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JOHN KING, USA

Herman Cain Campaign in Final Days?; Conrad Murray Sentenced; Interview With California Congressman Brian Bilbray

Aired November 29, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

There are strong indications tonight the surprising presidential candidacy of Herman Cain is in its final days. The Republican businessman told his top aides today a reassessment is necessary because of a Georgia woman's allegations of an extended extramarital affair.

In a sometimes emotional conference call, Cain forcefully denied any inappropriate behavior and said he had offered financial support to a friend down on her luck, nothing more. He conceded, however, this latest allegation was taking an emotional toll on him and on his family and said he would decide over the next several days whether fund-raising is strong enough to stay in the race at least through the kickoff event. That's the Iowa caucuses, 35 days from now.

Steve Grubbs is Cain's Iowa chairman. He was on that dramatic conference call this morning.

He is with us now live to start the program from Davenport, Iowa. Steve Grubbs, first, just tell me your gut. You're a veteran of these campaigns.

Does your gut tell you yes or no, that you'll have a candidate come Saturday or Sunday?

STEVE GRUBBS, CAIN CAMPAIGN IOWA CHAIRMAN: Well, I think we'll definitely have a campaign and a candidate come this weekend and all the way to January 3. You know, the -- the real issue is, you know, the impact on the Iowa campaign. We've got almost 900 precinct captains in place and we're working to keep them. Today, we added more. We lost a couple, but for the most part, we added more than we lost.

So we're charging ahead and within a -- with a lot of effort, I think we're going to storm the gates on January 3.

KING: On that call this morning, though, I want to be clear, you were listening. Mr. Cain said he was doing a reassessment. It was because of these new allegations and that within several days, he would make a decision.

Is that correct?

GRUBBS: Well, the reassessment that I heard -- and people heard different things. But what I heard him say was that we would reassess like right after the Iowa Straw Poll this last August, which was more of a resource allocation reassessment. I -- I think he's planning to continue forward. And -- and I hope he does.

You look at John McCain back in '07, Bill Clinton in '91 and you see that, you know, sometimes campaigns go through a time where everybody wants to write their obituary.

But I think that Herman Cain is what we need and I think if he -- if he stays the course, then he'll -- he'll do fine come the Iowa caucuses.

KING: But, again, since you were on that call, I want to get your perspective. Here's what -- from a transcript of the phone call, here's what we know Mr. Cain said today. He said, "Now, with this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to created too much of a cloud in some people's minds as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth."

He went on to say, according to transcript of the call, "It's also taken a toll on my wife and my family, as you would imagine. Any time you put another cloud of doubt, unfortunately, in the court of public opinion, for some people, you're guilty until proven innocent. And so the public will have to decide whether they believe her or whether they believe me."

Steve Grubbs, what is the test, whether fund-raising, whether...

GRUBBS: Yes.

KING: -- fund-raising comes in overnight tonight and tomorrow?

GRUBBS: Well, I think that's going to be a big part of it. You know, this campaign is sustained by small contributions. We don't have major donors and -- and he's not a candidate who's going to be able to self-fund the whole thing.

So -- so if people make contributions, then we'll keep the campaign doors open and be able to keep paying people. Otherwise -- otherwise, Herman Cain will have to make a decision whether he -- he can afford to -- to keep moving forward.

Now I believe people will come through and I -- and I believe that we have enough supporters across the nation to keep this campaign viable.

KING: You're a veteran of the Iowa ground campaign, the caucus campaign. It's very difficult organizing. You know how to get it done.

Let me ask you right now, do you have the resources you need tonight -- is Herman Cain on the radio?

Is there a TV ad by him in the works?

Do you have direct mail going out to Republican Iowa caucus-goers or are those things that are on hold because of this problem?

GRUBBS: Well, I can tell you that they're all in the works and we will see by the end of the week if they get funded. We do have a mail plan. We have a TV and a radio plan. But primarily, our hope is to have a great ground game and to support it with some -- some paid media and some mail.

KING: But as of today, you don't have the approval to spend that money or the money in the bank, where you can just go and do it?

GRUBBS: As of today, we are waiting to see what happens. And as soon as we get the green light, we will move forward. And -- and, yes, we -- we are ready to go with that.

KING: You say you lost some precinct captains and you've gained some others. Just describe what a conversation like that is like. You're reaching out to somebody or somebody you've already signed up calls you up and says, Steve, I'm sorry, I can't do this.

What are those conversations like?

GRUBBS: I mean primarily, there are some people who have concerns about the direction of the campaign and -- and, you know, they would like to see less drama, as we all would. And -- and they -- and there are people who believe that we need to get back on our message, which -- which we believe that, as well.

Having said that, the good news is that we have -- we gained more supporters today than we lost. And so at the end of the day, when I look at our nightly reports, like I get every single night, I will see more precinct captains today than -- than last night. And -- and which is more than last week.

So -- so overall, we'll see a net benefit. But obviously, you know, it -- it's -- these things are a distraction. They slow us down. It's a challenge. But we're -- we're going to keep moving forward.

And you know what?

I believe in Herman Cain. And there's an awful lot of people out here who do, too. And I -- and I hope that on January 3, we're going to give people the opportunity to -- to vote for him.

KING: Steve Grubbs is the Cain campaign chairman in the state of Iowa, a veteran organizer out there.

Steve, appreciate your time on this difficult day.

And we'll stay in touch. Thirty-five nights from tonight, Iowa kicks off Campaign 2012.

Steve Grubbs, thank you.

Cain rival Newt Gingrich brought up the drama in South Carolina. Gingrich made a brief statement to reporters before they had a chance to ask him about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to have any comment. I think it's his decision to make. He has to do what he thinks is best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Gingrich could have the most to gain from a Cain collapse. Our polling earlier this month found Gingrich was the second choice of nearly four in 10 Cain voters. Mitt Romney was next, the second choice of 25 percent of Cain backers.

Let's get some additional reporting and perspective now from our CNN contributor Ron Brownstein. He is the editorial director at "National Journal." And our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

You have to applaud Steve Grubbs' loyalty and for hanging in there. But he says he has a direct mail plan, he has a radio plan, he has a TV plan, he has a ground game plan. He doesn't have the money.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And he might not have a candidate. He will have to see.

I think clearly the money's important. Don't forget, after the sexual harassment allegations were raised, the Cain campaign started raking it in and they raised $2 million within a matter of a few days. The question is now whether there's such a critical mass. Again, these are different kinds of allegations. It's not an issue of harassment. It's a consensual affair, which he denies.

The question is whether the money keeps coming in the way it did after the first set of charges. I tend to believe that history's not going to repeat itself, that you reached this critical mass, people start scratching their heads, you lose conservative support. We have seen that in Iowa, and South Carolina, even before this recent wrinkle.

KING: If you go through, Ron, the transcript of this telephone call today and the tone Mr. Cain had, it's very different. I want you to listen. He was here yesterday talking to Wolf Blitzer, where he sounded -- he was, A., much more defiant and, B., sounded much more determined to stay in the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: But you're staying in this race?

You're not dropping out?

CAIN: I'm not dropping out of this race, no. As long as my wife is behind me, and as long as my wife believes that I should stay in this race, I'm staying in this race, because I am sick and tired of the hurt and harm that somebody out there is doing to my family, more so to me, with these baseless -- these baseless charges. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Overnight, though, he says we need a reassessment and if the emotional toll is significant, and if it takes such a high toll on my family, maybe I get out.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

Two things I find fascinating about this. First, the metric that they're using about the ability to raise money and fund the campaign in Iowa and beyond really is a marker that this campaign, which has been fought almost entirely through these nationally televised debates, is beginning to move down into the kind of conventional ground game in the states that has been obviously critical before but has been overshadowed so far this year by the incredible impact of the debates.

Second, the qualifications that he set up on whether or not he wanted to continue, he is already facing questions about whether his support now has a lower ceiling than it would have earlier. He has maintained a floor, but the ceiling's clearly come down, even before this allegation. You have to ask the question, OK, do you really believe with this added weight on it that you have a legitimate chance of rising to the top, or are you just putting yourself and your family through scrutiny that can be very difficult?

KING: Let's take a look at that because you make an important point. You had the previous allegations which he denied of sexual harassment. He's also had some debate performances and some answers to questions especially about foreign policy where he's been, to be kind, a bit shaky.

Let's go through our national polling of Herman Cain. This is our CNN/ORC poll. You see right here, boom, there's the big jump. He was the front-runner for a little bit nationally. This is last the couple of weeks as he's dealt with bad debate performances and allegations of sexual harassment, none of this done in the last 24 hours. We want to be careful.

But this is where he had come from, 30 down to 17. That's in our national polling. Now, let's look. Real Politics puts together this collection of the Iowa and New Hampshire, Iowa's red, New Hampshire is orange. Watch this. You see again he's flat, then he starts going up, especially Iowa, he went way up. New Hampshire he got to 18 percent. Now at about seven-and-a-half in New Hampshire. He's lost half of his support in Iowa.

To your point when I was in a conversation I had earlier in the day with Steve Grubbs, he said this is the time of the campaign when you need to start spending money. You can't just be a debate candidate. You need to start turning people out. How do you recover?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: It's really difficult to recover, but he has other baggage. It's not just the question of women. And he by the way wasn't doing very well with women ever.

KING: We can show that as you make that point. Please continue but let's just show the point -- 22 percent of Republican men support Herman Cain in our polling, 12 percent of women.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly. He wasn't doing well with women, as you show. And also, he had substantive problems. Couldn't answer a very simple and pointed question about whether he disagreed with Barack Obama's policy on Libya.

Republicans starting to take a second look at 999, deciding they don't like a national sales tax, and on and on, poor debate performances. And so what he had going for him in a way was the likability. Republicans -- and the polls show that Republicans liked Herman Cain. The more these things pile on, the less they're going to like him.

KING: He was proof, too, Ron of what I will call the Perot-Tea Party combination in this campaign. People wanted something different. They didn't want another politician.

So this guy who was likable, who was engaging, who was a strong debater, at least early on, shoots up from nowhere. If you look at the field without Herman Cain, it's politicians.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, this is the outsider conundrum. Right? The same qualities that make them initially attractive make it harder for them to wear well.

Someone who is from outside the political system who seems very fresh, but that comes with some costs. They have not been vetted the same way people who have run for offices have, frequently run for office have. And also they often lack the command of all of the issues and even the command of how you sound coherent and competent when you don't know the answer, which is something that politicians learn how to do.

In many ways, the strengths that elevated Herman Cain have really started to pull him down as he's gone along.

BORGER: And I think the big question now is we see in the polls that a lot of his support seems to be going to Newt Gingrich. The question is whether Mitt Romney is going to be able to convince some of those conservatives that actually they ought to go with him because he might be the most electable candidate.

KING: A field without Cain hurts Mitt Romney. He needs as many other people to his right as possible.

BORGER: To fight with each other.

(CROSSTALK) BROWNSTEIN: That has been his great advantage.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: More to the right, the better for Mitt Romney.

Gloria, Ron Brownstein, thanks for coming in.

And still ahead here, Michael Jackson's doctor is heading to jail for his role in the pop icon's death. But does the time fit the crime?

And next, amnesty is a dirty world in a Republican Party tilting ever more to the right, but might campaign 2012 actually pull the GOP back toward the center on an issue that is always emotional and right now is front and center in presidential politics?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight's number is a big one, at the moment a big dividing line in the Republican presidential race.

It is 11.2 million, 11.2, an estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants, illegal immigrants, living in the United States according to the Pew Hispanic Center. That makes up almost 4 percent, 3.7 percent of the U.S. population.

Here's a look at where they live. The darker the state, the higher the population of illegal immigrants. And just for a little context, let's look at this. There are 72 percent of the foreign-born people living in the United States are here legally, 28 percent, the 11.2 million, 28 percent illegally in the country.

Whether many of these folks, those here illegally should be granted legal status is a big dividing line at the moment in the Republican presidential race. Newt Gingrich says yes. Michele Bachmann calls that misguided amnesty. Does it matter if someone who crossed illegally has been here 20 days or 20 years?

Not to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a national lightning rod in the immigration debate and, as of today, a supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA, SHERIFF: What difference does it make? If you're here illegally, you're here illegally. If you don't like it, then have the Congress or someone in the states change the law. That's all I have to say about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Your first reflex is to assume tough talk like that would carry the day in today's Republican Party. After all, John McCain's talk of a path to citizenship nearly derailed his bid for the GOP nomination four years ago and the party moved even more to the right in the Tea Party sweep of 2010.

But is there actually more of a shift back toward the middle on immigration among the leading Republican contenders?

On Capitol Hill tonight, Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray of California, and in Saint Louis, CNN contributor Dana Loesch.

Congressman Bilbray, let me start with that basic premise. If you have Newt Gingrich who has gone from nowhere to the top of the national polls saying, not citizenship but legal status for those who broke the law when they first entered country, but at any time since then have been law-abiding -- perhaps they have children, perhaps they have been paying taxes in America -- that they should be able to have a process to stay. Do you consider that amnesty?

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: Yes, I do.

And I do because I was born and raised on the border. There were two houses between my childhood home and the border. I'm one of the few members of Congress that have seen what happens along the border when people from Georgia or somewhere else that don't understand what is going on with the immigration issue, don't take the time to go to Latin America and talk to people who are considering here coming here illegally, they don't understand that talking about amnesty the reduce illegal immigration, it's about as logical as somebody saying, let's drill a hole in the bottom of a boat to let the water out.

You're going to cause a whole new wave of illegal immigration by sending the wrong signals around the world and not taking care of the real source of the problem. That's illegal employers. The employers are the one who create illegal workers.

KING: But, so, Dana Loesch, to you on this one. If Congressman Bilbray's position is the position of grassroots conservatives and that has not changed since 2008, how did Newt Gingrich go from zero to the top of the national pack when he's been very consistent in explaining his views on this issue and he's not backing down?

DANA LOESCH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think, number one, because he's not Mitt Romney. Number two, he hasn't had any gaffes. Number three, immigration, while it is a huge wedge issue amongst many conservatives, I don't think ultimately -- and a lot of them may get upset over this, let's but look at Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan was the amnesty president. Ronald Reagan not only supported and signed a bill into law which granted three million illegal immigrants amnesty in the United States, but he was enthusiastically supportive of it. Now, by our own standards of today, Ronald Reagan wouldn't have a shot.

But ultimately when you talk about John McCain and the comments that he made about a path to citizenship, there were many issues that were derailing John McCain, the least of which was immigration. McCain-Feingold was a huge issue.

But, ultimately, I think immigration isn't going to be as high up on the list as opposed to -- as compared to the some of the other financial concerns. And Gingrich, his position on what some would call amnesty, I disagree with what -- many of his positions and the whole -- under the amnesty umbrella or the immigration umbrella.

For instance, evaluating on a case-by-case basis 11 million individuals and going and having a hearing, I guess, and determining how long they have been here, what ties they have to the community, that's something to dispute. He hasn't gone as far as McCain has, though.

KING: So, Congressman Bilbray, you have Speaker Gingrich, who is at the top of the national polls now, at the top of the Iowa polls. He's running close second in New Hampshire -- I'm sorry -- a distant second in New Hampshire, he's ahead in South Carolina.

He has his position which you call amnesty. Governor Perry says absolutely no amnesty. I want you to listen to him here, and then I will fill in some of the blanks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Amnesty is not on the table, period. There will be no amnesty in the United States. We're a country of law. And the idea that we're going to tell people that somehow or another, you know, that's all forgiven is not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He says that's not going to happen. And he says he would deport -- anyone who was brought into custody any way, shape or form who is here illegally would get immediately deported. He has not though said you would go out and round up the rest of the law-abiding folks. I know they broke the law to get here, but those who are currently law-abiding.

And you have Mr. Romney, who many would say is the Republican front-runner, if it's not Mr. Gingrich, who now says he's not for amnesty. But if you go back a few years, he had the position that is essentially the same as Newt Gingrich's position now.

If those three candidates are among the leading candidates for your party's nomination, Congressman, is it inevitable that you will have a nominee who you disagree with?

BILBRAY: No, it's not.

And let's say one thing for the record. Ronald Reagan recognized that amnesty could only be used once, that if you use it more than once, your credibility of enforcing your law is lost. And the fact is, is that when Perry talks about anybody illegal should be sent out of the country, this is a governor who signed a bill that says if you're illegally in the state of Texas, you get college grants.

You actually get subsidized to go to school, to get a job that's illegal in the country. So Perry's kind of trying to cover himself on this one. And, look, Newt goes a lot of different ways. He's a personal friend. He's really been a great guy to work on.

But the fact is, you have just got to look at the fact that what you're talking about is not what you may want to do some time in the future, but sending a signal around the world that the candidate for president or, worse, the president himself, has announced that if you break the law, come into the country illegal, if you risk your life and be one of those -- or be one of those 600 who die along the border trying to come in the country illegally, we will reward you if you come in here.

And this is a concept that looks like it's compassion, but this is like opening a candy store in the middle of a freeway. While people, children are being killed on the road, you say I don't understand how this happened. Everyone who is given a job and any elected official who is announcing to the world that Washington and the federal government is going to reward illegal immigration are part and parcel to the problem of sending a clear and defined message.

And even Gingrich will say our problem is that we have sent mixed messages in the past and that has enticed people to come here and be here illegally.

Well, Newt, I don't care who you are. Quit sending the mixed message that we are going to somehow reward or accommodate you if you broke the law while there are those waiting patiently to play by the rules waiting to come into this country legally.

KING: Dana is going to be with us later in the program. We will continue part of this conversation then.

Congressman Bilbray, appreciate your coming in tonight. We will watch as this one plays out.

BILBRAY: Thank you.

KING: Next, Michael Jackson's doctor gets the maximum sentence, but wait until you hear how quickly he may be out of jail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A judge in California today sent Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, to jail for four years. That's the maximum sentence allowed for involuntary manslaughter.

Testimony during his trial revealed Dr. Murray gave Jackson the powerful drug propofol nearly every night in the two months before the singer's death in 2009. In dismissing pleas for leniency today, the judge told Murray he'd become part of a -- quote -- "cycle of horrible medicine."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE MICHAEL PASTOR, LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURT: Experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated. And Mr. Jackson was an experiment. The fact that he participated in it does not excuse or lessen the blame of Dr. Murray, who simply could have walked away and said no as countless others did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us now, "Inside Edition" chief correspondent Jim Moret, "Newsweek" and Daily Beast special correspondent Diane Dimond, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jim Moret, the four years is the maximum sentence, but there is hardly a guarantee Conrad Murray will spend anywhere near that amount of time in prison, right?

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": Well, actually in California, there's a guarantee he won't because of a recent court ruling dealing with overcrowding in prisons here in California.

He can't be sent to state prison. He's going to be sent to county jail and it's very likely that he will only serve months, instead of four years. And I think we even heard from the judge that he was a bit frustrated by that because the judge is mindful of the obligation of the sheriff's department to clear out the overcrowding situation.

So giving him four years was the most he could do, but Conrad Murray will serve at most two, but most likely just a matter of months.

KING: And, Jeffrey, Jim makes the point about you could hear the judge's frustration, sense his frustration. A lot of people out there, if they believe Conrad Murray killed Michael Jackson, will think you get four years, only four years, for killing somebody and in the end less than that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I have to say I had a similar reaction to this trial. I thought, at first, why bother? Michael Jackson had addiction problems. He was a troubled person obviously.

But the evidence in this case was appalling. Not only did Murray give him propofol at a time and in a way that no one should get propofol, he then lied to the EMTs about it, and he knew he was doing wrong. And the horror of how Michael Jackson died is really intense. And you can see why people are frustrated that it's going to be months, not years, in prison for him.

KING: And, Diane, one of the things that angered this judge is not just the testimony, not what he heard in the courtroom, but what he saw from Dr. Murray outside the courtroom, including this appearance on "The Today Show" at a time he is awaiting sentencing. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. CONRAD MURRAY, PERSONAL PHYSICIAN OF MICHAEL JACKSON: I don't feel guilty because I did not do anything wrong. I'm very, very sorry for the loss of Michael. Michael is a personal friend. I -- it's heartfelt. It's been painful. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The judge didn't take too kindly to that. And I'm not sure it was the best strategy on Mr. Murray's part.

DIANE DIMOND, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Yes. I have a feeling, John, that when Conrad Murray lays his head down on the pillow in the jail, some point in time pretty soon he's going to realize it was his own arrogant behavior that got him to this place.

I have a piece going up on The Daily Beast about this in a few minutes, that not only did he tape record his patient, his famous patient in a terrible state, which the judge said he was outraged about, but then he goes on television and shows no remorse.

He talks about, I'm not guilty of anything, I think that Michael Jackson set me up. And at that point, the judge today leans forward and says, yipes, talk about blaming the victim.

It was Conrad Murray's own arrogance, I think, that made it certain that he was going to get four years, never probation, and certainly not just one year from this judge.

KING: We actually have that sound. You mentioned the judge's reaction in the courtroom. Let's play it right here and let our viewers see it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR: And where Dr. Murray at that point says he feels betrayed and entrapped by Michael Jackson. Yipes. Talk about blaming the victim. Not only isn't there any remorse. There's umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Jim Moret, help us understand this. I think that's an honest reaction from the judge, but at the same time, it's one of these trials because of the celebrity nature, because of the high profile, one gets the impression that the judge knows he's performing, too.

JIM MORET, CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": I really feel that this judge took the high road, because this judge was saying, "Look, we all have kids. We have parents. We go to doctors. This is bigger than just Michael Jackson."

And I just want to point out that Conrad Murray's own statement to police that "Oh, I gave Michael Jackson this 60 nights, and we had no problems," that got him into trouble, too. So it was his statements in the beginning and in the end.

But I didn't really feel that the judge was speaking to the cameras because there were cameras there, because it was Michael Jackson. I think he was angry, because this is a doctor who violated his sworn oath to his patient. KING: There's no anger here, Jeff Toobin. I want you to listen to Conrad Murray's attorney. And it seems pretty clear that, in the end, in the end, he thinks "The Today Show" and MSNBC documentary, maybe not such a good idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. MICHAEL FLANAGAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't think the documentary was helpful, but I don't know that the documentary changed anything the judge was otherwise going to do. I don't think there was anything that was said today that changed anything the judge was otherwise going to do. I think -- I was not surprised. I think this die was cast a long time ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Whether the die was cast a long time ago or not, would you ever advise a client to this media -- I call it a strategy?

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jerry Sandusky, the same situation with his crazy interview with -- with Bob Costas. You know, I always feel a little weird as a journalist, because you and I, we live our lives trying to get people to talk to us, and then sometimes they do and we say, what an idiot.

And that -- and you know, so I -- I recognize that there's some contradiction in how we go about this, but this was a -- this was a case in many respects about celebrity. If he had been a normal patient, first of all he wouldn't have had a private doctor, and then he might have had a doctor who said no. No one ever said no to Michael Jackson, and people used him, people enabled him, other doctors, his family, and Conrad Murray was just the last and the worst of them.

KING: And one of the most dramatic pieces of evidence during this trial is the voice of Michael Jackson himself, recorded by Dr. Murray. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON, POP STAR: When people leave my show, I want them to say, "I've never seen nothing like this in my life. Go. Go. I've never seen nothing like this."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Diane, the judge took huge offense there, thinking somehow this was an insurance policy by Dr. Murray, maybe something that down the road he was going to try to make some money off.

DIANE DIMOND, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Yes, you know, a lot of us thought that. We never would write it or say it on television, but when the judge said it, we now feel free to say it. Why else would this doctor tape-record his patient in such a vulnerable state? Did he want to show his -- you know, let his girlfriend listen to it or what? I think that this judge -- I'm going to disagree with Jim. I think everybody in California, especially in the L.A. area, knows when a camera is on. And he was very dramatic today for a purpose.

But I think, in the end of the day, this judge said something I think is very important. He said, "This will not be tolerated." And it was a message to all of the doctors to which these celebrities go doctor shopping. We're not going to tolerate it anymore. We might not have been very successful with the Anna Nicole Smith doctor convictions -- those were fairly minor -- but we're going to keep at it. We're going to do it, and it's not going to be allowed. If you're a doctor in L.A. now, you better be careful what you're prescribing.

KING: Diane Dimond, Jim Moret, Jeff Toobin, appreciate your insights tonight on this fascinating case. Many more adjectives we could use. I think we'll leave it at that for now. Appreciate your coming in tonight.

Next, a downgrade for some of the country's biggest banks and bankruptcy for an iconic airline.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Stocks closed mixed today, with the Dow Industrials and the S&P 500 ending slightly higher. After the markets closed, Standard & Poor's announced it's reviewed the ratings of 37 of the world's largest banks and, as a result of new criteria, downgraded dozens of them. The downgrade list includes Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, JPMorganChase, and Citigroup.

American Airlines will keep flying even though its parent company, AMR, declared bankruptcy today.

Vice President Joe Biden started a previously unannounced visit to Iraq today by meeting with a U.S. ambassador and military commander.

Iranian protestors broke into the British embassy in Tehran today. The looting, burning and window breaking brought swift condemnations from the British, the United Nations, and President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of us, I think are deeply disturbed by the crashing of the English embassy, the embassy of the United Kingdom, in Iran. That kind of behavior's not acceptable, and I strongly urge the Iranian government to hold those who are responsible to task.

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KING: One eyewitness at the embassy was CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr, who joins us now on the phone from Tehran.

Take us to the scene of that embassy, Shirzad. What did you see?

SHIRZAD BOZORGMEHR, CNN (via phone): We were with 1,000 students who overpowered the police, and about 10 or 12 of them got into the embassy, setting the flag on fire and replacing it with an Iranian flag -- an Iranian flag instead. And then they went inside the building itself and brought out some documents and set fire to them.

This happened -- I saw this myself. And then the -- another compound of the embassy, the summer residence of the ambassador in North Tehran. About 200 students, apparently had gone in there, too, and had done the same. And maybe held about six of the embassy staff at bay until police arrived and inside -- went inside and freed them and got the students out.

KING: And when you give that vivid description, what did the students say publicly about why, why they decided to take this dramatic action?

BOZORGMEHR: Well, they had planned to do this. About two or three days ago, they announced it. And even more that they wanted to protest against British foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran and they condemned Britain for aligning itself with -- allying itself with the United States, imposing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program.

They also accused Britain of -- for a long time of interfering into Iran's internal affairs, and they wanted to expedite the expulsion of the British ambassador from Tehran.

KING: And you heard President Obama there. Other international agencies have condemned this and called on the Iranian government to hold those accountable -- hold those responsible accountable. Any evidence the Iranian government would do such a thing, or is the regime actually happy that this played out?

BOZORGMEHR: Well, the man who actually was the author of the bill that was passed by parliament that led to the downgrading of relations with Iran with -- relations with the United Kingdom, Mr. Abu Al-Ajid (ph), he said that the act by the students symbolized and crystallized the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that they had against the machinations against the history of the relations between the two countries.

But at the same time it said that the rules and regulations -- international rules and regulations would be observed. And the foreign ministry issued a statement, a very strong condemning the actions of the students and breaking the international law and said that it would pursue the matter and get the culprits to answer for their actions.

And at the same time, when the students were leaving the compound of the British embassy, about 10 or 12 of them were arrested by police. It remains to be seen what they do with them.

KING: Fascinating on-the-scene reporting for us from Shirzad Bozorgmehr. Shirzad, thank you for your reporting. We'll stay in touch as this story plays out. Important to watch there.

When we come back, Herman Cain has just released a new statement urging his supporters to help him keep his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination alive.

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KING: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is coming up at the top of the hour. Erin is here with a preview.

Erin, one of those post-market bad news dose for some of the nation's top financial institutions, including Bank of America, Goldman Sachs. How big of a deal is this?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Well, obviously, they're getting a downgrade from Standard & Poor's, the same credit- rating agency that downgraded the entire United States, as you know, in August, John.

Look, they changed the criteria by which they were evaluating these banks. So this is not a shock, but it still is not good news, especially for American borrowers.

You look at a company like Bank of America. The stock has plunged this year. This downgrade means that they're going to have to put billions of dollars of collateral up, and that means that could affect their bottom line, could affect their willingness to make loans. It could affect the interest rate at which they will make those loans. They are the biggest mortgage provider in the United States.

So these stories are not insignificant. You need strong banks with high ratings in order to have cheap loans.

The reason for the downgrade is in part regulation in the United States, but also that exposure to Europe, which is so important. I know sometimes it feels so far away, but it is important. I will say, John, two banks got upgraded today around the world by Standard and Poor's, and both are Chinese.

Back to you.

KING: That speaks volumes, doesn't it, about the world we live in at the moment. Erin, we'll see you in just a few minutes.

A busy day on the campaign trail today. Mitt Romney was in Miami celebrating the endorsements of three prominent Cuban-American political leaders and the nation's immigrant spirit.

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MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just amazing to see how people can come to this country, in many cases with nothing, but their dreams, and regardless of the circumstances of their birth, where they were born, what education they might have had, how much money they bring with them, they're able to build a future for themselves.

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KING: Rick Perry picked up a notable endorsement, too: controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has some issues with the Texas governor when it comes to immigration policy but still says he'd be the best for border security.

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SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: He's doing things. He's not talking. All these politicians, candidates, all they do is talk.

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KING: At a later event, Governor Perry, well, failed what I'd called a pretty basic civics quiz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those of you that are -- will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for your support and your vote.

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KING: The voting age is 18, next year's election November 6. That's the law. And the calendar.

And Newt Gingrich quoted South Carolina conservatives with a not- so-optimistic take on the tone of things to come.

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NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, Obama can't possibly win an election that's fair. The only way he's going to win is to so destroy the Republican that people decide reluctantly that he's less disgusting than his opponent. So they will run a campaign of astonishing dishonesty.

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KING: Today's biggest headline, though is this drama: Herman Cain's decision to reassess the viability of his campaign even as he forcefully denies a Georgia woman's claim of a multiyear affair.

CNN contributors Donna Brazile and Dana Loesch, left and right, respectively, are with us.

And Dana, I want to go to you first. Herman Cain just in last hour has put out a new statement sent to his supporters around the country. He says this about the woman. Her name is Ginger White, a Georgia businesswoman. "I thought Ms. White was a friend in need of a supportive hand to better her life. Ms. White has made it apparent that she was abusing the friendship. Now I'm asking for your friendship. I'm also asking for your prayers and support. This is a trying time for my family, my campaign and for me. It is also a trying time for our country as we are all distracted from the truly important issues facing our nation."

Part of an appeal like this is to say to your campaign supporters, it's not true. Part of it is to say, "I need fund- raising. I need it fast to prove I can stay in the race." Can he?

DANA LOESCH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know. I'm going to be surprised if he -- frankly, if he lasts the week, because he's dipping in the polls. He's losing support amongst the women especially, and I mean how many more of these can his campaign weather? And this last individual, you know, I didn't -- when Politico first broke the story I thought it may have been a hit job that came from the right.

And then continuing to see the stories come out. And then this particular woman, Ginger White, it's not as though this is a simple "he said, she said" game. She's got phone records. She not only has not only has phone records, but the reporter texted the number of -- texted Herman Cain's private number, and he called it back. And these phone records show that they were having conversations at something like 4:30 in the morning.

And I want to be generous with the benefit of the doubt, but at some point you kind of have to stop and pull back and think what's really going on here? Is it really as it seems?

KING: And as we -- as Dana makes the point, you're watching Herman Cain. He's giving a speech in Michigan tonight. He said he would go forward with this speech on foreign policy, but he also said he would make a decision in the next several days as to whether he can go forward.

One important barometer, Donna Brazile, is whether he can raise money. Another barometer is checking with your people in key states, to say are we bleeding? Are we losing support? I was in South Carolina yesterday, and I asked the Tea Party congressman, Tim Scott, who's very plugged into the grassroots where he lives in the Charleston area of the state. Is this hurting Herman Cain? Listen.

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KING: What is the buzz about Herman Cain in your state right now?

REP. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the challenges are real. We're seeing a lot of folks trying to second-guess themselves. Trying to find a new candidate. I think we may have the newest candidate to my right.

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KING: We're 35 days from the voting in Iowa. Then a week after that comes New Hampshire, then right after that comes South Carolina. You know what it's like to be in the middle of a campaign when something like this happens.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, I'm not going to write Herman Cain's obituary. He's an unconventional candidate and let him write his own ending if it is the end of his campaign. This is -- this is going to be a November to remember for Herman Cain. Dana is absolutely right.

Herman Cain will probably have to, you know, find new money, new supporters and a new reason why he's going to continue to stay in the race.

He has not been the candidate of new ideas. He really hasn't caught fire in terms of the kind of organizational strength you need. So I doubt very seriously that he can stay in the race for a long time. But Mrs. Cain is probably the only person tonight who knows exactly how to dial that number right now and say it's time to pack it up and go.

KING: Gingrich benefit the most, in your view?

BRAZILE: Absolutely. He's on the rise, and there's no reason to suspect that Newt Gingrich will not benefit from Herman Cain if he decides to drop out.

KING: And Dana, does this hurt Mitt Romney the most under the theory that he needs two or three people to his right?

LOESCH: Absolutely. It elevates a non-Romney, and I think that Cain might lose some supporters to maybe Gingrich over this. We'll see.

KING: We'll see, indeed. And we'll watch. Herman Cain saying on the phone call this morning he will reassess this over the next several days, making a decision. Watch to see what they say about fundraising in the next 28 to 48 hours.

Dana Loesch, Dana Brazile, appreciate your coming in tonight.

Up next, tonight's "Truth" involves a great lunch and a very important lesson.

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KING: Tonight's "Truth" is a simple but for me an absolutely critical lesson, especially as the presidential campaign kicks now into high gear. You can't begin to understand our volatile political climate unless you hit the road.

Our trip to South Carolina yesterday was a case in point of the perils of spending too much time here in Washington. Here we worry too much about which candidate is up or down from day to day. Sure, sometimes that's fun and sometimes, yes, it's important and newsworthy.

But hitting the road gets you more than a good meal. A lunchtime chat at a place like Charleston's California Dreaming reminds you, the voters, well, they often have much more profound worries.

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KING: Optimistic? Still nervous?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very optimistic. Very optimistic. Still a little nervous but optimistic. Charleston to me is a little bit different. We're kind of in a bubble compared to other cities. We have the tourism industry to fall back on and then the defense industry, which is very strong here.

KING: What's your sense? This holiday season versus last holiday season?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm in the car-wash business also, as well as being in the laundry business. And the car-wash business is down. Our walk-in traffic and our self-storage is all down. And I don't know if it's going to get any better as the way that it is right now.

KING: So people are still holding that money?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're still holding their money. There's no doubt about it.

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KING: That's an important point. People still holding their money.

Even the more optimistic Michaela (ph) added a caveat. She works in the hotel business and says tourists and business travelers are coming to Charleston but they're spending less money or staying fewer days. Now, she thinks better infrastructure is one way to help over the long term. Ralph says it's critical -- critical -- that the country get help with energy costs.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see something done with the fuel, the energy. I think that is what's hurting this area drastically.

KING: But do you see adult conversations? Or do you see a daycare center when you look at Washington?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daycare. I'm sorry. You know, this is a -- this is a fishing community. There's so much to the -- tourism is based on the fishing industry. The people come here to fish. The boats can't afford the fuel. A boat like mine, 12 to $1,300 a day just for fuel to go offshore fishing.

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KING: Unemployment in South Carolina is above 10 percent. That means above the national average, and the collapse of the super committee deficit talks here in Washington raises the prospect of automatic and punishing defense cuts.

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KING: So to protect your community, what do you have to do? The president says if you guys try to play with those numbers now, he'd veto it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he should. I mean, I think supplementals or anyway that you try to avoid sequestration lacks character. So the only thing that we can do is do what we said we were going to do. We have another several months in order to get this thing done. But if we do not find the cuts we must have sequestration, period.

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KING: Good questions for the candidates. Maybe skip asking about the new poll or the new ad, and press on how much he or she plans to cut from the Pentagon budget.

What's your energy policy and why can't Democrats and Republicans end what is really a silly partisan stand-off over critical spending on roads and bridges?

We're off to Iowa and New Hampshire soon. I promise you that. And here's betting the conversations there will be at least a little different. Our country is a complicated 50-piece puzzle, and what drives politics in Charleston might not be as important to folks in Des Moines or Derry.

But truth is, there's only one way to find out, and we need to do more of it so that we mix in more of what you worry about with all Washington's worries about the latest poll or snarky TV ad.

Another way I communicate with you is I can answer your questions. Remember, if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @JohnKingCNN. I'll answer them tomorrow for you live at noon Eastern on CNN.com/Live. It's a great way to keep in touch also.

That's all for us tonight. See you right back here tomorrow. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.