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Earmarks; Tax Talk; Time Person of the Year; Life in Prison for JFK Bomb Plotter; Rahm Emanuel Ahead of Poll; CEO Summit

Aired December 15, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Suzanne and good evening everyone. Tonight the president tries to smooth strained relationships with corporate America, bringing 20 CEOs together to discuss ways to create jobs. Suffice to say the ways of Washington don't always make sense to the people who run some of America's most successful companies.


KING: If you ran your business like Washington does its business, what would happen to you?



KING: Plus, "TIME" magazine names its person of the year. He's 26. Maybe he's your friend on Facebook, the right choice? We'll talk it over with two media luminaries, CNN's Piers Morgan and longtime ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson (ph).

But we begin with a big day here in Washington. Maybe I should call it a big word day here in Washington. One leading conservative said it would be sacrilegious to debate a nuclear arms treaty so close to Christmas. Sanctimonious was the big word the Senate Democratic leader used in his tart response.

If Christmas is the season of peace and harmony, Washington is a little late getting the message. But hypocrisy, now that's a word and a practice right in Washington's wheelhouse. We told you last night about a 1,900 page, $1 trillion spending plan loaded with earmarks, and today, well, there was predictable Republican fury.

The next Speaker of the House John Boehner called it a slap in the face. Exactly the kind of behavior, he said, the American people rejected in the last election. Just one little problem, hundreds of the earmarks in the spending bill are Republican requests, which takes the wind, if not the legitimacy, out of all the GOP complaining.

Let's break down this debate and the acrimonious final days of this year's congressional session with Republican strategist Rich Galen, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Paul Begala, our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin and senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

When you look through this bill, Rich Galen, let's show our viewers. We started breaking these down last night. Here's some, some of the earmarks, the spending bill stacks up to about here. This is just some of the earmarks. Republican side -- remember, the Republicans said, we're against this, this is horrible.

This is just the Republican side. Thirty-five Republican senators have 1,630 earmarks in this bill. Now here are some of the top Republican earmarkers. Senator Thad Cochran oh, just known as a great appropriator, shall we say, 230; Roger Wicker, his Republican colleague from Mississippi, 199; Chuck Grassley of Iowa, 86; Kit Bond of Missouri, 78; Bob Bennett of Utah, 76. If the Republicans are so anti-earmark, why didn't they go to the floor immediately and say, here's an amendment, take them all out, every one of them, every one that has an "R" behind it, take it out today?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well I like one of the great appropriators of all time, Bob Livingston (ph) who said to me a couple of weeks ago, you know what, the president's budget is a $1 trillion earmark. There's nothing wrong with members of Congress wanting to put things in.


GALEN: Wait a minute. Hold it. What happened was --


GALEN: Wait a minute. What happened was that earmarks got -- earmarks were to fix a bridge or to put in a railway station (INAUDIBLE). They got mixed up with the sorts of things that we really hate about earmarks which are -- you know John King's got a big contributor in, oh, let's say, Pennsylvania, and we want the Pentagon to buy something that you make --


GALEN: That's a different deal.

KING: Well $100,000 for the Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. I'm sure it's a worthy goal. That's a Republican turned Democratic Senator Arlen Specter there. Thirty million dollars for the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa for interdisciplinary science and engineering, teaching and research --


KING: We could go on and on and on.

GALEN: Where do you think those research grants come from at state- supported schools --


GALEN: It's all federal money.

KING: Then why isn't the new Republican leadership saying American people, earmarks are good? Otherwise, the president gets all the authority. So we're going to keep loading these bills up with earmarks. They said they wouldn't.

GALEN: I don't think they -- I don't think they said either one of those things, but go ahead.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well no, they did say they wouldn't. They made a pledge, the Republicans, not to do it including --


BASH: -- as we talked about last night --

GALEN: And you talked about senators --

BASH: As we talked about last night, Senator Mitch McConnell, who did it -- it was not easy for him to do because he was a very well-known earmarker, liked to send money back to Kentucky. He has over $100 million worth of earmarks going back to Kentucky. The question that we were trying to ask today and we really got no answer is OK, they say that these earmarks were in this bill -- it was old. It was before they made this pledge.

KING: It was before the election. It was before they realized helping them politically would be --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, but here's the bottom line --


BASH: And here's what people -- here's what people need to know.

KING: Yes.

BASH: And that is that we were told, and I believe this to be true, that they could have gone to the Appropriations Committee, which put this bill together, and said, take mine out. None of them did. It didn't happen. Their argument now is, well, we're going to vote against it anyway. But perception is everything when it comes to this.

KING: Here's what makes people I think hate Washington, shall we say, or dislike Washington. Hate's a strong world, especially in the holiday season. I want you to listen here, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas. He's very mad because he has a point. The Democrats just sprung this 1,900 page bill on them yesterday. They want them to vote on it in a few days. It's a lot of money and he's outraged.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I can't think of any other action that would show such profound disrespect for the American people and what they said on November the 2nd, than to try to jam through this omnibus appropriation bill that we saw for the first time yesterday, and as Senator Thune described it, $1.2 trillion of who knows what. We're only now getting into some of the details.


KING: That's Senator Thune over Senator Cornyn's shoulder. This is a -- it is an outrage, right? Well, let's look at the record. In that bill that's such an outrage, earmarks requested by John Cornyn, you just heard him there, Republican of Texas, 45. Earmarks requested by Republican John Thune of South Dakota, 26.


KING: So when asked -- we'll get to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course they are --

KING: So when asked -- wait a minute --


KING: If this is such an outrage --


KING: If this is such an outrage, why are your earmarks in there? Here's what he says --


CORNYN: We've said very clearly we voted for an earmark moratorium. We will abide by that. And we will reject any earmarks requested by us or anyone else because that's what the American people told us they want.


KING: So now they're going to vote --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The earmarks --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- minor piece of that.


KING: I agree --


KING: I agree with you, earmarks are a tiny one percent --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Less than one percent.

KING: -- less than one percent of the federal budget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. KING: However, they just ran a campaign to the American people saying we will make them go away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That doesn't give the Democrats the right to drop a trillion-two bill on their heads --

KING: Two wrongs don't make a right.


KING: Two wrongs don't make a right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk about sanctimony John, please.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But I'll tell you the Tea Party Express plans to go after those Republicans who vote for this.

GALEN: Then that's -- then that's a political price they may have to pay.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's the height of hypocrisy, that's the problem. You're right. It's a very small part of the deficit. I actually counted -- that's $8 billion in this bill. If we limited all those earmarks, every one of them, Democrat and Republican alike, we would pay off the deficit in 163 years.




BEGALA: No, the deficit. The debt would take another -- maybe the year 3063. Seriously, I did the math.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you have someone do it for you?


BEGALA: Yes, my seventh grader, he's better at math than I am. But it's the hypocrisy that drives people crazy. Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader who you mentioned, right, really, one of the kings of pork, there's one I saw in there, four million, with an "M," $4 million for the Kentucky National Guard for marijuana eradication program. Now that may be a very good idea if you look at how Kentucky's been voting, there's probably way too much pot smoking going on there --


BEGALA: So I'm for it I think. You could make a case for it, but it should -- it should be done in a transparent way. But it shouldn't be done by people who then say that they're holier than thou on television and say I'm against these earmarks when in fact they are earmarkers themselves --

BASH: And you ask why they're not going to the floor and saying, I want this out? They're going to do that once this actually gets to the floor. Another part of the story we haven't talked about is what we're probably going to see starting tomorrow and maybe into the weekend is that Senator Jim DeMint is going to force the poor Senate clerks to read this nearly 2,000-page bill --


BASH: -- and it's going to take 50 hours, we're told, two full days, overnight. So once that's done and once -- and if they actually get out of this bill, you're going to definitely see Republicans say, take my earmarks out, please.

KING: I was going to say can they get to the floor and say could you please take out pages four, five and six before he gets to them?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They could have, but it's too late now.

GALEN: Riveting TV though it may be, nobody's going to be watching.

KING: All right, we're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we move on from earmarks to tax cuts and other things on the so- called lame duck Congress agenda. Exactly what will get done? There actually was some progress today. Stay with us.


KING: The fight about earmarks wasn't the only thing in town today. The Senate actually passed by an overwhelming margin the tax cut compromise the president struck with the Republicans, sent it over to the House. The big question there is can liberal Democrats, who don't like it, they think it's a giveaway to the rich, especially when it comes to the estate tax, can they change it? Listen here. Peter DeFazio, one of those liberals fighting this on "PARKER SPITZER" after this program, here's what he says the president is doing to get the votes.


REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: The White House is putting on tremendous pressure, making phone calls. The president's making phone calls, saying this is the end of his presidency if he doesn't get this bad deal.


KING: That's how presidents lobby, right, everyone? If you don't vote for me here, this is the end of my presidency?

BEGALA: You can only play that card a few times. KING: Didn't he play it in health care?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the stimulus package, we've been down this road.


BEGALA: But this would be -- I think the deal is terrible for Barack Obama. Not getting the deal would be catastrophic for Barack Obama. So I think he's making probably the best argument he can make. I was told by a senator that senator -- Vice President Biden spoke to his fellow -- former Senate colleagues and said don't look for any logic here. This is just the deal we have, and I need you to vote for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the best argument you can make.

KING: Yee-haw, that's a great way to run a country.

BEGALA: It's called not peeing on my boots and telling me it's raining, OK. It's just telling the truth.


BEGALA: It's a crummy deal, but the Democrats have to swallow it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it's working --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean 81 senators --



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- voted for it today.

BEGALA: You got to give Biden a lot of credit for that.


BEGALA: He's a beloved figure, not just respected.

KING: And the speaker said tonight that she wants to change the estate tax provision but she's only speaker for a few more weeks. Can she rattle up enough votes to do that or are they going to have to take --

BASH: That's going to be the thing we're going to look for tomorrow. There are going to be a couple of votes in the House tomorrow, one with a minor change to the estate tax provision which we talked about pretty much every night on here to make it basically less generous to wealthy Americans. And then the package that passed the Senate today.

The open question is whether the argument that the president has been making is going to prevail and whether enough people who are still upset about this are just going to say you know what, we just want to get this done with and we want to go home.

KING: And this is the big thing they're fighting about now, the tax cut compromise. But what about everything else and why does it have to be so acrimonious? Clearly, you were mentioning the Democrats -- you say the Democrats are trying to ram stuff down the Republicans' throats. You had Jim DeMint today saying you know it's sacrilegious to debate the START treaty before Christmas.

Harry Reid comes back with sanctimonious. Sanctimonious -- shellacking was the word of the month. Now I think sanctimonious is the word of the month. Why can't they just get --

GALEN: Hypocrisy --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hypocrisy comes --


KING: That's not quite as big as sanctimonious. Why can't they just get along? Get their business done, put things on the floor, vote up and down, wins or loses?

BEGALA: Well, because the American people have rewarded the Republicans for being -- what a Democrat would say, partisan and obstructionists. They just won the biggest landslide that they've won in many generations. And they did it by being completely obstructionist. So you can't in the sense fault DeMint. My problem is he -- Senator DeMint doesn't want to work on Christmas Eve. Cops work on Christmas Eve. Firefighters work on Christmas Eve.

YELLIN: Soldiers in Afghanistan.

BEGALA: But Senator DeMint helped block legislation for health care for those 9/11 heroes, the people who work on Christmas and on New Year's and all the holidays, who risk their lives for us, many whom now have compromised health. That law should be obviously supported by both parties. It was filibustered by Senator DeMint and all of his fellow Republicans and they ought to be held accountable for that before they say well I want Christmas off because those cops and firefighters don't get Christmas off --

KING: I believe his -- I believe his point was --


KING: -- that it wasn't paid for. Is that correct? Was his point deficit spending or -- (CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: They had to cut taxes for the rich is the Republican position --

GALEN: That is not the Republican --


BEGALA: They all signed a letter that said we won't do anything --


BEGALA: They won't even help firefighters and cops from 9/11 --


GALEN: We needed to maintain the current tax rates for everybody --

KING: Now the House --

GALEN: -- or else they could have put it off until Christmas Eve.


GALEN: -- worked because they brought it --


GALEN: Well because it worked and they brought --


BEGALA: -- the health care they need --

KING: It's OK (INAUDIBLE). The House did pass a stand-alone repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" tonight, allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Separate bill taken out of the defense appropriations bill, so it passed to the House. Now they bring it over to the Senate. The president issued a statement, applauding the House for passing it and asking for the Senate to do the same. Will it happen?

YELLIN: They have the votes. They have the votes and it could --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- 60 votes --

YELLIN: And it could pass. It's just a question, will it come to a vote and is there time for it? There's enormous pressure from the White House to do this. There is big pressure. Even Gates called for it to get done. But the question is will they actually allow it to happen, they being the Republicans, where they slow it down in the time frame to prevent it. It would be an important win because the president needs to give something to his base right now.

BASH: Yes. That's a really good point. And Jessica's point also on timing, that's crucial, because with Republicans making clear they're going to slow-walk everything that the Democrats already have on the docket, 10 days left until Christmas, I mean, if they don't get it done, there is pressure on Harry Reid to come back after Christmas and do this before this Congress runs out.

KING: Back after Christmas, you ready for that?

BEGALA: Sure. We pay them a good salary. It's mostly indoor work. There's no heavy lifting. I mean, come on.

GALEN: I mean they didn't -- they didn't have to take -- they didn't have to take eight weeks off between August and November. They could have actually stayed and worked.

KING: All right, we'll see what they do. Thanks for coming in, guys. Before we go to break, we promised you every night this week to explain a little bit of what's in this tax cut compromise deal that's making its way -- it went from the Senate, now it's in the House. One of the things in here is unemployment benefit extension.

We've talked a lot about the tax cuts, but there's an unemployment benefit extension here, nearly $60 billion. Let's take a closer look at how it spends; 34 billion of it would be in 2011; 21.5 in 2012. So who would get this money? This is a subject of big debate. You look here, December, two million people who would have lost their benefits, they will get them now when that money gets spent out.

Next January, another million people will be in line for extended benefits and then in February, another million, four million people impacted over the next 13 months because of this deal. This one here is causing a bit of controversy. I get e-mails and tweets every day about this. If you've been unemployed for 99 weeks or more you don't get anything and there are three million people impacted here.

You get 26 weeks of regular benefits, 53 weeks of emergency benefits, then 20 weeks of extended benefits, but after 99 weeks, you are maxed out. And we're getting a lot of communications from the 99ers as they call themselves, saying they get nothing in this deal. It's in the House right now. As of now, they still get nothing. When we come back, top stories and what's Wall Street's favorite beer?


KING: Welcome back. Joe Johns is here with some of the latest news you need to know right now -- hey Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: John, Uncle Sam taking BP and several other companies to court over that massive oil spill that ravaged the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says they violated regulations in failing to prevent April's oil rig explosion.

From the northeast to the Midwest to down south, much of the country is in a deep freeze. Already Arctic temperatures are expected to get even colder this week along with more snow.

And investors brewed up a big day on Wall Street for Sam Adams. They drove shares of the Boston Beer Company up nearly 13 percent after the brewer hiked its earnings forecast. So a good day for one of the original Tea Partiers or at least the beer named after him.

KING: I'm trying to think how much am I responsible for that -- the earnings going up? I don't have a stake in the company. I do have a stake in the earnings going up, I think.

JOHNS: You got a piece of the rock or of the --

KING: Well, I don't think I'd --


KING: All right, we got more to come on the program tonight. Joe, you got me thinking about having a Sam Adams right now. I think it's a little early though. We got to get through a little bit more of this show first including "Time" magazine's "Person of the Year". He's the face of the Facebook generation. Was it the right choice -- Piers Morgan, Sam Donaldson right here to debate that one.

And the president today called a CEO summit. He's had rocky relations with the business community, his message to them, if I listened to you how about you start hiring people.

And "Pete on the Street" has a question, why after the election do people still hold Congress in such low esteem? How low can they go?


KING: A 26-year-old chief executive who runs a community of more than a half billion people is "TIME's" "Person of the Year". The magazine chose Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg because of his role in reinventing how we communicate and in growing the social network platform into what would qualify as the third largest country on earth. So why did Zuckerberg get the nod over, say WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or the Tea Party? Let's ask "TIME" assistant managing editor Radhika Jones and Radhika let's start right there. Why in the end Mark Zuckerberg?

RADHIKA JONES, ASST. MANAGING EDITOR, TIME: Well, the "Person of the Year" issue of course is a way to sort of assess what happened in 2010 and where we're going from here. And Julian Assange and the Tea Party were strong contenders. They are runners up in the issue, but when we thought about the ways that our society has changed, the ways that Facebook has really come to permeate our social relations, you know, not just with our close friends but globally, we felt that he was the strong choice.

KING: And often, this is a transformational figure. President Obama has been the "Person of the Year". Vladimir Putin has been the "Person of the Year". What was it like to have a 26-year-old guy come in when you say hey, guess what, you're the "Person of the Year"?

JONES: It's -- I mean for us it's an amazing thing. It's not very often that you get to put such a young person on the cover of "TIME". The first "Person of the Year", Charles Lindbergh in 1925, was actually 25, so he beats Zuckerberg by a year, another young man who pioneered technology. But it's a very special case. I mean I met Mark Zuckerberg during the process. He's an extremely affable young man, very energetic, but also very clearly focused. Has a real vision for what he wants Facebook to be and how people will use it and how we'll use the Web. Very forward thinking.

KING: Was there any downside (INAUDIBLE) saying, do we want to do it because of this?

JONES: Well certainly if you look back at the ways that Facebook has made news this year, there have been concerns about privacy, about you know how your information on Facebook is used. Interestingly, of course, the movie "The Social Network" portrayed Mark Zuckerberg as sort of an alienated loner and people came to know him as a movie character. And what we found in the reporting is that the privacy concerns there -- you know they have to do with people sort of learning how to project their identity online. This is an ongoing process. But Facebook is pretty responsible about the way they use their data. Even if sometimes it's -- the privacy controls can be -- can seem a little difficult.

KING: Radhika Jones thanks for your time.

JONES: Thanks John.

KING: So let's take a closer look now at "TIME's" pick and the Facebook phenomenon. Look at the map of the world here. Any place you see light that is where Facebook has members. And you see the darker lights up here, across the Eastern Seaboard of the United States there, all across. This is Facebook's global reach. Let's take a little bit of a closer look.

What are we talking about here? It's the number two site in the United States, 700 billion minutes a month -- 700 billion minutes a month spent on Facebook. Seventy percent of Facebook users live outside the United States. Look at this, look at this, one million, right, Facebook users in 2004. Look at this growth, bang, 500 million now. Look at that growth over six years from one million to 500 million.

That is extraordinary. Who is Mark Zuckerberg? Born in 1984 in New York State, a "Star Wars" themed bar mitzvah, Philip Exeter Academy (ph), as a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, he decided to found (ph) Harvard $6.9 billion is his net worth right now, according to "Forbes" magazine, so what do we make of this pick? Well that's a great place to start a conversation with CNN's Piers Morgan and the veteran ABC News man Sam Donaldson.


KING: So Piers Morgan, let's start with you. Mark Zuckerberg, 26 years old, Facebook. You're on Facebook. Good choice?

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: I think it's a very good choice because I think in terms of significance and the influence that he has had on the whole planet, it's been pretty extraordinary. I mean I've got on to Facebook and just joined Twitter. And when you see the empowerment that he and people that run these kinds of social network sites have given the public, ordinary members of the public, it's really quite remarkable.

And I think it's a good thing. I think it's empowered everybody and it's enriched people's lives. People are having more conversation I think than they used to. This sort of allegation that somehow people don't have the old-fashioned conversations, well, my children, for example, they're -- two of them in their teens -- they are constantly now engaged in quite lively banter and discussion with friends all over the world. I think that's good.

KING: It is for the most part good. I would agree with you there. The one point I would make is I think that the friend, the value of the word friend has been somewhat cheapened by Facebook, not on purpose, I'm sure. But a friend is somebody you would jump in front of a bus for. That you would quit your job to go help and you get friended (ph) on Facebook by people you've never heard of before, but that's one minor criticism (ph). Our research shows you're not on Facebook, Sam Donaldson.

SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR: I'm not on Facebook. There are three of us who are not on Facebook. I don't know who the other two guys are because I can't talk to them. And you know something, I don't mean to be dismissive of anybody, but I don't want to talk to them and if I do I'll pick up the phone or I know how to use e-mail, if I want to send them a picture I will. But I think the people on Facebook -- I think it's a reasonable choice, by the way. I think Zuckerberg has met "TIME's" criteria. But if you want to talk to someone, you can do that individually. If you put yourself up on Facebook, aren't you saying to the world hey ma (ph), look me, no hands. It's me. Give me my 15 seconds of fame?

JOHN KING, HOST: He has revolutionized, though, to piers' point, the way we communicate the -- making us a community. He's the CEO of the world's third largest country if you look at that way, but who else might it have been? Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, was one of the finalists. The Tea Party was one of the finalists. Piers Morgan, if you were building a list, who else?

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT: Well, they certainly would two. I quite like the way they have the Chilean miners on there because in terms of global impact. You see, look at the Chilean Miners story because most people that I know probably lived that story through the prism of either MySpace, Facebook or Twitter.

I'm now using the Twitter newsfeed from all the people that I'm following and you know, it's not the same as Facebook in the sense that you don't actually have to have a friend, they can just be a follower.

It's very interesting I'm now getting my news on a kind of constant stream from a social networking platform and I'm getting it very, very fast. I can react to it. I can communicate my thoughts to it to the world, which is quite useful if you're presenting a show on CNN for example.

I also see friends of mine engaging in this thing who want to have a voice, who want to have an opinion. In the end, everyone's entitled to an opinion and (inaudible) of social networking is everyone can now have one.

KING: The empowerment force of this trend that we're going to get. By the end of this interview, Sam Donaldson will join Facebook. Who else though?

SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Let me just say, first of all, everyone's entitled to their opinion. As pat Moynihan said so famously, not their own set of facts.

When I see people chartering back and forth, I think that's wonderful. I'm not a censor. Let all flowers bloom. I like to hear a fact. I don't even tweet. By the way, why do you have me on? I don't tweet, I don't Facebook. Who else?

Sarah Palin. I really mean it. I'm trying to be very serious. I think the Tea Party Movement would have been very large without her or Senator DeMint as a, you know, kind of afterthought.

But, still, using "Time's" criteria for better or worse, she had a great impact this past year, the entire year. She lost some of her candidates. She won some of her candidates.

The poor moose she shot. I mean, there's an impact for you, but I think that people like Sarah Palin, to me, are ones that really move -- great movements of this country.

KING: She commanded attention in our national politics like no one else, a singular figure. Love her or not. She was a dominant player in the Tea Party Movement. She was a dominant player in the campaign this year. Piers Morgan, when you come across the pond to our style of politics, Sarah Palin stands out why?

MORGAN: Well, she's a mesmerizing character on television and television is now the most powerful medium outside of the internet for any politician. If you chart back really the empowerment of the internet to the public, look no further than Barack Obama's campaign.

One of the main reasons he got elected was his very, very clever strategy of hooking in millions of young people through the internet and making them feel part of his campaign. Now, I think since then Sarah Palin's look to this and thought that's a great idea. She tweets all the time.

She's on Facebook with millions of people as her friends, if you like. She's driving a movement through, again, the prism of social networking and recognizing that if she can talk and communicate to people in a simple effective manner through the social networking sites, she's going to get votes.

And it's become a very powerful tool not just for politicians but also I think for celebrities in terms of their commercial endorsements, in terms of plotting their shows, their film, whatever it may be. We are now in a world where publicists and managers and agents are going to go out of business because everyone can take charge of their own affairs and talk to their huge fan base.

Paris Hilton today for example tweeted me. She has three and a half million followers. Now, she wants to get a free handbag, she just has to say, I like this handbag. Suddenly, she gets one.

KING: You see what you're missing, Sam? You see what you're missing Paris Hilton cannot tweet you.

DONALDSON: Well, she might be able to tweet me. I have not met her. Piers has a point there, but if everyone is a conversationalist and we are too. We say hello to people and our friends and what have you.

But how are you going to have a television show like Piers is going to do? How are you going to tune in and say, I want to watch somebody who really knows how to carry on a conversation with someone interesting, if what you're doing is carrying on conversations with people who are not that interesting really, and you're talking about things that are not important?

MORGAN: Here's the thing, Sam. You raise a good point there. When my show starts in mid-January, I very much want to use the power of Twitter and Facebook to get people to send in suggestions for questions.

I want to see their observations after an interview. Maybe even during an interview. Maybe in the middle of an interview, I can say, you just said something really interesting and it's electrified the country because I'm getting thousands of Twitterers coming on with their tweets who want to know this.

And that will be quite dramatic television. I would know absolutely that I'm putting the question to this person --

DONALDSON: So you become the traffic cop --

MORGAN: Well, to a certain degree, but also what you're doing is you're being very inclusive to your audience and very interactive with them.

I think we're in an era now, particularly in television, where if you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to do what Sarah Palin's doing politically and what Barack Obama did in his election campaign.

You've got to get inclusive with your audience and you have to engage with them and interact with them. If you crack that, you can have a very successful show.

KING: It's a key point, Piers about, look, the revolution, the technology revolution is happening whether we like it or not. You covered the White House in the days pre-cable and covered the White House in the days post cable and it changed the world.

That was a communications revolution. The social networks, Facebook, et al, are part of the same revolution whether we like it or not the world is changing and we adapt to it. You're right, a lot of the comments you get are inane.

But every now and then, you see a mass communication from people of different stripes asking the same question or raising the same concern. You say, aha, this one has gravitas out there.

DONALDSON: That's right, but if everyone is playing, then who's leading? If everyone says, well, I can participate and ask all the questions as well as everybody else, and I can weigh in, then where is leadership?

Why do we have the same thing that Piers has been talking about or all of us have been talking about, for the presidency? Instead of a president having a group of advisers, who have expertise in certain areas, yes, he keeps his finger to the wind to see what the public pulse is like, but he's supposed to lead.

We have just simply -- everyone, call right in, tell me what you think. I think that would be disastrous, to tell you the truth.

MORGAN: Sam, I don't agree with that because I don't think you are abrogating leadership. I think you can lead through the prism of your own social networking platform. Sarah Palin is a great example of somebody who's doing that right now.

She's not being accused of lack of leadership. Quite the contrary, she is leading from the front, but she is using those platforms I think in a highly effective way to increase her core votes.

And so I think it's down to the individuals, whether you're a celebrity, politician, you know, member of the royal family, whoever it -- Buckingham Palace now tweets because they've realized they can actually get right to the audience they want to get to in a very quick and effective way, and it doesn't cost much money, it's free.

DONALDSON: I'll agree that we're not going to go back. I don't want to go back to an era -- I don't want to stand in the way -- couldn't stand if I wanted to, of technology and the progress.

Everyone does get to participate, but I simply worry - the internet has made this possible whether you call it Facebook or what have you. I simply worry that people who want to participate don't come with any facts. They don't come -- they come with an opinion based on what?

Well, it's nice that people who got started in India, the one legislator, the idea that President Obama was spending $200 million a day on that trip in Asia, nonsense. Yet it went around the blogosphere --

KING: Until we did our job and said not true.

DONALDSON: Does a lie ever get caught up with all the way around? KING: That is a question to deal with as we go forward. All right, we'll end the conversation there. You raise a good point about our job and our responsibility. While we listen to everybody, we still have to have our own threshold of credibility --

DONALDSON: When I watch Piers - when he starts his new show and I know something about him, although we've never met. He prepares for an interview. He knows the subject, and he knows the things that maybe people will want to know.

I want him to ask the questions. I don't want some -- ten yo- yos out there who have never met this person and don't know anything, call in and say what do they like for breakfast?

MORGAN: Sam, I will be the chief yo-yo man, don't you worry.

DONALDSON: Piers, you're a great guy.

KING: Sam, it's great to see you, my old friend. Piers is our new friend and Piers will listen to all those tweets and posts on Facebook and then use his judgment as well to make it all work.

MORGAN: I'll lead from the front.

KING: Starting right here in January. Piers, thanks for joining us and Sam as well.

When we come back, we'll check today's top headlines and also check in on the president's big meeting today called 20 CEOs. They haven't always had good relations with this White House. We'll see how the meeting went today when we come back.


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

JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: John, a former member of Gayana's parliament will spend the rest of his days behind bars. That's the sentence for Abdul Kadir. He was convicted of plotting to blow up fuel tanks at JFK International Airport in New York.

President Obama's former right hand man looks like he may be the man to beat in Chicago's mayoral race. A Chicago Tribune WGN poll puts former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel far ahead of his rivals. But Emanuel is fighting legal challenges asserting he does not meet the residency requirement to run.

And do your dental fillings contain mercury? An advisory panel is recommending the FDA look more closely into the safety of fillings that have a mixture of metals and mercury, especially in children and pregnant woman. It's concerned about possible medical problems. You know, I can remember when just the cavities were the issue, now it's the fillings too.

KING: Now it's everything that's in them I guess. JONES: Unbelievable.

KING: I could joke about the Sam Adams last time. I got -- that's a tougher one.

JONES: I'm going to the dentist.

KING: That's the best person to ask, ask your dentist. Good advice. You're good at that.

JONES: Yes, consumer. News you can use.

KING: When we come back, the president meets with CEOs. They haven't always been happy. What happened today?


KING: There's been a constant refrain from Wall Street and the business community these past two years. It was something like this. The Obama white house doesn't get us. Well, the president rejects that characterization, but is of late trying to build better bridges to the corporate world including a big White House meeting today with a group of 20 CEOs.

Among those on hand, the chairman and CEO of Honeywell, David Cote who's joining us from the White House. Mr. Cote, thanks for your time. Let's get right to that point. Why do we hear so often when we talk to people in your position around corporate America, CEOs, say, these guys don't get us?

DAVID COTE, CEO, HONEYWELL: Yes, well, first of all, we've come through an extremely tough time. It's the worst recession in 80 years and it's an interesting phenomenon I think of politics it seems is the president avoided a depression.

The work that he did, everything he drove, the initiatives he drove, we avoided a depression, but in politics, and I think probably in the business community, you get zero credit for the problem you avoided. All that being said, we had a bad recession and that bad recession, it strains relationships everywhere.

When you go to that tough time, it strains relationships everywhere. We had a strained relationship. If you're going to move forward, somebody needs to say let's start over. I think the president did a really nice job of that today, being able to say, look if we're going to be successful if we're going to have America the most com competitive country in the world, business and government needs to work together.

Business is the -- government is the enabler for business to be successful. I thought this was just a great way to start.

KING: Well, let's look at the next steps then. I travelled to all 50 states last year. One complaint I heard from mom and pop small businesses to CEOs of big companies like yours was about this uncertainty in the tax code. Now you have this plan make its way through the Congress that's only a two year extension, but at least you have two years of certainty now. The president said at the beginning of the meeting this morning he is convinced that is what will get some of the money out of the bank, if you will, and on to street in new hiring, factory expansions. Will you hire people, will you expand the factory because of this tax cut compromise?

COTE: Well, we've actually already started hiring. If you take a look at about the last six months, we've been a net hirer in the U.S. The tax deal that was just struck, I'm fully supportive of. I think especially given when we are in the recovery, you don't want to be taking a chance on something like that.

However, we need to recognize that given the significance of the national debt that we're accumulating, which, by the way, will be $20 trillion in the year 2020, this is, while the right time compromise, short term, is absolutely the wrong type of compromise long term because what both sides were able to agree to is less taxes and more spending, which is exactly how we get here.

KING: So did you have a Democratic president in the room today who gave you a commitment on that dead issue?

COTE: He recognizes there's only two variable, taxes and spending. Most likely, both of those are going to have to be touched and I would also say even within the Democrat Party, there are a lot of politicians in there who understand this and recognize the issue.

And that if we want to be the most competitive country on earth, we have to solve this issue and it's going to get solved one of two ways. We can do it ourselves, thoughtfully and proactively, or we can let the bond market decide to do it and that will happen at some point.

KING: One of the knocks on the administration, as you well know, is there's nobody like you in the administration. Sometimes there's a CEO who's the treasury secretary or the commerce secretary or somebody close inside the White House.

Did anyone say to the president, Mr. President, you need to reach out to us, not just in a meeting like this, but where are we, where are we on your team?

COTE: No, not really. It wasn't a point of contention and it's never been an issue with me either. I've always felt kind of that business focus is more a state of mind than having one of your 20 people be a business guy.

I don't think that is critical as the state of mind that says recognizing the business is a source of productivity, source of standard of living for the country, and a competitive dynamic business environment is essential for our competitiveness in the world. I thought that came across very clearly today.

KING: Based on your experience, if you ran your business like Washington does its business, what would happen to you?

COTE: Well, I'd say they are two very different systems.

KING: But should they be?

COTE: Yes, they need to be because in one you want sustainability over centuries. What you give up is speed of response, but you get that sustainability. With companies, I think you want something different. You want guys like me being able to take chances and say, I'll make a decision, I'll move forward, but I can go bankrupt.

There are people like me that go bankrupt all the time. We're not big enough to impact the system and the system moves on. But when you're talking about sustainability, the overall system, you need to have something that three centuries from now will still be working.

I would say though, one of my observations being on the fiscal commission, is that sometimes in a system like that people can start to rebel in their pluralism instead of realizing that there are times you have to have collective purpose, that you need to pull together.

To me, this is one of those times whether it's how we shift the economy, how we solve the national debt, how we get business and government working together better. This is one of those times, where we need to start working together and not pulling apart.

KING: David Cote, appreciate your time today.

COTE: Happy to do it, John.

KING: Let's get the administration's perspective now. Valerie Jarrett is a senior White House adviser and the president's liason to the business community.

Valerie, going into the meeting, the president said he hoped to get these companies and others like them to take all that cash they have on the sidelines and invest it, expand factories, create jobs.

The president left meeting saying he thought that would happen. Is it just a hope or did he get specific commitments today?

VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think that what we heard around the room is that every CEO represented has the same goal in mind and the collaboration was around what do we do to make sure we foster the kind of environment here in the United States where, number one, our companies want to invest and grow and create jobs and, number two, where we can enable them to compete on the global marketplace?

Every one of those companies is fighting every day to make sure we're winning here in the United States and the president's message is he's behind them because he wants them to win. When they win, America wins. When America wins, that's just what's good for our country and that's what the president's all about.

KING: You know this as well as anyone because you're often on the receiving end of the complaints. There have been a lot of complaints. Some of it from Wall Street, some of it from CEOs across corporate America and you've heard it before, Intel.

The Intel CEO, Paul Otellini said at this at the Aspen Forum, I think this group does not understand what it takes to create jobs. The most hostile administration to business that we've had in decades, I know you reject that, but after this meeting, do you have peace?

JARRETT: I think what we have is a working relationship going forward. Paul Otellini was with us today and offered very constructive comments for how we can move forward together. We have far more in common than we have differences.

That doesn't mean we're going to always agree, but I think what we heard around the table, let's work together, let's find that common ground. We do have the same interests and that we want to grow the economy.

We want America to be strong. We want us to be able to compete globally. Let's face it, we inherit add terrible economic crisis. I think every CEO who was there today said the country is in a lot better shape today than it was two years ago.

KING: The president's biggest ask was to get a lot of these big companies to take some money off the books and put it into investing and new hiring, new jobs, new factory expansion.

What about the other way around? What was the biggest ask of the president? What did they say, Mr. President, you can help us do that if you help us do what?

JARRETT: Well, I think many of them are looking for certainty because that's what will create - when they have certainty and people feel comfortable, the demand will follow. I think what we heard around the table is people are beginning to feel better. The roundtable released the survey yesterday that showed their membership made of our largest corporations in the country, many of them intend to hire. Many of them invest in capital projects they had on the hold for a long time. Many of them intend to expand and they all intend to compete.

KING: And one of the questions the CEOs have and let me ask this, did the president commit to them? Will you commit to the American people that when he does the state of the union, when he puts forward his budget next year that he won't just talk about it, that he will put before the American people and the divided Congress the tough choices? Big spending cuts, maybe raising the social security retirement age, other entitlement changes, is the president going to be very specific in challenging the country, it's time to deal with the debt?

JARRETT: Well, yes, the president is most definitely committed to taking on the issue of bringing down the debt. I'm not going to telegraph to you what will be in his state of the union. What he did say, though, is his focus for our country moving forward over the next two years is to grow our economy, bring down the deficit, he wants to support our companies as they grow in the global marketplace.

KING: Valerie Jarrett, I appreciate your time today.

JARRETT: You're welcome, John. See you soon.

Where do Americans rate members of Congress compared to, say, TV reporters? Pete Dominick out on the street when we come back.


KING: OK, so set the Christmas list aside for a second and build a new list. Who do you trust? Would Congress be on it? How about that one, Pete Dominick?

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: No, that wouldn't be on it. Congress' approval rating matches the actual temperature outside here in New York, John King, 9 percent, 9 degrees.

But you know who people do trust? Nurses. New Gallup poll, John King, we could put it up here, 81 percent nurses get approval rating. Grade school teacher, look at that 67 percent. TV reporters, 23 percent. John King, why no offbeat reporter approval rating?

KING: We'll get Gallup to ask that next year.

DOMINICK: And then finally lobbyists, poor lobbyist, they have a 7 percent approval rating, John King, but let's focus on Congress. Why is it, John, there's another chart we have -- and I'm just guessing if you look at this chart, Americans approved of Congress the most in the mid to late '90s.

I'm guessing, you know this better than I do, John King. I'm guessing this chart has to do with employment rates. If Americans have jobs, Congress gets approved of. Yes or no?

KING: You're an excellent analyst. That's why you have that famous radio program, in addition to everything else. In good economic times, people like the politicians. In bad economic times, they become part of the whipping. Pete Dominick, get inside, get warm, my friend.

DOMINICK: You got it, sir.

KING: We'll just see you right here tomorrow night. That's all for us. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.