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President Obama's Views; Talking Texan

Aired August 16, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Good evening everyone.

Tonight President Obama on jobs, sending troops off to war and the Republicans who want his job. What does he make, for example, of Texas Governor Rick Perry's suggestion the men and women of America's armed forces don't respect their commander in chief.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll cut him some slack. He's only been at it for a few days now.


KING: Perry for his part isn't so diplomatic. He blows kisses at his rivals and uses words like treasonous to criticize the chairman of the Federal Reserve.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know what you all would do to them in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.


KING: Now that Texas talk is stirring the presidential race but might some of it scare voters away? Also on the trail Michele Bachmann leads a tribute.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Before we get started, let's all say happy birthday to Elvis Presley today, happy birthday.


KING: Sweet, right? Except Elvis was born in January. He died on this day August 16th in 1977.

Plus, check this out. A group swarms into a Maryland convenience store and robs it in a stunning blur. It is the latest example of crime by flash mob. And we'll talk live tonight to the police chief now hoping the same tools used to organize these outrages help him round up the thieves.

Let's begin, though, in Iowa, center stage in American politics at the moment. President Obama is there and he sat down today with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. On the critical issue of jobs the president complained the partisan gridlock here in Washington is blocking progress, but he also conceded his re-election is at risk if things don't get better soon.


OBAMA: Ultimately the buck stops with me. I'm going to be accountable. I think people understand that a lot of these problems were decades in the making. People understand that this financial crisis was the worst since the great depression, but ultimately they say, look, he's the president, we think he has good intentions but we're impatient and we want to see things move faster.


KING: And when Wolf recalled the conversation during the last campaign, there was this telling exchange --




BLITZER: -- end of 2008, hope and change.

OBAMA: Right.

BLITZER: Do you know what I see in Washington still to this day --

OBAMA: More of the same?

BLITZER: The same old, same old.


BLITZER: A lot of bickering, back stabbing --

OBAMA: Maybe a little worse.

BLITZER: Name -- why?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think what's happened, you know, there are a lot of theories about this, part of it is you have these congressional districts that are now so Democratic or so Republican that people don't feel like they need to move to the center and try to find some common ground. They dig in their heels. They're more worried about a primary fight coming from their own party and I think that contributes to it. Some of it frankly, Wolf, is I think the media's changed, you know, it's much more splintered.


KING: Wolf Blitzer live with us tonight from Peosta (ph), Iowa where he conducted that interview. Wolf, very telling, the president says it's Washington's fault, it's Washington's fault. We can't get a jobs bill through, but he acknowledges if the number doesn't go down, the unemployment number, he could be at risk, and I thought his point about I promised to make Washington better and it's even worse was pretty telling.

BLITZER: Yes. I was surprised he said that. Because, you know, he ran on hope and change and it wasn't supposed to be like this, but he knows it is the same old, same old, and as he says it may even be a whole lot worse. He went into some specifics about how the country is so divided right now. Redistricting, for example, has created solid Republican districts in the House of Representatives, solid Democratic districts in the House of Representatives.

Says the media is partially to blame because Republicans want to watch one channel, that is, Republican oriented. Democrats will watch another channel. And they won't hear what each other are saying really. It's a whole different world. And he's clearly angry and frustrated, John, and that certainly came through during that exchange.

KING: And Wolf, you tried. You pressed him. He says he'll have a jobs plan soon and a new deficit reduction plan. You pressed him for specifics including how are you going to deal with Medicare cuts and the like. As you know, one of the knocks from Republicans is the president says these things and then doesn't give us the details, understand maybe why he wouldn't want to give them in a national TV interview, but did you get any sense that he understands the bar on him, the test on him, will be to be very, very specific when he has those plans?

BLITZER: Yes. And his instinct as you know, John, a lot of our viewers know, is not to come up with a formal plan, a formal blueprint to put that on the table, but to try to negotiate something behind the scenes and hope that that works out and then they would release some sort of final agreement. That's his instinct, but I think he realizes now it's too late, he's got to come up with a specific plan. He's going to do it in September. I tried to get details.

My own gut tells me and what I'm hearing from behind the scenes, there's a little fighting going on within the administration, within the White House and they haven't come up with those initiatives yet. They still have a lot of work to do before they come up with that plan which is understandable. But when I asked him what's taking so long, he said, well, I've done all sorts of things, but clearly it hasn't been enough.

KING: Wolf Blitzer, a fascinating interview with the president of the United States, more of it coming up later tonight on CNN. Stay with it and we're going to -- Wolf, thank you.

And let's digest more of it here and the moment with our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin and our senior analyst David Gergen. Thanks, both, for being here. I want to start with one of the things the president said. Wolf asked him why don't you support a balanced budget amendment which is of course very popular with Republicans and a majority of the American people said they would like a balanced budget amendment. The president said this.


OBAMA: I guess here's the question is why can't Congress simply make good choices? Why can't the president and Congress, working together, get a handle on our debt and deficits?


KING: It's a fair enough point from the president, Jessica Yellin, but if you look at the president's own three budgets that he's submitted to Congress, he says why can't we make good choices and tough choices, his 2009 budget had a $1.75 trillion deficit. The next year his proposal had a $1.56 trillion deficit and the year after that a $1.6 trillion deficit. So it's easy to say we need to make tough choices but could a Republican make the case he has not led that conversation?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If Congress were in session, there would be 100 Democrats trying to run into this room screaming with their hair on fire, how could you say this, John King, because they would say these were deficits run up by the administrations beforehand that the president tried to pay down that they are now working on paying down, but they had to stimulate the economy, et cetera, et cetera. In other words, we were handed this.

We're doing the best we can. So that is the essential Democratic position, plus the argument that you do not want to work in a balanced budget environment because it's not good for the economy. That's an essential Democratic position about -- it's a philosophy, so they don't want to alter that. Plus, they don't like the balanced budget amendment.

It's a view of the world that the Democrats come from. The president's taking a middle position which is I'll go a little bit toward the Republicans and agree with some deficit reduction. Democrats are angry he's gone too far already. So, he's in the middle trying to negotiate between the Republicans and the Democrats, and already he's being burned for going too far to the Republican side.

KING: And, David, when you sit down with the president, it's telling, and Wolf was trying to get him to talk about some things and your president's been out there, he's in campaign mode, even though this is officially, officially a presidential trip. I want to play an exchange here, but first I want to play a little bit of a DNC, Democratic National Committee web video. Mitt Romney said something on the trail the other day and the Democratic Party just jumped on it. They thought this is manna from heaven.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One is we could raise taxes on people. That's not the way --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corporations are people, my friend. We can raise taxes on -- of course they are -- everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people, so where do you think it goes?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In their pocket.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people's pockets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this ad.


KING: So you see the Democrats seizing on that Romney moment and so then Wolf poses the question to the president, David Gergen, and you would think that's t-ball, here it is a chance to take out the man who could be his opponent in November; do you get a sharply partisan attack? No. You get this.


OBAMA: If you tell me that corporations are vital to American life, that the free enterprise system has been the greatest wealth creator that we've ever seen, that there -- corporate CEOs and folks who are working in our large companies that are creating incredible products and services and that is all to the benefit of the United States of America? That I absolutely agree with.

If, on the other hand, you tell me that every corporate tax break that's out there is somehow good for ordinary Americans, that we have a tax code that's fair, that asking oil and gas companies, for example, not to get special exemptions that other folks don't get and that if we're closing those tax loopholes somehow that that is going to hurt America, then that I disagree with.


KING: To borrow a phrase, David, I would call that a fair and balanced answer from the president. However, it does not match his own party's political message at the moment.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely not, John. He pulled his punches on that. And there's a pattern we've seen in the last few days, and that is he aggressively on the stump goes after Congress and Republicans in Congress, being -- making them responsible for all the bad things that have happened especially on the debt ceiling fight. He also is willing occasionally to go after Republican contenders as a group. But he's been pulling his punches on individual Republican candidates.

Jessica I think has a theory that he doesn't want to get up, elevate them and put them up on the same stage with him. Let them fight it out and he'll go after whoever is left. But there's a real distinction between how he goes after Republicans in Congress versus how he goes after -- he cut slack today as on -- intentionally on Rick Perry. He could have not only gone after him about what he said about the military, he could have gone after him with this comment he made about Ben Bernanke, but he held back. I assume the theory is what Jessica says.

KING: And so let's listen to one more. Here's where I thought the president did something smart. He was talking about -- you remember the last FOX Republican debate earlier this week and Brett Baier asked the candidates to raise your hands if you agree with this position, and the position was would you oppose a deficit reduction deal even if it had $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases, and all of the Republican candidates said they would oppose that. The president reaching for the middle of the electorate jumped on that.


OBAMA: When I saw our Republican presidential primary candidates suggesting that they would not be willing to close a single loophole or close a single special interest tax break even if they were going to get $10 of savings for every $1 of revenue that raised that is no longer thinking in a commonsense way. At that point what you're seeing is ideological rigidity that is preventing us from solving problems.


KING: That's an appeal, David, to independent voters. It's also proof he's paying a lot more attention to the campaign than the White House might want us to think.

GERGEN: Well that's absolutely right and what he is doing when he goes after the group is he is sort of saying basically I've got a bunch of extremists running against me. Look how unreasonable they are. They're no different from the people in Congress that you don't like. You know they would oppose this any kind of compromise as well on the debt ceiling and on this new deficit commission and these guys are all out to lunch. That's basically what he's saying, but he's doing it in a more presidential way than being on the stump and he's very carefully avoiding going after individuals like Rick Perry and Mitt Romney even when he's had these big openings here in the last 24 or 48 hours.

KING: You can see, Jess that he's sort of trying to figure out when do I have to be president and when am I the candidate.

YELLIN: Well he has to walk a careful line. I don't think it's quite a dilemma for him yet. At this point they're very clear. Right now his job in the view of the White House and the president's top campaign advisers he's commander in chief focusing on jobs. That's the way it has to look to the public. So we'll see him in September out on the road, but he'll be pushing Congress on his jobs proposals and on the super committee proposals. He'll be in shirt-sleeves. It might look like a campaign picture. He won't be talking about the candidates. He'll be talking about his job as president.

KING: Jessica Yellin and David Gergen, appreciate your coming in. Before we go to break there's one other thing the president said in the interview. I want to play it to you. This is what we call humor here. He should be glad that his daughters aren't old enough to vote, because if they were the president may have given them a reason today to vote Republican.


OBAMA: When I'm re-elected, what I'll be getting them is a continuation of Secret Service so that when boys want to start dating them, they're going to be surrounded by men with guns. That's their gift.


KING: An excellent point from the president of the United States right on that one. Today every father of a daughter can agree with that one.

President Obama wasn't the only candidate in Iowa today. The Republican candidate, Rick Perry, was there, too, and coming up we'll hear what he was up to and try to translate some of what we'll call his Texan-isms.


KING: The newest big player in our national political debate wears cowboy boots, talks with a Texas twang and every now and then says things that might startle you or at least require a little translation. No, George W. Bush is not making a comeback and no the current Republican Governor Rick Perry hasn't crossed into the dictionary defined land of misunderestimating or strategery, but he is making an early impression in the Republican presidential race with his unmistakably Texan style.


PERRY: I'm the product of a place called Paint Creek. It doesn't have a zip code. It's too small to be called a town along the Rolling Plains of Texas.


KING: David Courtney of "Texas Monthly" is with us tonight to help translate some of Perry's unusual campaign language and Jeff Zeleny of "The New York Times" has been keeping a close eye on how the Texan is playing in Iowa and other key early battlegrounds.

David to you first -- I want you to listen. Last night he was talking about the Fed chairman, Governor Perry was, Ben Bernanke, and about what's called quantitative easing, the Fed putting more money into the economy, and the governor said if the Fed kept doing that it would consider it to be treacherous and treasonous behavior and he went on to say this.


PERRY: I'll take a pass on the Federal Reserve right at the moment, to be real honest with you. I know there's a lot of talk and what have you about them. If this guy prints more money, between now and the election, I don't know what you all would do to him in Iowa, but we'd -- we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.


KING: All right, David Courtney, treat him pretty ugly means what?

DAVID COURTNEY, TEXAS MONTHLY MAGAZINE: Well, hi, John. Thanks for having me. Treat him pretty ugly sounds awfully close to opening up a can of you know what on him, whoop ass.

KING: OK. You can say that. It's all right. Jeff Zeleny --


KING: Go ahead. Jeff, when you're out on the road when voters hear this, you know, George W. Bush, people took a lot of time to get used to him in some ways, Bill Clinton had the same thing when I covered him. He used to say things like when you see a turtle on a fence post, it didn't get there by accident. How is Rick Perry being processed in the early days?

JEFF ZELENY, NAT'L POLITICAL CORRESP. NEW YORK TIMES: Well it's interesting John, at the Iowa State Fair yesterday I talked to a lot of voters who said that they were coming up to hear him speak and they could hear him you know sort of a block or two away and they thought it actually was George W. Bush, so he sounds similar but in many ways they're different. And I mean certainly in policies and in terms of the type of fiscal conservative they are, but Iowans really are excited that he's here.

The voters I talked to. You know, part of it is, though, I think they're just looking for sort of a new player in the race. It's been going on for a while. But he got in a little bit of hot water with his comments about Ben Bernanke, and the differences between his campaign style on -- at the Iowa State Fair when he would answer any question and he was really confident in things and today after he made that comment was quite striking.

His aides hustled him away. He took no questions from reporters. So I think one thing that they know that they're going to have to do is sort of instill a little bit more discipline in his presidential campaign when everything you say is parsed and repeated.

KING: Handlers. And, David, one of the comments the governor will be asked about, his campaign is being asked about, is a comment back in 2009 when he was at a Tea Party rally and he suggested if Washington kept behaving the way it was behaving maybe Texas was going to look to leave the country. Let's listen.


PERRY: You know, my whole visit (ph) America, Washington in particular (INAUDIBLE) we got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it, but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of it -- may come out of that. So -- but Texas is a very unique place and we're pretty independent (INAUDIBLE).


KING: Talk of secession, has that come up a lot in Texas?

COURTNEY: It does not. Lately it's just -- just from that clip is what we hear it, you know, and I think there is a bumper sticker you'll see with the Texas flag and the word on it. But that's about it.

KING: So, this is just him talking --


KING: -- talking at a Tea Party rally and saying maybe.

COURTNEY: That's right. I think you would call that big talk.

KING: Big talk -- what is the -- big hat -- all hat or no cattle or something like that?


KING: So again, Jeff, out on the trail you get the sense that people have immediately said this guy is the force, that it's now a Romney, Bachmann, Perry race. When you talk to activists out there, do they want to winnow the field that quickly or are they looking for a little more time?

ZELENY: I think that they're ready to winnow the field to at least the top three or maybe a top five candidate and that's already happening, I mean with the Iowa straw poll and that process has gone on. But I think what they really want are some specifics and it's clear that Governor Perry has a great operation around him. He has this great advance team, all of his events looked like they were set up perfectly. It almost has the air of a general election-type campaign, but his policy specifics are not quite there yet.

He had a lunch with some business leaders in Dubuque today, kind of a setting of just a couple dozen Republicans generally and they asked him specifically what he would do on controlling entitlements and he just sort of gave a broad brush, you know, conservative view but he didn't give many specifics. He wouldn't even commit to, you know raising the retirement age which a lot of Republicans have. So I think he knows that he has to get up to speed pretty quickly and especially before the three debates in September, you know, it's going to be critical for him to see how he responds to those because he is a few months behind here.

KING: Week one of our new latest candidacy, we'll continue to watch it. David Courtney and Jeff Zeleny, appreciate your help tonight.

And still to come here, the latest example of crime by flash mob is alarming to watch. The local police chief now hoping this video goes viral and he's here to tell us why.

And there's grumbling tonight about the president from two critical constituencies, African Americans and Latinos. We'll assess the political price of policy differences over jobs and immigration.


KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now. The Pentagon tonight says the single largest threat to Iraq's security are militia groups backed by Iran. A major general who speaks to the U.S. forces in Iraq says those Iranian-backed militias now outpace al Qaeda in Iraq, which also he says remains a threat. Spanish police today arrested a man for allegedly plotting to attack tomorrow's demonstration against Pope Benedict's visit to Madrid.

The Pope is coming Thursday to celebrate World Youth Day. Tomorrow's demonstration is a protest against the cost of that visit. And from Mars -- look at this -- a new look inside a 14-mile-wide crater so big its distant walls make it look more like a valley. It's the largest crater ever visited by the U.S. Rover Opportunity -- when we come back, dramatic video of a flash mob robbing a convenience store and the role social media play in organizing such events.


KING: This summer something that's been a harmless, even a fun fad has turned dangerous and illegal. Young people using social networks and text messaging to get organized have been assembling in what they call flash mobs. But over the weekend in Germantown, Maryland a flash mob of more than two dozen young people showed up at a convenience store just before 2:00 in the morning. Look at it right there -- grabbing things off the shelves and off they go, leaving without paying.

We are seeing similar reports in other cities, most involving African-Americans and some leading to mob violence.

With us now, the Montgomery County, Maryland, police chief, J. Thomas Manger; and CNN contributor Roland Martin.

Chief, this is your jurisdiction, Germantown, where this played out. What do you know about how they got organized? And I've spoken to the Philadelphia chief, Charles Ramsey, recently, he says they are using texting, using social media.

Is that how it happens?

CHIEF J. THOMAS MANGER, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, POLICE: It's still under investigation. We know that we've gotten some information that some of these kids were at the Montgomery County fair. When it closed, they took the last bus back to the transit center in Germantown, then when they got there, what we're thinking is that's when they started using the social media to get a larger group together to go into the 7-Eleven.

KING: So, you put this video online. You hope it helps you bust these thugs.

On the other hand, do you worry at all it would glorify them? Because after an incident in Philadelphia, Google searches for flash mobs peaked. And do you worry that other kids might say, see, this is a way to get attention and this is a way to get on television?

MANGER: Well, we're hopeful the reaction that we've gotten from the community quells that. I mean, we've gotten overwhelming response from the community. In fact, because of the quality of the video we've identified now over half the kids involved in this and that's from folks who have seen the video and called us with information.

KING: Roland, when you see this, it's obviously abhorrent to watch a conduct like this, there's other cases of beatings. The Philadelphia mayor, after a violent incident in his city, went into an African-American church, and he delivered this lecture --


MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, PHILADELPHIA: You damage yourself. You damage another person. You damage your peers. And quite honestly, you damage your own race.


KING: Do you see it as an African-American problem, a youth problem?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I see it as a youth problem, just like when I see after a basketball game or football game, I'll see white kids on the college campus turning over police cars setting them on fire -- I don't say, oh, my God, what is happening with white college students. I see it as a college student issue.

I think in this case, here you have Mayor Nutter, African- American, speaking in a predominantly African-American church, speaking to the issue in that case you largely had African-Americans. And so, he's making it a very pointed issue.

The problem here and I do believe this is going to be the problem, that it becomes a copycat syndrome, because even before Philadelphia, it was a problem in Chicago. And then it was on Michigan Avenue and they had a problem there.

And so, I think when people all of a sudden see this, they say, hey, it's a great idea, but at the end of the day, parents and community leaders must say, whether they are black or white, these are thugs. This is criminal activity and it is flat-out wrong.

KING: And, Chief, some have suggested, and this has happened in London as well. You have the riots in London. You have people there say, well, you know, you have high unemployment. You have an age of austerity where people are cutting government services, people here in American cities, there are less money for summer jobs, fewer opportunities.

You know, the police chief, used to be here in D.C., Charles Ramsey, he's up in Philadelphia now. Here's what he said when I asked, does the economy had something to do with this.


CHARLES RAMSEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: These are ignorant kids doing things they have no business doing. Unemployment, education -- these are not excuses to go out and randomly target people and beat them up. There's just absolutely no excuse for it. It's just stupid. It's ignorant, and I just can't find any other words to describe it.


MANGER: Remember, these kids were -- many of them were at the county fair up until after midnight. So, they had something to do.

KING: Right.

MANGER: This was 1:30 in the morning. I mean, it's not like that was occurring at 7:00 or 8:00 when you think, well, maybe if we had a program, these kids, you know, could get involved in a more healthier activity. This happened at 1:30 in the morning.

MARTIN: This is a knee-jerk reaction, John, I think is a problem because what you then do is when you have real cases of poverty and you need programs, and people say, well, this is part of the issue. It's nothing to do with it. Chief Ramsey was absolutely on it.

KING: And so, when you have this, in your community, you say people are calling in because you have this video up and people are calling in and giving you tips. You've identified half, have you arrested them or are you waiting trying to build more evidence and get the rest of the names?

MANGER: We're continuing to build our case, the investigation continues. But the final outcome is going to be some of these kids are going to be held accountable. Most of these kids are going to be held accountable, perhaps in juvenile court, adult court, for their behavior. And I think that's where we send a message that we're not going to tolerate this kind of behavior.

KING: So, you send the message to the children. How old are they?

MANGER: You know, most of the ones we identified so far are juveniles, so they're under 18 years of age.

KING: They're under 18 of age. So, Roland, they end up in juvie court. They -- and some of them, if they have a record, may have a harsher penalty. But most of them are going to be told to go away and they'd be fined, right? Am I in the ballpark?

MANGER: Absolutely.

KING: And so, can you haul the parents into juvenile court?

MANGER: Well, their parents do have to respond to juvenile court. So, there is an opportunity for the judge to intervene there if there's some action he thinks that can help the family.

MARTIN: John, every parent in Germantown must confront this. This could affect your child potentially getting into college. This could affect your child down the road. So, they might see this as a one-time deal, but it could have lifelong ramifications if they allow this to continue.

KING: What's your sense? You see this technological explosion and it helps you in a case like this because they're surveillance cameras everywhere. And so, on the one hand, technology is your friend.

And the idea that people can start text messaging and it domino effects and the kids think it's cool somehow to get involved with this gang, how do you as a guy who is, you know, trained to fight crime, cops and robbers, deal with that?

MANGER: Well, I think we need to have the same capability as these kids do and I think it's going to come down to, you know, when some of the messages go out that there's going to be enough folks in the community that understand, you know what, I can forward this message to the police. They can be there. They can respond quickly.

KING: So, you need a tip, just like there's a guy selling pot on the corner or an adult buying liquor for kids outside the liquor store.


MARTIN: I would call them, you know, the social media, neighborhood watch groups, the young folks who say I'm willing to help the police be a social media watchdog.

KING: Is there a right, more constitutional questions you have because of all this?

MANGER: You know, it hasn't been an issue so far. I mean, we've worked with the state's attorney to make sure that we stay, you know, on the right side of this and we don't hamper the prosecution in court. But I think it's there. It's there available to us and we need to take advantage of it.

KING: How long have you been chief? MANGER: I've been chief here for eight years.

KING: Ever seen anything like that?

MANGER: You know -- not in Montgomery County. And now, we actually had a similar situation in Silver Spring. That's why the county's wrestling with this curfew legislation right now. Many -- Philadelphia has looked it as an alternative and I think this is the perfect example of where a curfew could have prevented this from happening.

KING: Do you think a curfew --

MARTIN: Look, I'm total in favor of a curfew, absolutely 100 percent. I got one question, Chief, are you on Twitter?

MANGER: The department is.

MARTIN: What's the handle?


MANGER: I should know that.

KING: You know what? We're going to get that, Roland makes a great point. We'll get it and put it on our blog.

Chief, Roland, I appreciate you coming in.

ROLAND: I'll retweet it.

KING: Who will be the next Republican candidate to drop out of the race? Coming up, one hopeful who says his fourth-place finish in the Iowa straw poll should convince you it won't be him.


KING: "ANDERSON COOPER 360" coming up at the top of the hour. Anderson is here now with the preview.

Hey there.


We're keeping them honest tonight on "A.C.360."

The president is on what he calls -- or the White House is calling a listening tour about the economy. But what exactly is being done in Washington to create jobs? By the president and by Congress? Is anything really being done?

You're going to hear from the president himself and we'll speak with Paul Begala and Ari Fleischer.

Also, Syria's citizens under assault. Take a look.


COOPER: More on the government's crackdown on its own people, including a 2-year-old child caught in the cross fire when her parents tried to flee. Human rights activists we talked to say the father has now been kidnapped. It is perhaps the most disturbing video we have seen yet in the four or five months of this conflict. We'll show it to you on the program.

And our special report, part two of a "360" investigation about a parenting book that is controversial to say the least. A book written by these people that says God wants parents to spank their children and the spanking should be hard enough to cause physical pain using belts, wooden spoons, and the like. The book was found in the home of parents in California who were convicted of beating their 7-year-old daughter to death.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour -- John.

KING: Anderson, we'll see you in just a few minutes, thanks.

For former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a third-place finish in Saturday's Ames, Iowa, Republican straw poll was devastating. But former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania came in fourth and he calls that result invigorating. Yet, most national Republican strategists there's a three-way race now for the Republican nomination and they don't list Senator Santorum.

Senator Santorum is with us live from Pittsburgh tonight.

You say this is a great event for you coming in fourth, and you're a low budget candidacy, you did it on your own shoe leather. But the buzz out of Ames was Romney, Perry, Bachmann -- what do you make of that?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That was the national buzz, but that wasn't the buzz in Iowa. The buzz in Iowa was we did very, very well. I was in Waterloo the next night because Perry and Bachmann were there and, of course, the national media covered Perry and Bachmann, and I worked the tables and had lots of people sign up and volunteer for my campaign. A lot of people -- even folks who hadn't decided came up and said, please, we're glad you're here, we really don't want you to drop out, we really like you and we really want to hear more from you, we don't know much about you, but what we see, we like.

So, you know, the good thing is New York and Washington don't decide who the candidates are going to be and the nominees are going to be. They can decide who they put on television and write about. But the people of Iowa, the people in New Hampshire and the people of South Carolina are going to make this decision.

And that's where we're spending our time. That's where we're working hard. It's still five months before the first caucus. We're not going to be anywhere near the lead, but we're going to keep building that support and we feel very good about what we accomplished, you know, with being outspent at least 10-1 by everybody above me in the straw poll.

KING: You talk about spending your time, but as you know, you can work Iowa and you can stay there for months, and you might do a pretty good job in Iowa. If you got to move to the primaries, New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond, that takes money.

So, how much did Iowa impact fundraising right out of the box? What can you say days later that leads you to believe, I'll be on TV in New Hampshire? I'll be on TV in South Carolina?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, again, we've got five months to go. I remind everybody that Mike Huckabee, I think it was six weeks after the straw poll, was still 8 percent in Iowa and was seen as not a factor in the race. And so -- and, you know, couldn't raise any money, couldn't do anything, and obviously he was a huge factor in the race.

And our feeling is that we come from a good state of Pennsylvania, that's where I am today. And we'll be spending a lot of time here talking to a lot of Pennsylvanians and, you know, raising some money here and it's interesting that we had a tick-up of money basically from four states. The states I've been spending time in, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. And because we don't really get a lot of play everywhere else.

And that's fine. I'm really not complaining about it. You know, I actually -- maybe it's a little bit of an advantage to keep your head down out of the fire that's flying right now between all the other candidates. And just keep building the base.

KING: Now, if you look at the race, you can make the argument that Pawlenty leaving the race, Governor Pawlenty stepping aside, could be good for Rick Santorum because Governor Pawlenty is pro-life and he wants to appeal to Christian conservatives, a lot of them in Iowa and South Carolina. Governor Pawlenty had to work with Democrats -- and you made the case I watched you in the debate the other night, that, hey, when I was in the United States Senate, yes, I'm a conservative Republican but on welfare reform and foreign policy, I reached out and worked with Democrats.

So, you could see this, in one hand, it's a good moment for you. And then in comes Rick Perry who says I can appeal to the Republican base. I can appeal to a broad stream. What's your sense of the new energy in the race, if you will, Governor Perry?

SANTORUM: Yes, certainly, Governor Perry steps in the race and he stepped on it a couple of times already. I mean, Washington, D.C. is not Austin and, you know, my sense is that he's going to have a pretty good learning curve. Not just on what it means to run a national campaign and have the scrutiny of the national media that he didn't have in Texas.

KING: What do you mean by "he stepped on it"?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, his comments about Ben Bernanke. I mean, they were completely out-of-bounds. I mean, I don't agree with Ben Bernanke's policies, but the reason I don't agree with them is because I think the Fed charter is too expansive. It should just be focused on inflation, not on creating -- you know, focusing on unemployment.

To me, the rhetoric that Rick Perry used was the rhetoric that I would expect from a John Conyers, you know, talking about President Bush and saying he should be impeached.

We don't do that. We don't impeach people. We don't charge people with treason because we disagree with them on public policy.

You might say that they're wrong. You might, you know, say lots of things about, you know, how about misguided the policies. But you don't up the ante to that rhetoric, it's out of place. And, hopefully, Governor Perry will step back and recognize that, you know, you know, we're not in Texas anymore.

KING: OK. That's what you say about Governor Perry.

Listen here to Governor Romney who says the Republican voters, if they want to beat President Obama, someone who came out of the United States Senate where you served, should look for somebody who is not a career politician.

Listen here. This is Governor Romney in New Hampshire yesterday.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I respect the other people in this race, but I think the only other person that has that kind of extensive private sector experience besides me in the Republican race is Herman Cain. And I respect Herman Cain, but I also think it's helpful to have had that government experience that I've had.


KING: Mitt Romney said he's the perfect model.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, then Ronald Reagan would have been a pretty bad model. He served a couple terms as governor and was very much in the public policy arena for quite some time.

The bottom line is that, you know, Rick Perry's been in public life for 26 years. That's a long time.

You know, I've been, you know, in and out of government and have worked in the private sector, worked in the public sector. I think I've got a good record in both and feel very comfortable to go out there and articulate a strong message.

It's not that Mitt Romney didn't want to be in the public sector, he just lost elections. So, that's one reason he tried to get into the public sector, he just lost.

KING: You lost your last election, too, and many people raised that point when they look at the Rick Santorum comeback. He lost in a very competitive state like Pennsylvania.

When you look ahead, and there's no question the straw poll has helped you some. Does Rick Santorum now have to win Iowa? Do you have to get a slingshot out of Iowa to be credible beyond that?

SANTORUM: Well, look, we're a long away. I don't know even who's else is on the race right now. I mean, my feeling and I think most people would suggest, you get three tickets punched out of Iowa, maybe more, but probably three this time around, I have no doubt I'll be one of those three tickets.

And we'll have an opportunity to compete in New Hampshire. We've done very, very well and exceed expectations up there, too. And we're picking up steam there and in South Carolina. Our phones have been buzzing down there.

And again, you know, the race isn't in the country right now. The race is in three states. We're focused a lot of time and energy on the states and when people see us, have a chance to look at us, whether it's in the debates or at the town halls, you know, all across, all those three states, they walk away and we get a lot of support, a lot of volunteers -- and that will continue for the next 5 1/2 months and we'll see where we have are then.

KING: Senator Santorum, good to talk to you tonight. Hope to see you in the counties in Iowa in the weeks ahead.

SANTORUM: I'll be in all one of them.

KING: I appreciate it, sir. We'll see you out there.


KING: Next, high unemployment and anger about his immigration policies could translate into a giant re-election headache for President Obama.


KING: Two vivid examples today of President Obama's challenge in recreating the powerful coalition that helped him to victory back in 2008.

In Detroit, a jobs forum held by the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whose members warn tough economic times could dampen enthusiasm come 2012.

And across America, protests and demonstrations against the president organized by a Latino group mad at a White House policy that is triggering record high deportations of illegal immigrants.

Two big policy challenges, jobs and immigration, that could also translate into political headache for the president's re-election campaign.

Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver is the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He's with us today from Detroit. And in San Francisco, Roberto Lovato, founding member of, which is behind the anti-Obama rallies today in six major cities, including at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago.

Congressman Cleaver, I want to start with you, sir. You're having this five-city tour about by the Congressional Black Caucus. The president today is in small town Iowa. I will say predominantly small town white Iowa, talking about creating jobs.

Is he committed to attending any of your events?

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: No, the president will not be attending any of our events. We'll leave here and go to Atlanta on Thursday.

But the president isn't committed to it. He has endorsed our tour. But we have gotten to a point where we decided we had to do something positive. And we were tired of just complaining.

And so, we launched this jobs tour. The president is doing his thing. We got to do our thing. This is a depression level unemployment for African-Americans and for Latinos for that matter.

KING: Mr. Lovato, let me bring in, in the conversation. Your protest specifically is about this program where the administration and deportations have escalated dramatically and is essentially asking police, if you pull somebody over, fingerprint them. If you fingerprint them, share that with immigration officials. And if you find somebody who doesn't belong here, kick them out.

The administration says this is a good law enforcement tool. What's your problem with it?

ROBERTO LOVATO, PRESENTE.ORG: Well, It's not just my problem. It's not just a Latino problem. It's a problem facing every citizen in the United States where a program has been rejected by "The New York Times," "Los Angeles Times," Governor Deval Patrick in Massachusetts, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, millions of citizens, including 35,000 petitioners that we have, and many other Latinos have rejected a program that essentially forces police departments everywhere now, not just in some cities, but in all cities in the United States to become enforcement officials, wasting our policing resources to chase down day laborers, gardeners and maids while real criminals run free is not good policy.

And at the same time, these raids that are caused because of the S-Comm program, Secure Communities, are terrorizing children, separating families to the tune of 1 million people.

KING: In the context of the politics, we see the presidential campaign heating up this week.

Congressman Cleaver, to you first.

The president of the United States received 95 percent of the African-American vote. It's not just percentage. It's the enthusiasm and the turnout and the help in the campaign headquarters.

If the election were tomorrow, given the economic plight in African-American communities around America, would the president match those numbers or will he suffer?

CLEAVER: Well, I think the president would get up in the 90s or certainly the high 80 percent of the African-American vote. What we got to do is make sure that the turnout is -- resembles what we did during his first election. If those numbers are down, we're going to have a problem.

We're committed to his re-election. It's going to be tough -- and perhaps much tougher than it was almost three years ago.

KING: Do you meet people, Congressman, who say, you know, I was for him, we made history together, but I'm not going to volunteer this time, or I'm not going to vote for him this time, or he hasn't earned my vote? Do you meet people who say that?

CLEAVER: Well, unemployment will do a lot to people. And, yes, even here in Detroit, we're running into people who are frustrated and angry over their circumstances, and are less than enthusiastic as we're entering into this next season of high stakes politics.

But what I'm saying to them is, look, Barack Obama may not have lived up to your expectations, but my goodness, there's no question that he's going to try to support your expectations infinitely, greater than any of those announced who are running on the Republican side.

KING: So, Mr. Lovato, pick it up right. There 67 percent President Obama received among Latinos. You could look at the Electoral College map and you can look at a state like New Mexico, you can look at a state like Nevada, you can look at a state like Florida and you could say those are critical voters to the president.

If the election were held tomorrow, would he get 67 percent and will get enthusiastic turnout?

LOVATO: Absolutely not and absolutely not. And that's not our fault. and its 250,000 members and all the petitioner signers in the six cities that protested today are actually trying to help President Obama do the right thing and win his election by not alienating us. You'll lose millions of votes because we're related to people that you're terrorizing and separating their families.

And President Obama should know this. He should fire his campaign people that are doing the Latino outreach because they're absolutely failing an electorate that made a powerful difference, not just in those states you mentioned, but in Colorado, New York and other states where one of the most dynamic parts of the electorates energized is now being demobilized by Secure Communities and the terror that it brings.

KING: Roberto Lovato, Congressman Cleaver, appreciate your insights tonight. Again, very important policy issues and very important political ramifications from them. Thank you both for coming in tonight. I appreciate it.

Let's button up that conversation by looking at some of the data points that caused the frustration among African-Americans and Latinos. First, just look at the unemployment as it plays out. The white line -- this yellow line is African-Americans. The blue line is Latinos. The green is white.

So, you can see obviously unemployment among Latinos and African- Americans in the country way higher than the national rate among whites. That's one source of the discontent. This is the last couple of years right here, too. You see it spiking. That's one way to look at it.

Here's a way to look at just African-American unemployment across the United States -- the darker the color, the higher the unemployment. And in states that are the darkest, this maroon color, not only is it the highest number of people, but it's also above the national average. So, you see California, Texas, these states up here, all these down here, many of these states critical to the president's re-election strategy. That's African-American unemployment.

Take with that off, we can replace it with Hispanic or Latino unemployment, same color code here -- the darker the state, the higher the unemployment rate. Some of these states, again, pivotal to Obama's re-election campaign. That's one way to look at it.

Mr. Lovato at the end was complaining about the deportations.

Here's a history of deportations going back to 2000. You play it through. These are the two Obama years right here and you see the numbers are the highest. Criminal deportations down here, noncriminal deportations up top in 2009 and 2010, the government setting records. That's a source of the complaints from the Latino community.

We'll stay on top of that political dynamics throughout the campaign. That's all the time we have tonight. We'll hope to you see right back here tomorrow.

Until then, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.