very approachable demeanor. He's almost cat-like in some ways. People come up to him and hug him. I don't really see that with other lightning rod commentators on either side.

KING: The question is who is he? You wrestle with that throughout the piece. Let's show some examples and you help me try to understand who is the real Glenn Beck if you know the answer to the question. Is he this guy from his rally down on the mall?

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST & RALLY ORGANIZER: We must be better than what we've allowed ourselves to become. We must get the poison of hatred out of us, no matter what anyone may say or do. No matter what anyone smears or lies or throws our way.

KING: Is he that guy or is he this guy?

BECK: The government is a heroin pusher using smiley-faced fascism to grow the nanny state.

KING: Here is just one more example of the guy on TV.

BECK: Communists, revolutionaries, socialists, Marxists, followers of chairman Mao, appointed by Obama to the executive branch in positions of the government. Call. Call me.

KING: That is -- that might even be more than two different people. The guy on the mall preaching let's all get along, let's be nice, let's respect each other to the guy on television who sometimes does nothing of the sort.

LEIBOVICH: I think Glenn Beck is going through a phase of his life where he really doesn't know whether he wants to be a uniter or a divider to use the George W. Bush phraseology. He is someone who really has dueling impulses as always of us do. He has become so high profile and has put such a stake in being a leader of a movement in some ways, and obviously it's translated well into ratings and people on the mall and book sales and so forth.

KING: He thrives on saying I'm not perfect. Yet on television does he expect perfection of those he goes after so often?

LEIBOVICH: He seems to want to give himself immunity by talking openly about alcoholism, drug abuse, bad behavior in the past. Again, he, by confessing so much, feels like he's giving himself license. I think a lot of people find him much more maybe connectable because of that. But at the same time, it makes for some very, very sharp contradictions.

KING: You spoke to Dana Milbank who is writing a book. He says in a forthcoming book "Tears Of A Clown" the Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes in the first 14 months of Beck's Fox News show Beck and his guests mentioned fascism 172 times, Nazis 134 times, Hitler 115 times, the holocaust 58 dimes and Joseph Goebbels eight times. What's the point? LEIBOVICH: The point is this someone who pushes the envelope. There's an understanding in public life or there has been over the years and some public figures learned this the hard way, you don't go around invoking things like the holocaust or Nazism or Hitler or slavery, 9/11, things like that. There are some taboo areas in American life that he completely has disregarded and has been very prodigious in bringing them up in contexts that are obviously questionable but certainly make his point in a much more blatant way.

KING: You talk about in his work and in his conversations with you where he can start down a road and start saying something you know is going to be controversial and then stop himself and sometimes edit himself and sometimes even contradict himself. One of those examples when he talked about the president of the United States, our first African-American president. Glenn beck starts down the road saying he thinks the president has a deep seeded hatred of white people. Let's listen.

BECK: This president I think has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I don't know what it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't say he doesn't like white people. David Axelrod is white, Rahm Emanuel is his chief of staff. 70 percent of the people we see every day is white. Robert Gibbs is white.

BECK: I'm not saying he doesn't like white people. This guy I believe is a racist.

KING: He did say he doesn't like white people before he then said, I'm not saying he doesn't like white people.

LEIBOVICH: He talks with utter self assurance at all times about things he has just contradicted himself about sometimes a few seconds earlier. Again, he's a very believable figure but he also unfortunately for him has come of age in an age of videotape and web searching and video searching where you can easily find the contradictions, sometimes within a few sentences of each other.

KING: You write in the article about that he's worried, he wears bulletproof vests at public events, he thinks he's targeted, he's trying to improve security around his properties. Does he receive legitimate threats or is he paranoid?

LEIBOVICH: You could argue he's taking necessary precautions especially since he has young kids. I wouldn't say he's paranoid. He certainly has a vivid imagination and has a very acute sense of what is possible.

KING: Do you have a more confident sense now of what is real and what is not, who is real and who is not after this in the sense that here's a guy whose hero is Orson Wells, who was known for his dramatic fantasies.

LEIBOVICH: I am confident in saying there's a fusion between showmanship and true belief here. I did not talk to a single person who knows him who says he's really a closet liberal, he's just making all this up because it's good for ratings because it provokes people. At the same time I asked myself on many occasions in watching him and spending time with him whether he was doing this for effect, whether those tears are real, whether they are pantomime for the moment.

KING: Let me ask you lastly a question I would ask about a political figure. We're not sure whether he is or not but he seems to be to a degree and that's always who is attracted to them. Any candidate, you spend time at the big rally on the mall, you traveled to Alaska for a performance he gave, a lecture he gave with Sarah Palin. Who is it? Who are the people who want to be with Glenn Beck?

LEIBOVICH: It's not an angry unhinged mob like some people would like to believe. I mean these are largely seemingly middle class, almost entirely white people who seem -- they seem very nice, they seem very approachable. I think most of them are Republican voters you know turned off by the Republican Party but Republican voters nonetheless over the years. And, you know, I think it sort of struck me as a worried but enthusiastic and certainly energized crowd of people.

KING: Glenn Beck's fascinating piece in "The New York Times" magazine this Sunday. Mark Leibovich, thanks for your time.

LEIBOVICH: Thanks John.

KING: Today's top headlines including here in Washington T.A.R.P. It runs out on Sunday. A fact check on whether you're getting your money back.

A look at House speaker Nancy Pelosi. She made history as the first woman speaker. Are the voters about to take the gavel away?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence who won the values voters presidential straw poll last month in Iowa -- actually will be in Iowa tomorrow. It's his second trip to the state which just happens to hold the first presidential caucuses in 2012.

The federal government today proposed higher standards for car fuel economy setting a goal from 47 and 62 miles per gallon by 2025.

Bank of America is the latest in a string of banks freezing home foreclosures in 23 states to investigate whether there were flaws in its process. This Sunday marks the end of the $700 billion bailout program that kept GM, Chrysler and Wall Street in business. The trouble asset relief program or T.A.R.P. won't be able to loan out any more money, but it will keep collecting dividends and repayment. T.A.R.P. is no longer a dirty word? KING: It will still be a dirty word, it just won't be giving out money. We call it T.A.R.P. in Washington. Most Americans call it the bailout. I went back in time because I mentioned this voter unrest. I said take us back, good vote, bad vote?

SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: We got a phone call September the 19th of '08 where Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke got all the Democrats on the line and they said, if you do not do this within the next two weeks, the world financial system is going into a cataclysmic freefall. It's the most serious phone call I have been on of the most serious issue I've seen since 9/11 itself. I voted for this.

KING: Voted for it. He said a lot of senators felt ripped off. Original cost was $700 billion. A lot of people voted for this. 74 voted yes; 40 Democrats, 33 Republicans and the one independent. Where are we now? Now the government says it will cost $66 billion to taxpayers, $225 billion have been paid back so far. The money paid back goes straight into paying down the debt. Some people think even in the long run perhaps the taxpayers will break even or make a buck or two, right now $66 billion. So, still controversial out on the campaign. People here in Washington insist it is working.

When we come back, House speaker Nancy Pelosi made history when she got that gavel. Will voters in November take it away?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We talk often about the stakes for President Obama in the midterm elections but there could be dramatic consequences for another history making Democrat, the House speaker Nancy Pelosi. The nation's first madam speaker took the gavel in January 2007 and promised dramatic changes.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: This new Congress doesn't have two years or 200 days. Let us join together in the first 100 hours to make this the Congress, the most honest and open Congress in history.

KING: But now with a month until Election Day, most odds makers believe Pelosi will be handing the gavel back to Republicans in January. Let's discuss the speaker, the stakes for her and her role in this year's campaign with senior political analyst Gloria Borger, national political correspondent Jessica Yellin, and senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Gloria I want to start with you because you were invited to a luncheon today with the speaker. She has to know what her strategists are telling her there is a likelihood they believe she will be handing the gavel back.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not if you listen to Nancy Pelosi. It is as if she is living in an alternate universe. She came out there are out there and it was a group of reporters she said and I quote, I would rather be where we are than they are. Meaning the Republicans. You just did the double take. We did the double take. She has every intention of returning as speaker. Although she did at one point, allow this, now she --

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Does she have to take the position talking to reporters?

BORGER: We were talking where the country is right now. Why there is anti-government feelings. She did say this, she said, "Any political party that can't exploit 9.5 percent unemployment ought to hang up their gloves." So she kind of gets it.

KING: She's setting a bar for the Republicans. She kind of gets it. As the Republicans in her words exploit, they're trying to make her an issue in campaigns across the country. Let's listen to one of the many ads that invoke unfavorably, Nancy Pelosi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, our memorable moments, first date, first car, first home. And on Bobby Bright's first day in Congress, he vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker. He didn't stop there. Bobby Bright voted with Nancy Pelosi over 70 percent of the time, and he's taken over $25,000 from her. Firsts -- maybe Bobby Bright should be the first to go. The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

KING: Bobby Bright is a Democrat in Alabama where Nancy Pelosi essentially is a four-letter word.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bobby Bright one of the few Democrats who have come out in really a pretty intense and rather crude way distanced himself from the speaker. But, look, I actually asked her when they came back for the month and a half in the summer home and ads like this were running all over the country, using her as the bogeyman about that. She didn't let me finish my sentence. She says sternly this is not about me, this is about the country, this is about the party.

KING: Let's listen to Nancy Pelosi saying, what? Running ads about me? No way.

PELOSI: This has nothing to do with me. It is about our fight for the American people. I think that is the contrast that will be drawn. The Republicans are there for the special interest, the special interests are pouring tens of millions if not hundred million dollars into this campaign to, to try to go back to the status quo that they had before the election of President Obama when we took the country in a new direction.

KING: What you get there is a sense of her discipline, an immediate pivot, this is not about me. But it is about her. It's not just about her, it is about the record of the Democrats.

BASH: I think to be fair, it is, this year it is more the latter than the former, than it is about the record of the Democrats and what they have done. Remember back in 2006, before she became speaker, you had a lot of the ads running, warning voters in some of the conservative districts who ended up electing Democrats don't you do that you will elect somebody who will run the country like San Francisco. Then it didn't work because there was a wave. The same wave is going on now in the opposite direction. I do think you guys see this when you go out as well, that she might be a bogeyman and easy foil but the bigger bogeyman, the spending the Democrats have done.

YELLIN: She is the face of that to some out there. That's what the Republicans have played with. She is nothing if not a hard-nosed poll, those close to Pelosi will tell you she gets it. If Democrats have to go out there and what they have do to win, demonize Nancy Pelosi.

BASH: She wants a phone call with a heads-up. She wants to be notified properly.

BORGER: We asked her about that today. She said, go for it. Just win your race. Do whatever you have to do.

KING: Let's close by first reminding people who she is. She represented San Francisco, but she was born in Baltimore to a very political family. Grandmother of eight, served in Congress 23 year, elected speaker in 2007. The what if question is being asked around town. If the Democrats lose the majority, you already see some angling who will be the new Democratic leader. A, most unlikely she would stay on as leader of the Democrats in the house. B, many think she would probably leave the Congress.

BASH: I don't know.

BORGER: It is not an issue she will at all address. When you go near it and you ask as we all do, what if you don't become speaker? What if you lose the House? Why are your Democrats running away from you? I am focused on this election. She really has an intensity about her, which is, I am going to deal with what I need to deal with now. You can ask me until you are blue in the face, dear but I'm not answering.

YELLIN: The Democrats don't want to address it. She has been enormously successful as a speaker, wielded power effectively and gotten a lot done.

BASH: Yeah, I have not detected any conversations, true conversations she has had or entertained behind the scenes. Everybody I talked to, when she is calling she is on the road going from fund raiser a to fund raiser b, checking in and she's focused on that and she's not going to entertain that right now for all the reasons, you know what. That's she got where she is. Laser focus. Look, especially as somebody who is a woman knows how to focus that and maybe have five kids by her side.

KING: One month from now we find out if she gets to stay. Dana, Jessica, Gloria, thank you.

When we come back if you were the president's new chief of staff what would be your first piece of advice to the boss. That's tonight's "Pete on the Street" after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: So there is a new chief of staff in the White House. What advice would you give the president? We sent Pete Dominick to find out.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: That's right, John King, Rahm Emanuel is out. This guy Pete Rouse is in. I wanted to ask the people out here in Atlanta what do they think Pete Rouse's first bit of advice will be to his new and kind of old boss will be as well. Let's go find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I would tell Obama to do is to -- maybe work on international relations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop all the arguing and bickering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send anyone who needs help, send them up to Canada.

DOMINICK: Send Americans to Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's free. Get a passport. Do it.

DOMINICK: You're fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to cut our spending.

DOMINICK: I agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely, less NASCAR.

DOMINICK: Less NASCAR, what, what's wrong with it? You want --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More hockey. Less NASCAR.

DOMINICK: More hockey and less NASCAR racing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be more like Bush.

DOMINICK: Be more like Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want you to destroy the country. I want you to be more aggressive with your thoughts.

DOMINICK: I appreciate your honesty. Good luck with the internship I've just demoted you to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: All right. John King, lot of fun. Lot of advice out here. Lot of people pretty ambitious. And back to you. Have a good weekend.

KING: Thank you for stopping by. You have a great weekend too. That's all for us. Sanjay Gupta reports doctor detectives starts right now.