Return to Transcripts main page


US Unemployment Rate Hits 9.8 Percent; Debate on How to Fix Economy; Plugging Leaks in Defense Department Communications; White House Response to WikiLeaks; Ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; Piers Morgan Joins CNN; President and Vice President Urge Dialogue to Governors-Elect

Aired December 4, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama makes a surprise trip to Afghanistan while the economy takes a surprise hit back home. This hour, war against al Qaeda and the fight to create jobs.

Also, the Obama administration is going to new lengths to try and punish the founder of WikiLeaks and prevent the website from spilling more government secrets, but critics say it's still not enough.

And Piers Morgan makes his CNN debut with us. I'll turn the tables on the veteran interviewer, asking him questions about the headlines and how he plans to bring a little danger to this network. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The commander-in-chief delivering a personal holiday message to US troops in Afghanistan this week. The White House kept the trip a secret until he landed, a nod to security threats in the region that are still very, very high nine years after the start of the war. Listen to the president on the mission and the men and women who carry it out.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's why you must succeed. Because this effort is about the safety of our communities back home and the dignity of the Afghan people, who don't want to live in tyranny.

Now, even though it is a hallmark of American democracy that we have our arguments back home, we have our debates, we have our elections, I can say without hesitation that there is no division on one thing. No hesitation on one thing. And that is the uniform support of our men and women who are serving in the armed services.


BLITZER: A lot of questions about the timing of the president's trip to Afghanistan. He went on the same day the nation got some very depressing economic news. The unemployment rate rose in November to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent the previous month, and the economy added only 39,000 jobs, the worst number since September. Economists had expected an increase of about 150,000 jobs.

Joining us now, the former labor secretary, Robert Reich. He's the author of the new book "Aftershock," and Stephen Moore of "The Wall Street Journal." Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in. What's the most important thing, Professor Reich, that the US government needs to do right now to turn things around and see that unemployment number go down, down, down?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: Well, immediately, Wolf, we've got to extend unemployment insurance, 800,000 people who have long- term unemployment have ceased to get unemployment insurance. Another two million are not going to get it.

Beyond that, we have got to have an infrastructure bank. We have got to make sure that people who have home loans do have those mortgages restructured by Wall Street. We've give Wall Street huge tax benefits and a big bailout, and so the least that Wall Street can do. Housing prices continue to fall because of the mortgage crisis.

There are many things that can and should be done, including helping our new infrastructure. A new WPA, for example, to hire all of the jobless Americans and put them back to work.

BLITZER: Steve Moore, I know you disagree with several of those points that Professor Reich just made, but on the issue of extending unemployment benefits, you don't necessarily think that's a good idea, do you?

STEPHEN MOORE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": No, I think it's a lousy idea. Look, we've extended unemployment insurance, I think this will be the fifth time in the last two years, Wolf. And now people are getting two years of unemployment extensions. And the evidence is pretty clear, when you extend unemployment insurance, people stay unemployed longer.

But here's the problem with where I disagree with Secretary Reich. I just think everything that Bob just said is what we've been doing for the last two years. One of the things my parents taught me is, if you're doing -- if you've got a losing strategy, change it, and I --

BLITZER: So, what would you change?

MOORE: Well, what I would do, I think it's really essential, Wolf, that we do not raise taxes on businesses. As you know, this is the big topic of discussion on Capitol Hill this week. But I think raising taxes -- I mean, you can't raise taxes on producers and then give the money to people who aren't producing and expect the economy to expand.

BLITZER: But you do want to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year, Professor Reich, isn't that right?

REICH: Well, I want to give everybody -- and I agree with the president on this -- give every single person in America an extension of the Bush tax cut on their first $250,000 of income. Above that -- look it, people above that are not going to spend very much. It blows a huge hole in the budget deficit. Long term, there's no reason -- those people at the top one percent are now taking home about a quarter of all national income. Why in the world should we, on grounds of public policy, provide anything more than a $250,000 tax break.


MOORE: Let me answer --

BLITZER: What's your answer, Steve?

MOORE: Let me answer that question. The answer is, because the evidence is very clear, if you look at those people in the top two or three percent of income, a big share of their income comes from business profits, small business profits. And Wolf, the question I've always asked Bob Reich on this show is, how are you going to create more jobs if you're take -- sucking more money out of the business sector?

We had a lead story in our "Wall Street Journal" a few days ago showing that business -- small businessmen, especially, they're kind of on strike right now, Bob.

REICH: All right.

MOORE: They're not hiring more --

BLITZER: Give him the answer, Professor Reich.

MOORE: It's not just -- by the way, it's not just the taxes --

REICH: Well, the answer --

MOORE: It's also the health care expenses as well.

REICH: Well, let me give an answer. The answer is, you get -- you put more money in people's pockets. The problem right now is not that business doesn't have the money or that businesses are over-taxed. In fact, businesses are sitting on almost a trillion dollars of cash.

They are not expanding, they're not hiring, because there are not customers. And there are not customers because the vast middle class and working class in this country doesn't have enough money in their pockets because so much income and wealth has been concentrated at the very top. That's why the suggestions that I am making, Steve Moore, are not things the federal government has done up to now.


BLITZER: Steve --

MOORE: Well, hold on --

BLITZER: Hold on, Steve. One thing. Because I want you to answer that specific question. These big companies, they're sitting on a lot of money, they're not spending it, they're not hiring, why aren't they?

MOORE: Because of the uncertainty. They don't know what health care costs are going to be next year. Here we are, 28, 27 days away from the new year, and we -- none of the businesses, none of the investors know what the tax rates are going to be, I think that's incredibly irresponsible.

But the point I would make to Robert Reich is, look. We tried this kind of Keynesian government spending stimulus plan for the last two years. It hasn't worked. We now have a 9.8 percent unemployment rate. Conversely, when Ronald Reagan, facing a similar economic crisis, cut taxes for everyone, including businesses --

BLITZER: Let's put this --

MOORE: We had a very strong expansion.

BLITZER: All right, well, let's put this in perspective. When you were Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration, Professor Reich, what was the unemployment rate?

REICH: The unemployment rate started out to be quite high. That is, it was about seven percent. But it got down fairly fast. And the reason, Wolf, was because the recession that started just before Bill Clinton's administration was a fairly mild recession.

What we've just gone through is not anything like the previous five recessions. It was not brought on by the Federal Reserve Board yanking up interest rates too high to overcome inflation. This was recession was brought about because of a huge asset bubble that exploded. The housing bubble.

And anybody who has been following the news and has experienced what has been going on on Main Street knows that we cannot simply use the -- and hope that the business cycle is going to rescue us, that cutting taxes is going to be the answer. Obviously, we need something that is much stronger medicine.

What I've talked about this morning, Steve, is not something that we've done already. A new WPA to put workers back to work. An infrastructure jobs bank to get on with rebuilding America's infrastructure. Cut taxes for everybody up to $250,000, but not --

MOORE: You're right --

REICH: Beyond $250,000.

MOORE: We didn't try that. We didn't try that the last two years, but we did try it back in the 1930s, and it didn't work very well.

REICH: I'll tell you something, it did work in the 1930s.


MOORE: It didn't.

REICH: By 1930 --

MOORE: But here's the point --

REICH: By 1936, we were coming out of the depths of the greatest --

MOORE: Yes, we still had --

REICH: Depression we ever had.

MOORE: We still had 12 percent unemployment, Bob. And here's the point, I think. When you keep talking about consumers consuming, Wolf, I don't think that's the problem with the economy right now. The stores are filled right now. The problem is business are not investing, and they don't see an incentive to do that.

BLITZER: All right.

MOORE: And when you talk about raising capital gains, dividend, and personal income tax rates, I just think that puts a real millstone around the neck of the economy right now.

BLITZER: Steve Moore, Robert Reich, we're going to have to continue this conversation on another day.


BLITZER: But excellent, excellent conversation here on this important day.

MOORE: Have a great weekend.

BLITZER: Thanks, guys, very much.

REICH: Bye, Steve.

BLITZER: The website he founded has leaked thousands of classified US documents. What other secrets is WikiLeaks still sitting on? I'll ask the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Pete Hoekstra.

Plus, the fate of the ban on gays serving openly in the United States military. Is there anything the White House can do if -- if Congress fails to overturn the policy? That and much more, with the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: It's the whistle-blowing website that's rocked the US government by releasing hundreds of thousands of secret documents, first on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, this week, diplomatic communications. And there's tremendous concern right now about other secrets WikiLeaks might possess that have yet to be released.

Joining us now, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan. He's the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. How do you stop WikiLeaks right now from releasing more information?

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: I think it's next to impossible. I don't think there is a way to stop WikiLeaks, "The Guardian," "Der Spiegel," or "The New York Times" from making anything more public.

BLITZER: So, if they have -- if they're still sitting on tens of thousands of documents, there's no way the US government can go in there through some cyber activity and just stop the servers or anything else?

HOEKSTRA: I think we've got probably some great cyber people. But from what we can tell, WikiLeaks has been pretty good at how they're protecting the data that they have. That if there is a cyber attack, this stuff will be released somewhere else. It will get out.

BLITZER: You wrote a letter, and we have a copy here, to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, saying you want to know what's going on, and you're not getting access to information, but "The New York Times" or "Al Jezeera" or others have.

HOEKSTRA: Or 500,000 people in the military have. Yes, we'd like to know what's in these documents. What's coming down the pike? What vulnerabilities are there? What security issues may arise?

BLITZER: Why won't they share this information with you?

HOEKSTRA: Because it's --

BLITZER: You're the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee.

HOEKSTRA: They're saying they won't share it because this is executive privilege, these are documents that are part of the discourse within the executive branch, so they will not provide it to us at this point. We're introducing a resolution on the floor of the House today demanding that the president make these documents available to us.

If "The New York Times" and "Der Spiegel" have them, if WikiLeaks have them, why can't we see them?

BLITZER: Because it says here that only the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, can give you access to this information. Have you called her, have you asked her?

HOEKSTRA: We've asked. I've not talked to her personally.

BLITZER: Maybe that would be a good idea.

HOEKSTRA: Maybe that would be a great idea, yes.

BLITZER: Because she might be sensitive as a former legislator herself.

HOEKSTRA: Right. And I think -- and the thing on this, Wolf. This is not a partisan issue. This is bipartisan. The -- I think the Democrats on the committee also want to know what's in these documents.

BLITZER: Are you as shocked as I am that only 60 percent of the Defense Department computers right now, according to the Defense Department, have upgraded the software that would allow them to know that someone is downloading tens of thousands of copies of some sensitive information?

HOEKSTRA: I was shocked yesterday when we got briefed in the committee, both in terms of the sloppiness with which the original system was put together, the SIPRNet, where WikiLeaks got these documents from. I was shocked in terms of the lack of response to date to fix this. And as you go, you get to the next point, where you're at, is you're also then shocked, saying, about all of the vulnerabilities throughout the Department of Defense, probably throughout the government that aren't protected.

BLITZER: So, you're convinced this could still be going on, if there's another young private first class someplace and wants to download a lot of stuff, that is still possible.

HOEKSTRA: I think that's very, very possible. I also think that when you provide 500,000 access points into a data system, I bet there's 500,001 in 500,002 access points. One of which is the Russians, and one of which is the Chinese.

BLITZER: But you want the left hand of the US government to know what the right hand of the US government knows so that the FBI and the CIA, they can share information. That came out of 9/11.

HOEKSTRA: Yes, but we're not arguing about the margins. Where should the line precisely be drawn? We're talking about a huge database dump. Why would a private first class in Baghdad have to have access to the conversations that Petraeus has with the president of Yemen? That's absolutely crazy. They didn't do the basics.

BLITZER: So, what should the US government be doing right now?

HOEKSTRA: They should put a full-court press on this. Clean up the systems that they have in place. Cyber is where the next war is going to take place. Cyber war. The Russians, the Chinese, the Israelis, there are a lot of people that are good at this. This says that the United States needs to get in high gear to be able to compete and protect itself in this area.

BLITZER: Should anyone lose his or her job as a result of this leak?

HOEKSTRA: I think that there's probably a multitude of people who should --

BLITZER: Like who?

HOEKSTRA: The people who -- the person in State Department that said, "We're going to give the database to the Defense Department" without ever asking or demanding to know who was going to have access to the database. The person within the Department of Defense that said, "We're getting all this information, we're going to look at it. We're not going to look at it, we're just going to put it all out there."

And then, probably the person that Private First Class Manning worked for who said, "Sure, it's OK to go in there with your thumb drive and play Lady Gaga music."

BLITZER: This is the allegation against him.

HOEKSTRA: That's the allegation against him, yes.

BLITZER: But this has been going on, presumably, the sharing of information between the State Department and the Pentagon, long before the Obama administration took office.

HOEKSTRA: It's not a partisan issue. This system was created during the Bush administration. It affects both administrations. The infrastructure, the bureaucracy was sloppy when it was put together. And you're right. It goes back four, five years.

BLITZER: Peter King, the congressman from New York, who's a member -- the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, will next be the chairman of that committee, he told me this week he believes WikiLeaks should be designated a foreign terrorist organization, and the US government should deal with it appropriately.

HOEKSTRA: As mad as I am with WikiLeaks, I don't think our legal framework allows us to designate them as a terrorist organization. We ought to take care of what we can take care of, that's building better structures, building better systems, prosecuting those people that went into our systems.

We -- I don't think that our legal structure allows us to go after WikiLeaks. It doesn't allow us to go after "The New York Times." And I'm not sure we should have the opportunity to go after "The New York Times."

WikiLeaks may be kind of a quasi-organization. There's no transparency. We don't know who funds them, we don't know what their agenda is. WikiLeaks is kind of this gray area we don't know what to do with.

BLITZER: Congressman Hoekstra, thanks for coming in.

HOEKSTRA: Great, thank you.

BLITZER: And as you see, the White House taking heat over the WikiLeaks embarrassment. So, what's it doing about the massive release of classified documents. I'll ask the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod.

And Piers Morgan makes his CNN debut right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about WikiLeaks, the royal wedding and, of course, stepping into Larry King's suspenders.


BLITZER: The president has named a new point man to try to stop damaging leaks of diplomatic secrets. The appointment of Russel Travers shows the White House is taking the WikiLeaks security breach more seriously than ever after the latest document dump.

We're joined now by the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod. David, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: I want to first talk a little bit about this WikiLeaks document dump. Peter King, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, I spoke with him today, and he really blasted the Obama administration's handling of this crisis. Listen to what he told me.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I have no evidence that the administration is doing anything. I mean, they've known for months and months and months what WikiLeaks was up to, and yesterday, Eric Holder certainly didn't -- I didn't sense any note of anxiety, any intensity. He's saying they're looking into it, they're exploring. But no real evidence that they are doing anything serious as far as going after WikiLeaks.


BLITZER: All right, I want to give you a chance to respond. What are you doing about this?

AXELROD: Well, look. Obviously, the WikiLeaks document dump was a terrible breach, and if we can't conduct our diplomatic business without classified and secret documents being trafficked on the internet, it's extraordinarily crippling to our efforts. And we are taking every step that we can possibly take to -- not only to go backwards, but to go forwards and make sure that that never happens again.

And if Representative King doesn't believe that we have a sense of urgency about that, then he hasn't spoken to the people that I've spoken to in the building behind me and around this government in the last five days.

BLITZER: He wants the president to declare that WikiLeaks is a foreign terrorist organization and should be treated accordingly, I guess sort of like al Qaeda. Is that something that you're considering?

AXELROD: I'm not going to get into that, Wolf. Obviously, we want to take every step to make sure, not just that people don't put our -- put documents that should -- are secret, classified, on the internet, but that they don't have access to them. And that's the most important thing is, to make sure that that flow does not happen ever again.

BLITZER: Let's talk about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." If it doesn't pass, repealing this "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law. If it doesn't pass in the US Congress before the end of the year, is the president ready to find a way to sign an executive order doing to the US military what Harry Truman did after World War II in desegregating the US military, simply signing a law -- an executive order into effect saying it's over. Gays can serve openly in the United States military.

AXELROD: Well, first of all, let me say three things. The president has made clear that he is intent on ending this policy. He feels it's bad for our national security, it's not consistent with who we are, it's unfair, we're depriving patriotic young Americans of their right to serve, and we're depriving the -- our military of their services.

And, obviously, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen strongly agree, as they said today. And as we now know from the report that was released, the vast majority of people who serve today share that -- share a similar view.

Now, this was -- "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was an act of Congress. And so, we need Congress to act to repeal what they've done. We think the support is there if we can break through a filibuster in the Senate, and we're hopeful that will --

BLITZER: But is there anything the president --

AXELROD: We're hopeful that we can do that between now and the end of the year, and I'm not going to prejudge our ability to do that. We continue to work hard to get that done.

BLITZER: Theoretically, is there a procedure the president could use if Congress to fails to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Have you thought of another option in terms of an executive order? Is that at least on the books?

AXELROD: Look, we're exploring all options. The most orderly to approach this would be for Congress to repeal its action. The votes are there to do it. There are procedural blockades against it right now, we'd like to see those fall, and we'd like to get it done.

There are also court cases winding through the courts. One court has ruled it unconstitutional. So there's a lot of things going on right now. All of them point to an end to this policy, and this policy is going to end.

BLITZER: David Axelrod, getting ready to move back to Chicago at some point to work on the president's reelection campaign. Thanks very much for coming in.

AXELROD: Great to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. David Axelrod is the president's senior adviser.

Piers Morgan is here in THE SITUATION ROOM just ahead. I'm turning the tables on the veteran interviewer. And the vice president, Joe Biden, has a special message for the country's newly elected governors. "Call me." You'll find out why. That's ahead.


BLITZER: In January, Piers Morgan takes over Larry King's primetime spot right here on CNN. Straight ahead, he'll be joining us for his first interview on CNN. He'll be here in the SITUATION ROOM. But first, some background on CNN's newest host.


BLITZER (voice-over): He knows talent when he sees it. Well, usually.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - "Britain's Got Talent")

PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": What are you going to sing tonight?

SUSAN BOYLE, CONTESTANT, "BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT": I'm going to sing "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables."

BOYLE: (singing): I dreamed a dream in time gone by.


BLITZER (voice-over): Morgan is best known in the US as one of the judges who misjudged Susan Boyle before she opened her mouth on "Britain's Got Talent." He's also been a judge on "America's Got Talent." He dresses for success.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - "Celebrity Apprentice")

MORGAN: Hello, dear!



BLITZER (voice-over): Morgan wasn't afraid to look a little silly in his quest to win the "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - "Celebrity Apprentice")

DONALD TRUMP, HOST, "CELEBRITY APPRENTICE": And tonight, Piers, you're the Celebrity Apprentice.



BLITZER (voice-over): He knows how to make news with a long career in journalism in Britain as a reporter, columnist, an editor, at a variety of newspapers, where he won awards and sometimes stirred controversy.

He can bring on tears as a veteran TV interviewer, encouraging public figures to spill surprising details and emotions. He famously got British prime minister Gordon Brown to open up about the death of his ten-day old daughter.


BLITZER: And Piers is joining us now to make his CNN debut. Piers welcome to CNN. Thanks very much for joining us.

PEIRS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Well, Wolf, just to clarify, I didn't look silly, I was King Arthur.

BLITZER: And you look - you look royal I must say.

MORGAN: Well, nothing silly about King Arthur.

BLITZER: Nothing silly at all and I expect you will wearing that outfit sometimes on your new show, right?.

MORGAN: Only if you come to do the dougie.

BLITZER: It is the dougie. Yes, let's talk - let's talk about some news first because primarily a journalist and a highly respected at that. What do you make of Julian Assange and this whole Wikileaks uproar that has developed over these months?

MORGAN: Well, for any journalist, it is a fascinating story, because I have been in the newspaper game most all of my life, and I'm sort of torn, because part of me wants to think that this guy is putting out there information that ought to be made public, that he is bringing big countries and companies and corporations to account and journalists at their heart believe in accountability.

Where I think that there is a difficulty is in the nature of the material that he is putting out there and the first tranche we saw last month where you had material about Iraq and Afghanistan I thought it was really important. And there was an obviously public interest.

It is dangerous territory if they put too much of this gossipy material out there, because if the only intention then is to embarrass the relationship between diplomats in various countries, I don't think that really justifies what they are doing.

So I think that they are a little bit scatter gum, and to half of the people out there, he is a kind of cyber space freedom fighter, and to the other half, he is a cyber space terrorist.

BLITZER: So if you were editing a major newspaper, would you do as editor of "The New York Times" or "The Spiegel" or "The Guardian" have done and cooperate with Wikileaks or not?

MORGAN: Well, yes, but only in the way that they've been doing it, which is they've been very judicious in what they have selected to actually publish and that's what you have to do. They are being in my view, quite responsible. Whereas, I think, wikileaks putting everything out there ought to be more judicious in the editing.

You know, in the end, I believe in freedom of the speech, and I think it is hypocritical for journalists really to cue up and say this guy is doing something heinous. He is putting out information, which is into a certain degree the public domain anyway.

I just think it's dangerous when it's too gossipy because then it's not really I don't think important enough to justify what they are doing.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the royal wedding that's coming up at the end of April. I know that you are looking forward to it like all of us. Kate Middleton, the bride to be, is she ready for what is about to happen to her?

MORGAN: I think she is. That interview she gave with Prince William is remarkable for the confidence and the poise she showed. I mean, I knew Princess Diana very well and she was very, very young when she had to go through this.

She was about six or seven years younger than Kate and I think that Kate has learned from what happened to Diana, and I think Britain as a country has learned that you have to be careful with how you treat these very young women when you suddenly propel them into the stratosphere of being a royal superstar.

And make no mistake about it, these two now, William and Kate, they're probably the biggest celebrities on the planet, and their wedding will be the biggest celebrity event of the year.

So it is huge pressure, but I like the way she handled it. I think she is a very engaging smart cookie, as we would say back home, and I think that William has chosen his bride carefully and diligently. He's not rushed into this, and I think his mom would be very proud of him, actually.

BLITZER: I totally agree. I wish both of them only, only happiness as they go forward. It is not going to be easy for either of them, but let's hope that they have only, only success and happiness.

Quick point, on FIFA and this decision today not to give the United Kingdom or the United States the World Cup championship games in 2018 and 2022, but to Russia and to Qatar instead. I know I was deeply disappointed. I assume you were as well.

MORGAN: Well, look, I mean England and America both lost out, and i think we all feel pretty miffed about it. I think as an English football fan, we are entitled to feel more aggrieved than you guys, because we invented this game, and we could not have put a bigger bid together than we did.

And by common consent, our bid was probably the strongest, and you cannot help but think that actually the scrutiny that the British media have been putting on FIFA, which is the authority that governs international football in exposing quite serious corruption has probably, I'm afraid cost us our chances of hosting the world cup. And that again is an interesting situation where the BBC, a respected news organization ran a Panarama special, a current affair show special exposing this corruption three days ago, and people are arguing that might have tip the balance against us, but I would defend the BBC's right to do what they bid, you know.

If FIFA's corrupt then it should be exposed and I think this decision today is going to rumble for a very long time, because the English football fans will not take this quietly, I can tell you that.

BLITZER: I know someone who was in South Africa for the World Cup at the end of June, I know that there were a lot of suspicions about FIFA to begin with, and those suspicions will only be intensified about corruptness.

MORGAN: And the only good thing, Wolf, is we are actually playing so badly at the moment, that it might be a blessing in disguise.

BLITZER: But in 2018, you don't know how well you're going to be.

MORGAN: Well, it is not looking good even at the grass roots level, so maybe it is the kick in the backside we need to be honest.

BLITZER: Maybe it's a blessing in disguise who knows for the United Kingdom. Let's talk about your new show. Filling Larry King's suspenders, Piers, as you know that's not going to be easy. I've seen a lot of the promos - the promotion for your new show, and at one point you say that you want the show to be, quote, "a little bit dangerous." Tell me why. What does that mean?

MORGAN: Following Larry is a bit like following Frank Sinatra at the sands in Vegas and I won't win this one, and he is the great legendary TV interviewer, but I can do things my way.

By dangerous, I kind of mean that I like the interviews to be theatrical. I like it to be a theater where two protagonists come in and we have fun and it's probing and it's challenging. A little bid edgy perhaps and occasionally dangerous, where no one is quite sure what's going to happen next.

That is to me what a great interview is all about. Some of Larry's most memorable moments, I would say encompassed extreme danger. For instance is when Marlon Brando kissed him live on air that's dangerous.

BLITZER: That is dangerous indeed and for 25 years Larry King did obviously fabulous stuff. I'm going to go out to L.A. and celebrate his final show on December 16th and we wish only -- only the best.

MORGAN: Absolutely. One of my old time -- I had lunch with David Frost last week of Frost Nixon Fame, and we were both talking about how brilliant Larry has been over the years. I mean, really unparalleled in terms of the breadth of the guests that he has had and the way that he's done what he does. I mean, he's the ultimate interview format where Larry just let them talk and got amazing stuff out of them. He is one of my personal heroes. BLITZER: Mine too and I just want to point out. He is going to do four specials a year on CNN for many years to come so we'll celebrate with Larry as well. Piers, we hope you'll be a frequent visitor here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Can we get that commitment from you right now?

MORGAN: Wolf, I am yours whenever you want me.

BLITZER: Good luck with the new show. We are looking forward to it. Thanks very much. Piers Morgan, he's going to start in January right here on CNN.

The president and the vice president urge the country's newly elected governors to pick up the phone. Just ahead, I will speak with one of those newly elected governors.

And as the legendary era of CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE" draws to a close, his long time Executive Producer Wendy Walker is joining to us look back on it all.


BLITZER: President Obama and Vice President Biden once again extending the bipartisan olive branch this time to the country's newly elected governors. At a lunch here in Washington, both leaders urged constant dialogue in the effort to solve critical issues.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Pick up the phone and call me personally, and I guarantee you I will have an answer within 24 hours and if I don't have the final answer, I will call you to tell you when you can get the final answer, because it is a partnership.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The one thing I would urge is don't wait until you are really mad about something before you call us. We'd prefer not to read about it in the press. We'd rather you call us and say, you know what? We think this is not working. We think that this is a better way of doing things, and we will work with you.


BLITZER: I spoke with one of the governor's elect at that meeting, the Florida Republican Rick Scott.


BLITZER: Governor-elect, thanks very much for coming in. Congratulations to you.


BLITZER: So did you like what you heard from the president and the vice president? SCOTT: Well, yes. I mean, they talked about, you know, reaching out and those things, but at the same time, our biggest problem is Medicaid. I'd like to get a block grant and let us have flexibility.

There doesn't seem a lot of interest in that and that is a negative. You know, in Florida, we are worried about the deficit. All right, there doesn't seem to be much progress made on that, and so, we will see. It was good.

BLITZER: Did you have any -- your one-on-one opportunity to speak to the president or the vice president? Because I know there were a whole bunch of other governors elect.

SCOTT: Yes, there were - it was a big of governors there so we have definitely asked questions. We talked about Medicaid. We talked about affordable health care act. We talked EPA and things like that, but yes.

BLITZER: Did you leave encouraged that you think you can work with these guys?

SCOTT: Who knows. They still said that like on the Medicaid, which is a big problem that well, we've got some rules we have to go through. We have to go through the legislature and Congress and things like that, so, but, look it was a positive start, and we will see what happens.

BLITZER: Well, let's go through some controversial issues that you have the deal with as the governor of Florida, which is obviously a very important state. Immigration and you are quoted in "The Miami Herald" as saying this, "we need to come with an immigration policy that works for the country. If you are stopped in our state no different than if you're ask for your I.D., you should be able to be asked if you are legal or not."

It sounds very much what Arizona did, the law in Arizona. Is that what you want to have happen in Florida?

SCOTT: First, the government needs to secure the borders. Second, they need to come up with an immigration policy that works. We've got to make sure that we have work visas so our AG community can get workers.

But finally, if you are in our state or any state, and if you are stopped because you are violating the law and you're asked for an I.D. and asked if you are legal or not.

BLITZER: So you like the law in Arizona and you would like to implement that in Florida?

SCOTT: We got to make sure there is no racial profiling. It's going to be fair, but sure we need to know who's on our state especially people doing something wrong.

BLITZER: Because here's the issue that you could face and I assume you're aware of the boycott of Arizona, tourism to Arizona. A lot of groups that want to go to Arizona right now, they're even thinking of pulling the all-star game out of Phoenix.

Tourism in Florida is conventions in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale and Miami that's a huge business. You want to go through that?

SCOTT: Whatever we do, we are going to make sure that it's fair, but we want people to comply with our laws. But look, the federal government needs to secure the border and they need to come up with a logical immigration process, but if you are violating the law, we should be able to be asked if you are legal or not.

BLITZER: Would you ask the legislature in Florida to pass new legislation to give authorities the opportunity right away to ask for identification of legal status if they are picked up or something?

SCOTT: I don't have to. The legislature is already focused on it. They're already --

BLITZER: You would sign it into law?

SCOTT: As the way it is written, absolutely.

BLITZER: And if it is written like in Arizona, you would be willing of taking chances like boycotts in Florida?

SCOTT: I'll make sure that there's no racial profiling. I'm going to make sure it's fair to authorities.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about the health care right now. Do you -- your attorney general in Florida wants to repeal in effect the health care law that is now in effect where President Obama and the Democrats pushed through. I assume you want to see it repealed as well?

SCOTT: Absolutely, as I you know I organized a group for patients' rights in 2009, and we want to make sure --

BLITZER: You don't want there to be a mandate requiring individuals that they must have health insurance?


BLITZER: So let's take a look at a hypothetical case here in Florida, in Tampa, let's say you're 30 years old. You're working. You're making a living, but you don't want to buy health insurance. You're in a car accident and then all of a sudden, you need intensive care. You're in a coma and you need intensive care for a year, who pays for that?

SCOTT: We all pay for it.

BLITZER: Is that fair that somebody who could afford to buy insurance does not buy insurance and then all of us taxpayers have to pay for somebody who is going to be intensive care for a year?

SCOTT: The flipside is what happens when the federal government gets more involved, or any state, any government does - mandating things. They always mandate too much. It is too expensive. People can't afford it so we ultimately end up with fewer people on health insurance and you cannot afford it. So there's two sides, do you want anybody to end up in the ER that you can't pay for it. Absolutely not, but the flipside, you want people to be able to afford health insurance --

BLITZER: Should that 30-year-old be required to give up all of his or her assets in order to pay for that health treatment, that health treatment?

SCOTT: That accident?


SCOTT: OK. If you end up in an accident, and you end up in the E.R., you should pay for that experience, absolutely.

BLITZER: And in other words, go broke as a result of your decision not to have health insurance?

SCOTT: You should pay for the health care that you get, absolutely.

BLITZER: But what if it is intensive and requires long, long care and requires hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars?

SCOTT: My belief is if we do the right thing, we can drive down the price of health care. People want to have insurance. What we've done is we've made it too expensive so people will buy insurance unless it gets too expensive. As the government gets more involved, they make it more expensive.

BLITZER: One final issue, very sensitive issue for Florida, offshore oil drilling. As you know, the Obama administration yesterday said no offshore oil drilling for seven years off of Florida's coast. You don't like that?

SCOTT: Well, first of, I wish they should have called me. They didn't call me. They didn't call Governor Crist. I believe they should have called us first to tell us what their thinking is.

Look, we need to become energy independent, and at the same time we can't do drilling until we know we can do it is safely, but you just don't put a moratorium. We already have a moratorium. Let's go figure out how we can do it safely, but we cannot afford to mess up the beaches. We cannot afford to mess up our economy, but I believe in the ingenuity of Americans and we will come up with a way to do it.

BLITZER: Are you are willing to take that chance despite all the beautiful pristine beaches along the Florida coast?

SCOTT: Whenever we can do it. Whenever we figure out a process that we can do it safely so we don't mess up our beaches or mess our economy, I believe in it.

BLITZER: Governor-elect, we got a tough issue and a tough bunch of tough issues ahead of you. Good luck. SCOTT: A big opportunity. Everybody is going to move to Florida. We're going to have a great economy.

BLITZER: What's the unemployment right now?

SCOTT: A little almost 12 percent.

BLITZER: You have work to do. Good luck.

SCOTT: All right, thanks.


BLITZER: CNN's long-running "LARRY KING LIVE" prepares to sign off in a matter of days. The woman behind the king of talk has stories of her own to share.

Standby, Larry's long time Executive Producer Wendy Walker takes us behind the scenes with her new book on "Life, Larry, and Her Secret Fascination with Another King."


BLITZER: CNN is marking the end of an era when "LARRY KING LIVE" airs its final live program on December 16th. Larry's long-time executive producer has just released her brand new book entitled "Producer Lessons Shared from 30 Years in Television." Wendy Walker is a CNN original.


BLITZER: All right, so let's talk a little bit about this book, "Lessons Shared from 30 Years in Television." To our viewers and I'm sure they'll be interested in this, what is the most important lesson you can share with them?

WENDY WALKER, SENIOR EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, LARRY KING LIVE: That I think if you really work hard that you can really achieve your goals and I think it's all -- the show is a lot of work and a lot of patience.

BLITZER: You have to have some talent, too. You can't just - you know, if you go into something, you ought to be talented. No matter how hard you work. It's not necessarily going to work out.

WALKER: Yes, but if you have a dream usually there is something there, I think a reason that you have it. I never thought that I was -- would ever have the job that I do right now as an executive producer for "LARRY KING LIVE." I've had such an amazing career.

BLITZER: Seventeen years with Larry.

WALKER: Seventeen years with Larry. Ten at the White House.

BLITZER: Before that. WALKER: But when I think about Katie Couric, our friend, we started on the same day at ABC in 1979. There was no way we ever thought that she was going to make history. She was a desk assistant. I was a secretary.

BLITZER: She worked at CNN for a while too.

WALKER: She came over with me. She started at CNN in the beginning.

BLITZER: Larry King -


BLITZER: Tell our viewers something they don't know about Larry King.

WALKER: Larry is a really funny guy. He is a comedian. He really is a comedian. He could, have you ever seen him do standup?


WALKER: Or emceeing -

BLITZER: Do you think he's going to do a little bit of that?

WALKER: I think he loves it. I mean, he is such a ham and he really likes it. The reason a lot of people don't know that is when he is on his show, he really takes it away from himself and it is about the guest. But when he is off the air it's all about him.

BLITZER: What is he going to do now? This has been his life for so long, "LARRY KING LIVE." He loved it obviously. What does he do next?

WALKER: Well, we're going to do specials so we're not leaving.

BLITZER: Four times a year.

WALKER: Four times a year and -

BLITZER: Sort of like Barbara Walters specials on ABC, is that what you're looking to do?

WALKER: Well, as I said, they're going to be really special. They're special specials.

BLITZER: In order to be special it's got to be --

WALKER: Special.

BLITZER: But in other words a huge get or something like that.

WALKER: A huge get or taking in-depth stories that we take a lot of time. It'll be fun.

BLITZER: What is your favorite Larry King moment over the past 17 years since you went to work with him? WALKER: Well, one of them is -- has to be going to Graceland. I mean, of course everybody wants to talk about the Marlon Brando kiss, which was pretty special, because I got in trouble for it because I guess I wasn't supposed to let them kiss on the lips.

BLITZER: You had no control over that.

WALKER: I know, but producers are supposed to tell you know, Wolf.

BLITZER: Was that live or on tape?

WALKER: It was live, but going to Graceland and seeing Elvis's grave --

BLITZER: I didn't realize you were a big Elvis fan.


BLITZER: Like a hunk a hunk of burning love.


BLITZER: Wendy Walker loves Elvis.


BLITZER: Wendy Walker. Good luck to her and good luck to Larry with the next challenge. Meanwhile, it's the festival of lights. A Hannukah celebration and much more. "Hotshots" coming up next.


BLITZER: Here is a look at the week's "Hotshots."

In Berlin, look at this, rabbis put together a large menorah in front of the Brandenburg Gate for the Jewish holiday of Hannukah. In Italy, a woman walks over a bridge during a snowstorm. In Turkey, dancers perform during a rally for world AIDS day. "Hotshots" pictures worth a thousand words.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us week days in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN and at this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.