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JOHN KING, USA

Weiner Quits Congress; New al Qaeda Leader

Aired June 16, 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. Tonight, al Qaeda picks a new leader; the terror group's longtime number two gets a promotion and vows to avenge Osama bin Laden's death.

But up first, Congressman Anthony Weiner resigns in disgrace, just days after vowing to stay in Congress Weiner vowed to intense pressure from Democratic leaders who complained his sexting scandal was hurting the entire party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I'm here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment I have caused. I make this apology to my neighbors and my constituents but I make it particularly to my wife Huma. I'd hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do, to fight for the middle class and those struggling to make it. Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created has made that impossible. So today I'm announcing my resignation from Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That fall from grace came 19 days after the congressman initially blamed a hacker for sending a lewd photograph on his twitter account to a 21-year-old college student. And it came 10 days after Weiner acknowledged he did send that photo, as well as engage in inappropriate online relationships with a half dozen or so women.

Joining us two of our colleagues who were right in the thick of this story, our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash who brought us the first word of the resignation plan this morning, and my colleague Wolf Blitzer, THE SITUATION ROOM anchor who was on the receiving end of more than a few lies when he interviewed Congressman Weiner in the middle of all this.

Dana, let's start with you. I'm going to speak in a minute to the congressman who took that phone call from Anthony Weiner where he finally said I'm going to quit, Congressman Steve Israel, but you have new details tonight of how difficult it was and what it took for the Democratic leadership to finally push him to that point.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was -- I mean just look at the calendar. You talked about how many days it took, really, since last week, early last week, he was starting to get calls from his colleagues. We reported this real time. You've got to step down. It is time.

But the leadership really had a hard time convincing him. He was saying he was -- his polls weren't very good. He was saying that his wife wanted him to stay and he was saying that he might have done things wrong morally but not necessarily technically. Nancy Pelosi, according to an aide, actually said on those polls consider those rose petals to let you go graciously.

She and others were very tough on him and it was -- he wouldn't go. And until they came out publicly, that was when we were told by people who were talking to him it started to sink in that he really did need to go.

KING: And you can see here, Wolf, their argument was individually you might be able to survive Congressman Weiner, but you're hurting us, the bigger family, the Democratic family.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Yes, and he kept hearing that over and over. Not just from Nancy Pelosi, Steve Israel, and other good friends of his, but even the president of the United States in that interview suggested, you know, if it were me, I would resign. So that pressure was enormous and even though there are a lot of people in Queens and Brooklyn who wanted him to stay who admired him precisely for the fact that so many others here in Washington didn't like him, because he's tough, can be aggressive, abrasive at times, they liked that. They wanted someone to fight for them and I guess there are going to be a lot of disappointed people in his district right now that he sort of gave up.

KING: It's our job to cover the news. But both of you in some ways were part of this story because of your persistent work. Dana, I want to play a bit of an exchange. This is on May 31st, Dana Bash, our senior congressional correspondent, Ted Barrett, one of our congressional producers who is an amazing journalist in his own right, Congressman Weiner refusing to answer pretty straight-forward questions about what had happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: You say that you were hacked, which is potentially a crime, so why haven't you asked the Capitol police or any law enforcement to investigate?

WEINER: Look this was a prank that I've now been talking about for a couple of days. I'm not going to allow it to decide what I talk about for the next week or the next two weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Defiant and now we now in denial there. And here's an exchange, Wolf, from your interview the very next day where Congressman Weiner again was saying, I've done nothing wrong. This is somebody else trying to bother me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Well we just want to resolve it once and for all. You would know if this is your underpants, for example.

WEINER: The question is -- I appreciate you continuing to flash that at me. Look, I've said the best I can that we're going to try to get to the bottom of what happened here. But you know, I just want to caution you, and you understand this, you're a pro that photographs can be manipulated. Photographs can be taken out from one place and put in another place. Photos can be doctored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is just remarkable how defiant he was. And I'm going to use the term "in denial." He was lying, first to you and then to you.

BASH: That's right and I got to tell you that when this story initially broke over Memorial Day weekend, the fact of the matter is that Anthony Weiner, who is -- has been very, very accessible to the media, his press people very accessible, they completely shut down. They issued a two-sentence statement over the weekend.

A two-sentence statement on Monday and that really got my antenna up because it just was really not in keeping with who he is and the way he approached us. And the fact that he just wouldn't answer the questions was very telling.

BLITZER: I'll be honest with you, John, after I finished that interview in his office on Capitol Hill, for 20 minutes, and we took it live here on CNN, I remember coming back, got into a cab, came back to our studios, and I said to myself, you know, I probably believe that you know that may have been a picture of him, that lewd picture, but somebody got a copy of it or -- and sent it out, somebody hacked his twitter account.

I actually believed what he was saying because he was so forceful. It was hard for me to believe someone would you know look at me in the eye like that and repeatedly lie on such a simple question. Did you send that picture? And he said no, somebody hacked my twitter account.

KING: If you go back to the transcript of that interview I think you will find the one true statement in there. I think Anthony Weiner was trying first and foremost to protect himself, to try to stay out of trouble. But he talked about how he was trying to protect his wife --

BLITZER: Yes, because I asked him who are you trying to protect? And that may have been the only honest statement. He said I'm trying to protect his wife. He'd been married for less than a year. And we didn't know it at the time but he knew she was three months pregnant. It's a heartbreaking development; it's a heartbreaking story, especially for all of us who know Huma Abedin.

KING: And it's a horrible story and again we don't like to be in the middle of the news, but it was persistent questioning, doing your job that brought this about in the end. Dana Bash and Wolf Blitzer thanks for coming into tonight. Thanks for your work on this -- fabulous work on this story.

And the congressman's announcement was at the same Brooklyn senior center where he launched his political career 20 years ago. CNN's Mary Snow was in the room as she was a week ago when Congressman Weiner first came clean and apologized. Mary, I was watching here with Wolf in the studio. It looked look a circus in that room.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Circus is the right word for it, John. And much like that other news conference 10 days ago, you know, Anthony Weiner walked into a packed -- jam packed room. There had to be about 100 reporters, dozens of cameras in there. Shortly into his statement, which only lasted about four minutes, but two hecklers began yelling. One at one point drowned him out and Anthony Weiner just read that statement. Unlike that last news conference, he didn't show any emotion really.

And he took no questions. You remember, at that last news conference, he went on for about 40 minutes. And then he exited this building, as you said where he launched his political career 20 years ago. You know constituents here were not as quick as politicians to call on him to resign. And there were still some today who would not rule out a potential comeback in politics. But as one woman you know put it, anything is possible but it is certainly not looking very good.

KING: Mary, at both the news conference a week ago and this one Anthony Weiner stood alone. Do we have any sense of where his wife is?

SNOW: We don't. We do know that she was at their home in Queens earlier today. But we don't really know whereabouts. The two of them were seen leaving in a car in Queens earlier this afternoon but that's about it.

KING: Mary Snow for us tracking this story from the congressman's district, former district now, former congressman in Brooklyn. Mary, thank you so much. Just a short time ago "ABC News" had an interview with the president of the United States, Barack Obama. It will air tomorrow on "Good Morning America," but tonight ABC aired a small portion of that interview where the president reacted to the congressman's resignation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wish Representative Weiner and his lovely wife well. Obviously, has been a tough incident for him. But I'm confident that they'll refocus and he'll refocus and they'll end up being able to bounce back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Congressman Weiner isn't the only one who changed his tune over the past three weeks. The Democratic congressional leadership and the Obama White House also had a traumatic transformation as this story unfolded. Let's go back to June 2nd right here on this program Jessica Yellin was filling in for me. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not only a member of Congress. She is the president's choice, now the leader of the Democratic National Committee. She was trying to make the case this was simply a manner for Anthony Weiner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really think it's a personal matter that it's something that Anthony Weiner needs to deal with himself.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you won't call for him or asking him privately to do more?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't do that when it comes to personal matters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A few days later, it was June 7th where we began to get a sense of how uncomfortable all Democrats on Capitol Hill, especially in the leadership, the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, here, not wanting to answer these questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I know Congressman Weiner. I wish there was some way I can defend him but I can't, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The White House also was saying no comment at that point. And then Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sticking to the line, this is on June 10th, sticking to the line that this is something for Anthony Weiner to resolve back home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I believe that it's up to the individual member and his constituents, as to who represents him in Congress -- represents them in Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Then though the Democrats began to get a sense that this was becoming a big national problem for the Democratic Party on June 12th. Remember -- remember Debbie Wasserman Schultz on this program on June 2nd saying it's a personal matter. This is 10 days later, a very different story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Anthony Weiner needs to resign so he can focus on his family, focus on his own well being --

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: And if the congressman didn't get the hint from his colleague there, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the president of the United States delivered this nudge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately there's going to be a decision for him and his constituents. I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now from Capitol Hill New York Democratic Congressman Steve Israel, also the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Congressman, you're at the White House picnic last night and you get a phone call from Anthony Weiner. Take me inside that conversation.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Well John I can't take you inside the conversation because I'm not going to publicly comment on a private conversation. I will say that Congressman Weiner and I had several conversations. He made the right decision. He reached the right decision for himself, for his wife, for the Congress and for the American people.

One of the things that Congressman Weiner talked about over the past week was that on Wednesday the Republicans introduced a bill to privatize Social Security after a month before they tried to end Medicare. And he realized that this had become a huge distraction from some serious challenges that we confront and from some important fights that we need to have. Now that he's made that decision, we can go back to addressing those challenges and quite honestly fighting those fights.

KING: And when he called, had he made his decision because you took Leader Pelosi off to the side and she joined the conversation? When he called did he say I'm definitely resigning or did he say I'm close to resigning? Did she have to nudge him any more?

ISRAEL: He had already made the decision to resign. And he spoke with me. He said that he wanted to deliver that news to Leader Pelosi and when he delivered the news to me and to Leader Pelosi he did talk about the fact that it is important now to go back to the issues and the challenges that this country faces.

KING: He initially rejected calls from Leader Pelosi from yourself and from other Democrats and a pretty good nudge from the president of the United States that was not directly a call for his resignation. What changed his mind?

ISRAEL: I can't tell you what changed his mind. I can't tell you that he was very concerned in all the conversations that I had with him with the fact that this had become a huge distraction. And repeatedly we talked about the fact that the Republicans introduced a bill to privatize Social Security and we weren't able to talk about that bill to privatize Social Security because there was so much attention given to Congressman Weiner. Now we can pay attention to the privatization of Social Security and fight to stop it.

KING: And let me ask you, you used the word "huge distraction". Certainly a huge distraction to the Democrats in trying to advance their agenda here in Washington, D.C. Your job is to try to win enough seats next year to get that speaker's gavel away from John Boehner and to give it back to Leader Pelosi, if that is the Democratic Conference's choice. When you're out recruiting candidates, when you're out talking, trying to raise money over the past couple of weeks, how many times has the Weiner sexting scandal come up as an obstacle to you doing that work?

ISRAEL: You know on the fundamentals of recruiting candidates, and the other things that we do, it wasn't really that much of a distraction but on the retail level, the fact of the matter is that Congressman Weiner himself realized that his story had become a distraction from the fact that the Republicans tried to privatize Social Security. And when Republicans introduce a bill to privatize Social Security and people aren't paying attention that becomes an untenable situation. Not politically but untenable for the country. And that is what I think helped bring him to the decision that he should resign so we can get back to those fundamentally important issues and challenges.

KING: I'm getting an example here of why you're the chairman of the Congressional Campaign Committee. I could ask you the color of the sky and you get back to the Republican plan on Social Security and I completely -- I understand that's your job. Help me understand the evolution of this. Those who have talked to Congressman Weiner say that over the last 24 hours or so he sounds a little different, he sounds a little bit more in charge of himself -- my choice of words -- than perhaps he did a week or 10 days ago. Is that fair?

ISRAEL: That is fair. Look, the past several weeks have been difficult for the country, difficult for the Congress, difficult for Congressman Weiner and more importantly his family. And obviously he was going through a range of emotions over the past several weeks. When I did speak with him yesterday without going into the details the conversation, I think it's fair to say that he was more clear, more firm than I had heard him in previous conversations.

KING: Steve Israel is one of the Democrats who nudged Anthony Weiner into his resignation decision today and you can hear right here just why. Congressman, appreciate your insights tonight.

ISRAEL: Thank you.

KING: Still ahead, the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney discovers that joking about unemployment, well isn't very funny. Perhaps not smart politically either.

And next what you need to know about al Qaeda's new leader and his ideas about attacking the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Jihadist websites announced today that Osama bin Laden's longtime number two, the Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is now al Qaeda's leader. At the Pentagon Defense Secretary Robert Gates said while he isn't sure that's a job anyone should aspire to, it should remind us that al Qaeda is still out there and that we need to keep after him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Despite having suffered a huge loss with the killing of bin Laden and a number of others, al Qaeda seeks to perpetuate itself, seeks to find replacements for those who have been killed, and remains committed to the agenda that bin Laden put before them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's get some more insight now from our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson. Nic, what does it tell us, the appointment of al-Zawahiri, what does it mean for al Qaeda?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It means continuity. He's been one of the principle ideologues. He was there when bin Laden put out or put forward al Qaeda's global agenda in 1998, so he was part of the mastermind of that agenda. So while he lacks the charisma that bin Laden has -- had and while he is sometimes seen as a divisive figure, he's going to bring continuity. Don't expect any change from al Qaeda because of this -- John.

KING: And when you say don't expect any change, does that include its targeting, if you will? Since the death of bin Laden, we've heard there have been some disputes among the rank and file and the leadership about whether to make the United States and the West a big target or whether to focus more on regional challenges like in the Middle East.

ROBERTSON: He's going to look to the changes that the Arab Spring has brought to perhaps to instability in Libya or Tunisia or wherever in the north of Africa to develop a better stronghold and foothold for al Qaeda there, in Yemen, the same. So he's going to try and take advantage of the Arab Spring. But there's no doubt about it, al Qaeda's core set of targets, if you will, is the United States and western capitals in Europe as well.

Why -- because that's the real enemy. That was the enemy that bin Laden laid out in 1998. So perhaps we're going to see more debate about it and what's going to be interesting is how is he going to be able to manage the organization. He doesn't have the charisma that bin Laden had to perhaps overrule some of that dissent. It's going to be interesting to see how he manages it -- John.

KING: And should we read anything into the fact that it took so long, 46 days after the death of bin Laden for this official announcement?

ROBERTSON: Security concerns for sure could have slowed down the decision making. Al Qaeda also has its sort of offshoots, if you will, spread around the world. It's taken perhaps time to get all their voices in and if there have been dissenting voices, which is quite possible, to overcome those dissentions and how have they managed to do that and perhaps that's the key to why it's taken so long -- John.

KING: Nic Robertson for us tonight from Abu Dhabi -- Nic, thank you.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein tells CNN al-Zawahiri is probably in Pakistan but she believes he is not being protected by its government. CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen has written extensively about al Qaeda and interviewed Osama bin Laden. So Peter now that the number two is the number one, we know he was bin Laden's top deputy. We know he was deeply involved in planning 9/11. What more does the American citizen sitting at home need to know and how worried should they be about this guy?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, certainly, he's you know no friend of the United States. But I mean as Nic said in his discussion with you, you know if from an American national security perspective, Ayman al-Zawahiri taking over al Qaeda is actually good news. He's a divisive figure. He doesn't have the charisma. He's not well liked, even by fellow Egyptians in the Jihadi movement.

He is unlikely, unfortunately, to change al Qaeda's plan to attack the United States, but he inherits a very damaged organization. They haven't been able to successfully attack the United States in a decade. The last time they attacked a western target successfully in Europe was the 7/7 attacks in 2005 in London. They're losing the war of ideas in the Muslim world. They had absolutely no part to play in the Arab Spring (INAUDIBLE) ideas their foot soldiers or their leaders, so you know that's not a very good set of cards to have been handed as the new leader of this group.

KING: Bin Laden had this philosophical, ideological anger at the West and the United States. Al-Zawahiri has more of a personal grudge, does he not?

BERGEN: Well I mean, I think actually his main goal might have been overthrowing the Egyptian government. You know and in fact it was more bin Laden who persuaded him the United States was the real enemy than anybody else. And I think that kind of stuck with that sort of ideological view.

KING: Didn't he have family members though killed in airstrikes?

BERGEN: Oh, yes, he -- his wife and three kids were killed in an airstrike in November of 2001. So yes, I mean, it's actually something that he's never really referred to publicly. He's been asked about it and he sort of waved it aside. You know they're gone to their maker kind of thing.

KING: Now we -- you know bin Laden's history was in the Mujahideen. He was known more -- maybe this is more image -- but he was known more as a warrior, a fighter, al-Zawahiri a doctor. Does that matter at all? BERGEN: I think it does, John. I think that you know bin Laden whatever else he is wasn't personally a coward. He fought the Russians rather bravely for periods of years in the '80s. Zawahiri has spent time in jail, so that's kind of a credit on the Jihadi front. But he's never really engaged in warfare, in the kind of conventional sense, and I think that's a disadvantage for him.

KING: And the question is he's the new general. The question is and you mentioned this just a minute ago, how strong, how deep is his army? Let's walk over to the wall a little bit. Number one, I want to start -- Senator Feinstein told Wolf Blitzer a bit earlier in the day that she believes -- she believes he's in -- I'm going to just bring this up in the heat map -- the darker the country, the more powerful the Jihadist and the al Qaeda presence.

And you see there are affiliates or related groups all around the world. First though on this, Dianne Feinstein believes he's somewhere right up in here, where people long said they thought bin Laden was as well. Does that make sense to you?

BERGEN: Yes, I mean he's incontrovertibly in Pakistan. He talks about Pakistan a lot. He's called for attacks on Pakistani government repeatedly. He's preoccupied by matters of -- to do with Pakistan, in the same way that if you're sitting in Thailand, you'd be preoccupied about Thailand, but he's sitting in Pakistan.

KING: So you look around the world, there are al Qaeda and then there are al Qaeda affiliates, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula here, al Qaeda in Iraq here. I want to use these graphs to bring up some numbers. This comes from the Council of Foreign Relations. Essentially they say 50 to 100 active al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, hundreds in Algeria. This is in Iraq, you have both al Qaeda, al Qaeda in Iraq, some other Jihadist groups, so a larger population there.

Pakistan, 300 plus, Somalia, Yemen, what's your sense of obviously in comparison to 9/10, if you will, pre-9/11 al Qaeda and today, it's weaker, it's more fractured. But what is the army that Zawahiri is now in touch with --

BERGEN: Well you know the problem here, John, is that you know formal members of al Qaeda have always been a small number, so for instance, around 9/11 there were maybe 200. You've got a number of 300 here in Pakistan, 50 in Afghanistan, those numbers are accurate. But you know people who are influenced by al Qaeda's ideas, you know you're looking at several thousand -- I mean you do the math here, you know, in Somalia, several thousand people, you know, influenced by al Qaeda's ideas.

So you know if you added it all up, you're looking at 20,000, 30,000 people who have, you know, really subscribed to al Qaeda's ideas. And you know perhaps a slightly larger group who are somewhat influenced by them. I mean for instance in -- on -- in Pakistan, you have groups like the Pakistani Taliban, which have behaved in a more al Qaeda-like manner, that's 30,000 men right there. KING: If he's the new leader, walk back over here, if he's the new leader, is it their trademark, their MO, to try to quickly make a statement, make himself known, make his mark?

BERGEN: I mean they would love to, but their capacities are limited. I mean I'm sure they're planning something now. The question -- it's a question of capability and intent. They certainly have the intent. The capability has been weakened.

KING: Peter Bergen, appreciate your insights, unique insights into al Qaeda. Thank you so much for being here tonight.

Up next, the latest headlines including why Vancouver police say hockey fans are not to blame for last night's riot. Find out just who they're pointing the finger at.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now.

Just released documents show the former International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss Kahn told New York detectives quote, "I have diplomatic immunity", end quote, when they picked him up for allegedly raping a hotel maid last month.

Vancouver's police chief now blames last night's rioting on criminals and anarchists who the chief says disguised themselves as hockey fans and came prepared with masks, goggles, gasoline, even fire extinguishers.

Within the past few hours CNN crews in Libya report four explosions in Tripoli, as well as the sound of jets flying overhead. This is the third straight night of explosions in the Libyan capital.

NASA has released a color picture of the planet Mercury taken by the new U.S. orbiter. Look there it's yellowish-Brown. Scientists aren't quite sure why some kind of bright material is coating the central peaks and rim of the big crater there.

We come back down to earth in a minute to look at what's ahead for the now resigned Congressman Anthony Weiner. What kind of treatment does he need? Dr. Drew Pinsky joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Congressman Weiner's resignation today was a stunning fall from grace for an ambitious politician who just weeks ago was considered a favorite to be New York City's next mayor. The scandal that did him in began unfolding a few weeks ago.

Let's go back through the timeline.

On May 27, there was a sexually suggestive photo and it was sent over Congressman Weiner's tweeter account. By a direct message, it was supposed to go, but it made its way out on to his public Twitter feed.

Now, the next day, the congressman said his account had been hacked. Somebody had done this to him either as a hack or a prank. That was on May 28th.

On May 31st, he was in a heated exchange with our Dana Bash and Ted Barrett on Capitol Hill. We're trying to ask him, if you had been hacked, why didn't you ask for an investigation? The congressman said this was a distraction and he would not be baited by it.

On June 1st, the congressman did an interview with our Wolf Blitzer, again, denying, flatly, he had anything to do with this.

All right, you can't hear the audio there but he's denying he had anything to do with it in that interview here.

Then, on June 6th, there was Weiner's admission that, in fact, it was him and he apologized.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I'd like to take this time to clear up some of the questions that have been raised over the past 10 days or so, and take full responsibility for my actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Full responsibility the congressman took there. That was on June 6th.

On June 11th, he asked for a leave of absence from the House of Representatives. That's the flack outside his office on Capitol.

On June 13th, he was saying he planned on staying. Let me close that one down.

On June 13, he was saying he planned on staying. The president of the United States decided to help try to nudge him to the sidelines. That's an interview with NBC News, in which the president said if it were him, he would resign from his spot.

Today, the congressman did resign in a news conference at the Brooklyn Senior Center where he began his political career.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER: I hope to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do, to fight for the middle class and those struggling to make it. Unfortunately, the distraction that I have created has made that impossible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's the congressman today announcing his resignation. So, now what?

Let's bring in our Dr. Drew Pinsky, whose program "Dr. Drew" over on our sister network, HLN.

Dr. Drew, let me just start -- when you saw Anthony Weiner today, what did you see of the man? He said he had some treatment. He was receiving some treatment.

Did you see a man who was healing or a man who is still a little bit lost?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN'S DR. DREW: I saw neither today. You know, if you remember when Tiger Woods got up after he had been in treatment for a while, he used a language almost code for those of us that are involved in the treatment field, that you know somebody's actively engaged in the treatment process.

Today, he gave neither a hint of that, nor reason for me to believe that he's not. It was all very matter of fact. I didn't see much in the way of any emotional content involved in this afternoon's events.

But the fact is, this is a man that is in need of treatment and I, for one, was grateful to see that he was stepping down because in n situations like this that I've been involved with, when someone continues to put their career and their career objectives ahead of their mental health needs and their marriage and their family, things do not go well.

KING: And so, you say he needs treatment. He says he was getting treatment.

Help somebody understand, what does he need to be treated for? And what does that treatment entail?

PINSKY: Right, let's remember -- I don't know this man any better than anyone else who is watching here. So, I'm speculating purely on the behaviors we've seen and heard about, and in cases like this. In my world, you know, obviously, there needs to be a careful assessment. A team needs to be assembled and a treatment plan needs to be generated.

Oftentimes in situations like this, we conceptualize this as a sexual addiction. And the treatments of sexual addictions include intensive group processes with other men who have to come to terms with this, a very rigorous program where honesty becomes a central feature and the ability to gain and increase access to emotion. Many times men like this have a very barren emotional landscape -- even superficially they can seem connected to their emotions. The fact is there's deep emptiness.

And some of these behaviors that we're all looking at make us shake our head were in an attempt to evoke something in a barren emotional landscape. In fact, you know, we all wonder, what was he thinking? Well, when these guys look back, even after they had been treated, they realize they weren't thinking. They certainly weren't thinking with their cognitive processes.

This is an extremely bright man. It's not like he's a stupid man. But that part of his brain was not operating when he made the choices that he has made. And he's operating from, let's say, a primitive emotional level, and all these pieces of who he is need to be hooked back together and integrated so he doesn't any longer feel the need to evoke emotions through this very primitive and evocative means.

KING: And when we talked a few days ago, you said you thought it was important that he resign because he needed to try to put his family back together first. Put himself and his family back together first.

PINSKY: Yes.

KING: Listen to what he said today, a little bit about his wife here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER: I'm here today to again apologize for the personal mistakes I have made. And the embarrassment I have caused. I make this apology to my neighbors and my constituents, but I make it particularly to my wife Huma.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, it's hard -- we're not in the room with him. We haven't been able to speak with him.

But when you listen to him there, does it sound -- again, sound like a man who's reading a prepared statement somebody prepared for him, or does it sound like a guy who genuinely is trying to find that peace?

PINSKY: I would say both. The fact is -- here's what I'm looking for, that he's willing to put his marriage ahead of his career, which is what he's doing here. If that's all that motivates him to take care of himself -- good. He'll now have the room to do so. Again, with a very highly stressful and now, in his case, humiliating career -- you know, these public, very public shame that he has suffered, there's just no way he could get better if he continued to throw himself into that.

It's too stressful. There's not enough time. There's not that space to do what is really a lot of very delicate work. It's hard to describe how the work works. You know, that's why I did the program "Celebrity Rehab" to try to give people an understanding of how intensive and delicate and emotional this work is. It's similar to what this gentleman needs to go through.

KING: And you mentioned the other day, when we spoke, you were concerned he could slip into a depression, in addition to having the problems he has to deal with.

PINSKY: Yes.

KING: Is his leaving Congress -- this is a guy who loves the spotlight, who loves the clashes and the combat of politics -- does leaving politics, essentially being unemployed at a time of great personal strain in his life, does that increase the risk of that?

PINSKY: No, it's what decreases it, in fact. He is now in the hands of a team -- I'm sure he has a professional team that will make sure that does not happen to him.

The fact is, if he continues to put himself out there, being shamed, being humiliated, left untreated and to his own devices, he could easily end up in a very bad state.

Look, his marriage wouldn't survive. He'd continue to have losses. He'd continue to feel out of control. He could continue to be disconnected from his emotions.

And this guy can end up in a bad place and suicidal. And that was my grave concern that is not now my concern because he seems to be making the right choices for someone in his situation.

KING: You say the right choices. Did you hear a man who was focused on that number one priority, getting himself well and his family well? Or did you hear someone who perhaps was focused on that but there were a couple of clues some people saw any way that he was thinking of trying to make a comeback?

PINSKY: I did see that. I did see the door open to him coming back. And why not?

Listen, this is a man who deserves to get better and to take care of himself and he is a brilliant man. He is a great politician. Even people who have come out and condemned him such as Kristen Powers, who was his girlfriend and who he had lied to, she said, as a boyfriend, he was a really great guy. This is not a bad person.

And why shouldn't he have an opportunity to get better, to step up, say, here's now, I understand what happened to me, and all those strengths that I had that made me a great politician, I still have and I left that door open -- why not?

KING: Dr. Drew Pinsky, as always, and especially tonight, appreciate your insights.

PINSKY: My pleasure.

KING: Take care.

And ahead tonight, the Defense Secretary Robert Gates says farewell at the Pentagon.

And next, a joke and a tweet that tell us a lot about the current state of play in the Republican presidential field.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Are you a March Madness fan? Do you also like presidential politics? If so, pick up the new "TIME" and play a little Baracketology. The magazine dedicates its cover story to the Republican presidential field and breaks down some of the lessons from our big New Hampshire debate Monday night. The debate is also still reverberating on the campaign trail as former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty tries to move past what "TIME's" Joe Klein calls a flinch and the debate's defining moment.

Joe Klein is with us tonight, as our CNN contributor Erick Erickson, the editor of the conservative RedState.com, and Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher.

Joe, I just want you to see this for a minute before we begin the conversation. You know, we took your cover and we like to have a little creative license here. So, we took the "TIME" cover. You have Baracketology.

Now, watch how we play this out. We have the insiders, Romney, Huntsmen, Pawlenty and Gingrich. We have the outsiders, Bachmann, Santorum, Paul, Palin and Cain over here. And if we want to, if we want to, you know, we can move them around. If we score the race as we go, we can move them around and go.

But when you're writing this story, Joe Klein, why that breakdown, insiders/outsiders, populist versus --

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Well, I didn't -- I didn't mean it so literally. The art department went a little berserk here I think.

I just said that there are two paths to this nomination now, which is something that you really hadn't seen in the Republican Party in the past where the next in line is always the overwhelming favorite and usually the nominee. Mitt Romney's perceived as the next in line. But he's playing mostly in New Hampshire, where the voters really like serious economic messages that are conservative but not extreme. They're not as concerned about social issues.

Meanwhile, there's this other path and it's in Iowa, which has a very heavily evangelical component to the voters there. And that's where people like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum and several others will be competing hard to be the outsider, the Tea Party challenger, to the -- you know, the traditional establishment conservative insider.

KING: Well, let's start with the guy you say who by logic and by Republican tradition will be next in line. That's the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as you mentioned. He is concentrating mostly on New Hampshire. But he was in Florida today, and he has had a conversation with unemployed workers, again focusing like he vows to do almost exclusively on the economy.

Now, the last campaign, people said Romney was too wooden, he was too stiff, he was too disconnected from everyday Joes because he's a rather wealthy guy. So, here he is trying to make a joke at the end of the conversation with a group of unemployed voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I should also tell my story. I'm also unemployed.

(LAUGHTER)

(INAUDIBLE)

ROMNEY: Yes, actually. I'm networking. But I have a particular job, I'm working for --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, a bit later, we questioned him. And asked him, because the Democrats seized on this, they said this guy is worth a couple hundred million dollars, he shouldn't be joking about being unemployed. He just wants to be president of the United States and Governor Romney says, I was just trying to be funny. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: You know, I will always make light of myself. And self- deprecating humor is part of who I am. But the reality is that we have a president that doesn't understand the plight of the unemployed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You know, I'm going to ask the Democrat first. I was going to ask the Republican first, but I'm going to ask the Democrat first.

This is a hard one. It's a hard one. He's not -- he's probably not a natural stand-up comedian. So, was that funny or could he just not even try to go there?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, I'm not going to play Democrat. I'm just going to play strategist right now.

I understand what he's trying to do because this guy doesn't look like a regular guy. I mean, he's worth a couple hundred million dollars. And so, he's trying really hard.

But it's the in-authenticity thing that it fails on him. Voters can smell that a mile away. He's having a hard time connecting to regular Joe and he's got to do that better.

KING: But Erick Erickson, the knack on him last time was too wooden. Now, he tries to be funny and a couple of his jokes recently have fallen flat. What's the guy to do? Go with better jokes maybe?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I'm with -- maybe so. I'm with Cornell on this one. He really needs to figure out a way he can connect to voters.

And, frankly, I think it's on message, is where he is connecting. I'm with a lot of Republicans down in New Orleans, at the Republican leadership conference, and there are a lot of people who are still trying to find the alternative to Romney and you're starting to hear people -- I was sitting a restaurant tonight listening to people talk about maybe having to settle for Romney. No one wants to but they may have to.

KING: All right. Well, as one of the alternatives is Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota. And he had said Sunday before our Monday debate, he used the term Obamney-care in a Sunday show interview.

And so, during the debate, I tried to flesh him out that. We'll play on a minute, but Governor Pawlenty, he's been stung by this. People criticizing for being too timid or not standing up to what he has said.

He sent out a tweet today and let me read it for you, @TimPawlenty. "|On seizing debate opportunity re: health care, me, zero, Mitt, one. On doing health care reform the right way as governor, me, one, Mitt, zero."

We'll put that to the test in a minute. Oh, it's kind of cute. Don't laugh, Cornell. The guy gets to try anyway.

Here's the exchange during the debate when I was trying to ask Governor Pawlenty why he made that Sunday show comment and would he explain it to Governor Romney who was standing a few feet away.

(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)

KING: Why would you choose those words maybe in the comfort of the Sunday show studio? Your rival is standing right there. If it was Obamneycare on "FOX News Sunday," why is not Obamneycare standing here with the governor right there?

TIM PAWLENTY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama is the person who I quoted in saying he looked to Massachusetts for designing his program. He is the one who said it is a blueprint. That he merged the two programs.

And so, using the term Obamneycare was a reflection of the president's comments that he designed Obamacare on the Massachusetts health care plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joe, you called that a flinch. You thought it was a defining moment of the debate. Why?

KLEIN: Well, it was stark raving baloney, you know, first of all. That's -- you know, he was going after Romney -- and, you know, on FOX TV.

But politicians in the first debate of any new cycle don't like to start off as attack dogs. They like to start off as friendly, you know, lovers of mankind. And attacking Romney face to face wouldn't fit that pattern. So it was stupid strategy on his part.

But I will say this, that, you know, Erick, you're going to see -- that was just the first of many, many, many attacks that are going to come on Romney on his health care plan in Massachusetts, which was the precursor of Barack Obama's plan. However, it was also originally a Heritage Foundation plan that I as a columnist supported in 1994 when it was the Republican alternative.

KING: Let me show this -- in the tweet, Governor Pawlenty said that he had a better health care plan as governor. Here's one way to look at it. In Massachusetts right now, the percentage of uninsured are 5 percent of the population in Massachusetts. In Minnesota, the percentage of uninsured, 9 percent of the population.

So, Erick, can Governor Pawlenty make the case, he means -- I assume he means he didn't use a mandate which Mitt Romney used in Massachusetts.

ERICKSON: Right.

KING: It's a debatable point or does Governor Pawlenty win this one? Governor Romney win this one?

ERICKSON: You know, I think this is -- this tweet is Tim Pawlenty's message of trying to overcome this past week and move on. And actually, ground -- build ground again and go at this again.

I think he's probably going to start making this more his message with this tweet and he's going to have to build up his case that how is 9 percent uninsured in Minnesota better than 5 percent in Massachusetts? Because it doesn't use an individual mandate probably will be his argument. That's going to sell with Republican voters. But he's only got a limited amount of time before someone like a Rick Perry gets in, to be able to start really building his case against Romney and making him own the anti-Romney wing of the party.

KING: Go ahead. You can jump in. You can close the conversation. It's all yours.

BELCHER: Let me tell you something -- if you cannot attack a guy face to face when he's standing there, to come back on Twitter at him, it's doubling down on soft. I mean, the voters see it. He was there face to face with that guy. He wouldn't take him on.

Now, he's going to take him on over Twitter? Give me a break.

KLEIN: You know, Cornell, I would say that most voters haven't seen him. For most voters, this election hasn't begun yet. We're going to have 47 gazillion more debates and next February.

KING: Only 46.5 gazillion more debates. You're exaggerating.

KLEIN: They're going to seem like 47 gazillion debates. And there will be real confrontations where people take each other on. This will be forgotten very quickly.

KING: We all learn from every life experience. I'm sure they all learned from that debate. I know I certainly did.

Erick, Joe, Cornell, thanks for coming in.

When we come back in, Anthony Weiner isn't the only one saying farewell to Washington. Up next, a farewell tribute without a hint of scandal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We began tonight with coverage of a man leaving Washington in disgrace. Before I go, I want to spend a few minutes on a man who is leaving Washington with his head held high. The Defense Secretary Robert Gates held a farewell briefing with the Pentagon press corps today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Over the past four and a half years, I have not always liked what I read. And like anyone else in government, I hate leaks -- maybe more than most. But I have great respect for your role as a watchdog and on behalf of the American people and as a means for me to learn of problems the building was not telling me about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Gates was George W. Bush's defense secretary and then stayed on in the new Democratic administration. President Obama, in fact, is the eighth president Bob Gates has called boss.

He didn't win every argument and is quick to admit making more than his share of mistakes. But as we cover the failings of political figures, we should also point out the examples of unselfish public service and Secretary Gates is as good as any. His experience as CIA director came in handy at the Pentagon because today's enemies often don't organize in traditional armies or fly a national flag.

About a year ago, I asked him about the man arrested trying to detonate a bomb in Times Square.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How many Faisal Shahzads might there be in the United States? Is there any way to quantify that?

GATES: There's no way to know.

KING: There's now way -- is that the --

GATES: The intelligence business, we always used to divide everything we wanted to know into two categories: secrets and mysteries. Secrets were the things that were ultimately knowable and mysteries were those you couldn't know. The number of those guys is unknowable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: In that same conversation, the secretary fired back at liberals who believed Secretary Gates was the reason it was taking so long to reverse the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GATES: I've led several huge public institutions and I've led change in everyone of them. And there's a smart way to do change and there's a stupid way to do change. This one has to be done smart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In his final days, he seemed even more blunt. Lecturing Europeans for shirking their responsibilities to the NATO alliance and telling it like when it is a senator questioned the wisdom of being friendly with Pakistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT LEAHY (D), VERMONT: How long do we support governments that lie to us? When do we say enough is enough? Secretary Gates, I'll start with you.

GATES: Well, the first law, I would say, based on 27 years in the CIA and four and a half years in this job, most governments lie to each other. That's the way business gets done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Gates is the son of Kansas, who now owns a home near Seattle. He says he plans to write at least two books, one of them about his time in the Bush and Obama administrations. The other about managing big institutions. They will be worth reading.

And whether or not you agree with his decision, Secretary Gates' example of public service is worth remembering.

We'll see you right back here tomorrow night. But that's all for tonight.

"IN THE ARENA" starts right now.