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JOHN KING, USA

Pentagon Security Breach; Midterm Elections

Aired October 22, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Eleven days to Election Day and there is important campaigning tonight coast to coast, politics and lots of it in just a moment.

But we begin tonight with breaking news out of the Pentagon. A massive security breach, more than four times the size of the July leak of classified U.S. military documents. This breach details major problems in the Iraq war. Iraqi military mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, Iranian meddling that put U.S. troops at risk, abuses by private contractors hired by the United States and the Iraqi government and stark assessments about massive civilian casualties in Iraq.

The roughly 400,000 documents were released by the organization called Wikileaks, which says the public here in the United States and around the world deserves to see evidence of what it considers abuses and war crimes. The Pentagon is both embarrassed and furious. Scrambling to improve its security and worried that while the Taliban, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups will gain important information about U.S. military capabilities immediately the biggest winner in the long run could be potential future rivals and competitors like China and Russia. In a moment, the Pentagon's top spokesman joins us live to help us assess the damage. But first the latest from our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well John, this was the biggest ever. You know there's never been this amount of classified information that has gone out as the hundreds of thousands of documents that Wikileaks has now released on Iraq. What did we find out? Well when you say the word Iraq, a lot of people think of President Bush's war. But when you see some of these documents and see some of the information contained, it's clear that many of these incidents happened after President Obama took office.

It includes also instances of Iranian aggression, training and equipping Iraqi insurgent forces and helping to plan attacks in Iraq. Also instances where Iraqi forces, Iraqi Army forces abused and even killed some of their detainee prisoners, those reports were then passed to U.S. forces who did not take action, instead passing them on only to the Iraqi authorities. What does this mean for U.S. troops?

Well, the Pentagon says that basically what this does is compromise certain tactics, ways that the U.S. military will cultivate sources, but it's a big difference from, say, what happened a few months ago when the information was leaked in Afghanistan. There the U.S. military has more than twice the number of troops and they are conducting active, every day combat operations. That's not the case in Iraq -- John.

KING: Chris Lawrence for us at the Pentagon. Chris thank you for that and Chris will stay on top of this breaking news story.

Let's get the latest and a deep assessment from the Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell. Let me start with the point that Chris was just making. In terms of operations on the ground in Iraq now, yes U.S. troops are starting to come out. But in these documents are there secrets, operational tips and hints, capabilities of U.S. troops and U.S. military equipment that endangers right now as we speak the lives of U.S. troops still those on the ground in Iraq.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Not just Iraq, John, around the world. Our fear here is that the release of this classified information will give our enemies the opportunity to mind that database, to look for how we respond to certain situations. If they can see patterns of behavior, our tactics, our techniques and our procedures, the capabilities of our equipment, response times, how we cultivate sources, this is all information which should never be in the public domain.

We know in the aftermath of the Afghan document leak, the Taliban and others spoke publicly, encouraging their members to mind that database. Our intelligence confirmed that fact. Now you will have virtually half a million classified secret documents in the public domain which our enemies clearly intend to use against us and that could threaten the lives of American forces not just in Iraq or Afghanistan but around the world.

KING: The enemies today are in your view the Taliban, al Qaeda, insurgent forces within Iraq and Afghanistan perhaps, but what about tomorrow, next year and down the road if you are the military of China, the military of Russia, the military of Iran, you have those half million documents, can you now build a manual essentially how to fight the United States?

MORRELL: John, I have no idea what their intentions are. But the bottom line is that there are, as I mentioned, potentially a half million classified secret documents now in the public domain, not just as you mentioned for our enemies to use or the people we are now waging war against, but others can clearly be the beneficiaries of these secrets being out in the public. That is not good.

This information is classified for a reason. Its exposure could undermine our nation's security. It could imperil operations or it could endanger our forces. Our biggest concern about this is the latter, the potential to further endanger our forces. But there's also potential harm to come to Iraqis. There are tens of thousands of Iraqi names in these documents, potentially 60,000 names.

Now the organization that has posted this is not Wikileaks but some investigative news center in London that instead of a fig leaf of respectability that they're using. They have claimed to redact the names in these documents. But, listen, this information should not be in the public domain. They are not experts about how to redact this in a way that protects our forces. (CROSSTALK)

KING: Your argument is it should not be in the public domain and I think most Americans out there would agree classifies documents should not be in the public domain, at least not released willy-nilly like this. But, but Mr. Assange, Julian Assange, who runs Wikileaks, who has sparred with the Pentagon in the past, who released those 90,000 in July, now 400,000 roughly more, he says the public deserves to see these documents because in his view there are crimes and abuses. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: I think (INAUDIBLE) in these documents that there is very strong evidence, compelling evidence of war crimes having been committed by coalition forces and having been committed by Iraqi government forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is he right? Is one reason the Pentagon uses the classification powers to keep from the public evidence of war crimes either by U.S. forces or Iraqi forces?

MORRELL: John, he's wrong again. Listen, we've had a team that has been going through what we believe could be the potential document release from Wikileaks since July. We vetted every single one of these documents. Word by word, page by page, there is nothing in here which would indicate war crimes. If there were we would have investigated it long time ago.

What's in here is information which could further imperil our forces. There are also 300 names of Iraqis in here that we think would be particularly endangered by their exposure. We have passed that information on to U.S. forces in Iraq. They're in the process right now of contacting those Iraqis to try to safeguard them.

KING: Is Private Bradley Manning, who was the suspect in the first dump, the first leak, is he the suspect here?

MORRELL: I think we described him then as a person of interest. I would say that this matter is still under investigation. Listen, we have to do a better job safeguarding our information, but we can't do it to such a degree that our guys on the front lines who most need this information can't gain access to it. It is a fine balance that we're trying to achieve. We're still working on it.

KING: How do you strike that balance because you have a public watching that says whoa, 500,000 classified documents, military secrets, perhaps tips to terrorists today, potential rivals tomorrow about how to combat the United States. Why can't the Pentagon -- this is not -- I'm sorry -- this is not like identity theft or somebody hacking into my Facebook account. These are classified military secrets of the United States government.

MORRELL: And John, our allies look at that too and they clearly must be disappointed in our inability in this case to safeguard this information. Listen, we have taken measures in the aftermath of the July leak to try to tighten our security on classified information. We are considering even further measures now.

But we are never going to do it to such a degree that we keep it in a lock box somewhere so that none of our forces can gain access to it. The reason we have been so effective in fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan thus far has been our ability to push intelligence to our forward most units so they can use it to their advantage. So we don't want to stifle that, but we need to find a balance in trying to get them what they need while also safeguarding this information. We're still working on it.

KING: It's because of this breach, 90,000 documents in July, 400,000 more now. Is the United States military weaker, more vulnerable -- more vulnerable especially than it was six months ago?

MORRELL: I would never describe the United States military as weaker. But I think it is fair to say that we are potentially more vulnerable to attack by the release of this information. Because our enemies could use this treasure trove of classified documents to try to decipher patterns of behavior, how we respond in certain situations, exploit whatever weaknesses may be exposed there and potentially subject our forces to even greater danger than they are already in.

KING: Geoff Morrell is the Pentagon press secretary. Appreciate your coming in today --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I know it's not a great day for the Pentagon. We'll keep of top of this story at the Pentagon as well.

And with just 11 days left until the midterm election, one of our next guests says the Democrats are going to get hit with a category four hurricane. And out on the campaign trail today, you can see the Republicans licking their chops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: November 2nd, we can see it from our house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And in California, you can see the president's worried.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need all of you fired up. We need all of you ready to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Eleven days until Election Day and we're lucky tonight to have two of the smartest strategists in American politics with us. One of them says the Democrats are going to get hit with a category four hurricane. Just Republican spin, no, that's the Democrat talking.

Joining me now Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican pollster Bill McInturff. Also with us our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. Welcome. Eleven days out there's a lot of noise, more advertisements on TV, on the radio, if you're in a state with a big election, you probably don't even want to turn the TV on.

We hope you're out there watching us tonight though, but we know in an election like this the way to get clarity is usually two things, president's approval rating, right track, wrong track. In your latest poll for NBC and "The Wall Street Journal", are things in the nation headed in the right direction, right direction, 32 percent, wrong track 59 percent. The Democrats are on defense, Peter so to you first. That is why you see a category four and by your definition of a category four, goodbye to majority control in the House and then what?

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well I think it's an awfully tough situation and it is, both the job rating of the president and the direction of the nation, but in terms of category four, what I'm saying is there's going to be a lot of damage across the country and there's no way to avoid that. At the same time, I wouldn't concede the Senate. I think the House is going to be very, very uphill for the Democrats.

BILL MCINTURFF, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Yes, look the -- I just read today that in the 52 Democrat seats that are up for grabs, 34 of those seats the Republican challenger out-raised the incumbent in the last two weeks. That's extraordinary. In my 30-year career I have never seen money flowing into a minority party the way it's happening now. In the Senate side, Republicans out-raised Democrat candidates by 16 million and there's an enormous amount of outside money. What it means is there's a huge playing field and for the first time the party out of power has extraordinary financial resources to take advantage of it.

KING: The White House publicly says we're going to keep both the House and the Senate. The speaker says she'll keep the House. Harry Reid says we'll keep the Senate. But in conversations inside the White House, their reality check is that they're going to lose the House and they think 51 to 54 Democrats --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- Democrats will keep the majority in the Senate, which seems actually like a reasonable assessment?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it is a reasonable assessment. I mean they're worried that it could actually be worse in the House privately. And I think there are some things that really worry them, particularly in the numbers that you guys have, which was that experience number that only 23 percent of people said that they would actually pick the candidate who had experience. Given the fact that the Democrats have been so successful over the last two elections, they're the ones with experience.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Help us with that. Beneath the numbers, mood and attitude, economic anxiety more drive the numbers. What is it that the American people would say, you know Lisa Murkowski, Bob Bennett (INAUDIBLE) hey I bring home the bacon -- bye. You know the old playbook doesn't work --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What is it?

HART: Simply put I'm unhappy with the way Washington operates; I'm trying to do everything to change the game. And in part of that obviously it's a new person and in part, I don't think people are all that happy with the outside money that's coming in because they think (INAUDIBLE) this person's going to then be beholden. But what the voters are trying to do is what they did in 2006 and 2008. Change the playing field. Change the way things happen.

MCINTURFF: Some political party better come in and try to -- and focus on the economy and make things better. We've had almost 14 straight months right below 10 percent unemployment, that's the longest period since the great depression and it's now been three years of a terrible economy and every party in power is going to keep getting voted out until the economy gets better.

BORGER: You know it was funny, I was talking with a Republican though who said to me I believe that the Democrats lost the House, put it in the past tense, the day they approved health care reform. Because people felt and you've been out there and I have been out there, people felt that they have not -- they were not a part of the process, that there were special deals that were made. Even if they like health care reform, they didn't like the way it happened and by the way, less than --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That they thought the president should be focused more on jobs and deal with health care down the road. Here's another number from your poll. When it comes to changing how things work in Washington who would do a better job, Democrats, the Republicans, both about the same or neither, and the Republicans might have a big year this year, but boy they're not beloved by the American people, 27 percent for the Democrats, 23 percent for the Republicans, both about the same, 16. I love the neither, 31, the highest number goes to people who say you know (INAUDIBLE).

HART: Well and that's so important because essentially whoever comes in has to be able to measure up and one of the challenges for the Republicans is they're getting this huge wave off the Tea Party, but then they have to be able to meld them into an electoral and legislative strategy. So they're getting good news right now because it is eight to one voting Republican, but the challenge I think lies ahead.

KING: What happens with that? What happens -- let's assume John Boehner is the Speaker of the House and he's got 15 or 20 guys who are associated with the Tea Party. They think you know let's go after Medicare, Social Security, no earmarks. Let's get rid of the Department of Education and then let's think about doing some other things. And you've got Mitch McConnell, who's got you know 47, 48 Senate Republicans, four or five of them are in the same -- can we have a governing consensus among the Republicans who then of course would still have to deal with a Democratic president?

MCINTURFF: I say this. You know I get to work with a lot of the members of our caucus and I will tell you what they say over and over and over again, which is look, we've been out there. I'll tell you what people (INAUDIBLE). They want a better economy, less government spending, lower debt and they want an economic focus, and in our Republican caucus, in our leadership, when you talk (INAUDIBLE) leadership, they swear they have learned their lesson from '95 and six --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: They swear in blood --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: They put their hand on a Bible --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: No spending.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTURFF: That they got the message and there is -- they are going to keep an economic focus. And I think frankly, that people are -- the appetite for economic change and doing things different in Washington is high enough that that would be a stable supported (INAUDIBLE) strategy.

BORGER: But if you want to cut the deficit for example, people care about the deficit. What are they going to do to cut the deficit? What spending are they --

MCINTURFF: OK, well --

BORGER: That's a big problem --

MCINTURFF: For example they talk about rolling back to the 2008 budget. That's $100 billion. And we have a deficit commission coming up. And so, but, frankly --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That just show --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commissions just --

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTURFF: But to do that long-term it requires a presidential campaign --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Are the American people there? I think you're probably right that it does require a presidential campaign to go forward, but we see the protests in the streets of France, when they're talking about raising the retirement age, they have a more liberal, more beneficial, if you will, social welfare system than we have in the United States perhaps, but you see the protests in the street there. You see the British government. David Cameron is the leader of the Tea Party. He's doing all these things. He's cutting spending and everything. Are the American people ready for that or will this agitation for change that was pro Democratic in '06, pro Democratic in '08, pro Republican (INAUDIBLE) say hey wait a minute. What are you doing?

MCINTURFF: I think -- well Peter might talk about this as well. I think there is more than you think. We have Republicans out there talking about Social Security, Medicare in a way that they're going to sustain for the first time and win these campaigns. Now, they're in trouble and I'm not saying these aren't important issues, but I think that -- I'm surprised by the number of candidates out there that are talking about changes to entitlement that are going to win elections and that's really quite different.

HART: (INAUDIBLE) and Bill and I have done enough work on the deficit as bipartisan, and we know it's very, very tough. The public says cut all the waste, but don't touch these things --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They think there's this huge --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The magic waste --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The magic waste.

BORGER: Waste, fraud and abuse.

KING: All right everyone --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: These guys are going to stand by. We have talked a little bit about what's happening out in America, we'll spend a little bit more time when we come back on why.

And also ahead in the program "One-on-One" with Jeb Bush, he's the son of a former president, the brother of a former president and the former Florida governor. We'll talk about the big races in his state, his brother's new book and his thoughts about 2012.

We'll talk also with Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker tonight about Juan Williams' controversial firing, political correctness run amok.

And "Pete on the Street" is with us tonight. John Boehner could be the next speaker of the House of Representatives, so where is he?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. More politics in just a moment, but 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. President Obama's in Nevada this evening to help Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. This afternoon in California, the president appeared at a rally and fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer.

A debate just got underway between Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania's United States Senate race. In Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul announced he will not pull out of next Monday's debate against Democrat Jack Conway.

And in Minnesota, a Democratic House candidate is fighting the Tea Party with tailgating. Taryl Clark, who's challenging Republican Congresswoman and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann has lined up Bill Clinton plus Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar for her Sunday night tailgate party before the Vikings/Packers game. And I just got to tell you, I don't know if that's going to compete with Brett Favre and Randy Moss, but we'll see.

KING: I just want to know who's bringing the dogs and who's bringing the beer?

JOHNS: You got it.

KING: Joe Johns, thanks very much. Let's get back to Peter Hart, Bill McInturff and Gloria Borger and I'm glad Joe mentioned Bill Clinton, because in '92 he was the come-back kid, this year he's the come-back kid. But this is Barack Obama's first midterm election.

Now I want to walk over to this map for just a minute to make a point because in 1994, Bill Clinton's first election, when I traveled the country, you'd spend a lot of time looking at governors races. These states that are lit up are the 37 governors' races that we have this year. If they're blue, that means they're currently controlled by a Democrat. If they're red they're currently controlled by a Republican.

Now Republicans feel really good about their chances here and here and here and here and here and here, a little less so in Arkansas, but they feel good here and here. And my question and we could keep going that way, but my question to Bill and Peter is the 1994 dynamic was that you went out thinking it's a decent Republican year, but then all of a sudden you realize these governors are winning big and the Senate candidates are winning big. If this is as Republican, the map, as it looks right now, does that wave the statewide election wave and I'll walk back over to the table. Is that even an extra oomph, if you will, for the Republicans where you have these statewide candidates and a lot of those states the Republicans are leading for Senate as well.

MCINTURFF: Yes, it is in this regard. First the Republicans will have over 30 governors; I think we're going to pick up three to 500 legislative seats. It changes the policies of the next decade because it creates fair redistricting maps.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTURFF: But here's the other thing --

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTURFF: Here's the other thing --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, I like that --

MCINTURFF: Here's the other thing I don't think people realize. That what could happen to the Democratic Party, I said the other day to Peter, they have a bad cycle it could be horrific. We saw that in 2009 that if you looked at Virginia and New Jersey, African-American turnout was down, young voters half of what they were in 2008. Latinos were down and we had an older and whiter electorate.

If that happens around the country and we see an electorate in 2010 like 2009, then the Senate is going to just a little bit narrowly turn Republican. And we're going to see a wipeout in all levels for the Democratic Party.

HART: A little too optimistic by my friend. But let me make two points. First of all, it's what I call the Midwest belt that you talked about. And if all of those states should turn red, I mean those were all states that Barack Obama carried. That's a terrible sign. But, let's look at it another way.

Let's suppose Ted Strickland in Ohio holds on. The Democrats pick up Florida, not beyond the realm of possibility and win California. Well those are major redistricting states, and suddenly, the Democrats don't come out of this in such bad shape.

KING: And so the question as we watch in the final 11 days, you have the Democrats are saying well we're starting to close the enthusiasm gap. We're firing up our base. The president is directly appealing to young voters and African-Americans. Here's something he said last night that really, really caught my ear. I want you guys to listen and then we'll talk on the other side. Here's the president saying well things aren't really as bad as you think. I just haven't done a good enough job telling you how great they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We were 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 that the president's problem?

BORGER: No.

KING: That he didn't do enough victory laps? Or is there a consensus in the country that, you know, we don't like what you did.

BORGER: I think there's more of a consensus, and it shows in your poll that almost 50 percent of the people don't like health care reform. And yes maybe they didn't sell it, but let me just say --

KING: Sometimes they don't like a product because of bad marketing though.

BORGER: Well --

KING: Peter, is it bad marketing or is it bad product?

HART: It's not bad product. I think we always do this and John, you're so good at getting it right. We all rush to one side of the boat and say everything is terrible and then it balances back out. The president's got an awful lot going for him. He got a lot through. The voters still relate to him.

And we're talking about a terrible job rating, it's 47 percent. It's not horrendous. Wasn't Ronald Reagan's job rating going into 1982 about 40, 41 percent, so there is a difference, and I think there's a tendency to overwrite this election as terrible news for Barack Obama.

KING: I think it would be a mistake to count him out. George W. Bush didn't -- his first midterm was post 9/11, so it was hard to make that assessment. Bill Clinton was re-elected -- I sort of remember that. Ronald Reagan had a bad first midterm, was re-elected.

But in terms of today, today when voters go to the polls on November 2nd, Bill, if they are hearing oh the president says I'm wrong -- I'm wrong to think I don't like the health care bill. I'm wrong to think the stimulus bill doesn't work, does that help him? Can he change that --

(CROSSTALK) MCINTURFF: Here's what happens is -- we're not having a health care fight. We have two symbolic fights going on out there, which is what is the role of government and how much are we spending? And what presidential elections are where you hit the gas and say I want to go in this direction. Midterms are where you hit the -- where you hit the brake and say not that far, not that fast.

And health care, the deficit spending, the stimulus, all of this is being used to say, oops, Washington went too far too fast. Too much government, too much money, and the American electorate is always -- is pulling them back and saying that's not -- I didn't mean that.

BORGER: Can I just say something about Bill Clinton who you remember that when he lost --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: When he lost in 1994, he had a press conference and remember he had to declare himself relevant.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: OK, he did that. But it took him a full year to go to the floor of the Congress in the State of the Union and say the era of big government is over.

KING: It'll be fascinating to see how the president reacts --

BORGER: Right.

KING: I want to get your guys thoughts on one more thing because this fascinates me. The American people as always are out ahead of us here in Washington and when you travel the country and talk to people what are you worried about -- forget the names of the politicians. China owns our bank. China is taking our jobs. China is rising as a potential military power and you see this now, the politicians are figuring this out because they see it in the polls and your focus groups and they're putting it in their ads. This is one that's running on our network. It's running on cable across the country this week that sort of combines economic anxiety and the China problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: [ speaking foreign language ]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can change the future, you have to. Join citizens against government waste.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This is by a conservative organization, Citizens Against Government Waste and the language is all Mandarin. The subtitles which in itself sends a signal that says the so-called stimulus spending, massive spending on health care, government takeover of private industry, impressing debt. Of course we own most of their debt. What is it about the China challenge that average blue collar Americans, they get it?

MCINTURFF: Well -- go ahead, Peter.

HART: They just looked at their jobs. Essentially you can look and the jobs just disappeared one place or another. You can take various places and the last GE light bulb gone from America and each of these things that go on just makes a huge difference.

MCINTURFF: Peter and I did this question. You ask people in 20 years who will be the world leader? And in 18 months, Americans went from the normal we're going to be ahead, to oh, my gosh, it's going to be China. When we talked to our NBC Wall Street Journal climate and said this is the world's most parochial country, we have been raised with American exceptionalism and in the course of 18 months and then over a course of a generation, we've woken up to, oh, my gosh, we might not be the world's economic power.

BORGER: The problem with this election is that people went from being optimists in the 2008 elections to being pessimists right now.

KING: I would add as we say thank you and good night here that the problem with this election also is that the politicians are throwing all this mud at each other and not dealing with the questions that get to the root of the China anxiety and similar anxiety people show across country but we'll deal with that on November 3 I guess. Gloria Borger, Bill and Peter, thanks so much for coming in on this Friday. Enjoy your weekend.

When we come back, Jeb Bush, the son of a former president, brother of a former president and a two-term Florida governor, he's a former governor now, he'll talk to us about the fascinating races in Florida and about his brother's memoir.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: If you want to observe all of this year's fascinating political currents, embattled Democrats, the power of the tea party movement, the challenge to Republican moderates, you could see it all in the great state of Florida. In the next few days you'll be able to see all of it right here on CNN. Candy Crowley is the moderator as the three Senate candidates debate Sunday morning, that's 9:00 eastern on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." Monday evening at seven, I'll have the great privilege of moderating as the two candidates for governor debate. To help us set the scene, I'm joined by a man who knows Florida politics very, very well, the former Republican governor, Jeb Bush. Governor, it's great to see you. Let me ask you first, I know you're a Republican, you support Rick Scott, the gubernatorial candidate for the Republican Party but help me do my job. As a citizen of Florida, if you had the privilege I have on Monday night, what question have both candidates for governor failed to answer to your satisfaction?

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I think there's been a lot of throwing of mud back and forth about business dealings and personal activities and there hasn't been a lot of discussion specifically about the things that really matter that a governor can do. So I would ask give me the details of your plan to create jobs. Give me the details of how we can train people who aren't qualified for the high wage jobs of the future. Give me the details of what you think the role of higher education is and how you're going to contain Medicare costs and how you're going to balance the budget.

KING: A health care company paid a record fine because of a Medicare investigation and that has become and I think any politician running against Rick Scott would make it an issue without a doubt. And I ask him about it, he gave a deposition in a lawsuit against the company, questioning some of the practices and he says in the case of that deposition, that it's a private matter, that he won't make it public. As someone who's been the governor of state, you know that despite whatever reason people might vote for you on the issues, at some point it comes down to do I trust this guy. Is transparency important? Should Rick Scott release that?

BUSH: I don't know what the details of that is so I can't tell you. It may be that it jeopardizes a legal position that puts in jeopardy employees of the company. Who knows? I don't know what the situation is.

KING: Help me understand what you think is happening in your state among grass roots conservatives and across the country because Rick Scott was not your candidate at the beginning. The attorney general Bill McCollum was the favorite, we have seen this in so many other states, in Delaware, Mike Castle, a former governor, a guy who's won 12 times statewide gets beat by a tea party candidate in the primary. We could go to Kentucky, to Colorado, to Alaska, to Utah and there are more and more, yes Republicans and conservatives are mad at Obama and mad at the Democrats, but they seem to be just as mad at their own establishment. Why?

BUSH: I don't know if they're just as mad, but they want clear spoken solutions particularly to the debt problem, to the lack of job growth. And I think every case is different. In the case of Florida, Bill McCollum was a solid conservative with a solid voting record. But Rick Scott came with a fresh approach, spent a ton of money, won a primary fair and square. The parties united behind him. That's the way it works.

KING: When you were running for governor, twice you were known as a very good grass roots nuts and bolts organizer, we looked at polling data to try and see this intensity gap. Do you see it and feel it there?

BUSH: I do see it and it's evidenced by the absentee ballot. Republicans have a significant lead and my guess is that it will continue. I don't see how the Democrats will remobilize the coalition that was quite successful in 2008. I think the intensity gap is really, really strong here.

KING: As the president of the United States, Barack Obama goes around the country now, he often invokes the name of your brother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: They haven't come out with a single solitary idea at least different from the policies that held sway for eight years before Democrats took over. Not a single policy difference that's discernible from George W. Bush, not one. So what they're really betting on is amnesia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How do you react to that?

BUSH: Well, it's business as usual. You try to push down the guy before you so that you can look better. What I find interesting is that the president and the Congress, the Democrats in Congress have passed incredibly important legislation, financial services legislation, health care legislation, thousands and thousands of pages, when it was signed it was considered landmark. And yet, not a peep in the campaign trail about these bills. These are huge transformational kinds of things. And the fact is that the American people realize that maybe they're not what they were led to believe they would be and there's growing opposition to this transformational efforts by Obama to redefine us as a nation. What I find the strategy on the other side is to attack the candidate, attack their integrity and change the conversation.

KING: There's all the ...

BUSH: Part of that changing the conversation is to attack my brother or say they want to go back to the old ways and the old ways were bad.

KING: Your brother's about to come out with a new book, talking about the decisions he made as president. Have you had a chance to read the pages in the galleys of that at all?

BUSH: I haven't. The first thing that any Bush will do though of course is go to the back and see the index and see if we're in it first, and then we'll go to that page. But I haven't read it. I think it will be an interesting book because it will I think talk about the process of making decisions, tough decisions and it might be a book that a lot of people could use.

KING: We always reach out to our friends on Twitter and Facebook while we're having big guests on the program and we told them you were coming on to the program. Here's what one of our Facebook fans, Kyle Hunter, asked me to ask. Would he endorse Palin for president if he does not run himself?

BUSH: A, I'm not running and if Sarah Palin's the nominee and if she's running against Barack Obama, you betcha.

KING: Do you see right now, you say you're not running, I take your word for that too. When you look around do you see a kind of Republican, I know you don't want to get into the names just right now, but a kind of Republican that you think this is the profile we want to run up against Barack Obama in 2012? BUSH: Big and bold and aspirational that has a positive agenda that will compare, I think, favorably to that of the president's. We can't as Republicans, we can't just be against the president's proposals, we have to offer up compelling alternatives that are 21st century oriented that deal with these huge problems that we faced across the board of the policy world. I just think there's a yearning for that and many of the gubernatorial candidates and soon to be governors will be acting on that and I think that's going to encourage all of our candidates to be bigger and bolder and more aspirational.

KING: Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of the state of Florida; Governor, appreciate your time today. Very much looking forward to visiting your fascinating state. Hope to see you in the near future.

BUSH: Spend a lot of money down here John.

KING: You can count on that. Thanks Governor. Take care.

When we come back, Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker join us to talk about NPR's controversial firing of commentator Juan Williams.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Wrong process, right decision. That's what NPR's ombudsman says about the organization's firing of analyst Juan Williams. NPR says Williams was out of line when he said on a Fox News channel program that he sometimes gets nervous when he gets on an airplane and sees someone wearing Muslim clothing. Williams says he never got a fair hearing and he believes NPR long wanted to get rid of him because of his role as a Fox contributor. Let's talk this over with Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker. They're in New York and they're program "PARKER SPITZER" coming up at the top of the hour. Is that a good answer, is that an acceptable answer from the NPR ombudsman, essentially that well we should have given him a hearing, maybe we should have suspended him before firing him but in the end, he's been a problem child, and see you later?

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN CO-HOST: I think that's probably the true answer that they were looking for an excuse to get rid of Juan Williams and it obviously worked out well in his favor because now he's got a new gig with Fox, a new contract, a lot more money and now we're having the conversation that he was actually trying to have I think when he was talking to Bill O'Neill about his sort of subconscious fears when he gets on an airplane and he sees somebody in Muslim garb. I mean come on. Everybody has those thoughts and I think it's important we talk about it.

KING: That's an important point. Eliot, as a New Yorker, as somebody who was right there in the center of it on 9/11, I would think that 80 percent or 90 percent of Americans, if they were on a plane, especially in the days and months after 9/11 and they saw somebody who was obviously a Muslim, Muslim clothing and they would get a little nervous, probably feel a little bit guilty about it but get a little nervous. ELIOT PARKER, CNN CO-HOST: Let me just spell it down to this. NPR's process was wrong, their outcome was wrong. They just blew it on this one and they're going to be under a lot of heat and deservedly so and people are going to ask very legitimately in my view, why do tax dollars go to a media outlet at all? That's a separate conversation perhaps but look to answer your question, I think a lot of people do have that fear, that sentiment, that unease, it is and in fact what Juan Williams continued to say in his statement was unfairly edited in my view was to then distinguish between the extremists whom you should fear and the rest of the Islamic community whom of course you should not. I think he was airing sentiments that other people do share, and he was as Kathleen said trying to begin a conversation that's an important one, maybe not artfully stated, but certainly inartfully edited but I think what NPR did to him was wrong.

KING: We played the long segment last night on the program. I've known Juan for a long time and I view him as a very fair minded guy. Listen to him this morning on "Good Morning America," he said I used to think this kind of behavior came from my right, and then he suggested where he believes NPR is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I have always thought that the right wing were the ones who were inflexible and intolerant, now I'm coming to realize that the orthodoxy at NPR, if it's representing the left is just unbelievable. And especially I think for me as a black man, to somehow say something that's out of the box, they find it very difficult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Does that say anything about our political discourse, are we to p.c.? Are we too afraid?

PARKER: Political correctness is an invention of the left. Let's face it.

SPITZER: Come on, there you go again.

PARKER: No one is less tolerant of speech than the far left, so Juan is right about that, welcome to my world.

SPITZER: I could not disagree more fundamentally with what Kathleen has said, I'm tongue tied, I can't believe it. The fundamental point is that tolerance is the most important thing we have got to get out of this, tolerance for speech you don't like, and in fact the first amendment is most important when it protects the speech that we find uncomfortable and the way to beat it is not to silence it, which is what NPR tried to do with him. But speech that's more powerful based on logic and facts and why it's so disconcerting. NPR blew it. They deserve every bit of everything they're getting.

PARKER: Eliot and I actually agree firmly on this. We're both staunch free speech advocates and as he said, the only way to get beyond fears and our own prejudices to address them. If you have a better argue amount to make, allow that to be said. Juan Williams is truly a victim here and --

SPITZER: Look. He is going to be fine as you pointed out.

PARKER: He'll be fine.

SPITZER: He was right this morning saying on the morning show somehow showing intolerance that's persuasive on left and right and something to come to grips with. It is getting worse and worse. Maybe after the midterms things loosen up a little bit. With 10 days or so to go, it is tough for people to be rational.

PARKER: One final word. We have got to be allowed to just talk with stream of consciousness like Eliot always does because every now and then a little nugget comes out.

SPITZER: At least you said that at least.

KING: A hopeful tone to begin the weekend. Eliot Spitzer, Kathleen Parker, thanks for your time. We'll see you at the top of the hour.

SPITZER: Thanks, John.

KING: When we come back, Pete Dominick on the street and he's looking for somebody. Where's the guy who might be the next speaker of the house?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Joe Johns is here with the latest news you need to know right now. Hey, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, a recap of the breaking news out of the pentagon. A massive security leak as some 400,000 classified military documents about the Iraq war have been released by the website Wikileaks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is among the administration officials condemning the leak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We should condemn in the most clear terms that disclosure of any classified information by individuals or organizations which puts the lives of United States and partner service members and civilians at risk threatening our national security and the national security of those with whom we are working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Getting the picture of 120 D.O.D. officials pouring significant action reports, it sounds like they're taking this very seriously.

KING: Embarrassing for the Pentagon and potentially big undermining of national security. This is a tough one to deal with. Joe, thanks. Have a great weekend. When we come back, he said he would be third in the line to the presidency if he becomes the next speaker of the house so where is John Boehner? Pete is on the street cracking the case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: With all of the apologies to Matt Lauer, we're going to end tonight's show with a question. Where in the world is John Boehner? Here to help us and we assume he's somewhere in the United States, I sour offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick. Pete, this guy would be third in the line of the presidency if he gets to be speaker of the house and yet they won't give us his campaign schedule for the final week. He won't come on the show to do an interview with us. It asks the question -- where's Boehner? This is kind of like where's Waldo? You look and you look. He is out here amid the people. Pete, where is he?

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: John King, do you have a golf course or a tanning bed on your map? Because --

KING: Oh.

DOMINICK: Guess what? He is not even in those two favorite places. John Boehner is about to be king. He is about to be speaker. He is getting the gavel, John King. He's running out the clock. He's taking a knee. There's no reason for John Boehner to make a peep. It'd be nice to hear some solutions or some ideas but why do it? He's getting the gavel, John King. He is running out the clock, sir.

KING: He is, he is out there campaigning for Republicans. He just doesn't want to talk to us. Maybe he'll come here next week. He is right here, Pete. I found him. He's right there.

Have a good weekend everybody. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.