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Herman Cain Changes Tax Plan; Iraq War Ending; Interview With Florida Congressman Allen West

Aired October 21, 2011 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

Tonight, Herman Cain repackage his 999 plan to answer critics who say it would punish the poor -- 909 doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but the Republican presidential hopeful thinks it's a big political plus.


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But the good news, we can fix things. The American dream has been hijacked. But we can take it back.


KING: Also tonight, shocking new video of Moammar Gadhafi's final moments. Tonight, his family's demanding that Libya's new government release Gadhafi's body for a proper burial.

But up first though the day's dramatic breaking news. Mission over, but hardly mission accomplished in Iraq.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.


KING: Now President Bush began the war in March 2003 with a dose of what the Pentagon called Shock and Awe. In announcing its end, President Obama used the term success, not victory, and said it was time America focused less on wars overseas and more on economic problems here at home.


OBAMA: I would note that the end of war in Iraq reflects a larger transition. The tide of war is receding.


KING: There is no doubt public opinion is on the president's side. Nearly seven in 10 Americans oppose the war in Iraq. But a number of conservatives, including the leading Republican candidates for president, tonight say, President Obama is weakening America and emboldening Iran.

The former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, for example, said "The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government."

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, was in the Briefing Room for today's dramatic announcement.

And, Jessica, the point Governor Romney was making in that statement was while the president called this a success today it's not exactly what he wanted, right?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's clear from a security perspective that the Pentagon wanted to keep more troops in Iraq. That much is indisputable right now.

But from a political -- and they couldn't agree to this bottom line because they couldn't grant -- the U.S. and Iraq couldn't agree to get immunity granted to U.S. troops who might stay there.

But from a political perspective, John, the president by withdrawing all troops, is now able to say he made good on a campaign promise. And this is clearly of enormous importance to the White House because the president began remarks by saying -- his very first sentence was I'm making good on a campaign promise -- John.

KING: It was striking that he did that, right out of the box. The president got to the politics up first.

Jess, do they think this is a win or despite the incoming tonight, Governor Romney, Governor Perry, Congresswoman Bachmann, Governor Huntsman, all the Republican candidates for president except for Ron Paul saying bad idea, Mr. President. We have also heard that from John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the conservative hawks on Capitol Hill. Does the president think that criticism's fine, he can handle the politics of this one?

YELLIN: The campaign aides basically if I could summarize it would say bring it on for two reasons. One, in their view the president's foreign policy is a strength because of his success with bin Laden, his promises on the campaign trail to go after al Qaeda which he has done with drone attacks, the success with Gadhafi and then bringing troops home as promised in their view speaks to strength of leadership.

Contrasting that with the Republican contenders, they say is a great contrast in their view. But the bottom line, John, is how much does foreign policy matters to voters right now? Consider how small the bump the president got when he killed Osama bin Laden. It was temporary, it's gone. Foreign policy just doesn't seem to be foremost on voters' minds so it's hard to imagine this will play large in the campaign. KING: Important perspective. Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin, Jess, thanks.

The costs of the Iraq war in both American blood and American treasure are numbing. Nearly 4,500 U.S. service men and women killed plus nearly 32,000 wounded, and the cost to taxpayers more than $823 billion. There are roughly 39,000 U.S. troops in Iraq tonight.

And Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is here with the latest on now the giant logistical challenge of moving them out.

Chris, 39,000, is it really feasible to get that down to zero by the new year?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They have only got about 10 weeks, John. So it's not going to be easy, by any stretch of the imagination.

But in any given week the Pentagon is running about 400 convoys involving about 14,000 trucks. So they are hauling equipment out of there at a very rapid rate. So it's possible. I also spoke with a senior Pentagon official who said, look, we would have loved to have a standing military presence in Iraq, but we don't want to walk away from our military relationship with the Iraqi military. He said some of the fallback options that they're considering are maybe having newer Iraqi officers come to the United States to be trained at U.S. war colleges, or even conducting combined U.S./Iraqi training in a third host country -- John.

KING: As we watch that play out, Chris, those negotiations still to come, explain to our viewers why it is so important. The president's catching the political arrows. To the point they could not negotiate a new status of forces agreement that gave U.S. troops immunity, immunity from prosecution, whether they're in a car accident and hit civilians or whether there's collateral damage in some military operation, right?

LAWRENCE: That's exactly right.

Look, I just talked to a senior Pentagon official about this as well. He said, look, U.S. forces, you know, do fall under local laws and courts in a lot of places, but he said in some places like Germany or Japan where they have an established legal system, that's not as much of a problem. They had a real issue with the possibility of American troops being tried in Iraqi courts under Iraqi law with the state of the country there right now.

So when you look and say a Governor Romney making the statement about the president's decision being naked political consideration, when Senator McCain says no military commander recommended this, you also have to look at the question of, if the only question is to go forward without this legal protection, would you be willing to put American troops in that position?

KING: Chris Lawrence live at the Pentagon tonight, Chris, thank you. Now, Iran is central to those who are critical of the president's announcement. Senator John McCain for example says this decision will be viewed as a strategic victory for our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime which has worked relentlessly to ensure a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Let's get some perspective from now CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who is in Tehran, preparing for an interview, an exclusive conversation with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And, Fareed, a simple question up front. U.S. troops leaving Iraq by the end of the year, Iran has to view this as a victory.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Oh, I'm sure it views it as a victory.

Iran views what had happened in Iraq entirely from a kind of geopolitical prism. That is the U.S. and Iran are competing for influence in Iraq. They have viewed it that way from the start of the fall of the regime and they have their agents in there and Iran has long ties to many of threat groups that are now dominant in Iraq.

Prime Minister Maliki and his party were in exile in Iran for 10 years. Many of the Kurdish leaders, including the current president of Iraq, was in Iran. Many of them speak fluent Persian. They have long and ongoing ties. Muqtada al-Sadr, when he finds that things get difficult for him in Iraq he head backs to Iran. So all of these political officials have been nourished sustained by Iran. And as American troops draw down, Iran's influence can only increase.

KING: And this sounds incredibly crass, but is this a fair bottom line? That after almost nine years, billions of dollars in U.S. money and nearly 4,500 lives lost of brave U.S. service men and women, that Iran wins?

ZAKARIA: One of the things I have always -- looked on the idea of dealing with Saddam Hussein favorably is that whatever benefits we have gotten out of the operation in Iraq, the costs have been staggering, as you described.

And those costs really seem to far outweigh benefits right now.

KING: At the White House today the deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, said they're not that worried about Iran's influence. He says Iran is further isolated, has been weakened in recent years.

ZAKARIA: Denis McDonough pointed out that Iran's been having a bad few months and I think that's entirely true.

The Iranians have had trouble internally, they have had trouble abroad. The whole image of Iran in the wake of the Arab spring has been tarnished. And now these new allegations about the Saudi assassination plot. Iran's not in great shape. But on this specific issue I'm not sure I would agree. I think that Iran has maintained contacts with Iraq very successfully and very aggressively. Look, this is why the Americans couldn't get a deal done.

KING: Fareed Zakaria joining us from Tehran on the eve of what will be a fascinating conversation with the Iranian president, Fareed, thanks for your insights.

ZAKARIA: Thanks, John.


KING: There are nine Iraq war veterans serving in Congress, all Republicans. One is a senator.

The other eight serve in the House, including Florida Republican Congressman Allen West, who joins us tonight live from Los Angeles.

Congressman, it's good to see you.

You did serve in Iraq. You think the president's making a bad call here tonight. Why?

REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: Well, I think that you have to be very circumspect about what is a near-term decision. Hopefully this is not a campaigner in chief decision, not a commander in chief decision.

One of the things I go back to and remember is serving in Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm in 1991. And when we did not complete the operation and the means by which we could have had that resounding tactical and operational success and victory we knew at some point in time, we'd have to return back to Iraq.

Now, we have to be concerned about the influence that Iran will continue to try to spread, seeking to be a regional hegemon, across Iraq into, Syria and then of course to Lebanon, where they have Hezbollah, but also where they have some type of influence with Egypt and into Gaza also. So I think that we have to look at this long term and not be so celebratory in the short term.

KING: Well, as someone who wore the uniform, the president was unable to negotiate with the Iraqi government a status of forces agreement that would give the men and women of the United States military immunity, that would have them if they had any issues to deal with, deal with them in the U.S. military justice system, not an Iraqi court system, which I'm sure you would not trust right now.

In that sense, without that agreement, is it the right call for the president? Would you want to serve there without that status of forces agreement?

WEST: Well, you're absolutely right. But I think the things I have to look at where was the failure in leadership where we could not negotiate from a position of strength. And now we look like we're in a position of weakness where we could not negotiate a solid status of forces agreement which would protect our men and women in uniform serving there, which will continue to make sure that Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi army, which we know is supported by Iran, we know that the arrogance and the belligerence of Iran is increasing.

And also we have to look at this through the prism of the eyes of the opposition from our enemies. We know that when we withdrew from Somalia many in the Islamic world saw that as a sense of weakness. As a matter of fact, Osama bin Laden said the United States was a paper tiger.

So, again, what is the perception that will be long term from this withdrawal? Our men and women have fought bravely there. And in 2003 I was there as commander and I look forward to once again shaking the hands of those who have served there and have, you know, given their limbs.

But I want to make sure that just the same in '91 when I had to return 12 years later, we don't set our military up for going back into an even worse situation.

KING: You just heard Fareed Zakaria there. He was someone who was in favor of dealing with Saddam Hussein back many years ago, but he says the question now is did the costs outweigh the benefits?

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. He was a thug. He was many horrible things, Congressman West, but you knew where he stood when it came to Iran. Do you worry now that this new leadership in Iraq that is there because of the U.S. military operation will the operation turn to be foe, not friend?

WEST: Well, you do have to have that concern about where they will align themselves, as far as their interests, if you don't have any type of U.S. presence there that can be the honest broker.

Look, I will be the first to admit we have gone about this nation-building, occupation-style warfare in the wrong means. I think that we should have been more so focused on the enemy and conducting what I call more of strike operations.

I think you see us getting to that here in the last two to three years, but I don't want to see us becoming so quick and so hasteful that now the next thing is we're going to set ourselves up for a tougher situation later on, because you still have an Iran that is seeking to expand its influence in that region.

And also I'm very concerned about the Kurdish people to the north if they see this once again as us abandoning them somewhat as they saw after Desert Shield, Desert Storm.

KING: You just heard Chris Lawrence. The Pentagon is looking at ways. And there are still negotiations. There could be an agreement down the road to leave several hundred U.S. troops there to serve as trainers for the Iraq people.

But among the other proposals on the table, maybe some naval exercises, maybe finding a third country. I assume that could be Kuwait, although I will shake my head the day Kuwait allows Iraq troops to come south again under peaceful circumstances to train maybe in their country. Do you see the possibility of working something out that makes this acceptable to you?

WEST: Well, I think that that's something that when I get back to Washington, D.C., we and the House Armed Services Committee could potentially have a hearing about that, and find out what are the courses of action going forward?

What is very interesting to me is, not too long ago, the commanders on the ground asked for 10,000 troops as a residual force. That got taken down to 3,000. And now of course it's at zero. So you know you have to ask, what is the criteria? Of course, that status of forces agreement has a lot to do with it, but I don't think that we see an Iraqi force that is ready to assume that responsibility.

And we know that Iran is just waiting for the Mahdi army to have that opportunity. And they're very patient and I think that they see this as a victory where they waited us out.

KING: Let me ask you, as someone who has worn the uniform, not as a politician, sir, the president today used the term success, not victory. His deputy security adviser used the term success, not victory.

How do you view the war in Iraq, and the fact that people don't use the term victory, the fact that public opinion has turned so vociferously and fiercely against it? How does that impact the legacy of the one million Americans who have served in Iraq over the past nine years?

WEST: Well, I think that those of that have worn a uniform understood the mission that we went over to do.

Tactically, I think there was always success and we had great victories. At the strategic level, that's where the United States of America has had problems ever since World War II. We saw that in Korea, we saw it in Vietnam.

And I think that why it's so important, John, that we get men and women who have been on this modern 21st century battlefield in uniform that can be in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill and other places, so we make sure that we make those right strategic level decisions as we go forward and we make sure that we're committing our greatest treasure, the men and women in uniform, with the right and proper goals and objectives, so they can have victory.

Success, we have to wait and see how that comes out, because I would look at what's happened since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in Egypt. I think that has pretty much gone the wrong direction and I don't want to see things go in the wrong direction between Iraq and Iran.

KING: Congressman Allen West of Florida joining us tonight, sir, appreciate your insights. Thank you very much.

WEST: Thanks so much, John. KING: And ahead tonight's "Truth" revisits how the Iraq war was sold to the American people and includes a bit of a flashback.


KING: As we watch daybreak in Baghdad and as we have an apparent lull in the military activities, I want to bring back some of the words the president did speak earlier tonight.


KING: And Herman Cain aggressively rebuts those who say his signature tax plan would punish the poor. There's 999 and then there's 909. That's next.


KING: Today Herman Cain tried to clarify some parts of his 999 tax plan. Among other things, he addressed concerns that his plan's 9 percent corporate tax, 9 percent income tax, and 9 percent national sales tax would hurt poor people.


CAIN: How do we deal with the poor, those that are at or below the poverty level? We already had this provision in there, and we still raised the same amount of money. If you at or below the poverty level, your plan isn't 999. It's 909. Say amen, you all -- 909.


KING: While Cain's getting hammered from the left and right for his 999 plan, this week he gained thank support of Reagan era economist Arthur Laffer, who has been nicknamed the father of supply- side economic.

Mr. Laffer joins us now.

Let me ask you, first, sir, just on the fairness argument, Mr. Cain clearly felt he needed to get out in public because he had been pummeled by some of his Republican rivals and from the left saying that the plan as presented was unfair to the poor. Do you think he has made the correct explanation now?

ART LAFFER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, I don't know if he's made the correct one now. I have always thought they were exempt from the poor -- below the poverty level was exempt from the tax.

I thought it was on all three taxes, to be honest with you. I saw a detailed construction of the program that had 999 exempting $2.5 trillion from the base of the business tax, the income tax, and also the sales tax, which exactly equal the 999 number, if you score it correctly. I think he's made it very clear publicly, and the plan itself is very clear on exempting those below the poverty level. KING: You compare this, this is a new proposal, and you compare it in some ways to Jerry Brown and the flat tax. He brought that up running against Bill Clinton back in 1992. Steve Forbes campaigned on a flat tax when he ran for president in 1996.

If the flat tax is such a good idea and the sales tax part of Mr. Cain's plan is so controversial, why not just have a flat tax and not that sales tax?

LAFFER: That would be fine. I mean, that would be just as good. I mean I think people are focusing way too much on the specifics of the plan.

Herman Cain is not even the nominee for the Republican Party, let alone the president, let alone getting something through Congress. What he's described is an ideal plan, a star, if you will, that people should shoot at and obviously when you get the specifics of the plan, they're going to be all sorts of compromise as we go through.

But I think it's just wonderful that he's described a plan as good as he has which would really create jobs, output and employment which is really what the poor need. The best form of welfare, John, is still a good high-paying job. And to create jobs is the key of any good tax reform, and that, Cain's plan really does.

KING: You came to fame during the Reagan era and President Reagan was a very optimistic person.

LAFFER: He sure was.

KING: I want you to listen to Herman Cain. I was talking to him earlier this week about one way he says those in the working class could avoid higher classes. Listen to this.


CAIN: When you get to that third nine, which is that national sales tax, it depends upon whether or not they buy used goods or whether or not they buy new goods.

KING: Well, you did concede some people would pay more by your calculations. Who would pay more, Mr. Cain?

CAIN: The people that would pay more are the people who would buy mostly new goods.


KING: As an optimist, as someone who came out of Ronald Reagan's morning in America era, is it optimistic, is it consistent with the American dream to say, well, if you want lower taxes, just buy used goods, don't buy a new car, don't buy a new washing machine?

LAFFER: Well, I don't think he said it the way I would say it, John. What I would say is that I think everyone's going to pay more in taxes because they're going to have jobs, they're going to have higher incomes, they're going to have more employment. That's really the dream here is to raise everyone's taxes, not by raising tax rates, but by lowering tax rates and creating more jobs, output and employment.

That's exactly what we did in the '86 Tax Act and what we tried to do in the '81 Tax Act. Back then, by the way, John, it was all bipartisan. The '86 Tax Act passed in the Senate with 97 votes to three. Only three Democrats voted against it. And we dropped the highest tax rate from 50 percent to 28 percent.

Yet, Teddy Kennedy, Joe Biden, Al Gore all voted for cutting that tax rate in 1986 because we all understood it created jobs and prosperity. That's what a tax code needs to do. So I want a lot more taxes, but I don't want to do it by raising tax rates. I want to do it by creating jobs and more income. That's as simple as that.

KING: As you know one of the criticisms of Mr. Cain has been is he ready? It's a question any candidate faces. And he's been the CEO of some corporations in the country.

LAFFER: He sure has.

KING: But some people ask is that enough to be president of the United States? I want you to listen to his explanation here of people who question his ability to handle economics.


CAIN: Some people have asked me, how did you come up with this? What do you know about economics? I oversaw economic analysis for the Pillsbury company. Some people think there's just pepperoni between these two ears. But I used to work doing econometric analyses.


KING: I'm not disputing the Pillsbury company as an important corporation, But the United States of America is the world's biggest nuclear enterprise, sir. Is that a comparable thing? I crunched the numbers for Pillsbury, I can do it for the country?

LAFFER: I don't know if that is or not.

But let me just tell you that some of the most educated people in the world who have become president of the United States have done the worst jobs ever. I mean we have one now who was a professor at the University of Chicago, where I taught most of my life, and I think he's doing an abysmal job.

We have had others that have done a great job with very little education. Jack Kennedy, if you looked at him when he took the role of White House, you would not be impressed with his economic credentials or any of his credentials, yet he became one of the greatest presidents this country's ever seen. I think we're playing way too much on whether the person has the specific skills necessary. Herman Cain is perfectly well qualified to be president of the United States, as are all the other candidates, to be very honest. They fit very well into a presidential structure.

KING: Arthur Laffer, appreciate your insights tonight, sir.

LAFFER: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you. Take care.

Next, tonight's "Truth" about how the Iraq war was sold to the American people.


KING: Tonight's "Truth" is painful, but indisputable.

Just about every major promise the Bush administration made in selling the war in Iraq to the American people and to the world turned out to be wrong. From the president on down, we were told there was no doubt, zero, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for denying, deceiving and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself, or for the sake of peace we will lead a coalition to disarm him.


KING: The most popular member of the Bush Cabinet back then made the WMD case to the United Nations.


COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States will not, and cannot, run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11 world.


KING: But what then CIA Director George Tenet called a slam-dunk case turned out to be dead wrong. We were also told this:


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will in fact be greeted as liberators.



CHENEY: I think it will go relatively quickly. But we can't...


CHENEY: ... we can't count on that.

Weeks, rather than months.


KING: That was not a one-time estimate.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It is not knowable how long that conflict would last. If could last, you know, six days, six weeks, I doubt six months.


KING: Now some Iraqis did greet American troops as liberators but many came to view them as unwelcomed occupiers. And the insurgency was fear, deadly and sustained. To be fair, the president himself was usually more careful than his deputies. I was CNN's senior White House correspondent when the war began.


KING: As we watched daybreak in Baghdad and as we have apparent lull in the military activities, I want to bring back some of the words the president did speak earlier tonight. He said that a selected target had been attacked tonight but the president also warned the American people in his words that this could go longer and could be a longer and more dangerous operation than many predicted. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In the first gulf war the first President Bush employed the Powell doctrine of using overwhelming force. In the second, the second President Bush accepted the Rumsfeld doctrine of meaner and leaner ultimately it took a giant troop surge to make Iraq relatively secure. And history without a doubt will record that more troops at the outset would have helped.

We are also told not to worry about the costs.


PAUL WOLFWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: We'll dealing with a country that couldn't that can finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.


KING: President Bush also promised a democratic Iraq would be a beacon in the Middle East. The jury still out on that one. Iraq has had elections and while so far its democracy isn't pretty, even a fragile democracy beats a dictatorship.

But on the bigger promised used to sell the war politically and globally, well, the truth is clear. No weapons of mass destruction. Not a penny from Iraq's oil riches. Instead more than $800 billion in U.S. tax dollars. Not weeks or months of war, but nine years. And in that time more than one million Americans have served in Iraq, of those nearly 4,500 paid the ultimate price. That said number is this war's most painful truth.

Up next, bloody, new video raises questions about the new Libyan government story about just how Moammar Gadhafi died.


KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now and it comes with a warning; bloody, new images of Moammar Gadhafi's last moments surfaced today. We're about to show them to you, even though gruesome because they call it to question the Transitional Government Assertion that Gadhafi died in a cross fire between his loyalists and revolutionary fighters.

The video's clearly shows Gadhafi alive after his capture, bloodstreams from a head wound as his captures push, shove, and slap him. At one point, a gun is held to his head. Later video shows Gadhafi's body in a refrigerated meat locker in Misrata. Today, Gadhafi's family asked the United Nations and international organizations to force Libya's transitional council to give the body to Gadhafi's tribe for a proper burial.

A little bit ago NATO announced it would monitor the situation in Libya until the end of the month and will protect civilians, if necessary.

In other news. A potentially significant development in the sent for a missing 11-month-old girl in Missouri. An affidavit obtained by CNN states a cadaver dog indicated a positive hit for the scent of a deceased human on the floor near her bed. The girl's parents say she was kidnapped.

And finally, Wall Street ended the week with stocks at the highest level in two months. The Dow industrials gained 267 points today.

When we come back, our exclusive political duo, James Carville and Mary Matalin. How is this irony? The president today announced that Iraq when come to an end on his watch. Would he be president if that war had not been launched?


KING: On this important day when President Obama announced he would end the war this year, here's an irony to consider. Does he owe his success in presidential politics to that Iraq war he's so fiercely opposed? A good question for exclusive political duo. CNN contributor James Carville and Mary Matalin live from their home in New Orleans.

Mister Carville, you're the democrat so to you first. Would Barack Obama have defeated Hillary Clinton if State Senator Barack Obama had not opposed the war if Iraq when Senator Hillary Clinton was voting in favor of giving the president authority to go to war?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Unequivocally, no. I mean literally, that vote made it possible for Barack Obama to be a major contend for the democratic nomination and things started breaking his way. Without that vote I'm not even sure he could run for president, if you go back. I mean if he goes back unfortunately I can remember most of it, that was the thing that got him started, got his fund-raising, his energy and everything else started.

KING: It was so important, Mary, at the beginning of his presidential political history, and listen today the first words out the president's mouth when he walks into the briefing room to make this dramatic announcement.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As a candidate for president I pledge to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end for the sake of national security and around the world. So today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.


KING: I know he made that promise, Mary. I am well aware. But I was stunned to have the commander in chief, the president of the United States at the first words out of his mouth on such a big announcement be political, as a candidate for president.

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Because he obviously is has very tough political terrain out there, starting with his own base and this is what he can offer, his base. But to make a politically expedient decision as opposed to long-term security and military decision is I can't believe that's going to be politically helpful.

The military commanders on the ground are said to be livid about this. They said that a minimum of, a minimum, absolute bare minimum of 10,000 just to do basic counterterrorism, to support the Iraqi security forces, and to squash a secure monitor the region between the Kurds and the Iraq border up there. So, this is the word he used was responsible. This is not responsible by any military assessment which I've got to guess over the course of this campaign, and we will see how this plays out over the course of the campaign. It cannot be politically helpful in the end.

KING: Well, we will get in that --

CARVILLE: But John --

KING: Go Ahead -- CARVILLE: I think it's my understanding that Iraq government told us to leave, that we were willing to keep the people there in the Iranians have so much control so much influence on the government of Iraq that they wanted us out. So if they want us out, not much will for us to stay there, that's what I understand from my report.

MATALIN: Mister Diplomacy, Mister Everybody loves him, Barack Obama, Bush's sofa, forces agreement, was that after 2011 we could negotiate and the negotiations tend to take place in such a way that the Iraqis would have political cover? As soon as Obama telegraphed he was cutting and running they were not going to take the political risk but anybody could have maneuvered a new ones a diplomatic face- saving solution that the parliament would not have to vote on reducing the prosecution issues for soldiers who acted in a combat situation or in a military situation. So it just - it's complete political expediency. And I'm just praying it doesn't turn out badly.

KING: Let's -- this beautiful couple we're watching on television right no here, I remember it all too well, on very different sides back in 1992. Mary you were trying to help President George H.W. Bush get re-elected. And Mister Carville, you were beating that president to a pulp and working for Governor Clinton.

I was really struck there. I want to go to you first by the parallel. I know you don't want to compare Barack Obama to George H.W. Bush. He's one of your heroes. But here's a president we now have in the White House, in last five months killed Osama bin Laden, killed Anwar al Awlaki, can claim and we can debate this if you want, but can claim some success in Libya, and now is saying he's ending a war and bringing troops home from Iraq. And yet, and yet, next November, just like George H.W. Bush who had a 90 percent approval rating after the first gulf war, come next November it will be worth didley squat, right?

MATALIN: Exactly right, as you well remember we were at 91 percent approval after the first Persian Gulf. And I do commend, as lot of conservatives, that president's decision making and execution of everything from UBL to today's events in Libya, all of which were predicated on the policies that George Bush, the son, put in place.

But this is not going to be a cycle that is fought over anything other than the economy, the role of government, reducing our structural debt and all of those things. He has no record to run on. I mean it is a negative record to run. But this is not going to supplant or make up for that negativity in this record.

KING: And James, if we needed any proof, to borrow your old line from 1992, it's the economy, stupid. Look at our new poll today. Important to your vote for president, extremely important or very important on the economy 93 percent, foreign policy 56 percent, nearly a 40 point gap there showed. Again the president will have some foreign policy achievements but when it comes to the election next November, how much do you think they're worth?

CARVILLE: Well, before it didn't help Churchill after World War II. So, we know what Democrats lost the first congressional election I mean off win I think (inaudible). You know, look, he's doing a little better than you would think in this economy, and if things he's able to show some progress in 2012, which is certainly not a given, he'll have a case to make.

And as I pointed out on the blog this the weakest field any party has ever forward for any nomination in modern American history. So, he has some things going for him and you know, the foreign policy successes are real as a result of decisions he's made and policies he's had. The world started this year with Osama bin Laden and Gadhafi and it's going to end without him and that can't be but a good thing for the world.

KING: And Mary, if Iraq and these other foreign policy matters won't mat tort president come next November, will they matter at all and doesn't matter at all that you have conservatives tonight, Rick Perry. "I'm deeply concerned that President Obama's putting political expediency ahead of sound military security judgment."

Mitt Romney, "the unavoidable question is whether decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government."

I understand during the campaign, they have to react to events but if this won't matter to the president next November, does this really matter what Republicans are saying tonight?

MATALIN: Yes, it does because the same Republicans worked quickly, to commend the president for those successes in our various conflicts and interventions around the world. But this is a stark contrast, one of many, between the Republican field and the democratic incumbent. And it is not a weak field.

James forgets that his President Clinton, our President Clinton, was spawned of the field called the seven dwarfs. So, there's a clear difference in governing philosophies and policies that will come from whoever the eventual Republican nominee. And this is one of them. You don't make military and security decisions for political expediency.

KING: Do you remember the seven dwarfs? I remember a night in New Hampshire when your future husband, Mary, he said that he was pointing to Bill Clinton he said he's a hose which a horse, the other guys are dogs.

You guys stay put. We'll continue our conversation in a moment and we are going to frame it around tonight's number. And tonight's number is this. It is four. And you see the late Steve Jobs here. He's the focus of the new book by Walter Isaacson. He said why are four our number?

Steve jobs told President Obama this "you're headed for a one- term presidency." Why did he tell him that? Is he a good political analyst? We'll debate that with James and Mary when we return. Remember that number, four, as in just four years.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We all know Steve Jobs is a pioneer in changing our technology and our culture, but was he also an astute political prognosticator?

Back to James Carville and Mary Matalin that eye opening revelation in journalist Walter Isaacson's forthcoming biography of the late Apple computer icon. James and Mary, Walter's book comes out on Monday. And here's what he says. He says Steve jobs told Obama this, "you're headed for a one-term presidency" he told Obama at the start of the meeting. Insisting it needed to be more business friendly. Jobs described with ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States where "regulations and unnecessary costs make it difficult for them."

So, one-term presidency James is Steve - was Steve Jobs maybe should have been a political consultant?

CARVILLE: I don't know. We'll see. You know obviously, he was a great innovator and a lot of people have political opinions either as of. The one thing you know is as Walter Issacson, he got the quote right. Not many people realize this, but Michael and Walton Lewis went to high school together and he'll sell a bucket load of books.

MATALIN: And Walter was a Tulane graduate. So, we are proud of him.

CARVILLE: He's on the Tulane board.

KING: You're right that Louisiana, New Orleans chamber of commerce here. That's right.



KING: So, Mary, Mary, the book also says this before you get to pile on saying Steve Jobs was right. I'm not sure you think he was. He also says this, "though Jobs was not that impressed by Obama later telling Isaacson that his focus on the reasons things can't get done infuriates him and they kept in touch by phone a few more times."

MATALIN: Right. The reason to go back to the previous conversation, he said he'd be a one-termer because he's not business friendly and all of the regulations he was perpetrating was strangling business. There was one thing that Steve jobs knew in terms of being an innovator was, he was a great capitalist. He also said that Teacher's unions were had a stranglehold on education and he was worried about the workforce that would being entering into the future, could there be future innovators and the kind of education system and the Teacher's unions are dismantling. And he made some really good point, and I -- I can't wait to read the whole book. We're excited for Walter, but there's nothing in there that surprises me that any honest business person and thinker would say about this president.

KING: I think we didn't know, though, James, or at least I didn't know how much he maybe wanted to get involved in your business. Listen to this from the book as well. "Jobs even offered to help create Obama's political ads for the 2012 campaign. He made the same offer in 2008, but he'd become annoyed when Obama's strategist David Axelrod wasn't totally differential, writes Isaacson. Jobs later told the author, he wanted to do for Obama what the legendary morning in America ads did for Ronald Reagan."

You know I don't think he's ever run a campaign, but he did OK with the iPod and the iPad and the iPhone thing. Maybe I'd say yes.


CARVILLE: I guess so. I mean look, a lot of times having been in politics and to defend David a bit here. He can get a lot of command and they're brilliant people and they're absolutely brilliant at what they do, but sometimes that sort of brilliance doesn't necessarily transfer into the political arena. I don't know the exact circumstances of the story. I do know this guy was obviously the Henry Ford of our generation. But I also have some sympathy with David because there's probably a lot of Steve Jobs that offered to do television commercials.

MATALIN: Can I echo that? Between the two of us we've had a lot of jobs outside of politics. I've never had a job like politics where everybody thinks they know thou do your job better than you do. Everybody thinks they're a political analyst because they're possibly a political junkie. There's some mod company skill that's required.

CARVILLE: I can make a cell phone or ipad, what the heck.

KING: I think most us says everybody wants they think they can do my job better than me and my answer is, come on.

MATALIN: No, you're great.

KING: Texas Governor Rick Perry here in Washington, opening a meeting with about 50 Washington insiders on Friday, "the National Journal" reports, by telling the first few weeks of his campaign were a "love-fest" followed by a, quote, "ass kicking", that's improved his game according to several participants present.

Mary, the National Journal reports said tonight you know candidates do fall down. President Obama did not have a great start in the 2008 campaign, sometimes, falling down makes you a better candidate. Is it good for Governor Perry to be conceding that there was a, again his word, not mine, folks, ass-kicking aspect of his campaign?

MATALIN: Yes, absolutely. It's never about falling down. It's about getting back up that shows you a lot of our candidate. It shows you a lot of man and woman and a person that you hope your kids you know learn from adversity. Yes, he did not get out of the gate good and this is what those conservatives who are looking for a true conservative. We are hoping for that he'd get back up on the saddle and he did, you know, and generally in politics that was one of the keys to President Clinton and candidate Clinton's success. You know it's how you respond to stumbling that says something about your character and your stamina and your resilience and how you could perform in a very difficult job.

KING: Mary makes a good point.

CARVILLE: Think he was smart thing to do that.

KING: He makes a good point and you remember how many times in the early Clinton campaign whether it was Jennifer with a "G" or the draft controversy or something else. And the whole establishment world said you know Clinton's got to get out. He's done. He's toast.

What are you learning about Rick Perry?

CARVILLE: I remember - you remember the metaphor he's a gut shot confederate itself soldier.


CARVILLE: I think Perry, that's one of the few smart things. I think that's what he needed to do. He needed to get a good joke writer. He needed to acknowledge what was obvious, in Stevens in Noble County. The first step in fixing something is acknowledging something's wrong. He's done that. Politically, I think that and I think the flat tax politically was pretty smart for him so maybe he's got a chance I think.

KING: You get a big hug and you get a loving hug for that. You guys have a much better Friday night out of that one come out. I want to show you guys a picture. You're both very familiar with the White House briefing room.

Here's a guy that you don't see that often in the White House briefing room. There he is. Is that President Will Ferrell? I'm not quite so sure. Will Ferrell is in town to get an award this weekend. Here he is at the White House briefing room and he'll get up to the podium. What advice can a comedian give the president of the United States, Mary?

MATALIN: You know, I don't -- lighten up, you know? Don't sweats the little stuff, sweat the big stuff, but it always crack me up when comedians in particular come to the White House. George Herbert Walker Bush, you rightly point out, he loved Dana Carvey, he loved Dana Carvey.


KING: I got to call a time-out. We have to go. We have to go. I'm sorry.

Everybody have a great weekend. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.