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JOHN KING, USA

North Korea's Missile Test; George Zimmerman in Court; Interview With David Axelrod

Aired April 12, 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, everyone. I'm John King.

Two major breaking news stories we're tracking this hour.

Just released court documents reveal new details about the night Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed and they also tell us why authorities decided not to go with a manslaughter, but instead to charge George Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

The launch window now open and the world is watching. North Korea says it is about to launch a harmless satellite. But critics see a destabilizing ballistic missile test in the works.

We begin tonight with high anxiety over North Korea's threat to launch a satellite, a launch Pentagon officials suspect is meant to test a ballistic missile capable of carrying a warhead, perhaps a nuclear warhead and capable of sitting the U.S. mainland.

Right now, just past 7:00 Friday morning on the Korean Peninsula, and the weather is such that officials believe the launch could come at any time. Let's take a closer look at what officials are worried about.

Zoom in here, you see this is North Korea here, the demilitarized zone. I want to show you some new satellite images and this one just from April 9, a couple of days ago. A clear image of the launchpad. The rocket is right here. You see some of the preparations, rail mounting right here. That's how they brought the rocket out. The exhaust deflector is right here.

These are the key fueling installations. This is very important. If you look up here you see support vehicles way up here on the distant edge. Now, let's look at a more recent satellite image and this one released just today. It's a bit grainy because of cloud cover. But if you notice here, and I will try to highlight it, you can see support vehicles much closer to the launchpad down here. Not much activity over here by the fueling tanks.

But the analysts that have looked at this seeing the support vehicles down here have made the conclusion they believe based on this activity the launch would happen from one to three days from when these images were taken.

What exactly are we worried about in this area here? The big worry is because of the reliability of the Korean missile technology. They have had problems in the past. You see the drop zone. When the missile launches, the first stage is supposed to drop in the waters here. A lot of fear in South Korea and in Japan where anti-missile systems are on alert that there could be a problem and the missile could actually fall this way. The second stage again supposed to drop harmlessly in waters down here in the Philippines and as far south as Indonesia, they're on alert in case there are problems with this missile site.

What exactly are we talking about? This is a Taepodong-2/Unha-3 the North Koreans now call it. If you look at this rocket, three stages, one, two, and three. You see this stage here. You can see the sizes of the engineering working on it. It gives you a sense of the size of the rocket and this is what we're looking at, 98-feet tall. Range of over 4,100 miles.

That means it could reach Alaska, not quite to Hawaii. The fuel, liquid in the first two stages. U.S. officials aren't quite sure the fuel in the third stage. That has been the problem for North Korea. The technology, unreliable, the Pentagon would say, because it is based on 1960s Soviet technology.

Just want to quickly give a bit of a comparison here. Make the other stats go away first to give you a bit of a comparison of what happened. The Koreans had a launch three years ago, first stage worked, second stage worked. The third stage was the problem. If you look, the rockets are remarkably similar. The question is, what improvements have they made, if any, in the third stage? That's what officials are worried about. As we said, this launch could come at any moment. We will follow the developments all night long, CNN's global resources ready to turn on this story.

But for now, let's turn back to the United States and the Trayvon Martin case. Prosecutors say the suspect, George Zimmerman, profiled the teen before the shooting and before killing him. The charging affidavit has just been released. It goes on to talk about a 911 call he made on the February night.

During the reported call, Zimmerman made reference to people he felt had committed and gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood. Later while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated, these expletives, they always get away and also said these expletive punks.

David Mattingly live in Sanford, Florida, for us, David, what else can you tell us, what new details in this affidavit?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This affidavit is clearly taking us into the thinking of the prosecution here.

That paragraph you just read from this affidavit shows that they are getting at the intent, the possibility that Zimmerman had malicious thoughts as he was going after Trayvon Martin that night.

Also in that affidavit, we were seeing that the prosecution believes that it was Zimmerman who initiated the confrontation with Trayvon Martin. We know Zimmerman has told friends and others that he was on his way back to his vehicle when he was attacked by Trayvon Martin.

There is no indication of that in this affidavit. This is just first step in which the prosecution is giving us an idea of how they intend to take this case to a jury.

KING: George Zimmerman had his first court appearance today. He is behind bars again tonight. What do we know about his first night in jail?

MATTINGLY: His first night in jail will be like his second, third, fourth, however many nights he's in there. He is in protective custody, he is not in general population, and we saw that he went to the store there and was able to purchase some snacks. He purchased a deck of cards and some other things apparently settling in, at least for a few days ahead.

We know his attorney will be seeking a bond hearing, trying to get bond to get him out of jail at some point. But that hearing has not been set. Indefinitely, at least, George Zimmerman will be in jail until that bond hearing is held. We do know that the next firm date he has in court is in late May. But, until then, we are just waiting to see when that bond hearing will be held.

KING: David Mattingly live for us on the scene in Sanford, Florida, David, thank you.

Let's dig deeper on these new court documents and the new developments in the case with two CNN legal analysts, Sunny Hostin, a former federal prosecutor, and Mark NeJame, a Florida criminal defense attorney.

Mark, I want to start with you, given your knowledge of the state court system. The prosecutor could have had a manslaughter charge. She decided to go with second-degree murder. As you look at this affidavit, does she have based on this early, early affidavit, did she lay out a strong case?

MARK NEJAME, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, not for second-degree murder.

It is bare-bones. She put in -- the state put in the bare minimum to barely, in my opinion, eke over the line to take it to second-degree murder. Second-degree murder has to show a depraved mind. You don't -- you barely see that. You can see how they cautiously drafted that. They put in the bare minimum in order to establish what they needed.

It doesn't state anything significant that hasn't somewhat come out already. But it does show the indication of where they are going. I would also point out just for the viewers that the expletives that were deleted and have been censored when it was read were not racial epithets. They were vulgarities, but they were not racial. There was none of that in this affidavit at all.

KING: Sunny, if you do read the affidavit, the prosecution is clearly trying to say the 911 operator first said we don't need you to do that, meaning keep following Trayvon. At another point, apparently told him, just wait, the police will be there.

Then the part Mark was just talking about, important point to make, no racial language used, but he does talk about these expletives, they always get away and these expletive punks, trying to show a state of mind he was so frustrated with past troubles in his neighborhood he was determined this time to do something about it.

Do you agree with Mark it is a bare-bones and even a weak submission?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it's a weak submission. I think don't agree with that.

Certainly it's bare-bones. And that is what affidavits usually are. At the very bottom of an affidavit it usually says these are not all of the facts but some of the facts. Let's remember a judge quite readily found probable cause based on this affidavit.

I certainly think it lays out the elements for second-degree murder. Let me also say this. I think what was so interesting in the affidavit is that it is clear that the prosecutor painted a picture of a pursuer, of a first aggressor.

In that affidavit, it is outlined that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin, followed him, disregarded a police dispatch, and then confronted Trayvon, a struggle ensued. And it also indicates that Trayvon Martin's mother identified her son's voice as the voice on the 911 call that we have all heard yelling for help.

So when you look at all of that, I think part of this affidavit is the prosecution outlining that they don't believe that stand your ground law applies, outlining George Zimmerman as the first aggressor and making it very clear they do not believe it was a justifiable homicide.

BLITZER: We have not heard -- George Zimmerman nodded a few times, said just a few short words in the court appearance today. We have not heard from him.

Let's listen here, Mark, to Mark O'Mara, who you know quite well. He's his new criminal defense attorney describing the state of mind of his client.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: What he is facing is second-degree murder charges now. He is frightened. That would frighten any one of us. But, on the other hand, I am not concerned as some others may have been before me of his focus. He wants -- he is glad the process is in place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He says he is glad the process is in place. He also says that by next week, he hopes to get a bond hearing. What are the odds that George Zimmerman will be released? NEJAME: I think they should be good. It is very significant. The two key parts that the state would look at -- or the court would look at is does he provide a risk of flight and is he in danger in the community?

Well, I believe that terms and conditions can be crafted that he would be in home confinement or otherwise. The danger issue is not likely going to be there. There will be no firearms or otherwise permitted. We know he did a voluntary surrender when he didn't even have to be in the country. But he actually made plans to get here as soon as it was announced.

I think that is clearly going to be something that Mark O'Mara argues. The bond is going to be set at a time that is available on the judge's docket. The first available time that is within a reasonable time that gives him time to prepare a bond motion is when we can expect to have that here.

KING: Sunny, I want to ask you from a legal perspective is there any significance to this? This is Trayvon Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, on "The Today Show" this morning and she said something that shocked a lot of people. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: I believe it was an accident. I believe that it just got out of control and he couldn't turn the clock back. I would ask him, did he know that that was a minor, that that was a teenager and that he did not have a weapon?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You could see the family's attorney was quite stunned when she used the term accident. She later issued a statement clarifying what she meant, and she meant that their encounter was an accident, not the shooting, which she says she believes was deliberate.

Any legal significance to that?

HOSTIN: No. No.

I just spoke with Sybrina today. It's very clear she is a grieving mother, she's not a lawyer. She certainly isn't at this point. She wasn't a witness to what happened on February 26. So she is speaking as a grieving mother. She did issue that clarification, that she was sort of piggybacking off of what Tracy Martin said that had George Zimmerman not gotten out of the car, this would never have happened.

She feels it was an accidental meeting between the two. I don't think there is any legal significance, other than the fact that I think many people are watching the reactions of this family and that by all accounts, Sybrina Fulton has comported herself with such grace and dignity. I think that has really come across.

KING: Sunny Hostin, Mark NeJame, appreciate your help tonight on this major developing story. We will keep in touch.

Also, a big political story to tell you about tonight. CNN contributor and veteran Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen apologizes to Ann Romney after these comments started a war of words over working women.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.

She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we worry -- and why we worry about their future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Those comments last night on CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360" provoked a firestorm of angry tweets from Republicans and this response from Ann Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: Look, I know what it is like to struggle. And if maybe I haven't struggled as much financially as some people have, I can tell you and promise you that I have had struggles in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Rosen's comment also provoked an immediate decision by team Obama to denounce a longtime friend and ally.

This afternoon on CNN's "THE SITUATION ROOM" Rosen apologized.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSEN: Mitt Romney should not be on the campaign trail saying to women, my wife tells me how it is for women out there, because people of wealth sometimes take for granted some of the niceties that they have in life. And the Romneys are people of wealth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Obama himself weighed this afternoon during an interview with a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TV station KCRG, quote from the president, "I don't have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates."

Much more ahead on this developing political controversy. In just a bit, we will ask the Obama campaign senior strategist, David Axelrod, about the decision in effect to throw Hilary Rosen under the bus.

Next tonight's other breaking news, North Korea's preparations to test a rocket that may be capable of reaching the United States. You're looking now at live pictures from a Japanese defense site where they are ready to shoot the rocket down. We will check in with our correspondents in Japan and at the Pentagon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back now to today's other major breaking news story. At the top of this hour, the window opened for North Korea's long-range rocket launch. Japanese missile batteries on alert and prepared to shoot it down if the rocket strays and threatens Japanese territory.

CNN's Kyung Lah joins us now from one of those defense sites.

Kyung, tell us about those Patriot missile batteries behind you and how worried are the Japanese authorities that it could go astray?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me tell you first about the missile batteries.

What you are looking at over my right shoulder, this is downtown Tokyo first of all just for a little context. This is a residential area. Just behind those missiles are apartments. And those missile batteries, two of them, they are armed and they're pointed at the sky and ready to go in the unlikely event that parts of the North Korean rocket begin to fall on Japanese territory. That is a concern.

How likely that is a concern or whether or not this will actually take place, that they will have to shoot it down, a lot of military experts say it is probably unlikely. The trajectory is expected to go over Southern Japan. But there are also Patriot missile batteries on the southern islands of Okinawa, and that is also Japanese territory. There are also three warships that have been deployed in waters around Japan.

Those are loaded with interceptor missiles. What Japan is trying to do is to show a series of moves that show military might. What they want to try to do is to meet North Korea's huffing and puffing with huffing and puffing of their own and say if this country is threatened, they will shoot down parts of that rocket -- John.

KING: We will stay in touch with Kyung Lah. She is in Tokyo tonight, among our resources in the region as we wait to see if this launch takes place.

North Korea could launch at any minute despite repeated objections from the international community to stand down. Today, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, joined the chorus of threats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There is no doubt that this satellite would be launched using ballistic missile technology. If Pyongyang goes forward, we will all be back in the Security Council to take further action.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Why won't North Korea listen to these entreaties from the rest of the world?

Let's have a conversation now. Joining me from Denver is former Ambassador Christopher Hill, who led the six-party talks on North Korea back in 2005, one of the few American diplomats who knows the North Koreans so well.

Ambassador Hill, you have a new leader in North Korea, a young untested leader in Kim Jong-un. What are we about to learn about him?

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: I think he just flunked the test.

Six weeks ago, they had an agreement. And within two weeks, they had broken their own agreement. This strikes me as the fact that they simply didn't simply have their act together. Other times, they have broken agreements. But it is usually after some long pause in the negotiating process and in a very sort of negative context.

But things were kind of moving forward and they broke it anyway. I think they really don't have their act together and I think there are some real disagreements within North Korea.

KING: That was my follow-up question. Is it they just don't have their act together and it's Keystone Cops or is it they don't have their act together because of a significant power struggle?

HILL: Well, you can never rule out the Keystone Cop aspect of it, to be sure.

But you have a young, as you said, untested leader. He is being helped by his aunt and uncle rather pathetically. His uncle has gotten himself into a lot of trouble in the past. As you know, he's been in internal exile at various times. I think there is a bit of a power structure. And you have a military there that just doesn't like to listen to anybody.

KING: But we know they have nuclear weapons and they are about to test a rocket that if successful, and they have problems in the past, but if successful, if they figure it out, could reach Alaska and then one would assume they would try to improve their technology beyond. What can the world do if they won't listen?

HILL: Well, first of all, I'm not too worried about Alaska.

The real concern is, as you point out, they will start improving that technology. This missile program is part and parcel of the nuclear program. So I think we need to first of all redouble our efforts to prevent the technology from getting there.

And, unfortunately, there clearly are some holes in that effort. Secondly, I think we do need to go back to the Security Council, as Secretary Clinton indicated. But the problem is, we are kind of running out of sanctions. We have done a lot of things against them. And it is clearly not sufficient. I really think we need to get the Chinese far more engaged. China, like a number of countries, is kind of preoccupied by its internal problems. But, in this case, I think they really are going to have to step it up a little. This is a real problem.

KING: Former Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador Chris Hill.

Ambassador, we will keep in touch as we watch to see and we await this launch. Thanks for your help and your insights.

A bit later tonight, we are joined by team Obama's senior political strategist, David Axelrod, a lot to talk about, including the campaign's immediate decision to denounce their longtime friend and ally Hilary Rosen.

Plus, the race to find the source of a new and a big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: Team Obama spent today playing defense.

Next, we will ask the president's top political strategist, David Axelrod, how much damage has been done by a Democratic activist's harsh words about Mitt Romney's wife.

And our political panel debates why people view this dust-up over working women and political loyalty very differently.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Ahead this half hour, new worries about the economy as jobless numbers jump. It's fodder for Republicans as the election now just seven months away. Is the White House sweating? We'll ask the president's top strategist, David Axelrod.

And a fiery political debate erupts when a Democratic strategist says stay-at-home mom Ann Romney never worked a day in her life. Hilary Rosen later apologized. Even so, she thinks the White House was quick to turn its back on a longtime ally.

Plus, it's Michelle Obama versus Stephen Colbert in a battle of quick wits. What the first lady has to say about her husband's campaign and Colbert's hairline.

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen created quite a firestorm when she said last night that Mitt Romney's wife hadn't, quote, "worked a day in her life."

The comment was quickly condemned by the Obama campaign's senior advisers, Vice President Biden, and first lady Michelle Obama. And just a short time ago, even the president weighed in, telling a local TV station in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, quote, "I haven't met Mrs. Romney. But she seems like a very nice woman who is supportive of her family and supportive of her husband. I don't know if she necessarily volunteered for this job. So, you know, we don't need to be directing comments at them."

Why this firestorm and where is it heading? Let's have a conversation. Joining me from Chicago now is David Axelrod. He's the senior strategist in the Obama re-election campaign.

David, I want to play first what started all this. Hilary Rosen, someone you know quite well, was on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" last night, talking about what some call the war on women and Mrs. Romney's role as a prominent surrogate husband when she said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, "Well, you know, my wife tells me what women really care about are economic issues and, when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing."

Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids? How do we send them to school? And how do we -- why do we worry about their future?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Jim Messina, the campaign manager, took issue on Twitter almost immediately. You took issue on Twitter almost immediately. The first lady sends out a tweet critical of this. The vice president says absolutely it was wrong. Now the president himself answering questions about it. Why is this such a big deal?

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA ADVISOR: I don't know in the long term whether it will be a big deal. Obviously, it was an unfortunate comment. It was unfortunate for two reasons.

One is I really believe that, in the battles of politics, that families -- families are civilians and should be treated as such. They shouldn't be pulled into the debate in that kind of way as targets. And so it was unfortunate from that respect.

The other thing was it did feel like a denigration of stay-at- home moms. And there are, you know -- there are a lot of moms who are working who would like to be staying home. There are moms who choose to be working. But certainly, to suggest that you're not working if you're staying at home, raising a family, often active in schools, often in the community and causes, you know, that's not -- that's not right.

My own wife was a stay-at-home mom and worked harder than anybody I know. And often, the moms are the ones who are handling the family finances, as well.

So it was an unfortunate comment. Hilary has acknowledged that. I think, John, it's also true that the Romney campaign jumped on it like a raft out in the deep blue sea. Because they were drowning under the weight of their own problems.

Earlier in the day, they couldn't come up with an answer as to whether Governor Romney supported the pay equity law, the first law the president signed. They endorsed -- he endorsed and warmly spoke of Governor Walker in Wisconsin, who just repealed the pay equity law there. I think that actually has more durable meaning to the women of this country than this contretemps.

KING: I think there's no question, the substance, anyway, of the debate about the economy and the role of women in the economy is more important than this contretemps.

But you say the Romney campaign jumped on it. That's true. They saw an opening, and they seized it. That's what you do in politics. That's what a smart guy like David Axelrod would tell his client to do.

But you guys seized on it, too. And there are some people saying, you know, "Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute, the vice president has said some things in the past that he's had to take back."

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is among those who criticized her friend, Hilary Rosen; has said some things that have made the White House cringe in the past. She's your Democratic National Committee chairwoman. Why so fast to trash -- forgive me, my word, not yours -- somebody who is a trusted ally of this White House, who has been out there defending the president quite a bit?

AXELROD: I think that we have an obligation in politics and public life, when someone, even friends, say things that are inappropriate to say so. In fact, in certain ways, when your friends say it, there s more of an obligation to do so. And, you know, I think that's true on both sides.

I've been disappointed on the other side of the aisle just recently when governor Romney and others were not willing to stand up and denounce speech that they felt was -- that most people would call inappropriate.

So I thought we had an obligation to speak and speak very, very quickly to make clear that this didn't reflect our point of view and that we thought Hilary didn't -- should apologize. She did do that.

The other thing, John, that we should clear up is she actually is your employee, not ours. She's a -- she works for CNN, I think. CNN would not allow her to be an operative for our campaign or the DNC. She's not. She never has been.

She's certainly a supporter of the president. But she -- the Romney campaign has throughout the day portrayed her as an adviser to the president. And that's simply not true.

KING: She has been an adviser. I was about to move on. But since you bring that up, she has been an adviser, though, to Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She has visited the White House on numerous occasions. She was very close with your former communications director, Anita Dunn, who she now works with in the private sector. And she's among the Democrats who consults. Yes, she's a paid employee of CNN, a contributor. Yes, you're right. But she's among the Democrats who consulted with the White House.

AXELROD: No doubt. She's been part of -- she's been part of the political community in Washington for a long time. I'm sure she's visited the White House frequently under other presidents. You know, John Boehner visits the White House all the time, too. He's not an Obama adviser.

KING: That's where -- that's where a lot of your friends are getting -- cringing, though, David. Because Hilary Rosen is not John Boehner. She has a lot of friends in the Obama White House. This is the part...

AXELROD: She is my friend. Look, I -- I said several minutes ago that we have an obligation to speak out, not just when people say things we think are inappropriate who are on the other side of the aisle. But when people who are on our side of the aisle, our friends, speak out.

And Hilary herself has acknowledged that her word -- that she misspoke and she said -- said something that she regretted saying in the way that she said it. And I accept -- I accept that.

KING: Let's move on to the economy. As you know, the president has been hoping, and the president has been telling the American people he thinks things are finally starting to get better. You have a couple of encouraging months. Then you get last month's job report: only 120,000 jobs created. Just today, the government tells us new unemployment claims jumped way up to 380,000 last week.

And then you look. I want to show you some ABC/"Washington Post" poll numbers. Warning signs, I will say.

"Who do you trust to better handle the economy?" Even though Mitt Romney is down double digits on "Who would you pick for president?", look at that. A statistical tie, but he's slightly ahead of the president on who would you trust to handle the economy?

Now, look at these warning signs for your candidate, David. Fifty-four percent disapprove of the president's handling of the economy. Sixty-two percent disapprove of his handling of gas prices, and 64 percent think the country is headed on the wrong track.

You know how these campaigns work. There's a psychology to the economy. George H.W. Bush learned it in 1992, when the statistics were starting to get better. People just didn't believe it. How long do you have to turn around especially that last number? Sixty-four percent think the country is on the wrong track.

AXELROD: Yes, well, first of all, let me say that we've said throughout that this was -- this is going to be a long, hard slog back. We've had 25 months of positive private sector job growth. It's gone up and down but moving in that direction. And we need to add to that and we need to add momentum to it. But we've always said that it was not going to be a straight line.

But you use an example of Bush in '92. You know, the biggest gap in that "Washington Post" poll, John -- I know you study these things closely -- was in who identifies with your problems, who understands what's going on in your life? And there was a 30-point gap between the president and Governor Romney on this.

And there's a reason for that. Because Governor Romney is out of touch with the concerns and the economic anxiety of the American people. And when you look at his prescriptions, he simply wants to go back to the same thing that got us into this mess in the first place: big tax cuts for the wealthy. Cut Wall Street loose to write its own rules.

The president is fighting for not just to get people back to work but to make sure that work pays, to make sure that the middle class is growing again, to make sure that if you work hard, you can get ahead. That if you act responsibly, that you'll be rewarded. And that everybody from Main Street to Wall Street plays by the same rules.

That's how we're going to get this economy moving: education, research and development, getting control of our energy future with a 21st century energy plan. That's how we're going to get this economy moving in the long run and create a larger and thriving middle class. And that's a big difference between us and Governor Romney.

KING: Let me close on a more playful note. When team Obama led by David Axelrod goes into the strategy room, the war room, and they're looking at the electoral map, and they're thinking who is Mitt Romney going to pick as his running mate, who do you think on this day is at the top of the list?

AXELROD: Gee, I don't know. I think there are a lot of theories about that. I'm sure they're more active in their war room thinking about that than we are in our war room.

But you know, you've heard the theory that maybe he can pick someone who will help him address his very serious trouble with Hispanic voters. Maybe he can pick someone who will help him win a state. Maybe he can pick someone who will help him address his problem with women.

I think ultimately, you know, the reality of vice-presidential picks is they rarely help you, but they can hurt you. And you ought to pick the person who you think could be a plausible president, the best possible replacement for you, and someone who can handle the -- this whole part of the process. And -- and that's not easy.

So, you know, my guess is he'll make a more conservative choice, maybe not politically. I don't know -- I don't know about that. But a more conservative choice in terms of the array of people he's considering.

KING: Free advice for Governor Romney from David Axelrod tonight. I'm not sure he'll take it, David. But appreciate your time. We'll keep in touch.

AXELROD: No problem. Good to see you, John. Thank you.

KING: Good to see you, too. Take care. Thank you.

Coming up, more on the political outcry over Hilary Rosen's comments. We talk "Truth" just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight's "Truth" involves an outspoken protagonist, a high-profile target, an apology, and a stunning but not all that surprising betrayal. Our CNN political contributor, Hilary Rosen, is the instigator; Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, her focus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSEN: His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and how do we worry -- why do we worry about their future?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: No surprise, Ann Romney takes offense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: Look, I know what it's like to struggle. And if maybe I haven't struggled as much financially as some people have, I can tell you and promise you, that I've had struggles in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What is surprising, at first glance anyway, is how quickly team Obama threw a long-time friend and ally under the bus. From @MichelleObama, "Every mother works hard and every woman deserves to be respected." And from top Obama strategist David Axelrod -- we just talked to him -- he tweeted this, "Also disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive."

Here's my personal favorite. Secret Service logs -- I have them right here -- White House visitor record request. They show 35 White House visits by Hilary Rosen. Surely, the press secretary would acknowledge she's been a trusted longtime friend and adviser.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know that Hilary Rosen. I know three personally women named Hilary Rosen. So I'm not sure that that does represent the person we're talking about, necessarily. So I really can't comment on the number of visits. I'm not sure that's accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Forgotten, I guess, is her help when the gay rights community early on felt the president was dragging his feet on "don't ask, don't tell" and several other issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSEN: This is a heavy load. And already, in the first nine months, we have seen progress on several of those things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Forgotten too, it seems, Hilary's help when liberals were furious that President Obama had agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSEN: We really do see that this is the best way to get middle- class tax cuts extended, the best way to get unemployment benefits extended. And so, you know, overall, I think we're going to see a lot of Democrats coming to the table here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Or more recently as the president takes a pounding for high gas prices.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSEN: The president can't control the price at the pump. What President Obama has done is he's said we're going to depend less on the pump. So he doubled the fuel efficiency standards for cars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, I'm not defending what Hilary Rosen said about Ann Romney. Rosen herself has apologized, saying that she could have and should have chosen her words more carefully. In a statement today, Hilary Rosen suggests, let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.

In the debate to come, you will see how people view this stuff very differently and why. As we explore that truth, phony or not, the first casualty of this war, is the friendship between Hilary Rosen and team Obama.

Let's talk truth tonight here, talk to three women, three working moms who work hard inside and outside the home. Author of "The Richer Sex," Liza Mundy; president of Concerned Women for America, Penny Nance; and Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona.

Liza, I want to start with you before the political people get into the sparring mode here. What is this really about? It's a war of words between two people involved in politics, but it's more than that. LIZA MUNDY, AUTHOR, "THE RICHER SEX": Right. I mean, the narrative of women and selection keeps bringing up things that we thought we had resolved. Who would have thought that contraception was going to rear its head again and become a topic of debate.

And similarly, the mommy wars is, I think, something that we all thought that we had put behind us and -- and presumably, the narrative has to do with the fight for women's votes. And -- and this tug of war every day. You know, is it jobs? Is it reproductive issues? Is it the economy?

And also, sort of can you invoke your spouse to argue that you understand women's issues? And I would argue that both candidates, actually, are doing that. I mean, the president has also described himself as a father and a husband and, therefore, he understands women issues. And that seems to have not been resolved either, the position of the spouse and how much of sort of a bona fide, the fact that you're married to a woman is when you're arguing that you understand women's issues. And you mentioned it could be about both.

So let's look at the gender gap. And it's huge right now. This is the ABC News/"Washington Post" poll. Choice among women for president, President Obama, 57 percent; Governor Romney, 38 percent.

So Penny, Ann Romney is the top surrogate of the campaign. Meet with the Romney campaign, make no mistake. They think on some issues she's actually better for them and their candidate. So if she's going to be so public, if she's going to be so high-profile, does this come with the territory?

PENNY NANCE, PRESIDENT, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Absolutely. You know, there wasn't a problem for her, what Hilary Rosen said. You saw all the Democratic top guys for Obama backpedaling and, as you said, throwing her under the bus.

The problem was for the Obama administration. If you -- John, if you took a look at my Facebook page today, you would see very angry women over what was said. Women work very hard. I've worked at home. I've worked outside the home. And let me tell you, the hardest days of my life have been the days when I was at home with my kids. And we found what she said disrespectful and divisive. And it's par for the course of how this campaign is being run by the Obama White House.

KING: You're shaking your head. Go ahead.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, you know, Hilary did apologize. And she understands that -- yes, she did. She did and it was heartfelt. I know her, and it was heartfelt. And -- but she acknowledges that it was a poor choice of words.

If you look at my Facebook page, you see a lot of women who actually agree with what she said. And the reason is because underlying all of that, the point that Hilary was making is that you cannot as a presumed presidential nominee for a party basically say as an answer that you get -- an answer about an issue that they're asking about. You can't say, look, I wish my wife was here because she's so much better at answering these questions. You can't dodge that and then expect people to look at you and say, "Yes, this guy understand women."

No matter how articulate Ann Romney is -- she's charming; she's smart; absolutely, she's an asset, but she is not the one who is responsible for coming up with the issue platforms that are presumably going to be the ones that he's going to fight for in order to close the gender gap.

NANCE: You'd be surprised. I actually agree in part with what you're saying. I think that Mitt Romney does have to learn to give voice to women's concerns better on his own.

But she was not saying that. What she was saying is, as a stay- at-home mom, that Ann Romney had no perspective on economics. And I would argue that women in America, women who are making tough choices every day at their kitchen table about a budget, should be the ones talking to this White House, because we're $15 trillion in debt. We make tough decisions. We understand economics.

KING: Women -- women are likely to be, if history stays on track, the majority of the votes this November. Is this a silly debate for women at large who are not creatures of Washington? I say that with no offense. I'm a creature of Washington. But out in the real world?

MUNDY: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think the mommy words, I mean, as we've said. Every -- every mother, working mother or father, knows that you're working whether you're at the office or at home.

I think it's also a debate about, you know, elitism and trying to -- I mean, the Obamas have had the elitism charge made. And I think it's an attempt also to imply that -- that Ann Romney has been somehow exempt from the economic pressures that many families, mothers, fathers, working people, stay-at-home moms filling in for men out of work, that they have been through. So I think to a certain extent the elitism charge is being hurled, as well.

KING: Let me ask you in closing, as a CNN contributor, paid by this network, like Hilary Rosen, but somebody who comes out sometimes and before you go on to talk about an issue check with your friends at the White House, what is it? What's the issue her? What's the problem here? What are your talking points here?

What do you think of how they treated her? You have immediate tweets from the campaign manager, from the top strategist. The vice president talks this. The first lady tweets about it. The president was asked questions in an interview so he has to answer them. But thrown under the bus?

CARDONA: I think partly yes. But I also understand, and Hilary understands this very well, that it's all politics and that in this era of immediacy, because of Twitter, because of Facebook and everything else, the campaign saw that they had to respond to something, because they knew that the perception was going to be exactly what the perception was of Hilary. KING: Couldn't you say -- couldn't you say we know Hilary is a lot smarter than this but she misspoke. Or boy, Hilary, take that back? You're still -- the language was gone.

CARDONA: Well, right, because...

KING: Disposable.

CARDONA: Because, again, that is politics. Now, you know, I'm hoping -- I'm hoping that they're done with that, because I do think that if they continue to comment on this, they're going to be extending the story.

KING: Well, we'll see how this goes. Hopefully.

MUNDY: Please continue to comment. Please.

CARDONA: We need to focus on the substance.

KING: We need to focus on the substance. You guys want to keep talking. We're going to call a time-out tonight. I suspect we might be back again. Ladies, thanks for helping, coming in and helping me.

A criminal charge for the JetBlue pilot who melted down during that cross-country flight and what he's accused of after apparently screaming and banging on the cockpit door.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Major breaking news story. South Korea's YTN television is now reporting -- is now reporting that North Korea has launched its rocket. North Korea has launched the rocket. We told you at the top of the program the launch window was open. We're waiting for this right here, right now. North Korea has launched its rocket according to South Korea's YTN television.

My CNN international correspondent, John Vause, is standing by. Let me check in with John on the significance of this.

John, one of the things we know is that North Korea says this is a peaceful satellite. The world thinks it is a test of ballistic missile technology. The launch has gone through. What are our questions now?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the question is what happens next. And of course, the South Koreans will be watching closely whether or not this rocket separates successfully, where the debris will land. The South Koreans have said they will shoot it down.

What is different about this rocket launch compared to 2009 is it's taking a different trajectory. The previous rocket launches, the three previous ones, have gone north -- or to the east, rather, towards Japan. This one is heading due south towards the Philippines as well over South Korea. The Philippine government is very concerned, too, about where the debris will land. Will it fall in the Pacific or will it fall over the Philippine islands somewhere. So they're tracking this.

This is all going to happen over the next ten minutes, actually. If this launch goes according to plan, it should reach orbit within about ten minutes, and we should get our first independent confirmation that the satellite is actually broadcasting within about 20 minutes, and that will come from somewhere in western Australia. The next opportunity for independent confirmation will be when that satellite, if it does reach orbit, passes over South America.

But the bigger picture in all this, John, is what happens next. Because in the past, the North Koreans have followed up these kind of rocket launches with nuclear tests.

John Vause is going to stay by. As John know, we'll waiting to watch does the missile separate appropriately? Does it stay on the path of the launch that North Korea says it will stay on? That is a huge question.

I'm going to go over here to the wall just to show you one of the things we've been thinking about as we go. As John just noted, North Korea and South Korea here. This is the satellite imagery here of the launch pad. And we saw in recent days, the reason we knew this launch was imminent, all this activity. All this activity right here near the rocket site was one of the reasons we knew the launch was imminent.

Now YTN reporting the missile is in the air. And this is the question. as John noted, the trajectory is supposed to have the first stage drop off harmlessly, North Korea says, in waters here. Second stage should drop harmlessly in waters to the north of the Philippines.

But as you see from these areas here, should it go astray, should the launch go awry, should the technology fail, there are concerns it could hit South Korea or Japan if it drifted this way. There are concerns if it went majorly off course it could strike land in the Philippines. This is the major conversation as you go forward. And the question now is will it work?

And I want to show you this technology. This is what we're talking about here. Taepodong 2. We're talking about this missile. You see from the gentleman standing down here, there's a better shot here, just the size of this missile.

Again, South Korean television now reporting it is in the air, 90 feet in length. The range more than 4,100 miles. That could reach Alaska if it were aimed this way. That is the concern of the Pentagon tonight. Are they testing this new ballistic missile technology?

It is based on 1960s Soviet technology. That was one reason that people in the region, including in Japan, are worried North Korea could again have a launch that goes awry.

Kyung Lah is standing by in Japan, where they are carefully and nervously watching this. They even have military equipment deployed. As you can see over Kyung's shoulder there, Kyung Lah, obviously the concern in Japan is should it go astray, they might have to shoot it down.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. And we haven't seen any movement on the part of the military here. Those Patriot missile batteries that you see right over my shoulder, they haven't moved an inch, and we have not seen any movement here on the ground of military personnel elevating any sort of concern or escalating any sort of military readiness. We're not even seeing people run around here.

So we haven't seen any reaction on the part of the Japanese. But remember, the trajectory is not expected to be over Tokyo. Very much what you're seeing over my shoulder is just in case.

What we anticipate is that, if there is any part of the North Korean rocket that may fall into Japan's territory, it would be further south. And there are four Patriot missile batteries there on the southern islands of Okinawa, John.

KING: Kyung Lah for us, live in Tokyo, part of CNN's international coverage team around the world.

Our coverage of this news will continue on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" right now. Just quickly, a recap: South Korea and YTN television says North Korea has launched its Taepodong 3 missile. The world is now watching.

Tom Foreman takes away our coverage right now.

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