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JOHN KING, USA
Debt Gridlock; Middle Eastern Protests; Libyan Conflict; L.A.'s Weekend "Carmageddon"; Hope, Compromise, Whatever
Aired July 15, 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 Syria kills more of its citizens just because they want free speech and other political reforms.
Plus, a new study says all that information you can find on the Internet in a nanosecond, well it comes at a steep price. And we don't mean money. But first up, a fight that is about money, your money. And as we learned again today, it's about politics, too.
At issue, whether big spending cuts should be locked in before the government is allowed to borrow more money to pay it bills. President Obama held his second news conference in a week solo tells you the day's biggest headline. There is no deal. So the politicians from the president on down are trying to prove they're the one most looking out for you.
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BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be very helpful for us to be able to say to the American people our fiscal House is in order.
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KING: The president was adamant that it's impossible to get a deal, an acceptable deal to him unless and until the Republicans agree to raise some taxes. In turn, Republicans say that before he spends anymore time lecturing them, the president should stop giving press conferences and news conferences and put his specific spending cut proposals down on paper. But in the hunt for specifics, it is crystal clear the president is not ready to take the lead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they show me a serious plan, I'm ready to move, even if it requires some tough decisions on my part.
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KING: A lot of questions tonight about where this is heading and how it will impact you. But this we do know. The president's initial deadline, tonight, will pass without a deal, so what next? Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland is among the Democrats warning the president don't count on my vote if any deal involves big changes to Medicare and Social Security.
Chief political analyst Gloria Borger has spent the day and the week working her sources on the negotiations. Also with us from Cambridge, Massachusetts our senior analyst David Gergen, who has advised four presidents and David, because of that experience I want to go to you first.
The president of the United States today having a second news conference. The theme, the Republicans have come to at the end of the week, is Mr. President, you're the president. Lead. Put a plan on the table. You put the specifics. You go first. The president has made clear, no. Should he?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I've been surprised all along that the White House has been so reluctant to reveal what its own preferences would be. You know it's a political maneuver to try to -- to not attract controversy. But John, if in fact the White House is now working as the Senate as appears to be what's going on to shape some sort of compromise around the McConnell plan, that also involves significant cuts, the public really deserves to know what those cuts are. I have to support significant cuts, but we need to know what's involved if you're going to cut the budget by a trillion to a trillion and a half over the next 10 years.
KING: There's plenty to criticize everybody here. I think we know that as we close the week. Our Democratic congresswoman might object, but we'll get to her in just a minute, but the president won't put his plan on paper. The Republicans have gone back and forth and you know some Republicans are quite adamant no tax increases at all. I want you to listen here to the president's answer. He was asked why can't you support Mr. President a balanced budget amendment, a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget. Here's his answer.
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BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs. The Constitution already tells us to do our jobs and to make sure that the government is living within its means and making responsible choices.
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KING: Can the president carry the day on that argument, Gloria, and again the Republican response is, well, Mr. President, your budget didn't lay out these spending cuts. When a deficit commission you proposed laid out a whole bunch of cut, you said good idea but didn't want to get involved in the specifics. But the president has the bully pulpit in terms of he thinks he's winning the argument. Can he carry the day?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well you know in theory, everybody thinks that a balanced budget amendment sounds fabulous. Everybody wants to balance the budget. It's an easy vote and Republicans will get it and they'll take it and they know that it's not going to amount to a hill of beans at this particular point. So I think it's an easy vote and it's a difficult argument to make to the American public at this point that you shouldn't vote to balance the budget. But what he was saying may also have some resonance with the American public, which is essentially hey guys we're paying you to do the work today. We don't want some promise down the road of a balanced budget amendment that has to be ratified, et cetera, et cetera. How about doing your job today which is what the president was saying --
KING: I think one of the reasons the Republicans are saying Mr. President give us your cuts, give us your plan first then we'll react to it, I think one of the reasons the White House is reluctant to do that is because it gets letters like this from our other guest here, Congresswoman Edwards and others. This is a letter from two dozen Democrats essentially saying Mr. President, don't touch Social Security and liberals and progressives also say don't touch Medicare. Is that part of the issue here that on both sides, Republicans have their ideological holy grail, taxes, they won't budge? And Democrats have their ideological holy grail, Social Security and Medicare saying no way, Mr. President, don't touch it.
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D), MARYLAND: Well first of all it was 69 Democrats, so more than just a couple of dozen. And so I think it really was -- our Democratic caucus and through our leadership speaking with great clarity about our desire to protect Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries from cuts --
KING: Any cuts?
EDWARDS: That's not a holy grail --
KING: Any cuts, changes, let's spell it out.
EDWARDS: Well let's spell it out. I mean I think that you know as our leadership has said, you know looking at and protecting the long term solvency and sustainability of Social Security and Medicare is very important to us. I don't believe it needs to be in the context of this conversation. In fact I think this political debate is exactly the wrong one in which to discuss those safety programs for the American people.
BORGER: But you know you had the president today in his press conference talking about the possibility of means testing Medicare, which means that wealthier Medicare recipients might pay more for their policies, right. He put it out there on the table.
EDWARDS: Well what I also heard from the president is that he said let's not talk specifics because if that's true, heck, I'd like to throw out there raising the cap on Social Security, which would put a lot of money from people who are very wealthy into the system. But again, I don't think that we need to have that conversation here. Social Security is actually not the cause of our long term debt. Let's be clear about that. And so why inject into the argument --
KING: The president's point on that has been -- he agrees with you that it's more a Medicare issue, but he says if we're going to have a big tough vote, we might as well do some changes to Social Security, too, because otherwise we're going to have to do them next year or the year after, which brings us I think to an important point, especially since we don't have a deal tonight.
We're not looking at a deal and picking apart the specifics. David to you first -- I thought after the election this was supposed to be one of those things, this is a big one, the ability of the United States government to borrow money. I know a lot of people don't want it to borrow more, but there's no choice right now until you get on a path to fiscal sanity.
The world is watching. And so this was one of those moments I thought where this transformational president was going to make Washington different, where everybody was going to come together. And Congresswoman Edwards would come into the room saying I don't want you to touch Medicare and Social Security, Mr. President, but I'm going to have an open mind. You know where I stand, but I'm going to have an open mind. The Republicans were supposed to come into the room saying I don't want you to raise taxes, Mr. President, but we're going to come in with an open mind. What happened to that?
GERGEN: John, I -- you know the country has become so deeply and poisonously divided over the last two or three years, even more so than during the Bush years. And you know I don't think any of us believed they could get more divided than during the Bush years. But it -- essentially what's happened here is the president came in with you know facing this crisis in the economy, felt he had to do some big things, also wanted to move forward with his health care plan.
He then -- he made a lot of -- you know was behind a lot of bold moves with Nancy Pelosi and other the first couple of years and then there was a push back. There was a (INAUDIBLE) back from the country that sent the Republicans here with a different mandate to shrink the size of government and now we have got this titanic clash going on between two very different philosophies of how we should govern ourselves and it's getting very personal and it also is getting very destructive mentally for our credit ratings, but it's also getting destructive for our reputation around the world as a well governed country.
BORGER: And wouldn't the president have been in a better position if in January at his State of the Union address he had said you know what, I endorse the work of my deficit commission and gone on the record a little bit earlier.
KING: The calculation that all of Washington has made, not just the president, but the president included, is that the economy would start growing faster by now and these would be easier decisions because the government would be taking in more money, so they didn't want (INAUDIBLE) then. They were hoping Washington would have more money by the time they had to get around to making these tough decisions. I want to get in one last point. On the floor of the House today, one of your Democratic colleagues, Sheila Jackson Lee, said she thinks that this president is being treated differently in these negotiations because of this.
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REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: I am particularly sensitive to the fact that only this president, only this one, only this one, has received the kind of attacks and disagreements and inability to work, only this one. Read between the lines. What is different about this president that should put him in a position that he should not receive the same kind of respectful treatment of when it is necessary to raise the debt limit in order to pay our bills?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: If you listen to your colleague there it seems to me -- she's suggesting Republicans are treating this president differently because he's black, because he's African American, not because they disagree with him on philosophical or policy or ideological grounds. Do you believe that?
EDWARDS: Well let me just tell you I think that there's a lot of difference with the president and with the Republican leadership and its party on philosophical and ideological grounds --
KING: But that's a significant -- that's a significant statement to say that they're treating the president -- what's different -- what's different? The only thing different -- it's an easy conclusion to get to where she's going there. Do you agree with that?
EDWARDS: Well, I don't really. I mean what I do think is that and you know others may have different opinions, but what I think is that here we have a circumstance where we have this president really trying to you know sort of stand up in a big and a bold way and Republicans pushing back on the simplest most ordinary thing such as raising the debt ceiling. And I think that we've reached a moment here where the president is right.
We have to fish or cut bait. The world market depends on it. You know our individual retirement accounts depend on it, and it's time to do the right thing for the American people. And I think the president is -- you know he's a big president and he says that he can defend himself and I think we have to stand together as Democrats to fight for our core principles and values for the American people.
And I think the American people get that. I mean after all the majority of the American people right now are saying you know what, leave Social Security and Medicare out of this conversation. Let's raise taxes on those who have had a break for the last decade and need to pay more and let's get our deficits and our long term debt under control. I think we can do that.
KING: The Republicans control the House, so there's going to have to be some give in that if we're going to get there, but we'll watch this one as it plays out into next week and as the deadline approaches. Congresswoman Edwards, Gloria, David thanks for coming in tonight.
And ahead tonight, it is "Carmageddon" weekend in Los Angeles -- "Carmageddon" they call it. Tom Hanks has some advice for you. Plus violence against reform demonstrators in Syria and Jordan and a big Obama administration move regarding Libya. That's next.
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UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE)
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KING: Friday prayers once again were the spring board for anti- government protests across the Middle East and North Africa today and with those protests, sadly once again we saw deadly violence. Nearly two dozen demonstrators were killed by security forces in Syria. That's according to human rights groups. And in Jordan, riot police lashed out at hundreds of protesters as they made their way to a reform rally in Amman's Palm Tree Square (ph). CNN's Arwa Damon is in Amman and is tracking developments there and across the region. Arwa let's start there where you are in Jordan. We haven't spent as much time, as much time focusing on it. What is it specifically the protesters there want?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They want to see an elected government. The cabinet and the prime minister now are selected by the King and they also want more freedoms. What we saw today was this pro reform demonstration setting out. There were some loyalist individuals who were around the area. The police were there saying that they were trying to keep these two groups apart. They have clashed in the past.
As the demonstrators reached their final staging ground, all of a sudden we saw the riot police charging in, beating them back, using their riot shields, using batons, kicking and punching them as well. We saw a number of individuals wounded being carried away. One thing is also clear and that is that these demonstrators are growing increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of reforms that have been promised by the government but have yet to materialize -- John.
KING: And you talk about the frustrations there in Jordan, you just left Syria, more demonstrations today, sadly more deadly violence. The question many are asking is are we going to see demonstrations every Friday, violence every Friday or is this building, spreading to a point where perhaps the regime might actually be in danger?
DAMON: Activists say and video posted to YouTube appears to show Syrian security force using gunfire to try to disperse demonstrators in more than one location in Syria. And the activists are saying that they are not going to sit down and begin talking about a dialogue until the government brings about an end to this indiscriminate targeting. The government for its part saying that it is again targeting these armed groups saying that the security forces were deployed to protect the demonstrators and so John, as long as we have these two competing and completely contradictory narratives, it's going to be incredibly difficult if not nearly impossible to bring both sides to the negotiating table where they're going to be able to bring about some sort of a political resolution to this uprising and most certainly the activists we were talking to in Damascus say that they do realize that it is going to be a long and potentially very bloody road ahead.
KING: Sober reporting. CNN's Arwa Damon tonight in Amman, Jordan -- Arwa thanks.
Tonight the Libya rebels trying to oust Colonel Moammar Gadhafi have the official blessing of the United States government. Secretary of State Clinton traveling in Turkey today when she explained why the United States has now decided to recognize the opposition as Libya's legitimate government.
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HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States is impressed by the progress the TNC (ph) has made in laying the ground work for a successful transition to a unified Democratic Libya, which protects the rights of all of its citizens including women and minority groups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It is a designation that gives the rebels more stature and potentially more resources. The United States can now transfer to the National Transition Council assets of the Gadhafi regime that are being held frozen in U.S. bank accounts. CNN's Ben Wedeman live for us tonight in the rebel-held western Libyan town of Zintan and Ben, to the rebels who have been asking for this recognition from the United States for months, what does this mean? Do they view it as significant or too little too late?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they do view this as significant because as you alluded to, they're desperately in need of money. We spoke to the finance minister of the Transitional National Council, the defacto (ph) government of rebel Libya and he said they're suffering from a profound cash shortage. They need money to buy food to feed people because banks have been closed in this part of Libya for months.
And of course they need money to buy weapons. What we've seen time and time again is that they're not lacking for enthusiasm, but what they don't have is the kind of heavy weaponry that they need, the ammunition that they need to move forward. We saw them just day before yesterday retake the town of Goholisha (ph), but they had the usual assortment of weapons, sort of heavy machine guns. They do have a couple of tanks in this area but they say they're low on ammunition and they need more money just to carry on, both on the civilian side and on the military side -- John.
KING: Ben Wedeman live for us tonight in Libya -- Ben, thank you. Let's get some context now from CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend who advised President George W. Bush and is on the External Advisory Board to the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security and Professor Fouad Ajami a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Fran to you first, the significance here, and I want you to listen; the United States recognizes the opposition as the true governing authority in Libya. Moammar Gadhafi doesn't like it. He tells his people. React.
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MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): This is our answer to all the decisions they took against the Libyan people.
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KING: Trample on them, so Gadhafi asking those who still support him to go to violence. How significant, Fran, is this step from the United States?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: On it's tremendously significant. I mean look, the rebels now have access to these -- the money held frozen in these accounts in the United States. They've been recognized by other governments around the world who can provide all sorts of support now is on the table. The next question that will face the United States administration is does that mean you're going to provide arms.
This has been a very controversial discussion. Frankly what they really need to do immediately is put more pressure on NATO to increase the bombing runs that they were doing several weeks ago. That really did seem to have an impact on Gadhafi and the stability of those around him. And so this is a piece, a very important piece, but they need to support this in other ways using other tools available to them.
KING: And Professor Fouad Ajami what then is the burden -- if they get that support what is the burden on the rebels themselves? Because as frustrated as they have been at the United States for taking so long to recognize them. You have people in the United States who say well they haven't proven they have their act together, they haven't proven once they take a town, not only can they hold it, but can they build public support.
PROF. FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well we never really gave these rebels John, the help they needed and the help they deserved. And in fact let's remember that this Libyan upheaval against Moammar Gadhafi erupted in February 17. So here we are five months later, we were five months late American policy. I think we -- it's better late than never and these people need access to the money.
And -- Fran is right. Do we arm them or do we not arm them? If they have the money, they have access to weapons. And we kept in fact saying to this Libya opposition prove your Democratic credentials. Tell us how you would run a country. It was a high barrier when they were facing the forces and the mercenaries of Moammar Gadhafi.
KING: And Professor you make the point better late than never in Libya. How about Syria? Listen here to Secretary of State Clinton today. We know the administration is increasingly in recent days been tougher in its rhetoric against Assad. Is this enough, let's listen.
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CLINTON: I think we all share the same opinion that what we are seeing from the Assad regime in its barrage of words, false promises and accusations is not being translated into any path forward for the Syrian people and it is ultimately the responsibility of the Syrian people to choose and chart their own course.
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KING: No question, Professor, it is the responsibility of the Syrian people, but should this administration be doing more to help them?
AJAMI: Well I think, look John, the American ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford (ph), goes to the rebellious city of Hannah (ph) and he's greeted not with tomatoes and eggs and protests. He's greeted with flowers and people were throwing olive branches at his car. So in fact people are welcoming American help and I think again in the case of Syria, two months ago Secretary Clinton was still holding out hope for Bashir Assad and now here we are 1,700 people have been killed in Syria and now finally we've come around to acknowledge that Bashir Assad must go.
And Secretary Clinton said it very well again. Two or three days ago she said Bashir is not indispensable and we have nothing invested in him remaining in power. Again this is a change in the administration's posture. Again it tells us that we've been late catching up with this Arab Spring and with these rebellions.
KING: And we will keep an eye on it. Short on time tonight though, Professor Ajami, Fran Townsend, appreciate your insights. We'll keep an eye throughout the region as all of these uprisings continue.
But next back here to the United States, we'll ask the mayor of Los Angeles about ""Carmageddon"". It's just hours away from starting. If you don't understand what it is, we'll explain on the other side and answer this question. Will it be as bad as everyone fears?
KING: Our crosswalk logo well comes in extra handy tonight because out in Los Angeles it is "Carmageddon" weekend. Maybe you've heard the term, if you've ever been out in the L.A. area, you know the 405 Freeway. We're down here near UCLA, you move up the 405, you're right up here, up through the valley a little bit; right up here is where "Carmageddon" is all about. This is the Milhollin (ph) Bridge right here and they're going to do some major construction here, which requires them to shut down this giant freeway so they can widen some lanes, add some HOV lanes.
You understand you've heard about the traffic problems out in Los Angeles. Why are they doing this? They are going to add 10 miles of HOV lanes to I-405, widen some other lanes, construct 18 miles of retaining walls in that key part of the highway right there. So it will be shut down for 53 hours, a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 405. This is why it matters.
Two hundred and fifty thousand cars per day go through there. The work includes moving 4,000 tons of concrete. Now that's one issue there. This is why this matters, because they're going to shut down a highway that looks like this on any given day. Look at all this congestion you see and this is a pretty good scene. I've seen it and I've been in the middle of it when it's worse than that.
So let's touch base with the man who will probably get no credit if it goes well, but a lot of the blame if things are tough over "Carmageddon" weekend. The mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa is with us now from our L.A. bureau. Mr. Mayor "Carmageddon" sounds like a horror movie. What are you expecting?
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: Well, it doesn't have to be "Carmageddon" and what we're expecting is that things will go smoothly. They'll go smoothly if people take heed. For three months we've tried to outreach to our city to say to people, stay at home, plan ahead, barbeque, go on vacation. But don't get on your car and go to the west side, the South Valley or the West Valley.
The fact of the matter is as you said, there are hundreds of thousands of cars that go through this overpass and for 53 hours, what we are saying is stay out of your car in that part of town. And if they do, I think things will go very, very well. But as you said, I will be there on Monday whether they go well or not because that's what comes with the job.
KING: That's what comes with being the mayor -- well being a mayor means you get the kick-me sign. You know the comedians are having a lot of fun with this and they like to make fun of your traffic out there -- I want you to listen to a little bit of sampling of what I'll call the pop culture comedy. We'll talk in just a second.
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STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": This is the big one, folks, increased traffic on two off peak days. You know what that means. Someone might have to walk someplace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the local news stations here are trying to help commuters with alternative routes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want it avoid the 405 this weekend, I suggest cutting through Cold Water Canyon. Just pull over and crawl down the embankment. Once you're down make your way through the tall grass to the Old Beverly Bridge. Once across, jump in Deer Creek and swim through the underwater cave. This will take you to the main sewer line, which brings you out to the 101 Freeway. It's that simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's pretty funny, Mr. Mayor, to watch this stuff. The question is when people watch it, do they get the message and think stay off the road or do they just think it's a big joke?
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: Well, let's hope that they don't think it's a big joke because it really isn't. We are engaged in unprecedented preparations. And just to highlight a few of the things that we'll be doing as an example, to make sure that we have our emergency responders there. We're going to divide that area in four quadrants. We'll have LAPD and fire resources all along the way so that they can go to neighborhoods should there be an emergency. We're working with UCLA hospital and all of the hospitals in the area to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
So as I said, there won't an carmageddon if people take heed. In they do, there's going to be traffic that makes those pictures that you were showing pale in comparison.
KING: But it's an interesting experiment you're undergoing there, because you've reached out, the LAPD has reached out to a lot of celebrities, you've got many of them, of course, out in L.A. and they asked for their help.
And I want to show some of the tweets that have gone up. Here is one from Ashton Kutcher. Pretty amusing. "LAPD asked me to tweet 405 freeway to be closed." He puts out the things here. Here's the question and I'm going to ask it straight to you. "In exchange, I'd like a free pass on that stoplight ticket. It was yellow." Can you take care of that for Ashton Kutcher?
VILLARAIGOSA: Yes. No. Thank you, Ashton.
KING: Here is Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks got involved on this as well. "This weekend L.A. avoid carmageddon, gas-zilla, 405 Einstein, gridapalooza." I think I got that right. "Stay home, eat and shop local." At the end there, a little comedy. This is something you are asking people. Eat and shop local. Why does that matter?
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, it matters because we'd like the revenue that comes with it, many people shop across town. They can shop in their neighborhoods and go to restaurants in their neighborhoods, promote dine L.A. and shop L.A. and importantly add to the revenue coffers. But don't get in the car to do it. We thank Tom and Ashton for those two tweets and I know that Lance and Ryan Seacrest and Lance Armstrong will also be tweeting and I want to thank them as well.
KING: I got one more for you. This might be my favorite, Michelle Trachtenberg @therealMichelle T. "Buffy the vampire slayer reaching out for a little wizardry here. @JkRowling, would you please ask Harry Potter to make carmageddon disappear. Sincerely, the people of Los Angeles." Can you have a wizard ready help you out here?
VILLARAIGOSA: I wish we could. I'm looking for a wizard. I expect if there is one, things are going to go smoothly. But particularly if everybody takes heed, gets on the bus and buses will be free, by the way, in that area, 26 bus lines. Our rail system will be for free. Metro Link is charging I think a $10 pass for that period of time. And if people get on their bike, walk as we joked about a few minutes ago, we're going to be OK this weekend.
KING: Yes, we're having a little fun here trying to do a little public service for the people of your city. Having a little fun with it, as well. Why should anybody else, if there's somebody watching in Boston, New York, North Dakota, Texas, Arizona tonight, why should they care, is this part of some national problem or national issue or is it just congested L.A. we're worried about?
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, as a matter of fact as I was read some newspapers on the East Coast, I think it was in the "New York Times" where they mentioned that the way we're doing this is a superior way to just kind of doing this over a much longer period of time. As I said, there's been an unprecedented preparation going on here to make this minimally intrusive and invasive for people. And we hope that others will take heed and maybe that this will be a great success.
KING: Mr. Mayor, we'll check in next week to see how this goes. I'm predicting again, if it goes well, people will just forget about it. If it goes badly, the phone will be ringing on Monday. Good luck with carmageddon weekend out in L.A.. The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, thank you for your time, sir.
VILLARAIGOSA: Thank you.
KING: Still ahead here, is Google ruining your memory? We'll look closely at a new study in just a moment. But as we go to break, because we can, we like to bring you funny videos sometimes. There's a great company in Taiwan that does these animations. Next Media Animation, they're called. Here's their take on carmageddon.
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KING: Welcome back. There's lots of fallouts from the British tabloid hacking scandal. Late this afternoon, Les Hinton resigned as the chief executive of Dow Jones, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and publishes the "Wall Street Journal." Hinton used to be the chief executive of News International, a Murdoch subsidiary that published the British tabloid "News of the World." At the time, its employees allegedly hacked into people's voicemails News International's current executive, Rebekah Brooks, also resigned today.
Murdoch himself will run an apology in his company's British newspapers tomorrow. It will read in part "We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected."
In other news, the Dalai Lama visits President Obama at the White House tomorrow. They last met back in February 2010.
And take a look at this picture from the International Space Station. See that green arch, starting by the (INAUDIBLE) of the space shuttle, following the curve of the earth? That's the southern lights. The aurora over the southern hemisphere. Beautiful shot from space right there.
Now if you want more information you can Google auroras and you'll get it. But be careful, a new study says Google might be ruining our brains. We'll discuss that in a little bit but next, we'll go looking for a few things Washington seems to be missing these days. Hope, bipartisanship and compromise.
KING: During his news conference today at the White House, the president had this "Back to the Future" moment.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I always have hope. Don't you remember my campaign?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's talk about hope. Erick Erickson, the editor of the conservative red state.com. He is among those not only questioning the president's plan but attacking the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Paul Begala, a veteran democratic strategist who remembers his old boss Bill Clinton managing to do some important business with his fierce Republican critics.
We're closing out this week, Erick. I want to start with you because you've been quite blunt saying that this plan put forward by Mitch McConnell which essentially says "Mr. President, here you go. Here's the power to raise the debt ceiling." The president gets that power unilaterally. Now they're working on an addition to hit that would have commissioned members of Congress to recommend spending cuts, they vote up or down. Yes or no. You think this is a bad idea and you're urging conservatives to stand up against Senator McConnell. You say "You must win this fight. You must show you are not afraid. When Ben Bernanke brings the Grim Reaper in on August 1st to tell you we're all going to die, you must mock death and choose life - not bipartisan compromises that will keep growing government ever more rapidly and turn this nation into a third class banana republic. In short, you must hold the line."
Really? You think that there's nothing on the table right now, even McConnell plus isn't good enough.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't think so. We've already had a bipartisan commission. They've already told us what they needed to do and everyone's balking. Mitch McConnell is a guy who for the past several years has defended earmarks saying we shouldn't give the president congressional authority to appropriate money and now he's saying "Hey, let's give the president authority to take out debt so we don't get blamed." It's intellectually dishonest.
You know, I realized that conservatives are going to have to compromise, but I really don't think our compromise should be let's let the president do it so we can turn it into a political issue against him. The policy is much more important right now than the politics.
KING: Only as you spoke did I realize what a salicious (ph) moment this is. Paul Begala has to stand (INAUDIBLE) here and I think defend Mitch McConnell.
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I may not be able to do it. It does seem when you hear Senator McConnell talking with this, he's only talking about the politics of this. We're going to blame the president for the bad economy, which by the way they failed at that. By 2-1, Americans blamed -
KING: (INAUDIBLE) by the policy he says America can't default even if we Republicans don't get everything we want.
BEGALA: That is where he's right. First off, the founding fathers didn't envision a debt ceiling. Congress votes the debt and they've already voted it. The question is not whether we have the debt. The question is whether we pay the debt.
KING: There's a lot happening in the capitol today the founding fathers did not envision.
BEGALA: Absolutely. And now there's this nonsense that somehow Mr. Madison was wrong and so we are going to have a constitutional amendment? Madison's masterpiece did not stop Bill Clinton from balancing the budget. It won't stop these characters if they just do their jobs.
KING: So if they just do their job, the president says that, too. The president hasn't put together a plan. I think it's fair to criticize him for that. But I think it's also fair to criticize the Republicans for saying "Absolutely not, absolutely not." Before they can at least sit down at the table and try to hash these things out. So you were this when Bill Clinton worked with a guy he didn't agree with on just about anything, Newt Gingrich, to balance the budget. What was there that's missing now?
BEGALA: You know who's there, Bob Dole. I'm serious. Senator Dole - and we can fight with him. He's prepared to go run against President Clinton back then. And Dole was part of the crowd that shut down the government, it's true. But after the shut down, he ended it with these three words. "Enough is enough." And I never thought I'd say "Gee, I miss Bob Dole," but someone on the Republican side needs to say enough is enough, let's stop the madness. Compromise in the middle, some tax increase, some spending cuts, and move forward (INAUDIBLE).
KING: I read your column today, Erick. You don't miss Bob Dole.
ERICKSON: No, I don't particularly miss Bob Dole. I think the Republicans probably should have thought it out a little more than they did in '95. But you know, I will say I agree with Paul in that ultimately as much as I may pound my fist on the table, I know that the Republicans and the Democrats will get in a closed room and they'll come up with a plan. I just - I really think that the McConnell plan is a very bad idea to seed this congressional authority to the president and say let's get another commission. At what point do we stop getting commissions to come up with ideas and actually vote on something? We got a debt of commission. We got the gang of six. We're going to have a Tom Coburn $9 trillion plan on Monday. When do they come up with something other than saying "Hey, let's just blame the other guy?" They've been saying for six months "this is the worst crisis we've had." They pulled the Joint Chiefs of Staff that it's a national security issue, and then they say "But we're going to do it anyway and we're just going to blame the president." That's not policy. That's just politics.
KING: Well a lot of politics in this town this week. We'll check in next week with both of you to see how this is going. I will say Erick, I'm guessing I'll see you right here on the screen. Mr. Begala, I won't say exactly where you're going but aloha, my friend.
BEGALA: We're going fishing.
KING: We'll see you soon.
And ahead, don't go away. Because how often do you use the internet to answer a question? How often do you use to answer the same question? A study worth remembering is next.
KING: What did you find today using Google or Ask or Bing? Can't remember? Well, maybe there's a reason. A new study suggests the more our brains expect to find information on the internet, the less information they can actually recall. Let's take a little look here, as you see. At any given time, these are the Google searches around the world, 17 billion U.S. web searches on Google in the United States everyday. What are we talking about here?
Maybe after our last segment, you wanted to find out about the debt limit. You can get almost 11 million results if you Google debt limit. Harry Potter movie, the last one comes out this week and maybe you want to look at that. Look at that 114 million results if you search "Harry Potter." Maybe you're about to take a trip this week and you want to find out "What's my airline going to charge me in baggage fees?" A little short of 900 million there. 990 million there. So the question is really with all this information available to us, is there a price? So is it true? Is Google ruining your brain?
Let's ask Joshua Foer, author of "Moonwalking with Einstein" and "The Art and Science of Remembering Everything," also the winner of the 2006 U.S. Memory Championship and technology writer, Nicholas Carr, author of "The Shallows, What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains." Joshua, to you first, the simple question is Google using the internet, search engines, easy access to information, are we paying a price for that, an intellectual price?
JOSHUA FOER, AUTHOR "MOONWALKING WITH EINSTEIN: Well, it's changing us. What the study found is that when we know information can be accessed online, we become sort of less concerned with remembering it ourselves. As a result, we remember less because we know we can always look it up on Google. So it's making us less dependent on our own internal memories.
KING: And do we think that's any different, Nicholas in the beginning of time, the cave men sketch some things on the wall or write them down in sand or do we write things on a piece of paper and stick it in our pocket and maybe we don't remember it up there because we have it here?
NICHOLAS CARR, AUTHOR "THE SHALLOWS": Yes, we've always had different forms of what scientists call external memory, whether its books or cave paintings or maps or whatever. The difference here is we've never had anything like the web which is always there, which has almost everything in it. And so if there's a concern here, we are going to be much more likely now to not remember things than was true in the past even when we had things books and stuff to look things up in.
KING: So we're spoiled, Joshua, and if we're spoiled because we have easy access to information, what's the risk? We can be, it's harder and harder but we can be disconnected from our crutch (INAUDIBLE) if you will, there are places. So what does an average person who maybe has great broadband, who is on the internet all the time, maybe at home with a laptop, maybe with a handheld smartphone, what is the lesson they need to learn to not go too far?
FOER: Well, it's worth actually having information knocking around in your skull. It's wonderful a resource as Google and the internet may be, it's still the case, you know, the internet can't take two ideas that didn't go together before and put them together. It can't make a creative leap. That requires human thought and human thought requires having memories.
KING: But Nicholas, we inevitably we are just human beings. We're lazy or we want things, we want fast-food. We want our Starbucks and we want it now. The title of your book, "What is the internet doing to our Brain," what is it?
CARR: Well, as this study shows, our brains adapt pretty quickly to the tools we use. And I think the frightening thing in this research is that a piece of information stored in a computer database is very different from that same piece of information stored in your own mind. It's only when you have memories that you connect what you know to everything else you know. And that's the source of deep conceptual thinking. It's the source of personal knowledge. And we have to be wary that in coming to rely so much on this incredibly powerful external system, we're going to lose something very important, not only to our intellects but perhaps even to ourself in the distinctiveness of our minds.
KING: So Joshua, what are your tips then? You're a memory champ. What are your tips to somebody who maybe has access to this, maybe gets lazy, what would you say to them, "Don't do it, here's how you need to train yourself"?
FOER: Well, you know, the underlying reason why the people in the study didn't remember the information that they were told was going to be saved online is that they weren't invested in that act of remembering. And, you know, we can all sort of will ourselves to be better remembers, just by paying attention and by trying to figure out what in this piece of information that I'm trying to learn is interesting, what's significant, what's colorful about it, how can I make it stick?
KING: And Nicholas, how does this change what some preschool teacher or kindergarten teacher should be doing in the sense that you know, we all learn the ABCs, we learn the tables while we're learning Math and the alphabet. Maybe in chemistry, we try to remember - I need the chart but the elements out there. But knowing that now the world is different and technology is different and that the access, the availability of this information online does affect our memory, what, how do we need to teach children differently?
CARR: Well, I don't think we need to do back to rote memorization, but I do think we have to realize that kids need to learn how to have a rich memory and how to connect different pieces of information. A lot of that hinges on learning to pay attention, learning to screen out distractions and interruptions, the kind of thing our computers and cell phones push at us all the time. School teachers need to make sure kids know how to use computers well and also have to turn schools into a refuge from this constant age of distraction our technology has pushed us into.
KING: Who is it's easier to reform, if you will? Someone like me, who is old enough to remember not having access to these things at the tip of my fingertips every second or somebody younger like my 18- year-old son and my 14-year-old daughter who have lived their entire lives being just a reach away from access a reach away from access to almost anything?
FOER: Yes, I mean, I think this is going to be the story of the future that forget this generation, the next generation is going to be born being so entirely enmeshed in this world of online memories. I think it will have profound effects on not only how we remember but on fundamentally what it means to be human.
KING: What do we lose, Nicholas, if we have memory issues, memory problems because we're lazy or because our brain has to told us, "Don't worry, I don't need to remember this because I can reach out and get it." What's the downside in our life or in our professional lives just becoming that lazy and that reliant on technology?
CARR: Well, there have been other studies, for instance that show that the more information we have in our memory, the easier it becomes to learn new things. Because we can slot the incoming information into what we already know. So if we remember less, unfortunately we'll end up knowing less and having, I think, a mind less capable of the deepest kinds of conceptual and critical thinking.
KING: Joshua, you talked about some worrisome things in this study. Do you look at this and see anything that makes you think "that's good, that's positive, that's a plus," obviously having instant access to all these all around the world is a plus but anything about just how our cognitive abilities, you look at it and think, "OK, there's a plus side"?
FOER: Yes, I mean, certainly, it's nice to have all of the world's information at our fingertips. And I think, you know, one thing we have to remember is this is an old story, this idea of externalizing our memories. And people have been worried about it Socrates was terrified about this new invention called writing which he said was going to make everybody forgetful. So we should be a little bit wary of, you know, fearing that the sky is falling.
KING: That at the end, a lesson worth, shall I say, worth remembering. Joshua Foer, Nicholas Carr, thanks for spending some time with us tonight.
And that's all from us tonight. Have a great weekend. Coming up next, "Larry King Special Harry Potter: The Final Chapter."