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Plugging Leaks; Red Alert for WikiLeaks Leader

Aired December 1, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. I spent some time today on an exhibit that was meant as a tribute to gay artists, but is now Exhibit A in a new culture war because the museum gets taxpayer funding and included one work showing ants crawling on a crucifix. Among those voicing outrage the new Republican leaders of the House of Representatives. And tonight, we'll debate the new lines of art, taste and taxpayer funding now that conservatives have more power here in Washington.


MARTIN SULLIVAN, DIR., NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY: There is no doubt that a lot of the art that was created here was intended to catch people's attention and probably shock them.


KING: Also tonight, one of Ronald Reagan's top political lieutenants delivers a blunt message to Sarah Palin. Quote, "Governor, you're no Ronald Reagan." And Dick Cheney enters the debate over who should lead the Republican Party into the next election cycle.

But we begin with new developments in the WikiLeaks national security scandal. There's an international warrant now for the arrest of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on allegations of sexual misconduct. And the site released more classified State Department documents today, causing more friction with Russia and other U.S. allies and global partners.

Even as it tries to control the diplomatic fallout, the White House released a six page document today detailing government wide efforts to prevent future breaches. Among those actions, the State Department is now blocking access to its secrets from the Pentagon-run network and Army private who is suspected of using to download more than a million pages of classified Defense and State Department documents.

So are those new steps enough? And could this have been prevented in the first place? With us tonight, the top Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, as is the top State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley -- gentlemen, welcome. I want to start with a simple fact. There is a lot of friction between your department, the State Department and your department, the Pentagon with people at the State Department in private conversations essentially saying this is your fault.


GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Let me correct first of all your opening statement. This department, my department, the Defense Department, has not been cut off from accessing State Department cables. We're now accessing them through a different and frankly more restrictive higher classification network but we still have access to them. So I don't know that there is the finger- pointing that you allege going on.

KING: Oh, there is.

MORRELL: OK, I have to take your word for it --

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: But John, look, 20 years ago, Caspar Weinberger and George Shultz did not get along. Today, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates interact comfortably. They finish each other sentences and that flows down. So you know the State Department's a different entity and a different organism than the Pentagon. But the fact is on these global challenges there's a whole of government effort and we're working side by side with the State Department and the Pentagon every day.

MORRELL: And a whole government effort (INAUDIBLE) to get to the bottom of how we share information more securely. It's not just State and DOD working this. As you saw and mentioned from the White House announcement today, this is an interagency, whole of government effort. So we're bringing all the resources of the federal government to bear on it.

KING: Whole of government effort. The defense secretary, your boss, Mr. Gates yesterday -- Secretary Gates said he thinks about 60 percent of the problem solved so far. You've taken steps at the State Department that you think at least minimize the risk of this happening again, but I want you to listen to Pete Hoekstra, Republican congressman from Michigan, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee and he frankly doesn't seem to believe you.


REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: I still don't sense an urgency to fix the problem. I think that there are still other government databases that are out there that have similar types of materials that may be vulnerable to penetration or vulnerable to being downloaded by employees or by other individuals or organizations in a way that would damage American interests.


KING: Now, Pete Hoekstra has access to the intelligence and if you listen to what he's saying there, he's saying it could be happening again right now.

CROWLEY: Well let me pick up there. You know first of all, let's understand what happened here. Someone inside the United States government violated the trust and confidence placed in him. He downloaded material and passed it to people not authorized to have it. That is a crime. We're investigating that crime and we're going to prosecute those responsible.

But also understand that remember 9/11 the issue of connecting the dots and in the aftermath there was properly an effort to share information. Because, you know, in a country like Afghanistan, you've got soldiers working side by side with civilians. They need to be on the same page.

That said, in light of what's happened here, across the government, we are stepping back and saying, OK, we've shared information, but what can we learn from this? And we have taken aggressive steps and we'll take more steps as we work through how to achieve that balance, how to share information but protect it at the same time.

KING: I think a question a lot of people ask, especially people who work in any environment where they use computers in a sensitive situation is that when you were taking those necessary steps post- 9/11, put more information out there so that more people could at least try to connect the dots and get a little head's up on what might be coming was there -- why did somebody forget essentially to put an alarm in place that if somebody was using a thumb drive (ph) or some other portable media device to download such a high volume of documents there wouldn't somehow be an alarm that went off and said we have a problem?

MORRELL: John, this is not a static security situation. We are constantly evolving and developing new mechanisms by which to safeguard our networks. Now, I understand Representative Hoekstra's concerns but for him to say that we -- there is not a sense of urgency within my department, within his department, within the United States government, is just simply not accurate. The very highest levels of all these departments are focused on this.

And it's not as if we've been focused on it today. With all due respect to my friend Wolf Blitzer who seems to suggest that all of a sudden today we're focused on this, nonsense. Since we were first done wrong by these guys back in July, we have been taking efforts to very much beef up and fortify our networks. You know, no longer, as you mentioned, can you write on to removable media.

You can no longer move classified information on to an unclassified network unless you are in a situation where it is monitored and where there are two people on hand to do it. So there have been a number of safeguards. And now we've got this new credit card kind of monitoring system where if the very situation you're talking about, if someone does download unusual amounts of information or unusual information for where they are, alarms will indeed go off, but this has been an evolving process.

KING: Does WikiLeaks have more? We know they have more than half a million Defense Department documents that were supposed to be classified. We now know they have 250,000, somewhere in that ballpark figure, State Department documents that were supposed to be classified. In the -- once the fire alarm was sounding, when you went around looking at the risk here, do you know that they have more?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well we know that they haven't released --

KING: Beyond that, beyond the State Department and the Pentagon documents?

CROWLEY: We've done forensics across the Defense Department, the State Department. They do have more documents. We're not entirely sure what they are. But back to your sense of urgency here -- Secretary Clinton's in Kazakhstan today face-to-face with many of the leaders who have been subject to some of these documents. She has to look these leaders in the eye and say we will make sure that this does not happen again.

So I assure you, because we are dealing with the consequences of this and it's going to take some time to work through and there's absolutely damage to national security in the process. We recognize the sense of urgency.

KING: And do the two secretaries, Gates and Clinton respectively do they see this the same? You mentioned she is seeing eye-to-eye. She has the tough job right out there, face-to-face, doing damage control right now -- 186 countries is my understanding the department has been in touch with -- several dozen conversations involving Secretary Clinton herself.

Talk to people at the State Department, yourself included, they say significant damage to national security. Secretary Gates yesterday was not minimizing the damage but he was taking a view of you know what, we're the United States. We're an indispensable power. This will cause some bumps and bruises but we will get through this. Do they see the scope of this differently?

MORRELL: I think so. I mean I think what Secretary Gates was saying is that there are many people who have been hyperventilating in the press and suggesting this is, you know --

CROWLEY: A meltdown --

MORRELL: -- the melt -- this is the death of American power and prestige. And he was pushing back on that notion, that there is long- term irreparable damage done to America power and prestige as a result of this. He doesn't buy into that. But in no way wants to minimize the very real damage and difficulty that the State Department has been put in, in dealing with individual relationships, regional relationship, individuals who want to cooperate with us and so forth. That's a very real consequence of this and he's not trying to minimize that.

KING: Julian Assange calls himself a journalist and a whistleblower whose only interest is in transparency.

CROWLEY: It's nonsense. He's an anarchist. He's trying to undermine the collaboration, the cooperation, the system by which we engage with other governments, cooperate with other governments and solve the regional challenges. And the contrast could not have been more startling.

Here you have Julian Assange in an undisclosed location on Skype saying that -- this and that. And then you've got Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates fully engaged in the world, trying to solve the world's challenges. Julian Assange, you know, is an anarchist and we're not going to let him succeed.

MORRELL: And that frankly my personal opinion may be giving him even more credit than he deserves because I think what he likes most of all the lights and cameras that are in a studio like this.

KING: Grudge against the United States or just a grudge against what?

CROWLEY: One contrast, you know, we have reached out to governments. We have reached out to individuals who are sources for us and provide us perspective. We're going to help them. We are talking to the media. And making sure that they understand if this name gets out, this person's life can be at risk.

Julian Assange had no regard for life when he's put out these documents. And we're going to protect our sources. We're going to protect our interests. We'll engage the countries of the world. We're going to resolve this --


KING: We're going to talk in a minute with some law enforcement pros, legal pros, about the international manhunt for him. But is there anything the State Department can do? You can track Americans obviously when they move with their passports around the world. But you have embassies and consulates and other assets around the world. Is there anything the State Department can do or anything the Defense Department can do with its significant resources to help Interpol and others find out where he is?

MORRELL: We're a nation of laws, first and foremost, so there needs to be a legal rationale for doing so. There is an investigation underway, as P.J. mentioned, led by the Department of Justice. I think you saw from Attorney General Holder that this receiving the very highest level of attention within the Department of Justice. I think we're both confident in our respective organizations that they are going to hold the people who are responsible for this accountable, including if necessary Julian Assange, which seems to run an organization that solicits, induces, maybe even seduce people to leak classified information.

CROWLEY: And it's not just our interests that are at stake here, the interests of our countries, so our laws will apply them as we should and I'm sure other countries will do the same.

KING: P.J. Crowley, Geoff Morrell, appreciate your coming. We should make this a regular on matters of -- hopefully on more positive matters of national security (INAUDIBLE) the future --


KING: Appreciate it. The leaked secrets are only part of the story as we've been noting. Tonight an international manhunt is under way for the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He's wanted in a sex crime investigation in Sweden. Interpol's issued a red alert basically putting him on its most wanted list. Assange says the rape and sexual molestation allegations are part of what he terms a smear campaign against him and his organization. Our Atika Shubert asked him about the allegations just last month.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But what I want to ask is at one point you said it was a dirty tricks campaign.


SHUBERT: So you don't want to address whether or not you feel this is an attack on WikiLeaks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's completely disgusting, Atika --

SHUBERT: I'm asking whether or not --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to walk if you're going to contaminate us revealing the deaths of 104,000 people (INAUDIBLE) --

SHUBERT: I'm not. What I'm asking is if you feel that it's an attack on WikiLeaks.


KING: You see him walking out of the interview there. That's Julian Assange, now the subject of an international manhunt. When we come back, how will that work, manhunt play out? And what are the legal aspects beyond the sexual assault investigation? We'll be right back.


KING: More now on that international manhunt for the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Joining me CNN contributor Tom Fuentes -- he has worked for both the FBI and for Interpol -- also joining us from New York our CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. And Tom, let me begin with you. Interpol issues this warning essentially saying it's allowed to go public with its warrant on the authorities of Sweden. Then what happens in terms of cooperation and the intensity of international law enforcement agencies?

THOMAS V. FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well if I could start, the purpose of a country seeking an Interpol red note is to have Interpol, an objective separate party, look at the probably cause for the original arrest warrants issued in Sweden and say that these warrants meet international standards for law enforcement. So in other words, Assange doing interviews claiming that it's a witch hunt, people are out to get him, that's the reason. So Sweden goes to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, the legal staff in Lyon reviews the entire package of evidence and says we believe that there's enough sufficient evidence in this package to warrant a red notice. And essentially a red notice is an international notice of a warrant.

KING: And so Jeff Toobin, in our system, that sounds like it would be like somebody going to prove probable cause to get a search warrant or an arrest warrant in our court system, sound right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's very -- it's very similar and what's significant about it is Interpol covers 188 countries. There are not many places you can go where that warrant will not at least in theory, if the system works properly, trip him up and get him into the legal system. So wherever he is now he has to think about if he leaves, he is liable to be arrested on this Swedish warrant, and that's not even counting whatever American charges may be out there secretly for him at this point.

KING: And so that's what makes this next part a bit interesting, if not strange. I want you to listen here. This is Mark Stephens who says he's the lawyer for Julian Assange and he says if there's this warrant out there, why aren't the authorities in Sweden contacting him about his client? Let's listen.


MARK STEPHENS, LAWYER FOR JULIAN ASSANGE: There's been no communication to Julian or any of his legal team. The security services of a number of countries know exactly where Julian is and the offer to meet consensually with the prosecutor still stands.


KING: Tom, when you hear that -- to me -- I'm a layman -- that doesn't add up.

FUENTES: No, it doesn't add up and I'm not sure -- I'm sure if the attorney called Sweden they'd answer his call if he volunteered to bring his client back to Sweden to address the charges. If I could add, there's been some confusion about the red notice process, 188 countries belong to Interpol. A third will arrest someone just knowing that there's a red notice before they even hear any more about it. That's enough.

United States is not one of those countries, but what happens here, if he was to enter the U.S. and his passport was entered at the border crossing, let's say at an international airport, then the system queries U.S. databases, national crime information center, are there any U.S. warrants, terror watch lists, that type of thing, but also a query is made to Lyon, France, to determine whether the passport itself is a lost or stolen document and whether notices are issued on that person.

So while the U.S. doesn't arrest on the red notice itself, knowing that there's a red notice it would go directly back to Sweden on a bilateral basis and say OK, you have a provisional arrest warrant. Now we'll arrest him based on that and start dealing with your country through our process at the Department of Justice and through the Department of State with their Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and process him through the normal extradition process.

KING: So Jeff Toobin, let me ask you to play defense attorney for a minute here. You just heard Mr. Stephens essentially saying hey wait a minute. They haven't called us. They haven't told my client. There is something fishy with that, but if you were representing Julian Assange what would your move be now? What's the right move?

TOOBIN: I think as with almost always with defense attorneys, doing nothing, waiting to slow the process down is always a good idea. There is a white hot focus on Julian Assange right now. That's not a good thing. You want him to lie low, let this blow over to a certain extent, which it will, everything blows over to a certain extent, and then try to figure out what the facts are because you know we've all talked about a criminal case against Assange, which seems likely in connection with these Wikipedia -- WikiLeaks documents.

But the question of how those documents got from the United States government to the Internet is not at all clear. I mean Manning was involved apparently in some of them but he hasn't been convicted of anything. There are a lot of steps here that need to be identified. And you know the government will have to prove all of them if they want to prosecute Assange.

KING: And Tom, how does the process work when Interpol gets involved in the sense that there are warrants against hundreds, if not thousands of Americans for offenses minor and major and those people have to trip into contact with law enforcement for there to be some search of the database to do them. Does Interpol have any active outreach effort in other countries or is this essentially now just saying here's this international warrant and now it's in everybody's database?

FUENTES: Well they can through the 188 Interpol offices throughout the world, but Interpol does not accept every arrest warrant and say OK we're going to issue a red notice. It has to be a serious enough crime in the original country that they've reviewed it and feel that there's enough objective information to justify the warrant and that it's a serious enough crime that it will end up with an international extradition. So these are serious crimes when they issue a red notice.

Now, it's clear, as Jeffrey mentioned that the Swedish case is much further developed than what the U.S. is doing and the U.S. investigation is going to be difficult because you don't know -- all the talk has been that Julian Assange has orchestrated somehow personally this situation. What we don't know is whether he acted like a mafia boss and had subordinates do all the work and all of it and maybe he wasn't directly involved in it. That's going to have to be part of the investigation of not only who stole the documents within the U.S. government system who had access and pulled those documents off, but separately at WikiLeaks who all was involved there in getting these documents received and then disseminated throughout the world.

KING: International manhunt we'll try to keep track of it. Jeff Toobin in New York -- Tom Fuentes -- appreciate your time.

When we come back, a new culture war right here in Washington, D.C. The National Portrait Gallery here in Washington D.C. your tax dollars pay for part of it. There's an exhibit there right now. Because of one -- one object in that exhibit, the new Republican leaders in Congress are howling in outrage. We'll explore it when we come back.


KING: Today is World AIDS Day and activists around the world including political voices here in the United States, President Obama, former President George W. Bush, for example, took time to salute the considerable progress in fighting HIV an AIDS, but also to urge continued focus and funding to address the continuing medical and other challenges. Let's take a look at the global impact of HIV and AIDS.

You look here -- the darker the shading in any of these countries the higher the concentration -- the percentage of the population that is infected with HIV. You see the darker shading mostly down here in Africa. That's one way to look at this. Some of the trends have been relatively, relatively -- emphasis on that -- positive. These are the number of the people in the world living with HIV. You see we're just shy of 35 million. You see that line starting to flatten out in recent years. Why is that?

Because the number of people newly infected with HIV is beginning slowly to come down a bit. That is one impact globally. What about here in the United States? This is a racial breakdown of people with HIV in America 50.2 percent, so half of the population is African- American, just shy of 30 percent white, just shy of 20 percent Latino. That is one way to look at this. Here in Washington at the National Portrait Gallery there's an exhibit called "Hide and Seek" that features several pieces that show the pain and the impact of AIDS.

Let's take a look at two of them. I saw these earlier today. Here's one here. This is a work by artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and yes it what it appears to be, pieces of Candy -- let's take a closer look -- pieces of candy wrapped in cellophane. You see them here -- 175 pounds of candy to be exact representing the weight of the artist's partner before he became sick and ultimately died from AIDS.

Here's another image in the gallery. This is an unfinished painting by the American artist Keith Haring explained to me earlier today by the gallery director, Martin Sullivan.


SULLIVAN: It was chosen for this exhibit because it's about portraiture. It's about representation of his own identity, his sense of self and also because he didn't get to finish it, because he was suffering from AIDS. And the blank space in a way might be a metaphor for the remainder of his life that he didn't get to have.


KING: Now those are touching, moving pieces, but others in the exhibit are more controversial. And one was removed after objections from conservatives including the top two Republicans in the House of Representatives. When we come back what caused the outrage? Here's a hint. It involves a crucifix. And will the new Republican power here in Washington mean new debates over taxpayer funding of the arts?


KING: The National Portrait Gallery, which is part of the government-run Smithsonian Institution, is at the center of a fierce political debate tonight because of a new exhibit that has conservatives in an uproar and now that one piece was pulled from the exhibit called "Hide/Seek" some in the arts community are outraged too, accusing the museum of caving to political pressure. A debate in a moment, but first a closer look. I visited the exhibit today, largely a collection of portraits celebrating gay subjects or capturing their struggles either with discrimination or, as we noted a moment ago, in some cases, with the pain and stigma of HIV/AIDS. One piece of work called fire in my belly was abruptly pulled just this week because of its effort to document the pain and suffering of AIDS. Included, 11 seconds of video showing ants crawling on a crucifix. Here's an image of the crucifix and the ants included in that video. Today, the gallery director Martin Sullivan said he agreed to remove it because of the complaints including from the soon to be speaker of the house John Boehner and the number two house Republican Eric Cantor.


MARTIN SULLIVAN, DIR., NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY: The criticism, which was vigorous and aggressive, came almost entirely from people who had not been able to see either the exhibition or the video. But who read certain accounts of it that got them convinced that this was intentionally a sacrilegious placement of a piece of work. Also, deliberately, in their view, a place so that it might coincide with the Christmas season. That's a misinterpretation in our view.


KING: Among those objecting were the man who is about to become the speaker in the House of Representatives and his number two, John Boehner and Eric Cantor. Does that concern you?


SULLIVAN: I think we all realize we're in a new era. There will be federal scrutiny of all spending, Congressional scrutiny of public money. Obviously it's of concern when the incoming leadership singles out one work of art as --

KING: Do you think they're wrong?

SULLIVAN: I wish we'd had an opportunity to visit with them or have them see the show.


KING: Also among those complaining was conservative activist Brent Bozell, the president from the Media Research Center and among those mad at the museum now for bowing to political pressure, is the Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik. As we debate, I want to warn some of you at home, you might find some of the images from the exhibit objectionable and many of the images in any circumstances are not suitable for children. Brent you were among those complaining. The soon to be speaker got involved. His deputy got involved. Are you satisfied now that this one piece was pulled from the exhibit or is there more in hide and seek that you think is objectionable?

BRENT BOZELL, PRES., MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: The story's fundamentally inaccurate. It's not about one piece. It's about an entire exhibit full of all sorts of pieces. Look, if you like depictions of sadomasochism where you have a mummified human remains, if you have a portrait of a man eating himself, if you like homoerotic art, calling it art, all sorts of male genitalia, a portrait of -- called two brothers, kissing. Two naked men making out. And they're brothers. If you are into religious bigotry and you like this kind of things with ants walking all over the lord Jesus Christ, and this man to say it's not sacrilegious, of course it's sacrilegious. If you like that, fine. There's a place in some seedy art something somewhere for you to watch it. That's your business. But to put it in the Smithsonian where the American taxpayer is funding that institution, and this is offensive to the vast majority of those taxpayers, this is -- when you look at this and you say, what has gotten into these people?

KING: So Blake, counter that. I want to make the point, the particular exhibit, the art itself and the cost of putting the exhibit up is paid for significantly by private sources but the light, heat, the staff salary, he's right on that point, it is a lot of public funding, taxpayer funding going to the institution. Should there be a different standard for a museum that gets federal taxpayer money?

BLAKE GOPNIK, WASHINGTON POST ART CRITIC: The question is how do we decide who gets to decide what art is? You didn't seem offended by the show. You saw it this afternoon. I didn't see you grimacing at any of the work, looking worried about it. You really found it personally that offensive? Because I hadn't heard a lot of that from a lot of people. I have to admit. I reviewed the show weeks and weeks ago. I usually get plenty of e-mail from all sorts of people telling me I'm an idiot when I am. This time I didn't get any of that. I didn't seem to find anyone to object to the art.

KING: The museum director says the e-mail volume is as high as any he's seen in any portrait gallery. He compared it to a dispute in the American History Museum when they had an exhibit about evolution. He says it's the highest in his gallery's case. I guess my simple question is just there are taxpayer dollars involved. Should there be a higher or different standard?

GOPNIK: You know what, there's always going to be an issue around anything that's paid for by taxpayers. The question is, do we want museums to show the best art they have? Do we want art museums at all? No one objects to the national gallery that is full of pictures that everyone agrees are world art. The question, who will decide that?

KING: I want you to listen to the curator, Martin Sullivan because to your point, I said, look, now that the conservatives got one change here, they're going to come back for more. Maybe the speaker and Eric Cantor are satisfied. They will stop there. Others will want more. Let's listen.

SULLIVAN: The Smithsonian has from the beginning, and I mean the leadership of the Smithsonian, has been fully committed to the show. So I cannot imagine that they would say, all right, you know, we gave in once, let's do it again. I just don't see that happening.

KING: He says they won't give in.

BOZELL: It's a way of solving this. I just gave you a half dozen examples of what I said were purely offensive, things which I don't call art by the way --

GOPNIK: That you find offensive, let's make it very clear, that you find offensive. Lots of people don't. I don't.

BOZELL: Let's put them on national television right now. John, CNN has been there. CNN has looked at this. CNN has taped it. Put it on the air right now.

KING: We have put some of the images on during the conversation.

BOZELL: The ones that I just mentioned, put it on the air. That's nothing. That's nothing. Put on the air the ones I just mentioned.

KING: There's the brothers right there.

BOZELL: No, no, no, take that pixilation off --

KING: We're not going to do that.

BOZELL: Why aren't you going to do it?

KING: Because it would be objectionable to some people and I can't control children, including my own, being in the room and they shouldn't see that --

BOZELL: To the point of children, you know what November 21st was? Family and friends day for hide and seek. They invited -- they had a day for children to come to this --

GOPNIK: Did they force the children to come in, force the parents to bring their children -- BOZELL: CNN pixilated it because it would be offensive to children. And yet, with our tax dollars, we invited children to come.

GOPNIK: It seems to me we just have a very notion about what art should do maybe. I think it's good that art is getting you angry. I think that this stuff is -- that's why some of this art was done. The brother kissing is meant to be provocative. It's meant to make you wonder and think about these issues.

BOZELL: Then why did the curator of the museum say that when he took down the one of Jesus Christ with the anti- --

GOPNIK: Wait a minute, 11 seconds of Jesus Christ in a piece that has very little to do with Jesus Christ --

BOZELL: -- said it was not meant to be offensive. You just said it was --

GOPNIK: I'm not responsible for what he said I'm afraid.

BOZELL: Of course it was meant to be offensive --

GOPNIK: That's not true --

KING: This is a still photo captured from the video.

GOPNIK: How do you know -- to you --

BOZELL: Of course it was offensive --

GOPNIK: What you're saying is you're an art critic --

BOZELL: Come on --

KING: You're mad at the museum, you think it caved.

GOPNIK: For taking it down, absolutely.

KING: You assume now there will be more pressure?

GOPNIK: To cave further? I assume there will be pressure. Doesn't mean they should give into it. They've been one of the most courageous museums around for the last couple of years. I don't think they've cave further. I think they mailed a mistake and I think they'll recognize they made a mistake.

BOZELL: Just put it in a private --

KING: What do you want from a Republican controlled house as a next step? Should they cut off all funding to the Smithsonian?

BOZELL: I want to find out -- in a time when our country's broke, what in the world are we doing with this kind of thing? I think we need to look at this willy-nilly spending. This is a budget by the way of $761 million for the Smithsonian. Can't they do a better job than that? GOPNIK: Every time someone objects to a work of art in the museum, you say someone should take it out. Let me give you an example that I think will speak to you directly. There are very traditional Protestants who object to any image of their savior being in any context. Find it deeply sacrilegious. Are you saying all of the great pictures in the national gallery should be taken down, is that what you're saying?

BOZELL: Blake, you can find an extreme example, of course. I'm talking about something where the vast overwhelming majority of the American people --

GOPNIK: You're have no way of knowing that I'm sorry --

BOZELL: -- are going to say ants crawling on Jesus Christ is offensive. If you don't understand that, I've got to invite you to see the real world.

GOPNIK: The point of that was not to offend anyone. Point of that was actually to express -- I can give you a real positive reading. The point of that was to identify with Jesus Christ as a sufferer.

BOZELL: With ants crawling all over his body?

KING: I'm going to call a quick time-out. Blake, Brent, appreciate your coming in. This is a conversation we can continue. I assume in the debates about the Smithsonian and the exhibit it may go on. I appreciate you both for coming in.

Still ahead with us here, we'll talk politics. Democratic strategist James Carville, Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who just advised Sarah Palin don't overestimate your chances for 2012. What does Ed mean about that? We'll be right back.


KING: Let's spend a few minutes on your bottom line, meaning your tax bill, and what may be asked of you if Washington ever gets serious of deficit reduction. Taxes first. We began the day with some good old partisan power play. Senate Republicans served notice they would block action on any other issues until Democrats negotiated a deal on tax cuts and a spending plan to keep the government running. Democrats lashed out at Republicans for blocking a plan for long-term unemployment benefits.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have they lost all sense of fairness?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They never had it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has the Republican leadership lost all sense of what's right and wrong?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: More gridlock, right? But things in Washington often aren't as they appear. By night fall, our sources were providing a rough outline of a potential deal on tax cults. President Obama was sounding optimistic.


OBAMA: There is going to be ups and downs to this process but I'm confident we will get it done.


KING: Let's separate the fact from the rhetoric. CNN contributors Ed Rollins, John Avlon, James Carville join us from New York. Here in Washington with me, our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash and our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. Dana to you first working sources all day. You started to get a sense later in the day that the Democrats know they're going to have to extend all the tax cuts and the question is how long. And the next question is what can they get in return? Can they get the unemployment insurance extended as part of that? What else?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, that seems to be really the parameters of it. What was interesting, late tonight, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, made no bones about it, he said point blank, it's not a question of whether or not we'll extend them, it's for how long. Talks started today, bipartisan talk, at the behest of the white house but it seems to be a little bit of a dance if you listen to these Republicans who say this is the only way they can go. I think unemployment benefits and probably a few other things are the Democrats asks in return for that.

KING: Does that make it a 50/50 split or do Republicans win this keel?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Republicans win this deal and I think that's what a lot of Democrats are saying privately. You get a temporary extension. You don't get a permanent extension. Democrats will get the unemployment. But it's a new reality in Washington. I think Democrats understand that.

KING: In the house they want to go ahead with the vote, the Democratic leadership does. Saying they want to extend loosely defined middle class $200,000, individuals, and everybody else would pay higher taxes. If you know eventually the president's going to cut a deal, is that a smart move or not a smart move?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it's the right move. I think -- remember, when you extend it for people making over $250,000, you're adding $700 billion to the deficit. To deal it, we're going to cut the deficit but the first thing we'll do is ad $700 billion to the deficit and we're going to extend unemployment compensation. But don't worry, we're going to freeze federal pay. I mean, it's -- does anybody see it? Is it just me that sees if we cut the deal, we're going to spend money on both sides and talk about cutting the deficit? I don't know. KING: To that point, John Avlon, it does not add up if you're trying to do deficit reduction math. It probably does add up if you're trying to do Republican campaign promises.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. There are two parallel tracks here. The argument Republicans are making is that this will create a stimulus for the economy rather than a tax cut in the middle of a recession. But clearly, I mean, Republicans beginning the day with this kind of bargain is what gives bipartisanship a bad name in Washington. If you agree 100% of the time and cave in, then you're being bipartisan. There's something disingenuous about that. I think a compromise will be made. I like the proposal that Chuck Schumer is putting out there, making the top rate $1 million. I think the Republicans will lose that fight.

KING: Ed Rollins, I'm going to guess as the Republican in the conversation, you don't accept John Avlon's definition of compromise.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: John wants to become Republican again or wants to run against Gillibrand, he can do whatever he wants to. At the end of the day, you talk about us adding to the deficit. The deficit spending goes on. What you're doing will take additional tax revenues from individuals who can do something positive. It's not like there's a shortfall. Because you take taxes away from us. That's the other side of the story. You're not cutting any spending. We for four years have had to sit here and deal with Democrats can do whatever they want. They can't do that now. Republicans aren't going to give up what they've been fighting for.

BORGER: Ed, past problem is Republicans were big spenders during the years of bush and they're doing penance now for that, aren't they?

ROLLINS: Democrats -- they did penance for it in 2006 and 2008. At this point in time, we're going to try and be fiscal conservatives again and this doesn't mean we're going to raise taxes. That means we're going to stop spending.

KING: Come on in James.

CARVILLE: I don't understand how you can be a fiscal conservative and add $700 billion to the deficit. It's $3.7 billion in the next ten years --

ROLLINS: That's not what's adding, James.

CARVILLE: -- Of course, no, no --

ROLLINS: The difference --

CARVILLE: No, the reason they did that is they didn't want to project beyond nine years. Of course you are.

KING: All right, quick time-out here.

CARVILLE: Of course you are. KING: I can't get my group to agree on the math of the moment. Let's see if they agree on 2012 and something Ed Rollins wrote today. A little advice for Sarah Palin, not so nice. We'll be right back.


KING: Let's get right back to politics in our group. Ed Rollins was there when Ronald Reagan was governor of California. He was there with Ronald Reagan when he ran for president. He was in the white house with Reagan as the political director. He writes this on about Sarah Palin. Under a headline, Palin, I knew Reagan, you are no Reagan. "I know you were only 2 when Reagan was elected by a landslide to the first of two terms as governor of California in 1956 but I would have hoped somewhere along the way through the five colleges you attended that you would have learned a little history and I can tell you, being governor of the most populous state is a lot tougher than being governor of one of the least populous ones." Ed you go on to essentially say, if she wants to be a serious candidate, she has to prove herself on the issues. Why at this moment did you decide to say, hello, governor, I don't think so?

ROLLINS: First of all, there's two things. On one, she's talking about beating Obama and she's forgetting there's a process in which there are five or six candidates, governors like Haley Barbour who have been there for eight years, former white house political director, Mitch Daniels, former O & B direct, eight years governor, Romney, Pawlenty, a whole variety, my candidate, ten years governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee. They're all going to run for president. If they do, she's got to go out and prove she's a tougher candidate. No one's going to anoint her. She got anointed by John McCain. Her whole rhetoric is Ronald Reagan did this so therefore I can do this. She ain't Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a very significant person by the time he ended up running for president. He ran three times before he got elected. For her to assume, as she is, that I'm going to basically, if I want to jump out of my Alaska travel log, then I'm going to be the nominee. She's got to go out and win votes beyond Alaska.

KING: Let me get Mr. Carville in on this point. You got in hot water with the white house James last week for something you said unfavorable on questioning the president's manhood. I'll just leave it at that. Here's Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio. He lost his election. He gave an interview today to the Huffington Post, saying, the Democrats suffer from what he called intellectual elitism. He went on to say, "I saw that CNN said after meeting yesterday a line the president saying he should have been willing to work with the GOP earlier. What? After all of this, you don't realize these people want to destroy you and your agenda? How many times do you have to be slapped in the face? Look what they did with health care." Is this a good message from Governor Strickland to the Obama white house in your view?

CARVILLE: I think he feels that. I can understand to some extent why he does. And, you know, I was sort of disappointed to seat president said gee, I wish I would have met with you more when they gave 213 amendments to the health care bill. Look this guy, he's a tough guy. And, you know, I think he feels like that. Feels like some portion of the Democratic Party can be kind of elite. I tend to agree with that. We don't have a good economic spokesman out there. Something tells Tim Geithner might be a bright guy but he's not in touch with the common man, if you will.

KING: Nobody's happy tonight. A couple seconds left, Mr. Avlon do the Democrats suffer from intellectual elitism?

AVLON: They can. The elites in both parties tend to be kind of cut off from what most Americans think which is mostly that we'd like our government to work together. All this projecting ahead -- look, we got this deficit commission right now, the Bowles Simpson plan. We got two senators, Gregg and Conrad who had the guts to go out and back it. Everyone else seems kind of scared in the weeds, afraid of offending some activist group or special interest in their party. It's time to step up. This time is now. We got to deal with this stuff now.

BORGER: I think it's one thing --

KING: Man up.

BORGER: I think it's one thing Sarah Palin and Ted Strickland would agree on is that the Democrats suffer from intellectual elitism.

KING: I'll bank you a little extra time tomorrow.

BORGER: Some day --

KING: All right, thank you so much. When we come back, Pete's next. He's been looking at the GQ list of bald power.


KING: Everybody loves those, you know, who's up, who's down. There's a new one out. Is our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick man enough to pull his hair out? Wait a minute. There's a problem there. Pete?

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Listen, first of all, enough with your bald jokes. Some day something's going to happen to your perfect head or face. Listen, 100 most powerful bald men, again with James Carville. He's here in New York apparently. I'm done with this. What do I have to do to get the Carville status? What is so special about James Carville? How do I get to that?


DOMINICK: Hey, Mr. Carville. I just -- I was saying you're, you know, I'd like to get to where you're at in your career. Where did you come from?

CARVILLE: GQ and Ebony Magazine.

DOMINICK: I'd like to get there too. Listen, before or after, come on? You're not as black as me. CARVILLE: I will be. I will get there.

KING: You should ask James this secret of being bald and powerful, what's the secret?

DOMINICK: What's the secret, Mr. Carville, being so bald and powerful and --

CARVILLE: No hair filtering information that comes to my head.

DOMINICK: How dare you, Carville! Carville!

KING: You guys go have a meal or drink and work this out. We'll see you tomorrow night. That's all for us. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.