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Interview with Representative Michael Turner; Risky Deal; New Libya Concerns

Aired September 15, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Good evenings everyone. Tonight the strategist who helped Bill Clinton win two terms as president has one word of advice to the current Democratic incumbent -- panic.


JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There's a real clear message here and I tell you, these Democratic politicians are getting it and they are running scared.


KING: Republicans have plenty of problems in their party, too, including this, a fascinating split right down the middle of Republicans who support the Tea Party and Republicans who don't. This divide now defines the Republican presidential race.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we ought to have a conversation --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're having that right now, governor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you'll let me finish --


KING: But up first tonight, troubling questions about why the Obama White House ignored appeals from the Pentagon and other government officials and approved a major broadband Internet license for a major campaign supporter. It is the second consecutive day a Republican-led congressional committee has explored whether campaign contributions play a role in big government awards. As yet critical to note, there is no proof of that, just questions. But the hearings are exposing inconsistent, sometimes nonexistent, explanations from the Obama White House. Yesterday we told you about Solyndra a now bankrupt clean energy company whose default left taxpayers with more than a half billion dollar bill.

The Obama administration approved that loan despite warnings the company's plan didn't add up, Congress now investigating whether political support for the president greased the wheels. Tonight's example is a company called LightSquared. It was green lighted to build a new broadband Internet network despite objections from several government agencies. The Pentagon complained the most. Warning this new network could undermine satellite based weapons targeting and other sensitive systems not to mention your efforts to get driving directions.


GEN. WILLIAM SHELTON, COMMANDER, U.S. AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND: Based on the test results and analysis to date, the LightSquared network would effectively jam vital GPS receivers, and to our knowledge thus far, there are no mitigation options that would be effective in eliminating interference to essential GPS services in the United States.


KING: Two big questions tonight. Did top Obama administration officials give favorable treatment to LightSquared including overruling the Pentagon because its major investor is a big Obama campaign and Democratic Party fund-raiser? And in its response to this and other inquiries, is the White House violating this commitment?


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency. Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made.


KING: On that transparency question, it seems pretty clear the administration is falling short. Exhibit "A" the Federal Communications Committee chairman, Julius Genachowski, himself, a big Obama fund-raiser had a huge role in green lighting the LightSquared project. Genachowski was called to testify at today's hear on the controversy, but he didn't show.


REP. MICHAEL TURNER (R), OHIO: Personally, I believe this is an absolute effort by the chairman to avoid the oversight questions, by Congress to avoid the responsibility of the issue of how this will affect GPS and what the FCC's process is. Appear to be irregular as to how this manner is moving forward.


KING: Let's dig deeper beginning with the congressman you heard right there, the chairman of the subcommittee looking into the issue, Republican Congressman Michael Turner of Ohio. I want to start, Mr. Chairman, with your own words about why you thought it was so important to have this hearing. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: We cannot afford to have federal telecommunications policy especially where it affects national security to be made in the same way that the White House has partialed (ph) out a half billion dollars in loan guarantees to the failed Solyndra Corporation, a large political campaign contributor of the president.


KING: That's a brig big charge off the top there saying that this was done for political reasons that the LightSquared deal and the Solyndra deal -- we covered that issue yesterday -- was done for political contributions. Is that what you think or do you have evidence to support that?

TURNER: Well the issue is that the FCC chairman refused to come before our committee and answers questions as to why they would be proceeding with the LightSquared technology at a time when there's unambiguous testimony from General Shelton that this absolutely conflicts with GPS and threatens our national security. So these are questions that you have reported and that you know. I was merely citing them indicating that these are things that we have to be concerned about as we look to irregular process that's going through the FCC and unambiguous answer from DOD that this threatens our national security.

KING: I think there are 100 percent reasons to explore this and to provide oversight and to find out why the Pentagon objections were ignored. To find out why the chairman of the FCC wouldn't show up at your hearing, when I assumed they said he was going to come. But for you as the head of this committee and the new Republican majority as it asserts more oversight is going to face these questions. To say that off the top you're insinuating off the top this wasn't just a bad judgment, you think this was a political judgment. Can you prove that?

TURNER: I think what people are saying is that the FCC is following an irregular process. This absolutely affects our national security and the FCC chairman failed to come before our committee and answer the questions as to why this is an issue that's even proceeding. There are serious questions as to what is occurring here.

We know General Shelton is very concerned about the process moving forward. And I think these are the types of questions, these are the reports that are circulating that certainly the FCC needs to take into consideration. And that they need to answer. Why are we in a situation where unambiguous evidence shows this affects our national security and our GPS and yet things appear to be proceeding?

KING: I'm going try one more time. I agree there are legitimate questions that need to be answered. As you seek to answer them, do you have any evidence before you on this day where you can say, ah-ha, political contributions led the FCC to overrule the objections of another agency or is that's just what you're trying to figure out? TURNER: What we're trying to figure out is why is the FCC going forward with an irregular process with a system that absolutely violates our national security and our GPS? And there are questions that clearly the FCC chairman did not want to answer by not appearing before our subcommittee today.

KING: What was their explanation as why he didn't show up?

TURNER: Well he had indicated that he thought it would prejudice the process when he was in my office. And I'm very concerned about, well what is the process? How is this moving forward? Why is it that it's unambiguous statements from DOD that this violates our GPS or our national security, but yet the FCC is continuing to advance this? The reports that -- of how this is moving forward I think should cause everyone concern. Those are the types of issues that we need to discuss.

KING: Let me ask you. I'm trying to get in a point and I'm not sure I can, but your gut judgment on this, and based on what you've seen in documentation so far, is this a bad decision or a corrupt decision?

TURNER: Well, I think, you know, the outcome is the same. The questions are why would this be moving forward and why shouldn't this be stopped? It's fairly clear that this violates our national security but yet no one can tell us exactly what the status is at the FCC, why this is moving forward and really the answer is this should be stopped.

KING: The outcome might be the same, but again, do you understand what the responsibility that you have, that you have to be careful about saying things like doled out for political purposes if you can't have a piece of paper or have witnesses to say, here's the proof?

TURNER: What we want to ensure is that there is not undue influence. That's what hearings are for. That's why we're reviewing this process and that's why we're looking at something which appears to be fairly clear as a threat to our national security.

KING: Congressman, appreciate your insights tonight. We'll keep watching this issue as your hearings keep going.

TURNER: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Let's turn now to someone who's done groundbreaking reporting on this issue. Fred Schulte is a senior reporter with the Center for Public Integrity and IWatch News. Fred thanks for joining us.

I was not trying to be a jerk with the congressman there; I'm just trying to be careful. When you have contracts that go out to people who have been political supporters it raises smoke. But based on your reporting, obviously legitimate questions, how did this happen? Did politics play a part? As of today can we connect those dots?

FRED SCHULTE, SR. REPORTER, CTR. FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: Well there's no question that LightSquared has had friends in high places that many of the people that were invested in the company early on were Obama supporters and Democratic contributors. I think that it remains to be seen whether there was any favoritism. I mean, I think that's one of the things that we're trying to look at.

KING: And then the company tonight put out a pretty strongly worded statement denying any political -- it said "any suggestion that LightSquared has run roughshod over the regulatory process is contradicted by the reality of eight long years spent gaining approval. Just this week another request from the government for an additional round of testing." They say they were doing this back in the Bush administration starting to move forward. Is that fair?

SCHULTE: Well, we haven't been looking at what they did during the Bush administration. We filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Obama White House to find out what they were doing at the present when it seems to be more relevant. And we got back a number of e-mails that show that they had a number of contacts with senior White House officials and were trying to get a lot of face time and meetings and that sort of thing.

KING: I want to talk about that because I played a bite from the president at the top of the show, his promise for transparency, his promise to be the most transparent administration in history. We have some of the e-mails that you got under the Freedom of Information Act. And I've had this experience in the past, but this seems pretty stunning.

We have some -- I think we can show some of them on the screen. So you're trying to get this information, you're waiting and waiting and then there are what we call redactions. And you see -- if people can these on the screen you might see a "B-6" in a lot of places. That is a code and the government has every right sometimes to keep security information, to keep personal privacy information, but when they delete the names of who's at a meeting it's pretty hard to figure out if there's anything bad happening, isn't it?

SCHULTE: It is (INAUDIBLE) you know if you've done this kind of work, and we've been doing it for some time, I mean you often get back records that are more black lines or in this case yellow lines, than anything else. And it's not only that. It's the attachments to the e-mails and anything that really would -- that they perceive as sort of indicating what their feeling is on something. They just wholesale black it out.

KING: And so your bottom line here is what in terms of your biggest question about something wrong?

SCHULTE: Right. Well the big bottom line is that you can't figure it out from records that when you have claim of transparency and then you get records that are incomplete and leave out key details, you're really left with a situation where you have to look at what they did disclose. And I think that's what we did. KING: And some of that shows pretty damning, "A" we're friends in the campaign, hey, guess what, he's coming into the town to give the president some money, can he get a meeting at the White House and something I know frustrates a lot of people. They have a lot of these meetings across the street from the White House, so that gets them out of their promise to disclose the visits of any lobbyists inside the White House gates, right?

SCHULTE: They did, indeed, have meetings at that -- on the Jackson place right across from the White House. And yes, those aren't in the White House logs. And that's another study that we've done at the Center for Public Integrity is try to look at the White House logs. And that's another issue in which they're claiming unprecedented amount of transparency. And yet the White House logs often don't give you any real picture as to what's going on either.

KING: Lot of questions frustrating, but Fred Schulte doing some of the best reporting on this. Fred, I appreciate your coming in --

SCHULTE: Well thank you very much. Good to be here.

KING: Thank you. We'll keep in touch. This is an important story. Before we go, I just want to use the wall to show some of you at home a little bit of what are the issues at stake here. This can be a little confusing. LightSquared is the company that got this contract. The FCC gives it out. The Department of Defense raised some of the objections.

What are we talking about here? LightSquared is trying to build this nationwide wireless broadband network. Certainly the country could use that; 260 million people would be connected under this. The problem is there are some issues here. Now imagine a broadband network like radio, it's more complicated, it has a frequency, right? It has a frequency.

Well one of the issues here is that if you tap this in, you have -- your normal GPS on this frequency, LightSquared on this frequency. If there are any variations and that's routine, you have some interference. What could that impact? Well it could impact your ability to get driving directions if there's a lot of interference. Of more concern, it could impact air traffic control and the like.

A lot of farmers use GPS to position their equipment in the fields to know where they are on big farms. They've been complaining about this. And perhaps most critical, the Defense Department uses satellites, GPS to position its weapons, to steer its weapons and to keep track of troops overseas. So this is -- these are some of the issues raised here. The question is how do you fix it?

Here's one thing LightSquared has proposed. Take its frequency and drop it down a bit. If you have a lower frequency, you have less chance for interference. LightSquared also said it can reduce the power in some of its towers. That also would reduce some of the interference the company says. These are the proposed fixes.

You heard the general saying he doesn't think they will work. That's a technical question. There also are a lot of political questions about just what happened, why we had Fred Schulte in here and why we'll keep our eye on this as Congress continues the hearings, a very important issue.

Still ahead here, Michele Bachmann tries to recover from her latest campaign stubble. But is it too big, (INAUDIBLE) mistake too big? Could it be the last straw?

And in Libya today, cheers for the victors including the leaders of Britain and France, but next, are dangerous extremists lurking behind the scenes?


KING: In Libya today what you might call a victory lap.





KING: A huge crowd filled Benghazi Central Square to cheer the leaders of the revolution and if you're looking closely at the pictures there, the leaders of Great Britain and France.








KING: The British and the French offered to help the Libyans secure the Gadhafi regime's weapons and capture the former dictator. Those promises go far beyond NATO's original mandate to protect civilians. And beyond the cheering, there's growing concerns tonight in Libya about where the new Libya is heading, about how much influence radical Islamists may have -- a good starting point for a conversation with CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Fareed, I want to start just with Cameron and Sarkozy, the prime minister and the president there. Listen here to a little bit more from Prime Minister Cameron describing what France and Great Britain will help do now.


DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We must keep on with the NATO mission until civilians are all protected and until this work is finished. We will help you to find Gadhafi and to bring him to justice. And we also want to help you to take the dangerous weapons out of Libya, whether that is surface-to-air missiles, whether it is the mines that will prove such a problem to your people and today Britain is committing itself to helping you with taking mines out of Libya.


KING: From the beginning here, what the NATO mandate says on paper and what NATO has done and practiced have been sometimes very, very different things. Finding Gadhafi, getting rid of weapons, that's new ground, right?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN'S FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Yes, it is new ground and you can see what's happening, which is the campaign is morphing inevitably into a kind of nation building. Prime Minister Cameron said protect civilians, protect civilians, make sure all civilians are protected from whom, perhaps even from various gangs, from some elements of al Qaeda-type groups, some rogue operations. So we have got to provide order in the cities in other words.

Does that sound familiar now from Iraq and Afghanistan? We have got to find Gadhafi. We have got to take the mines out of the ground. It's all commendable stuff, but it's as you say a big stretch from the original mission. And I will point out this is why I think it has been very wise for the Obama administration to lead from behind, if you will. They're telling the French and the British, if you want to own Libya, it's all yours.

KING: And I want to come up to the al Qaeda concerns in a second, but on the issue of finding Gadhafi, we have some video, amateur cell phone video, hundreds of anti-Gadhafi forces advancing toward Bani Walid (ph) and the question is as they advance, do we finally, finally think the end is near and Gadhafi either will be captured or killed?

ZAKARIA: It's very tough to say, John. It's a big world. Libya is a big country. You know most people don't realize it's actually the biggest country in Africa with the smallest population or one of the smallest populations. So there are a lot of places to hide. I think, you know, I've said consistently I don't believe he will surrender. That part I have -- I think I have a strong sense of. He's a real revolutionary.

He's not a bureaucrat. He's a soldier. He will try to go down fighting or escape in some kind of mysterious way. But whether they can really find one man in all of Libya, if he's even still in Libya, and I think he still is, it's a big country.

KING: "The New York Times," a front page story today raising a question that I think could be asked about many of the countries going through these dramatic changes in the region. And that is as the old power gets kicked out or leaves, what comes in next? "The New York Times" reporting there are growing concerns that radical Islamists are the best organized forces in Libya and therefore they could have disproportionate influence, a concern there and across the region?

ZAKARIA: It's a concern there. It's a concern in Egypt. I think that you put it exactly right, John. The concern is not that they are wildly popular, but that they are well organized. It's not clear that the Libyan people are strongly Islamist. It is clear that the Islamic parties are strongly organized. And so in this political vacuum, what happens, and you already see some of the jockeying. People are already taking pot shots at the interim leaders, Mr. Jabril (ph) and others.

My own sense, however, is that the Libyan movement is fairly diverse. There are lots of different elements, so no one element seems strong enough to dominate. Certainly not the Islamic one, it doesn't seem that powerful. And it's also clear that people having paid for this revolution in blood are not going to quieting down easily. So if they feel the revolution is being hijacked by Islamic organizations that didn't really participate in the revolution, itself, I don't think they'll take that lying down. So cause for concern, but really the Libyan opposition seems pretty broad based, pretty diverse with lots of non-Islamic elements as well.

KING: That's a big -- big shift here. We're going to talk more about this tomorrow in much greater detail, but take a minute before I let you go tonight. You're working on this special for this weekend on a big issue here at home, the biggest issue here at home. How do we create jobs? Give us a preview.

ZAKARIA: Well what we're trying to figure out is really two things. Why is this happening? Why is it that this recession is taking so long to get back on track? It will be five years before we just recover all the jobs lost in this recession. It's unprecedented since World War II to have a recession -- a jobless recovery that long. So we go into that and then we just ask very practical questions, how do you create jobs? And we do it with the people who are now called the job creators. We thought well why don't we ask some job creators so we asked the CEOs of General Electric, of Dow Chemical, of Starwood (ph). We talked to others as well. But the focus is really practical non-ideological solutions. Figure out how to get the jobs first then we'll worry about what ideological box it lands us on.

KING: We'll spend more time and dig deeper in the details of that one. Fareed joins us again tomorrow night but for any reason if you can't be with us tomorrow night, I can't think of one, be sure to watch the "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" special "Restoring the American Dream, Getting Back to Work" this Sunday 8:00 P.M. Eastern and Pacific. You won't want to miss that.

Next here, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann back tracking from what some call a potentially campaign killing comment.


KING: Michele Bachmann is trying tonight to quiet a controversy some Republican strategists believe could derail her presidential campaign. At issue, comments the Minnesota congresswoman made while criticizing Texas Governor Rick Perry, one of her rivals. It began at Monday night's CNN/Tea Party debate, when Bachmann and others took issue with Governor Perry's support for mandating that teenage girls be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I'm a mom of three children and to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat- out wrong. That should never be done. That's a violation of a liberty interest. That's -- little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don't get a mulligan. They don't get a do-over.


KING: Medical experts quickly took issue with the potentially dangerous assertion. And then Congresswoman Bachmann dug the hole deeper the next morning.


BACHMANN: Well, I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that -- took that vaccine, that injection and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. It can have very dangerous side effects.


KING: There is no evidence, zero, that HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation and tonight the congresswoman is backtracking.


BACHMANN: During the debate I didn't make any statements that would indicate that I'm a doctor, I'm a scientist, or that I'm making any conclusions about the drug one way or another. I didn't make any statements about that. At the conclusion of the debate a woman came up to me who was very distraught. She was crying and she thanked me for my remarks and said that her daughter had had a negative reaction and that's all I related.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more question.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you apologize for that remark?

BACHMANN: Oh I'm not going to answer that question.


KING: So should she apologize and is this latest Bachmann diversion from the facts proof she isn't up to the demands of the presidency? Veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins was a top player in the Bachmann campaign, but recently stepped back into what the campaign calls a senior advisory role. Ed, let's just start right there. She was asked at the end there should she apologize, should she?

ED ROLLINS, FORMER BACHMANN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don't think she needs to apologize, but she needs to move away from the subject. There's no evidence that she can back this up. She made very good points on Perry that it was executive overreach or cronyism or what have you. And that should have been the talking points for the next several days.

Now the talking points are about her and the scientific community obviously is very opposed to all of this and they don't find any evidence. So, you know, my counsel, which I'm not giving her at this point in time because we're not communicating about it, is just to move on. You've just got to get back on the economy, jobs, things that matter and count it as a mistake.

KING: Well let me jump in on that point (INAUDIBLE) talk about this, but on that point, not communicating about it, if you gave her your counsel, are you done? When you stepped back, everyone thought is he really going to be a senior adviser or are they just glossing this over and he is leaving? Are you done?

ROLLINS: I'm available. I have great affection for Michele. I didn't know Michele four months ago when I started her campaign. I watched her. She's a very gritty, tough, probably the best campaigner on the trail this year. I developed a great affection for her. My leaving had to do more with my own personal fatigue and health than it did anything. We never had any real serious conflicts.

KING: But she said -- but she said you would still be a senior adviser. I'm available if my high school girlfriend needs some advice. She hasn't called me yet and I don't think she's going to. Are you done?

ROLLINS: You know I've had a couple of conversations with her and a couple of conversations with the campaign, but I have to get on with my life and my life is here in New York.

KING: What is it about her? Does she not take advice or does she -- I know you have tried. I know others have tried in campaigns and she does have a pattern. Sometime it's inconsequential stuff about you know John Wayne versus John Wayne Gacy. Was this Elvis -- the day Elvis died or the day Elvis was born, but sometimes it's about important stuff. What is it about her?

ROLLINS: She's extremely bright. She's a great scholar. And when she has the answers, research, she can articulate them extremely well.

Unfortunately, as in this particular case, she's someone that relates to people. And a woman walked up to her, told her her story. And what we always try to do is get these stories vetted. Is there any facts to it? Did it really happen this way? Even in it was in this one circumstance, is that the kind of statement you want to make?

And that's part of the problem, is that a lot of people that come up to candidates and they give them counsel and they basically give them advice, and there's a tendency sometimes to repeat them. It's not just her. It's Ronald Reagan. It was many other candidates I've been with.

But you got to have a system that vets everything that comes out of a candidate's mouth. Anything that goes in has to be vetted before it comes out. And, obviously, this was a case where the campaign didn't get the chance to vet this particular subject.

KING: AND this issue is not new. She was here back in May and I asked her about this problem. I asked her if she was going to fix it. Listen.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's important to have discipline in a message. That's true. And have I been right in -- and have I been accurate in everything I've said? No. That's not true. You can fact check.

KING: It's your job as a candidate. People -- the left want --


BACHMANN: You have a very good point, though, that I think when you're in -- when you're in the presidential realm, I do think that message discipline is required. I think that is something that, you know, all of us have areas that we need to do better on. And that's certainly one I'll pay a lot of attention to.


KING: She says there, Ed, she'll pay a lot of attention to it. We're months later. There have been several episodes, some of them significant, some just little details. History details like I mentioned.

You know, if a candidate says these things, we end up having conversations like this on cable television. Maybe it helps or hurts them in a campaign.

If a president says these things, says things wrong, the stock market can crash, alliances can be wounded. Is she up -- does she have discipline, in your view, to be president of the United States?

ROLLINS: I would argue she's very disciplined. I would argue that sometimes you get out on the bus, get in a bubble, you don't have as much control. You don't have the right advisers around her. But I found her in the three, four months that I was around her to be very, very disciplined and basically, as I said very scholarly.

And when she goes on her shows, goes on shows like yours, every so often, there's a slip. Every so often, there's a piece of information that gets --

KING: Do you think this slip will hurt her badly? She's already slipping in the polls.

ROLLINS: You know, she -- the bottom line is her path back is Iowa. She had three months to win the straw poll that no one said she could. She now has five months to win the caucus. At the end of the day, if we're debating this particular issue or she's debating this issue in Iowa before the caucus, it will have an effect.

I don't believe that's going to be the case. I believe the case is going to be about Obamacare. It's going to be about the economy. It's about jobs and what voters in Iowa care most about.

KING: I just want to circle back and close on this point, in case anyone out there is wondering. On a scale of one to 10, one being hardly involved at all, or maybe not involved at all, 10 being closely involved -- what is Ed Rollins' involvement with the Bachmann campaign right now?

ROLLINS: Right now, it's probably two or three. But there's a willingness on my part, and I say this in all sincerely, if they want my help, I'm happy to give it. I just can't do the day to day aspect. It was never my intent. I always wanted to start the campaign up and leave. I had to make a decision whether I wanted to go another six months in the caucus.

And basically my health was being strained somewhat. I just made that decision. But I have great affection. If they want anything from me, I'll be happy to give it to them.

KING: Will you vote in New York Republican primary? Will you vote for her?

ROLLINS: I hope she's on the ballot here. Certainly will. I certainly will vote for her. And if she's on the ballot, if she's our nominee, I'll do everything I can to help her.

KING: Ed Rollins, I appreciate your help tonight. We'll keep in touch.

ROLLINS: Thanks.

KING: Still to come here, fascinating new numbers showing the Tea Party divide within the Republican Party.

And our friend James Carville has one word of advice for President Obama: panic. Should the president accept it? That's just ahead.


KING: Welcome back.

Here's the latest news you need to know right now: Late today, the Senate approved $7 billion for FEMA, which is running out of money to deal with all of this year's natural disasters. The House still needs to take action on that.

Also this afternoon, the Senate cleared and sent to the president a spending bill to keep the Federal Aviation Administration from shutting down at midnight Saturday. There's also money on that bill for road and surface transportation projects.

Citing what it calls, quote, "the ongoing uncertainty and volatility," end quote, in Syria, the State Department issued a travel warning today, urging U.S. citizens in Syria to depart immediately while commercial transportation is still available.

Two years ago, Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer repeatedly, repeatedly ran through enemy fire to recover the bodies of fellow American troops in Afghanistan. At a White House ceremony this afternoon, you see it right there, he received the Medal of Honor, the first living Marine to be recognized for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. God bless him.

Next, should the White House panic? James Carville explains his strong words.


KING: Consider this the political version of a family intervention. You know, someone steps in to stop troublesome or reckless behavior. You can be certain this intervention is not welcome.

But we all know our CNN contributor and veteran Democratic strategist James Carville is anything but shy. Like us, he's been soaking in all the bad economic numbers and day after day of horrible polling data. And today, James decided to offer President Obama some advice. It's posted on

It includes this. "What should the White House do now? One word came to mind: Panic."

James Carville is here to explain just what he means and why.

And we thought it best to bring in Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher just to see if he thinks, too, it's time to hit the panic button down at the Obama White House.

Mr. Carville, to you, first. Panic, why? And I should say at the beginning, you have been at the front of two successful presidential campaigns for Bill Clinton. So, why do you think this Democrat needs to panic?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, a couple of reasons is panic is a joke here. We have a terrible election in 2010. We had a terrible election night Tuesday night.

The opposition party in my opinion is totally nuts and the economic numbers keep sliding in the sense of the wrong way. And I think that the White House needs to demonstrate to the country that it gets what's going on. The country keeps signaling to the White House that it's looking for something different. I think the White House should supply something different to the rest of the country.

And the way you start doing that is by holding people accountable. That's what you have to start doing I think.

1994, you mentioned that, a lot of my friends lost their jobs. I lost a consulting contract with the DNC when we had in an awful year in 1994. I mean, this is not nothing new. Sometimes the innocents get shot (INAUDIBLE), something's got people got to get a signal here.

KING: Sometimes, innocents get shot. OK. And that's one of your points.

I want Cornell to jump in because one of the points you make upfront is fire someone. You say, "Fire somebody. No -- fire a lot of people. This may be news for you but this isn't going well. For precedent, see Russian Army 64th division at Stalingrad."

Cornell, you're a student of history, as well as politics. Is it as bad as James says, number one? And, number two, to the other point, do the American people need to see something from the president that he gets it, that he shares their pain to borrow a line and that people need to go?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, I think James is sharing frustration, internal fame frustration. But it's broader than that. I mean, look, the American people are frustrated. They aren't approving -- and look, the president's job approval numbers are dropping and so is Congress' and Congress is dropping even faster.

KING: He's at the top of the ticket.

BELCHER: The American people aren't happy with anything that's going on in Washington right now. I don't approve of anyone's job right now in Congress.

CARVILLE: Look, if everything Cornell says it true, but there's one problem. We keep losing elections. And so, what difference does it make if you say, well, they like us, they like the Republicans in Congress, if they keep voting for the Republicans? That's the only way that people can signal their discontent.

And for a long time, thank God they're not doing it now. The administration is making the case things were actually getting better when people didn't feel it was getting better. But that's not our problem.

This is not some kind of internal family frustration. If anybody would spend time talking to Democratic senators, talking to Democratic House members, and many of them, most of them who were supporters of the president all say the same thing. What I put down on paper is something that's repeated tens of thousands of times within the Democratic Party. And that's -- that's just a fact. And there's got to be -- the way that you show people that you're dissatisfied is you hold certain people accountable. I think that's what we've got to do.

KING: And James, Cornell, is saying publicly what a lot of Democrats do mumble privately, maybe not to the degree. But a lot of them are afraid. They want to see more action on the administration. They would like to see some turnover in the political team, maybe in the cabinet as well -- a lot of House members are nervous now. A lot of Senate Democrats are in panic right now.

And, yet, the leading House Democrat, Nancy Pelosi reacting to the Democrats losing in New York, a seat they had held for 90 years. She says actually it's a good thing. Listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It was a good day because it was something where other people realized we really have to buckle down in order to win this. It does not alter our plan for taking back the House.


KING: It's a bad cliche, but I'm reminded of the denial is not a river in Egypt.

CORNELL: I think we put too much weight on some of these districts. By the way, that New York district is not a bellwether, if anything. If you look at the special elections going up

KING: If you can't win in the heart of New York City, how are you going to win in Michigan and Colorado where --


CORNELL: Look, John, if you look at the special election record over the last couple years, Democrats have won the majority of those special elections. It didn't mean nothing to us in 2010. So, I think we put too much weight on that one district.

And in the end the president, look -- this is where James is right. The president and the White House, they're going to have to do a better job of communicating because, clearly, Republicans have been winning the communication battle. I don't think there's a Democrat in town who argue that they haven't been.

KING: Quinnipiac Poll just out today. Virginia, one of those states the president won. Obama won last time. Everyone said, wow, the Democrats won Virginia. Disapproval now, 54 percent, 40 percent. Even California, look, the president is going to carry California unless everything goes south in November 2012. But for the first time, his approval rating in California is under 50 percent, 46 percent.

So, James, I think you're saying, look at these numbers and, Mr. President, even if you think you're right on the policy, you got to do something?

CARVILLE: Well, look, I would say this. If Cornell and the president thinks there's a communications problem, fire communications people. If it's a political problem, fire political people. But do something. You got to do something here.

And again, you go back and look in history, this is what happened. You know, we see this thing -- it's so easy to dismiss that and say, oh, that's Carville, he was for Hillary, he just hadn't gotten over the election. People, if they want to believe that, that's fine. If they want to think that the New York race meant nothing or they want to think that race in Nevada where McCain carried it by 8,000 votes, I think the person who won, won by 22,000 votes. If they want to keep discounting everything, then that's just -- that's not going to work.

There's a real clear message here. And I tell you, these Democratic politicians are getting it and they are running scared.

And I don't -- maybe there's just a breakdown of communication. But if there's a communication problem, get new communications people. There are a dime a dozen now.

BELCHER: Real quickly, I'll jump in and say this, I think when you see -- and I don't speak for the White House. But I think the White House would say the buck stops with the president. The president would say the buck stops with me. And that's why you see him out there being more active. That's why you see the change in him, him out there on the campaign trail, him hitting these states talking about this plan.

He has to change his dynamic. There's not a one person in the White House who can change that dynamic except for Barack Obama. You know what, he's pretty doggone good.

KING: You seem to think that's enough. Mr. Carville seems to disagree. Guess what? Fourteen months, we're going to figure this out and we'll see if anyone gets fired in the meantime.

James, Cornell, thanks for coming in today.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

KING: Now, Republicans no doubt delight in this talk of Democrats panicking. But hold the celebration. The GOP has its own tug-of-war to worry about. Do Tea Party tensions help or hurt? That's next.


KING: The rise of the Tea Party is a major reason Republicans roared to a big wins last year and took control of the House of Representatives. Now, movement leaders say they are intent in determining who the GOP picks for a presidential nominee. But that doesn't necessarily sit well with what I will call more establishment Republicans. Our new CNN/ORC poll out tonight shows a fascinating divide. A Republican Party split smack right down the middle between those who support the Tea Party and those who don't. Look at this.

Forty-nine percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican either support the Tea Party or are active members. Fifty- one percent of these voters either have no feelings of the Tea Party or oppose the movement.

And this divide plays out strikingly on several major issues. More Tea Party Republicans, for example, say Washington should focus most on deficit reduction right now. Most none Tea Party Republicans say unemployment, jobs is more important than the deficit, in red ink.

Six in 10 Tea Party Republicans say global warming is not a proven fact. Most nonparty Republicans disagree with that. Now, we've seen this divide play out in the presidential campaign. Tea Party Republicans are twice as likely to believe Social Security should be replaced.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But the real question is, does Governor Perry continue to believe that Social Security should not be a federal program? That it's unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states, or is he going to retreat from that view?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If what you're trying to say is back in the '30s and the '40s that the federal government made all the right decisions, I disagree with you.


KING: Safe to say I think Governor Romney is in the more establishment camp. Governor Perry is a Tea Party Republican.

Is this a healthy internal debate or a troublesome civil war?

Amy Kremer is co-chairwoman of the Tea Party Express. And Republican strategist Rich Galen is also with us. He's in Irvine, California, tonight.

Amy, I want to get to your point. When we had the CNN Tea Party debate, you were brazen in saying, "We are going to pick the Republican nominee." The Tea Party is not going to let the Republican Party hand you somebody. I assume you mean by that the establishment.

In our poll we found fascinating. This is just among Republicans. Are you very angry about the way things are going in the country today? Fifty percent of Tea Party Republicans are very angry. Only 29 percent of other Republicans are angry. Does that convince you, you have the energy, the intensity, to deliver on your promise? Because a lot of the establishment says no way.

AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Absolutely, John. And when you introed this, I was happy to hear you call them "establishment Republicans," because when I read the poll earlier today, they called them "moderate" Republicans. And this is about Tea Party versus establishment Republicans. And I would say the establishment Republicans aren't as engaged as we are.

And if look at what happened in 2010, there were candidates that were outspent 6-7-1. And they won because they had the boots on the ground, the passion and fire and energy with these activists to propel them to victory.

And I believe that whoever wins the nomination is going to have that -- have to have that passion, fire in the belly and boots on the ground, just like, you know, they did back in 2010.

So, I think it's a good thing that the Tea Party movement has come up and grown. It's an organic movement, and we want conservatives in Washington.

KING: Rich, is this just a tug-of-war and it's healthy or potentially harmful civil war?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. I think it's tremendously healthy. Look, I've been doing this for a long time.

By the way, let me go back to something James said a minute ago. I'm a communications person and I'm not work for a dime. I'm not a dime a dozen, I'm 12, 13 cents a dozen easy.

But let me get back to what Amy is saying, and this is -- I've been doing this a long time, it is almost never the case that you have to dampen down some enthusiasm for a major part of your base. What is always the case, except for these last few years, is that we have -- we have, at least, at your poll, we have half of the Republican Party that is energized to the point that they're driving the message.

And if the last segment you heard it again, we have a message. Democrats, the president, has a message.

I'm telling you, having an energized, happier -- your party this energized is only helpful.

KING: Some of it is substantive. We do see in the polling, Tea Party Republicans tend to be more conservative. They want the Department of Education eliminated. They tend to favor outlawing all abortions, much more so than other Republicans. Some of it is style.

I want you to listen here, Perry and Romney best epitomizes this. Listen to Governor Perry talking to "TIME" magazine, they asked him if he wanted to back off from something he has said in the past that he thinks the Obama is socialist?


PERRY: No. I still believe they are socialist. I mean, their policies that almost daily. I mean, look, when all the answers emanate from Washington, D.C., one-size-fits-all, whether it's education policy or whether it's health care policy, that is on its face socialism.


KING: That is on its face socialism, the Texas governor says.

My friend Wolf Blitzer asked the former Massachusetts governor just a few a minutes ago if he agreed.


ROMNEY: Words have a lot of unintended meanings and calling people "socialists" probably goes beyond the fact that it is true that President Obama's team and the president himself seem to believe that government has a better approach to our economy than does the private sector, and I disagree with that approach. I don't use the word "socialist" or I haven't so far. But I agree the president's approach is government-heavy, government-intensive, and it's not working.


KING: Amy Kremer, if your number one goal is to win, do you want your nominee saying "socialist" or being a bit more careful?

KREMER: Well, you know, John, this is the thing. You know, Barack Obama said last election cycle to Joe the plumber that he wanted to spread the wealth and that is socialism. But what it is about Governor Perry and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin and others that use this language, I don't think -- I think, you know, they are straight talkers. They call it like they see it, and they're not concerned about political correctness. And that's what the American people, that's what this Tea Party movement is about -- calling it like you see it.

KING: Rich Galen, should they be concerned, Rich Galen, about political viability, not political correctness?

GALEN: Yes. I was going to get to that. All the other questions in this poll pail before one question and the question was -- amongst Tea Party members or self-identified Tea Party people, do you want somebody who can defeat Barack Obama or essentially, is truly, the Tea Party orthodoxy? Eighty-twenty -- 80/20 -- they said, we want to beat Barack Obama.

So, all this other stuff is just chafe and sort of fun to talk about. When it comes down to the crunch, when it comes down to actually pressing the button, pulling the lever, whatever you do, and your people want to beat Barack Obama, and whoever the polling shows can do that is going to be the nominee.

KREMER: I agree.

KING: We'll have more fun as the campaign plays out.

Sorry, Amy, Rich, got to end it there. That's all our time. See you tomorrow.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.