Return to Transcripts main page


No Time for Victory Laps; Comeback Kid; Free Speech

Aired October 21, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. Good evening everyone. Tonight, the right declares war on National Public Radio for firing analyst Juan Williams for saying he gets nervous flying sometimes if he sees Muslims on the plane.

And former President Bill Clinton applauds the diversity in the crowd as he campaigns for the Democrat running for Florida governor, then adds this about her Republican opponent.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He can't win a debate so he's spending a fortune telling you that she is an Obama liberal. Now, that's name-calling and it's not exactly racist, not exactly.


KING: And what's OK and what is out of bounds in our political discourse. Also, former President Bush is stepping back into the spotlight to promote his soon to be published memoir. Mr. Bush says it will discuss controversial decisions like going to war in Iraq and responding to Hurricane Katrina, but only after he writes about an earlier defining moment.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The book opens with a personal decision, quitting drinking at age 40, a decision I could not have made without faith. I write a little bit about the experiences that forged my character.


KING: Let's start a packed hour of politics. It's just 12 days now to election day with the current president and a comment he made today that frames the defining question of this year's hostile Democrats' mid-term campaign environment. Listen and as you do ask this important question. Is that how you see it?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in such emergency mode that it was very difficult for us to spend a lot of time doing victory laps and advertising exactly what we were doing because we had to move on to the next thing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is the president's problem and the Democrats' problem bad advertising and too few victory laps, or do you disagree with the president's policies? Joining us Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and national political correspondent Jessica Yellin.

And Cornell let me start with that question because that's a risky one for the president. I know he believes it. He believes that if people only could step back and if he had had more time to say here is what is good about the health care bill, here's what good about the stimulus bill, here's what's good about extending the Wall Street bailout or TARP that President Bush started, that people would say, OK, but that's risky when the climate says people don't buy that.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: But he's -- but really he's telling what a lot of us Democrats think anyway. That we did a fairly poor job of selling what we were doing. And John, as you know, if you break down, take the health care for instance, if you break down what's in health care, you know it's fairly popular. It's not popular as Obama care because of the way it's been sold. If you look at sort of what's happened with the financial reform package, when you break that down, it's actually popular what Americans want, but we have done an awfully poor job of selling it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But it sounds a little elite, excuse me for saying that, to say if we only sold it to Americans more --


BORGER: -- they would get it. What if they sort of understand what was in it and they didn't actually like it because they thought that it was too much?

BELCHER: Well no -- here is my push back on that. Because there is still probably a third of Americans who think the killing little old ladies is part of the health care bill. Republicans (INAUDIBLE) did a better job of selling what or selling -- telling falsehoods about what we've been doing that we've been --


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The White House's argument is also changing. A few months ago, the White House was not saying we messaged poorly. They were saying oh no, by the time the election comes around people will feel the benefits of this, they'll get it.


YELLIN: We won't have to worry about that --

KING: It's risky because --

BELCHER: That was a mistake.


KING: Even if the president -- again, even if the president is right, he's telling people if you disagree with me, you're wrong.


KING: You're telling voters, every day Americans who think maybe they don't want pre-existing conditions to be disallowed. Maybe they like some of the things (INAUDIBLE), maybe they think Washington shouldn't be making those decisions or maybe they look around and say where is the stimulus money in my community?


BELCHER: But I think this -- I think this is the president fessing up to what -- I mean you all said --


BELCHER: -- and so what Democrats have said is that we've done a poor job of selling --

BORGER: But it's a little whiny. You know --


BELCHER: Him saying I didn't do a good job is not whining. That's him being a man.

KING: Let's add this to the conversation because when you're out, you were just out in Ohio, you have been to California, you've been in other big states. That's not what the Republican candidates are saying. They don't think the president has bad messaging or bad advertising (INAUDIBLE) take a message left. Republicans including the former speaker of the House say this.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: The theme of jobs and paychecks versus job killing and food stamps is a theme that really most Americans can understand, and I think that as we go around the country on this jobs tour, we're going to keep driving home the message that if you're Pelosi and Reid and Obama, your policies kills jobs.


KING: He's a little subdued there, Cornell, but Newt Gingrich thinks he's on a victory lap.

BELCHER: Well there he goes with the food stamp thing again and it just boggles my mind sort of what they're trying to do with the whole food stamp thing. But look, when you break it out, you know we -- it took them -- it took them eight years to tear down what Bill Clinton, the peace and prosperity that Bill Clinton built. It took them eight years to tear that down. To say that Barack Obama and Democrats are going to rebuild that in a year and a half is a little bit ridiculous, so they don't have much of a record to run on when it comes to job creation.

YELLIN: There's a lot of heavy spin coming from Republicans when you're on the campaign trail. This argument that because there are so many job losses, the stimulus didn't work is something that they're selling heavily even though we have objective government analyses, non partisan that say it would have been worse without it.

BORGER: You know here's what --

BELCHER: That's a bad job selling --


BORGER: But here's -- but here -- Newt Gingrich is so good at the vocabulary of politics. He knows exactly where to put in the knife and turn it and to say job killers, right --

BELCHER: Food stamps.

BORGER: Food stamps, he just uses that vocabulary and he knows exactly what Republican voters will respond to, and he knows how to get them to the polls. That's what he's trying to do.

KING: One of the things -- one of the things that we need to do a better job of in our business is explaining why things happen. The president was out in Washington State --


KING: -- today campaigning for Patty Murray, a Democrat, a member of the leadership. She was the mom with sneakers who won an election several years back and she is among the Democrats now who are quite nervous. New polls show her race a horse race. That's where you saw the president out there in that back yard talking about he needed to do more victory laps or sell things better. He also talked about women in politics. Listen (INAUDIBLE).


OBAMA: Things like equal pay for equal work aren't just women's issues. Those are middle class family issues because you know how well women do is -- will help determine how well our families are doing as a whole.


KING: Now, I -- no question the president believes everything he just said, but the reason he's saying it there so close to an election is that he has the same poll numbers we do, and look at this. Are you enthusiastic about voting -- this is among registered women voters. In September, 42 percent of Republican women said they were enthusiastic, 46 percent say so now. In September, 36 percent of Democratic women said they were enthusiastic, 31 percent say so now, so Cornell, even in a voting group women, Democrats have an advantage, but you -- even among women you see a pro Republican enthusiasm --

BELCHER: And this is -- this is a big problem. Look, we won women voters by 13 points the last time around. We do not win if there's not a gender gap. (INAUDIBLE) gender gap, that is straight up and down. We do not do well if there's not a significant gender gap. We've got to bring these women home.

But this actually circles back around to where we started. Democrat women aren't as enthusiastic as Republican women because guess what (INAUDIBLE) we have not done a very good job of explaining to Americans and selling to Americans what in fact we've been doing, not only Independents but also Democrats. Democrats aren't happy about what's going in Washington either.

BORGER: You know women at the outset were very enthusiastic about the prospect of health care reform because it's often women who end up taking care of their parents and their children and their spouses. And they became less and less enthusiastic as the process went on because women like men felt shut out of the process, and they didn't like it. They didn't think it was what Barack Obama promised them. That's why they're unenthusiastic about going to vote.

YELLIN: So this is a theme a lot of campaigns have been pushing for a while. It's all about the women's vote. We can get out the women's vote -- this is what Democrats are saying -- then we can win. And they have pushed that on me so I have done a little research. They even get specific -- it's women between 24 and 50 who are college graduates --

KING: It's you.

YELLIN: It's me --


YELLIN: -- and they -- so I have talked to a couple of very senior Democrats who say look, the bottom line on this is we are so done with men. Men will not listen to us. The ones who aren't onboard aren't getting onboard so women is all we have left.

BORGER: Right and --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you are the majority.

BORGER: But can I just say this --


BORGER: Tomorrow Nancy Pelosi -- I got a message -- is having a conference call with a woman member of Congress to talk about what the Democrats have done for women.


BORGER: You think they're trying to get out those women --


BELCHER: I have been trying to figure out what women want for a long time.



KING: On that note, a quick time-out. Everyone is going to stay with us. When we come back, two former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are back in action today. Everybody stay right there. We'll explain what they're up to.


KING: Bill Clinton dubbed himself the come-back kid during the 1992 presidential campaign. Boy, do I remember that, and he's back on the campaign trail this year. Another comeback of sorts. Today the former president went from Florida to North Carolina to Maryland campaigning for Democratic candidates, and he's been across the country. Let's discuss his role and specifically some insights.

We're back with Cornell Belcher, Gloria Borger and Jessica Yellin. Here is what strikes me. This afternoon, he went to North Carolina. This is Bill Clinton, the former governor of Arkansas. The centrist, Democratic leadership counsel, different kind of Democrat trying to protect what is simply a dying breed, which is a southern Democrat. And Heath Schuler (ph), a former college quarterback, played briefly for the Washington Redskins --


KING: -- yes -- we won't go there -- he's in the Congress now, his second stint in Washington he's trying to make more distinguished -- let's put it that way -- and he's in trouble. (INAUDIBLE) let's look at some numbers here. Back in 1980, Democrats held 69 seats in the Congress from the south, 64 percent of the seats from the south were in Democratic hands. In 2004, George W. Bush's midterm election -- reelection campaign I'm sorry -- it fell to 49 seats.

Democrats had only 37 percent of the seats in the south. They came up a little bit in 2008 because of the Obama victory. Democrats now hold 59 seats, 45 percent of the seats in the south. Cornell, 64 percent of the seats in 1980, 45 percent this year, and most expected to drop (INAUDIBLE) because most southern Democrats are in trouble. What is the party's problem?

BELCHER: Well the -- I mean this really sort of goes back to sort of the Reagan Democrats when sort of -- they started moving toward Republican. It actually goes back even further when LBJ signed the civil rights legislation and he said -- what he said -- there goes the south. So some of this has some historical foundation to it. However, you know when you look at sort of the way that the Bible belt is changing sort of demographically, becoming more black, more brown, like a lot of African-Americans are moving back to the Bible belt and sort of they're growing Hispanic population there, I would pause that because I got a feeling that some of those trend lines are going to change especially in states like North Carolina and Virginia where you're seeing a changing demographic in that area.

KING: So a tough cycle this year --

BELCHER: Tough cycle --

KING: -- and then we'll see down the road.

BELCHER: If you can turn them out, it's just like out west. I mean that is a changed demographic with more Hispanics and Colorado is going to come what Ohio is right now for battleground politics.

BORGER: But remember after the presidential election, I remember sitting on Election Night, we were all talking about how the Republican Party had essentially been reduced to a southern, white male party. So the fact that they're going to take a lot of these seats back is really not surprising. Those are probably seats that Democrats shouldn't want anyway.

KING: But the Obama operation thought winning Virginia, winning North Carolina --


KING: -- being more competitive in some of those other (INAUDIBLE) they thought perhaps it was a building block --


BELCHER: But John, but John --


BELCHER: It is a building block when we change the face of the electorate and it goes back to sort of the conversation we have been having all week quite frankly. Look, we won those seats on the Obama surge. That Obama surge was younger, blacker and browner. If we don't get that surge back those seats that we won in 2008 are going to be lost.


YELLIN: And don't forget redistricting is coming up next year, and that could push -- that could keep some of these seats in Republican hands for a long time.

KING: That was another -- one of those races Bill Clinton was campaigning was the Florida governor's race and that's two seats there. They get plus two we think. (INAUDIBLE) looks like that. That will be a big deal redistricting. (CROSSTALK)

BORGER: How many national Democrats can go campaign in the south for candidates --




KING: Bill Clinton, OK. So that would be one. I can count -- I can count that.


KING: Let's move on because we got a dose of I would call this realism from the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Inside his camp, they would love to get the 10 seats that would make him the majority leader. They think they'll probably get seven or eight. But he's going have to deal with probably a more conservative and several Tea Party candidates in his caucus even if they don't get a majority. Listen to what Mitch McConnell told "The National Journal" in an interview published today.

"One of the things we will have to remind newcomers and those who have supported them is that even though we will have a larger Republican Conference, we do not control the government and we cannot control the government when the president has the veto pen. We need to have a humble, grateful response about this election. Incidentally, there is no polling data that suggests the voters love us."

That is -- that is a pretty factual straightforward pragmatic statement from Mitch McConnell essentially saying I'm going to have a new caucus. They're going to give me a ton of grief, asking me to do things that I probably will not have the power to do.

BELCHER: Low expectations. I mean that's what he's doing. Look here's the thing and watch my spin here. They don't win -- they don't take the Senate, absolute failure by Republicans -- absolute failure by Republicans if they don't take back the Senate given all the conditions that they had. And if they don't get back the Senate, you know what, Jim DeMint and quite frankly I don't know if we should be listening to Mitch or Jim DeMint about giving sort of what's going on --



BORGER: You can't over promise and under deliver. He knows that. First rule of politics and that's what McConnell is saying, guys. Don't do this to us because we'll look like failures.

YELLIN: But I'll tell you who will disagree with him is Sarah Palin who CNN interviewed this week and said if the Republican Party does not listen to the Tea Party, in a few years quote, "they are through".


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't have to legislate.


BELCHER: That's the problem. She doesn't have to legislate.

BORGER: Yes, but that's why you could win up with three parties --


KING: This fight -- this fight (INAUDIBLE) Republican race we'll continue after the election. I think some of the fights within the Democratic race will continue after the election, too. Let's close with this. The former president, George W. Bush, is about to publish a memoir and he has a YouTube video essentially promoting the themes of it including this.


BUSH: The book ends with an account of the financial crisis of 2008 and my decision to set ideology aside to prevent an economic collapse. Along the way I write about the options I considered, the advice I received, and the principles that guided my actions. I reflect on what I got right and what I got wrong and what I would do differently if I had the chance.


KING: There are -- I cannot tell you how many Republican strategists I talked to in the past year who said Mr. President, meaning President Bush, please make a public statement, write an op-ed for "The Wall Street Journal". Please help us explain why you did this because Bob Bennett, senator of Utah, Lisa Murkowski, senator from Alaska, a lot of Democrats, too, people who cast a vote in favor of what the American people think was the big Wall Street wasteful bail out are getting crushed. And he says abandon ideology. That's having the government intervene in the market. Mr. Bush says that's an abandonment, but this is the toxic vote on the campaign trail.

BORGER: And he's the only person talking about it, by the way. There isn't anybody else out there, even though and Jess knows this because she covers this, TARP is being repaid and who is talking about it except for George W. Bush --

BELCHER: It's still vastly unpopular because Americans still don't understand why we bailed the banks out and (INAUDIBLE). They literally do not grasp the concept.


YELLIN: I have to say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a message.

YELLIN: -- it's in Republicans best interest if President Bush doesn't talk about it --


YELLIN: -- in some ways because most people forgot that it start -- when you talk to voters --


YELLIN: -- they keep blaming Obama for TARP. It started under President Bush. That seems to be forgotten.

KING: Maybe he's (INAUDIBLE) ideology again.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or maybe he's not --

KING: He needs better advertising --



KING: (INAUDIBLE) thanks. When we come back, a lot more to discuss. NPR fires analyst Juan Williams. Is there too much political correctness in our society today?

And elections have consequences. We say that all the time. We'll explain today in a conversation about how if Republicans make big gains, Nebraska's new abortion law could get copied in other states.

And a female president, Nicolle Wallace, a former top Bush and McCain aide, writes a fiction novel, but in that novel, very interesting close to reality characters.


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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. Yet another change to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. A senior Defense Department attorney tells CNN a new memo from Defense Secretary Robert Gates says only the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, not lower ranking officers will make decisions on discharging gay or lesbian troops.

Both of Japan's top two automakers are recalling thousands of vehicles sold in the U.S. because of brake fluid leaks. First Toyota recalled some 740,000 vehicles, then Honda's announced a recall of an unspecified number of Odyssey minivans and Acura or El Sedan (ph).

President Obama adding four states to his last-minute campaign schedule. He'll visit Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut the weekend before the election. The president's in San Francisco right now where he met with Apple CEO Steve Jobs. And so they're supposed to talk about the economy and technology, but people on the Web are asking if the president got another one of those new what do you call them Macbook Air (ph).

KING: Macbook Air (ph) --


KING: An iPad --


KING: Maybe a new iPod Touch.

JOHNS: Loves that fancy stuff.

KING: Keep track of all the campaign stuff.

JOHNS: Yes, these are supposed to be like-minded guys. I guess they can talk the same language.

KING: I don't know -- I know the president --


KING: Well the president use to have a BlackBerry. Maybe Steve Jobs says you don't need that. You need a Mac. I don't know, maybe that's what they are talking about. Maybe it's a debate.

When we come back, political correctness, has it run amuck? The right declares war on National Public Radio after it fires analyst Juan Williams. Stay with us.


KING: A huge debate in Washington and around the country today. NPR analyst Juan Williams went on FOX News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" and said he gets nervous when he sees someone wearing Muslim clothes and he's on a plane, about to fly. NPR fired him for it. Williams calls his dismissal a chilling assault on free speech.

FOX host Mike Huckabee also calling it a free speech issue is calling for the government to cut NPR's funding. Inbounds, out of bounds. Should he have been fired? Should he have had a chance to defend himself? With us to talk it over CNN contributor Erick Erickson. He's the editor-in-chief of the conservative blog and CNN political contributor Roland Martin right here.

Erick, I want to go to you first because the right has seized on this issue and has said boycott NPR, cut its government funding. Mike Huckabee says he won't do any interviews on NPR. Sarah Palin wrote about this on her Facebook page today. Where in your view did NPR go wrong? You've written about this as well.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well to take a guy like Juan Williams and fire him over a statement like that, and by the way he finished his statement by saying he had to remind himself that you couldn't blame all Muslims for the acts of a few. It was a perfectly legitimate statement for him to make. I mean compare that to Michelle Martin (ph) of NPR just a couple of months ago on our network imputing that somehow Christianity had something to do with Tim McVeigh blowing up the Murrah (ph) building or Anita Totenberg (ph) back in the 90's saying Jesse Helms (ph) was probably going to get AIDS or another NPR reporter saying Newt Gingrich wanted to lynch black people. None of these people got fired. Frankly I think it has more to do with Juan Williams being a Fox News contributor than anything else.

KING: Do you agree with that?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, I think it was wrong for NPR to fire Juan Williams based upon this comment. On "THE SITUATION ROOM" earlier they played a sound bite from the CEO of NPR, who alluded to the fact that they've had several issues with Williams over the past several years. There's no doubt his relationship with FOX bothered them. And so I believe we have to have real conversations in terms of people's real -- real fears, which he spoke of.

What bothered me is the fact that look I own 30 or 40 pieces of traditional African attire. Somebody might consider that to be Muslim garb, but the reality is if I'm wearing that I don't want somebody looking at me saying oh my God is he a terrorist. The other piece is here, look at the videotapes of the 9/11 hijackers, not a single one of them were wearing Muslim garb. They were wearing traditional clothes American -- that Americans might wear and so I think we should be able to have free-flowing conversations, not shut somebody down simply saying here are my personal fears.

KING: Let's listen to exactly what Juan Williams says and this is an extended piece of what he said because we didn't want to clip in a way that some would say we're taking him out of context, so please bear with us. This is worth listening to.


JUAN WILLIAMS, FORMER NPR ANALYST: I think you're right. I think political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don't address reality. I mean look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country, but when I get on a plane I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, nervous. I remember also when the Times Square bomber was in court, I think this was just last week, he said the war with Muslims, America's war with Muslims is just beginning, first drop of blood. There's no way to get away from the facts, but there are people who want to remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it's not a war against Islam.


KING: Now, Roland, you were shaking your head. I have known Juan for a number of years. He's a fair guy. He's a thoughtful guy. He's a straight-forward guy. You're shaking your head at that. A lot of Americans rightly or wrongly have the same sentiments. They get nervous and feel guilty about it, but by human nature, that's what happens.

MARTIN: That's why I shook my head when he said these are the facts. No Juan that's your perspective. That's your opinion. You're basing it on a typical stereotype. Just as Juan Williams would be offended if he got to the elevator and he saw a white woman clutched her purse when she saw a black man. I had that experience. If I wore African garb, somebody might see that as Muslim garb. Also, if I see a white guy with a crew cut and some black boots and a black leather Jacket, I don't automatically think is he a neo-Nazi? I wouldn't look at someone who is Jewish and say you have a certain hat on, a certain attire, you must be a member of this group. It's the problem with allowing a stereotype to be placed on everyone.

ERICKSON: There's a larger issue as well though. We have seen this across networks in discussions related to the preacher who wanted to burn books or the Koran in Florida or the mosque being built in New York. There's a lot of concerns Americans have about a lot of Islam, and no one wants to dress the concerns without using the word bigot to address the people who have the concerns, rightly or wrongly. And you have a situation like Juan Williams, and I can give you dozens and dozens of NPR reporters making offensive statements about tea partiers and they have never been disciplined, but high makes this statement that is reflected by a wide group of people, and he's fired.

MARTIN: I'm offended as the husband of a pastor when people make an assumption that preacher is trying to steal someone's money. I still believe that we should be able to have conversations in this country without somebody saying, oh, my god, let me watch what I say. That's the problem with that. If NPR listened to what Juan had to say, he's saying these are my true feelings. It's what I feel, what I sense, own up to it and then educate yourself on the problem.

KING: All right. Roland Martin, Erick Erickson, appreciate your time. It's a conversation we'll continue in the days ahead. If you're wondering why this selection matters, consider this. It's not on the ballot, but one of the most divisive issues on the ballot is abortion. No matter how you feel about it, the election could put it front and center in your state. See why, next.


KING: You often hear us say elections have consequences. Sometimes we don't do a good enough job explaining what the consequences might be. The overriding issues this year are the economy and the Obama agenda. But if Republicans as expected make big gains in races for governor and state legislatures, next year is also likely to bring new simmering fights about controversial issues like immigration and abortion. In state races across America for example you hear more and more talks about plans to copy Arizona's new immigration law, and there's also more talk among conservatives of using new abortion rules in Nebraska as a model in other states. Here's what the Nebraska law does. It bans most abortions after 20 weeks on grounds some experts say it's at that point a fetus can feel pain. The previous state law banned abortion at the line where a fetus can survive outside the womb which is generally considered to be at about 22 weeks after fertilization. Will this one of a kind Nebraska law survive court challenges and will it be copied in other states? Marjorie Dannenfelser is the president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony political action committee, and Terry O'Neill is president of the national organization for women which supports abortion rights. How many states in your consultations with conservatives and like minded anti-abortion groups across the country, how many states will look at Nebraska and say, let's propose that here?

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER, PRES., SUSAN B. ANTHONY LIST: I would say a significant number of states given the massive win that this was. That's was an overwhelming win in that legislature there. Using that as a model, it would only make sense that we replicate it elsewhere, mainly because the muscle on the ground supports it all across the country, there is consensus where late-term abortions are a place where many say perhaps we should draw a line.

KING: Some say maybe the reason there hasn't been an immediate lawsuit is because that organizations that support abortion rights as you do are worried that this Roberts court isn't the place to have the fight. Is that true?

TERRY O'NEILL, PRES., NATL. ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: Sure, they've got a political agenda to pursue and they're pursing it very aggressively. It's really frightening. The main thing here is women around the country don't want to criminalize abortion. In fact, what women want is good reproductive health care.

DANNENFELSER: This particular law does not criminalize women. You point to a law that does criminalize women. And I would be willing to take that down and figure out how to change it. That's not the approach of the pro-life movement. The approach of the pro life movement now is to have reflected in the law areas of consensus like late-term abortions. In fact, this particular approach that has to deal with fetal pain, when the fetus starts to feel pain is when we draw the line is the very issue that turned the mind of the leading abortionist in the nation --

KING: That is Terry a big part of the debate. There is debate about parental consent, parental notification. That's one issue. Now we're in a world of fast advancing science and technology and medical care. Is the position of abortion rights groups that support abortion rights, that it's irrelevant -- that's a tough word to use in this issue, but is that less important to the simple, no, this should be a women's choice regardless of what the science says. O'NEILL: I think what we can agree on is these are health care matters. A woman's reproductive health care is a complex thing. It's not for the politician. It's not for the religious organizations to decide for each and every woman to decide what is right for her, her health care, and her family. Late-term abortions are having to deal with health care disasters and issues. As long as we understand it's health care it seems to me what we have to look at is who is going to be making the decisions, her family and herself? Or is that going to be the leader of the state or the governors or a religious leader?

DANNENFELSER: We do agree that it's about health. The question is who are the patients? In a late term abortion we're talking about a healthy, viable fetus that can live outside the womb. It is honestly a callus thing to say that that child is not a patient as well as the mother. When these abortions are performed, the child is given anesthesia before it's aborted.

KING: For the broader political argument, is this a battle? We have seen this come up in Washington during Supreme Court confirmation battles, but is this an issue where Washington is a bystander and do you see increasing volume of a state by state battle for abortion rights?

O'NEILL: Sure, what the right wing's strategy has been in the past about abortion has been to test drive the antiabortion measured. And by the way, the fetal pain measure is a measure for shocking and shaming women. There isn't any scientific evidence that there's fetal pain, so that's one of many techniques to shock and shame women around the abortion issue. It's not medically valid, and it's not scientifically valid.

DANNENFELSER: Check out the New England record of medicine and journals all over the place.

O'NEILL: I think your viewers need to check out the reputable things. What the strategy has been is to test drive these anti- abortion measures throughout the states and import them into Washington.

KING: Margery Dannenfelser and Terry O'Neill, thanks. We'll continue the conversation another day.

Let's get some legal perspective from our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. The issues here, viability, fetal pain, are they issues that any court and specifically the Supreme Court is comfortable dealing with or do they typically say, not our department. That's up to the medical people?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is the most political, and many people believe the most important issue in the United States Supreme Court. This law, I think, clearly would have been struck down as unconstitutional in the 1990s. But when you have Samuel Alito replacing Sandra Day O'Connor. When you have Anthony Kennedy moving to the right on the abortion law as he's done in recent years, I think the odds would favor this law being upheld by the United States Supreme Court, just a reflection of how the court is changing.

KING: We see the conversations all the time. Roe v. Wade, the stare deices. It's not Roe v. Wade but the more and more open to restrictions, is that fair?

TOOBIN: That's right. The court did an almost direct about-face on what some people call late-term abortion, partial-birth abortion. In 2000, they struck down a law, also from Nebraska, that banned that procedure. In 2007, with the new members of the court, they upheld a federal law that outlawed that procedure. The court is allowing states and the Congress more latitude in restricting abortion. The words of the law are still the same, which is does this law or any law abortion impose an undue burden, that's the key word, an undue burden on a woman's right to choose abortion. But what the judges are holding, Anthony Kennedy, the key vote on the board, is he's giving more latitude to legislators to restrict the right.

KING: Our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Jeff, thanks.


KING: A former Bush White House insider has published a novel about this country's first female president. How much does her story reflect reality? Just ahead.


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

JOHNS: Hey, John. In just a few hours, the debate for governor in the state of New Mexico is kicking off. The Republican there is Susanna Martinez. The Democrat is Diane Dennis. Either way, that state would get its very first woman governor. If Martinez wins, it will be the first Latina governor in the United States. All eyes tonight on Albuquerque. John?

KING: A fabulous race. We'll keep an eye on it. Joe Johns, thanks so much, the first female governor of New Mexico. Interesting segway into our next guest.

Nicolle Wallace has seen the good and bad of power politics. She was George W. Bush's White House communications director and in 2008, she was one of the first John McCain aids called in to help with Sarah Palin. It didn't turn out so well. Instead of writing a tell-all, she' she's published a novel about the country's first female president, and not to give too much away, the husband is a piece of work. Nicolle Wallace joins us now live from New York. I'm holding up your work. In full disclosure, Nicolle Wallace is a friend. So anyone out there that's going to watch this interview you should know that up front. Here's your book right here. You worked for Jeb Bush and then George W. Bush, then you worked for John McCain. What was it about working with all these powerful men that convinced you the leadership, not only the president, but the chief of staff, needed to be women? NICOLLE WALLACE, AUTHOR, "EIGHTEEN ACRES": I found it more astounding frankly that we never had a female White House chief of staff than I did that we never had a female president. The first character that I kind of conjured up when I set out to write this fantasy, as some people call it for a lot of reasons, not just because the president is a woman but because she's a moderate, was that we had to break other ground and have the first female White House chief of staff.

KING: You talk about breaking ground. I can read this book. I have known you a long time and I've covered politics a long time. I can find a little Karen Hughes in here. I can find a little Karl Rove in here. I can find a little Sarah Palin in here. I can find little Nicolle here. Not a female president, but a moderate, Republican president. Looking at this year's campaign, that's not only fiction, that's fantasy.

WALLACE: It is. I actually think we're further away from electing a moderate Democrat or Republican than we are from electing our first female president. This is just something that I wanted to play with in fiction. I think it's very threatening sometimes when you opine on these issues and you enter the fray of I watch your show every night and tonight some of the debates are really raw. So I worked on two presidential campaigns and traveled with George W. Bush and John McCain. I worked in the White House for five years. I wanted to step back and explore some of the issues that I had strong emotional reactions to in fiction.

KING: I want to explain to our viewers, the title eighteen acres is a term that many people in Washington know but not around the country. That's the size of the White House complex. You have the White House building and the executive office building. The insiders call it eighteen acres. I wanted to make that point. One of the people you helped consult and it didn't turn out too well, the relationship soured was Sarah Palin in the last presidential campaign. Sarah Palin after that campaign, many people thought, she won't run for president. She's been helped in some ways and hurt in others. And she'll fade. Instead she's had an enormously high profile this year as the leader of the tea party making her way around the country. I want you to listen, our political producer Shannon Travis caught up to her the other day out in Nevada and said how do you answer critics essentially who say you are dividing the party?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: If I spent all my time answering the critics, I might as well close up shop and do nothing else. Instead we're out here and we're just so appreciating the enthusiasm for the common sense message of tea party candidates. So thank you guys.

KING: Could Nicolle Wallace ever vote for Sarah Palin for president?

WALLACE: We'll see. What I love about Sarah Palin is that the times have changed so dramatically from just two years ago. Two years ago, it was widely viewed as a political liability that she lacked some of the experience that other candidates on the national stage had. I think the political climate has been completely turned on its head. The things that were a liability two years ago are asset. The things that were largely considered requirements for a candidate, the interview she did with network anchors are completely irrelevant, it would seem, in the cycle and certainly for tea party candidates. So it's so interesting to have stepped back and to enjoy watching these people not working for them any more. It is more fun to watch them break the rules and, you know, to see what happens. The midterms are a great laboratory for the presidential election which is coming up in two years. I'm enjoying getting to watch from the cheap seats.

KING: Out of government, not involved in a campaign at the moment, but that was full spin. I asked you had would Nicolle Wallace ever vote for Sarah Palin for president. That was a great answer, but it didn't answer the question.

WALLACE: I'm a primary voter in the state of Connecticut. And you know, I think if she were our party's nominee, I would have a really hard time voting for her.

KING: I want to read something else from the book. It has a little bit of salty language but I'll work my way around it. "Between the anemic recovery and two wars she's been dealt a pretty crummy hand. Every time she opens her mouth to discuss any of those topics her approval ratings go down. Congress bleeps all over her. I don't know who treats her worse, the Democrats or the Republican, but she rolls with it." That's Melanie, the White House chief of staff, in your novel, talking about President Charlotte Kramer but I could say that would be somebody else in the Obama White House talking about President Obama, no?

WALLACE: Absolutely. It could be someone -- it certainly was a conversation that we used to have in the Bush White House. The job of being this country's chief executive in these extraordinarily challenging times is a really difficult one. And the secret that White House staffers share with handful of reporters -- I'm sure you're in on it -- are that those jobs are brutal. What I tried to bring to life, the story is entirely fictional, but I tried to make the place as real as it was. We talked a little bit about Sarah Palin. I think that my characters were very well served by the fact that I experienced great triumphs and public humiliation. I tried to bring some of that roller coaster of life in politics. Working in national politics is like juggling fireballs. Sometimes you get burned. I really wanted to be as honest as I could be about what that emotional roller coaster is like without speaking out of school about any of the people I worked for. I tried to have some fun, I tried to do it in a way that's light. I don't think you have to work in politics to relate to the aspiration that women have to do everything well, to do a good job at work, to have great and satisfying relationships, to do a good job at home. We as women feel it more than men to do everything to the hilt. And so I tried to bring to light these women at the top of their field who were juggling all the normal things.

KING: Nicolle Wallace is the author of "Eighteen Acres." It's a great novel. You should read it. She's already hard at work in the sequel. I don't know what role she'll have in the movie. I hope when I read the sequel a guy has one decent job.

WALLACE: Well George Clooney will play you if ever there's a movie.

KING: Sucking up, I like that very much. Nicolle thanks.

When we come back, Pete Dominick is with us. Pete and I are going to talk about this. Christine O'Donnell now thinks that it's a mistake for that famous ad in which she says, "I'm not a witch."


KING: Let's bring in our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick. He's in Atlanta. You know Pete, politics is a funny business and you like funny. A little while back in the program last week we had on Fred Davis, the Republican ad man who made the "I am not a witch" ad for Christine O'Donnell. He said this is only way to get it behind you. You've got to look in the camera and say I'm not a witch and it'll put it behind us. Well, ABC's John Carl, a good reporter, had an interview with Christine O'Donnell and he asked her this.

JOHN CARL, ABC: Do you have any regrets in doing the ad, because that really did raise it again.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: Yes, yes. You know, I haven't publicly stated this. I don't know if I'll get in trouble for saying that. But our intention was to kill it. And that's not what happened.

KING: That's not what happened. She's right.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: I mean, I don't even know -- how does that pitch happen? Listen, here's what you're going to do, Christine. Tell people you're not a witch. It'll put it behind you. Has she ever heard of comedians? Has she ever heard of the internet? Has he, I should say. Advising her. Tell them you're not a witch. It will work out really great. No, no, get different advice, Christine. Different advise, please.

KING: We've talked about the Supreme Court and the constitution lately. Here's John Runyan, a former NFL offensive lineman. He's in a debate and he's asked this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you give me an example from the last 10 or 15 years of a Supreme Court decision of which you strongly disagree?

JON RUNYAN (R), NEW JERSEY CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: That I strongly disagree with? Dred Scott.

KING: Dred Scott was decided in 1857. That is, by my math, I'm not very good at math, not the last 10 or 15 years.

DOMINICK: A note to all political advisers, tell your candidates come up with a couple Supreme Court cases. You might need them. I'm just saying.

KING: Pete Dominick, we'll see you tomorrow. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.