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JOHN KING, USA
Cairo Protests; Do-it-Yourself Revolution; Republican Candidates
Aired February 8, 2011 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Dramatic news tonight from Egypt where pro-democracy forces turn out in greater force, the largest crowd to date in Cairo's Liberation Square.
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UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE)
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KING: And for the first time the protests spread to Egypt's Parliament building.
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KING: The Obama White House sent an urgent message too. Vice President Biden called his counterpart in Egypt and I'm told tonight the vice president of the United States complained the Mubarak regime is not moving fast enough to implement democratic reforms. In a bit some important political news too but let's get straight to the Egypt political crisis.
This man has a lot to do with giving a fresh jolt to the pro- democracy movement. Wael Ghonim is an executive who was helping the protesters organize online until his arrest two weeks ago. Fresh from jail he was in Tahrir Square today vowing to fight on.
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WAEL GHONIM, FREED GOOGLE EXECUTIVE (through translator): You have a voice in this country. This is not the time for conflicting ideas or factions or ideologies, this is the time for us to say one thing only, Egypt is above all else (ph).
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KING: CNN's Ben Wedeman also was out in the streets on this remarkable day and Ben joins us live and Ben, you could see the new energy on the streets today. You were there. Tell us about this remarkable day.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, you could see the energy and you could see the numbers. I haven't seen numbers like this yet. We saw just as all day long of a -- dozens of people every minute passing through the various entrances to Tahrir Square. Some of them were motivated by what they saw.
This interview, (INAUDIBLE) one of the Egyptian satellite channels, very emotional but it made an important point for some people who would have only been watching state TV that the people in the protest movement are not as state TV is suggesting some sort of foreign elements financed by the United States or supported by Israel or Hamas or Hezbollah. What they saw was a young, eloquent Egyptian man making a case for change in Egypt -- John.
KING: And, Ben, I want to listen to one of the women you spoke to, Azza Al Mahi. She was down there and you were asking her about that point. That state TV is saying these are outsiders stirring this up. This is not an indigenous Egyptian revolution. Let's listen to her and then I'll have a question on the other side.
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AZZA AL MAHI, PROTESTER: It's over. There's no America. There's no Hezbollah. It's his fault. What we are in is his fault. It's not due to the Americans. It's not due to Hezbollah. It's due to him. He has to understand that.
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KING: Angry about him, him being President Hosni Mubarak. The question is, Ben, will this new energy bring new force to the pro- democracy movement, new pressure on the government to do more?
WEDEMAN: Certainly, I mean, the expectation is that there's going to be another large demonstration on Friday and certainly if this movement is picking up new momentum that could really be the case. I mean what we're seeing is that what I saw today, for instance, was -- that was interesting was celebrities, Egyptian TV celebrities are starting to come to the other side to show up at the protests. These are people who for years sort of towed the government line praising President Mubarak, so it seems that there's a gradual seepage from the elite that was very closely identified with Mubarak now going over to the protest movement.
KING: Critical thing to watch. Our Ben Wedeman for us live in Cairo. Ben, appreciate all your fascinating work. Keep it up. Let's take a look now -- give you a closer look at exactly what Ben was talking about. First here's Tahrir Square. You've seen that.
I'm going to come a little bit closer to it here. We'll come on in and you've seen this before, obviously. This is where most of the demonstrations have been. Today they float up this way a little bit and here's one thing we did see in the sign, obviously you just heard that woman saying that it's Mubarak's fault, not anyone outside, but there still is some frustration with the United States. It's our decision not yours. Some in the square think the United States is perhaps meddling in their business. That's one thing to see. Let's also show you what Ben was talking about, the largest crowds ever and Ben has been there from the beginning. Let's play out a little bit.
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KING: Remarkable energy. You can see it right there in the square. Now this is Tahrir or Liberation Square. That's where this has played out for two weeks now, but over here you see highlighted this is the people's assembly of Egypt, the Parliament building, the Parliament building. For the first time the protesters made it a few blocks to the northeast and they gathered here as well. Here's an amateur video. This is on a cell phone so it's a little grainy but you get a sense of it.
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KING: Anti-government chants there outside the Parliament building. If you were with us last night you met Sherief Gaber. He was with us. He was describing -- you could still see his black eye -- how had been out there and part of the protest, beaten at times. Well today he was with a jubilant crowd outside that Parliament building and we spoke to him on the phone.
SHERIEF GABER, EGYTIAN-AMERICAN GRADUATE STUDENT (via phone): The scene is just absolutely just exuberant here. There is at this point probably around 1,000, a little more here. I think some of the people may have gone back to Tahrir, but it looks like this group is here to stay. There are tents already up. People brought food and blankets in. They've hung a sign on the gates of the Parliament saying "apology is closed until the fall of the regime." And I think this is just significant because they've managed to dissenter (ph) the kind of protest and the occupation of the city. They've expanded the territory, the protesters and I think this is a significant also statement about the, you know lack of any faith in the entire kind of establishment and (INAUDIBLE) not just the president.
KING: And so is that the source of the new energy that we're seeing, the crowd you have there, the largest crowd to date in Tahrir Square. Is it a lack of trust, a lack of faith? How much would you attribute to the dramatic statements made by Wael Ghonim since he's been released from prison?
GABER: I think that was a huge, huge impact. My cousin, for instance, who hasn't been out to any of the demonstrations today, I bumped into him in Tahrir Square earlier. He's seen the interview. A lot of the people I have spoken with have seen the interview. I think Wael Ghonim, I mean just lit a fire under so many people who had maybe been under the kind of impression that this was something other than what it was and that the government was something other than it was and, you know, when the crowd did move out, everyone was excited.
There was no -- I mean there wasn't even kind of any anger or rage I think which was just like, just pure excitement and, you know, it was led by a bunch of young ultra like supporters of the football clubs blowing whistles and marching and chanting in formation and it was fantastic, yes.
KING: The vice president of Egypt today said one of the reasons this transition needs time, he says the country is not ready for democracy right away. How is that going to play among the people you're standing with there outside the Parliament building?
GABER: Well, you know, we've already heard chants today, some of the chants I hadn't heard them before, you know they're saying, where is the -- where is national --
GABER: -- you know where is the government? Where is the government? I think that the people here are already kind of have created some sort of democracy of their own right now. They don't need or don't want the support of the vice president. They don't want to hear what he has to say and they don't care you know about the kind of transition democracy we've been hearing from the American government. They believe they're ready now and they have not shown anything but that.
KING: That was Sherief Gaber in the protest earlier today, so does large crowds mean new challenges for the Egyptian government and also perhaps a new assessment from the American government. Let's get some insights now from our senior analyst David Gergen. He joins us from Boston.
And David, when you see these crowds back in the street today, one of the questions in Washington and many believe the calculation of President Mubarak was that the steam would run out here. Instead today we see record crowds. Where do we go now?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, John. These crowds and especially the fact that we have this fellow from Google, Mr. Ghonim who has given a face, a very appealing charismatic face to these protests around the world I think are putting enormous pressure on the government in Washington to get this -- to speed this transition up and to make sure it's real, just at the very time we're seeing all these crowd, of course, there's been this resistance on the part of the government.
There is a sense in which people feel on the streets that they're being tricked that the government really isn't -- Suleiman is not prepared to turn over. He's not prepared -- there has got to be something concrete from this government very soon, this week, the next few days that shows they're sincere about transferring power otherwise We're going to have an explosion in Cairo and through much of Egypt so there's enormous pressure on the U.S. government to put pressure on the Army in Egypt and on the government, to get things done and get them done quickly.
KING: And yet, David, Secretary Gates today was very complimentary of the Army saying it has behaved very responsibly. And I think that is by and large a fair statement. But you get the sense when you talk to other senior officials in the U.S. government that they worry perhaps they're getting tricked too. You talked about the demonstrators perhaps thinking they're tricked. Vice President Biden called Vice President Suleiman today.
And the United States was initially very happy when Vice President Suleiman was appointed by President Mubarak, but the official read-out of the vice president's call, just about every sentence was must promptly, must promptly, must immediately, must promptly, must immediately, that was the public and privately when you talk to people they say the vice president was somewhat exasperated. They're worried the Mubarak administration is going to drag its feet and try to sap the energy out of those crowds.
GERGEN: Absolutely. John, there is a distinction to be made insiders tell me between the Egyptian Army and the regime, the government. The U.S. continues to have great respect for the Army. It is an institution that believes in stability and there's some sense that the Army would be -- will happily live with a more democratic government. But it's the government that's really dragging its feet and there is a real question whether the government is lying to the United States.
Whether, in fact, the people around Mubarak are just trying to string this thing out, let a momentum go out of it and try to get the upper hand and no wonder there's a great frustration on the part of the Americans, but they -- the American government is also under pressure from a lot of friends in Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Israel and beyond to stick to the line of, we want an orderly transition. The U.S. government is in conflict with people in the street. It is not asking Mubarak to leave right now and the people in the streets want that.
KING: And you have been somewhat critical saying at least the president may have been speaking too frequently, but if you continue to get these crowds and if the Egyptian government will not move more quickly, does the president of the United States then have a moral obligation to be more public and more forceful?
GERGEN: I think, John, where the president needs to speak periodically is about large principles, what the United States -- the United States commitment to a democratic Egypt, to a free Egypt. But I think what he does not want to do is to get into micro management day-to-day and kibitzing from the sidelines because as we've seen, this takes on a new face. Every day something in Cairo takes on a new face, and the United States is not the micro manager for this. In fact we ought to be working with other nations behind the scene but state general principles of what we believe in and show the crowd that we really do want a democratic Egypt. We're just looking for a safe way to get there.
KING: David Gergen, as always, appreciate it. David, we'll keep in touch.
GERGEN: Thank you, John.
KING: Thank you. And when we come back, who is this Google executive and just how important is he and social media helping fuel this revolution? We'll take you up close when we come back.
KING: The prominence of this Google executive, Wael Ghonim, who has been freed now and the use of social media is generating a big debate about how powerful the social media is in this revolution. Just in Egypt, Facebook has five million total users; one million of them use Facebook on their mobile devices. This is important. Since the unrest began, 32,000 new Egyptian groups have been formed on Facebook and 14,000 new individual pages have been formed on Facebook. That's one way to look at it.
Here is the particular Facebook page Mr. Ghonim was using and you see here -- here's a picture of him right here with someone here and it goes through a listing talking about organizing the protest and his feelings about the Mubarak government and how it needs to go. You see the Egyptian uprising, graphic there. He also has been a very frequent commentator on Twitter including when you don't see anything but a black scene for 12 days you keep praying those outside will remember you -- that was about his time in jail.
He is free now, of course. And we do know that since the government turned the Internet back on over the weekend we've showed you this from days -- a couple of days before -- I want to show you this. This is before. There's around his arrest. Then you see the flat line. That's when the government was blocking Internet access. And now we have had four days in a row where Internet use is now higher in Egypt than it was before the demonstrations began.
That's one important thing to look at. Now who is Wael Ghonim? Let's look at him here. Google marketing executive -- he's based in Dubai but he is Egyptian -- kidnapped is the term he used for when he was arrested by security forces on January 28th. "The New York Times" has reported that he has worked with Mohamed ElBaradei, the former U.N. official now in Egypt helping stir up the protests as a technology consultant and he also has become a youth movement spokesman.
How important was he and what is happening on the ground right now? Well I had a conversation a bit earlier today with an American student and teacher in Cairo, Hunter Moore and a woman who was -- used to live in the United States. She's Egyptian as well. She's been in Cairo now since the late 1990s, Maha Abouelenein.
MAHA ABOUELENEIN, EGYPTIAN-AMERICAN LIVING IN CAIRO: I think we're calling it a name factor. He had an emotional story that I think moved everybody. I talked to a lot of people today who -- kids that wanted to go out there to protest and the parents said, hang on a second, I'm coming with you and so I think he put a voice to a feeling that we all have been feeling in the recent time.
KING: Hunter, we spoke last week. You were down in the square using your first aid skills to treat some of the people who had been hurt. Do you get that same sense? Do you feel a new energy?
HUNTER MOORE, CNN IREPORTER: Yes, I do and I'm honestly just thankful that there's been a lot less violence in the past few days. It's been nicer at the clinics.
KING: Nicer, you say less violence. When I talked to you last time you said as an American down there right in the thick of it you felt safe. Do you still feel that way or do you feel at all threatened?
MOORE: No, I still feel safe in the square. It's been -- the checkpoints have gotten easier over the past day or two as well. There's a lot more people down there, but definitely within the square I feel very safe.
KING: And Maha, one of the big questions is what comes of all this energy?
ABOUELENEIN: Well, I think it's interesting that we Egyptians have been accused of being complacent and that we're not politically active and I think this movement is going to take time. I don't think it's going to happen overnight. I think people understand that now they have a chance to participate in their communities and in their government.
I think the political process is going to have to, you know, work organically. I think the protesting is going to be something that's part of the Egyptian culture now. I think the democracy system is going to start to evolve but it is going to take time. I think people that think it's going to happen overnight are wrong.
KING: And many of the demonstrators say President Mubarak has to go now, right now. Are you OK if he stays a while as long as you're getting a transformation toward a democracy?
ABOUELENEIN: I think the question is not really what I think about what's going to happen. I think it's what's happening behind closed doors that we don't know about it. We know there is a lot of discussions with the opposition with the government. That is something that everyone is watching very closely to see what's going to happen. It's not about Mubarak.
It's about being pro-democracy; you know having a pro-democracy movement. You know, even on Twitter and talking to friends we're like it isn't an anti-Mubarak thing. It's a pro-democracy thing. How can we move Egypt forward and how can we really make a difference in kind of taking advantage of the opportunity and events that we're living through today.
KING: And Hunter, we have seen some more signs in the square today venting frustration at U.S. policy and that President Obama, there seems to still be a debate on the street among the demonstrators, the pro-democracy protesters as to whether President Obama truly stands with them or if he's trying to split the difference somehow. Do you get that sense?
MOORE: Yes, I think there's just -- there's a lot of distrust just kind of flying in all sorts of directions right now as far as from what I'm seeing down there and people are just wary of the U.S. government as to whether or not they're on the side of the regime or on the side of the people.
KING: And you heard Maha say these things are going to take time. Do you think that the majority of those you've been with down in the square and your friends there, do they share that? Are they patient enough or do they think you know what these guys in the current regime have to go now?
MOORE: There is a mix of opinions. I think -- I've heard a lot of people that really want him to leave immediately and then others are very much for him kind of staying in power, transitioning power, delegating certain powers in specific areas and (INAUDIBLE) opinions -- it's just a mix of opinions.
KING: And Mahi, what would you like to see from the president of the United States? Are you satisfied with his public statements and the administration's public statements or do you think that they're trying to split the difference here?
ABOUELENEIN: Well I think there's two things going on, John. In the beginning of this whole incident, the uprising is everyone was really looking for the United States to have a say and to tell us to help like Egypt and to help move this forward, this process. But now that has changed dramatically. People do not really -- people I've talked to, nobody is really thinking about what the move the U.S. is making.
You know, some people say, well, this is a regime that the United States supported for a long time and some people are saying really if you really want to help us, help us get through this. Help us get to the democracy we want to be. Help us realize the potential we know we're capable of being and so I mean to be honest, down there in Tahrir Square, nobody is thinking of the United States right now.
KING: Much more on the Egypt uprising to come. But when we come back, we'll turn to domestic politics. Some important news today including the Republicans' search for a leader for 2012 and some question the party's message as the House Republican majority gets off to its (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's got to be an activity in commerce. This is not a --
KING: You're looking at a live picture there of Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah speaking at an event here in Washington, and an interesting event it is. That's a live picture, a Tea Party Express town hall right here in Washington. Senator Hatch could face some Tea Party opposition in his home state of Utah come 2012.
Back to that event and its importance in just a minute but let's first deal with some other pressing political issues and with us our CNN contributor Erick Erickson, editor of RedState.com, here with me in studio Cornell Belcher, Democratic pollster and our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Three hundred and sixty-three days to the Iowa caucuses. I know every American is counting down the days on their calendar.
It is important and it is interesting that we don't have any declared Republican candidates yet, but CNN has new polling out today. Who are -- this is polling of only Republicans now -- who do Republicans want to be their presidential nominee in 2012? Let's show you the list. Mike Huckabee leads with 21 percent, Sarah Palin 19 percent, Mitt Romney 18 percent, the former speaker, Newt Gingrich at 10 percent, and then you see Ron Paul, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum running down into the single digits.
Now here's an interesting question, Erick Erickson, before we get to you first on this one. Do Republicans prefer a nominee who agrees with you on the issues or can beat Barack Obama? Sixty-eight percent, 68 percent in our poll say they want someone who can beat Barack Obama, but that is a poll of Republicans nationally. Is that how it will play out in Iowa, in South Carolina? In New Hampshire Independents can vote, but it's only Republicans in Iowa, in South Carolina. Will that be a more ideological based vote not so much who can beat the president?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think you'll see much more ideologically based votes in the caucuses, for example, in the Iowa caucus who can generate enough excitement to actually get people there to the caucuses. In the primary, non-caucus states I think you'll probably see more who can beat Barack Obama and they'll balance each other out along the way. By the time you get to South Carolina, I think we'll have something to shape up. I feel sorry for Mike Huckabee because if we look at the poll from 2000 and from 2008, the guy who was at the top of that poll didn't become the nominee.
KING: There you go, there's a ringing endorsement. Hang on. I want you to come in the conversation, but one more thing. I spoke to Lindsey Graham, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina which comes up third, Iowa caucus, New Hampshire primary, South Carolina primary. Often the South Carolina primary is decisive. So he is a Republican. He is a close friend of John McCain's so he was taken last time you might say. I asked Lindsey Graham who is your horse?
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm for the most conservative person who is electable. We're going to have --
KING: That would be who?
GRAHAM: Well I don't know yet. That's -- you're good at your job. I really don't know. You know Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina tell a story of the Republican primary world. Iowa is a caucus state. New Hampshire is sort of a purple primary. South Carolina is a conservative state, but you have a lot of people coming into the primary. Conservatism sells. It's a center right nation, but the nominee for the party is going to have to win the independent voter at the end of the day.
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KING: Everybody in Washington, Cornell, is focused on thy middle. That's not how primaries tend to work out, but everybody --
KING: Everybody wants to think about the general election, but that's not how primaries go.
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: No, not at all. You have to -- and the Republican primary this time around -- by the way, I'm glad I'm not involved in the primary this time around -- the Republican primary this time around --
BELCHER: -- is going to be really fascinating because I think if you look at what the Tea Party has done through the primary process this year and you look at sort of what are they going to do the next time around and you got to look at sort of guys like Romney and Pawlenty, guys who are fairly moderate and you would think that they would play well in the general election, I don't think they're going to play all that well in the Republican primaries and in the caucuses when you have the most sort of rabid, sort of you know far right conservatives who I think show up for caucuses in Iowa, so I think that's a problem. Also the other thing is Palin, we talk a lot about Palin, sort of how her numbers are diving nationally in your poll (INAUDIBLE) favorable among Republicans she is a force in the Republican primary.
KING: Republican primary --
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The other thing that's interesting about this poll is if you look deeper in the poll, the people who are doing the best, not surprisingly are the best known. And there are a lot of Republicans who we did poll on this who did poorly, but people just don't know a lot about them, even Republicans, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, people like that. Erick talked about Mike Huckabee.
I remember traipsing after Mike Huckabee in November, December of 2007, nobody knew who he was nationally but he was making a name for himself in Iowa and boom, he won the Iowa caucuses, so it's early. It's a little bit of popularity and a well-known contest right now but you never know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really quickly --
ERICKSON: You know I'm not sure that I know the guy on the list we've gone through, I'm not necessarily sure that the nominee is even on that list yet.
KING: I think that's a valid point. Ambassador Huntsman who may run is not on this list. Jeb Bush again is saying he's not interested --
KING: -- not interested, not interested. I'm still not sure. I haven't seen that poured in cement just yet.
BELCHER: But I do think they do run into sort of a wall here especially for the guys like Romney can get in late. Palin can get in late.
BELCHER: But if you're like you know Governor Barbour or Pawlenty you've got to get in early and sort of build that infrastructure and start raising that money -- that money that you know Romney can turn it on. Palin can turn it on. Those other guys can't turn it on --
BASH: But you know you never know what kind of year it's going to be. You never know --
KING: We don't know and that's one of the reasons I think people are waiting. Is this Tea Party thing for real? How will Obama do this year? And how will that affect the political climate next year?
I want to move on. Capitol Hill, the Democrats are saying just about every second the new Republican majority in the House, why aren't you focusing on jobs? And one thing they are. This is the second bill, I think, they've moved on to anti-abortion bill. It is called the no taxpayer funding abortion act. It prohibits funds for any abortion, federal funds for insurance plans that cover abortions, tax benefits for money spent on abortion and it would take away tax benefits for any insurance plan that covers abortions. Now, this has been as always, it's an emotional debate. I want you to listen to little snippets of sound today. First a Republican who supports it, then a Democrat who says, bad idea.
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REP. TRENT FRANKS (R) ARIZONA: We are beginning to realize, as Americans, that somehow we are bigger than abortion on demand, and that 50 million dead children is enough.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA: While the Republicans don't seem to have a jobs agenda, they do have a decidedly anti-woman agenda.
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KING: This is the narrative the Democrats want to play out. No job, no jobs, no jobs. Are the Republicans concerned that this -- this is an issue they firmly believe in, there is no question about it. They believe in it, they have every right to bring it to a vote. But that tonally, they criticize the Democrats so much, why are you doing health care, Mr. President, when we have 9 percent unemployment, 10 percent unemployment. The Republicans privately say are we doing this in the right order?
BASH: There are some Republicans who say that, there is no question about it. But first of all, we don't know when this is going to come to the House floor. It's probably not going to happen in the near future. Second of all, what the Republican leadership argues is that you are going to see so much debate, we already are, about spending and about the economy. Maybe not necessarily jobs, which is a good question, not so far, that that is going to kind of drown out this issue. But I interviewed Congressman Franks today and his whole argument, which is not that different from many other Republicans and some Democrats is that it is nationally it is popular to oppose federal funding for abortion. They are going further in how they do it though with specifics.
BELCHER: Well, let me jump in. It's funny how history keeps repeating itself. I mean they're giving us this opening, this sort of go after and sort of say, look, you're not focused on jobs. And what was the number one issue? Job, economy, deficit. It gives us an automatic opening to go on the attack all this week, to say, look, you're not focused on jobs. They keep making the same mistakes over and over again. History keeps repeating itself.
KING: Erick, help your friends. It is a somewhat more difficult one for the Republicans because the Democrats did prefer government intervention, whether it's the stimulus bill, or others and the Republican philosophical position is let the free market create jobs, and we will do things to get the government out of the way. But that is a tougher message to sell.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It very much is. I think you'll see a lot of Republicans focusing on regulatory issues and spending cuts in government cutting down the bureaucracy. And they'll do that in tandem with these other issues.
It is very much a harder position for Republicans to say, government doesn't create jobs, the free market does. But ultimately, I think, they'll be able to find a winning message there in getting government out of the way, where when you look at a lot of internals of polling these days, people still feel like government is in the way and preventing jobs from being created.
KING: Erick, Cornell and Dana will be with us in a bit. But when we come back from break we're going to check in on the latest headlines in Egypt. And we'll talk to Congresswoman Jane Harman, Democrat of California, who says the United States government was caught off guard by the unrest spreading in the Middle East.
KING: If you're just joining us here's what you need to know right now, about the crisis in Egypt. On the 15th day of anti- government demonstrations Cairo saw its largest crowds yet. Tens of thousands turned out, in part to cheer the Google executive, newly freed from government custody.
KING: Tonight, protesters are outside Egypt's parliament building, which an eyewitness tells us is being guarded by the army.
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It looks like this group is here to stay. There are tents already up. People have brought food and blankets in. They've hung a sign on the gates of the parliament saying apologies closed until the fall of the regime.
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KING: Let's get some perspective from our CNN International Anchor and Correspondent Hala Gorani in Cairo.
Hala, larger crowds in the street today and the perception on the streets, and certainly the perception in the Obama administration, is that the Mubarak regime is trying to run out the clock.
HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is not just a perception, as you said from the Obama administration, but also from people we speak with here. They are saying, especially one lady who ran up to me today, and said, you know, they think they're going to wear us down, well, we're not going to allow them to do that. We are going to go back to the square every day until this president steps down.
KING: The Egyptian officials are reluctant to talk to us, but what would their answer be, saying no. Obviously, we heard from Vice President Suleiman saying democracy takes time. This transition will take time. Are they doing anything, Hala? We know this outreach, people on the street don't think it's credible or acceptable. GORANI: They are. They announced measures. They said they're forming committees to address concerns coming from the public about the violence that occurred last week that took place on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. They are also saying they are forming committees to reform the constitution in order to hold free and fair elections in September. So they're coming out with measures with somewhat of a timetable attached to them. The constitutional reform, those proposals, are meant to be in by the end of this month, February 2011.
But on the streets it is really the same reaction we're getting regardless of what the government says. Because they are telling us these promises have been made, maybe not exactly the same ones, but promises have been made in the past and they have been consistently broken.
KING: Hala Gorani there on the mistrust on the street.
Vice President Biden called his Egyptian counterpart today. And I'm told tonight he complained the Mubarak regime is not moving fast enough to implement its promised democratic reforms. That growing U.S. frustration with Egypt's leadership came up a bit earlier when we spoke with Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman.
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KING: Congresswoman Harman, let me start with the challenge the administration faces on Egypt. Vice President Biden called his counterpart, Vice President Suleiman again today in a statement issued after the White House used the word "immediately" and "prompt" in just about every sentence. They are clearly frustrated that the Mubarak regime is not moving as quickly as they would like on Democratic reforms, on reaching out to the protestors. What can they do and what should they do?
REP. JANE HARMAN, (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, it's -- we can't control events. We do have leverage. Obviously we have a lot of both military and other aid going to Egypt and that could be a fight in Congress in future months. But I think we're doing the right thing, which is to have private conversations between Vice President Biden and Vice President Suleiman about a transparent and open process.
The Egyptian street is not speaking in one voice. I gather the crowds are building, but there are some folks who just want to tear the place down. There are a lot of other folks, so I understand it, who support the important role the military has played, and want some stability going forward. So I would hope that the goal here is very quickly to build some political capacity, that means room for support of different parties and different voices inside the government. And the ability for Egypt, for the first time, certainly in memory, to have an open and free election where there is real competition, and where whoever is president might not be somebody we can identify right away. And those, then that means Egypt will choose its new president, not the United States, and not its old president, President Mubarak.
KING: You mentioned there are some disagreement on the street about how fast change should come, whether President Mubarak should go now, or be able to stay for weeks, maybe through the end of his term. How confident are you that the United States has a good sense of that, from our intelligence agencies, and from others. There has been a lot of criticism that perhaps we were caught off guard by this was happening. What is your sense?
HARMAN: Senator Dianne Feinstein said earlier today it was an intelligence wake-up call. You bet. I think we have underestimated the importance of social media. And I think we have not used enough public sources in our intelligence products. This is an old problem, not a new problem. And our intelligence products are hugely better since the passage of the Intelligence Reform Act in 2004. Nonetheless, we missed this. And rather than label it a failure, I like Dianne's idea much better, this notion of a wake-up call. I would urge our intelligence community to scrub our intelligence products, not just about the Middle East, but about governments all over the world in terms of what are open sources-social media are open, meaning anyone can have access to them.
What's going on in social media in these countries? Or what's going on in social media elsewhere that could influence activities in these countries? Including in our own country, by the way, everyone should know that there is a social media being prepared in Yemen in colloquial English that Americans can read here, and that is influencing some Americans, unfortunately, to contemplate extreme behavior.
So this is something that's urgent to do. And we did miss how fast events would turn in Egypt. I want to commend President Obama and his team for carefully monitoring this issue and for, I think, playing a very constructive role at this point, at least the maximum role we're able to play at this point.
KING: You say a constructive role at this point. I want you to listen here to the former House Speaker Republican Newt Gingrich. He has a very different view. Let's listen.
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NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The fact that they appointed a very able diplomat, Frank Wisner, and within two days were publicly contradicting him. That is, you know, is so amateurish. We want to help the Egyptian people achieve self-government, but we want to isolate and minimize the risk of the Muslim Brotherhood. This administration doesn't have a clue about those realities.
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KING: Amateurish, doesn't have a clue. You agree with that?
HARMAN: No. I was in Munich, at the Munich security conference this weekend with a very large group of members of Congress, a congressional delegation led by Senators McCain and Lieberman. And I heard Frank Wisner and his comments were careful and measured. I didn't hear him say that the Muslim Brotherhood should be excluded. I was aware and am aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is being included. I do think the way he framed some of his answers about Mubarak gave some people the impression that, he at least, wanted Mubarak to remain longer. I don't think that was his intention. And it is not our policy. And that was made clear very quickly after the one-hour event in Munich.
KING: Let me ask you about your transition now. You'll be leaving the Congress in a couple of weeks to take over the Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington. That's a great appointment for you. But there are some who question how could you have done this? You just ran in an election and won. You just, weeks ago, took an oath of office to serve another two-year term. And now the state of California is going have to spend somewhere in the ballpark of $2 million, just shy of that, on a special election. Some people say, well, when you ran didn't you commit to the people of California that you would stay two years. You could have said no. You could have said, what a great opportunity, I'd love to do it but I just took the oath.
HARMAN: Sure I could have said no. Bu let me tell you what happened. In late December the Wilson Center search committee talked to me about this opportunity. And it is a fabulous opportunity. I hesitated quite a bit because of my commitment to my constituents, to my excellent staff, and to my colleagues here. But I ultimately decided that after 17 years in Congress, and these years are like dog years, the new challenge was something I couldn't refuse.
Now, let me talk about the special election. The governor of California, Jerry Brown, has some real latitude under state law to set this election. He is planning, so I understand, and I've heard this from many people. And he has called me back but we haven't spoken yet, to hold a special election this summer, on extending some tax provisions for the state, which is in dire straits. And this election could be part of that ballot. That would save a lot of money.
Congresswoman Jane Harman, thanks for your time today, and best of luck in your new venture.
HARMAN: Thank you, John. Take care.
KING: When we come back the influence of the Tea Party. Now, right here in Washington and in 2012. Look at this live picture. Here is an event in Washington, D.C. There is one person there, you might not expect to find at a Tea Party event. We'll explain when we come back.
KING: Live pictures there at the Tea Party Express Town Hall in Washington, D.C. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, let's listen for a second.
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SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) UTAH: Names that really, and it is nice rhetoric, but I don't think there is any reality to it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Senator. Let's do another.
KING: That is Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. Noteworthy that he is at a Tea Party Express Town Hall, because he is on the ballot in 2012 and there has been talk of a conservative Tea Party challenge primary, to Senator Hatch in the state of Utah.
Back with us, Erick Erickson of RedState.com, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, and our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.
Erick Erickson, this the Tea Party Express, one of many. We need to make clear, many, Tea Party groups. And I find this interesting. Because the Tea Party Express is organized and run in part by a guy named Sal Russo, who knows Orrin Hatch for years. He's a Republican operative. He's not this new Tea Party guy, new to the movement, who likes Orrin Hatch and said recently he wants Orrin Hatch to win reelection. And voila, Orrin Hatch is invited to this event here in Washington, D.C.
How much of this is a traditional political operative, under the umbrella of the Tea Party, trying to give Orrin Hatch the Tea Party seal of approval, as a signal to conservative activists in Utah, where you helped Mike Lee this year stun the establishment? Will it happen again?
ERICKSON: This is 1,000 percent a signal from Sal. Look, they have been friends, and to his credit he said he was supporting Orrin Hatch because 35 years ago Orrin Hatch backed Ronald Reagan against Jerry Ford. The Club for Growth and other conservative organizations, and most, actually, of the local the Tea Party groups in Utah, all came out and bashed Sal Russo for saying that. The Tea Party Express' spokesman had to distance the Tea Party Express from that. And yet, there he is on stage. I don't know that that is going to help him, but I think you will probably see the Tea Party activists more likely to go into a place like Indiana against Dick Lugar, than into Utah against Orrin Hatch, depends on what resources are available.
KING: You think it will be that organized? It won't just be indigenous groups in different states saying you get him, we get him?
ERICKSON: Well, there will be some organization long term. Initially it is going to be local groups. For example in Indiana, you have had local Tea Party activists outside of national groups focusing on trying to find someone to beat Dick Lugar. The same thing is happening in Utah. Whether or not they can actually find someone? Whether Congressman Chaffetz will step up to the bat and challenge him or someone else. That may very well happen. I suspect you'll see sites like Red State and groups like Club For Growth, and others, probably coming out against Orrin Hatch.
KING: So, the big question as you watch an event like this unfold, is what the lasting power of the Tea Party? How much will they impact the debate here in Washington, about spending, and how much will they impact the ballot in 2012.
Cornell, let me start there. When you look at the data, when you are studying the data right now, is that surge of energy that the Tea Party brought to Republicans, does it still exist?
BELCHER: Well, you have to take a look at sort of the proof. And quite frankly, the Tea Party on primary side, that means the Tea Party on the Senate side was a lot more dangerous to Republican incumbents than they were to Democrats in a general election. I think there is something really strong, and really important about what the Tea Party Movement is right now at the grassroots of the Republican Party.
I don't know if that's going to be long lasting in the general election, because if you look at the numbers, the vast majority of independent Americans aren't crazy about the Tea Party. They are still sort of feeling them out.
KING: And if you look, Dana, just on second, I just want to show you the live picture, because if you show me that live picture again, Dana, I want you to come in. IF you look at this group, this is a group, Steve King, Michele Bachmann, Allen West, and Mike Lee on the Senate side, who are pushing the established Republican leadership to go deeper. The Republicans are saying we'll cut some, and they are saying it is nowhere near enough.
BASH: Oh, absolutely. And guess what? Orrin Hatch, he might not be officially the leadership, but you don't get much more establishment than Orrin Hatch. And the image of that is just so-it's just too much. To look at that picture of Orrin Hatch, sitting just a couple of people over from-the reason why Orrin Hatch is there, Mike Lee, who of course, is the Republican from Utah who defeated his friend Bob Bennett.
Look, I have talked to some sources close to Orrin Hatch today. They say that, yes, they know the Tea Party Express has said that they are not going to challenge him because of the reasons you laid out, Sal Russo and that relationship, but he knows full well, that he has to be very careful. It's still entirely possible, if not probable, that he will get a primary challenge, maybe more than that.
KING: From the right.
Dana, Eric, Cornell, thanks for coming in-
ERICKSON: You know the---
KING: Sorry, Erick, we're out of time. We'll come back to it. We have plenty of time. 2012, 363 days to the Iowa caucuses. We've got plenty of time. We'll get to all of this stuff. We'll keep track of the Tea Party and everything else.
When we come back, we're going to map just what's happening in Egypt today. The path from Liberation Square to the protest at the parliament.
KING: Let's close tonight by put today's dramatic day in Egypt in perspective. You have seen this before, Tahrir Square, or Liberation Square, today record crowds, tens of thousands in the square, including cheering on that newly released Google executive, who now has become the face of the revolution.
What was new today, if you come over here, a couple of blocks up to the northeast, for the first time the protest moved up here, the people's assembly of Egypt, or the parliament building. We can show you some images of this. Pro-democracy demonstrators, look at that, a huge crowd outside the parliament building. We know some of them decided to stay and set up tents and spend the night.
As we watch the drama unfold, there is still a lot of questions. How is this being covered around the world? And how many people have been hurt and killed in the attacks?
Excuse me for passing by and turning my back. I just want to pull out this, because there is a debate about this. Conflicting reports.
The Egyptian government says nobody has been detained. We know that's not true. They say between eight and 11 people have been killed and 5,900 people injured. Human Rights Watch, though, says at least 75 people have been detained. They believe more than 300 have been killed. And they don't know, Human Rights Watch says it does not keep track of the injured.
Here's the state newspaper. We have been showing you this throughout the week. State newspaper today, "Attempts to form a coalition revolution of January 25"; essentially the government's efforts to bring about a coalition government.
Wall Street, Asia, of course, the big headline here on the front page talking about the Google executive emerging as a key figure here. This is Beirut Lebanon, renewed calls for new demonstrations in Egypt today. It is being covered, of course, you see the pyramids here throughout the Arab world.
This here, Saudi Arabia, the kingdom calls for solving the Egypt crisis peacefully, while preserving the stability and security. The Saudi government, preserving the stability of the Egyptian government, very important message there.
The Iranian newspapers as well, once again, covering this. We'll keep track of the Egyptian crisis here on this program, across CNN, and on PARKER SPITZER, which starts right now.