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JOHN KING, USA

Bad Weather; Opt-Out Day; North Korea; Tom DeLay Verdict; Bare- Knuckles Politics

Aired November 24, 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 Suzanne and good evening everyone. Breaking political news tonight, the former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas -- his nickname was "The Hammer" because of his aggressive fund-raising and his tactics rounding up votes -- found guilty tonight of money laundering and conspiracy in a Texas political corruption trial. DeLay insists he's innocent and he promises to appeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DELAY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: And I still maintain that I am innocent. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system. And I'm very disappointed in the outcome, but, you know, it is what it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Details of that case in a moment. Also, imagine a big post election Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone in the Republican Party invited. Make it a reality show and, well, it's too bad "Family Feud" is a title already taken. Remember this the other night, Barbara Bush on Sarah Palin?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's very happy in Alaska, and I hope she'll stay there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You knew, oh, you knew, it was only a matter of time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: I think the majority of Americans don't want to put up with the blue bloods, and I say it with all due respect, because I love the Bushes, but the blue bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This feud goes well beyond mama grizzlies versus the establishment. There's a big debate over who speaks for the Tea Party. And whether the big Republican election wins mean it's time to put social issues front and center.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got the vast majority of the people elected, the new people elected, are pro-life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the same people who brought us Janet Jackson's nipple and gay marriage amendments and Terri Schiavo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: More on the GOP's holiday dinner debate in a moment. But first, the day's breaking news, beginning with a busy Thanksgiving Eve travel day. The movements of millions, millions of Americans challenged and complicated by the forces of nature, but apparently not by political protests. We'll have more on the TSA screening controversy in just a minute.

But let's get now, first and foremost to the biggest cause of this evening's travel delays. And that would be a tornado watch in the Midwest and a nasty storm out in the Rockies. And let's look right here. We're currently tracking if you look at FlightWise.com (ph), more than 5,100 flights. And we just noted tornado watch.

That's out here in the Midwest -- Jerry (ph) -- we'll get that to turn on for us there -- doesn't want to play -- tornado watch in the Midwest, nasty storm in the Rockies. So Bonnie Schneider in the CNN Weather Center, if you're in the air right now or on the ground, can you get where you're going?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, John, it's going to take a while. We have a lot of delays to tell you about. Look at them right now -- New York City, Boston, wind and volume causing lengthy delays. We also have delays in Chicago O'Hare Airport and of course in Calgary, so a lot of delays related to weather. And you mentioned the tornadoes.

Well we have a tornado watch that's not just in effect for right now. This is going to last straight into the evening hours. Those of you venturing out tonight, be careful out there, particularly in southwest Missouri. We have two tornado warnings happening right now, very strong thunderstorms rolling through the area. And where we have heavy rain to the south, to the north, we are tracking some heavy snow.

So this is going to cause blizzard conditions. We're looking at zero visibility in some areas. Not just tracking the stormy weather to the south but again we're tracking the snow to the north. And the winter weather advisories will persist into the overnight hours and likely on into tomorrow. Anywhere you see purple and pink, that's where we have the advisories.

And notice they extend as far east as western New York, southward into Pennsylvania. Tonight, we'll look for blowing snow and John the winds could get as strong as 60 miles per hour in this part of the country. And that will just blow about all that snow that's coming down.

KING: So Bonnie, I'm one of those people traveling on the holiday and I was a little surprised by the research. More people actually travel on Thanksgiving Day than they do on Thanksgiving Eve. The average trip, 214 miles, you mentioned a little bit of worry for tomorrow. How worried should I be?

SCHNEIDER: I think tomorrow all of this is going to slide to the east, but I do think it's going to be a little bit better. The accumulation in places like Minneapolis and Chicago will be light, but just take it slow on the roads because we will see light snow showers, scattered snow flurries and even as far south as St. Louis that rain will change over to snow early tomorrow morning. So John, my best advice is take it slow on the roads and just give yourself plenty of time.

KING: Bonnie Schneider keeping an eye on all of this for us -- thanks Bonnie. One thing not being blamed for delays at the airport is political protests. Remember this was supposed to be opt-out day to object to those new full body scans and more aggressive pat-downs the TSA is using in airport security lines.

Critics who call those searches too invasive, even unconstitutional were hoping scores of travelers were opt out, refuse the scans and as a result cause huge lines at the pat-down stations. But the official TSA blog reports only a few cases of opting out. And our reporters across the country throughout the country have seen only small scattered protests and no significant opt-out related security snarls.

One example, Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson Airport, one of the nation's busiest. It reported only 26 opt-outs out of 47,000 passengers screened by midday. Out on the west coast, Ted Rowlands keeping watch at San Francisco International Airport -- hey Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Yes, this seemed to be a colossal failure, this opt-out protest. We did have a small group outside the terminal here at SFO, literally four people with a few signs. Inside we talked to passengers here and we started our day in Los Angeles at LAX. And a lot of people had opinions on this, some of them very critical of the TSA.

Many people asking that the TSA use a little bit more common sense. Not pulling a grandmother out of a wheelchair. But we didn't see the opt-out and if you think about it, what these organizers were hoping was that people would stand up and clog up a line of travelers on Thanksgiving week, pretty tall order to have people hold up a line during a holiday rush. I think a lot of people may have come to the airport with intentions to do so may have gotten cold feet, with the reality of families and people behind them.

KING: Getting where you want to go more important maybe than making a point -- Ted that looks pretty orderly behind you. I've been at that airport before. That looks actually pretty good.

ROWLANDS: Yes, not bad. In fact, this is a little fuller than it has been throughout the day. It is expected to pick up in the evening hours as more flights depart here from SFO, but all in all, nothing to report from San Francisco and Los Angeles as well where we started our day, lines moving smoothly, as you said, TSA saying that at security checkpoints around the country wait times have actually been lower than average.

KING: Best of luck to all those people waiting there at SFO and across the country. Ted Rowlands thanks for your help tonight and this footnote to your holiday travels. That color-coded air travel threat level system in place for the past eight years well it could soon be a thing of the past. The president is weighing recommendations for a new system that officials promise would be more specific about threats.

You know how it works. Green is the low in the current five- tiered system. Red tops the scale, signaling a severe terror threat. The current air travel threat level is orange or high. It has been orange, high, since August 2006, four years and three months without a change.

Turning now to tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the Obama administration's multi-pronged response -- a day after North Korea fired artillery at a South Korean military installation the Pentagon set a firm date for long-scheduled military exercises in the region. Joint naval exercises with South Korea now set for next week.

The White House also says it is working to set up a conversation between President Obama and the Chinese president, Hu Jintao. China is of course North Korea's biggest benefactor, by far. And America's top military officer tells CNN Beijing's help is essential because of its close ties to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: He is belligerent, dangerous, consistently destabilizing, and is only predictable in his unpredictability. And certainly he galvanizes everybody around, obviously, the potential that they could go to war with South Korea. He's on a path to develop nuclear weapons, which is the most dangerous weapon in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Admiral Mullen speaking there with Fareed Zakaria for this week's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" and Fareed joins us now. And it is that unpredictability Admiral Mullen was speaking about, Fareed that makes this standoff so nerve-racking in the sense that if you talk to people in the White House, what they are worried about is either by the government in the North or the South, some misunderstanding, some miscalculation that leads to something disastrous.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN'S FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Precisely. I mean we've been talking about this for a couple of days, John, and alerting viewers to how serious this is. Because, remember, you have a situation here where these two nations are sworn enemies. The North is deliberately provoking the South. There is the possibility that the South has to take some action to try and show that it is responding.

It is trying to deter future destabilization. That could then lead to a spiral. The Chinese are, in some senses, protectors of the northern regime. The United States is the protector of the southern regime. This -- all of a sudden this one part of the world feels very much like the Cold War all over again.

KING: And you mentioned the Cold War all over again. In those days, the conversations were with Moscow. These days, can we have a resolution here without some involvement, some positive productive involvement, from Beijing?

ZAKARIA: No, the Chinese are the only country that have any significant influence on the North Koreans and there is a tendency, a conventional wisdom, that says but even they don't have that much influence. I don't really believe that.

The Chinese provide North Korea with 90 percent of their fuel, 90 percent. They provide them with about half of their food. This is a regime that has -- this is a country that has almost no economic activity. So they depend for their lifeline on China, on Beijing. If Beijing were to get tough with them and were to tell them that they had to do certain things it seems very unlikely that they would be able to defy Beijing. The key is that Beijing has not yet really gotten tough with North Korea.

KING: And as we wait to see how it plays out and whether the Chinese will get tough and will get more involved, one of the things we do know that will happen is the "USS George Washington" carrier group going over to the Yellow Sea for long-planned military exercises alongside South Korea. But does the U.S. military presence in the region run a risk that North Korea will say aha, we want to respond again, be more provocative because the Americans are here?

ZAKARIA: It is a great question and you always -- you always are trying to play that balance, right? You want to be strong enough to deter but not so strong or not so threatening that you seem to provoke. I think the administration, the Obama administration is playing it about right. But I think this might not be the end of it.

And Admiral Mullen said that to me that this may not be the last thing we have to do on this front. There will have to be real vigilance to, perhaps, do other things, in various ways, with the South Koreans to send a message. I think the North Koreans are going through some complicated internal power struggle or signaling.

They are also a thuggish regime. This is the only language they understand. But it is very important for them to understand that we draw a line and we will not allow this kind of -- this kind of activity, because South Korea is -- I was there only two weeks ago. They're very rattled by the North's new aggressiveness. This is a very dangerous situation.

KING: Fareed Zakaria, as always, thanks for your insights.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure, John. KING: Wall Street recovered nicely today after yesterday's big sell-off sparked, in part, by jitters over Korea. The Dow Industrials, 150-point gain, wiped out yesterday's 142-point loss. A government report showing a big drop in unemployment claims fueled today surged. That was good news, optimistic news there, but if you look at the data over the past few months, mixed signals about the economy heading into the holiday season and the end of the year.

Let's take a look. Here are some of the economy's ups and downs -- holiday sales forecasts, up a little, personal income up some. Personal savings up as well. The new home sales down again, the government just said. And as you know, the unemployment level has been flat. Hiring is flat in the economy. That is bad. One sign that some people think say perhaps things are about to get better, watch this play out.

Jobless claims filed back at the beginning of the recession, you see the peak in the middle of the recession back now to about where they were at the beginning of the recession. Some say that could be a sign of better days to come. We'll keep an eye on that. This makes some people happier if you're a big investor, makes others very mad. They think Wall Street is making a lot of money, Main Street is suffering.

This is what I'm talking about, record corporate profits. Look at that, $1.66 trillion in corporate profits in the third quarter of 2010. A lot of people say why isn't that money making it to Main Street? One last look here -- what about holiday spending? Everybody predicts the retail association especially, a very modest increase from last year over this year, about $7 more each person they expect to spend.

You look at the spike, 2004, came up during relatively decent times then dropped down in the recession. Here's where we are. We'll watch how that plays out this holiday season.

When we come back breaking political news. The verdict, House Majority Leader Tom Delay, the former big Republican powerhouse here in Washington, found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy -- the details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: No turkey day break from bare-knuckled politics it seems. Sarah Palin calls Barbara Bush a blue blood. Democrats accuse the Senate's number two Republican of breaking a GOP pledge to ban earmarks before the ink on that promise is even dry. And in breaking political news tonight just in from Texas, a jury convicts former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of money laundering and conspiracy saying he illegally funneled corporate money to help elect Republicans to the Texas legislature.

Let's sort through these top headlines with our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry, our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and let's talk both first about a man both of you covered for quite sometime, Tom DeLay. He was "The Hammer" on Capitol Hill. He got that name for aggressive fund-raising, aggressive arm-twisting to round up the votes. These charges he has been convicted of carry maximum penalties, 99 years in one case, 20 years in another. Obviously hardly anyone ever gets the maximum, but Tom DeLay, listen to this, he says this was a liberal prosecutor and that he will win on appeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DELAY: And I still maintain that I am innocent. That the criminalization of politics undermines our very system, and I'm very disappointed in the outcome. But you know, it is what it is, and we will carry on and maybe we can get it before people that understand the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He has said, Dana, from day one this was partisan. However, these are serious charges and this is a tough verdict for Tom DeLay.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, there's no question about it. I believe actually that on that note that his attorney tried to get this -- the venue changed because they felt that this particular area was too Democratic in the state of Texas. But what's interesting is that these charges are really in the state of Texas.

This has nothing to do with what he was sort of known for when it comes to criminal allegations which is dealing with potential -- with Jack Abramoff, who was -- who was a big issue on a federal level -- nothing to do with that. But certainly this is politically I think a reminder to people who soured on Republicans the first time around that this is part of the reason why, that they were very upset with allegations of corruption.

KING: And Ed, in the heyday of the Republican majority here when Tom DeLay was here, he was one of the most feared men in Washington.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's why they called him "The Hammer" and I think Dana is absolutely right that you know it's sort of a reminder for Republicans, a conservative cause gone bad, in terms of, you know, when there was the Republican revolution, he was one of the leaders, and then there are a lot of Republicans around the country who feel they got too fat on power, too much connected to the lobbyists here in Washington, connected to the fund-raising, and connected to the earmarks and all the exchanging favors back and forth.

And why that's significant now is the last thing John Boehner, as Dana will tell you, any other Republican leader coming into that new majority in the House wants to see is Tom DeLay back on the front pages. They want to turn the page and show they're going to do it different this time.

KING: In fact, the big spending of the DeLay days and the Bush presidency, the conservative majority, is what caused the conservative grass roots to demand this ban on earmarks, putting special projects into legislation. The Senate GOP signed on after its leadership essentially was pushed by the Tea Party.

And Jon Kyl -- the Democrats are saying today Jon Kyl of Arizona, the number two Senate Republican, they're accusing him of getting a nearly $200 million earmark, slipping it into legislation, a settlement for African-American farmers across the country. I can't count the number of e-mails I got from the Democratic Party, from liberal blogs and all the likes saying aha, but you looked into this and it's no so aha.

BASH: It's not so aha. And to be fair the Democrats were doing it because they were seizing on a story from The Associated Press which effectively alleged that he got some earmarks. But basically what we're talking about here is a settlement that was done not just by Jon Kyl but by the Obama administration. The Interior Department had the settlement, and they've been working on it forever with this Indian tribe in Arizona and what happens when you have these settlements, you have to -- it has to be codified.

Congress has to deal with it, so that is why it was and it was done alongside a settlement that they also did with the black farmers. So I talked to even an administration official who said that they don't think this is an earmark --

KING: We don't see it as an earmark at all Dan Debray (ph) who happens to work for Barack Obama, that that won't help the Democrats. Ed Henry, I want to move you on to this poll here, a McClatchey Marist poll. Do you want President Obama to face a primary challenge in 2012? This is a poll of Democrats, 51 percent no, 41 percent yes, four in 10 Democrats, Ed Henry, want their president to face a primary challenge. They're still mad.

HENRY: They are and it shows the dilemma for this White House moving forward. And one of the reasons why we still have not really heard a clear direction from them yet in terms of really how they're going to deal with this new split Congress, the Republican House and a Democratic Senate. The message for some coming out of the November 2nd results was, look, he's going to have to move to the center like Bill Clinton. But on the other hand, he's still got liberals in his own party upset that he hasn't fulfilled a lot of the campaign pledges, so they're still caught between both of those camps, John.

KING: All right I want you both to listen quickly here -- this is Sarah Palin firing back. Barbara Bush said you know I like her. I hope she stays in Alaska -- here you go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: I think the majority of Americans don't want to put up with the blue bloods, and I say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes, but the blue bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: She loves it, Ed, when she can take on the establishment, even if it's Barbara Bush.

HENRY: Yes, absolutely. I mean this plays right into her base in a way. But I think it's dangerous territory for Sarah Palin to all a sudden be looking like she's taking on not just the Bush family, but Barbara Bush who's a beloved figure in the Republican Party. This is kind of an interesting potential civil war here developing.

And, look, President Bush left office pretty unpopular, not just in the country but within his own party. But as you see with this book tour now, he's starting to come back. Some Republicans starting to say, wait a second, compared to the Obama administration, things were not so bad. And so Sarah Palin taking a shot at the Bush family is eyebrow-raising to say the least.

BASH: All I can say is I'm surprised it took that long for Sarah Palin to fire back at Barbara Bush.

KING: All right, well let's watch the Bush family for their return salvo. Up next the day's top stories and later, winning big in the election means more power for Republicans and a fierce debate about whether issues like abortion and gay rights should be up front or set aside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- back of the bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're not. What we're saying -- look --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's be -- let's be -- let's be realistic here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you, happy Thanksgiving, a little early. Well the government is cracking down on fake marijuana. Often labeled incense, it is plant material coated with chemicals that are supposed to mimic the high that comes from smoking pot. Emergency rules published today ban those chemicals starting in one month.

And General Motors says the EPA has approved a rating of 93 miles per gallon for the Chevy Volt when the new hybrid car is running on electric power alone. On gas and electric power, the Volt gets 60 miles per gallon.

And move over, Lady Gaga. The "Fab Four", right there, they're back. "Rolling Stone" magazine reports the Beatles sold more than 450,000 albums and two million songs during the first week their music has been made available on I-tunes. No surprise there I guess that they would be back at the top, right?

KING: That lady who was just in here, the senior congressional correspondent, you know the marriage license says it's Dana Bash King, I'll say that for the record. A day -- a day long download of Beatle music the other day.

WHITFIELD: Oh my -- oh my gosh --

KING: Yes. That's all right.

WHITFIELD: So she's among those you know 450,000.

KING: She is -- she is one --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: She is one among friends --

WHITFIELD: OK -- very good.

KING: We'll see -- we'll see you in a little bit. A lot more to come tonight including the issue number one in this election year has been the economy -- one guy who's got some thoughtful, sometimes provocative and controversial thoughts on that Donald Trump. We sat down with him for our Thanksgiving special. We'll give you some of that interview tonight just ahead.

Also, who's in charge, who speaks for the Tea Party social issues or fiscal issues? There's a GOP family feud -- we explore it in just a second. And Pete Dominick asks this question tonight -- what are you thankful for?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: 25 stories up in Manhattan the other day, I asked the man whose name adorns the Trump tower and many other tall buildings around the world for his take on this year's defining issue, the economy. So, when you look back at the decades, the focus on the economy, what did we get right, anything?

DONALD TRUMP, PRES. & CHAIRMAN, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Very little. We got very little right. We are in two wars that we shouldn't have been in, at least one of them definitely we shouldn't have been in. We are losing ground rapidly to other countries, in particular, China, but to other countries. We are letting OPEC and the oil producers destroy this country with their, you know, you could call it monopolistic practices, illegal practices, if you're in this country. We are rapidly declining as a nation, in my opinion, very strongly. And we are just not doing very well. And people talk about jobs but you can't have jobs when our products are made outside of the United States. I mean, health care is wonderful, but health care is not like an income producer. We're not selling things to other people. We're taking care of people. So I don't consider that to be an industry that really is productive in terms of making the country grow. We're making things in other countries. We're making products in areas that never -- didn't even exist five years ago. And I think the country's in very serious trouble.

KING: So if that's your very sober, somewhat ominous message, what's --

TRUMP: It's actually not ominous because it's easy to stop. It's easy to stop. You start taxing Chinese products. It's very easy to stop. I do business with --

KING: Why does the political system --

TRUMP: -- they pulled some tricks on me that are pretty bad. And I get the whole deal, you know? And I will tell you that they are pulling in a much bigger way tricks on this country. Now, I have Chinese businessmen that are friends mine. They can't believe what they're getting away with. They can't believe it. And you know what? All power to them. If the Chinese representatives are smarter than our representatives and if they can get away with it, hey, I'm a free enterprise guy, they should do it. But something has to be done because our country is going down very quickly.

KING: So why won't the political leadership do something?

TRUMP: Because we're stupid. So it's a very serious problem we have. If we don't have the right representatives. We have the greatest business leaders in the world. Fortunately or unfortunately, they're running companies. And I could name ten right now but I don't want to. If they -- if you took certain of these people and they'd be honored to get a call from the president of the United States and said, you know what, your company is wonderful, guess what, it's time for you to come and represent the country. And you put them in charge of China. You put another one in charge of India. Another one in charge of Japan. I guarantee you, things would turn around very, very quickly. But you have to pick the right guys.

KING: And so then if this last decade was such a tough one, the result of that challenge is the American middle class gets squeezed, has a very tough ten years.

TRUMP: It's terrible for the middle class.

KING: When you look forward, if this decade was so bad and so tough on the middle class, when you look forward, is it going to stay the same or get worse or is there a --

TRUMP: Well, it depends. I happen to think the tea party's been a great thing. Because people are now thinking. I really don't call it the tea party. I call it in many respect the party of common sense. I think it's a great thing that it happened. I think that the recent elections -- and I'm not saying I'm a Republican, but I'm not saying good because the Republicans are -- I think the recent election showed that the population of this country knows that it just can't continue to go on like this. So I actually think the tea party did a great service to the United States. I really feel that very strongly. You know, whether you agree with all their message or some of their message, people are starting to think now. And unless we do something fairly rapidly, we are going to have tremendous problems. We're going to be subservient to China and to other countries that it was unthinkable ten years ago, unthinkable.

And I think the biggest thing, John, is we are no longer respected like we were. If you think back -- and I've been watching you for a long time, and if you think back to the Ronald Reagan era, whether you liked Reagan, we were respected. And I'll never forget when Jimmy Carter couldn't get the hostages out of Iran and Ronald Reagan said something to the effect that those hostages better be out when I turn into office that first day. And you know, all of a sudden, miraculously, they were out. They were all let go. Everyone was fine. I guarantee you if Jimmy Carter, who's a nice man, but if Jimmy Carter won that election, those hostages, they'd still be there. So we, we have lost respect -- people don't respect us. When I go to Europe --

KING: Is that unique to this president or is that a cumulative effect of the decade, both Republican and now Democratic president?

TRUMP: Right. I think that people didn't respect us greatly under Bush. I think we had a great opportunity. I'll never forget when the world trade center came down. Worst day in my opinion in this country's history. Worst than Pearl Harbor because that was a sneak attack on army/navy. It was on the military. This was a sneak attack on civilians that were occupying office buildings. And a terrible attack. So I think it was the worst thing that's happened to this country. And I will never forget, in Europe I have friends, and they never loved our country. But they respected it. And even feared it. But when that happened, they loved our country. And it was a great opportunity to build friendships all over the world after that happened. And instead we attacked a country that had nothing to do with the world trade center coming down. We went after Iraq. We don't have clear thinking. We don't have commonsense thinking. And, again if somebody doesn't get elected president soon, this country will really be subservient to other countries in other parts of the world, and that was unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago.

KING: If 9/11 is one big legacy of the last decade, and it's the biggest, I would think, another is the banking crisis. If there's a guy out there in Middle America right now who wants to be the next Donald Trump and has a good idea, can he get the money?

TRUMP: It's very hard to get money from banks. If you have a good idea today, the banks are not putting out money. And I am a big free enterprise guy. I've made a lot of money with the free enterprise system. I'm in a very good position because I've done very well and I can buy things today that I couldn't have bought four years ago because things are for sale at prices that I love. You know, it's a great time if you have cash, it's a great time to buy. But I will tell you that people, if they want to buy apartments, buy houses, buy whatever they want to buy, they can't get a loan. So the banks took in billions and billions and trillions of dollars --

KING: Of their money -- TRUMP: And, John, I see it all the time where people sign for a house, they put down the deposit, then end up losing that deposit because they can't get a mortgage. And it's just as bad today as it was a year ago. It's sort of interesting because the regulators are very tough on the banks. And yet the banks, you know, get -- the banks took in all of this money. And it was, you know if you want to just say metaphorically they took in the people's money and now they're not loaning it back to the people. So I'm very disappointed in the banking industry. I think it's terrible what's happened.

KING: That conversation with Donald Trump, part of a collaboration with our friends at "Time" magazine. "Time Frames," a special look back at the past decade and its lesson on issues from ranging from the economy and politics and technology and pop culture, will be broadcast tomorrow, Friday and through the weekend right here on CNN.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Interesting pictures here of the president and the first lady and their daughters earlier today. Martha's Table, it is a remarkable organization here in Washington, D.C., provides meals to the homeless and to low-income families, to needy children during the week. A reminder as we approach thanksgiving that many in America will go hungry on this holiday.

Let's take a closer look at some of the statistics. Here's a portrait of hunger and poverty in America. Nearly 44 million people in poverty. That means 1 in 4 children live in a world in which they likely go hungry. Remember that, this holiday season. What do these families need? Shelters will tell you, any food bank will tell you, please, cash, canned proteins like tuna or chicken, soups, juices, rice and pasta, something you can pack up that will make the trip and stay.

America is generous, even in tough economic times. 78% say helping the less fortunate is one of their traditions. 6 in 10 Americans say the recession makes charity even more important this year. You still have time to help, if you can, in your community.

Now, moving back to politics, we know social issues did not loom large in many elections this year but now Republicans have new power and influence, some conservatives want to use it to ban same-sex marriage or keep in place the military's don't ask, don't tell policy. Smart or a recipe for GOP implosion? A big debate just ahead.

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KING: Just like at thanksgiving dinner, when you have more people at the table you get more opinions in the discussion whether you want them or not. It's the same thing with the Republican Party. This month's big win puts more people at the table, the tea party, social conservatives. Gay rights activists. The mix of opinion is already a bit messy, raising questions about who speaks for the tea party and whether focusing on social issues is smart or leading to a political disaster.

Joining us at our table today from Nashville, tea party nation founder Judson Phillips. In Jacksonville, Florida Christopher Barron, the chairman of GOProud, which represents gay conservatives. And here in Washington Penny Nance, the CEO of Concerned Women for America.

I want to start by going through the mail, if you will, since the election. Mr. Barron, you wrote this letter shortly after the election saying this. "This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check." You went on to write, "We urge you to stay focused on the issues that got you and your colleagues elected and to resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests." Mr. Phillips, you took offense and fired off this letter. "Last Monday, a small group of non-tea party, non-conservatives released a letter trying to claim leadership of the tea party movement and purporting to tell you what the tea party wants. We, the undersigned, are the leaders of the mainstream tea party groups, we are the people that help get conservatives elected." In your letter, sir, you went on to say one of the things you think the new Congress should fight is repeal of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy. Penny Nance, you followed up with a letter of your own. We'll be fair, everybody's let gets quoted here. You wrote this to the Republican leadership, "Social issues should be at the very top of the list of priorities for the new Congress along with sensible fiscal policies. Americans voted overwhelmingly for both social and fiscal conservatives and it would be unwise to throw social policies to the wayside and snub the voters who sent a strong message to the new Congress that they want both pro- life and fiscally conservative policies." It raises the question after this big win for the Republicans, it's sort of a who's on first conversation. Let me start with you Mr. Barron. When you sent your letter, some said you're trying to co-opt leadership of the tea party somehow. Do you see it that way?

CHRISTOPHER BARRON, CHAIRMAN GOPROUD: No first off, I think it's insulting for anybody to write a letter claiming that the folks who signed our letter, grassroots tea party leaders and organizations from all over the country are somehow not part of the tea party. What brought enthusiasm to the conservative movement and allowed us to win in November was a laser focus on the size of government. We need limited government conservatives. We need to return power to the people, to the states and take it away from the federal government.

JUDSON PHILLIPS, FOUNDER, TEA PARTY NATION: Well, I'm insulted at his letter. GOProud is not now, nor has it ever been part of the tea party movement. He threw this letter out without -- you know, he's got a couple of state leaders from the tea party patriots group signing on to it but that's about it. At tea party nation, we put our letter out and we ended up with 180,000 signatures. If we extended our deadline, over 250,000 individuals and groups that wanted to sign on to it. The coalition that won this election, that won the elections for Reagan and other conservatives are both social and fiscal. Basically what he's saying is, well, let's their half this coalition under the bus. Well, there's an old military axiom, divide and conquer, and that's what would happen here. KING: Is one of the challenges here, Penny Nance, Concerned Women for America has been around since before the tea party movement but as the coalition grows and the Democrats just went through this. You see the president now have moderate Democrats think he needs to move to the middle. Liberal Democrats think he abandoned them in some way. As the Republicans get bigger, do you think, first and foremost, sure, social issues were not front and center in most campaigns. Most were about the spending, about the health care bill, the state of the economy about debt. But you think the Republican leadership would be making a mistake if they didn't come out of the box, act on abortion, same sex marriage, don't ask, don't tell?

PENNY NANCE, CEO, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Well, the proof's in the pudding. We got the vast majority of the people elected are pro-life. The tea party statistics are clear. 82% of them are for traditional marriage. Two thirds of them are pro-life. We know who elected this next Congress. It is social conservative and fiscal conservatives. Those issues go hand in glove. When you talk about big spending, that means $300 million a year for Planned Parenthood. That means all the extra money that goes to pay for radical leftist ideas. We can cut spending and do social issues at the same time. We think Congress can chew gum and walk down the street at the same time.

KING: Mr. Barron, any areas of agreement?

BARRON: Look, first off, I think funding for Planned Parenthood is a spending issue. We're completely for defunding Planned Parenthood. That's a spending issue. What I'm talking about is, look, Penny and her folks are the same ones who, you know, bragged about their access and influence the last failed Republican majorities. These are the same people who brought us Janet Jackson's nipple and gay marriage amendments and Terri Schiavo. And that's what we're talking about.

KING: He says they'll be held accountable and punished if they do deal with the social issues. You're saying you'll hold them accountable and try to punish them in they don't.

NANCE: That's ridiculous. The majority of the people who swept them in the office agree with social conservative position. It's important they do both and I think they can. It's no problem. These issues go hand in glove. We can cut spending and go after public funding for abortion. There's no problem with that. There's no disconnect.

PHILLIPS: Penny's simply wrong on this. When social conservatives and fiscal conservatives unite, conservatives win. It happened in '80. It happened in '94, it happened in 2000 with George W. Bush. History is -- you just can't argue with it. That's what happens. What Chris wants to do is split this apart. Again, you split the social conservatives and fiscal conservatives, guess what, the conservatives are back in the minority and we have socialism running rampant like we do with this current administration.

BARRON: We're not trying to split social conservatives off. Quite the contrary what we're saying is we need consistent limited -- PHILLIPS: Yeah, you are.

BARRON: No, you're wrong.

PHILLIPS: No, you are wrong. You're telling social conservatives to go to the back of the bus.

BARRON: No, we're not.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, you are.

BARRON: Let's be realistic here.

PHILLIPS: I am being realistic. I'm also being very accurate.

BARRON: The battle over values and morality is not going to be fought and won in the halls of Congress. It's going to be fought and won in our houses of worship, in our schools, in our communities. That's where people who care about values, that's where social conservatives who really care about the course of our culture, that's where they should be focusing their energy --

PHILLIPS: If you were in court I'm object to facts not in evidence because everything you're saying about social conservatives are wrong. Social conservatives are trying to do just the opposite.

NANCE: And, clearly, we have got to defend against an encroachment upon our values and families. You leave us no choice. Which is why I ask you to publicly say you will not push for repeal of don't ask, don't tell and domestic partner benefits, all those issues that the gay rights groups go after.

BARRON: Penny, first off, again, I'm going to do whatever's -- our organization's going to do whatever's in the best interest of our United States military. What's in the best interest of our country's national security --

NANCE: Right --

BARRON: Secondly, what I think you should make a commitment to is not expand the size and scope of the federal government.

NANCE: No problem.

BARRON: So stop trying to amend -- well, then that's great news. I assume that means you're not going to seek to amend the federal constitution to federalize marriage and family laws, something that had been the province of the states for 225 years, something that would be the largest single power grab by the federal government from the states in the history of this country. I hope you'll commit to ending that today.

NANCE: We will clearly stand with the American people, the people even in liberal states like Maine who stand firm on traditional marriage. You're the encroacher, not us. KING: I'm going to call a time-out here. As you can see, we have a feisty bit of a family feud here. I invite all three of you back. Let's continue the conversation as the Congress comes back into Washington. Not only here in Washington but out in the states as well where Republicans made big gains. I appreciate all your time. Christopher Barron, Judson Phillips, Penny Nance, thank you. Have a happy thanksgiving everybody.

Up next here, Pete on the street wants to know what you're thankful for this holiday season and how you plan to avoid sitting next to your crazy uncle at the dinner table.

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KING: Pete Dominick on the street tonight with a simple question. For what are you most thankful?

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: That's right John King. Tomorrow, obviously, thanksgiving, so I went out today to ask people what they were thankful for, of course, but the bonus question was, which family member of yours are you not exactly excited to see? Take a look at what we found.

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DOMINICK: Who are you spending it with and what is the major dysfunction or dysfunctional relative? Out him or her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe you're asking this. Scott, I really do like you.

DOMINICK: Someone that's a little --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are times.

DOMINICK: There are times. We got you, Scott, happy thanksgiving.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a small family so we don't get that many opportunities for those people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't say it. It's going to air on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His sister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His sister.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Him. He's over there.

DOMINICK: That guy. The guy buying -- waving. Somebody's laughing nervously over here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have to spend it with him this year.

DOMINICK: Oh, you don't. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's my side of the family.

DOMINICK: That's your side, it's your side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Uncle Craig, huh?

DOMINICK: Uncle Craig.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. We don't have that.

DOMINICK: Then it's you. It's you two. It's each other, these sisters, that's right. All the way through the street interview. I see how it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: William.

DOMINICK: What is it about William?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: William is just obnoxious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aunt Beth.

DOMINICK: What does she do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the way she talks. It's so funny. She's crazy.

DOMINICK: What are you thankful for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're thankful for not working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm thankful for my extravagant wealth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm thankful for my Boston cream.

DOMINICK: Thankful for his doughnut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that.

DOMINICK: And your health.

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DOMINICK: Well there you go, John King, we got people to name a few names. And if you don't know who the most annoying member of your family is it might be you. John King, happy thanksgiving to you and your family and to everybody watching.