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JOHN KING, USA

Interview With Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus; Weak Jobs Report; Bill Clinton Under Fire

Aired June 1, 2012 - 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. I'm John King.

Tonight, a stunningly anemic jobs report that is a blow to millions of Americans out of work and brings a double whammy as a panic stock sell-off takes a big bit out of your 401(k). Politically, the bleak numbers raise the odds President Obama will lose his job.

Bill Clinton angers the Obama White House and the reelection campaign by calling Mitt Romney's business career sterling. His unsolicited advice teaches us an important truth about what the former Arkansas governor really thinks.

And a flashback to the Cold War -- Russia's president says he isn't selling arms to Syria and isn't propping up the Assad regime. Secretary of State Clinton says the evidence is clear and that Vladimir Putin isn't telling the truth.

Big jobs report in just a moment.

We begin this hour though with dangerous weather here in Washington and along the Mid-Atlantic coast. A line of severe thunderstorms stretches all the way from Pennsylvania -- you see it there -- down to the Carolinas. Right this minute, things are especially bad right here in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

Severe thunderstorms already have knocked down trees and caused flash floods through the area. Right now, highways are choked, airports delays -- airport delays -- excuse me -- are building up. And the storms couldn't have hit at a worse time. Friday afternoon is when lawmakers rush to get out of town and the tourists pour in.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

KING: Turning now though to a jobs report that in a word is depressing and from a political standpoint potentially a tipping point.

The economy sputtered even more last month, creating just 69,000 jobs. And as the government told us the unemployment rate was ticking up a bit to 8.2 percent, it also said it was adjusting the March and April downward. Three disappointing months in a row makes for a dangerous trend in what is already the most anemic recovery since the Great Depression.

President Obama blamed the recession he inherited, the European financial crisis and gridlock in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world -- disturbances in the Middle East, what's going on in Europe. But there are plenty of things we can control here at home. There are plenty of steps we can take right now to help create jobs and grow this economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But Republicans, including the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, suggested President Obama look in the mirror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Their policies have not worked. And in many respects, their policies have made it harder for the economy to recover.

I think that's one of the reasons why people are looking for a new direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: More on the politics of jobs in just a moment, but first what's behind the sluggish numbers at home and the pressures from abroad?

Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi and the anchor of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," Richard Quest, join us right now.

Ali, let's start with you. If you go back and -- I keep looking at this report, looking and looking, trying to find some bright spot. But if you go back to the beginning of the Obama presidency to now, including these dismal numbers today, manufacturing down, construction jobs down, government jobs down, do you see anything out there that makes you think next month or the month after that, we will finally see something positive?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: No, but if you average it out, this is 20 straight months of job growth. I am not making any excuses for anyone.

What we don't like about this is that's the third month in a row where we have seen job growth trending down. The good side, if you need a silver lining, is that it is not below zero. And we have seen zero and below in past months.

This is a problem because we thought we had a trend of economic indicators that showed growth and stability, especially in light of what is going on where Richard is and what's going on in India and China slowing things down.

The problem here is, if we are slowing down, too, there aren't consumers around the world who are going to help prop us up. That's why it is alarming. And that's why a lot of traders decided to sell stocks today.

KING: And, so, Richard, the president of the United States, who worries about this in terms of the economy, he worries about this in terms of his own employment as well, as Ali just noted, he talked about first we inherited a mess, then we had the spike of energy prices.

And now, listen here, he says what's happening on your side of the pond is responsible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We've had a crisis in Europe's economy that is having an impact worldwide and it's starting to cast a shadow on our own as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I think it is even more than a shadow, Richard. It is a drag. Any end in sight there?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I would respectfully disagree with the president in only one word. He said, we had a crisis. We have got a crisis. It has not gone away.

And it threatens to blow up again with the Spanish banking crisis. I am not going to sit here and defend the way Europe and the Eurozone has handled this crisis. It has been lamentable, the fact that four years after the recession came to an end, and Europe is once again heading down.

VELSHI: Right.

QUEST: We have an unemployment rate. We have an unemployment rate average in the E.U. of 11 percent. Guess what, John? There are only three states, two states in the union that are as bad or worse.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: Yes.

QUEST: Absolutely. So, Europe is not doing well. There is no prospect it turning around soon. Yes, changes have been made. But it is very, very slow and sluggish.

VELSHI: Yes. You're right.

KING: So, to what degree, gentlemen, each of you, in closing then, to what degree -- we have -- as Richard just noted, we have severe political dysfunction here and you have a political sometimes circus as Europe tries to figure out its problems.

Ali, to you first. Then, Richard, you close us out.

How much is the political dysfunction contributing to the problem? VELSHI: The political dysfunction in the United States is contributing maybe, at best, 20 percent to this problem. It is not even a factor in this whole thing. So, everybody in Washington needs to pipe it down about what they're going to do to fix it. The political problems in Europe are very responsible for this, I think -- Richard.

QUEST: And I would agree.

And I would say one thing. It is not a political circus in Europe at the moment. You go to a circus and you enjoy watching the high-wire act because you know there's a safety net and the lions and you enjoy all that sort of stuff. What we have here is a financial disaster that we are looking at.

And each -- there is a lack of leadership in Europe at the moment, whether it is the commission, the council, the countries involved. They're rewriting the rules. You know the famous line about the thing you don't want to watch is sausages or laws being made. Well, you don't want to see the Europeans reforming themselves either, because nobody is quite sure who is calling the shots.

And the only really worrying thing at the moment is I fear that nobody is.

VELSHI: Is there a bell to cut him off?

KING: Two of the best helping to understand, helping us understand all this tonight. And they're entertaining on top of it.

Ali, Richard, thanks so much.

VELSHI: All right.

KING: The jobs debate dominated the campaign jockeying today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We will come back stronger. We do have better days ahead. And that is because of all of you.

ROMNEY: Not everything I do will be done perfectly, I'm sure. We all are human. But I will focus all my energy on getting America back to work. And this president has not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Our brand-new CNN/ORC poll tonight shows a statistical dead heat in the national horse race.

Forty-nine percent of registered voters back President Obama; 46 percent back Governor Romney. And get this. It's a tie 45 percent each, when voters are asked which candidate better understands how the economy works?

The Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, calls the latest weak jobs report proof it is time for a new president. Chairman Priebus is with us tonight.

Mr. Chairman, let's focus first on the millions of Americans who are looking for a job and looking for help. And then we will get to the politicians and what this means for them.

I want you to listen to the president on the road today. He has a number of proposals. And the Democrats do that are sitting in Congress. I know especially your House Republicans have a number of proposals they have passed that are sitting in the Senate. Here is what the president says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: So my message to Congress is: Now is not the time to play politics. Now is not the time to sit on your hands.

The American people expect their leaders to work hard no matter what year it is. The economy still isn't where it needs to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Why can't -- Mr. Chairman, why can't we make a deal? Let's say the president accepts a couple of those House bills. They have some tax cuts in them. Some House Republicans will call for a moratorium on regulations.

If the president would say, I will sign two or three of those, should Republicans then give him some of the infrastructure money he wants and some of the other steps the president wants and get -- have Washington do something to help the unemployed before the election?

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, wait a second. The president is the one -- you might go back to the Simpson-Bowles commission, the debt commission, the super committee.

We have done this kind of dance with the president many times. And in fact it was the Republicans that passed the budget, John, in Congress now two years in a row and the president didn't want anything to do with it. In fact, they went off and put ads on television showing Paul Ryan throwing grandmother over the cliff.

He has been playing politics. He's not willing to lead. But let me just kind of go back a little bit. First of all, this isn't good news for anybody in this country. As chairman of the RNC, this is not something that's good for anybody.

It is not good for our country. I think, ultimately, the way I would frame where we are today is what we have been saying, which is just simply this. Americans are disappointed that we have a president that didn't follow through on his promises. This is not where anyone wants to be. No one relishes in this.

But we do need to get back to business and providing some certainty in the marketplace. And I think the things that Mitt Romney is willing to do that this president is not is to lead this country. It is not that complicated. But I think this president is in love with campaigning. And he is pretty good at it. But he missed his opportunities to lead. And here we are today and having to deal with this fallout.

KING: And yet you just saw the numbers. When we ask voters who is better suited to handle the economy, you have a tie right now. Essentially, you have a tie in the horse race, you have a tie on who is better to handle the big question.

But here is a weakness for your candidate, Governor Romney, Mr. Chairman. We asked people who better understands the problems faced by ordinary Americans? And look at these numbers, President Obama, 55 percent, Governor Romney, 34 percent.

I will call that the empathy gap. If Governor Romney can't address that, he is in trouble come Election Day because if people are worried about their jobs, they are going to pick the guy who they think understands them. How does he fix that? What is the problem?

PRIEBUS: Well, John, first of all, we have just come out of our primary. Listen, it has been two days since he has clinched the 1,114 delegates. And we have a long time to go. It is June, July, August, September, October, November.

There is a long time to make the case. But, if you also look in your poll -- and I just looked at it really quickly -- it shows that almost 70 percent of the people in that poll believe that we are moving in the wrong direction economically.

I can't imagine that being good news for this president. And though it is a statistical dead heat, I think that the president is clearly making a solid case to the American people that he hasn't been fit to lead and he hasn't fulfilled his promises.

And so I think that's really what's most important in that analysis from that poll. There is a long way to go. And we are going to make the case. But when you stack up the president's record to Mitt Romney's record, I don't think there is any question as to who is more fitting to lead in bringing back certainty in the marketplace, bringing good-paying jobs back to this country, so that people can live the American dream.

At what point do we say to the president, Mr. President, what is your case for being reelected? Point to me -- is his case, look, it doesn't stink as bad as it could have? That can't be the presidential game plan for Barack Obama.

Compare Reagan's reelection in 1984. Was he blaming Jimmy Carter? Was he blaming Europe? No. What he was talking about is, it is morning in America. My policies are working. And this is why I should be reelected.

That's what incumbents do. This president wants to blame everybody for everything.

KING: That will be the defining question in the next 150-plus days. Mr. Chairman, appreciate your time tonight. We will keep in touch as the campaign goes on and we get more of this data, important.

PRIEBUS: Well, we will be in Wisconsin over the weekend. We are looking forward to that one, too, John.

KING: I will talk to you next week. It is a big one out there on Tuesday. Thanks again, Mr. Chairman.

PRIEBUS: You bet.

KING: Up next: rumblings of the Cold War. Russia denies propping up Syria's killing machine and the United States says that is not true.

And, later, tonight's "Truth" from Bill Clinton, whether the Obama campaign likes it or not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The conflict in Syria claimed another 37 lives today. And, ominously, the world's response is beginning to look and sound like a new chapter of the Cold War.

They United Nations Human Rights Council today authorized an independent investigation of last Friday's massacre in the Syrian town of Houla. The vote was 41-3, with Russia, and China and Cuba opposed.

Also today, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, flatly denied an accusation by the United States that Russia is propping up the regime of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Those who say that Russia props any regime, in this case President Assad's, all these people are wrong. We have good on going relationships with Syria. But we don't support either of the sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not so says, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, adding the United States has -- quote -- "serious concerns about Russian weapons going to Syria."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We know that there has been a very consistent arms trade, even during this last year of violence in Syria, coming from Russia to Syria. We also believe that the continuing supply of arms from Russia has strengthened the Assad regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In an opinion piece published on CNN.com today , former U.S. Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller writes: "Syria isn't Rwanda and it certainly is not Barack Obama's primary responsibility, but does that mean the need to stop the killing, 12,000 dead and counting, is any less urgent and acute?"

Aaron David Miller is my guest now.

To stop the killing with diplomacy anyway, you need cooperation. When you have the Russian president, you just heard him there, essentially saying, no, it is not me, I am not sending them arms, I am not propping up Assad, and Secretary Clinton says, oh, yes, you are, I don't see a recipe for compromise there.

AARON DAVID MILLER, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT: Yes, I think that is right.

Right now, Putin looks at this frankly as a former great power seeking to regain its status and prestige. And it is not going to be able to. They have watched their clients, Saddam, Gadhafi -- we are asking them to muzzle the Iranians on the nuclear issue.

So, this is the one key state, Syria, with which they have had a key relationship for the last 40 years, and they are determined to do everything they possibly can in order to preserve their influence. That does not mean rolling over for the United States. And they also feel they were burned to some degree on the Libyan operation.

So, what you see is what you get with the Russians. And I wouldn't expect much more.

KING: Well, say, if you are not going to get a tougher Security Council resolution then, because you need the Russians for that, what does the president of the United States do? The Arab League is not saying, let's do more, as it was in Libya.

What does the president of the United States do when he's under increasing pressure to do more to stop the killing?

MILLER: Well, the question is, how vitally important is it to the president of the United States that this regime be undermined and be undermined now?

Yes, it is a murderous, brutal regime. And the situation on the ground there is going to get a lot worse before it gets worse. But the question is for the president, think through it is what he needs to do and what he can do. He can support the opposition with lethal, as well as non-lethal assistance.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So, you go into Libya to stop the threat of a massacre in Benghazi, but you don't go into Syria when there is a massacre is under way? Why, because Libya has oil and Syria doesn't?

MILLER: It is part of the job description of a great power, John.

Great powers behave inconsistently. They behave hypocritically. And there's no one size fits all. And I guarantee you, you talk to the secretary of the state and the president, and they would say the same thing.

There is probably more we can do. We could push the Turks harder on safe zones. We could begin to provide more assistance, armed assistance to the opposition. But before we consider an ill-advised, ill-thought-through half-measure which involves American military intervention, we need to understand the consequences and the costs to us.

If you break it -- and Powell was right -- you are responsible for it. We are just coming out of the two longest wars in American history. And I looked at the job numbers today. This is a president who has got a domestic, huge domestic problem. The last thing he needs now is to get involved in an imbroglio and fail.

KING: So, you see zero prospect of U.S. military involvement before the election, so that the modest steps you can take, maybe arm the opposition, maybe create more safe zones in cooperation with the Turks and some of the Arab countries, that's it?

MILLER: It is not pretty, but frankly under the circumstances, I am not sure that there is all he -- much he can do. Or, frankly, under the circumstances, as tragic as it is to watch people die, there is not that much more he should do.

KING: A pretty sober assessment.

Aaron David Miller, appreciate you coming in tonight.

MILLER: A pleasure, John, always.

KING: Thank you.

President Obama still waving that to-do list at the Congress. Coming up, we will debate whether politicians can do anything about jobs, other than their own, because it's an election year.

Also, a major development in the Trayvon Martin case: George Zimmerman is going back to jail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: It's the last thing team Obama wants to hear: Bill Clinton saying nice things about Mitt Romney. But that's just what happened, and it is tonight's "Truth."

But before we go to that, stand by for an update on the severe storms and possible tornadoes in and around our nation's capital.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In this half hour of JOHN KING USA, dangerous storms, tornado warnings and flash floods hit the nation's capital. But the dangerous weather stretches all the way up the East Coast.

President Obama is trying to make Congress pay attention to his to-do list for creating jobs. With the election just 158 days away, we'll debate whether we can expect anything to happen.

And Bill Clinton says the great thing about not being president any more is you can say whatever you want. There's some truth to something he said that team Obama wishes he hadn't.

Let's begin the half hour with a check-up on tonight's severe weather up and down the eastern seaboard. Severe thunderstorms and tornado watch that stretch from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas. This hour, the worst weather, well, it's about where I am, Maryland, northern Virginia and right here in Washington, D.C.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is in the CNN severe weather center. Chad, we have we got?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, you've got one more cell for D.C., on up just about to Delphi, D.C., Silver Spring and on up maybe toward Goddard and Greenbelt here, and will drive itself right up I-95 B.W. Parkway.

We're still seeing a little bit of weather north of Baltimore, a couple, still, tornado warnings going on there.

The biggest threat now is still to the west of D.C. itself and also to the south of D.C. So there still could be another line of weather coming in, even though that's the weather you're seeing right there. There's Silver Spring. There's Georgia Avenue toward Hyattsville and toward College Park.

What I'm worried about a little bit more down here to the south. Richmond, Virginia, this is the west end here. This would be Goochland; this would be Wyndham. And this area here is a big-time rotation. You need to be taking cover anywhere from Goochland all the way over to Hanover and Ashland. That is a pretty significant cell there.

And one of your producers, John, says that he's going to try to drive to New York City tonight. He's coming out of College Park, Maryland, a couple hours ago. I don't know if that was a tornado or not, but it was pretty significant, the fire department there.

My recommendation to him and to anybody trying to drive anywhere across 95 is drive to the train station and let the train take you. It is going to be a slow drive anywhere across the northeast tonight in all this weather.

KING: Excellent with the weather and excellent travel advice, as well. Chad Myers, keeping track of all this. Chad, we'll stay in touch. Thanks so much.

President Obama is attending fund-raisers. He's away from the rain. He's in Chicago tonight. He was in Minnesota earlier this afternoon, pushing Congress to pass some of his ideas to create jobs. But his rival, Governor Mitt Romney, says the president, quote, isn't up to the task of fixing the economy. What's actually going to turn the economy around?

Joining me now is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was John McCain's economic adviser back in 2008 campaign. Heather Bousher is the senior economist for the Center for American Progress.

Heather, I want to start with you. The president has been out there. And he has his list. But he also -- and let's listen to a bit of it. He also tries to say, "Look, things are bad, but it's not all my fault."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We can't fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world. Disturbances in the Middle East, what's going on in Europe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, factually, that's all true. That's all true, but politically, he's the guy who sits in the Oval Office, and we're 150- something days away from the voters deciding what to do. And life and politics isn't fair, as you know.

Is there anything the president can do? We'll get to the cooperation with Congress in a minute. But let's assume there's going to be none. Is there anything else the president -- any president can singularly do that would help at all right now, or is he out of arrows?

HEATHER BOUSHLER, SENIOR ECONOMIST, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: The problem right now continues to be in the labor market, a lack of demand. And so for the president to have arrows in his quiver, he needs to have a Congress that will work with him in order to take the steps necessary to boost demand on the kinds of things that we did in the recovery act, the kinds of policies that he proposed last fall with the American Jobs Act that would have created 1.3 million jobs, economist estimated.

Without that, without the help of the power of the purse that Congress has, he's really in a bit of a pickle. So they really need to be working together to focus on job creation.

KING: You're nodding that the president is in a pickle. For somebody out there watching, who doesn't care that you're a Republican and you're a Democrat, they would just like to have job or their spouse to have a job or their neighbor to get a job.

Are there any other things that the president and the Republican -- it would have to be the Republicans. You have to cooperate with the House. Are there any things they could do, work together on, that within a matter of months, before election day, would show actual progress? Or are we past that point?

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACTION FORUM: Right now, we're facing the fiscal cliff, a sharp increase in taxes, across- the-board cuts in spending, a variety of other policies that need to get done. That's starting to affect the economy this year.

And taking away that threat will be the first and foremost things someone can do. The president needs to do what he did in 2010, which is agree to extend the tax cuts for a year so there's not a sharp increase in taxes on American business and families. No -- no good will come of that. That will be a way to take away one of the threats.

And the reality is things always happen. In economics, you always get a tsunami; you always get trouble in Europe. Something always happens. The trouble is, the president has built a recovery that is so fragile, a feather would derail it. And you just -- you have to do better.

KING: You're -- so you're sighing and you're shaking your head. Before you answer, I want you to listen, because Governor Romney today was essentially making Doug's case. He says that business is actually sitting on a ton of money, but they won't spend it, because they're worried. Is it higher taxes, is it the health-care plan? Is it just question mark uncertainty?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unfortunately, what the president has done has made it less and less likely for investors to want to invest in America, for employers to want to hire in America. And that's the indictment that you're seeing on this administration's policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is that what the president has done?

BOUSHLER: You know, companies are sitting on a lot of cash. They're sitting on that cash, because they're not seeing the kind of demand that's going to drive them to make those investments to hire those workers to meet the demand. Fundamentally, you have to have customers out there.

With this lingering unemployment that we've had, you don't have kind of the customers that America needs. There's a lot of things that we could do. One thing that was crystal clear from today's report is that last month, we lost 11,000 workers in the construction sector of civil engineering. What is that? That's the kind of infrastructure projects that we could go out there tomorrow, start hiring people to make investments and American competitiveness, get back to work.

KING: Why won't Republicans give the president the infrastructure money? That used to be a pretty bipartisan thing. And I could pick up the phone and call a lot of Republican governors who would say, "Amen, send the money."

HOLTZ-EAKIN: No one's going to say that construction's a bad thing. But the strategy that Heather is describing is the one that the president of the Congress implemented when they controlled everything. 2009, 2008. That's exactly what they did, and it failed.

And we saw, again and again, the kinds of reports we're seeing today. Every summer, it fell away. It's a strategy that hasn't worked.

The economy needs deep structural reforms of the types that Bowles and Simpson Commission proposed. The president kicked those into the gutter, and he's continued to repeat the same strategy. Targeted, temporary, highly ineffectual policies. You shouldn't go down that road again. If he wants to do something serious, he should work with the Republicans on the serious reforms.

KING: That leads you to believe that that is the majority Republican view, that nothing -- nothing real, anyway -- will get done between now and the election.

BOUSHER: We're seeing our prospects for creating jobs being sabotaged, because we're not focusing on implementing the kind of policies that would do that.

Another example is education. Right now, all across America, state and local governments are laying off educators. That is not only adding to our unemployment woes, but it's hurting our future economic competitiveness. Those are decisions that we need to make about our economic future today. And our priority needs to be getting people back to work. Because we are not going to solve our fiscal problems. We're not going to be able to deal with that until we get people back to work. We're putting...

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Everyone agrees that's a top priority. This is a terrible jobs report. It's a tragedy for America.

But the kinds of policies that are being advocated are ones where smart people in the White House get to pick who gets the job. There's not a reliance on broad economic growth. That's what we need.

KING: We're going to have to have an election to settle this. Heather, Doug, thanks for coming in tonight. I hope you'll come back. This is a big, big, big, dynamic for the next 150 plus days.

Coming up here, why Bill Clinton thinks bashing Bain Capital is a losing strategy for President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I got a fair amount of this gray hair covering Bill Clinton, but I have to admit, I miss him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The great thing about not being president is you can say whatever you want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, that was today in Wisconsin. The big buzz today, though, was about last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: A man who's been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, grading Mitt Romney's business record as sterling is, to put it mildly, at odds with the Obama re-election campaign's view.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA STRATEGIST: Well, one thing the president never did was buy a company, load it up with debt, bankrupt that company, and walk away with millions of dollars while the creditors and the workers were left holding an empty bag. The president has never done that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, that's the Obama campaign. Again, Bill Clinton takes issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I don't think that we ought to get in the position of where we say this is bad work. This is good work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Off message big-time. But it's more complicated than that. Much more complicated.

President Clinton very much wants President Obama to win, and he made that clear repeatedly in that interview. But if you know him and if you talk to people he talks to privately, something else is clear. He thinks attacking Romney's business record is a losing strategy, for two reasons.

Remember, go back to Clinton's inaugural. This is the "don't stop thinking about tomorrow" guy. He believes politicians who look in the rear-view mirror are playing a losing hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: The real issue ought to be what has Governor Romney advocated in the campaign that he will do as president? What has President Obama done, and what does he propose to do? (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, what we saw in that praise of Romney's business record was Bill Clinton's DNA, a defining characteristic of his rise in national politics. He helped form the Democratic Leadership Council in the mid-1980s. That was after Walter Mondale lost 49 states to Ronald Reagan. The DLC, with Clinton as his leader, argued Democrats had to shed their image as tax-and-spend liberals, too cozy with unions and too hostile to business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We've got to turn these perceptions around or we can't continue as a national party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Yes. You see that. He didn't always have gray hair. One year after what Clinton loyalists simply call the Cleveland speech, he was a presidential nominee and promising everyone, including the business community, his was a new and a different Democratic Party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: An America that says to entrepreneurs and business people, we will give you more incentives and more opportunity than ever before to develop the skills of your workers and to create American jobs and American wealth in the new, global economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He left office eight years and 21 million new jobs and a balanced budget later. And so he thinks his way was the right way for the economy and for his party.

And "Truth" be told, he sees the Democrats now drifting left again on many fronts. While he admires him and wants him to win. He also tells friends President Obama could and should do more to fight his reputation as anti-business.

Sure, what he said last the night was off message. But trust me. It was no accident.

Joining us now to talk truth, "The New Yorker's" Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza; GOP strategist John Fiore; and former deputy White House communications director Jen Psaki.

Jen, let me begin with you. He did win twice. He was the last president to have a booming economy. When he takes issue with the central theme of the Obama campaign at the moment, or one of them, will he be listened to?

JEN PSAKI, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, look, first, in the same interview, President Clinton also applauded President Obama's leadership and work on the auto bailout, his work on raising fuel efficiency standards. And also said he thought he'd win by five or six points. So he's a big supporter, and I'm certain he's going to be out there campaigning for him.

Absolutely he has a voice and a seat at the table. But I think most people out there in the country are not waiting for what prominent surrogates, even as prominent as President Clinton are saying about the strategy. They're waiting to see what the candidates talk about in terms of their policies moving forward. And that's what they will say over the next five months.

KING: But I think that was his point, though, right, John, that he thinks President Obama would be better served talking about tomorrow. Taking Mitt Romney on: "I disagree with your tax plan. I disagree with your Medicare plan. I disagree with this," as opposed to "I don't like what you did with GSTC when you were at Bain Capital."

JOHN FIORE, GOP STRATEGIST: What Bill Clinton did his second term was cut deals with Republicans. He governed as a pragmatist, not just talk as a pragmatist. In fact, he was dragged kicking and screaming, with the Republicans dominating Congress. And they passed things like welfare reform.

So that -- those are the things, he governed as a centrist because he had no choice. President Obama has decided to govern as a populist. So we get no deals, and now he's bashing business.

And Clinton's saying, "Whoa, whoa, you've got to cut some deals. You've got to govern as a pragmatist if you want to win." He might not win because of that.

KING: He's careful with what he says publicly, because No. 1, he does want the president to win. He supports and admires the president. And I'm not trying to say anything other than that.

He also thinks if he's critical, people will take it as lingering, festering Hillary sour grapes. But he does think his party is starting to drift a little bit more into the danger zone, and he says 2010 has proven that to him.

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORKER": I think it's a little bit that, but also remember, there are a lot of Democrats, especially in the New York-Washington region, who think that private equity is great.

Look, Bill Clinton's daughter and son-in-law worked for a private equity firm. Clinton himself, I believe, was an adviser on a private equity firm.

KING: He was.

LIZZA: He does a lot of great work with Clinton Global Initiative, relies on these private equity guys. So it hasn't always had the bad name in the Democratic Party that it's had now that Romney is a candidate. So I think there's a little bit of that.

What you said, is that DLC in Clinton's DNA. He doesn't like Democrats being the anti-business party. KING: And so today, when you see this jobs report that is bleak, and again, we should care more about the unemployed than the politicians. But when you think of it in a political context, it's fascinating.

Who better understands how the economy works? The two candidates are in a dead heat, 45/45. Here's the problem for Governor Romney. Who better understands the problem faced by ordinary Americans? Obama, 55, Romney, 34.

And as we were going on the air tonight, I just want to say, this is Governor Romney's new financial disclosure form. It just came out today. And this is perhaps not fair. But some things aren't fair to President Obama. Is it tough for Governor Romney when a jobs report like this comes out and you get a report that says he's worth somewhere in the ballpark of at least 84, perhaps as much as $206 million.

FIORE: Not really. And the fact of the matter is, if this is going to be a referendum on how the president is doing. And if the jobs reports continue to be as bad and as bleak as they are, you're going to have guys like Arthur Davis, who changed parties, one of Obama's first supporters, a black -- an Alabama Democrat, who said, "I have had enough of the Democratic Party. They're not doing anything for my -- my constituents. I'm going to change parties, because the Democrats are going exactly the wrong way."

I do think that all of these things are going to filter in. It's not what you say or what you do or how much money you have. It's how you govern. The president's failed the governing on the economy. And that job report's just proof.

I assume you think that's a wild card if you're in a very, very close race. And voters are torn. They're just torn. They're conflicted. I liked Obama but it hasn't gone so great the last few years. I don't know about this Romney guy, but if he better understands me, that helps, right?

PSAKI: Sure. Also, there's a massive enthusiasm gap, which the CNN polls shows. Six of 10 Democrats support the president or are enthusiastic about his candidacy. And Mitt Romney only has 4 in 10. So that's a real problem for his campaign, as well, because people aren't excited about getting out there and working on his behalf.

KING: How does Romney fix that? We talk about Bill Clinton's DNA. This was Al Gore's problem. It was John Kerry's problem. At some point, you are who you are. And again, the connection, the personal connection thing, gets me. That he gets the guy that works with his hands.

LIZZA: Well, I think what they're trying to do is, as you pointed out, you know, Romney wants to make this a referendum on Obama's record. Obama wants to make this a choice between the two people. And to do that, he has to highlight the negatives in Romney's background. He's going to highlight the gap between Romney's wealth and the average American. I think the way Romney does it is the way he's been doing it so far, is stick to jobs and the economy and stick to slamming the president when these bad numbers come out.

KING: Everybody, stay put. We'll continue the conversation in just a minute.

Coming up here, one of the country's big motel chains finds a new way to assure you are getting a clean room. Don't want to miss that.

And believe it or not, you're looking at a member of Congress. Yes, that's a member of Congress, and it's tonight's "Moment You Probably Missed."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you say now?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You're looking at live pictures here from our CNN affiliate, WBAL. That's in Baltimore, Maryland. This is Bel Air, Maryland, just outside Baltimore. You hear the traffic from the chopper there, how they're showing there are reports of possibly a tornado touching down. Just moments ago, they were showing some tighter pictures of some significant damage to at least one building on the ground.

Let's got to Chad Myers. He's been tracking the severe weather. He's in our severe weather center.

Chad, reports a tornado may have touched down. Do we know definitively?

MYERS: Not definitively, no. But this storm was rotating very rapidly right over Bel Air, Fallston.

Now, this is north of Baltimore. Actually, much closer, even, to Pennsylvania than it would be D.C. At least 100 miles from Washington, D.C., up by 95 around Baltimore and then you would keep going north. Fallston, Bel Air I can take you to, there's a radar picture what we had.

The storm was moving here from Washington, D.C., moving off to the northeast. So the storm would be here. Here's Aberdeen, Havre de Grace. There's Bel Air. The storm moving on up into Pennsylvania. It was about 45 minutes or so ago that this storm actually did move through this area.

And now we're getting some of those other pictures you said as they were zooming in and back and forth. That shed should be right there on the foundation. It is not. There is some debris here behind this apartment complex. The Midas was damaged by part of this, as well. And it just depends on the structure itself. This doesn't look like major tornado damage, nor would we ever expect today to be an F- 3, F-4 Kansas-type tornado event.

But if you're in or near that debris when it's getting blown around, you could get injured. And that's the whole thing. That's why you want to stay inside your home away from windows. Maybe a down spout. That down spout goes through a window and you're in that room, you can get cut by the glass.

This is the area that, when we tell you stay away from windows, get inside, this is exactly the reason why. Even sometimes minor damage can hurt you.

KING: Take us back to that line of storms. As you said, most of them seem to be passing D.C. and heading north. But how's the stretch right now?

MYERS: Well, it's actually doing really well. We just had a pretty significant storm roll through the west end, far west end of Richmond, Virginia. I'm talking about from almost Goochland County eastward on up into Ashland. So that would be Hanover County. That's the area that I'm most concerned that this rotation is still significant.

My producer here going back and showing where that storm is right now. It moved right over 64. Right through that -- that's just about Richland. There's the mall right there. Brand-new mall and I-95, keeps going. As the sun sets tonight, John, things will cool down, things will die off. This will be over soon.

KING: We'll keep an eye on this throughout the night. Chad Myers is hopeful it will be over soon. Thanks, Chad, so much. We'll keep on top of this.

Let's get back right now to Alison Kosik with other news you need to know right now.

Hi, there.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, as you mentioned, Federal Election Commission just released Mitt Romney's latest financial disclosure forms. And here's what he's worth: between 84 million and $256 million. That's actually a bit less than last year.

Most of his current income is derived from investment, but he also charges between $10,000 and $68,000 for speaking engagements.

More than 600 teachers' names in Los Angeles have been submitted to have their licenses reviewed in the state of California. Most of the cases deal with teacher misconduct and involve student safety. School officials tell CNN 60 of those teachers were either fired or disciplined, or accused of sexual misconduct with students or minors.

New Mexico firefighters are battling a massive blaze that's torn through more than 200,000 acres, billing it the largest wildfire in the country. Only 10 percent of the Whitewater Baldy blaze has been contained. Firefighters are hoping today's calmer winds and higher humidity will help them.

OK, the age-old question. Do you worry about germs in the hotel room you're staying at? Hmm. The Best Western hotel chain is adopting these policies to calm your fears. Housekeepers are soon going to be using ultraviolet sterilization wands on heavily-touched surfaces, like telephones and bathroom fixtures. UV black lights will be used during inspections to check for biological matter. Yum.

Makes you feel really -- really confident in that hotel room. Doesn't it?

Speaking of germs, by the way, John, offices are full of them, but whose office is dirtier? Men's or women's? Researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Arizona swabbed almost 100 randomly chosen offices in New York, San Francisco and Tucson. They found that men's offices, surprisingly, tend to have 10 to 20 percent more living bacteria than women's.

I'm not surprised, John. Are you?

KING: Guilty.

KOSIK: You admit it.

KING: Guilty. Oh, yes. My office -- yes. I need to do a better job. Without a doubt. Yes, I admit it. I've been trying to duck out of this one.

Do you sing, karaoke?

KOSIK: Sometimes.

KING: Sometimes. Then stay right there. Sometimes is good enough for our "Moment You Missed." It came at today's rally for Ted Barrett. He's the Democrat challenging Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, in that big recall election next Tuesday.

Yes, Bill Clinton was at the event but kind of a warm-up act. Right? So was Democrat Congresswoman Gwen Moore, warming up the crowd. Listen here, her own rendition of "Hit the Road."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GWEN MOORE (D), WISCONSIN (singing): Hit the road, Scott, and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more. Well, hit the road, Scott, and don't you come back no more.

What you say now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hit the road, Scott, and don't you come back...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hit the road, Scott, and don't you come back... UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hit the road, Scott, and don't you come back...

MOORE (singing): No more, no more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Alison, there are a lot of members of Congress that I think what in the world would they do if the voters sent them home? Voted them out of office. At least...

KOSIK: Who knew?

KING: ... she's got a backup plan.

KOSIK: Who knew that she had all those hidden talents? You know, who knew that politicians have all these hidden talents other than just talking and talking?

KING: Do you want to try and top her?

KOSIK: Do I want to what?

KING: You want to try to top her, right now? Here, floor's yours.

KOSIK: No. If I had a drink in my hand, maybe, but I don't.

KING: Have a great weekend.

We'll see you back here Monday night. That's all for us for now, though. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.