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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
President Obama's State of the Union Address
Aired January 27, 2010 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Anderson Cooper live in Port-au- Prince Haiti. We have a continuing coverage of President Obama's State of the Union address.
All our correspondents are standing by. Soledad O'Brien has new polling information. Jessica Yellin on focus group reaction during President Obama's speech.
But right now, let's go back to New York and Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "SITUATION ROOM": All right Anderson, thanks very much. And I want you and Sanjay Gupta to help us better appreciate the remarks that both the president and the Virginia governor made about Haiti. That is coming up later. We're going to check back with Anderson.
And Sanjay is going to have some thoughts about health care Campbell as well.
It's now history, the president's State of the Union address and we have a lot to digest.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: We have a lot to digest. We have yet to hear from our panel. And they are chomping at the bit...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BROWN: I know to give us their take on the speech. And why don't we get started. Gloria Borger, just give me your general reaction.
BORGER: Well, I think the speech was smartly written and it had a little bit of everything in it for every party.
He spoke to independent voters and said, "I understand the dysfunctional culture of Washington," as if he had not been a part of it for the last year. He scolded his own Democrats for not behaving like a majority. He also took on Republicans on issues. He even took on the Supreme Court, as John King mentioned, you know, sitting right in front of him.
The one question I have coming out of this is what is he going to do on health care? It took him 25 minute to get to the issue that he had spent the last nine months working on. And if it's not dead it's kind of on the side of the road right now. We don't know where it is. And I think it was all but abandoned.
BROWN: And Candy I mean, it did seem -- I mean, he gave no sort of even direction for what he would like to see and you know, theoretical world, House and Senate Democrats do, in terms of health care.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is often a president who leaves things open to interpretation. And I think this is one of those, because he didn't say, "Here's what I want. I want what's there, pass it now," because the political reality is he's not going to get it. But we saw both a call for bipartisanship and some pretty tough partisanship.
CROWLEY: We saw any number of things that was on the one hand, on the other and I think that's a carefully calculated speech that needs to apply to both attract his base, attracting independents and you know, talk bipartisanship.
BROWN: All right, we're going to hear more from the White House before we get to everybody else. Wolf Blitzer has -- Axelrod -- David Axelrod standing by for us.
BLITZER: Yes, let's go to David Axelrod, the president's senior adviser. He is joining us from Capitol Hill right now.
David what about that? Gloria Borger just made the point, it took 25 minutes into the speech before the president started talking about what had been his number one legislative priority, getting health care reform passed?
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, understand, Wolf, his number one priority is dealing with the issues that are bedeviling middle class families and our economy and health care is one of those issues and it's a big issue. He certainly addressed it and nobody could leave that chamber believing that he was walking away from it.
But there are other things on people's minds as well, not the least of which is the fact that we've lost seven million jobs in the last two years since this recession began at the beginning of 2007. And that is a source of major concern.
We need to create jobs in this country. We need to see wages start growing again. And we need to bring some security to the middle class and people who want to be middle class and certainly health insurance reform is part of that. So he presented it in the proper context.
BLITZER: But getting a jobs bill through the Congress, that's legislative priority number one right now, right?
AXELROD: Well, there's no question about that.
You know, we still have an employment emergency in this country. We've tied off the bleeding to a large degree. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month when the president took office. We've cut that by 90 percent and hopefully, will improve with each reporting period. But we're far from out of the woods and for those seven million people, and the many millions more who've -- who were looking before or who are discouraged now, who are under unemployed, they are impatient for action. They're desperate for it and we need the Senate to move as the House has moved.
BLITZER: All right. I want to show you something David because you're a good political guy. Soledad O'Brien just had the results of our CNN flash poll that we just took during the course of the president's speech, the aftermath of the president's speech.
Soledad what do the folks think?
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Ok so first of all we're asking people who were watching the speech and you should know, of course, more people who are watching the speech pay for the party of the person who is giving the speech that means, in short, more Democrats were being polled here.
So when we asked people what was your reaction and what do you think? Overwhelmingly, you had 48 percent had very positive response to the president's speech, 30 percent had somewhat positive, so that adds up to 78 percent. Good news for the president there that's a really good number for him. When you compare that to his speech last year, it declined, 20 percent decline.
This year's speech, 48 percent had a positive reaction, a very positive, last year's 68 percent; so big number there but some good numbers for the president overall in the immediate aftermath from the folks we polled -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thanks Soledad.
Let's bring back David Axelrod. Are you surprised by that number?
AXELROD: No, I think the president is very much working on the issues of concern to people and he's also -- I think he addressed what is another concern of people, which is whether this town gets too consumed by partisanship, too consumed in the power of lobbyist and frankly, Wolf, too concerned by polls and that people worry way too much about who's winning and who is losing and what's going to happen next November and not nearly enough about what we're going to do to move the country forward each day.
The president wants to get both Democrats and Republicans to focus on solving the problems of the country and particularly what he said to Republicans is, you have to abandon a philosophy that somehow if the country loses, that you win. You need to pick up -- pick up an oar and start rowing here and help us solve some problems.
I think the country desperately wants that and we hope that they will respond.
BLITZER: Let me let you respond to one point made by the Republican response to the president's State of the Union address by the Virginia governor, the newly elected governor, Bob McDonnell. At one point, in referring to the Christmas Day bombing plot over Detroit, he says, "This foreign terror suspect was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence. As senator-elect Scott Brown says, we should be spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists and not to protect them."
All right go ahead and respond.
AXELROD: Well, you know it's interesting, the 20th 9/11 bomber, Moussaoui, was tried in Article III, a civilian court in the State of Virginia. I don't recall Mr. McDonnell -- I don't know if he was attorney general at that point or not -- protesting that. In fact most of the Republicans celebrated it Rudy Giuliani called it a great triumph for American justice.
All through the Bush years, all of these terrorists were tried in civilian courts. He tried -- they designated two of them as enemy combatants and then brought them back to civilian courts because it was the most effective, expeditious way to bring them to justice. And they were brought to justice so there's a little bit of hypocrisy now.
I know and I understand the people feel they have an issue and they want to play that issue out but understand, this is more about politics and security and the president is not going to play politics with security. He's going to do what he needs to do to put these people away to bring them to justice and to make sure that they never menace anyone again.
BLITZER: Bob McDonnell, as you point out, was the Attorney General of Virginia before he was elected Governor of Virginia. David Axelrod thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.
AXELROD: It's good to be with you. Thanks Wolf.
BLITZER: David Axelrod, the senior adviser to the president.
By the way there is going to be a live "Larry King" at the top of the hour and among Larry's guests, John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. You will want to stick around for that.
We have much more analysis of what we've seen and heard tonight. The best political team on television is standing by. Our coverage will continue after this.
BROWN: And welcome back, everybody. We are back with more analysis about the president's State of the Union speech. You're with the best political team on television. We have a new member of the best political team on television, Erick Erickson, a very influential voice among the social networks, RedState.com.
ERICK ERICKSON, MANAGING EDITOR, REDSTATE.COM: Thank you very much.
BROWN: And a conservative voice, I should add. Give me your take, your general reaction? ERICKSON: You know, I don't like State of the Union speeches to begin with. I think they're always long. They are unveilings of policy initiatives, half of which never, ever come to fruition, whether it's a Republican or Democrat.
I'm struck though, by in my view, the speech seemed almost at odds with the free market. For example, he talked about how the stimulus plan created jobs but all the jobs he listed were jobs that were either in government or depended on government.
He talked about as government takeover the student loan industry, where after 20 years of paying student loans, you won't have to pay anymore, even if you owe and then suggested that colleges need to cut their costs. Well, there is a disconnect there, how do colleges have an incentive to cut their costs if students after 20 years, regardless how much they owe, are going to be forgiven. There seemed to be disconnects like that throughout the speech.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Actually it's not true.
BROWN: Well, let me let Roland respond, go ahead.
MARTIN: That is not true. I mean he specifically talked about -- say he talked to the small business in Phoenix that would triple its workforce because of the Recovery Act.
MARTIN: Listen, now but you said that was a government job but that wasn't that. He said the (INAUDIBLE) manufacturer in Philadelphia, who said they used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until they had to add two more work shifts just because of the business they created, that's not a government job.
So I understand your point. But when he specifically spoke about these particular jobs, they are not government jobs. Those are private sector jobs he was talking about.
ERICKSON: But are those jobs dependent on government, which is my concern, the paragraph where he went through.
MARTIN: They were manufacturers...
ERICKSON: Where he listed first responders, policemen, teachers, and then talked about green economy jobs which is a sector of the economy that wouldn't exist but for government interventions.
MARTIN: Also Wall Street banks wouldn't exist because of government intervention.
BROWN: All right, let me let Paul Begala jump in a little bit.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think if the president, if his goal was to hit the reset button, right? I think he succeeded. This -- Washington and the whole government has been consumed with health care, right? And as Gloria Borger points out, health care came up 3,300 words into a 7,100-word speech.
By my count, it was the 11th issue he mentioned after obviously jobs and the economy, the most important thing, but even after free trade and community colleges, ok? I'm slow and I'm a little dense, I didn't go to Harvard Law School, but I'm getting a sense he is trying to downplay health care here.
Just me and -- but I think that voters are really going to like the fact that he is focusing on jobs and the economy. I mean, if you watched the speech and don't come away with a sense that this man is committed to creating jobs and fixing the economy then, you know, you were asleep.
MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If you think that was a reset? Just like try to imagine you're an independent voter and you're at the water cooler tomorrow, the first thing you're going to say was, "Wow, Michelle Obama looks really great." If you're a little bit more sophisticated or a junkie, you're going say, "What a fresh young voice from Virginia" there wasn't one takeaway, there was no framework, it was a frog march of straw men (ph) from pundits to his predecessor to partisans. It didn't reset anything. He just gave another long speech that was in no framework other than being somewhat defensive about, "I never said this was going to be easy."
It's not -- that just doesn't -- it does not sound presidential to me. I didn't feel presidential. I wanted to have an open mind. I wanted to think like an independent person about this. There was no fundamental anything other than the same old stuff he has been saying for a year.
BROWN: Do you share your wife's frustration?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I really don't. And obviously, I don't. I think the guy is a remarkable speaker. I didn't have high hopes for the speech. I thought it was a much better speech than I anticipated. And what I thought he did was very necessary. He'd laid the context of the task that he inherited and he did a very, very good job.
You know, he just didn't fall out of the sky and be president. He came in and he was faced with an almost a near economic calamity, he was faced with three different wars and he put that in context.
Look, I think -- I think he suffered a significant defeat in Massachusetts. I don't make any bones about that. Is this going to change the world overnight? No, but I think this is about -- excuse me for a football metaphor, but I have my Saints tie on and my Saints button -- he picked up a first down tonight.
BROWN: All right, all right.
CARVILLE: That's better than -- that is what he needed.
BROWN: Ok, we're going to need to get a lot more from the panel coming up.
And also, John King is going to tell us what Twitter is saying about the president's speech. We have an interesting new way over at the wall to assess kind of the feedback that he's getting from the social networks.
So we'll be back right after this. A whole lot more ahead.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
We are here with the best political team on television. We are assessing the president's State of the Union address and we've got a new way to take a look at it. We're going to walk over to the magic wall. John King is over there.
John, Twitter -- what's going on here? Because there's social networking, they are really weighing in on the president's speech.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating, Wolf. We have a new way to track it thanks to our partners, Crimson Hexagon. This is a global universe of tweets, more than 143,000 messages so far; some of them you might say auditions to join our best political team as we go.
This is the global, blue is supportive of the president, red is negative, 14 is more neutral. Some of these people are asking questions, they're making observations about the speech. As you can see globally, about 47 percent positive about 40 percent more negative.
Now, let's come out here and bring out a map of the United States, so we can take a closer look. Here is the national map. And let's go, for example, to the show me state, the State of Missouri. From there, 773 messages we've calculated so far, about 47 of them positive about 38 percent negative, 15 more in the middle.
Let's see what we mean by more in the middle. "I'm eager to see exactly how Obama plans to help college students, I'm going to be one soon." All politics is local, you might say in the show me state.
Let's look at one more critical here, if you bring this up, "If he want others health care solutions then open the doors to negotiations and let the Republicans in as well, let us see Mister -- let us see that, Mr. President." That a key Republican line in recent weeks, let's see that.
Let's look at another place. Remember, it was Massachusetts, Wolf that brought us a Republican in Ted Kennedy's old seat. So what's the reaction in that state that has had so much to do with the current political climate? About 49 percent supportive, about 35 percent there, 36 percent negative, 15 percent in the middle.
Let's take a look at some of the tweets from Massachusetts. Pepperberryc (ph), "Oh my God, education reforms, I hope, hope, hope those go through"; supportive there of the president.
Let's look at the more neutral remarks here, they tend to be questions, "Don't understand how it will work, but sounds interesting," that meaning eliminating capital gains on small businesses.
Let's pick another state. We'll go out here to the State of California, out on the West Coast. More than 4,200 message there again, about 50 percent positive.
Let's take a look at one of those. "Go Obama, let's do this," a very good supporter there.
And one more peek, Wolf, the State of Nevada, the Senate Majority Leader, a huge senate race out there this year. Nearly 400 messages, about 45 percent positive, 38 percent negative.
Well, take a look at one of each. Here is the positive message, "Did I hear the word bipartisan again? Nice." Someone there applauding the president for being bipartisan. Let's take a peek at one of the more critical messages from Nevada. "Keep the nuclear waste out of Nevada." So again, all politics local.
The president today saying that he wanted more nuclear power plant as far as the energy bill. So it's pretty -- we will continue to look at this the messages are pouring in. As you we break them down by color and analyze them.
If you like what you're seeing here go to CNN.com. You can see more of it and again, as they churn in through the night, we'll fill in across the country. See if there's any regional break down, any regional differences in how the community on Twitter is reacting to the president's speech tonight.
BLITZER: You are on Twitter? John King, CNN, right?
KING: Yes, @JohnKingCNN, @WolfBlitzerCNN.
BLITZER: WolfBlitzerCNN, we're all on Twitter nowadays, we're all tweeting.
All right, very interesting and the country, based on Twitter, pretty evenly divided.
KING: And these guys better sharpen up, these people are auditioning.
BLITZER: Yes, they might be good; future members of the best political team on television.
All right, we're going to go back to the best political team on television and we'll hear from them. Lots more to dissect.
Also we're going to go to Port-au-Prince our Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta; they're standing by as well.
Our coverage will resume after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BROWN: Welcome back, everybody.
We are -- you're hearing a lot of analysis about the president's State of the Union address from the best political team on television here with me in New York. But we want to go check in with Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta who are in Haiti for us tonight.
And guys, we recognize, obviously given what's going on there that people weren't exactly gathered around the TVs, anxious to hear an American president's State of the Union address. But he did talk at the end of his speech, I do believe that both of you were able to hear, about the aid that's been going to Haiti and the commitment to trying to help there. Give us your take on what you heard.
COOPER: Well, he did talk about some of the American rescue workers who have been down here. He talked about 10,000 Americans who are on the ground here right now. He also talked to us, the spirit that brought people here, volunteers. He talked about a little boy in Louisiana who had sent the president his allowance money, said please send it on to Haiti. And he talked about rescue workers here, who I believe he was referencing rescue workers from L.A. County Fire Department who we actually spent some time with last weekend, who as they were pulled somebody out the crowd was chanting "USA, USA."
But that was really, the only references to Haiti. There wasn't much talk about it in kind of long-term commitment, really not the kind of thing you would expect in any way in a State of the Union address.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's interesting. Obviously, we heard the couple of references of Haiti, I was really focused on listening to what he would say about health care reform. And you know, before the speech, I wasn't sure how strong he was going to be on this how much was he going to talk about it?
It was interesting, because he sort of did it in an interesting. He started by saying, look, it wasn't a politically palatable thing for him to be talking about and he did concede that in many ways. He took the blame for not explaining this as well as he could.
But then, you know, he said, "We're closer than we've ever been with regard to health care," talking about the support from the American Medical Association and lots of other organized medical groups.
One thing I thought was sort of interesting, Campbell, I have been in Haiti for over two weeks now, so maybe I haven't been paying as close attention, but it seems like the term that kept getting used was health insurance reform. And I'm not sure if that was deliberate or noteworthy. But I didn't hear health care reform as much but health insurance reform.
BROWN: Yes I think you're absolutely right; you got a lot of nods around the table here, Sanjay, when you said that. They are being very careful I think to change the language tonight as it's clear that the bill that -- that was being talked about at least is dead in the water. And that was I think most of the takeaway we've heard from our analysts here and from what you were able to hear when he did address it, given that it was pretty much buried in the speech. Was it your sense that this is really getting pushed to the back burner clearly?
GUPTA: Well, you know, I think that in fact he talked about it and I think he was pretty forceful on it. Again, it was interesting, that there are a couple of things that have continuously emerged, one being this idea that people will not be discriminated against based on pre- existing conditions. And that seems to have a lot of traction.
And also that insurance companies because someone is sick you can't charge these exorbitant rates, so are they going to be capped in some. But you know her really -- my take on it, was he really tied it back to the economy saying, look, you know there are millions more people likely to lose their health care insurance over the coming year. And I think that that was a direct reference to the fact that unemployment could go up and jobs and health care insurance are so inextricably tied together.
BROWN: Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper for us from Haiti tonight. Obviously, they are going to be reporting throughout the week on what's happening there as well.
Guys, thank you so much.
We want to bring back in the political panel just more generally. And if we could, just follow up a little bit on what Sanjay said. Is everybody pretty much of the same mind set, that, Paul, that health care, we're done?
BEGALA: No, I don't think so at all. I mean, he did -- he did it later in the speech than did he a few months ago or he would have a few months ago but no, he still has staked his flag there. I mean, he can't walk away from it. And no matter where he puts it in his speech or how he reframes it, as health insurance reform, if he doesn't have a signing ceremony or he's sitting in the White House signing major health insurance reform, then he is going to have -- I hate to say crippled -- but certainly a damaged presidency.
He has to deliver on this, he has to. There's lots of different ways to do it, but he has to do it.
BROWN: And decide to have it before the midterm elections, David Gergen, I guess?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I disagree with Paul in the one sense. And that is I don't think he's walking away from health care, but he is sure not fighting for it and I think there's a difference. And he says, I'm not a quitter. And that's one of the headlines out of the speech tonight.
But he is -- this professorial sort of analysis he brings to the issue suggests that he clearly understands the future and what we face as a country. He clearly is a man with an exceptional mind but he is not someone who grabs you and says we're going here, I'm going to lead you here. And I did not think tonight that he came out of this, he reshuffled his priorities but I don't think he changed his leadership style.
And I think in order to break out of this he's going to have to take control in the White House and take charge.
BROWN: So what possible incentive does any Democrat who is thinking about November have to take this on to try to make any sort of deal?
CROWLEY: Well, because -- because they would like to get re-elected and if you get to Election Day with a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic White House and say, "Oops, sorry we couldn't deliver on that whole health care thing", they will be punished to the polls...
BROWN: But he's not...
CROWLEY: ...and that's what's going to happen.
And the fact of the matter is, I don't think he has tossed it aside, but he sure has (INAUDIBLE) the target here and the reason its health insurance reform is because that's where you can pick up some Republicans because they, too, want to get rid of pre-existing conditions. That's where there might be some agreement.
How they're going to not keep health insurance costs from going up if they force insurance companies to do that is whole other subject.
BORGER: And let me clarify, when I said before that he had abandoned it, what I mean is he had abandoned his health reform as we knew it for the last nine months because he is not fighting for that.
I think it can live again as a slimmed-down, some kind of reform -- pre-existing conditions combined with tort reform, for example -- that Republicans might sign on to but the health care reform as we know it is just not happening.
BROWN: We are going to check back in right now with Soledad O'Brien who has some new numbers for us from the flash poll. Soledad what do you have?
O'BRIEN: Ok. So again, this poll is a poll of speech watchers, slightly more Democrats than Republicans watching the speech. When you take a look at how many people gave the president a very positive review, 48 percent. So this year's speech, very positive. Compared to last year's speech it dropped to 20 points; he was at 68 percent last time.
So that is really an indication of kind of the economic context that we are in. If there is a silver lining for the president there when you add in the folks who say somewhat positive that boosts him another 30 percent. So he's up to a very respectable 78 percent.
Now, one question we had was, will the policies -- the president's policies move the country in the right direction? Take a look at this. Folks who said -- who were polled in this way before the speech, 53 percent said yes. So, that's very -- after the speech, look at the number. It rises significantly up to 71 percent. That is very big movement.
We see a similar movement in the other direction, you had something like 43 percent said no; now that number is down to -27 percent. So that is very good news for the president there. A lot of movement.
What's interesting to me the question -- actually I think David Gergen mentioned this a moment ago and you really see this in the polling. Does the speech of the president show that he is changing priorities? Is this a turn? Is this a new direction and the answer is 49 percent say yes, 50 percent say no; very right down the middle.
And I think that when David talked about, you know, he didn't break out, I think that that's what people are reflecting in these very answers. There is not a real sense of this speech was a moment of now we turn and I think people are feeling that -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right Soledad.
When we come back, we are going to hear from John Avalon because independents really were who most of this message was directed at, right, John?
JOHN AVALON, SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Absolutely.
BROWN: And we will get your take on that when we come back.
A whole lot more ahead. Stay with us.
BROWN: And we're back with more from the best political team on television. John Avalon, our independent. How much was directed at independents and what are they feeling right now?
AVALON: A huge -- this speech was really directed at independents. It had two overarching themes: it had the economy and really a defined attack on the bitter, predictable partisanship that we still see in Washington.
You saw -- he returned to language explicitly from the '08 campaign, talked about we are one nation, one people, talking about the politics that tear people down instead of lifting people up. So -- if you look at the foggy (ph) folks on economics it wasn't the traditional left approach, right? He began by defending his record as a tax cutter. Didn't see that one coming, that is a message for independents. Focused on small businesses, again a message for independents, the middle class.
This message was attempted to move the dial with independents clearly. I think the problem independents start off as supporters, they came in as skeptics, the deal is still not sealed. They still hear that they won't get fooled again at the back of their minds.
BROWN: So let's see if you're right about that because Jessica Yellin was talking to a number of independent voters tonight as part of our focus group -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica has got a good focus group in Columbus, Ohio that she's been talking to and they were monitoring the speech, Jessica. Independents: that is the key battleground right now. What are you seeing what are you hearing in Ohio?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, independents, like the rest of the group here, responded incredibly positively when the president talked about jobs and focusing on the economy. But particularly for independents was when he got concrete, when he talked about a specific tax cut, a Pell grant increase. They wanted to hear specifics and details.
But the other thing that mattered most to independents as John Avalon was saying, the spirit of bipartisanship. There was a lot of talk going in tonight that they wanted to hear him hitting bipartisan notes and that's what they responded most to.
I have one piece of sound we want to play for you, you can watch the lines on this. Watch: the red line is Republican response, blue is Democrat and the yellow line is the independent response.
Here's President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics but it is not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.
So let's show the American people that we can do it together. This week -- this week, I will be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans. I would like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Wolf, so you see the independents responded very positively to the talk of bipartisanship. I want to talk to Stephan here for a moment because he was one of the people going in who said he was very interested in the bipartisan message but you didn't think the president did enough tonight?
STEPHAN WHITE, REPUBLICAN: No I did not. You know, as a Republican, I feel as if everyone has a voice, like most Americans do. And I feel as if Obama has a duty and obligation to ensure that Congress, both the House and the Senate, hold firm to make sure that those voices are heard. And he didn't do that tonight.
YELLIN: One of the themes that Stephan hit that a lot of the independents in the room shared Wolf is the idea he should have been more concrete. One proposal he had was that the president could have said if there is a bill that has only Democratic support, I will veto it. The idea being that there would be no bill that goes to the president and gets a signature without Democrats and Republicans working together.
But there was a lot of tolerance in this room for a first-year president learning on the job. There was a lot of people saying it is a learning curve and we will give him a little more time. We just want to see him follow through on what he promised tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Give the president a chance.
All right. Jessica thanks. Thanks to your group as well.
Let's walk over to our John King because we're getting some reaction from a new rock star in the GOP, the newly-elected senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown. Now, what are we hearing from him?
KING: Not in the hall tonight, not in the House chamber, Wolf but it is Senator-Elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts who more than anyone else has changed the political climate. He's created the new political reality the president was trying to address.
He was watching home in Massachusetts; He won't come to the Senate until early in February. But here is a statement; I will read off my Blackberry. Excuse me for looking down.
He says "I was pleased to hear President Obama acknowledge that our economy must be a national priority and I applaud him for taking some important first steps. But putting America back to work requires bold action. Bold action means broad-based tack cuts for families and businesses to create jobs and not merely targeted tax relief. Bold action also means major reform and restructuring to actually cut spending and not just freeze it.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle on far-reaching new incentives that will put our economy back on track and get our fiscal house in order."
So praise but pretty consistent with other Republican criticism tonight saying, "Nice first step, Mr. President," but he wants broader based tax relief, doesn't think the president's spending freeze goes far enough. So it's pretty clear from this and other Republican reaction that the spending freeze will have Republican support but they don't -- they think it is a modest step and not nearly bold enough.
And the interesting debate will be now over what kind of tax cuts go into this jobs bill debate the president started tonight.
BLITZER: It's interesting. When we were at the White House for lunch earlier today there are high hopes that some officials over there have that maybe they can reach out to Scott Brown, like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and other moderate Republicans and bring them along on some issues.
KING: A fascinating thing to watch because Scott Brown won the remainder of Ted Kennedy's term. So in two years -- in two years, in 2012, when the President of the United States is seeking re-election Scott Brown will be on the ballot in Massachusetts trying to win a full term assuming he runs for a full term. All his aides say that is their expectation at the moment.
And so he is a Republican. He just won in Massachusetts though running as an independent. So where will he side with the Republicans, where will he try to reach out? It's a fascinating question.
BLITZER: Let's make the turn to another part of the president's speech. He was speaking about campaign fund-raising and what is going on. He referred to last week's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court basically to do away with about 100 years of some restrictions on big corporations, labor unions, special interest groups and how they can fund raise for candidates.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's time to put strict limits on the contributions the lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the flood gates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You are watching the justices of the Supreme Court, including Samuel Alito, who was one of those who supported this decision. We can sort of make out his mumbling, something along the lines, "That's not true." He was shaking his head.
But let's go back to Campbell. Campbell, it's worth dissecting that in and of itself.
BROWN: Well, absolutely, Wolf. You almost never see reaction from members of the Supreme Court or members of the military who are sitting there on the front row.
Was that appropriate, Alex Castellanos, to have that kind of reaction from Alito when he said that?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, just think if George Bush had basically attacked a Supreme Court ruling, the Supreme Court in that same room, what would have happened? Well, I think the left would have gone nuts; the newspapers would have destroyed him for doing so.
BEGALA: Answer the question.
CASTELLANOS: In all due respect, the separation of powers and then he tramples right over it, it wasn't Alito's fault for reacting to it. Obama shouldn't have done what he did. BEGALA: Answer the question.
BROWN: All right. Go ahead.
BEGALA: Bush wasn't going to attack the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court made him president after he got through reversing Al Gore. That's not going to happen, dude.
CARVILLE: In my entire life -- and I have nothing but respect for Alex -- I have never heard anything like you can't attack a Supreme Court decision. That is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. Of course you can attack a Supreme Court decision. I have never heard of that.
CASTELLANOS: So tell me James -- so James agreed with him. If George Bush had said that no one would have touched him, he would have glossed right over?
BROWN: Ok. Ok. Ok.
CARVILLE: The idea that you shouldn't attack a Supreme Court decision, Alex, is just patently ludicrous on its face. People attack Supreme Court decisions all the time.
CASTELLANOS: Answer the question.
CARVILLE: A Supreme Court opinion is not -- the ten commandments. It's just an opinion of the Supreme Court.
BROWN: Mary, Mary, Mary, I want your take.
MATALIN: Wow, he has really changed the tone? Haven't we all changed the tone? Aren't we all Rodney King? He is going to meet with Republicans once a month, 12 times a year. That's the new spirit of bipartisanship. We are going to dis the Supreme Court. We are changing the tone.
BEGALA: You know, if Sam Alito were running for office tomorrow, he would have $1 million on his Web site.
BROWN: This is depressing. This is depressing. Come on, let me -- ok, hold on, hold on.
Go ahead, Roland.
CASTELLANOS: Alito was right. MARTIN: It's very simple, Alex, yes or no, should he have responded that way? Don't give it a George W. Bush stuff.
BROWN: Alex clearly thinks yes.
MARTIN: You know what -- guess what. When you make a decision in your lifetime appointment you can get criticized. But the bottom line is if it's a part of their deal where you don't respond, then you don't respond. It is simple as that.
BROWN: Go ahead.
ERICKSON: Defending, I mean, if you use the president's logic that he used in his argument tonight, I guess he is also saying that Roe versus Wade should be overturned. Throwing out 100 years of precedent set by legislatures. That is the exact same logic. It's a very circular argument he didn't need to raise.
CARVILLE: No Republican president has ever attacked Roe V. Wade? The idea that a president can't attack a Supreme Court decision -- I'm sorry. This -- somebody has got to point this out.
This is ludicrous for us to sit here and say that a president or anybody shouldn't attack a Supreme Court decision. It is ludicrous on its face.
ERICKSON: I don't think anybody is saying that though.
CARVILLE: He's saying he shouldn't attack the decision.
ERICKSON: He's just saying that in the decorum of the State of the Union address.
CASTELLANOS: The president -- excuse me a second -- for a president to undermine the Supreme Court sitting in front of him at a function like this, this is not just a comment in a newspaper article.
MARTIN: How does he undermine the Supreme Court when the president said pass a bill...
BROWN: All right. Ok. David Gergen, you get the last word on this.
I definitely don't think this was right but all for any -- we were having that conversation earlier.
David, go ahead.
GERGEN: I don't want to talk about this.
BROWN: All right. He is pouting. CROWLEY: Every household in America is going to be talking about this over their Cheerios.
BROWN: Let me get beyond this, because it's about the broader issue, which is the point that Mary made, I think. Is it lip service to this idea of bipartisanship, this monthly meeting he is going to have? Is it complete and total lip service? Or is anything actually going to come of that?
Are Republicans going to engage Alex? I think that's a fair point or are they in the same boat, essentially?
GERGEN: Alex, I think you have to give credit to the president on a few things on the bipartisanship tonight. He brought up nuclear power. That was completely gratuitous (ph), unexpected, I think if Bill Bennett had been here he would have said, "I'm surprised." I talked to Bill before he left.
I think he also brought in -- saying he support that. He also brought up offshore drilling. That was something you could -- there are areas here, education, Afghanistan, tax cuts, on some areas of energy where they could cooperate. And yes monthly meetings are a good idea.
They used to do that by the way. This is not, like, revolutionary. It used to be sort of a standard way of politics; Paul Begala is nodding his head. That's the way we sort of think. Of course you brought down the leadership from the other party.
I will say that there are other things that Republicans will disagree with and that one of the things that didn't come out in the speech tonight, the tax increases that are embedded in this speech. I think we are going to see tax increases somewhere in the neighborhood of $900 billion to $1 trillion in this new budget over the course of a decade by, you know, letting the Bush tax cuts go out -- be reversed on upper income, investors and others. And I think that's is going to be a source of controversy before this is over.
There are some things that didn't completely come out in the speech, but give the president credit for some of his attitude.
BROWN: All right. Let me throw it back to Wolf Blitzer who's here with John right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Lively discussion Campbell. Larry King is coming up with a live program right at the top of the hour. Let's check in with Larry. I know you got some good guests, Larry.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": We do Wolf, including you. Wolf will kick off things with John King and Candy Crowley offering their opinions with an outstanding panel and a special appearance by Senator John McCain. You may have heard of him.
The speech focused mostly on the economy and jobs, we will try to get analysis of how did he do? Well, we have the man who ran against him giving his analysis as well as we said Senator McCain.
A panel of experts will be aboard as well. All of it coming for a full hour at the top of the hour, a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm especially anxious to hear what John McCain has to say. He has got his own potential Republican challenger in the state of Arizona. He is up for re-election this year.
That will be a good interview, Larry. Thanks very much.
We will be there at the top of the hour with Larry, a live "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up.
We will continue our coverage right after this.
BROWN: Welcome back, everybody. Campbell Brown along with Wolf Blitzer. Our final few minutes of analysis from our panel before we hand it off to Larry King. I wanted to ask a couple of points that we haven't got to yet. One being "don't ask, don't tell", which David Gergen they had warned us today or had said today this is going to be a big part of the speech. It was one sentence, which surprised a lot of people.
But it was certainly something that many liberals in the Democratic Party wanted to hear. Was this again lip service given at kind of...
GERGEN: James and Paul might correct me on this, but I think when President Clinton took on the gays issue it was like one sentence in response to a press conference and it set off a firestorm. I may be wrong about that. But I do think it was a very brief answer.
BLITZER: Little Rock during the transition after he was elected, before he became president. It was on Veterans Day. I happen to have been there -- I cannot forget. And I just -- I was the Pentagon correspondent. Now I was going to be the White House correspondent. We wanted to ask the president-elect, you said during the campaign that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Are you going to live by it? He said, yes. That caused a huge firestorm.
Then months, months later he worked out this compromise with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Colin Powell, "don't ask, don't tell".
GERGEN: I'm biased on this. I think it should be repealed. Having said that, you have got to lay the foundation for this very carefully; you have to make sure the military's on board. The Marine Corps is not -- I don't think is on board on this. The Army I think would go along. You have to get the generals along. You have to make sure the public is prepared. And you can get it done.
It's an important thing to do, but I'm not sure the president prepared the groundwork for it.
CROWLEY: But politically -- politically, this is a no-brainer for the president. This is an important base for the Democratic Party. They have been complaining that he hasn't done anything for them.
BROWN: If it's a no-brainer, why did it take so long?
CROWLEY: He campaigned on wanting to repeal -- he hasn't passed it. He campaigned on it. The fact of the matter is that the Democrats still aren't going to go to the polls saying we couldn't do health care and we couldn't actually -- the jobless rate is still 9.5, but we repealed "don't ask, don't tell". It's not going to happen.
GERGEN: He didn't do it because but we had two wars. That's why.
MARTIN: We had 18 years between Bill Clinton and this president on this whole issue. You see more polling down that has actually changed. You see more folks who are in the military saying, "Wait a minute, they're serving their country." So the groundwork has been laid frankly by time, not necessarily what he is going to do.
AVALON: Our country has evolved enormously since we first debated this issue under Bill Clinton and that's important. But look, this was a gutsy decision. He didn't have to do it. That's why we were all taken surprised by it. He is grasping a social conservative third rail, that's got to be divisive. That's going to be debated.
A lot of people are going to say, "What does this have to do with getting me a job?
But I think it was a courageous decision. It's going to be controversial. It's not over but we've seen people like Colin Powell move from opposition to support. I think that's indicative of a general shift. This is not the last we've heard of this. That may have been one line of speech but it's going to occupy a lot of the limelight.
BLITZER: Let me read precisely what the president said. It was one line but a significant one. He said, "This year I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans their right to serve the country they love because of who they are."
Now, you saw members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sitting there. They don't stand up. They don't applaud because they're military professionals. But you did see the Defense Secretary Robert Gates applaud.
BROWN: He was.
BLITZER: And that was significant.
BORGER: And that's important political cover for this president also because ...
BROWN: Having a Republican defense secretary when you take this on. BORGER: And Gates is well respected by everybody in the constituency he needs. And so if anybody's going to make the case to anybody who might be a little recalcitrant about it, it's going to be -- to the Marine Corps --
J. KING: But he wants time because of the Afghan buildup, the Iraq drawdown, all the other controversy about replacing all the damaged equipment, the stress on the force, he just wants time. He's willing to help the president on this one he just doesn't want to be told do it tomorrow.
BLITZER: If Larry King asks John McCain about it, McCain will say, you know what? Maybe down the road, but this is not the time in the middle of two wars to do something like that.
ERICKSON: I think there's a problem with them raising this now. Not that it's in the State of the Union speech and full disclosure, I'm totally indifferent on this particular issue. I could care less on it.
But I think there's an issue with him raising it in the State of the Union that plays to a larger issue that is growing and is a problem for him in that conservatives have always thought he had a different world view from them. The mom and apple pie world view. And I think there's a growing body of independents who are doing that as well thinking that which is going to be a problem for him.
BLITZER: All right guys. Hold on for one moment. We're going to take a quick break. We'll resume our conversation right after this.
BLITZER: The president takes his case tomorrow, Campbell, to Florida. He's going to be spending a lot of time outside of Washington, we're told, over the next year. He likes Washington, but you know what? He feels it's very stifling.
BROWN: And conveying this sort of shift in priorities; it's going to be about jobs and the economy now. The health care debate, at least for now taking a back seat as he goes out and tries to reconnect with people over these issues about the economy.
BLITZER: We'll have extensive coverage. The president feels he gets a new energy when he meets with real people outside of Washington. We'll see how that goes tomorrow.
Our coverage will, of course, continue. I'm Wolf Blitzer here at the CNN Center. Campbell Brown thanks very much. The best political team on television.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.