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Bomb Detection; Rangel Defiant; Pelosi Challenged; Bush Honored; Political Editing; Royal Engagement; Senator McCaskill Wants Earmark Ban; Supermarket Vs. Salvation Army

Aired November 16, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone -- a busy day in politics and some must-see TV to share tonight including a royal engagement.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went really, really well and yes, I was very pleased she said yes.


KING: Plus a hero at the White House, the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specialist Salvatore Giunta (ph) distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.


KING: Back to those stories later, but as we approach the busiest travel period of the year, let's begin tonight with your security, the two pressing issues dealing with air safety. Head of the Transportation Security Administration was on Capitol Hill today and was asked about the recent terrorist attempt to ship two packages containing powerful explosives into the United States on cargo planes.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: But for the intelligence tip that was provided by our ally, would our current security systems have detected these package bombs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My professional opinion, no.


KING: Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us and Jeanne that was a short but a very sobering answer there.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Right, but Mr. Pistole (ph) stating what is unfortunately an obvious fact. There's a huge hole when it comes to cargo security and it's a hard one to plug. The TSA did take some immediate steps stopping shipments from Yemen and Somalia saying there won't be any high risk cargo on passenger planes, for instance, but this is an international problem.

U.S. can't impose a solution here. Different countries have different capabilities in terms of money, in terms of technology and exactly how they're going to solve this problem and plug this hole while keeping commerce moving is a real tough problem, a real tough nut to crack -- John.

KING: A tough one there, Jeanne. Stay with us as we bring the question back home here. Administrator Pistole (ph) also was questioned about those controversial new airport screening procedures, including the use of full body scans and more aggressive pat-downs. As you all probably know a passenger who recorded his objections to the pat-down procedures, well he's become an Internet and cable TV sensation in recent days and it was made very clear today the TSA isn't happy about that.


JOHN PISTOLE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: There's been a lot of publicity out there about a certain individual who recently tried to travel but did not want to have that pat-down, but I think if people get way from just the passenger to hear what the security officer was saying, very cool, calm, professional, and that's what we expect.


KING: So Jeanne, not backing down at all?

MESERVE: No, they're saying at this point in time they have no intention of changing the screening procedures despite this incident with John Tyner (ph). Now the administrator is very calm and cool, a very collected individual, but I got some phone calls today which tell me there are a lot of people over at the TSA and at DHS who are very angry about how this incident has been portrayed.

But they do say they're not backing down at this point in time, though we expect some adjustments where pilots are concerned. The pilots have said why are you screening us? We after all get in the cockpit and are in control of these planes which are potential weapons of mass destruction. So some changes there, but not for the general public at this point in time.

KING: All right. Jeanne Meserve, appreciate your thoughts tonight.

Now to politics and two simple truths -- actions have consequences, elections too. The actions of Congressman Charlie Rangel brought a stinging rebuke today from the House Ethics Committee trial. Guilty on 11 to 12 counts ranging from tax evasion to unethically use of government letterhead and mailing privileges. Rangel not too long ago was among the most powerful members of Congress.

Now he faces possible expulsion. The fascinating election consequences include this. A new effort tonight to block or stall Nancy Pelosi's bid to remain as leader of House Democrats, as well as attempts to strip some powers from her office. Let's dig deep into this Capitol Hill intrigue and the sentencing phase of the Rangel ethics trial.

Here to help CNN contributors Roland Martin and Ed Rollins, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (ph) of California -- she's the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus -- CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger and senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Congresswoman, let me begin with you, Charlie Rangel among the most long standing, if not the longest standing member of your Caucus. Here's what the committee -- subcommittee said today, among the charges, failure to pay taxes on vacation home, political use of a rent-controlled apartment, improper use of government mail service and letterhead. Charlie Rangel was not at that hearing today, but just a few moments ago he said this.


REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Does this -- sounds like it has a scintilla due process. Does it sound fair that you have a respondent that sent the case to you that it took them two years to reach a conclusion and the accusations made just before your election. And the hearing is declared after the election with the understanding that there would be no witnesses called by the prosecutor's office. So I am saying that it just doesn't sound like the fair thing to do.


KING: Congresswoman, he says not the fair thing to do. Some of his colleagues including some Democrats are saying the committee needs to think about recommending possible expulsion.

REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Well let me say, first of all, Chairman Rangel was not found guilty of any corruption charges, nor any charges of enriching himself. He was found guilty of using congressional letterhead for improper purposes and also when he --

KING: Raising money for an institute that bore his name.

LEE: Right, but also when you look at the issues as it relates to the tax problems and difficulties that were raised and the charges that were raised, he actually initiated this investigation. He hired a forensic accountant to go over all of these records --

KING: After news reports raising questions about --

LEE: But he also -- yes -- but he also --

KING: He was the man in charge of the committee that wrote --

LEE: But he also repaid the IRS. And let me just say it's too early to say what is going to happen next steps, but I hope that fairness and justice prevails. And when you look at what he was found guilty of in terms of not found guilty of corruption charges, he was not found guilty of enriching himself, the punishment should be appropriate to what he was found guilty of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What should that be?

LEE: Well I have no idea. That's up to the Ethics Committee to determine. And again, it's very premature to really determine that. That's their decision.

KING: Dana, this is your beat. What are the pressures of the members? There's (INAUDIBLE) secretive commission. They try to get along. There have been some tensions during the Rangel hearing and during the Maxine Waters trial which is about to come. But they do try, because it's essentially policing the House to have a consensus. Where's the pressure?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They do and I think it should it be noted that there was virtual consensus today, Democrats and Republicans in these verdicts. The pressure is to figure out exactly the best punishment to fit the crime and yes there are -- it's possible that you could go all the way to expulsion. But my sense and who knows (INAUDIBLE) my sense is that it's not going to get that far, maybe a censure or something that is effectively a slap on the wrist.

KING: And Roland Martin, to you, there was -- Charlie Rangel certainly thought that the president of the United States before the election was trying to convince him you know what, you've been around a long time. You're a proud guy, step out of the way. It is very clear tonight that he's going to push and push.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well I mean absolutely. Look, I believe whether you're a Democrat or a Republican that you should have your hearing. You should be -- you should allow for the information to come out. I don't believe in premature resignation until frankly it has been decided.

So the Ethics Committee they have decided this. The reality is that Congressman Rangel had an opportunity to be able to present his legal defense. He talked about his lawyers withdrawing, the lawyers say they did not quit, and so we don't really know what's the full story there. He could have launched a legal defense fund.

But this has been going on for quite some time, but I do think the public expects members of Congress to be above reproach and be able to follow the rules. He talked about due process. This is not a court proceeding. This is a -- this is the House where they have their own rules that are separate frankly from what you would expect in a courtroom.

KING: Ed Rollins, what should happen?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know he been obviously tried by his peers. This is their rules. I like Charlie Rangel. I've been a friend of his for 30 years, as has most Republicans. He's a beloved figure on the Hill, but clearly he violated, at least his fellow members thought he violated whatever the rules are and whatever his -- I don't think they should throw him out of Congress. He was just re- elected. I think a letter of censure or something like that is just fine. You know at the end of the day you have got to have rules and you basically have to enforce the rules --

KING: All right, we'll watch what happens on that one. The House Democrats are supposed to meet tomorrow -- correct -- to move on your leadership. The Congressional Black Caucus on the question of whether Nancy Pelosi should stay on as your leader. Would you like a change?

LEE: We were not silent. Let me just say as we speak we're discussing with Speaker Pelosi the entire leadership team. What makes sense in terms of moving forward to ensure that jobs are created for the country and that the economic recovery becomes real in so many --

KING: You're not happy with the way this has been handled? Do you think Mr. Clyburn should be the number two, not number three?

LEE: Let me say we have worked with Mr. Clyburn. We're working on his new leadership position as assistant leader. That portfolio is being developed, and we're going to move forward with consensus on a leadership team that's going to be able to challenge the Republicans in terms of them -- in terms of their attempts, for example, to privatize Social Security. And we have to also make sure that we create jobs for people who are suffering and who are desperate in the country for jobs.

KING: Dana, what other pressures are there to strip the leader of powers? Maybe electing the chairman of the Congressional Campaign Committee and some others have said even let's try to delay this election. We don't have it yet.

BASH: Some have said that. In fact there is going to be a resolution to try to do that. It's unlikely, at least from what I'm told that that's going to pass. Congresswoman, you can correct me if I'm wrong, on delaying it, but some of the more conservative Democrats -- I talked to one -- Dan Born (ph) of Oklahoma today.

He said look it's time to make sure that other voices are heard. And one -- it may seem like inside baseball but is very symbolic. What they're going to try to do it make clear that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, something that is generally appointed, tapped by the speaker is elected by everybody. That's one --

KING: It's a tough call, Ed Rollins, as someone who's been around politics a long time and Ed Rollins, please jump in, where you have an election drubbing, so in part you think well the manager has to get fired heading into the new season. Then on the other hand, she's a veteran politician. She's a tenacious organizer. She has built up loyalty among her members, so how do you deal with that juggle?

ROLLINS: She's no longer the leader of the House. She's leader of the Democrats and if they choose to make her the leader, obviously she can move forward. I think that from our perspective we're happy to have her. We're happy to have the entire leadership team back again.

And we don't care whether they elect her or don't elect. If you basically lose 60 seats, it doesn't matter whether you're elected or appointed. At the end of the day I think the key thing here is you've got three men over 70 years of age. You're not reaching out to the new generation, either women or Hispanics, and what have you and I think that's very important long term for the party.

MARTIN: But John, John, the real issue though is of the folks who say they want to be the leadership, how have they led? Where have they been? And they can always say well you know what, you have Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn at the top, but also you have to prove that you have the ability to be able to fight the opposition, that you have the ability to raise money, to galvanize your members over the next couple of years.

And so it's easy for somebody to say you know like Heath Schuler (ph), you know I'll throw my hat in the ring. You know, but again you have to show yourself over the last two or four years as opposed to saying hey, me, me, me as opposed to the person who knows how to lead. The key is can somebody drive the agenda and lead the opposition? That's the real issue --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But that's Nancy Pelosi's point. Nancy Pelosi's point is that she was the target because she raised the most money and because she was the most effective, but I'm not hearing a ringing endorsement from you or from the moderates in the House either --

LEE: No, but let me just say we have unified around -- at least we're working with the Congressional Black Caucus in terms of unifying around Speaker Pelosi.

KING: Sounds like you want a bigger portfolio --

LEE: We said that last night.


LEE: We met last night. We want to make sure that the portfolio is what it should be, and that is this. Mr. Clyburn is very effective with moderates. He's very effective in rural communities. He comes from South Carolina. He knows urban area. He helped shepherd through community clinics in the health care bill and increase in Pell grants, community colleges, historically black colleges and universities.

He's an educator. He's an organizer. He's a smart person and he has that experience to bring our caucus together so that we can meet the challenges that we have to meet. And so yes, we're working to make sure that Speaker Pelosi is elected as the minority leader and that Mr. Hoyer becomes the Whip and that Mr. Clyburn is the third in line that who has a portfolio that's going to help us turn the country around and turn the economy around.

KING: All right we'll watch how this all plays out tomorrow on Capitol Hill. We've got to take a break. But when he we come back, Dick Cheney returns to the political stage. Look at this. Look closely. You may not recognize him. He's lost so much weight, but when we come back, you'll see he hasn't lost his political punch. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Three thousand people were on hand for today's ground-breaking for former President Bush's presidential library at Southern Methodist University. But at one point all eyes were not on the former president, but on his shockingly thin former Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney, of course has not been in the public eye much. He battled some heart ailments and look at these pictures of the stage today. He looks very thin, but, but with the stimulus debate in mind for months ago, he still has political punch.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course, the George W. Bush Presidential Center isn't much to look at just yet, but the workers are ready, construction will move fast after today's groundbreaking. This may be the only shovel-ready project in America.


KING: Oh, a little stimulus fire back there from Dick Cheney. And when he spoke, the former President George W. Bush made clear he still thinks he made the right choice.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I've been doing these interviews trying to pedal my book. I'm asked about Dick Cheney. Here's what I say. Dick Cheney was the right pick in the year 2000, and as I stand here, there is no doubt in my mind he was the right pick then, he was a great vice president of the United States, and I'm proud to call him friend.


KING: Protocol says we go to the Texan first. Roland Martin, what do you make of that?

MARTIN: That sounds like he's getting a little push-back from the folks talking about when Cheney came to him as to whether or not he should have been his VP. And so that's his way of saying, hey, Dick, I got your back and so first of all, good to see both of them out and certainly in my native Texas (INAUDIBLE) Texas A&M. We got a (INAUDIBLE) library and so we're cool.

KING: All right, a little Texas jealousy going on there. Ed Rollins, we haven't seen the former vice president some time now. Number one, it's good to see that he seems to be in better health and he's up on his feet. And I guess you know the Democrats don't like what he said, but just that he's, I guess jumping back into the game. I'll take that as a good sign.

ROLLINS: Considering all that he's been through, I mean he's very fortunate to be alive and still fortunate on the stage. Obviously his mind is still clear. Whatever the diet that he's on Roland and I don't want to go on it. (LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell no. I'm with you, Ed.


ROLLINS: And I think he -- I think he showed a little humor. It was not -- it was -- you know at this point in time presidential libraries, there's an old saying the two happiest days of a president is the day he's inaugurated and the day he dedicates his library.


ROLLINS: And I think -- I think President Bush now is going through a recovery period and I think people are feeling much better about his presidency --

KING: You don't hear Al Gore in every debate about Bill Clinton's legacy, but you do hear Dick Cheney's name in just about every conversation about George W. Bush.

BORGER: And don't forget, there was tension between these two fellows particularly during the second term when Dick Cheney thought that George W. Bush was going soft on him, and he was also upset -- he was also upset about the fact that the president didn't pardon Scooter Libby. He thought he should have done that. And so it's not as if these two men haven't had their moments, and neither of them is denying it, by the way, which is great.

KING: Refreshing.


BASH: The one thing I will say is that Dick Cheney's joke about shovel-ready, the president now agrees with him. That was one of -- that was one of the mea culpas when he lost the election in such a big way, saying you know what there's no such thing as shovel-ready, so --

KING: All right --

BASH: Maybe there could be a summit between Cheney and Obama.

KING: Let's pivot here to show that everybody in life needs an editor and sometimes everybody in life gets an editor. We played this for you the other night. This is Tina Fey accepting a Mark Twain award. Listen.


TINA FEY, COMEDIAN: I would be a liar and an idiot if I didn't thank Sarah Palin for helping get me here tonight. My partial resemblance and her crazy voice are the two luckiest things that have ever happened to me.


FEY: All kidding aside, I'm so proud to represent American's humor --


KING: That's Tina Fey. She's always funny. Now what we learned since then though is that PBS decided they say for time reasons to edit this part out.


FEY: For everybody else, it's a win-win unless you're a gay woman who wants to marry your partner of 20 years. But for most women, success of conservative women is good for all of us unless you believe in evolution. (INAUDIBLE) I take it back. The whole thing's a disaster.


KING: Now Ed Rollins, she's funny, she's also political. Do you take it that this was edited out because they needed to get to a certain time for the program? We face those demands every day or when they had to get to a certain time, were they political in the editing?

ROLLINS: They politically edit it. There's no question about it. PBS does that from time to time and you know whatever. At the end of the day I think Tina Fey will be very happy to have Sarah Palin's Alaska ratings, which will be her own show and I think to a certain extent they sort of made each other, and I think to a certain extent I'm happy to see her get the Mark Twain award. I'm a big fan of Tina Fey.

BASH: Is this the first time that PBS has been accused of editing --


BASH: -- to favor Republicans? I mean that's my question right. I mean are -- they're accused -- PBS is the network that's accused of being --

BORGER: They edited out something Paul McCartney said that was offensive at one point to Republicans, so probably not.


KING: Go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN: Hey John -- John, this is a perfect example of what Tina Fey said and they edited out was the funniest stuff that she said. So when people ask all the time why PBS is boring, hello. Exhibit A.

ROLLINS: I thought it was a master plan. They wanted to be boring so they could talk to all the liberal Democrats.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want you as a viewer.

KING: Here's -- here's a question I have -- MARTIN: Even my liberal conservative friends don't like boring, Ed.

KING: Here's my question -- when does pop culture collide with politics? And when it does, what happens? Meaning Bristol Palin has been on "Dancing with the Stars" routinely she gets low grades from the judges, but enormous support from the public. Now many have said this is the Sarah Palin political network. Sarah Palin posts on Facebook about this. She tweets about her daughter. She tells people on her Web site when to vote for her. But Bristol Palin says maybe that's part of it, but she thinks more that she has an everyday American connection. Let's listen.


BRISTOL PALIN, DAUGHTER OF SARAH PALIN: Yes I think I'm definitely relatable to the audience out there and untouched and raw and vulnerable. No offense to anyone else, but I'm not fake. People do connect with me because they feel I'm real and I'm not typical Hollywood.


KING: So --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounds like her mother.


BASH: Now in fairness I watched last night, and she did really well last night. She's no Jennifer Grey, but you know no one can be "Baby". But she did really --


BORGER: -- just as well, Dana.


BORGER: Come on.

BASH: No, she did well. She did better.

KING: Can we put "Baby" in the corner or --


MARTIN: OK, first of all, John, all of a sudden you say well I'm real, I'm not a fake. OK, you're on a reality show because your mom ran for president. You're not in the celebrity category, so don't try to say you're not Hollywood. You're cashing in on a nice little thing called fame, so let's not -- let's not forget that.

BORGER: Almost famous.

ROLLINS: I do think she's kind of every girl, though. I think she struggled. My wife watches it, so I'm forced to basically have it on in the room.

MARTIN: Hey. Get two TVs, Ed.


KING: You're with a jury of your peers, Ed, on this one.

ROLLINS: She has worked very hard and I think people are giving her credit for that.

BORGER: My husband doesn't know how good he has it, because I don't force him --


KING: Ed --

ROLLINS: My wife has to watch 12 football games a weekend though in return.

KING: Roland, next time there's a football game on for "Dancing with the Stars", we'll do that instead. All right everybody thanks for coming in tonight --

MARTIN: John, you will never see me watching that show.

KING: All right good, then you wouldn't watch the other one either. That's not so bad. When we come back, we're going to talk about something royal, a royal engagement. You'll hear from the new couple that has Britain up in arms with joy.

And Senator Claire McCaskill (ph) is a Democrat. She's on the ballot in 2012 and she's fighting her own leadership over earmarks, you know that spending many in Congress want to get rid of. More Republicans do than Democrats and at the end of the program we'll talk with Pete Dominick. No bells, grocery chain restricting Salvation Army around the holiday season. Good idea or bad idea?


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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. A new CNN Opinion Research poll shows 73 percent of the American public thinks the U.S. Senate should ratify the new treaty with Russia reducing nuclear weapons. But Republican Senator Jon Kyl (ph) of Arizona just told Democratic leaders he does not think the treaty should be voted on until next year.

The National Transportation Safety Board today called on all states annex (ph) motorcycle helmet laws. Right now only 20 states and the District of Columbia require all riders to wear helmets.

"Motor Trend's" car of the year is GM's Chevy Volt. The magazine says its tests show the plug-in hybrid gets almost 73 miles a gallon, 50 miles on electricity, then the gas engine kicks in. That's pretty --

KING: I was out at the GM Design Center I guess a little more than a year ago. We went into the room where they were designing all the different Volt interiors, and it was an amazing, amazing place. Maybe we'll have to add cost of electricity. You know we do cost of gas around holiday travel. Maybe we'll have to add cost of electricity to that --

JOHNS: Right.

KING: -- and I say that for a reason, Joe. You know we're heading into the Thanksgiving week. Many Americans are going to start traveling. Of course it's one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, and so what is happening. Well here's what AAA says, 42.2 million people expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.

That's up 11.4 percent from last year. The economy has a big role there. People clearly willing to spend a little bit more, but it's down 30 percent from 2005, so clearly there's still also an impact of the slow economy on holiday travel. Here's how it breaks down and how people will be traveling. About 94 percent of Americans who travel around the holiday do so in their car. That's why gas prices matter. About four percent travel by plane during the Thanksgiving travel weekend. Now (INAUDIBLE) 94 percent travel by car. This is one of the things they want to know.

What's the average price of a gallon of gas? It's now up and it's been going up a bit in recent weeks, 2.95 a gallon is the national average. Well let's take a look because that's the national average, it varies. If you look at the green, the darkest green is below 2.59 a gallon. You see where that is over there.

The red is the highest prices out in California, up here in New York State. That tends to be state gas taxes knocking up a little bit more and you see the rest of the country essentially red and orange are the higher prices. Yellow is in the middle. The green are the lower prices. Down south lower gas taxes mostly responsible for that. You see that -- there's your price of gas if you're traveling.

Let's take that one off and one last look. How much is it going to cost you to travel this year? Well airline fares up about four percent. That's one thing to look at. Car rental though, car rental down about four percent, the cost of hotels up about six percent. I don't know about you, Joe. You doing holiday travel?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm flying for the most part. I'm always looking for the great deal, and you can go to one gas station and there's one price and three blocks down the street it's 20 cents hire.

KING: I should be AA's test subject this year. I'm doing a little bit of driving and stay in a hotel and see family and fly back. I'll give you a full report on the other side.

JOHNS: Why don't you take a boat, too? KING: There's a harbor shuttle in Boston. I'll take it to the airport. That's good. You know what else I'll do? Eat. Just a thought there. Joe is with us.

When we come back, big news that Americans care about, too, and not just the Brits, a big royal engagement. We'll show you the new couple and hear from them and our own royal watcher Richard Quest tells us why it matters.


KING: There had been rumors for months it's been coming, so much so that magazine covers obviously ready and waiting. Look at that. Today in Great Britain the timing of the announcement was a surprise. Prince William is engaged to Kate Middleton. He's the oldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. The prince gave her his mother's engagement ring. After the photo op they sat down for an interview. Here's a bit of what they said.


PRINCE WILLIAM, UNITED KINGDOM: It was about three weeks ago on a holiday in Kenya. We had private time away together with friends, and I decided it was the right time really. We'd been talking about marriage for a while, so it wasn't a massively big surprise. But I took her up somewhere nice in Kenya and proposed.

KATE MIDDLETON: It was very romantic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you said yes, obviously?

MIDDLETON: Of course, yes.

WILLIAM: Thankfully.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You knew you were going to do this from day one?

WILLIAM: I planned it for a while. It takes a certain amount of motivation to get yourself going. I was planning it, and it felt really right out in Africa and it was beautiful at the time. I had done a little bit of planning to share my romantic side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kate, you'd been on holiday a wheel, so did you see this coming? Was he getting nervous and jumpy?

MIDDLETON: Not at all. We were out there with friends and things, so I didn't expect it at all. I thought he maybe thought about it, but, no, it was a total shock when it came and very excited.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did you give her the ring there and then?

WILLIAM: Yeah, I had been carrying it around for about three weeks before that, and I literally would not let it go. I kept go of it, because if it disappeared I'd be in a lot of trouble. I planned it. It went fine. You hear a lot of horror stories about proposing and things go horribly wrong. I was very pleased she said yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a family ring?

WILLIAM: It's my mother's engagement ring. I thought it was quite nice because obviously she won't be around to share the fun and excitement and all in this. This is my way of keeping her close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are obviously going to enter this family the most famous royal family in the world. William's mother was this massive iconic figure, the most famous figure of our age. Is that worrying? Is that intimidating? Does that -- do you think about that a lot? You particularly, Kate.

MIDDLETON: Obviously, I would have loved to have met her, and she's obviously -- she's an inspiration for women to look up to. Obviously, on this day and, you know, going forward and things, you know, it's a wonderful family. The members who I've met have achieved allot and very inspirational. Yeah, I do.

WILLIAM: Like Kate said, you know, it's about carving your own future. No one's going to try -- no one's trying to fill my mother's shoes, and what she did is fantastic. It's about making your own future and destiny, and Kate will do a very good job of that.


KING: A remarkable moment there. So let's get a quick observation now from CNN's veteran royal watcher, Richard Quest.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it was the relaxed, comfortable way that William and Kate conducted this first joint interview that spoke volumes about their relationship. This wasn't a couple that had been thrown together in some state-arranged marriage. This was two people who were in love, have known each other for many years, and actually live together at the moment. In fact, the length of their relationship, some eight or nine years, was said by both of them to be a good thing. It meant they got to know each other in the good times and bad. Obviously, the shadow of William's mother, the late princess of Wales, Diana, was throughout the day. Kate admitted she would love to have met Diana and found her an inspiration, but William said quite clearly that this was not about filling Diana's shoes. Kate Middleton would have to carve out her own future and make her own contribution. As they plan for a wedding in the middle of next year, spring or summer they say, Britain is entering a time designed to cut a huge budget deficit. A royal wedding is perhaps as some would say just what the country needs, and once again, it seems, the royal saga and the house of Windsor has come to the rescue. John?

KING: Our thanks to Richard Quest there.

There was another moment today right here in Washington, D.C. that made you stop and watch. The white house, a living soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor. Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta was recommended hours after a bloody ambush and firefight in Afghanistan back in 2007. He's the first living Medal of Honor recipient for a current conflict since 1976. Watch this. PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: It is my privilege to present our nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to a soldier as humble as he is heroic, staff sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta. I'm going to go off script here for a second and just say I really like this guy. Salvatore Giunta risked his life for his fellow soldiers because they would risk their lives for him. That's what fueled his bravery. Not just the urgent impulse to have their backs, but the absolute confidence that they had his.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specialist Giunta's unwavering courage, selflessness and decisive leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American soldier from the enemy.

SALVATORE A. GIUNTA, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: This is an incredible time, but it's also kind of a bittersweet time. Times like this, because of this day, I lost two dear friends of mine, Specialist Hugo Mendoza and Sergeant Joshua Brendon. Although this is so positive, I would give this back in a second to have my friends with me right now.


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

JOHNS: Hey John. The investigating officer has sent his recommendation on how to proceed in the case against accused Ft. Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan. The report goes to Hasan's defense team and was not made public.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is prepared to ban alcoholic drinks that have caffeine. Critics complain they're geared to young people and encourage them to spend more time drinking.

Finally, a Pugh Hispanic Center poll asked Hispanics living in the U.S. who is the most important Latino leader in the country today? 64 percent said they don't know. Another 10 percent said no one. Among the names that were mentioned, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Chicago area Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. That's a pretty good collection, but so many people didn't know what to say.

KING: Fastest growing segment of the population, clearly a vacuum of leadership, something to watch if you cover politics. I'll tell you that much.

When we come back, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat challenging her own leadership on a very important issue.


KING: In what you might call a little bit of Capitol Hill bipartisan, Republican senators Tom Coburn and John McCain along with Democrats Claire McCaskill and Mark Udall are trying to force a public vote on giving up earmarks, those spending projects members of Congress slip into legislation. And no shock here, there's also bipartisan push- back. Earlier today in a dig at her new Republican colleague, Senator McCaskill tweeted, "Newly elected Senator from Missouri is bucking Republican leadership by supporting earmarks while I continue to buck mine by fighting them." Senator McCaskill joins us for a progress report. Senator, you're correct in saying your new Republican colleague Roy Blunt wants to fight to keep earmarks but so does your leader, as you mentioned, Harry Reid. Your friend and colleague Sherrod Brown was on the program last night. He said, look, this won't save any money and sometimes it helps them get monies to medical clinics back home in Ohio and other critical projects in Ohio. Harry Reid who was re-elected today as your majority leader in the Senate says this about earmarks.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I think I have an obligation to the people of Nevada to do what is important to Nevada, not what is important to some bureaucrat with green eye shades here. So I'm not personally going to back off of bringing stuff back to Nevada.

KING: Now, you were for this, Senator, well before the midterm elections. But after the midterm elections, even Mitch McConnell a ong time defender of earmarks has gotten the message and says he backs a moratorium. Does Harry Reid not get it?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I honestly think a lot of my colleagues don't get it. This isn't about the power of the purse. We have the power of the purse for the whole budget. Earmarks only began in the 1970s. This is -- it's not about whether or not you want a project funded. It should be about merit. The process is flawed. And if we can't do this, this is the easy stuff, John. This is like the change in the couch. How in the world are we going to step up and stop some of the other spending that we've got to do to balance our budget?

KING: Well, let me pick up on that point. You call this the change in the couch. You also tweeted this today. "Back in D.C., so much we need to get done. Hopeful that compromise will not be an evil word." Let's explore that. Your friend on this earmark issue, Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican, also has said he doesn't want tax increases but if it's the only way to have a serious conversation about deficit reduction, he is open to some tax increases as long as he sees spending cuts and as long as he sees Democrats willing to make some changes in social security and Medicare. Are you willing to put social security and Medicare on the table as part of an adult conversation about deficit reduction?

MCCASKILL: I think everything has to be on the table. We need to focus on not whether or not we are cutting taxes for certain levels of income but how much are we giving away, of tax dollars to people with high incomes. We have a lot of things we give away to people who are very, very wealthy in this country. And I'm not sure that our federal government can afford that. So we've got to look at all of it. And we have to be responsible about it. Frankly, earmarking is not the problem. It is a symptom of the problem. And that is, we treat this money as if it is our own instead of precious tax dollars. And we've got to be more respectful of these tax dollars, and that's what the voters were trying to tell us in November. KING: But to be clear, you talked about taxes. Social security and Medicare need to be part of the conversation also.

MCCASKILL: Absolutely. There are three legs of the stool; spending, entitlements and making the tax code fair and equitable. That's the three legs of the stool. If we do all of those in a responsible, bipartisan way, I think the American people would all be very, very happy.

KING: What about right now? After the mid-term election the president called it a shellacking. You can call it what you will. There is a debate in the Democratic Party about who are the Democrats supposed to be right now in this lame duck session? Are you supposed to be the party that still controls everything in Washington? Speaker in the house, a bigger margin in the Senate, or are you supposed to back off and shy away saying the voters sent as you message? Specifically in this lame duck, should Leader Reid bring back the repeal of don't ask don't tell, the dream act which would give citizenship benefit to children who came into this country as illegal immigrants but who went on to college. Should he try to repeal the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans?

MCCASKILL: I think we have to be principled but pragmatic. We have to look and see what we can get done and prioritize what we need to get done in this lame duck session. One of the thing we have to get done is a final decision on tax policy regardless which of way we decide. Just so the business community out there gets some certainty so we begin to get some of this reinvestment and private sector job creation. That has to be our priority. Now, if we have additional time and we can do more, I'm not opposed to us debating any of the things you've talked about. All of us have been on the record about them. But we've got to make the priority getting the tax policy decisions made so that we can remove that excuse from the table so we begin to get some of this investment back into job creation that's currently sitting on the sidelines.

KING: You are one of the people we who cover politics most closely watch because you're up for election in 2012. Your state just convincingly -- not only did it not vote for President Obama in 2008 but it just convincingly elected Republican Roy Blunt. The margin, 51 percent to 41 percent. When Claire McCaskill looks at what happened two weeks ago on a Tuesday, what do you see as the message of the electorate?

MCCASKILL: I think they're trying to tell us that everybody in America has been focusing on how much they're spending and they don't believe that we have done that. And to a large extent, Jeff Sessions, the Republican from Alabama and I have been trying all year to pass a cap on spending. And even though I got 17 Democratic votes for that, we were two short of getting it done. All the Republicans were voting for it. I think they want us to look at spending. I think they want to us focus on private sector job creation so we can get out of these economic doldrums we're in. I think they want to make sure we're listening. I think also, they want us to be independent and not always march to a party mandate, at least Missouri that's what they want. They want me to exercise independent judgment from my party about what is best for the people in Missouri. And I think we've got to continue to do that. I've tried to do that from the day I got here and I'll continue to do that even though it irritates the leadership in my party sometimes.

KING: You mentioned the leadership in your party. I was looking before the election at the senator Barack Obama late 2006 mid terms and it includes stops in Missouri to help Claire McCaskill pull off what was considered by many to be an upset in that campaign. Looking ahead to 2012, knowing the president's standing in your state, down quite a bit, do you envision campaigning side by side with the president or would you rather do this on your own?

MCCASKILL: You know I think the president has to really focus on getting elected to a second term in 2012. And I need to focus on making sure I'm accountable to the people of Missouri. If our paths crossing that's great but I think that's frankly kind of a political question that is not as relevant as what I can do between now and 2012 to earn the trust for the Missourians to decide to hire me for six years.

KING: We'll keep in touch during those big debates this year, next year and into that campaign. Appreciate your time tonight.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

Next our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick checks out a big grocery change's new restrictions on Salvation Army bell ringers.


KING: When something come in that sounds a little off or just not right, we like to check it out with our offbeat reporter Pete Dominic. He's in New York tonight. Pete, here's the question. The Salvation Army which you know, after holiday season is outside a lot of stores, you see them in places. Giant Foods, the big supermarket chain here, is restricting their hours this holiday season. I won't go through the numbers but in years past, they could be there about 35 or 36 hours a week in November and December. Now Giant Foods says they can be there about 12 hours one week in November, one week in December.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Well John King, I support these restrictions. President Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex. It is clear they're trying to recruit outside these groceries stores, the Salvation Army.

KING: Pete, the Salvation Army. Not the United States army. These people are nice people. They collect money to help people down on their luck.

DOMINICK: Oh, they're cutting down on their hours?

KING: Yes. They say sometimes it bothers the shoppers.

DOMINICK: Whoever these shoppers are that are bothered by somebody ringing a bell because they want a couple coins, they're the problem. How dare they tell the Salvation Army they cannot ring their bells? I need to look into this. I am on the case. I will find out what this is about and why they're restricting the hours. I am appalled by this.

KING: Pete Dominick is on the case. We'll see you tomorrow. Pete, hope to see you, too. That's all for us. PARKER SPITZER right now.