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Chinese Dissident Speaks Out; Interview With Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison

Aired May 2, 2012 - 18:00   ET


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

Tonight: A Chinese dissident leaves American protection and is reunited with his wife in Beijing, but then stunningly says he was misled, double-crossed by the United States. Wait until you here Chen Guangcheng's story and the State Department's forceful response.

Plus, 13 people are charged in the death of a Florida A&M University drum major. Will this dramatic criminal case now send a lasting message about violent hazing?

And tonight's "Truth" follows the money and tells you just where the Obama and Romney campaigns believe the presidential election will be decided.

We begin with this day's dramatic developments in China. Just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived for a round of delicate and important talks with the Chinese leadership, a Chinese human rights activist left the protection of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

The United States says Chen Guangcheng had received assurances he would be treated humanely. And Secretary Clinton even praised how the matter was handled. But, later, Chen spoke by phone with CNN's Stan Grant and told a very, very different and a much darker story.

Among other things, he says, U.S. officials broke promises to have someone with him as he received medical treatment.


CHEN GUANGCHENG, CHINESE DISSIDENT (through translator): The embassy kept lobbying me to leave and promised to have people stay with me in the hospital. But, this afternoon, as soon as I checked in the hospital room, I noticed they were all gone.


KING: Stan Grant joins us now live from Beijing.

Stan, tell us more about this dramatic phone call in which Chen essentially says he was misled, double-crossed.

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, a phone call at 3:00 a.m. Beijing time. He was sitting up in his hospital room afraid for his life. His wife was by his side. And she was telling me that she could not even leave the room. That's how scared she was. Now, all of this unfolded after Chen Guangcheng left the U.S. Embassy earlier in the day. He had been holed up there, John, for the past six days after fleeing house arrest. He was allowed to leave of his own volition, say the U.S., and they took him to a hospital.

At that point, things started to change. That's when he started to learn about the level of threats and the level of violence that was being -- threats of violence that were being made towards him and his family. He said his wife was tied to a chair, interrogated for hours and beaten with sticks after the guards found out that he, Chen, had fled.

They said that they were waiting back in their home with weapons if Chen did not leave the embassy itself. Now, of course, he is at the hospital and very much at the mercy of the Chinese government, the Chinese government that has locked him up in prison before, that has kept him under house arrest for 18 months.

Now he is making a direct plea to be allowed to leave China. He is asking President Obama, please do everything that you can to get me and my family out of here. We fear for our lives the longer we stay here -- John.

KING: Stan, this is at a minimum a dramatic misunderstanding. But where does it go from here? You mentioned he is in the hospital now, he's being supervised, watched -- I am being kind when I say supervised -- by Chinese officials. Even if the United States said, come back, could he go back?

GRANT: And, you know, John, he thought that everything was going to be fine.

He thought there was a deal here, that the U.S. and China had struck a deal where he and his family could live safely and freely. He has quickly found out that there were threats being made which make that impossible. That's how he feels let down by the United States. He says that they did not give him enough information.

He was basically cut off from the world when he was inside the embassy, couldn't make telephone calls, wasn't able to watch the news and didn't have enough information to make that crucial decision. Where does he go to from here? Well, while he was inside the U.S. Embassy enjoying the diplomatic immunity, there may have been a greater prospect of leaving the country.

Now he is a Chinese citizen. He's not inside the U.S. Embassy. He's a Chinese citizen inside a Chinese hospital, his wife afraid to move, threats being made against their lives and in a country that has locked him up before, a very precarious situation, John.

KING: Remarkable reporting by our Stan Grant in Beijing.

As, Stan, we will stay on top of this story. Stan, thank you. As we noted, Chen's arrival at the U.S. Embassy had threatened to overshadow Secretary of State Clinton's talks in China this week. And as Stan noted, Secretary Clinton did speak by phone with Chen today and then released a statement saying that she was glad to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and his children.

The question now, as you have this mixup and the finger-pointing, is what will happen in this case and what will happen (INAUDIBLE) Chinese officials?

CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is in Beijing for those meetings.

Jill, you have heard what Stan says Chen told him in that phone conversation. Are U.S. officials still adamant that they were fully forthright, that they laid this all out for Mr. Chen?


They say that when he came to the embassy, right from the beginning, he said that he wanted to stay here in China, he wanted to continue his work. And, in fact, in an interview that I did -- excuse me -- early this morning with Kurt Campbell, who is the assistant secretary of state, he said that Mr. Chen was asked at least three times, are you leaving? Do you want to leave of your own volition? And he said yes.

And they also point out that he did not ask for asylum. So those are three strong points. Now, let me read what Victoria Nuland said, because this is another thing that came up, another issue, saying that the U.S. Embassy in effect had threatened Chen to leave.

At Victoria Nuland saying: "At no time did any U.S. official speak to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children. Nor did Chinese officials make any threats to us. And at no point during his time in the embassy did Chen ever request political asylum in the U.S. At every opportunity, he expressed his desire to stay in China, reunify with his family, continue his education, and work for reform in his country."

So that is what the State Department is sticking with. But, obviously, it is a bad situation right now, because the sun is up, as you can see. And Secretary Clinton has to go to this very important strategic and economic dialogue with Chinese. All the top officials will be here. And this thing is still hanging over it, even though I guess last night, we thought it wasn't.

KING: We thought it wasn't, indeed. And, as you note, these talks, delicate, sensitive, important to begin with, now this diplomatic dust-up overshadowing it.

Jill Dougherty in Beijing as well, she will stay on top of this story, as well as the secretary's other conversations.

Let's get some insights now on this delicate diplomacy and what should be done next.

Former Undersecretary of State and Harvard professor Nicholas Burns.

Nick, you were here the other night. You said the president of the United States had one choice, one choice. But said the only choice was to get Chen out of China along with his wife. How did we end up here?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, John, I think it would be very unfair for me or anyone else at such a great distance to second-guess the administration.

We don't have all the facts. But I would say this. I think the Obama administration did the right thing to protect him over the last six days. They did the right thing to try to negotiate privately with the Chinese government. That was the best way to get the best possible arrangement with the Chinese. And I certainly would never second-guess the commitment to human rights of Secretary Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Gary Locke.

They have proven throughout their careers that that is an issue that is very important to them. I think the onus actually should be on the Chinese government here, because they are the ones who mistreated Chen, they are the ones who have demanded an apology from the United States, which is an outrageous request from the Chinese.

And if in fact Chen is now feeling -- now that he is out of the embassy's care and is back under the security of the Chinese government, if he is feeling that he's being intimidated, then I would think the United States has an absolute right to go back to the Chinese and demand better treatment for him, because they obviously had an arrangement that indicated that Chen would be well-treated by his own government.

KING: But you made the point when you were there that once -- if he left the embassy that the Chinese from that point forward could not be trusted.

Knowing that -- and let's assume there's some strain and stress involved, maybe some language barriers, maybe some misunderstandings -- Chen says he gets to his wife at the hospital. She tells him she was beaten, that the police have told her they will be there waiting for them, that they are not going to be the deal essentially that he thinks the U.S. promised him.

Should the United States have -- he says he wanted to stay, but nowhere in this have we heard the United States pushing the Chinese to say, bring his wife here, let them both leave. Should that have happened?

BURNS: Well, again, I don't have all the facts.

But I would say this, John. I think that the U.S. was in a difficult position here, because it was Chen's decision whether to seek asylum, to try to travel to the United States under our protection, or to return to his life in China outside the gates of the American Embassy. And I am sure that the United States officials were very sensitive that that was his decision to make.

I would say that, from my own point of view, it is very difficult to trust the Chinese government. It is an authoritarian government. We have a major difference with it on human rights. That difference has now been illuminated all too clearly over the last several days.

And, again, I think that the United States has an absolute right to go back to the Chinese and ask for better treatment for Chen, because all the world is watching. We are seeing that incredible failure of that government in China.

KING: And, so Secretary Clinton, Secretary Geithner sit down at these conversations tomorrow, huge economic issues, huge security issues to discuss with the Chinese. How does this complication and this dispute over -- does it overshadow or how much does it complicate everything else?

BURNS: Well, John, as we have discussed before, Iran, North Korea, Syria, the global economy, there are lots of issues.

This is the most important relationship we have in the world. But at a time like this, when the Chinese government has acted so badly toward one of its own citizens who is a champion of human rights himself, I do think this issue obviously will dominate the next couple of days. And I wouldn't be surprised at all if there are further negotiations because, obviously, Chen and his wife are feeling that they are being intimidated by the Chinese government. And that keeps this issue on the U.S.-China agenda this week and in the future.

KING: We will stay on top of it. And as we do, we appreciate the insights of the former Undersecretary of State Nick Burns.

Nick, thanks so much.

BURNS: Thank you.

KING: Back home here today in Florida, authorities charged 13 people in connection with last November's death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion. He collapsed on the van's bus within an hour of receiving what medical examiners call multiple blunt-trauma blows during a hazing incident.


LAWSON LAMAR, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: I have come to believe that hazing is a term for bullying. It is bullying with a tradition, a tradition that we can not bear in America.


KING: The Florida case is unusual in that none of the suspects is charged with murder.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us live from New York. Jeffrey, when you look at this case and you hear what the prosecutor just said there, bullying with tradition, is this the right charge? The family is disappointed. The family thinks maybe they should have been tougher charges.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it actually does seem tailor-made for this case.

Florida is one of the few states that has a specific felony crime, hazing causing death. That, given what we know about the case, seems a very appropriate charge. Some sort of homicide, whether it is even manslaughter or even a lessor homicide like manslaughter, seems like a very tough charge to prove, given the facts as we know them.

So this does seem like an appropriate charge. And, of course, we will see what a jury thinks of...


KING: What kind of punishment would people be looking -- looking at if convicted under this law?

TOOBIN: For the 11 charged with this felony, it's a maximum of five years in prison.

KING: Five years in prison. And is it unusual when you have so many charged? Obviously, the prosecutor is trying to hold everyone he thinks is accountable accountable, but it also seems he is trying to send a message.

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

And this could be a very challenging trial for the prosecution, because each defendant is entitled to an individual judgment on his or her culpability. Just because they were sitting there, that is not enough to convict them. So the prosecution is going to have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that each individual person hazed Mr. Champion in such a way to cause his death.

That's going to be complicated. Now, it's possible some may plead and cooperate. But, at the moment, no one has. And that could be a very challenging burden for the prosecution in this case.

KING: The family has sued the bus company and the driver, suggesting there is some negligence is involved. Does a criminal case complicate at all, help at all? How does it impact a civil case like that?

TOOBIN: Well, the way these traditionally work is that the criminal case goes first. It certainly could help get a judgment or a settlement in the civil case. And there has not yet been a civil case against the university, only against the bus company and the bus driver.

I think you can bet that that civil case will be filed sooner, rather than later. KING: Jeff Toobin, as always, appreciate your help on this one. It's a difficult and complicated case. Thanks so much.

The longtime star linebacker Junior Seau took his own life today. Could his football injuries have played a role in this very troubling story? Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins us.

But next, a Democratic congressman who doesn't like President Obama's new deal to keep American troops in Afghanistan through 2024.


REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: For us to have that kind of force presence there for that long is a mistake.



KING: President Obama is back home now from that surprise secret trip to Afghanistan. Now his job is to sell the Congress and sell you on keeping some U.S. troops in Afghanistan through 2024.

In his nationally televised address last night from the Bagram Air Force Base, he addressed part of his remarks to Americans and lawmakers who think 10 years of war is enough.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly.


KING: Did the president sell his skeptics?

Well, earlier, I spoke to the Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota.


KING: Congressman, the president made the case last night that you have to leave combat troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2014. And then he envisions some military partnership for another decade after that through 2024.

Is that the right approach?

ELLISON: You know, actually, I think the president did a great job by focusing on Osama bin Laden.

But if you listen to the CIA, we have -- there are fewer than 100 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. And we have literally thousands of troops there. We are not even scheduled to get down to the pre- surge level until later this summer. I just cannot see how we need literally thousands and thousands of American troops to deal with a force of al Qaeda less than 100, according to the CIA. This is done and it's cost about $88 billion a year, $1 million per soldier per year.

KING: Well, the president anticipated some criticism to that effect, those who say, let's come home yesterday, let alone two years from now for most of the troops.

Listen to this part of the president's speech where he makes his case for a little more patience.


OBAMA: Others will ask, why don't we leave immediately? That answer is also clear. We must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as commander in chief, I refuse to let that happen.


KING: You think he is overstating the threat, the risk?

ELLISON: What I think is that we have enough surveillance and enough partnerships in place to return if al Qaeda begins to organize and use Afghanistan as a staging area in the future.

We don't have to keep this massive presence there, as we have. I think we can work on everything from diplomatic, developmental, and military-to-military relationships without having a massive force there. And so I just don't buy the case that we need to stay there to the degree that we are there now.

And I think that we should -- we should get out and get on with the business of focusing on nation-building in our own country.

KING: And what do you think of what the president says? He says not only keep those troops there through 2024. You think that's a mistake. But he's talking about another decade. By 2024, that would be six terms of U.S. presidents that troops would be in Afghanistan. Now, he says the specific number would be worked out.

Could you support a significant number of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan through 2024?


KING: Why not?

ELLISON: Well, because I just think that it is not warranted.

The United States' job is not to police the whole world. We need to make sure that we protect the homeland and we need to make sure that we are good allies with our allies, which Afghanistan will be. But to have a substantial number of troops there through 2024, that's just incredible.

And the expense is incredible. And the fact is, is that we are dealing with a transnational threat, al Qaeda and groups like it springing up in Yemen, Somalia, all over the globe. They're not tied to geography. And so for us to have that kind of force presence there for that long is a mistake.

KING: Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, appreciate your insights tonight, sir.

ELLISON: Thank you.


KING: More riveting testimony in the John Edwards trail today -- a witness testified about the day Edwards confronted -- his wife confronted him about reports he had been cheating.

And, next, Facebook sets the date it will make a ton of money.


KING: Welcome back.


KING: Junior Seau, one of pro football's best players for years, tonight, he is dead, apparently by his own hand.

It's raising questions again the physical and emotional costs of a career in the NFL.

Also, important insight into Mitt Romney's record as a big-money businessman from a man who worked alongside Governor Romney at Bain Capital.


KING: This half-hour: NFL great Junior Seau has apparently committed suicide. Sadly, he's not the first NFL star to take his own life. Tonight, we dig deeper into the physical and mental costs of playing football.

And one of the richest men in America makes his case for why wealth is good. He used to work with Mitt Romney and he has plenty to say about why the rich should be richer.

Plus, the "Truth" about President Obama's attack strategy in the 2012 campaign -- what his reelection ads say about his biggest worries.

Sad news tonight from the sports world. Former NFL star, Junior Seau dead at the age of 43. He apparently shot himself at his California home. Police treating this as a suicide.

Seau spent most of his career with the San Diego Chargers but also played for the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins us live from Atlanta.

Sanjay, every time a football player dies in this manner, the first thing it calls to mind, dementia-like brain disease. It has been found in several former NFL players. We do not know if that afflicted Junior Seau. But is it possible?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is possible. And the reason we don't know for sure, the only way you really can tell for sure is to examine someone's brain, actually look at it under the microscope. So it can only be done after somebody dies. That may be something they do with Junior Seau, as well.

You know, what we're talking about is something known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. As you said, John, it's a dementia-like illness. You think of Alzheimer's when you think of dementia. There's a lot of similarities.

Plaques and tangles are in the brain, and they can cause cognitive problems, memory problems, but also anger and depression. And that was a common thread in all of these cases, John, of these NFL players that we've been, you know, investigating for some time.

You know, John, you may remember last year, Dave Duerson, another NFL player, 50 years old at the time, also shot himself in the chest, as did Junior Seau. Shooting yourself in the chest is a pretty rare way to want to commit suicide. Dave Duerson at that time, John, as you remember, left a note saying he wanted his brain to be examined, which is why he shot himself in the chest. That examination of the brain did show exactly what we're talking about, this chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

KING: And how common, Sanjay, is CTE among NFL players?

GUPTA: You know, it's interesting, John. I visited the lab in the sports legacy in Boston where they're doing a lot of this research. At the time that I visited, we were in pretty early but they had examined lots of different brains. But about 19 or so were from NFL players, and 18 of them showed this chronic traumatic encephalopathy. And I think you're seeing some of the images of what it looks like. Again, that brown staining sort of in the brain, it's very characteristic.

To be fair, it's a little bit of a biased sample, because these were people who had died young. Maybe they had asked that their brains be donated. Maybe they had concerns that they were developing the symptoms of CTE. But 18 out of 19 brains, John, very prevalent in this sample.

KING: You say it can't be detected unless you examine the brain after death. Is there any sense as people realize the scope of this tragedy, any sense of developing any kind of a therapy? Is that possible?

GUPTA: There is. There's quite a bit of research going on in this area. I've talked to some of the people who are at the forefront of that.

You know, one thing to point out is that it's not just concussions that can set people up for this but also what are known as subconcussive injuries. So you know, the kind of injury where you hit your head hard, the player gets right up, thinks nothing of it. But those subconcussive injuries can add up over time.

So -- so one thing just in terms of preventing CTE is focusing on trying to limit those subconcussive hits.

But high doses of antioxidants, for example, is something that's been looked at, even high doses of oxygen and hyperbaric chambers has been looked at to try and mitigate some of the symptoms of CTE. It's very nascent. This is early. Some of what we've been talking about is just now being described, John, in the scientific literature. But this is -- these are some of the areas of research we're looking at.

KING: Dr. Gupta, appreciate your insights. A sad day for the football community and obviously for Junior Seau's family. Thanks very much, Doc.

GUPTA: You've got it, John. Thanks.

KING: An emotional day in court today in the case against former presidential candidate and senator, John Edwards. Edwards encouraged his biggest supporter, his daughter, Kate, to leave the room before two of his former advisers testified of the details of his affair with Rielle Hunter.

Edwards is accused of using campaign money to keep that affair secret.

Joining me now, Diane Dimond, a special correspondent for the Daily Beast and "Newsweek."

Diane, take us inside the courtroom. John Edwards apparently turned to his daughter and said something. And then she left the courtroom and -- there's reports -- wiping tears. Take us inside.

DIANE DIMOND, CORRESPONDENT, DAILY BEAST/"NEWSWEEK": Yes, you're in luck, because I was sitting directly behind Kate. She knew what was coming. It was going to be a humiliating story about her mother that we will get to. And she leaned up to her father during a quick break, and she said something like, "I'm going to leave."

And he said, "Kate, Kate, Kate," three times. And, boy, she was out the door, wiping tears. She did not want to hear what was coming next.

KING: Well, what came next?

DIMOND: Well, what came next was a woman named Christina Reynolds. She was a senior top aide to the senator but also a really, really good friend of Elizabeth Edwards.

She told a story about a distraught Elizabeth Taylor -- Elizabeth Taylor. Elizabeth Edwards, who told her a few days earlier, "I think John is back having that same affair with that woman again."

On November -- no, October 10, 2007, there was a "National Enquirer" article reporting there had been an affair. And the very next day, they're on the tarmac at a private jet port in Raleigh, North Carolina, getting ready to leave, and Elizabeth has a meltdown.

She says to her husband something like, "You don't see me anymore." She ripped off her blouse. She ripped off her bra in front of everyone on the tarmac, all of the congressional staffers, and she began to yell at her husband. Christina Reynolds testified that she and another staffer rushed to her, tried to cover her up, brought her inside. And then she went home. She did not go on this campaign trip at all.

John Edwards was a mess at the defense table. His face turned red. He covered his eyes. There was a break for 15 minutes. He raced out of the room, I guess, to find Kate. But when he came back, John, I was standing right there, two rows back in the media section. And in a very large stage whisper, he said to his attorneys, "That was just so wrong. That was so wrong. This is supposed to be a case about campaign financing." And then he sat down, harrumph.

It was not a good day for John Edwards, for that and many other reasons.

KING: And to that point, the tabloid, obviously, a painful day for the family. And details. How are -- how does the prosecution say these details are relevant to its campaign finance case?

DIMOND: That's a really good point. Two other staffers appeared and also told stories about Rielle Hunter and Elizabeth Edwards that went to this point. That Elizabeth already knew about this affair. That John Edwards, defense will argue, was not spending this money trying to keep the affair from his wife. She already knew about the affair.

And I think in their closing, we will be told he was spending the money on himself. He was spending it on his presidential campaign so that it did not go down the toilet. Will it work? You know, that's up to the jury.

KING: Diane Dimond, helping us understand this very complicated and at times very sensational case. Diane, thanks so much.

Mitt Romney's wealth and his tenure at the investment firm Bain Capital are certain to be major presidential campaign issues. The Obama campaign suggests Romney doesn't understand the struggles of average Americans, and they portray his tenure at Bain as heartless, worried more, they say, about his bottom line and American workers.

Now, Romney's often uncomfortable talking about his good fortune. Edward Conard is not. He's a former Romney Bain Capital colleague and a man who makes the case in this Sunday's "New York Times Magazine" that wealth is good for America, especially down-skill workers looking to get ahead.

Adam Davidson interviewed Conard for the magazine.

Adam, you've watched Governor Romney during his campaign. He sometimes doesn't want to talk about his wealth. Other times, he says he's not going to apologize for being successful. How does his former colleague think that Governor Romney should deal with this issue?

ADAM DAVIDSON, "NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE": Well, he wouldn't talk about his close friend and former partner, Mitt Romney, really at all with me. He is one of Mitt Romney's largest donors. He gave over $1 million. So he clearly wants Mitt Romney to be president.

But he wouldn't talk to me too much about how he thinks Romney should run his campaign or what Romney has told him privately.

KING: But he does make the case that wealth is good. Let me read part of your article here.

"Connor concludes that for every dollar the investor gets, the public reaps up to $20 in value. This is crucial to his argument. He thinks it proves the vast wealth of others more, because we're benefiting proportionately from it."

That's a pretty interesting case to make, to say somebody out there who's lost their job in this tough economy, or is just getting by in this economy, but he's unapologetic about it, right?

DAVIDSON: Oh, absolutely unapologetic. And very mathematical. There's sort of a Bain way of thinking. You know, you just look at numbers; you look at deep analysis. You don't get distracted too much by anecdotes or personal stories, that sort of thing.

And Ed told me many times that he was very much applying the sort of Bain way of doing things to the economy. And so his analysis, it's very mathematical. It's not very rich in -- I mean, I hate to say humanity. Not very rich in humanity or human characters.

KING: And -- sorry.

DAVIDSON: I was just going to say in his view, there's sort of the -- this process by which all of our lives are improved, by a small number of us. People with great talent and great skill pursuing advancement. These might be inventers, engineers. These might be big investors like himself, private equity people like himself.

And in his view, those are the main actors on the stage of human progress. And, you know, most other people benefit from that but are not major drivers of history or economic progress at all.

KING: And you make an interesting point, analogy in the article, where you're saying people can understand Google. The founder of Google is mighty rich. Most of us every day, or every other day, use Google, sometimes many times a day. You sort of understand, OK, I'm benefiting from this.

How does Ed, as you call him, make the case that people should understand how they're benefiting from Bain Capital, which is an investment firm? A lot of it's secret. They don't know it, see it, feel it.

DAVIDSON: And that's enormously frustrating. He wouldn't talk to me about Bain at all. Of course, Mitt Romney won't talk to me about Bain at all. Bain itself wouldn't talk to me about Bain at all. So it's a complete secret how they benefit the country.

But the core idea they get across is that what they do is find companies that are not particularly healthy, and they make them more healthy. We know sometimes they have been successful at that; other times, they haven't been. So it's very hard to do a full reckoning of whether Bain has truly been as successful at making the economy better overall than they claim to be.

But you know, Ed certainly believes -- and I think it is a genuine belief, not just some ad campaign. He genuinely believes that, almost by definition, if some person or some company makes vast wealth, then they are benefiting society. He's such a firm believer, unlike almost anybody else I've talked to. He's such a firm believer in the free market that he just believes "If I'm rich, I must have done something very valuable to the society."

KING: And you can sort of sense your own wheels turning. You're trying to digest this during the article and the conversations. "Conard hopes the argument detailed in his book will help readers understand why it's so crucial that his former boss, Mitt Romney, believes the governor should help the investor class win this November. I wondered if the book would have just the opposite effect."

DAVIDSON: Absolutely. It's such a -- it's -- I mean, Ed Conard is not a diplomat. He is not a politician. This is a guy who speaks his mind very directly. As a matter of fact, if he's watching this right now, I guarantee you I'm going to get a very lengthy e-mail about how I misrepresented his views and that I wasn't a good enough spokesman for him. And I'm not in any way a spokesman for him.

But he's not at all politic. He's very happy to say things that are shocking and upsetting. Obviously, that's in tremendous contrast to Mitt Romney.

And so I had that deep wonder throughout. Is this the uncensored views of Mitt Romney? Because we don't really have Mitt Romney's personal economic philosophy. There's nowhere to go to see that. And, you know, I concluded I don't know.

But I do know that a lot of these ideas come from that Bain Capital world they both were really steeped in. Bill Bain himself loves the book. So it makes me think at least this is a helpful guide to the world in which Mitt Romney learned about economics and talked about economics.

KING: You will want to read Adam's article in this Sunday's "New York Times" magazine.

Adam, appreciate your time. And also, Ed Conard's book is "Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy is Wrong." Adam, appreciate your insights.

DAVIDSON: Thanks so much.

KING: Coming up here, one thing Romney and Obama campaigns agree on, the states where they'll be battling it out most this fall.


KING: Follow the money was the guiding lesson Deep Throat gave during the Watergate scandal. Truth is, it's also a great way to understand how the competing campaigns for president view the state- by-state political terrain. Follow the words, also good advice, too. When a campaign goes on the attack early on, it's almost always a sign of worry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As governor, he outsourced state jobs to a call center in India. He's still pushing tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. It's just what you'd expect from a guy who had a Swiss bank account.


KING: Now, here's how the Obama campaign would like you to translate that ad. They want you to think Mitt Romney is rich -- he is -- and you shouldn't trust him, because when he promises to create jobs for you here, he doesn't mean it. That's what they want you to think.

Now, following the money tells us a lot about how team Obama views the race. That Swiss bank account ad is airing in Virginia, Ohio and Iowa. To win the White House, Romney needs to win two, if not all three, of those battlegrounds. And the Obama strategy, plain and simple, block Governor Romney's path to 270 electoral votes.

Now, the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, also unveiled some new ads today and, in the process, also helped us understand the biggest fall battlegrounds. Its targets for these ads: Virginia, Ohio and Iowa, just like team Obama, and then Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

Yes, this is a national presidential campaign, but truth is, follow the money and the candidates over the next 188 days -- 188 days, that's it, boys and girls. This one will be settled in eight or nine states. And the early ad buys give them away.

Here tonight to talk truth, "TIME" magazine's deputy Washington bureau chief Mike Crowley; Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Maria Cardona; and David Frum, former speech writer for President Bush as well as author of "Patriots," a satirical novel about working in Washington politics. I have it right here. I think I have it. Going to give it a good read. You say this book it will make me laugh.

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: It will make you laugh. KING: Not cry?

FRUM: As sensitive as you are.

KING: So you see these early ads. First and foremost, let me start with the non -- the nonpartisan first. The Obama campaign comes out. They have some positive Spanish language ads on the air in some of these battleground states. But in terms of Virginia, Ohio and Iowa, coming out essentially with a whack on Mitt Romney on the economy tells you what?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, first of all, that they know they're in for a tough race. As you say, if you're coasting and you're sitting pretty, you don't have to go negative. I don't know that Obama necessarily feels that he's behind, but I know that he feels that he's going to have to be tough. And I know also that he's trying to define Mitt Romney right now.

Now, the Obama campaign is happy that the Republican primary played on as long and as noisily as it did. And it did a fairly good job of doing some of the work for the Obama campaign that they want to do know. But they want to continue it, say Mitt Romney is the uber capitalist, doesn't care about the little guy, is out of touch with ordinary Americans. So they're continuing to drive that message and not let the subject change too much.

KING: Do you agree? That they see that this is, you know -- this is going to be a did very, very different map for 2008?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. President Obama will be the first to say that. He knows this is going to be a very tough re-election fight. They have said that time and again.

The issue is they're not necessarily worried about Romney, per se. They're worried about the economy. Because clearly, they know very well that the economy is going to be the biggest decider of this election. And what they want to do early on knowing that it's going to still continue to be a fragile recovery.

If the numbers keep going in the right direction, it's great for President Obama. So they also want to make sure to hit Romney early on on what they believe is going to be his biggest vulnerability.

He talks about -- he, Romney talks about knowing how to create jobs. Well, guess what? At Bain Capital what he did was ship jobs overseas. And in addition to that, being so wealthy, he doesn't get what the middle class is going through.

KING: To boil it down, their point is Romney doesn't understand you and won't help you.

FRUM: Why are they telling us this? Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1996 didn't need to go negative on their opponents. They didn't need to talk about their opponents at all.

"Things were bad when I took over. Things are way better now. Vote me."

Barack Obama's problem is things are not way better now. Things are a little bit better. They are -- but they are not significantly better.

And there are a lot of signs this spring that things are going into pause again. We had some bad reports in March. The European economic situation is very frightening. He has to be prepared for November where he cannot give any positive message about his record at all.

To go on the attack against your opponent, then, is a plan B or maybe a plan C, but it's a pretty poor plan B or plan C, compared to being able to say, "Look what I did."

CARDONA: But it's not the only thing he's doing. I mean, Republicans like to say that Obama is running away from his record. He's absolutely not running away from his record. He is embracing the fact that he created 4.2 million jobs. He is embracing the fact that he actually saved Detroit and a lot of middle-class workers.

KING: Will we see -- will we see a mention -- I know we'll see a mention of the auto bailout. But will we see a mention of the stimulus plan or the health-care plan in an Obama campaign ad?

CARDONA: I think it depends who you're talking to. Look, you know, I'm the one who -- the first one that should tell them, for example, when you're talking to the Latino community, you should absolutely talk about the affordable health care plan, because it gives nine million Latinos coverage. And guess what Romney wants to do: repeal it. They should absolutely be talking about that.

CROWLEY: But you're right. A lot of Obama's agenda thus far is a hard sell. And a lot of Democrats really like it. There may be voters in the middle who like it. But the key things that he did do, the projects he spent the most time on, health care and the stimulus, are not easy issues for him to sell.

So that's why you see, for one thing, personal attacks and another thing, a lot of talk about Osama bin Laden.

KING: You may think it's a sign of weakness, but how does Romney deal with a -- we know they're very aggressive. We know they're good at what they do on the campaign. How does he deal with the idea, when they run an ad like that, essentially said he's rich, he doesn't get your struggles, and don't trust him. He's not going to create a job for you. He'll send it somewhere else.

FRUM: He has to -- it's not about him. You do not want to get drawn into anything defensive.

As Maria points out, about four million private sector new jobs created over the Obama administration. That takes us not even halfway back to where we were in the summer of 2007. Less than 50 percent is not a passing grade. CARDONA: And -- but Romney wants to embrace the same exact policies that put us there to begin with. And he's mad that President Obama is not cleaning up the Republican mess fast enough. I mean, and that's what Democrats are going to continue to say.

KING: He says, if you continue, Michael, "If you want to know what I'll do compared to President Obama, I'll do the opposite." Is that the right language to use?

CROWLEY: You know, I think he has to be a little bit careful, because it's not that people are so down on President Obama. I mean, he's not -- he doesn't have gutter level approval ratings, and he's still personally popular. I did notice that he invoked Jimmy Carter again.

I think that one thing you see -- we talked about this last time I was here, Bill Clinton is sort of coming up and speaking out on behalf of President Obama. So he's trying to find another Democratic president he can refer to other than Clinton.

FRUM: People aren't mad at Obama, but they are disappointed.

KING: All right. David, Maria, Michael, we'll continue the conversation. One hundred and eighty-eight days, and I am counting.

Four New Orleans Saints tied to the team's bounty program have been suspended. Find out which player will be sitting out the entire season for those pay-for-pain incentives.

And two ex-girlfriends open up about dating a guy named Barack Obama long before he was president.


KING: Welcome back. Here's Mary Snow again with the latest news you need to know right now -- Mary.


Violence is increasing as Egypt's presidential election gets closer. A clash today left at least 11 people dead and 100 injured. Demonstrators were protesting the exclusion of their candidate when the crowd was attacked. About ten of the 23 presidential candidates have been disqualified. The election is scheduled for May 23.

Back in the U.S., new video captures the fatal accident two years ago where a 250-foot-long barge slammed into a stalled duck boat in Philadelphia. Attorneys for the families of the two Hungarian students who drowned released the video today, a week before the wrongful death lawsuit goes to federal court. You'll see an alleged crew member jump overboard into the Delaware River, leaving 33 passengers in the boat as it's rammed and submerges.

The NFL is suspending four former and current New Orleans Saints players today for accepting thousands of dollars to injure opponents. Included is the team's linebacker, Jonathan Vilma, who was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season. The others, two of which play for other teams now, will be barred without pay for up to eight games.

And art buyers, listen up. One of the most famous paintings in the world is for sale today. Edvard Munch's "The Scream" will be auctioned at Sotheby's here in New York. The presale estimate for the painting is, get this, $80 million, but it could go much higher.

The most expensive painting sold by Sotheby's was Pablo Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" for $106.5 million two years ago. And John, there's lots of estimates that this could smash those records.

KING: Wow, that's a lot of money. I mean, obviously "The Scream" series is very famous. We'll watch that. I can't -- I won't be placing a bid.

All right. Stay with me, Mary. Tonight's "Moment You May Have Missed." It's a candid, somewhat romantic peek at Barack Obama long before the Oval Office, through the eyes of two ex-girlfriends. One of the women, Alex McNear, saved his love letters.

And at one point he wrote to her, "There's a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism." He was talking about the poet and the playwright T.S. Elliott.

After that he dated Genevieve Cook, who kept a diary about the relationship. She wrote she didn't think she was the perfect match for Barack Obama, saying, "I can't help thinking that what he would really want be powerfully drawn to was a woman, very strong, very upright, a fighter, a laugher, well experienced. A black woman I keep seeing her as."

This is all from a new biography about the president, Barack Obama, "The Story," by David Maraniss."

Now let's remember, this was all from the early '80s. He didn't meet Michelle until 1989. And, Mary?

SNOW: And you know, John, I hate to be a spoil alert, but I've read those letters. Nothing salacious.

KING: The next -- the future presidents have to worry about Facebook postings.

We'll see you tomorrow night. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.