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JOHN KING, USA

President Obama's Trip; Excuse-Makers-In-Chief; Post Election Money Checkup

Aired November 9, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: I'm Candy Crowley. John King is off today.

For President Obama it's already a busy Wednesday morning in Indonesia. There's an embassy visit later this hour, followed by a stop at Southeast Asia's largest mosque and then a major speech. If things seem a little rushed, they are. They're trying to get out of town before a cloud of volcanic ash disrupts air travel. CNN senior international correspondent Dan Rivers joins us from Jakarta. Dan, tell us what's going on right now.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well President Obama is due to visit the largest mosque in southeast Asia this morning, (INAUDIBLE) mosque and then he'll go on to make a major speech at Jakarta University where he'll set out a number of themes, talking about how much Indonesia has changed since he lived here as a boy in the '60s and '70s, about how much common interest Indonesia and the United States have.

And then he'll go on to talk about building bridges with the Muslim world, themes that were set out in Cairo last year. In particular talking about the fact that the world has a choice that they can either be defined by their differences or forge common ground.

CROWLEY: Dan, let me ask you. This entire trip, the president has sold as being about jobs here in the USA. Was it about that?

RIVERS: Well I think that's what they're trying to spin this into. Whether there is much that they can announce that is tangible is a bit more difficult and opaque to say. For example, the Chinese were here earlier this week and announced $6.6 billion of direct investment. There hasn't been anything on that scale that's been announced here, but they're playing this up, the White House, as showing that this will generate jobs, it will be good for the economy of the U.S. and for the economy of Indonesia as well.

CROWLEY: Dan Rivers in Jakarta for us. Thanks so much.

But with me here in Washington, "National Journal" congressional correspondent Major Garrett, "New York Times" national political correspondent Jeff Zeleny, "Washington Post" national political correspondent Karen Tumulty, and NPR host Michel Martin. Goodness. Thank you all for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: OK. It seems to me that this has been a trip that seems a little off kilter. That where everybody's back here going, who's going to be the majority leader, and are they going to get jobs, are they going to talk about the deficit, and he's dodging volcanic ash in Indonesia. Does it strike any of you like that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure. It's off the point. It seems off the point, but we've all been there. I mean we've all planned these big, you know takeouts for the Sunday paper and then a big news story happens and we say what are we doing? What are we doing? What's this about? So this is what that's like.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is interesting though when you're down in politics, everything becomes a metaphor and so he gets volcanic ash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

JEFF ZELENY, "NEW YORK TIMES": I think though he's probably not, he's probably happy he's over there. I mean who wants to be here in Washington with the leadership fight and the House, among House Democrats? So the volcanic ash, at least is in his homeland isn't probably quite as bad.

MAJOR GARRETT, "NATIONAL JOURNAL" CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Dan Pfeiffer, the communications director of the White House was over at "National Journal" today and he said look, part of this is the schedule. I mean we have to go to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference. These are important regional allies.

South Korea is important, Japan (INAUDIBLE) eventually, Indonesia, India, all of these are important potential trade partners and strategic partners and the president is being, A", presidential and taking care of a trade agenda, national security agenda. Does it fit with the post election haze the Democrats are in right now? No, but you don't get those choices when you're president.

CROWLEY: Or that shock wave that you're writing about in the "National Journal" very well. It's a great article. Let me ask you, a lot of times when I have talked to Democrats in this now in a leadership battle and in the minority, soon to be, I'm hearing, it's -- we're not actually worried about speaker-to-be John Boehner, we're actually worried that the president is going to sell what we've done down the river. They say he's already talking about tweaks in health care, he's already talking about, well, maybe there's a deal we can make on extending the Bush tax cuts. Are you hearing similar things, you all up on the Hill?

GARRETT: Well I think the bigger anxiety for Democrats is how do you regain congressional majority in the House, number two, is the president's re-election campaign which has begun in earnest, if not in definition, going to help them in that process or not? Now the president in an interview with "National Journal" a couple of weeks ago drew some very hard lines on health care and on taxes. Yes, he's opening up some negotiating room but he's not abandoning the idea that you're going to have to sell me and the country and you have to move the needle on poll numbers which are currently against Republicans on the idea of extending all the Bush tax cuts permanently. The White House sees this as an early definitional fight with Republicans. I think Democrats have much less concern or should have much less concern about that, because I think that's a fight the White House is willing and eager to have.

CROWLEY: Which is greater, the schism in the Republican Party or the schism in the Democratic Party?

ZELENY: Well for now I think it's in the Democratic one. It's certainly as big. But a lot of these House Democrats have been uneasy about this White House for a long time. They've always thought that the former senator likes the Senate more than the House, and they are not really convinced that they're going to have their back on this. Because self-preservation here is going to kick in and the president has his own re-election (INAUDIBLE), so it's one thing. It's one reason why a lot of Democrats I've talked to this week are happy that Nancy Pelosi is coming back. But no one in the White House, at least that I've talked to, is happy that she's coming back at all because it will make their job more difficult.

MICHEL MARTIN, NPR: For schism the idea who has the bigger problem, it's always when you've lost that you have the bigger problem, no matter what you do. And I think it would be a mistake to think about just how -- I think it would be a mistake to miss how significant some of the differences are within the Republican Party right now and the Republican caucus right now.

I mean remember, you know, one narrative of what just happened in the midterm elections is this was not just -- this is not really about policy, it's about process. People don't like the way Washington works. They don't like the fact that the two parties can't seem to get anything done, can't seem to get along.

And you got a whole group of people who came here saying I'm not getting anything done, no compromise, and then you've got a whole group of people who have been here who recognize that their ability to deliver is part of what they're selling to the voters back home, so I think there are significant risks in both sides. It's just that victory makes everything a little bit nicer for 10 minutes.

CROWLEY: Right. Yes. But if you're a liberal Democrat which is now a more liberal caucus on the House side and now a minority caucus, soon to be, are you more wary of President Obama who needs to get re- elected in two years, or of John Boehner who wants to expand his majority?

KAREN TUMULTY, "WASHINGTON POST": I think you're wary of that developing relationship and it was really interesting, I went back over the last few days and have looked at a lot of the stories from early 1995. And one thing that I think has gotten overlooked is the fact that the House in early 1995 was actually where a lot of the lines started getting drawn over things like -- back then it was school lunches and the earned income tax credit, and are you going to cut public TV.

It was really in the House while Bill Clinton was essentially still in a fetal position after the midterm elections that you began to see the kind of definition and the kind of narrative that developed over the next few years. And I quite frankly think that possibility is there now too as well as John Boehner tries to figure out how to get to that $100 billion in spending cuts that he has promised.

GARRETT: You know we talked about 20 of these incoming freshmen. Susan Davis (ph) and I, my colleague at "National Journal" and we found that yes, they're aggressive, yes, they're interested in changing the culture of Washington, but they're also to a surprising degree, at least to us, pragmatic about what's actually something that they can accomplish.

They said, look, we understand that there's a filibuster in the Senate. We watched the Republicans use it to great effect. We know the president has a veto pen. If we pursue our agenda in the House and things bog down in the Senate or we can't overcome a veto, we're OK with that, but we're going to have a debate, and we're going to set this in motion and that's going to be how we're going to judge ourselves. That's how we're going to ask our constituents to judge us.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) I talked to Michael Steele the chairman of the Republican National Committee and one of the things that surprised me is after this tremendous victory, there was still leadership fights within the Republican Party. I mean Haley Barbour criticizing Michael Steele for -- Haley Barbour the chairman of the Republican Governors Association saying that the RNC didn't raise enough money, if you just got 60 votes you just had -- so if that's what it's like when you're winning --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: If that's what it's like when you're winning, what's it like when you're losing?

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Losing, exactly. Let me put you all on pause because we're coming back with all of you.

President Obama seems to have a little something in common with George W. Bush, they are both out there this week, and they're both on TV making excuses. We're going to talk about it in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: There is nothing quite like the sight of two presidents making excuses for not getting exactly what they expected once they were in the White House. George W. Bush campaigned as a uniter and a tax cutter, but he ended up with 9/11 and started two wars. Here he is on today's "Oprah Winfrey" talking about one of the turning points of his presidency, not finding any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you now feel or believe that you were misled --

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't think so --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- by your intelligence?

BUSH: Not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do not?

BUSH: No, not all. I think our intelligence --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think happened?

BUSH: Just we were wrong. I don't think anybody intentionally -- misled is a wrong word. Do I think that we made a -- do I think we were wrong in our assessment? Yes, I'll tell you what was wrong is Saddam Hussein deceived everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Interestingly, opposition to the Iraq war was the spark that jumpstarted Barack Obama's presidential bid. Now he's going on programs like CBS's "60 Minutes" talking about why the economy is so sour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it wasn't because the Recovery Act didn't work, it's because the modeling in terms of what to expect, unemployment, where unemployment will go to, turned out to be wrong. So I don't want to pretend like I've got a crystal ball.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: And we all know he doesn't. So it just seems to me that perhaps a lesson here is the presidency, every time a president gets in, he finds out just how not powerful the job is because here we have two presidents who are -- at least seem to have Achilles heels, and they -- their rationale is, I didn't have any control over it.

GARRETT: Well a couple of quick points on President Bush. One, there were mid level intelligence analysts who raised flags at the time. They were not heeded, so that information was not existed. It just existed at a lower level than the president and his team were sifting or willing to sift.

On the president's point -- President Obama's point about the Recovery Act, the stimulus, they had an old -- they had what you would call a Keynesian or classical economic modeling system of, if you put this much money out you will get this kind of multiplier effect in the U.S. economy.

These many dollars will generate these many private sector jobs. Well the modeling was all wrong. And the biggest harm that that has inflicted upon as president is not just in polling data, but his inability now to do what many economists, even some on the right would say we should do some more stimulus now just to give the economy an extra boost, but the political credibility has been undermined so people beneath that it's almost impossible for that to happen.

TUMULTY: But the president controls the kind of information --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt.

TUMULTY: -- that gets to him. There are presidents who set up systems where they hear only thing that re-enforce them.

CROWLEY: Do you think that was true of both these presidents and their separate things that the president sort of listened to what -- this, President Obama listened on the economy, to people who tended to go with his view of how to ratchet things up --

TUMULTY: Well I do think that President Obama comes in on the economy in the middle of an economic crisis. And there were a number of things that his political team, the people he brought in from the campaign wanted him to do differently. But ultimately, he did side with Larry Summers and the economic team, because he was in the middle of a firestorm.

MARTIN: Well I think your point I think is more relevant to -- first to George W. Bush than it is to President Obama. I think -- and yours as well as controlling the kind of information that gets to you. That's really the fundamental question here. It's such a cliche, but the question of what did he know and when did he know it.

When did he know he was wrong about this and did he know that he was wrong too -- you know too late to change course? Should he have acknowledged this sooner? I mean that's one of the reasons I'm fascinated to read the book because I want to know. Who was the prime agent of this?

And obviously the left has its own interpretation of who was the prime agent shafing (ph) the information getting to him. With President Obama I think the bigger issue is that he doesn't seem to feel it. You know, he said during the campaign, John McCain isn't a bad guy, he just doesn't get it. The problem now is he gets it but he doesn't seem like he does. He doesn't convey that he's getting it.

ZELENY: I'm stuck on the word modeling. I mean --

CROWLEY: But that's the kind of --

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: The interview here was done --

CROWLEY: That's the kind of language people go, what? ZELENY: The interview here was done after the midterm election came in, after he had spent countless miles and hours and days on the road, trying to connect with people on the economy with not great success and he's still saying modeling. That is one of the biggest worries inside the White House right now and from this president's supporters, will he be able to find it within him to connect on this on a personal level.

I had a conversation with the late Ted Sorensen before he passed away, a big supporter of President Obama's obviously (INAUDIBLE). He said whenever he hears him talk now it sounds like he's speaking to the faculty at MIT or "The New York Times" editorial board, not those voters in Iowa who first sort of were taken by him. So modeling is a word that is going to echo in our minds for a while I think.

CROWLEY: I want to turn you to another story. No one ever said that President Bush didn't speak the language that most people understood, and yet there were so many things that backfired on him that he said or did. Here he is on "Oprah" today talking about Katrina and the aftermath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not understand how you flying over and that picture of us -- of you looking out of the helicopter and all of these being black -- mostly black, disenfranchised, poor people and the reaction not being sooner. Can you see how the perception would be that you were racist?

BUSH: No, I can see -- no, I cannot see that. I can see how the perception would be maybe Bush didn't care. But to accuse me of being a racist is -- is disgusting. I mean I feel strongly about it today just like I felt strongly about it then. It's one thing to say he could have done a better job; he maybe should have put troops in. You don't call a man a racist when it's -- I'm confident in my heart is right on that issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Talking about Kanye West who during the height of Katrina said the president doesn't care about black people, I think was the sort of closer to the quote than saying he's a racist. Nonetheless, do we judge these presidents too much by the optics, the volcanic ash, the picture of him flying over New Orleans? Do we try to judge presidents inside their hearts when we haven't the vaguest idea?

MARTIN: I don't think we care about their hearts, we care about their performance.

CROWLEY: Right.

MARTIN: And I think his performance by every measure was lacking.

(CROSSTALK) CROWLEY: -- he says that, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: And that is exactly the measure that Obama is being judged by now on the economy.

CROWLEY: Right. Right.

MARTIN: I don't think people question that he cares about poor people or black people or any kind of people. He is being judged on his performance and I think for him to sort of personalize it this -- George W. Bush to personalize it in this way I find rather puzzling.

CROWLEY: Do you find it puzzling --

GARRETT: In a crisis you can't have three moments that leave the American people aghast and President Bush had three Katrina moments that left the American public aghast. One, flying over and looking down, two, days upon days with no federal and military intervention which he now admits was a mistake and, three, four or five days that are saying heck of a job, Brownie. That's it. That's Katrina at large for President Bush, three moments within a week of each other, the American people saying, what? That's what the problem is.

MARTIN: And let's also not forget that the people who are most disappointed with President Bush on Katrina were not African- Americans, who were not a major constituency of his to begin with. There were people who liked him, Christian evangelicals, political supporters of his who just found on a human level his response completely lacking.

TUMULTY: Well also the competence question. That was really when the competence question came to the foray (ph) I think for the first time with Independent voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iraq began and Katrina extended it.

CROWLEY: Jeff, I'm going to give you the last word on this.

ZELENY: I think like you said earlier, if you're winning, you don't read as much of these things into it. But when these moments come when you're not winning, when you're really struggling, we read a lot more into them and they become defining moments of the presidency.

CROWLEY: Major, Jeff, Karen, Michel, thank you so much for joining us.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Still ahead, I'll ask personal finance expert Suze Orman whether you should do anything differently with your money now that Republicans are taking over half of Capitol Hill.

Later, we go "One-on-One" with one of the Republicans' rising stars. I'll ask Congresswoman-elect Kristi Noem if she's interested in that new leadership post for incoming freshmen.

And on her new reality show, Sarah Palin complains she wants more privacy. I'll ask Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer isn't that a bit of a disconnect.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back. Time to check in with Joe Johns for the latest news you need to know right now.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey Candy. Multiple Democratic sources tell CNN Nancy Pelosi is trying to negotiate a compromise between Representative Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn. The two men are both seeking the number two spot in the House Democratic leadership.

Over on the Senate side of the Capitol, South Carolina's Jim DeMint is teaming up with newly elected Tea Party backed senators to try to force all Republicans to give up earmarks.

And in some post election hardball by the Obama administration, CNN has obtained copies of letters from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; he is warning the incoming Republican governors of Ohio and Wisconsin that if they kill high-speed rail projects, their states will have to give the stimulus money back. But I've got to say, you know what? John Kasich was House Budget chairman. He's got to know that already.

CROWLEY: Yes, except for that's hard.

JOHNS: Yes.

CROWLEY: I mean if you've ever given anyone money to spend on something and tried to get it back, it doesn't work that way.

JOHNS: Absolutely. No, no, because I'd love to spend it on something else. Go shopping.

CROWLEY: Yes and one presumes that they've -- the previous governors have spent some of it already and have stuff in the pipelines, so --

JOHNS: And you wonder if there's some half built high speed rail out there somewhere just waiting to start rusting --

CROWLEY: Like a high speed rail to nowhere.

JOHNS: I can't wait.

CROWLEY: All right. Thanks. Joe will be back with us in a little bit.

So with Republicans taking over at least half of Capitol Hill, do you need to know anything different with your money? Personal finance expert Suze Orman joins us for a post election money checkup next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: The voters have spoken. Republicans are busy making plans to change Washington. But does any of the new talk of cutting the deficits, maybe repealing health care reform matter for your money right now? Who better to ask than personal finance expert Suze Orman here to talk this over with us? So considering the advice that you were giving people prior to the election, would you change any of that advice now, given the new makeup of Congress?

SUZE ORMAN, PERSONAL FINANCE EXPERT: Actually, not only would I not change it, but I would actually say to people, listen to me. The solution is not held in who is leading this country at this moment in time, who is in Congress, who is in Senate. The real answer to this problem now is this. You and you alone are going to be able to solve your problems or you are not because nobody, Candy, is going to be able to rescue us.

I don't care what anybody says. What just recently happened obviously with the changes you know in all the politics and everything will just postpone good solutions, because now there's just more people to fight with one another. So Main Street has to start taking their own power in their own hands.

CROWLEY: So when you look at one of the things I think that people are going to be watching, because we're into that new period where people pick their health care and that sort of thing, the stuff that comes out of their paychecks, Republicans are talking about repealing health care or slowing down the money or stopping the money that would help put health care reform into effect. With this kind of uncertainty principle out there, do you think that this is going to show up in my paycheck or your paycheck in terms of people kind of hedging their bets saying, OK, let's raise the cost of health care in order to kind of hedge our bets?

ORMAN: Yes, I think the health insurance companies absolutely are going to raise health insurance premiums. I think you're going to see costs of all kinds go up, no matter what happens out there. But again, the bottom line is this. I don't think your normal everyday person really is thinking, OK, is health care going to be repealed? Is it going to stay? What's going to happen?

I think here's what everybody is thinking. Am I going to have a job? Can I afford gas at the gas tanks now that oil is going up? What am I going to do? I can't pay for this. I can't pay for that. The one problem that really needs to be solved, health care, whatever it may be, the one problem that needs to be solved happens to be real estate. Can somebody just get a grip on these home loan modification programs?

Can somebody come in and start to educate the people and simply say to them, listen, if you're disqualified for a permanent home loan, do you know that you're going to have to pay this money back on the modification that was in trial and then what are you going to do? That's where the real problem is today in my opinion, with everybody that you see. They are still afraid that they are going to lose their homes. CROWLEY: It's probably the biggest fear of a lifetime; I think that you are going to be without a place to live. Let me do some myth busters with you. The Federal Reserve, as you know, said last week that they are going to pump about $600 billion more into the economy. The idea is to give some more money to banks, hopefully encourage businesses to come and borrow more money so that they'll hire. Sarah Palin has said, among others, look, they're printing money out of thin air. She's called for the fed to cease and desist. I want to read you something she said. "Everyone whoever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so. Pump priming would push them even higher." So by the fed putting more money into the marketplace, does that raise the price of groceries?

ORMAN: I don't think that raises the price of groceries. But do I think it's -- does it solve the problem of what's happening out there? Will it make banks open up their doors and say, here. Come and get a loan. Start this business. Do that? I don't think so. So I don't think that is the solution to the problem that's happening out there. I think banks in general need to take a really good, hard look at with, what are they doing? Are they helping people or hurting people? I go on record and say a lot of the problems happening in the United States of America today are happening because of the banks in the United States of America. They aren't helping the situation, they are hurting the situation for the main person on the street.

CROWLEY: So for the person on the street, of all the things you have to worry about, and you clearly think the biggest worry here is the home mortgage market. But beyond that, where should inflation be at this point? It seems to me the fed has always said inflation is not a problem. Are rising costs a problem?

ORMAN: Yes, rising costs are a problem, and they're really a problem because at the same time gasoline is more expensive, food is really more expensive. At the same time people's income is less. So imagine the situation, you don't have a job. Maybe you don't have a job because you lost your job or you retired. And you retired at a time when you really thought that if you invested your money at a 5 percent interest rate you would be okay forever. And here you are, your CDs have come due. And you're no longer getting 5 percent, now you're getting maybe 1 percent. So at the time when your income has decreased, by a lot. Not a little, a lot. At the same time, things that you have to do every day are increasing. Social security was frozen. No cost of living increase for you. What are you going to do? These people are in tremendous trouble. So you have retirees that are in trouble, how are they going to live? They don't have enough income. Those people that happen to save money, save money in case they lost their job.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a final kind of truth squad question. As you know, former president Bush is out and about, he's got a new book out there, and in part of it he talks about T.A.R.P., which we call the bank bailout, the money that we just plowed into banks to try to save them. And I want to play you something that he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FMR. PRES. GEORGE BUSH: The idea of spending taxpayers' money to give to Wall Street and the banks, to save them, a lot of people think they creates the crisis in the first place. So I can understand the angst. But I was worried about the economy going down. And I believe T.A.R.P. saved the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So, listen. We had any number of Republicans out there this election season arguing against T.A.R.P. but what I want to know is, do you think that's true? Did T.A.R.P. save this economy?

ORMAN: I think it did. Now, I never thought in a million years you would hear me agreeing with President Bush, but the truth of the matter is, I think the situation was far worse than any of us had any idea. It may even still be far worse than any of us have any idea. And I think the financial institutions got themselves so far, you know, above what they -- they just really blew it. They needed to be saved. And I think T.A.R.P. actually did save the system.

CROWLEY: One of my favorite people to talk to, Suze Orman of "The Suze Orman Show." Thanks so much for being with us.

ORMAN: Any time, Candy.

CROWLEY: Is Senator-Elect Rand Paul changing his tune on earmarks now that he's coming to Washington? He's stopping to talk with CNN's Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer and they join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Welcome back. It's another chance to check in with Joe Johns for the latest news you need to know right now. Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, a new scientific report warns there's a shadow from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico's food chain. Evidence of oil carbon is turning up in plankton and other microscopic life.

And if you're wondering what this is, the answer appears to be a contrail from a jet plane lit up by the setting sun. John Pike, the director of globalsecurity.org tells CNN an optical illusion makes the contrail look like it is going up but the plane is actually flying toward the camera. Government defense agencies say the mysterious cloud off California's coast was not a missile or a rocket. That's -- as long as you believe this isn't something right out of the C files.

CROWLEY: I was going to say, so it's actually not -- isn't what it looks like.

JOHNS: The truth is out there.

CROWLEY: Somewhere.

JOHNS: Right.

CROWLEY: So is there life outside earth?

JOHNS: I don't know. And my big question was, the first thing I looked at, this is the California coast. The first thing I think of is Area 51, New Mexico. We'll be talking about this for 50 years.

CROWLEY: You and I standing right here in 50 years. Thanks, Joe Johns.

We want to head up to New York to check in with CNN's Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer. Their program starts at the top of the hour. They'll be watching Sarah Palin who is going to appear live. I wanted to, since you're going to have her -- pardon me, she will be giving a speech live and you will be carrying it. Let's just be very clear. I'm sorry to blow the cover. But you'll be taking the speech live from Pennsylvania. There is a headline that intrigued us from the Huffington Post which says Sarah Palin complains about invasion of her privacy on the first episode of her reality show. I want to play you the cogent part of that reality show and get your reaction.

SARAH PALIN: Certainly it's changed because of this new neighbor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's probably over there.

PALIN: Do you want me to look? You need to drill out a little tiny hole there, peephole and let me look through and see where he is. I want Piper to play on the other side of the house too. Okay?

I think it's an intrusion and an invasion of our privacy and I don't like it. Some reporters said I was overreacting and I wanted to ask them, how would you feel if some dude who you knew was out to get you moved in 15 feet away from your kids? How would you feel?

CROWLEY: Okay. So listen. It's easy to make fun of, here's a reality show and she's complaining she has no privacy. On the other hand, if there's a reporter who moves into a house specifically to do something about you and your family, and he really is 15 feet away. I'm not up there so I don't know what the distance was, doesn't she kind of have a point?

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN CO-HOST: Candy, do I think she has a point, and I'm in complete agreement with the Palins on this particular point. The gentleman has moved in next door. They had to raise the fence up so he couldn't look right into their backyard and see their children playing. I actually talked to Todd Palin about it. This is a rare phone call I got from Todd Palin from Wasilla, Alaska, he said, and he talked to me about the conversation he had with Joe McGinnis and he went over immediately to talk to him, what are you doing here and why are you looking in my backyard? And I said, how did that go, Todd? He said, I said, well, that isn't going to work. It's a huge invasion of privacy. They deserved not some of someone spying on them. Come on.

CROWLEY: Just as a public figure, you've got to have some sympathy with her. ELIOT SPITZER, CNN CO-HOST: Absolutely, I completely sympathize on this one very narrow limited issue. On the other hand, she made this assertion about her privacy on her own reality show. What side of the mirror is she on? Let's get real here for a minute. There is not a TV camera that would carry her message out to the public that she has turned down in the last two years. She is capitalizing, monetizing, making money, doing everything she can on her life story. And then, yeah, the guy moved in next door. Wasn't going to write anything positive, he didn't. So I agree with her. That's not playing fair. But come on, get over it. She has taken this and run with it all the way to the bank.

PARKER: So it's ironic.

CROWLEY: It's ironic. We'll deal with irony. And by the way, she hasn't come to my camera yet. Just putting that out there.

SPITZER: Yeah, well, there's a reason.

CROWLEY: "PARKER/SPITZER" at the top of the hour. We'll be watching. Thanks guys.

She has not yet arrived in Washington and she is already making headlines, we'll speak with an incoming member of Congress and hear her message for the old GOP guard. That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Just a week after winning her election, Kristi Noem is already grabbing national headlines. If you believe the whispers, South Dakota's Congresswoman elect is in the lead for a newly-created Republican leadership slot. A slot that's being interpreted as an olive branch to senior members and no coincidence, the tea party. She joins us now. Congresswoman-Elect, thank you so much for being here, and just right off the bat, is this a leadership position you'd be interested in having?

KRISTI NOEM (R), SOUTH DAKOTA CONG.-ELECT: Well, you know, first and foremost, my number one goal is to be an effective voice for South Dakota. But I certainly am interested in a position, I campaigned on the facts that I wanted to be as effective as I possibly could. But it comes down to the freshman class deciding who they want to support during leadership election.

CROWLEY: Have you talked to anyone in the leadership about this? Because we're hearing from a lot of people that they do back you, that people already in leadership, John Boehner and others, would like to see you in that.

NOEM: Well, I've certainly visited with them and asked them about the positions that were available within the freshmen class, asked them for their insight on what each role would be, and they told me in this particular position that I was the most interested in, they gave me some good details as well. So if they are supporting me in that, I certainly appreciate that. But ultimately when it comes down to it, it's my freshmen class that will make the decision and I would expect them to send a strong voice to this leadership table. They're going to want somebody who speaks for them and they make sure they've got a real advocate sitting at the table and in the room.

CROWLEY: Do you see yourself as an advocate for those people who were backed by the tea party, yourself included?

NOEM: The tea party was extremely important in this election, and many freshmen and many other legislators were elected with their support. Here in South Dakota, I had a lot of tea party support. I think the message that I carried of smaller limited government, less spending, really resonated with them, and it was something we could agree on. So, you know, I certainly think that that is something that's going to be a factor.

CROWLEY: One of your papers in South Dakota noted that less than half of South Dakota voted for you. In your victory, about 48 percent was your victory. It's not exactly a mandate. Now, we're talking about a leadership position. Yet the Republican leadership here now is talking about no compromise. How do you square that hole, actually? I mean, how do you be in a leadership that's saying no compromise, no compromise, no compromise, and still have half of South Dakota who actually preferred a different candidate?

NOEM: Well, you know when you look at my particular race, I was running against an incumbent who'd been in Washington, D.C., for about six years. She had been' elected by wide margins in the past. I would say eight to nine months ago a lot of people in South Dakota didn't think she was in jeopardy of losing her seat. But I ran on the campaign that we needed smaller, more limited government. We needed to cut our spending. We need to make some tough decisions to make sure small businesses could still survive and exist. And that resonated across South Dakota. We made huge strides in my short campaign. And I think all South Dakotans agree that they make better decisions what to do with their dollars than the federal government does.

CROWLEY: Like so many that are coming into office, you are talking about cutting spending. I want to tick through three items and just try to get a yes or no from you. Because these three items make up 61 percent of the budget. Would you make cuts in social security?

NOEM: I think that we certainly have a social security system that is broken to the future and that we need to sit down at the table, have some adult conversations and figure out how it can become viable into the future. So we need to look at social security, make sure we're taking care of our retirees and people who depend on the system. But for younger workers, we need to make sure it will be there in the future.

CROWLEY: So is that a yes, would you consider it in some way, shape or form?

NOEM: If that was a simple answer, we would have had solutions before this, so certainly it's not going to be a simple solution we can come down to and have a yes or no answer, but we certainly do need to have some adult conversations which we haven't seen come out of Washington, D.C., in recent years, come up with real solutions to that question.

CROWLEY: I'm afraid I'm going to get adult conversation answer again here too but Medicare, Medicaid and the children's health insurance programs, should those be cut in some way?

NOEM: I think when you look at this healthcare bill we've seen that the previous administration and this administration has been willing to cut some of those programs through the Obama care bills. So going forward, I think they are very important for people. They are very important for people in South Dakota. We need to make sure that they stay around and are viable for people who depend on them.

CROWLEY: Defense department, Pentagon spending. Do you see any cuts there?

NOEM: I think we need to find efficiencies in these programs. I think certainly looking at the leadership as well they have agreed upon that. We need to sit down and do that.

CROWLEY: You wouldn't say that you would vote for John Boehner as speaker of the house. Can you say so definitively now?

NOEM: I certainly support him for that position.

CROWLEY: And finally Michelle Bachmann, another Congresswoman who is seen as a tea party backed candidate, someone who has been in Congress, she is going try to run to try to be chair. Will you support her?

NOEM: Well, we do have a couple of candidates for this position. I haven't had the opportunity to meet either one of them. So I'll be looking forward to when the conference gets together to making that decision at that point in time.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman-Elect Kristi Noem, thanks so much. We look forward to greeting you here in Washington.

With us now CNN senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, not the most hardy endorsement.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. Not at all. It's so funny. A lot of the incoming freshman are definitely trying to be cautious. I loved your question about are we going get -- we need to have adult conversations on every big issue. What is really interesting about her in talking to members of the leadership and their staff is the reason that they want her to be the elected freshman representative to the house Republican leadership is her affiliation with the tea party but mostly because of her gender.

CROWLEY: They have half the female delegations that the Democrats do. I'm assuming the freshman vote on this. Do they all see it that way? Is there any competition?

BASH: I think there is going be a competition. I mean this is a very, very large group. She is the one out there. She has got the support of the leadership. We don't see anyone else out there that is publicly saying I want it. We know a lot of them won very hard primaries. I am going go my way.

CROWLEY: The first thing I thought of was Trent Lot saying co- opting which I asked her in this interview because it does seem as though well we need a tea party and a female, here we go. Is there some effort here by the Republican leadership to kind of reach out and bring them into the fold?

BASH: There's no question about it. You do have John Boehner who I think generally have a very good relationship with tea party activists across the country. They like him. They think he has been always somebody who tries to keep spending down but you also have Michelle Bachmann which you asked Kristi Noem about. She is somebody who has been a tea party darling. She founded the tea party caucus in Congress and she is running for the number three or four spot and she is not going get it according to every source I talk to. They realize that they need to get the tea party quotient and the woman quotient added to this leadership.

CROWLEY: Senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash, thanks for being here.

BASH: Thanks Candy.

CROWLEY: Next our offbeat reporter Pete on the street on a dramatic and funny debut. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Here on JK USA, they call this Pete on the street. The offbeat reporter Pete Dominick in New York. Pete, I thought of you this morning when I saw the headlines from one of the more talked about stories. Conan O'Brien's first night on TBS, Tuner Broadcasting System, beats Leno and Letterman. Not a bad night.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: No, not at all. As it should, Conan is the new king of comedy. As a stand up comedian we really look up to this guy. Letterman is the guy who took over really for Carson and Leno has gotten a bad wrap. I don't want to say anything bad about any of them. I'd like to do stand up on all of their programs. Let me show you a quick clip. A very special guest on with Conan last night. Let's take a look.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Don't do it, Conan!

CONAN O'BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST: Larry King?

KING: I'm your guardian angel.

O'BRIEN: But you're not dead.

KING: Never mind that. I have two words for you. Basic cable.

O'BRIEN: Basic cable. DOMINICK: Candy, the legend Larry King. Notice in that clip, you still don't see Larry King's legs so we're still not sure about that. He always sits behind that desk. It's great. I am happy for Conan. I am a huge fan as a comedian of course.

CROWLEY: I am a little hurt that you want to do stand up for Leno and Letterman like we're not good enough for you.

DOMINICK: If CNN will allow me to do a quick set, I am happy to do that on your show, especially "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday or maybe you could bump me in with your big, big interview this Sunday night with the former president George W. Bush. Maybe I can do a little stand-up then? What do you say?

CROWLEY: Perhaps. But let me just say that I caught his act on Oprah Winfrey today and he is his own stand up economic in some ways.

DOMINICK: He does have a great sense of humor. Now the big controversy he created. He says he is an iPad owner. Will you ask the former president, is he a PC guy or a Mac guy? Because America wants to know Candy Crowley.

CROWLEY: I thought you had to be a mac person to have an iPad but what do I know? Thanks Pete. That's all from us tonight. John King will be back tomorrow night.