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Revolt in Libya; Standoff in Wisconsin; Is Ohio Next?; Union Busting or Budget Busting?

Aired February 21, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, GUEST HOST: Thanks, Wolf. Good evening everyone, I'm any Jessica Yellin. John King is off.

Tonight the whole world is watching yet another Islamic nation teeter on the brink of revolution and possibly a bloody civil war. About 20 minutes ago, Moammar Gadhafi popped up on state television in Libya for about 40 seconds denying rumors that he had left the country. A U.S. official tells CNN, Libya used aviation assets to attack anti-government protestors on the outskirts of Tripoli.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is the first western television correspondent able to report from inside Libya, he joins us by phone now, live. Ben, first tell us please what you are seeing there?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we are seeing in the eastern part of the country, Jessica, is clearly an open revolt against Moammar Gadhafi. There -- we didn't see any police, any army as we came in from Egypt. The only people that seemed to be in control are the so-called popular committees of groups of young men with shotguns with machine guns who are controlling the border with Egypt, controlling streets, checking traffic, and whatnot.

We do know that they're very concerned that the central government out of Tripoli may try to reassert its authority in one area. We were told they were particularly concerned that Libyan paratroopers might be dropped into the area. That explains why there are so many men with guns and weapons in the street. But by and large, it appears that there really is no central government control in this part of the country.

What we also saw is there appears to be an exodus, Jessica, of Egyptians leaving the country. There are about two or three million Egyptians working in Libya. And when we were at the Egyptian border we were told by officials that just today, 15,000 had left. And most of the traffic on the road appeared to be Egyptians leaving the country. There are some signs of normality.

We saw that gas stations are open. There are a few stores open, so there -- it appears that at least for the moment that there is no immediate threat of the tide turning so to speak and the central government forces coming back. But there is a real worry that given that this regime doesn't seem to have any compunction about using extreme force against this anti-Gadhafi movement that basically the worry is that they will do anything to stay in control -- Jessica.

YELLIN: I'd like to ask you about the statement Colonel Gadhafi just made, but first let me ask you -- we have heard reports about violence and a crackdown. You didn't see that with your own eyes, but are people telling you about this?

WEDEMAN: Well, people are worried. They -- we are getting reports and it is really hard to confirm, not being able to go there, speak to people, necessarily, that there have been some air strikes in the eastern part of -- of the country. And there are concerns that there are these -- these mercenaries that the Libyan government has hired to crack down on the populous. But -- and we were told that for instance in one area that around 150 of these mercenaries had been captured and were being guarded. But so there is this, this concern that this government will strike back at some point.

YELLIN: All right.

WEDEMAN: Jessica.

YELLIN: Well Colonel Gadhafi did appear briefly on Libyan TV and made a quick statement. We're going to play that and I will ask you a question on the back end.



MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER: I am not in France or in Venezuela. I am still here with all these dogs. I am still here.


YELLIN: So, Gadhafi appearing saying I am here in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. And then the video just goes to black essentially. What are people there saying about Gadhafi? Is there a hopefulness that this is the end for him or are they too fearful to even hope that?

WEDEMAN: Well that is what they are hoping. They are determined to make sure that he never exerts his authority at least in this part of the country. People are hoping that just as the eastern part of Libya was successful in bringing the army over to the side of the revolt that the same will be the case in the other parts of the country.

But the real concern is that -- we have seen today that the government is willing to use Air Forces against unarmed demonstrators. And this really seems to be -- the problem is that we saw that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned after 18 days of protest, peaceful protests. And the worry is that Colonel Gadhafi is not going to step down easily. That he is sort of the Ceausescu of the Arab world, somebody who will go down fighting all the way. And that is what worries people here is that he will not step down gracefully when it becomes clear that the will of the people is against him -- Jessica. YELLIN: All right, Ben, we will follow this throughout the hour and of course throughout the night here on CNN. And we applaud your ability. Remarkable that you have gotten into Libya there. Take care of yourself.

Taking a turn back here to the U.S. tonight's big political story is in Wisconsin where Republican Governor Scott Walker refuses to blink even after a week of gridlock and angry demonstrations by teachers and other state employees. Within just the last hour, Governor Walker insisted he won't give up his fight against the state employees unions as he tries to force concessions to close a $137 million spending gap.

CNN's Casey Wian is at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison there -- Casey, no signs that this thing is going to come to a peaceful or easy close any time soon?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not, Jessica. In fact that news conference held by Governor Walker that just ended over -- in the last hour seems to have re-energized these pro-union protesters who have been here for a week now sometimes spending the night -- hundreds of them spending the night in the Capitol building behind me.

Governor Walker saying that he needs this controversial legislation to pass which would restrict the rights of unions in this state, both state and local government unions to collectively bargain. He says he needs that to pass to stop the layoff of up to 12,000 state and local workers over the next two years. These protesters say that's absolutely not true that this is just an excuse to bust these unions.

Now the governor's harshest words though were for the Democratic lawmakers who have left this state and stopped this legislation from moving forward. He also sharply criticized out of state union leaders who have joined these protests.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: For those from Wisconsin they have every right to be heard. But I also want to make it clear particularly to those union leaders coming in from outside of the state of Wisconsin that when given the choice to stand with them or to stand with the millions of hard working taxpayers all across Wisconsin, many of whom are paying much more for health care and retirement benefits than the modest amount we are asking for in this proposal, I am going to stand with the hard working taxpayers of Wisconsin.


WIAN: One of the key developments that we have seen happen over the last two days is that teachers have agreed to go back to work tomorrow. They were out of work for three days in protests last week forcing many schools in the area to close down. Governor Walker said that he needs this legislation to pass by April 1st to avoid immediate layoffs of 1,500 state workers. So it seems like this protracted debate is going to go on for quite some time -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Casey, a number of the Senate Democrats have left the state to prevent a legislative vote on this issue. Is there any indication they could come back anytime soon?

WIAN: None yet. The legislature is supposed to get back to business tomorrow, but the Democratic lawmakers say that they are not prepared to come back. They are not going to negotiate this issue with the governor. They want the governor to sit down with the unions. The governor says he's not going to do that. So unless they change their mind tomorrow, it doesn't look like they're coming back anytime soon.

YELLIN: All right, Casey thanks so much -- Casey Wian reporting for us from Wisconsin.

And this fight could be coming to your backyard very soon. Forty-five states face some sort -- face some sort of a budget crisis. And tomorrow Ohio could become the next Wisconsin. State workers plan a big protest in the state capital of Columbus, even as President Obama flies into Cleveland to promote his own jobs agenda.

Just like in Wisconsin the fight in Ohio centers largely on collective bargaining. In a nutshell, that's when workers ban together to negotiate their own pay and benefits instead of every single employee making his or her own deal. With me now is Ohio's new Republican governor, John Kasich, who supports the bill that would sharply role back public employees collective bargaining rights. Governor, thanks for being with us. First of all --

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Thank you.

YELLIN: -- you're expecting a massive protest tomorrow of -- by public workers at the state capital, objecting to your plan to roll back their collective bargaining rights. In Wisconsin they're facing a possible government shutdown over a similar issue. How far are you willing to take this?

KASICH: Well, Jessica, you know this is not really just about collective bargaining. We have an $8 billion budget hole in Ohio. We have a third of our college students that leave Ohio after three years. We've lost 600,000 jobs in the last 10 years. Only California and Michigan have lost more than that. And part of the reason why we are pushing collective bargaining is we frankly want to give the managers in our local communities and our schools the ability to control their costs so they don't have to raise taxes and drive businesses out and more jobs out.

YELLIN: You are clearly in a fiscal hole and you need to clean it up. The question is why not negotiate with public unions who have been willing to take cuts in the past instead of going after the heart of what makes unions a union their collective bargaining rights?

KASICH: No, no, no. Look, it's right to be able -- for them to be able to negotiate on their salary, but we need to let managers be able to determine things like keeping their pension system healthy, making sure that the cost-related, the health care are consistent with private sector workers. For example, in the state of Ohio the average private sector worker pays about 23 percent of their health care costs.

In our cities the average worker is paying nine percent. This is all about restoring some balance to the system. Right now when they wrote this bill almost 30 years ago it was done on a strict partisan basis where all the power was shifted to labor. What we are trying to do here is to balance it out. To make sure that management has some power and some tools to create -- to control their cost. And at the same time where the unions want to keep talking and negotiating that's fine, but we don't support binding arbitration where an outsider comes in and imposes a settlement on a community the community can't afford.

YELLIN: In this environment with these huge budget deficits clearly some give on both sides is essential. But even State Senator Shannon Jones, who sponsors the bill that would curtail the collective bargaining right said in testimony that the bill will not solve Ohio's immediate budget problems. So let me ask you to step back a little bit. Is this in a way a political move to gut unions?

KASICH: Jessica, I think I have answered it. Look, we don't just have a fiscal crisis here. We have a jobs crisis in Ohio. The problem is we are not competitive. And if we can't control our costs and reduce our taxes and be able to be in a position to reduce our regulations the jobs are going to continue to leave.

And when the jobs leave our families are hurt, our communities are hurt. So this is all about a multiple -- multiple approach to trying to one, give people an ability to cope with less dollars that they're going to get, number two, allowing us at the state to be able to control our dollars --

YELLIN: If you talk to any CEO of a major corporation one of their top concerns is how prepared are their workers? And part of that is education. In Ohio teachers make on average $54,000 a year. Now under your proposal, 29 percent of that could go to -- would go to pensions, so how can you keep and recruit teachers with that --

KASICH: Wait, first of all -- first of all -- first of all, Jessica, Senator Jones' bill is not my bill. And we're working together and I support her efforts. But you know the bottom line on teachers are in some of our school districts teachers actually contribute zero to their pension. Now that is not a system that can last, Jessica. See part of the problem is our public employees have been over-promised. And I don't want to -- look, I grew up in a town --

YELLIN: So can I just ask you that number too high --


KASICH: It was pro-union. I don't --

YELLIN: Are you suggesting there is room for compromise here? KASICH: Wait a minute. All we are saying to you, Jessica, is the people that run the schools ought to have control over things like health care costs and like pensions. The teachers ought to have say about their salaries. Those are the things that we are talking about. And again, it is taking the law that was passed strictly along party line votes 30 years ago and restoring some balance to it. I think that is very fair.

YELLIN: Governor Walker --

KASICH: And so that the direction we are going.

YELLIN: Governor Walker in Wisconsin I know you have spoken with him, he is facing a similar situation. What was his advice to you?

KASICH: Well, you know we talk. I was -- you know personally I liked him when I first met at our first Republican Governors Association meeting. I talked to him today. You know we are just both committed to fixing our state. The Midwest has been absolutely hammered economically. You know the South does well. The Southwest does well. We are finding out in California they're doing terrible because they haven't controlled their costs, so what we are trying to do is to save our states, Jessica. This is not about an attack on anybody, a political issue. This it is about creating an environment so people can be hopeful again.

YELLIN: President Obama finally is coming to your state tomorrow. He's going to be in Cleveland. What is your message to President Obama?

KASICH: Well, I am there to greet him. I mean President Obama came to Ohio 12 times to try to defeat me and guess what, he didn't win? My message to him on anything is give us the flexibility we need to run our state. And frankly that's what I am going to ask him for. He is the president of the United States.

I think it is my job to be there to welcome him to Ohio on his first visit since he is president and I'm the governor. I don't expect a long conversation. If there is any one thing he would ask me for I would say more flexibility particularly on Medicaid so we can serve the population of people that need health care, just you know get -- release the strings.

Allow us to be able to manage our state better in a whole variety of ways, but tomorrow is not designed to be some confrontation. It is to welcome him to our great state. And he is the president, I'm the governor, and it's a pretty amazing situation.

YELLIN: Governor Walker said that the president should butt out of state business. That's not his exact quote. He said he has his own issues to worry about. You don't feel the same way?

KASICH: Well no, I mean Jessica, my feeling about that is when I left Washington we were running a surplus. The economy was growing. Jobs were being created. We cut taxes on risk taking and investment. I think the president needs to keep his attention and focus on the problems in Washington with a $14 trillion deficit and frankly a budget that took a pass this time.

So, you know let him deal with his situation. Let me deal with mine in Ohio. Just give me my flexibility. Give me some of my money back. You know well I'll tell you one thing they did. They wanted us to have high speed rail. I said I don't want that money. It'll put us in the hole. Give us the money and let us use it to fix our freight trail lines here.

You know what they did? They gave it to somebody else. He said if you don't want to give it to me, don't spend it. So you know I mean there is a little frustration here. But look, bottom line is he is the president of the United States. He deserves respect. But focus on your, on your agenda. Let me focus on mine.

YELLIN: All right, this is going to be a fight that will go on for weeks, maybe months. We'll continue to check in with you. Thank you, Governor Kasich.

KASICH: Thank you.

YELLIN: And we are monitoring the situation in Libya where a U.S. official says military aircraft were used against anti-government protesters. We will take you back to region live as the news breaks.


YELLIN: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says thousands of state and local government workers will have to be laid off if Democratic lawmakers don't come back home and work with Republicans to pass his new budget. Walker's plan cuts the state's budget deficit by stripping state workers of some of their collective bargaining rights. The governor says the alternative would be worse.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: As I've said before I don't want to lay anybody off. The equivalent at the state level for the next budget would be five to 6,000 state government employees being laid off and five to 6,000 local government employees. That's teachers and city workers and county workers and others out there.


YELLIN: Collective bargaining and unions are at the heart of the fight in Wisconsin and as of tomorrow, in Ohio too. With us now, Ron Blackwell, chief economist for the AFL-CIO along with Republican strategist and CNN political contributor Ed Rollins, Penny Lee, who's worked as a communications director for former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and was executive director of the Democratic Governors Association and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Ron, I'd like to start with you first of all. You can help us understand the argument we just heard John Kasich make, the governor of Ohio, is essentially collective bargaining has to go by the wayside because it is the only way to let local governments balance their budget. You say? RON BLACKWELL, CHIEF ECONOMIST, AFL-CIO: No, the only way to balance his budget and it is very easy to do is to bargain collectively. Get to the table and bargain a deal. The unions have already signaled very clearly that they're willing to share their, their part of this problem of resolving this deficit. The governor instead has said -- has turned the bargaining table over. He refuses to come to the table and attacks some of the fundamental rights of these workers who freely associate organized and bargain collectively.


BLACKWELL: But the chief challenge here is how will eliminating bargaining in the state solve the budget problem?

YELLIN: Well 45 states face a budget shortfall. And Governor Walker says if you don't make these changes, it is -- the rest of society will hemorrhage far worse. I think -- do we have a piece of sound from him, from his interview -- for his statement just now?


WALKER: If you don't make the changes we are proposing for collective bargaining in this budget repair bill, you make it very difficult for local governments in particular to balance their budget in the next (INAUDIBLE) in the years to come.


YELLIN: OK, so bottom line, I mean it's sort of -- do they have to do this? Does this have to be given up just because of our fiscal dilemma?

BLACKWELL: Absolutely not. In fact I think he's headed in the wrong direction. He's made a situation that was very easy to manage. He's made it impossible to manage. And I mean when the Democratic leaders have left the state to avoid having to deal with this situation --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is another story.


YELLIN: Penny, let me bring you in because you have worked for Leader Reid as well, Harry Reid in Congress. These contracts they say are too generous. This is what the Republicans say. They're too generous and doesn't every side in this environment have to give something up?

PENNY LEE, FORMER EXEC. DIR., DEMOCRATIC GOVERNORS ASSN.: They come back to the table and bargain it out. Have an adult conversation and be able to go ahead and negotiate what it is that you don't like. And that is what the problem is here because he gauges it right now in saying this is about a fiscal crisis.

There are states and they are hurting, yes. They are running deficits right now that they have to fix. But if this is part of your problem, then bring the unions back in to re-negotiate. When we took over -- I remember when we were elected in 2003 with Governor Rendell we brought the unions back and we did very, very tough negotiations and they made concessions.


LEE: That's what needs to be done.

YELLIN: Well let me put this to you, Ed, because look is it just a coincidence that a bunch of Republican governors are going after unions which happen to be the backbone of the Democratic ground game?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think -- I think it's a coincidence that a bunch of states are desperately in fiscal trouble. And take Wisconsin for instance, in the last 10 years, $20.6 billion, the taxpayers have paid for health benefits and for pension benefits. The employees themselves have paid less than $500 million. That is a 40 to one contribution differential. And I think to a certain extent, whatever adjustment is made that is a dramatic differential.

And the states just cannot continue without laying off teachers, cops, firemen, what have you, which is not very acceptable to the American public. So I think they have to basically come to some conference here where they can work this out. But I think at the end of the day you know you just can't continue the way it is today and have these kinds of cost differentials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you know Ed, from what I know about this is that a lot of these people have said, OK we are willing to go and give up some money here.

ROLLINS: I have not heard what they what they are willing to give up yet.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- agree to a deal.


ROLLINS: Let me just ask one other question -- are they willing to give up, if I'm a teacher in Wisconsin or Ohio, can I get out of the union? Can I basically -- I don't want to pay -- I don't want to have mandatory dues paid every year. Can I basically get out of the union?


YELLIN: Ron, what do you --

BLACKWELL: You bargain. You bargain at the table. Right now there is no table. The governor will not come to the table.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And if this is a budget issue, they have clearly given -- they're clearly willing to contribute more into the pot. And I think you know when you talk about the voters and Ed you know a lot about this. Independent voters look at this and said you know we'll say you know what, we didn't vote you -- we didn't want you guys to argue with each other. What we would like is to you -- for you to sit at the table and negotiate.

ROLLINS: No, no, Gloria, you don't negotiate. There's no -- no union is coming to the Congress to negotiate. There is no basically -- at this point in time the legislature and the governor have the option of trying to drive a budget, to try and close these gaps --

YELLIN: We're getting a lot of head shaking over here, no, no, no, they --


ROLLINS: They do. That's the way --


ROLLINS: That's the way --


ROLLINS: That's the way it works.


ROLLINS: That's the way it's always worked.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You bring the unions to the table at the beginning of an administration --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- weigh in for a minute here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- concessions are being made all the time.

YELLIN: Let me let Ron weigh in because you're -- last question to you -- isn't it partly true that one of the reasons the budgets are hurting is that the pensions are so badly depleted because they lost so much money on Wall Street?

BLACKWELL: No, no, the reason the states' budgets are hurting is because of the recession and the fact that state tax revenues are way down. That's why it's -- that's what is happening here and workers understand that. And they're willing to pay their part. But their part is to make sure that the shared sacrifice is fairly shared. But you have to have a bargaining partner and in many states -- right now, by the way, Wisconsin is not the best -- worst -- it's right in the middle. There are much worse states. In New York, for example, they're bargaining with the unions.


BLACKWELL: And they're not going to have this kind of problem in New York.

YELLIN: OK, we're going to continue this on the other side of the break. Ron, thank you for coming in, we appreciate it. The rest of us will come back to this conversation.

On the other side of the break will the government really shut down on March 4th or are there secret negotiations under way to keep things going?


YELLIN: Across the country, Republican governors are getting tough on the budget, cleaning up their fiscal mess in part trying to cut benefits to state workers and rein in union bargaining privileges. So far we have seen Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey draw a bright line. Now these protests in Wisconsin, maybe Ohio tomorrow, next could we see it in Indiana, Washington state? Ed Rollins, my panel, we are still back to discuss this.

I want to ask you, Ed, right now these states collectively face $125 billion budget deficit, if you take all the states together. Is this one of the instances where it might actually be smart for governors to risk shut downs, in their own state government, shutdowns, just to stand on principle and close their deficit?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't think this is a question of principle. I think this is a question of trying to find a fiscal mix. And every time you shut down a government, people get hurt. The elderly get hurt. School kids get hurt. The whole variety, and I don't think Republicans or Democrats want to do that.

But you reach a situation, and obviously, Ron spent his life in labor, and he's a very talented man. But when you look as governor, if you look at last year in Wisconsin, $1billion, $270 million was contributed by taxpayers to the pension fund; $8 million was contributed by workers. Now that is a 40 to 1, or less than 0.6 of a percent, in that particular case. Overall, the last 10 years, it has been 40 to 1. How do you make that adjustment? Are the unions going to give that up and say, let's pay a fair share, or not? My sense as a governor right today you got to fix that problem. You either not pay into the pensions, which New Jersey and other states have not historically, or you basically live up to your obligations. And you try adjustments.

YELLIN: On the flip side here, Penny, if they do make these cuts, there will be cuts to services, education will see it, maybe even some safety services. Do you think citizens are ready for this?

LEE: They're already facing it. I mean, this fiscal crisis has affected them a couple years. That is why you had to have the federal government, last year, during the stimulus, a lot of money went to the states to be able to help them fulfill their obligations for some of these social safety nets.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Do you think the Republicans are going to get a backlash?

LEE: It will be worse when you no longer have that stimulus fund coming into those states, too. So, yes, there is going to be, at some point there is going to be just that, that crux or nexus in which people are going to say "enough is enough." but unfortunately at the same time they're facing deficits they have to solve.

BORGER: But my question is politically, if the members of the unions are willing to say, "OK, we'll make these concessions because we understand maybe we haven't been contributing enough, and there is a budget crisis in the state." Why take it one step further and say "you cannot bargain, period."

Ed, maybe you want to answer that?

ROLLINS: They have not said you cannot bargain. They say you can bargain on wages. What they asked for is every year, employees, the question I ask, if I am a teacher, I don't want to belong to the union I don't have any choice. My union dues are taken out every single paycheck. What they asked for is once a year I can say I want to be in the union, I don't want to be in the union, I can vote whether my union dues are mandated, taken out of my paycheck, or not. Those are choices people ought to be given.

YELLIN: Is this what they were elected to do? Is there a danger that the Republican governors in this case are overreaching, Ed?

ROLLINS: Obviously if it doesn't work, they are going to pay a heavy price.

YELLIN: If it doesn't work, it hasn't worked, right?

ROLLINS: There is no question. Two years from now there is another election. The Congress will be up. Many of these legislatures will be up. If we don't fix it, we promised our voters we would fix it, if we don't, it is no longer the Democrat game, it's our game now.


LEE: I also think not all fiscal crisis need to be solved on the back of unions. Even in Wisconsin, you have him right now proposing $117 million worth of tax cuts for some of the corporations that are there. There are ways in which you need to take a look at the budget in a holistic manner, and not just on the back of union workers.

BORGER: There is this question of overreach -- not only in the question of the states. But also in what we are going to confront here in Washington, which is shutting down the government. It always happens, we see it, people over-interpret mandates all the time. Politicians do it, it happened in 1995 when the government was shut down. Didn't help Newt Gingrich. And I would argue that Barack Obama may have also over -- over interpreted his mandate, in the other direction. People don't like that.

YELLIN: On the flip-just as a counter to what you are saying, Governor Walker of Wisconsin did actually run on a message on doing what he is doing. Let's play this video.



YELLIN: What you can't hear him saying, we need to rein in unions, we need to rein in our spending, we need public employees to take less so that we can all balance our budget. This was part of his message.

BORGER: But he didn't say I am going to bust unions.

YELLIN: Right.

LEE: Right.

ROLLINS: I promise you, I have been around unions all my life. My father was union labor. I have been a teamster, I've been a retail clerk. The unions will be here long after these (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are gone.

BORGER: We'll be gone, right.

ROLLINS: And they'll be having a discussion like this. I think the key thing here, I agree with you, Gloria, we did not get a mandate. We basically got an opportunity to basically have one part of government at the federal level, the total government in some states. And therefore we get to try to move the ball forward. This is our way of running with the ball.

YELLIN: How about here in Washington? We're also facing potential government shutdown.

BORGER: Right. It is the same question of overreaching. To me it is interesting. Because I wonder, if the Republicans are making the same mistakes the Democrats made. Because they're not talking jobs, jobs, jobs. That was Barack Obama's problem. Why aren't the Republicans talking, jobs, jobs, jobs?

YELLIN: Right. This is one of the big political debates we will be hearing going forward. Too much focus on the negative, not enough on the positive.

ROLLINS: They'd better talk about jobs or they'll all be out of a job. I promise you.

YELLIN: Right. That's a good line. That is a good place to end it.

BORGER: Right.

LEE: Thank you, Ed. Right. YELLIN: Thank you, Ed. Penny, Gloria, thanks, guys.

We are watching tonight's breaking news in Libya, where refugees are telling horrifying stories about what is happening there. Stay with us.


YELLIN: Welcome back. If you are just joining us here is the news you need to know right now. About an hour, Libyan state television showed a clip of Moammar Gadhafi denying rumors that he has fled the country.

CNN's Ben Wedeman, the first Western TV reporter able to enter and report from Libya, says opposition leaders appear to be in firm control of much of eastern Libya. Still, he says, some are worried that Gadhafi will not be stepping down soon.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The real concern is that we've seen today that the government is willing to use air, air forces against unarmed demonstrators. And this really seems to be the problem is that we saw the President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned after 18 days of protests, peaceful protests. And the worry is that Colonel Gadhafi is not going to step down easily. That he is, sort of the Ceausescu of the Arab world, somebody who will go down fighting all the way.


YELLIN: Witnesses say Libya's government used war planes and helicopter gunships against crowds of protestors near Tripoli today. In London people are telling chilling stories as they arrive on flights out of Libya.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Horrific, scary, a lot of gunfire last night. Heavy artillery, a lot of deaths we weren't expecting in Tripoli. Pretty scary. Yes. But -- yeah, it was tough. But we all got out.


YELLIN: With me now is CNN National Security Contributor Fran Townsend who has met Moammar Gadhafi. And last year she visited high- ranking Libyan officials at invitation of the Libyan government.

Fran, hi. So you met with Gadhafi. Do you think that he will survive this threat? This threat to his power, I should say?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, FORMER BUSH HOMELAND SEC. ADVISER: Well the real question is how long will the military sustain him? What we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia, and it was quite different there, but that without the support of his military and security forces, he can't survive. The fact is he is very strong-willed, very opinionated, difficult to negotiate with, I had that responsibility at one point, and can be very obstinate. So, it would not surprise me if, as Saif Gadhafi said, in his statement, son said in his televised statement. They will hold on to the bitter end, and they believe they will fight their way out, or die there.

YELLIN: Analysts say Libya is a hotbed of jihadist activity. Do you have any sense or what entity would gain in this power struggle?

TOWNSEND: Jessica, there was a group, Libyan Islamic fighting group. And it was lead by two men who fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, left Afghanistan, and came back to Libya. And were really very internally focused in Libya, that is, to oust the regime. They were captured, put in jail, put through a rehabilitation program that was put together by Saif Gadhafi. After that the group very much fractured. The larger more powerful group throughout the region is Al Qaeda and the Islamic Maghreb, that is a reincarnation of the GSPC, which is an Algerian fighting group, very closely aligned with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The worry here is that in the midst of the chaos, the Al Qaeda and Islamic Maghreb could kind of help reconstitute the Libyan Islamic fighting group, which really is an Islamist extremist organization, the but we don't see any signs of that now.

YELLIN: OK, counterintuitive take, I am wondering, I heard others say, in some ways, Al Qaeda could be diminished because, throughout the region, because there are these democratic uprisings, that people find an alternate answer to the totalitarian regimes, they don't have to support Al Qaeda, do you endorse that view at all?

TOWNSEND: Well, I think it is a very optimistic and hopeful view.

YELLIN: Right.

TOWNSEND: You would hope that would be so. Because let's remember one of the failings of Al Qaeda is that it has a very dark view of the world. It is not very hopeful. It is very oppressive. So, it is unlikely that these protestors, who are looking for more democratic freedoms, would turn to the ideology of Al Qaeda, which represses women, doesn't advocate widespread education, or economic reforms. So you can see how real democratic freedoms would undermine the ideology and goals of an Al Qaeda organization.

YELLIN: OK, Fran Townsend, thank you for joining us. We'll continue to watch this with you.

TOWNSEND: Thanks, Jessica.

YELLIN: Coming up two famous figures talk to John King about their charitable work and their future plans.


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

YELLIN: John King is on assignment in Chicago. Speaking of which, but over the weekend, he was in Los Angeles for the NBA All- Star game where he had a chance to talk with Lebron James, and a friend, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, about giving back to their fans, and their communities.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, JOHN KING USA: Is it more important now, as you know from the business that you just left, states, cities, school districts don't have much money. So this is the kind of thing that gets cut?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FMR. GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: Well, I have been involved for more than 20 years in after school programs, and I got involved because I recognized when I was with the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness, as I traveled around all 50 states, that kids, 50 percent or more, don't have parents in the afternoon to take care of them, or to help on the home work, and so forth. So, kids streets drifting around on the streets and they get into trouble. That's why law enforcement has been saying for years that the danger zone for children is between 3:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon, because there are no parents around.

So it is very important that we create an after-school program nationwide. And that kids have a place where they can go, and stay, and do homework, get homework assistance, get tutoring, get sports programs, educational programs, arts programs, and so on. And that's what this is about. It is helping kids, staying away from gangs, from drugs, from teenage pregnancy, from violence, and all of this stuff. And they say no to that and yes to education, yes to sports, and yes to life.

KING: You two have been playing this up on Twitter a little bit, between yourselves, but you didn't know each other before this?

SCHWARZENEGGER: We've known each other for a long time. And I'm a big admirer of his athletic skills, and what a great basketball player he is. But I'm also a great admirer that he always thinks about how can I use my star power to help kids and to help people that need help? This is really great for him and for Chris and other NBA players to be here and help us with that fundraiser because we're going to raise millions of dollars, and all of that money's going to go directly to the kids, in helping them, so they have more after school programs and get more kids off the streets.

KING: He's not involved in politics anymore, so he's freed up. How about a movie for you guys? He's not Danny DeVito, but what can we do here? You can't be twins.

We're in talks. But we're not going to talk about it.

LEBRON JAMES, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: We can't let it out of the bag just yet. KING: An action movie?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't know if we should give it to him.

JAMES: I don't think so. Not yet.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Or the next interviewer?

JAMES: Next time.


KING: When the results of this -- how do you see it? You didn't come from a wealthy background?

JAMES: No, I didn't. You know, for me, I always said if I ever got an opportunity to make it big, or to be financially stable I would always give back. You know, and when I found out about this program, it was an automatic. What I do, I play the game of basketball, and I'm able to do that. And while I'm doing that, I'm giving back to the youth. While I'm scoring baskets and passing the ball and getting rebounds, every time I do that, I'm giving back to the youth. It was a no-brainer for me.

KING: Do you miss politics at all? You see the governor of Wisconsin is in a big fight right now. The new governor of California has a huge budget. Do you miss it? Or do you think, I did that, now I'm going to watch.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, I've only been out of office now for a month and a half. So, of course, I don't miss it. I'm very busy with the things that I've always done, which is to take care of, you know, Special Olympics and the after school programs. We continue to be involved in the environmental issues to makes sure that America and California, specifically, but America as a whole, moves forward with a clean energy policy. And I'm going to help in Washington trying to bring Democrats and Republicans together and that. So the mission continues. And, you know, I also -- any help that the governor needs in California, in moving things forward, I'm always going to be a public servant, in one way or the other.

KING: The future governor of Ohio there, maybe?

SCHWARZENEGGER: He is terrific. No matter what he does, he will be great. And, you know, he is just a very optimistic person. And I think what is so important is that we have more people like Lebron that don't think just about themselves but think about how can I be great and how can I use this greatness to help other people, also become great? Because the kids, they 10, 12, 14 years old, that we are saving here, with the after-school programs, they will be eventually -- some of them playing in the NBA championships. And so we've got to get them help. We've got to give them a break.


YELLIN: It is Presidents' Day, so how much do you know about presidential trivia? Our Pete Dominick puts his knowledge to the test against a real whiz kid.


YELLIN: As you know, today is Presidents' Day, and our Offbeat Reporter Pete On The Street is here for a competition. We think we might have found a match for Pete. It is 7-year-old Jayden Wilkins from Lexington, Kentucky. And Pete and Jayden are here for no holds barred, battle of the brains.

Gentlemen, you ready?


YELLIN: OK, we are going to start with some questions, you just shout out the answer, and don't wait for me to point to you.


YELLIN: Three, two, one. Gentlemen, how many incumbent presidents lost re-election?



JAYDEN WILKINS, WHIZ KID: I'm not sure about that, but I do know there were 43 presidents, not 44.

YELLIN: OK, like a politician, answer what you do know, not the actual question.


YELLIN: Number two, the answer is 10. Both Addams, Van Buren, Cleveland-we can post it online.


YELLIN: OK, question number two. How many presidents died in an office, or name one president who died in office? Go, go, go.


DOMINICK: Bartlett.

WILKINS: No, I mean William Henry Harrison.

YELLIN: Harrison died, Taylor, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley.

WILKINS: Did I say Tyler or Taylor?

YELLIN: We can pretend you said Taylor. We want you to win.


YELLIN: Nothing personal. DOMINICK: Jeb Bartlett.

YELLIN: Yeah, he was a president on TV, close.

YELLIN: Who was the last president, gentlemen, who did not graduate from college?

WILKINS: Harry S. Truman.

YELLIN: What did you just say?

DOMINICK: That is exactly what I was going to say.

WILKINS: Harry S. Truman.

YELLIN: Harry Truman, you're right.

DOMINICK: I actually told him that before we started taping.

YELLIN: And finally, what political party did George Washington belong to?

WILKINS: Federalist.

DOMINICK: He was a Whig.

YELLIN: He had no party. There was no party affiliation at that time.

WILKINS: Wait, wait, yes, we did have parties.

YELLIN: I know for a fact-

DOMINICK: I think he is right and I think you have the wrong answer.

YELLIN: OK, I believe you. What did he say?

DOMINICK: He said Federalist.

YELLIN: Oh, well, OK. Can we --

DOMINICK: Can I phone a friend?

YELLIN: We'll get back to this.

I want to as you this, Jayden, you're very impressive, what's your dream?

WILKINS: To meet President Obama.

YELLIN: So you came here to meet him?

WILKINS: I just want to shake his hand!

YELLIN: You came on TV to get a chance to meet President Obama? DOMINICK: Jessica can make that happen.

YELLIN: I wish! We'll work on it for you.

Last question before we go. Who is the only president to be unanimously elected?



DOMINICK: No? It wasn't Reagan?

WILKINS: George Washington?

YELLIN: Good job. Pleasure to meet you, thank you, you're very impressive.

DOMINICK: I'll get you next time, kid.

YELLIN: Jeb Bartlett, you've got to work on your trivia, my friend.

DOMINICK: I'll get better.

YELLIN: That's all from us tonight. Thanks from us and for these two gentlemen. John King is back tomorrow. David Axelrod will be among his guests. PARKER SPITZER starts right now.