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Pain at the Pump; Deadly Tornadoes; Interview with Governor Robert Bentley; Interview with Governor Mitch Daniels

Aired March 2, 2012 - 18:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John King.

Tonight: Deadly tornadoes pummel communities from Alabama to Indiana. We will track the severe weather throughout this hour.

Plus, meet the law student Rush Limbaugh calls an slut and President Obama labels a role model.

And with $4 gasoline on the horizon, do the politicians have a plan or just the same old pandering promises?

Tonight, we're tracking a dangerous tornado outbreak. Powerful twisters are tearing across several states. Under the gun right now, Ohio, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Indiana, where four deaths have now been confirmed.

In Kentucky, a yellow school bus slammed into a building, its front half obliterated. In Tennessee, homes are ripped from their foundation, splintered by the winds. At least six people critically hurt in that state.

In Alabama, a trailer home lifted up and crashed upside down near a tree. The naked lot and a few stairs all that's left.

And here's a power line crumpled like a paper clip. Millions are affected and this is far, far, far from over.


KING: The dangerous storms struck northern Alabama, where homes were ravaged, several injuries reported there. Also, the roof of a maximum-security prison damaged.

The governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, joins me now on the telephone.

Governor, thanks for your time on this night.

I was just talking to Chad about the dangers of keeping your eyes open, different precautions at nightfall. In your state, we have so many homes destroyed. How's your shelter situation right now?

GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: Well, we have some shelters open up in north Alabama, where the two tornadoes came through this morning. But we have not had any -- south of those areas, we have not had any tornadoes. We have some tornado warnings at the present time. But it's interesting that the April 27 tornado, that track and the track of the two this morning were the -- was exactly the same track.

KING: And we're just showing some live pictures from the Coleman area of your state, sir.

You have these houses destroyed. Am I correct luckily, in your state, sir, no fatalities today?

BENTLEY: No fatalities. We have seven injuries, and we have 40 homes destroyed, and then we had 100 homes with major damage.

KING: And you had the roof ripped off a prison. The security situation there in order?

BENTLEY: That's right. It's secure. We have it secure, yes, sir.

KING: And any big needs right now, or people on top of this pretty well?

BENTLEY: No, everything is under control right now. We're just waiting to go see what happens in the next few hours.

KING: All right, Governor Bentley of Alabama, we appreciate your time tonight, sir. We wish your state the best in the hours ahead as well.

And we will continue to track these storms as they make their way across.

But we will shift now to some politics here, a big day, President Obama today upping the ante in a fight involving birth control, Rush Limbaugh and most importantly women voters.

The president came to the defense of a college student who Limbaugh labels a slut, who Democrats point to as the victim of what they like to call a Republican war on women.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, spoke with her today.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Explosive comments even for Rush Limbaugh.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.

BASH: Sandra Fluke is Georgetown University law student who appeared at a democratic event last week, arguing the Obama administration rule requiring free contraception is critical for women's health. We played Limbaugh's comments for Fluke --

SANDRA FLUKE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW STUDENT: I think he was confused about what my testimony said, for starters. I didn't say that I should be paid for anything. What we were talking about was private insurance covering a medical need. It has nothing to do with the government paying for anything or taxpayers or anyone like that.

BASH (on camera): To hear someone like Rush Limbaugh with millions of viewers, call you a slut?

FLUKE: I think I probably felt, well, I know that I felt probably the way many women do when they are called those types of names. Initially hurt and then very quickly upset and just outraged because someone is trying to silence you. BASH (voice-over): Politically Limbaugh played right into the Democrats' playbook called GOP opposition to free contraception a war on women.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I rise this morning to say to Rush Limbaugh, shame on you. Shame you on for being the hate monger that you are. Shame on you for being misogynistic. Shame you on for calling the women of this country sluts and prostitutes. I say to the women in this country, do something about this.

BASH: The House Democrats Campaign Committee tried to raise money from the issues, and Democrats circulated a letter demanding GOP leaders repudiate Limbaugh.

Friday morning, House Speaker John Boehner did just that, a rare slap at a powerful Republican mouth piece, with a dig at Democrats, too.

A spokesman saying the speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money of the situation. But Limbaugh is hardly backing down.

LIMBAUGH: The woman comes forth with this frankly hilarious claim that she's having so much sex and her buddies with her that she can't afford it, and not one person says, well, did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have? Did you ever think maybe it's your responsibility for your own birth control now everybody else's?

FLUKE: I would say that I don't think the women of America find it hilarious.

BASH: It's in the Democrats' political interest to keep this story going. She even got a call from President Obama.

(on camera): Were you surprised to get a call from the president of the United States?

FLUKE: Yes, it certainly wasn't on my calendar for the day, but I was happy to add that to the schedule. He thanked me for speaking out and being willing to do this, and for helping to magnify the voices of women around the country.

BASH: On the presidential campaign trail, Mitt Romney wouldn't answer a question about Limbaugh. But Rick Santorum, who vehemently condemns the president's policy on contraception as an intrusion on religious freedom, he told Wolf Blitzer Limbaugh is -- quote -- "being absurd" -- John.


KING: Congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

The women's vote, of course, will be huge in the November election.

Our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," is with us now.

Candy, the Democrats see this as a gift, obviously. Dana just made the point that Jim Acosta tried to ask Mitt Romney about this today and he kept walking by.

David Axelrod's just tweeted this: "Rush's vile, appalling assault on Sandra Fluke deserves universal condemnation. How can folks who call themselves leaders walk away?"


The Democrats will grind this into the ground. Look, this started out the Republicans thought as a winning issue on the rights of freedom of religion vs. the federal government telling, in most cases, the Catholic Church, Catholic Church entities that they must provide contraception.

This has now become just totally turned on its head. We had members of the administration saying, we really botched that whole ruling. But now they must be jumping for joy because the fact of the matter is that this has now become Rush Limbaugh calling some Georgetown law student a slut. I mean, they have just completely lost it.

And you and I were talking earlier that I remember a time when Michael Steele ran afoul of Rush Limbaugh and had to back off. They're not going to do that now.

KING: Well, they can't afford to back off right now.

Now, Speaker Boehner, who said today inappropriate. Others would say, well, he's not us, he's a performer, he's an entertainer, he needs to cause controversy. That's how he gets listeners and gins things up.

However, he is a powerful voice in the conservative movement. And he can cause problems and issues for the party. I want to just do a little simple math. In the 2008 election, there were 70 million women voters, 60 million male voters. Simple math there. And Barack Obama won 56 percent to 43 percent among women. They essentially split, Obama and McCain, the male vote.

CROWLEY: Women pick the winners. They absolutely pick -- and that's why you see the Democrats so all over this.

I mean, this is just manna from heaven for them. Already we have seen in the last three months all four of the Republican candidates, except for Ron Paul, have seen their numbers among women fall.

KING: And it becomes -- look, this is an election about the economy. This is an election about the president's record at the presidential level.

However, elections become about what's in the news at the moment. Scott Brown in a very tight -- he's running for reelection in Massachusetts against Elizabeth Warren most likely, a prominent liberal woman, says -- quote -- "Rush Limbaugh's comments are reprehensible. He should apologize."

He's jumping in. Maybe a little pressure to jump in.

CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely.

But the fact of the matter is, they have to put some distance here with Limbaugh. They can't really brush him off as an entertainer, because, first of all, he tends to dominate sometimes when Republicans have meetings or whatever, as Rush Limbaugh's listened to by so many Republicans.

They cannot afford to turn off women. And it's not a particular sentence, although what Limbaugh has said is just so over the top. But it is not just a precise situation, so much as it's a feeling of these are mean people, these are nasty people. And once that image is out there, it's very hard to take it back.

You can talk all you want about the economy. But if women have this sort of like, what is the deal with them, they walk away.

KING: Well, you can have a conversation about is this the government's role or even can you force insurance company to cover something? Legitimate policy conversation. But prostitute, slut?

CROWLEY: Slut? No. They are crying up on Capitol Hill. It will be interesting to see what Boehner does with the contraception legislation that didn't get anywhere on the Senate side.

KING: Changes pressure on his side.

Candy Crowley, thanks for coming in tonight.

KING: And elsewhere on the campaign trail today, with only four days to go until Super Tuesday, the Republican candidates concentrating on the biggest prizes among the 10 states that hold contests on Tuesday, the biggest prize Ohio.

A new poll shows Rick Santorum's lead slipping away, as Mitt Romney gained ground over the course of this past week. Santorum's current 35 percent to 31 percent lead is within the Quinnipiac's sampling error.

This afternoon on CNN, Santorum retreated from a comment he's caught flak for all week. On Saturday, the former Pennsylvania senator called President Obama a -- quote -- "snob" for wanting all Americans to go to college.

Here's what Santorum told Wolf Blitzer just a bit ago.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I used the term snob. You know, it was a strong term, probably not the smartest thing. But you know what? I don't give prepared talking point speeches written by other people. I got a little passionate there and I used a harsher word than I normally would.


KING: Newt Gingrich today concentrating on his home state of Georgia, which he calls, rightly so, a must-win on Tuesday.

At one point, the former speaker labeled himself a change agent, not, he said, a team player.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unlike Governor Romney, I am not going to go to Washington to manage the decay. And unlike Senator Santorum, I am not going to Washington to join the team. I want to create a new team called the American people who force dramatic bold, dramatic change on Washington.

And I want to force Washington to decide, do you want to be on the American people's team or do you want to get fired and go home?


KING: Governor Romney will be in Ohio tonight after an earlier stop today out in Washington State. Republicans there caucus tomorrow.

In Seattle, Romney compared his approach to foreign policy with that of a famous Democrat.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I agree with -- well, going back to the days of Harry Truman, he said America must stand by our values and we must strong. And our strength is not only our own military and our economy, but also our willingness to link arms with our allies. Those are the policies of strength that I believe are enduring and essential.


(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Checking in on some major international news now, in Syria tonight, fresh evidence about the extent of the brutality against anti-government rebels. A rocket blast into an anti-government rally left 16 dead.

Have to warn you, it's hard to watch. In the Baba Amr neighborhood, we're hearing reports of execution-style killings, as Red Cross trucks loaded with food and supplies were turned away by the regime. New satellite photos sum up the desperation there, rising smoke. Here you see tanks and armored vehicles. In this one, red dots mark damaged buildings, yellow dots, those are impact craters. There are more than 1,500 in just this one neighborhood.

President Obama says there's no silver bullet to stop rising gas prices. Next, we will ask a former oil company president what's really behind the spike in prices at the pump and who's to blame.

Also, new pictures of a dangerous security breach at a major U.S. airport.


KING: Bring you quickly up to speed on this hour's breaking news story.

We're tracking deadly tornadoes and strong storms. Officials confirm at least four deaths now in southern Indiana. Right now, the storms stretch from Ohio through Kentucky, Nashville, Tennessee, and south to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Alabama. The highest-risk areas right now, southern Indiana, southwestern Ohio, most of Kentucky, and north central Tennessee.

Those are pictures just in from Nashville you're watching right there, hail hitting the ground of Nashville. Horrible weather. We will continue to track this throughout the hour.

Today, though, marks the 24th consecutive day gas prices are on the rise. I bet you already knew that. The price at the pump approaches near $4 a gallon now. And guess what? The blame game, partisan blame game, in full swing.

Joining me now to talk about this, the former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister.

Mr. Hofmeister, appreciate your time.

I want to start with something the secretary of state -- now, she is not on the ballot, she is not running in an election -- she was testifying on Capitol Hill the other day. And she said, sure, when you have diplomatic pressure, a standoff with Iran, that might put up the futures market. But she sees something else at play.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: With respect to gas prices, I think there is room for considering ways to rein in speculation and gouging.

Yes, are there events that are happening in the world that raise questions? Yes. But to the extent that it justifies or can explain the increase in the gas prices? I don't believe so.


KING: Are the oil companies gouging?

JOHN HOFMEISTER, FORMER CEO, SHELL: John, this problem has been growing year by year ever since five, seven years ago.

From 2004 onward, we have seen this seasonality raise the price levels structurally every year for the last seven years. That's not gouging. What the administration fails to look at repeatedly, and not just this administration, but the previous administration as well, is the ever-rising demand for crude oil in the developing parts of the world.

And those demands in crude oil are not being offset by rises in supply. We're the world's largest consuming country, and yet we only produce about a third of our own domestic resources to meet our local demand. We're the biggest culprit as a nation in not producing more domestic resources, when we have more than we will ever need.

KING: The president would agree with part of that. But he would say he's now producing more domestically than was produced in the previous administration. Listen to president on the road this week saying, don't blame me.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't just drill our way to lower gas prices.

There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. If somebody tells you there are, they're not telling you the truth.

If we're going to take control of our energy future, which we have to do, if we're going to avoid high gas prices every single year, with a lot of politicians talking every single year, but nothing happening, if we're going to avoid that, then we have got to have an "all of the above" strategy that develops every single source of American energy.


KING: I assume you don't disagree with the "all of the above" strategy. Why don't we have one?

HOFMEISTER: Well, the president has done nothing in three years to create a hydrocarbon plan for dealing with the need for increased domestic resources. It's fine to talk about a strategy, but a strategy is nothing without a plan. And there's been no plan brought to Congress. The 111th Congress did not pass one page of legislation between 2009 and '10.

This Congress, the 112th Congress, I don't think we're going to see any energy legislation this year. And this is a repeat, John, of what's been happening really if you go all the way back to Richard Nixon. It's really a disgrace of political leadership that the American people now have to pay so much, when they are surrounded by such abundance.

Here's what I do. We used to produce 10 million barrels a day in this country in the '70s and '80s. Let's go back to 10. He's right. We can't drill our way to complete independence. We use almost 20 million barrels a day. But let's go back to 10. Then let's take this natural gas. Let's use about two million barrels a day equivalent for trucking with compressed natural gas.

Let's turn natural gas into methanol with flex-fuel engines. We could add another three million barrels a day equivalent. Let's continue on the ethanol journey to get to two million barrels a day. Suddenly, we have 17 million barrels a day domestic fuel out of the 20 that we need.

Then let's do a deal with Canada and Mexico, our neighbors to the north and south, to meet the rest of our needs. John, we can tell OPEC to take a hike, but this has to be part of a plan. And if the politicians don't set the policy in motion, it's going to be worse next year, regardless of who's president, and the year following, and then we will be in gas lines before we know it.

KING: John Hofmeister, always appreciate your insights. We will bring you back. This debate is going to continue for weeks and months as we go through this campaign year. We will see you again soon, sir. Thank you very much.

In a moment, though, we're going to continue tracking this hour's big breaking news, the new outbreak of tornadoes and strong storms from the Midwest to the mid-South. At least four now confirmed dead in Indiana.

Up next, that state's governor, Mitch Daniels, will join us live.


KING: Back to tonight's dramatic breaking news story. You're seeing pictures here, major storm system putting several states in peril.

And tornadoes have come down in many states as well, including, sadly, in Indiana, where four people are now confirmed dead.

The governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, joins us now on the phone from Indianapolis. Governor, our condolences for the trouble you have had so far and the deaths you have had so far. What's the worst, what's your biggest worry at the moment?

GOV. MITCH DANIELS (R), INDIANA: John, that darkness will fall before we discover all those who may be trapped or otherwise suffering.

We have got, we think, the best emergency response system in the country, great radio communications, and a pre-written plan in every county. But, still, we have got all too much experience in Indiana with these storms. And all the warnings and all the pre-planning in the world aren't always enough to offset what Mother Nature does.

KING: You mention all that planning. And you are, sadly, used to this because of where you are in the country. And this happens from time to time.

A National Weather Service meteorologist calling this outbreak -- quote -- "crazy." Is it unusual, both in the number -- either in the number of the storms or the force of the storms, in your view?

DANIELS: I'm no meteorologist.

And despite, as I say, our frequent experience with this, I am constantly amazed by both the unpredictability and the ferocity of what Mother Nature can unleash when she chooses to. And you may recall we had a tragedy at our state fair just a few months ago with this absolutely freakish blast of wind that claimed some lives.

And so we have learned to be pretty humble out here about the way in which we mere mortals can prepare, no matter how hard we try.

KING: And, Governor, you mentioned the urgent work under way by the heroes, the first-responders, to find the missing as it gets dark. Do you have a sense of how many are missing? Do you have a good count?

DANIELS: Well, it's more apprehension than a count at this point, John.

Our best sense is that we know what the damage is, but we cannot rest until we know for certain. There are still some collapsed structures. And we want to make certain that there's nobody in them that hasn't been accounted for yet. And so we're racing -- our people are racing the nightfall.

I will be down there first thing in the morning. And, until then, I won't take an easy breath.

KING: And as you -- as they race against nightfall, Governor, in terms of future storms, do you think you're in the clear, or are your state meteorologists telling you, you could still have more damage as now we get into darkness?

DANIELS: Yes. My understanding is that we're due for some moderate weather for the next few days. And that's, I guess, a relief. But this is the Midwest. And we've learned never to take anything for granted.

KING: Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana. Sir, we appreciate your time...

DANIELS: Yes, sir.

KING: ... on a busy night for your state. God bless and our sadness and condolences for those who have been lost. We certainly hope the first responders have good luck in the hours ahead. Thank you, sir.

Up next we're going to take you to southeast Tennessee, where some neighborhoods are completely unrecognizable.


KING: In this half hour, breaking news coverage. Deadly storms now going across the Midwest and the south. There are at least five deaths reported tonight in Indiana.

Ahead of a crucial visit from Israel's leader, President Obama has a new warning for Iran: quote, "I don't bluff."

Also the truth about Rush Limbaugh's latest episode of name calling. It's a gift to the Democrats.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KING: Straight back to those deadly tornadoes and other storms ripping across the Midwest and South right now. You're looking right there, a very ominous sky. That is in Ooltewah (ph), Tennessee, where we find our Rob Marciano on the ground. It's about 20 miles from Chattanooga.

Rob, we see that sky right there. It looks quite ominous. What else are you seeing?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, with this leading edge of a cell that's about -- that's going to take dead aim at Chattanooga proper, we've already had one come through earlier today that did a tremendous amount of damage. We'll show you some of that video. We had to evacuate that neighborhood. All non-essential personnel were asked to leave because of the upcoming storms and the need to clear out and get the people, the victims out of that neighborhood.

But several homes, 40 to 50 homes in total damaged or completely destroyed. We have nine to ten people who are being treated at area hospitals. Fifteen people treated on the scene. And search and rescue operations are ongoing with the exception of right now. Because everybody's been told to take cover until this particular cell passes.

I can tell you that, if there's going to be a tornado dropping, it will be out of this section of the storm. There is no warning on this cell, but it's showing a little bit of signs of rotation. We had another scare about two hours ago, so we're in a warm air mass ahead of the approaching front that may very well bring us some more rough weather here.

So I'm going to cut this live feed relatively short here. The...

KING: We're taking some hits on Rob's feed. We'll stand by with Rob. And Rob, if you need to get to safety get to safety. Chad Myers is in the CNN Severe Weather Center. He's tracking this very storm that Rob's talking about. Chad, take us there.

CHAD MYERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just got a republic report of the tornado on that storm near East Ridge. Rob is a little bit farther up I-75 from here. But the tornado far and -- he would be blocked from being able to see this tornado from his location. That's why it's so dangerous to be in the wrong place when you're trying to tornado chase or to be outside. Rob here wouldn't be able to see it because he's had to look through the hail core to get there.

That tornado reported on the ground there near I-24. That is just to the southeast of Chattanooga.

This is a classic signature of what a tornado cell looks like. Right there, the hanging down right there, the comma right there. And then the red and the green back and forth together. When you see them together, that means winds going one way and winds going the other way. The only way that happens is if a tornado is spinning that weather around. That's what's happening right now about four miles south of Rob Marciano's location.

I did send him an e-mail, so he's going to be in good shape. They'll get inside.

From Montgomery and southward, even to Dolthan (ph), seeing tornado warnings just to your west. We're seeing now Alabama start to light up. Mississippi light up. For most of the day it was Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Tennessee. Now these southern states are getting the tornado warnings going.

Now that the heat of the day is gone, they may start to calm down a little bit. But we're still in the warm part especially Central Time Zone. It's only 5:30. This is still the hottest part of the day. The hottest part of the day is when the weather is the most violent.

Another storm that was in West Liberty, Kentucky, where the tornado on the ground with officers injured, according to the report has now moved over the state line and into west Virginia. This has been a long, live tornado on the ground for a very long time. And at least 150-mile-per-hour tornado on the ground there.

A little bit farther on up into Ohio, things are calming down. Still raining, thunder and lightning and some wind but no tornadoes on the ground right now in Ohio as that weather moves away. As it moves by you, you're done. But for right now there's a lot of people that are still in it. KING: Chad will stay in the weather center all night long tracking these storms if necessary. And we're sure Rob and his crew got to safety. Keep an eye on them, as well. If you live in any of these areas, please stay with us. Get your local weather radios. Do not -- do not try to be a hero out there in this crazy weather.

Let's move now to important overseas stories. President Obama says he doesn't bluff when it comes to Iran. Just three days from now the president will meet the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who says Iran's nuclear ambitions are nearing the point of no return. But tension is building over the best path forward. Should it be diplomacy or military muscle?

Let's get a first-hand account now of how the president views this Iran nuclear showdown and the state's big meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. "The Atlantic's" Jeffrey Goldberg had a 45-minute Oval Office conversation with the president in advance of the Netanyahu visit.

Jeffrey, thanks for spending some time with us. I want to start with what I'll call the trust deficit in this relationship between President Obama and the prime minister. He told you this. This is pretty straight up.

"I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff. I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that, when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."

Pretty clear language there, Jeffrey. And yet if you talk to the Netanyahu side, they're not quite sure what the president means, are they?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I think this probably moves the ball a little bit in the direction they want to see it go in. But you know, the president is not going to give them a date and a time and a set of conditions in which he will absolutely definitively attack Iran. I think anybody reading that language, reading the plain meaning of that language, understands that what the president is saying.

And he's boxing himself in a little bit with that language. He's saying that, "There's no way I'm going to allow Iran to go nuclear. And in this interview with me, he actually did say explicitly that, when he says all options are on the table, he includes a military component. That was the line, a military component to that expression "all options are on the table." So it's a toughening up of the language, I think.

KING: A toughening up of the language. I found this language fascinating to describe this relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the president described it to you as, quote, "very functional." This is one of the strongest, most important alliances in the world. "Very functional" does not sound very personal. GOLDBERG: Right. Well, I had said, "Listen, I heard that your relationship is pretty dysfunctional." So he was coming back with functional.

But then I asked him, I said, "So are you guys friends?"

And he basically said, "Look, we're all so busy with our jobs that it's," you know -- he gave a kind of an answer which was a true answer, suggesting that they can do business together, but there's not a lot of common ideology or common background.

KING: Any doubt from your conversation with the president of what the United States would do if Israel set aside the advice the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Dempsey, has been out there, the president has been clear in this conversation with you he doesn't think now is the time for Israel to strike. If Israel were to strike, it would need some help from its friend, wouldn't it?

GOLDBERG: It might need some -- some help. It might be able to do the actual strike alone.

But remember, America is engaged in the missile defense of Israel already. America's engaged, obviously, in supplying Israel with arms and weapons. There's an interesting political dynamic to this, which is that this is the only area in foreign policy that the Republicans think President Obama is vulnerable in. And the Republicans obviously have been very forthright about saying, "We think that there should be military action against Iran to stop their nuclear program."

So until November, at least, it's going to be -- it's going to be a little bit difficult for the president to be critical of Israel for doing this, but there'll be severe consequences for America if Israel does. This Iran could retaliate against the Israeli strike by hitting American targets.

So there's a very, very complicated dance going on. And this meeting that the two men are going to have, Netanyahu and Obama, is really the most consequential meeting that they've ever had. It might be one of the most consequential meetings that Barack Obama will have had in his entire presidency.

KING: I think that's an excellent point. It's a fascinating conversation. Jeffrey Goldberg with the president of the United States. You want to see "The Atlantic" to get the full sense. Jeffrey, thanks for your time today.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

KING: Still ahead here, the "Truth" about what Rush Limbaugh accomplished by calling a Georgetown University law student a slut and a prostitute.

And later a company known for low-cost home furnishings says, "Wait a minute. We aren't going that far."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke got a phone call from the president of the United States today.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: And I think he, like a lot of people, feels that the kinds of personal attacks that she's -- that have been directed her way are inappropriate.


KING: Now for that call, Fluke can thank Rush Limbaugh. But here's betting there's not a thank you note forthcoming. It's not that Fluke doesn't have manners. It's because the booming voice of the right didn't mind his.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: What does it say about the college co-ed, Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right?


KING: Well, here's tonight's "Truth." Limbaugh didn't just cross a line, he crashed it. And he did it just as most smart Republicans were looking for an end to election-year attention on contraception and the government's role in women's health issues. Calling someone a slut is more than a little extreme. And Limbaugh didn't stop there.


LIMBAUGH: So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.


KING: Fresh attention for Democrats who see a Republican war on women. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, for example, called it "one of the most vile tirades against women I've ever heard." And then she asked for contributions.

House Speaker John Boehner through a spokesman said the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation.

Now, truth is the immediate fundraising is a little crass but par for the course in today's politics. And if Limbaugh hadn't crossed the line, Democrats wouldn't have the material for their fundraising letters or the political opening to put the president on the phone.

But mark Limbaugh down as unimpressed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: Obama just called Sandra Fluke to make sure she was all right. Oh. That is so compassionate. What a -- what a great guy. The president called her to make sure she's OK.


KING: Unimpressed he is with Speaker Boehner's response too, it seems.


LIMBAUGH: Boehner did respond. He said something like the words I used were inappropriate, as is the whole discussion about the government paying for people's contraceptives.


KING: Now we all know Rush likes stirring up trouble. And truth is, he's pretty good at it. And he's right that whether the government should be involved in paying for contraception is a perfectly legitimate public policy question. But in this case his outrageous language handed President Obama and his fellow Democrats a gift.

Truth is Limbaugh would have benefited from listening to this recent advice for another of the right's most provocative rabble rousers.


ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR/AUTHOR: Keep your eye on the prize, right wingers. The only question you should keep asking yourself is who will have the most appeal to independents, to undecideds, to my gender.


KING: Joining us now to talk truth, GOP strategist and Romney adviser Bay Buchanan; Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor Maria Cardona; and former Bush speech writer, contributor David Frum.

I want to start down at the end. Having a question about should a private insurance company be forced to cover this? Should the government be forced to cover this? People that have their views on that, it's a legitimate question. Language like that, a prostitute, a slut?

BAY BUCHANAN, ROMNEY ADVISOR: Are harsh. Way too harsh. I couldn't agree with you more.

You know, but Rush is an entertainer. Here does outrageous things. He says outrageous things, but he's also a genius. And he's able to see right now what the Democrats are trying to do is come up with an issue to kind of use a wedge issue to split women away from the Republicans. And he's exposing it as a fraudulent issue. So in that regard...

KING: Is he exposing it or is he helping it?

BUCHANAN: He's exposing it because when you look at this gal, when you look at this gal, here's a gal, she reminds me of a spoiled teenager: "I want to do things my way, and you've got to pay for it." I mean, it's ridiculous.

She knew ahead of time when she went to Georgetown that the health care did not cover contraception. She gets into Georgetown anyhow. She chooses that school. And then she complains and whines and now says they've got to pay for it. And if the school won't pay for it, the taxpayer has to pay for it.

Well, this is ridiculous. It's a ridiculous argument, and she comes across as absurd in my opinion. Just utterly absurd. And I think that's what Rush has basically exposed.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's clearly not a ridiculous argument. And in fact, the majority of women in this country, 99 percent of women, have taken contraception. The majority of independent women support the president's position.

And the problem is to your point, John. It is a legitimate public policy argument to have. But when Rush Limbaugh uses that kind of language, it takes the civil debate completely off the table. So Bay has her opinion, I have mine, but the American people are no longer listening to that.

KING: This is a dangerous -- I think this is a dangerous conversation for men, period. But in a sense, to Bay's point -- to Bay's point, Rush could have said this is a Democratic show hearing. That was a Democratic event she was testifying at. He could have made the point she went to Georgetown, a Catholic institution. She should have known all this.

And this is America. We can debate anything. But the -- isn't the language there when, if we have a 50-50 presidential election, math tells you and history tells you moderate women in suburban America tend to decide those elections? Isn't that a gift?

DAVID FRUM, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: Bay's right: this was a trap. And one of the things you do with a trap -- or one of the things you don't do with a trap is jump into it to test if there are spikes at the bottom and then throw a hand grenade on your own head to show how big a mess you can make of yourself while in the trap.

The Democrats are the party hero on offense. The historical status quo was that the American state and the federal government offered the Catholic Church large scope to do its good works of drug rehabilitation, providing health care, and education, in light of its teachings. And if you didn't like those teachings, there are other institutions that did it a different way. That was the status quo. These conscientious exceptions were protected by the Democratic health-care plan of 1993.

So Obama was on the initiative. He was changing the rules. And the Republicans were on the defensive saying, "We're going to defend the way things have always been." You can do that without insulting anybody.

And it is an example of how the -- although people talk about Limbaugh as a Republican spokesman, he has his own agenda. It is not good for him if the Republicans win in 2012. His business has been better since 2008.

KING: He's better in the opposition.

FRUM: Way better.


KING: He has put this -- he has put this front and center now in our politics. Of course what happens every candidate gets asked about it. Scott Brown in Massachusetts sends out a tweet today saying he should apologize. Wolf Blitzer asked Rick Santorum. He said this.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's being absurd. You know, an entertainer can be absurd. And -- and he's taking the absurd -- you know, absurd sort of point of view here as to how -- how far do you go? Look, he's in a very different business than I am.


KING: He is in a very different business than he is, but he is a leading spokesman for the right. A lot of people view him, fairly or not, as a spokesman for the party or a voice of the party.

Your candidate, Governor Romney, Jim Acosta tried to ask him, and he walked right by and didn't take the question. On the one hand, that's smart. You don't get caught in the middle of this, but on the other hand you have to say something at some point if you want to appeal to women voters.

BUCHANAN: No, you don't.

KING: You disagree? There's a lot of conservative voters who might agree with Rush.

BUCHANAN: The key here -- Rush has made this point -- is contraception is not an issue. It is cheap and available across the country. In my 30-some, 40 years in politics I have never heard a woman say to me, "I just can't go to the right because they're going to take away my birth control pill." This has never been an issue. This is created out of thin cloth -- thin cloth, because the Democrats know that, if they go in the general election and the issues are what they are today -- which is clearly the economy, jobs, and outrageous spending -- they will know that they have a failed candidate on their hands, because he has failed the American people on these key issues. So they are coming up and they have created another issue that they can throw out there and say, look, frighten women to think we are way right-wing, and we actually even come into consider this.

This issue has never been part of the public dialogue as long as I know until George Stephanopoulos throws it into a debate. And all Republicans were like, what was that about? Now we know.


FRUM: Don't have to -- don't have to take the bait (ph).

CARDONA: But just because it hasn't been an issue before doesn't mean it isn't an issue, because access to health care for women has always been an issue. And this is part of that.

KING: Or if the other guys -- or if the other guys make an issue, how you handle it determines how it gets litigated.

FRUM: There are lots of ways -- when candidate Romney does not answer the question, that's one good way to deal with dumb questions.

I mean, you know, the status quo here is traditional. It goes back a long time. It is the Republicans who are defending the status quo. Birth control will remain available. You do not have to be provocative. And an inability -- and the inability to stand up for somebody...

CARDONA: Really quickly, it's a problem for Republicans when they keep calling him an entertainer and leave it at that. Because he is seen, to your point, as somebody who is a king maker in Republican politics.

KING: I don't know that he's a king maker, but he's an important voice.

Thanks for coming in.

Remember to join us Super Tuesday noon eastern for a virtual round table. Our election panel will answer your question from CNN iReporters about the presidential election. We'll explore questions that you care about. Go to, noon eastern. That's Super Tuesday, just four days from now. Who's counting?

Next, a popular home furnishing companies denies reports it's about to start selling you the homes to put their furniture into.


KING: Here's Kate Bolduan with the latest news.


Shares of the review site Yelp soared over 60 percent in trading today. The Web site priced its initial public offering at $15 a share last night and then jumped to almost $25 a share this afternoon. The company is now valued at almost $1.5 billion. That would be nice.

You can furnish your home with IKEA products, but the company denies reports it's also -- it'll also sell you the house. The Swedish company disputes business bloggers who predict it intends to join with an Oregon company to produce prefab homes.

I know a lot of people that would probably pick those up, though, John.

KING: I have my Allen wrench all ready.

Kate, have a good weekend.

We'll see you all back here on Monday. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.