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PAULA ZAHN NOW

AWOL Soldiers Hiding in Plain Sight; Holiday Shopping Machine

Aired November 26, 2004 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening and thanks for joining us. Paula has the night off. I'm Rick Sanchez.
The holiday mood here at home stands in stark contrast to some very troubling developments in Iraq. We're going to have the very latest.

Then, American soldiers who are AWOL, running from the military and often hiding in plain sight.

Also, an entire day without shopping. You're going to meet a man whose ideas could either help you reclaim the true spirit of the holidays or help make you the black sheep of the family.

We're going to begin, though, tonight with the dangerous power struggle taking place in the Ukraine. This is where tens of thousands of protesters are still in the streets. Two candidates for president are still locked in an election stalemate and the world, divided between East and West, looks on, hoping for different outcomes. If it sounds like the remnants of a Cold War showdown to you, it does to us as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's just a lot of allegations of vote fraud that place the validity of their elections in doubt. The international community is watching very carefully. People are paying very close attention to this, and hopefully it will be resolved in a way that brings credit and confidence to the Ukrainian government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: There was some movement in Kiev today. The European Union's foreign policy minister was able to bring both sides together, where they squabbled over how to bring this thing to an end.

The latest now from Jill Dougherty, joining us from Kiev via videophone.

Jill, just how apart are they still?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: They're still apart in the sense that they both think that they legitimately should be the president of Ukraine. And that's the whole nub of the problem.

So what they're trying to do is work out some type of solution. And, Rick, at this late hour, it's looking as if maybe tomorrow we will be hearing something about rerunning these elections. But I have to tell you, right now, at this hour, 3:00 a.m. in the morning Kiev time, those demonstrators, most of them the opposition demonstrators, are still on the streets. They are still down at Independence Square, and they are still yelling for their candidate. It's been an amazing day, the very first time that the two men came together at a roundtable and, as you said, brokered by the European Union.

What they decided is, the demonstrators are going to be able to stay on the streets, but they cannot shut down government buildings. Another thing is no violence. That's a pledge from both sides, no violence and no use of force. And then the final thing is, they have put together these working groups, and the working groups have to come up with a solution, and they have to do with fast, Rick.

SANCHEZ: I'm wondering, why would Yanukovych go for any deal where there's another election or any anything, given that fact that he's got feel that he's already won this thing?

DOUGHERTY: True, but he's got the country locked in this terrible deadlock of people in the streets. It's not only here in Kiev. It's in other cities. Other cities are saying, we will not recognize the results of this election. In other words, it's really a hole that they have sunk into politically, and they have to get out of it. The stakes are very high.

And it's been peaceful so far, but here's five days. And now we're going into six days of demonstrations. And so people can't teeter on the edge of instability forever.

SANCHEZ: Jill Dougherty following the situation for us there in Kiev, we thank you, Jill, for that report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Joining us now from Washington is Mark Brzezinski. He was the director of Russia-Eurasian affairs on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. So he knows a bit about this.

Mr. Brzezinski, let me ask you. I don't know if you played football, but I did. We used to do something called bull in the ring, where two linebackers would basically just butt heads. It seems right now like Yanukovych and Yushchenko are doing just like that. Asking one of them to step down, would it be like coming up to George Bush or Al Gore five days after their election and just expecting them to say, you know what, I didn't want this job anyway?

MARK BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL STAFFER: Rick, I think that that football analogy is a good metaphor, but I also think a tennis match is a good metaphor, in the sense that you have two sides now trying to strategically place themselves in a court to get the best advantage going forward.

It's not known how this is ultimately going to turn out, but you can believe this, that the government that's in power now, the Kuchma government, would have never agreed to negotiate with representatives of the pro-democracy movement if they didn't feel that their backs were against the wall.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but how much can they get out of these negotiations? A meeting in the end is still just a meeting. It doesn't necessarily mean they're going to come up with any kind of accord.

BRZEZINSKI: You're right.

But the genie is out of the bottle. Remember, the pro-democracy demonstrators have been on the streets in Ukraine for five days, for five frigid days.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

BRZEZINSKI: Their energy, their commitment has been shown. Also, the commitment of the governments immediately to the west of Ukraine, Poland, that of the European Union, Lithuania and others have shown that Europe cares about this as well and is willing to be engaged and not just to be passive.

Now, it's incumbent on the West as well and in particular the United States to tell other actors who have an interest in this, namely Russia, to keep their hands off, to stop manipulating the process. Let's get a good and fair and just outcome out of all this.

SANCHEZ: You mentioned these protesters. They've been there, as you said, several days, about 200,000 of them in all. And all things considered, they've been well behaved, certainly better than most Americans act at basketball games, from what we've seen in our own country.

(LAUGHTER)

BRZEZINSKI: Rick, you're right.

SANCHEZ: How long can that last, though?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, it can last as long as they feel that a just solution is a possibility. And that's why it's been so good to see members of the security services, leaders of the country's navy come on stage with Yushchenko and say that they will not use force to crush the demonstrators.

That's been important to keeping the peace here. The Ukrainians have expressed themselves in massive numbers. They must see change. But they also know that, if the entire situation degenerates into something violent and ugly, their chances of a positive outcome are that much less. So they've seen it in their interests to keep things peaceful. And I'm glad to see also that the authoritarian government there is also willing to honor the peace that's been maintained up until now.

SANCHEZ: It almost seems like, with each passing year, we're looking back into our own history. BRZEZINSKI: Good point.

SANCHEZ: It almost seems like a conflict between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, for anybody who has studied Russian history on this thing.

But let me ask you a question what the president said today, George Bush quoted as saying, "The world is watching very carefully." That's his quote. What does that mean?

BRZEZINSKI: Important signal to the authoritarian leaders in Ukraine, to Kuchma and others, that if they try to manipulate the situation, if they try to crush the demonstrators, nothing will get by the international community.

SANCHEZ: But let me ask you about Vladimir Putin and his position in all this. He seems to have a real sense of ownership over this whole thing. What's at stake in this for him?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, there's a difference between what's at stake in this for him and for the Russian people.

Indeed, Russia itself could have a very constructive engagement with Ukraine, particularly economically. Indeed, they're neighbors, and they share a very wide border. And Russia has to cross through Ukraine to get to Western Europe. And that's important for Russian business people. For a stable and secure Ukraine to exist, that's good for the Russian people.

Unfortunately, President Putin has been playing somewhat of a manipulative game to try to keep Ukraine as a client state of the Kremlin. He wants to create some kind of bloc of weak states along Russia's border as Russia's own, and the Ukrainian people have spoken otherwise.

SANCHEZ: Mark Brzezinski, we thank you for sharing some of that insight with us.

BRZEZINSKI: Thank you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Still to come on PRIME TIME POLITICS, significant setbacks in the fight for Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): In Iraq, the attacks go on and on and on, and the hunters become the hunted. In the Iraqi military, assassinations and mass murders and widespread doubts about the January elections.

Also, ready, set, they're off and shopping. They're obviously not listening to this man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much is enough? You know, how much is enough? How many cars do I need? How many TV sets do I need in my house? SANCHEZ: Tonight, one man's quest to shut down the holiday shopping machine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buy nothing day.

SANCHEZ: And a holiday leftover voting booth question: Did you eat too much on Thanksgiving? Vote at CNN.com/Paula. The results and much more as PRIME TIME POLITICS continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: And now we turn to Iraq, where stability still seems a long way off. Just today, a general in the Iraqi National Guard was assassinated as he left his home. And a car bomb north of Baghdad wounded two U.S. soldiers.

Further north, U.S. forces keep finding bodies around Mosul, 46 bodies in the last eight days.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joining us now from Mosul to bring us up to date.

Who are these people they're finding, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rick, it mostly seems to be the Iraqi National Guard and other Iraqi security elements that support the coalition. It's all about the insurgents intimidating those Iraqis that support the coalition.

Just a few weeks ago, 3,200 police were essentially intimidated out of their jobs in Mosul. Now the insurgents are turning their attention to the other Iraqi security services here. The commander of the coalition forces here told me earlier that he thinks the biggest threat to the long-term security in Mosul right now are the former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, who he thinks are gaining strength at this time.

SANCHEZ: Meanwhile, you have this problem developing between the Sunnis and the Shias. Apparently, the Sunnis would like to see the election delayed. To what end, Nic?

ROBERTSON: There's a feeling among the Sunnis that those that want to participate in the elections, that it's just not safe in the Sunni areas of the country for them to go to the polls right now. They haven't really been able to organize and shape their political parties. They feel that the Shias have a well developed political structure through years, sort of, in exile or resistance and are very well placed because they're the majority, 60 percent of the population, very well placed to do well in the elections.

And the Sunnis, who have had political power in this country for centuries, are afraid that, if they're not ready and Sunnis around the country are not able to go and vote in numbers because of security and instability, then the Sunnis are going to lose out. That's why they want to see a delay.

SANCHEZ: What about this talk that President Allawi might actually sit down and talk to some of the insurgents?

ROBERTSON: They've said this. The government has said this. The foreign minister said, look, we'll talk to political leaders, tribal leaders, and that does include those who are sort of in opposition, he said, to the government at the moment. That does imply insurgents.

But he said, we'll only talk to people who will put down their weapons, who will turn their backs on terrorism and violence. There's a real effort, it seems, by the government to reach out and be inclusive ahead of the elections. And for those people who say, look, we don't support any of the political parties on the screen, on the radar right now, perhaps some of these insurgent groups put forward political figureheads.

Perhaps there's a thought from the government that people in the population can support them if they so choose, therefore support the electoral process, which is really critical. But the real attempt by the government here really seems to be to try and deal with the insurgents in whatever way they can, whether it's militarily or bringing them into the political fold.

SANCHEZ: Nic Robertson, bringing us the very latest, as you can hear, from Iraq. We thank you, Nic, for bringing us that report.

And joining us now to talk about this are John Fund of "The Wall Street Journal." And in Washington, we have "New Republic" editor Peter Beinart.

Peter, let's begin with you. This is a real problem that we have in Iraq. Security forces and police going are down in droves, either being kidnapped or killed, just 46 found in the area of Mosul. How big a problem is that for the United States? It does seem we're going it alone more and more every day.

PETER BEINART, EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Well, it is an enormous problem. There are brave Iraqis who are willing to fight with us. Unfortunately, only so far the Kurds have shown a consistent track record of being willing to fight alongside American forces against the insurgents.

The record of Shia and Sunni police and military has so far still been very poor. Maybe with several more years of training, that would change, but right now, it's still Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: It's not just a matter of their capability.

And, John, you can join us on this. They're literally being picked off. Even the ones who want to do it are being killed, 46 bodies found in Mosul. JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": The insurgents can't control the country. They can't even control a city, as we have learned in Fallujah.

What they can do is instill fear and terror in individual Iraqis. Obviously, today was a bad day in Iraq. We should not judge the entire conflict by a bad day or a series of bad days. We have to buckle down. We have to attack this insurgency at its roots. We also have to build up confidence in Iraq.

Now, obviously, that's going to perhaps mean some delays. But there is no alternative.

SANCHEZ: How do you do that, though, when these guys have to be -- and I'm talking about the security forces and the police -- they have to be extremely afraid going into work every day? And they're going to say, look, the United States isn't protecting us properly. They're not giving us the kind of security. Why, it's no coincidence that the insurgents are going after them and not the Marines, right, Peter?

BEINART: Sure.

Look, the military strategy is clear. You've got to try to kill as many insurgents as you can. The political strategy has got to be, you have got to start winning some hearts and minds among Sunni Iraqis. You have got to find some constituencies among Sunni Iraq who are going to buy into this political process, even though they know that it's going to be a Shia-led government. That's where so far the United States has failed.

FUND: Peter is right. This is both a military and a political problem.

Part of the political solution is, when we finally have these elections, whether they're in January or whether they're delayed slightly, one of the things we have to do is have a sufficient federal structure in Iraq so that every minority group feels properly represented, feels it has autonomy in its regions, especially over areas like education and things like that.

That is going to take some time. But we're making a lot of progress in rebuilding the infrastructure. We're also making a lot of progress in killing the insurgents. That's why the insurgents are I think reverting to these extreme tactics of terror against their own people.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Speaking of that, do we include the insurgents in any talks whatsoever? A report today that Allawi is planning to sit down and talk with the insurgents. Obviously, he's not talking to the extremists, but the insurgents nonetheless. What's the difference between that, and I'll pose this question, and negotiating with terrorists? BEINART: I think you have to -- look, you have to be practical. What you have to do is try to peel off, try to create a division between people like Zarqawi and the foreigners who are in there only to kill, and Sunnis, who may not be the most liberal people. They may be Baathists, but they might be people who could be brought to the table in the same way that Sadr was brought to the table and encouraged to participate in these elections, because, ultimately, we cannot put down an insurgency that has the support of the vast majority of Sunnis. We have to change that political dynamic.

FUND: I think this is the best demonstration we could have that Allawi is independent of the United States, which is what we said. He's going off in a different direction than we might otherwise do if he were our puppet.

SANCHEZ: So you don't think this will bring heat to the Bush administration, with people questioning, Mr. President, you have got your guy over there sitting down talking to the bad guys?

FUND: Well, he is not our guy. This is a demonstration of it, he's not our guy. He's decided to try to peel off some of the insurgents.

And, remember, some of the insurgents are backed by foreign entities like Iran. I don't think those people need to be talked to. There are some that are truly indigenous and don't have immediate and complete financing and support from foreign powers. Those, I think, we might be able to talk with.

BEINART: Look, this guy has got to develop an independent power base, and frankly he probably has a shrewder assessment of the political situation there than people do in the White House.

But, ultimately, it's not going to matter unless he has an army that's willing to protect them or, then, the day that the United States leaves, there's going to be chaos.

SANCHEZ: And that army is being wiped out, unfortunately, on a daily basis, or, as John said, maybe it was just a bad day.

We thank you both. John Fund, Peter Beinart, thanks for being with us.

Next, we're going to have the voices of those called to serve in Iraq. Navy corpsmen trained to save lives now find themselves among the wounded. And a soldier who avoided the front lines on why he took the risk to go AWOL.

Their stories right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: And welcome back.

You may recognize the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland as the place the president goes for health care. But did you know its main mission is to treat members of the Navy and Marine Corps, including those who have been wounded in Iraq? And that's where many spent their Thanksgiving.

Here's Judy Woodruff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Walk into Building 10 of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and you'll find a solitary statue, two men carved out of wood.

VICE ADM. DONALD ARTHUR, NAVY SURGEON GENERAL: This is the unspoken bond. It's a wood carving of a Marine in World War II being cared for by the omnipresent corpsman.

WOODRUFF (on camera): And it's those corpsman who are there during combat, to care for those who may get hurt?

ARTHUR: Yes. And you can't tell them apart from the Marines until someone gets injured and the corpsmen are right there at their side. And they are the ones who are saving these Marines' lives in combat.

WOODRUFF (voice-over): Now, meet the real thing.

CORPSMAN FABIAN VARGAS, U.S. NAVY: I was supposed to be able to do exactly what my Marines do and do my job as a medic.

WOODRUFF: Hospital Corpsman Fabian Vargas joined the Navy out of 17, right out of high school. He was 21 when he deployed to Iraq on August 25 of this year.

VARGAS: My job as a hospital corpsman is to provide medical aid to any of my Marines. It could be the smallest thing as a blister, to a gunshot wound, to an extremity.

WOODRUFF: And so, about two weeks ago, hospitalman Vargas found himself in the middle of Falluja, bunkered down with a platoon guarding a weapons cache, under martyr fire from insurgents.

VARGAS: And we're heading in a straight line. And I see two of my guys go down. And as a corpsman, it's my duty and my job to go and provide aid.

So I saw that happen. I got up. And as soon as I got up and was going to run across the street, I heard and felt the blast next to me, ma'am.

And it was maybe 10, 15 feet away from me. But I didn't feel a thing. I didn't feel a thing.

I just saw my -- I just knew I dropped my weapon. So I was going to reach down and grab my weapon, but my left arm wouldn't respond. So I looked down at my arm, and it was pretty much dangling.

WOODRUFF: He quickly fashioned a tourniquet. But then, he got woozy and felt like he was floating away in a haze of blood and morphine. He woke up after surgery.

VARGAS: I thought I was losing my arm. I thought I was -- I thought I was going to be an amputee.

And the doc said that, you know, It looks like I'm going to have to take your arm off. But he went in and he felt -- felt for my pulse, looking for my pulse. And he said, Oh, I feel a slight pulse.

And then he said, Try to wiggle your fingers. And I held on to my rosary. And I remember I was praying.

And I said, Please, god. Please, let me move my fingers.

And I felt my middle finger just kind of twitch. And I just -- I had seen that. And I was like, Look, my finger's moving. And he pretty much said, OK, we can do something for you.

WOODRUFF: Three surgeries later, and hospitalman Vargas can move his thumb. Feeling has come back to his arm. But his heart remains in Iraq.

VARGAS: I want to mention my buddies back in the rear and my other buddies that have gotten hurt. And they're not forgotten. They're always on my mind.

And I would go back in a minute, ma'am, just 'cause -- at least I know I could make a difference for them.

WOODRUFF: All Americans, he says, should remember these men, too.

VARGAS: I say be proud of them. Because we're only doing our job.

We're not the ones who make the big decisions. We do our job. And I feel that, for that, and for that particular reason, we should be held up with high -- high regards.

WOODRUFF: In the same hospital room, Lieutenant Victor Lin is recovering from injuries he suffered when the ambulance he was riding in was struck by a makeshift bomb. He knew instantly that both his legs were broken.

He knew this because Lieutenant Lin is a doctor. He joined the Navy as part of the health professional school program. He was on his first tour of duty.

LT. VICTOR LIN, U.S. NAVY: I would not hesitate to do this all over again. The mere fact that I was injured means that are insurgents and people bent on murdering and maiming coalition forces and innocent Iraqi civilians.

We're doing the -- we're doing the right thing over there. We're making a difference. And I was glad and honored to be part of that process even though I'm not directly involved in the combat. So...

WOODRUFF: Lieutenant Lin says his experience in Iraq will enrich him as a doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it gives me a greater appreciation and understanding of what the other patients have to go through when they receive care. And I believe, ma'am, that it will help me to eventually become a better physician in terms of the human -- the human aspects of medicine in the process.

WOODRUFF: Eighty-five Marines and Navy personnel injured in Iraq are recuperating here at Bethesda Naval, which has seen an uptick in casualties since the Falluja offensive began.

Rear Admiral Adam Robinson is the commanding officer here.

REAR ADMIRAL ADAM ROBINSON, COMMANDER, NAVAL MEDICAL CENTER: The staff thinks of these young men, mainly men, some women, as their brothers and sisters. My staff has been with them night and day since they have arrived, and they will stay with them until they leave.

WOODRUFF: Inspired by a duty to serve and an unspoken bond as close as family.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Judy Woodruff with that report.

Now a very different soldier's story about a would-be infantry man who never made it to the front lines of Falluja, far from it, in fact.

CNN's Maria Hinojosa tells us why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They live among us, average guys like 25-year-old Manny, who makes a living as a contractor. He wants to remain anonymous. Manny is worried. He's gone AWOL from the Army.

MANNY, AWOL FROM ARMY: My paranoia was -- was raised to the point where I thought that they were going to have Humvees and, you know, military police waiting for me in front of my building.

HINOJOSA: Manny should be in boot camp now, but the reality of the Army infantry sank in first.

MANNY: It was mind boggling to just sit there and wait to be processed to go to boot camp and then watching how many Marines had been killed, how many -- how many civilians have been killed on top of that, and it just seemed mind boggling to me that a life can be taken away so easily.

HINOJOSA: With his father suffering from throat cancer and his wife prone to depression, Manny faced the ugly reality of life on the front lines. So he ran. He ditched his fellow enlistees as they were going to board a plane to take them to Fort Benning in Georgia.

MANNY: I took it upon myself to just sneak out and just take the escalators down to ground transportation and jump in the taxi.

HINOJOSA (on camera): And what were you feeling at that precise moment when you walked away from the guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was feeling pretty scared, because I've never done anything like that.

HINOJOSA: Scared because Manny understands the penalties for going AWOL are severe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were told by -- by Navy enlisted men that, if we did not get on the plane, that we would be considered AWOL and we would be considered deserters, and that being AWOL or a deserter during wartime would be punishable by death.

HINOJOSA: The Army says that's just not so. Typically, they say, recruits like Manny who change their minds are simply let go, because they're meeting their recruitment goals, and they want only those willing to serve.

ELAINE DONNELLY, CENTER FOR MILITARY READINESS: It's not unusual to be confused, to be a little frightened at that -- that point of decision, but not everyone is suited for the armed forces.

HINOJOSA: But critics say the military is not always frank with new recruits.

TOD ENSIGN, CITIZEN SOLDIER: The recruiters, as I say, they emphasize the benefits, the things that sound appealing, that might be useful to you later in life. They hardly emphasize the fact that, if you're in an infantry unit, your chances of being injured or killed in a war is fairly great.

HINOJOSA: For now, it's unclear what punishment, if any, Manny would face if caught. The Army says that, once he swears to support and uphold the Constitution, it's the Army's choice whether to let him go or to put him in a military jail. It's the fear of not knowing that keeps Manny running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would understand, if they feel like they have to punish me. But I don't feel I should be punished because, after all, it is a volunteer Army, and I think they should respect people's opinions when it comes to...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: That report filed by Maria Hinojosa.

Let's move away from matters of war to political battles now and two brothers who bucked the odds and won. Their story is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back.

There are notable political families across the United States. The Bushes and the Kennedys obviously come to mind. In Colorado, it's the Salazar family with a couple of reasons to be thankful this season.

Here's Sean Callebs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Far from the trappings of Capitol Hill, the people of the San Luis Valley in Colorado celebrate their favorite sons, the Salazar brothers, siblings heading to Washington together, a rare feat.

John, a state legislator, is the newly elected congressman; younger brother Ken, the outgoing attorney general, now the state's senator-elect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've made us proud, buddy.

SENATOR-ELECT KEN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: How are you?

I never imagined that someday I would be standing here in our place, in our school, saying to all of you that it is awesome to be your United States senator for the state of Colorado.

CALLEBS: Ken defeated multi-millionaire Republican Pete Coors. Yes, the Coors Beer family.

And John won a nasty, expensive, and hard fought battle against Republican Greg Walcher, not bad for brothers raised in these humble surroundings, in the high desert of Southern Colorado. In fact, their childhood home didn't have a phone or electricity until 1981.

Sixty-six-year-old cattle rancher and neighbor Joseph Tony Martinez has known the brothers since they were babies.

JOSEPH TONY MARTINEZ, NEIGHBOR: You know, they're not going to change the world, just like we hoped they would. It would be nice, but it's not going to happen. But at least you have an open door. You can relate to them.

CALLEBS: The sagebrush and the desolate looking landscape tell part of the story. This valley is home to about one percent of Colorado's population.

Both are married with children. The Salazar brothers like to say they've always had to fight their way up.

(on camera) One hundred members in the U.S. Senate, and where do you rank in the seniority?

K. SALAZAR: No. 100. At the very bottom. The fact that I'm ranked No. 100 today doesn't unnerve me at all. There's just a lot of work that I may do. CALLEBS (voice-over): Bridging divisions after a brutal national election is a top priority. Two Democrats who won in a state that went to George Bush. The brothers are popular and attract votes from both parties.

(on camera) What is it that makes the Salazar brothers be able to cross party lines? You have Democrats, and you have Republicans who support you and do very adamantly.

K. SALAZAR: Well, I think it's our values. You know, we put the people first. We put the party second.

CALLEBS (voice-over): They are admittedly happiest when surrounded by family, and it's a big family. They credit their mother, Emma, and late father, Henry, for their values. The family was part of the Colorado landscape long before it was a state.

(on camera) You can trace your family back to roughly...

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JOHN SALAZAR (D), COLORADO: This one's 1520. His name was Juan de Salazar, and they have him here listed as a conquistador and a noble.

CALLEBS (voice-over): They are among eight brothers and sisters. All are college graduates. Four have secondary degrees.

John's voice is tinged with sadness talking about the oldest, Leandro, who studied to be a priest, then become an activist.

J. SALAZAR: He worked with Cesar Chavez in the fields, trying to make people's lives better.

CALLEBS (on camera): Really?

J. SALAZAR: Yes.

CALLEBS: Several years ago, Leandro died in a farming accident.

The Salazars are committed to agricultural issues such as water use, and devout Catholics. Still, Ken breaks from the church to support a woman's right to an abortion.

(on camera) Over the next six years, you could have a say in our next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Have you thought about that? What kind of qualities you would like to see?

K. SALAZAR: You know, I very much understand the separation of powers, and I very much believe that judges and justices should be about interpreting the law.

I don't believe that ideologues or people who have a particular social agenda should be the ones that are appointed.

CALLEBS (voice-over): Washington will be an adjustment. They'll leave their families behind and share an apartment. But they've told their families that Canejos County will always be their home. (on camera) Any disagreements between you two? I mean, you seem to get along so well. There had to be some growing up. Come on.

K. SALAZAR: When we are little.

CALLEBS: He's the older brother.

J. SALAZAR: I'm the older brother, and see, I'm the good guy because I wear the white hat, and he wears the black hat. We're both -- we're wonderful, wonderful friends and wonderful brothers. And we would die for each other.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: That was our Sean Callebs.

There was a time when the Deep South regularly elected Democratic lawmakers and Republican presidents, but those days, well, they do seem long gone.

Congressional correspondent Joe Johns caught up with some of the last of a vanishing political breed, the Southern Democratic senator.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the end of an era.

FRITZ HOLLINGS (D-SC), RETIRING SENATOR: I yield the floor, Mr. President.

JOHNS: The GOP's clean sweep of the South has left five Democratic seats in Republican hands. On the way out, colorful old guard Southern Democrats like Senator Fritz Hollings.

HOLLINGS: We got a way better group of senators. We had a senator -- five drunks or six drunks when I came here. There's nobody drunk in the United States Senate. We don't have time to be drunk.

JOHNS: Democrats who saw the South through a period of tumultuous change and then watched their state slowly turn Republican.

Political analyst Merle Black of Emory University.

MERLE BLACK, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Democratic southerners make up less than 10 percent of the Senate Democratic delegation. And not too long ago, they made up more than 40 percent of the Democrats in the Senate. So this is a huge, historically important alignment within the South that really affects national politics.

JOHNS: That transformation was summed up in the political evolution of Georgia Democrat Zell Miller...

ZELL MILLER (D), RETIRING GEORGIA SENATOR: It has been a long road with many twists and turns, ups and downs, bumps and, yes, a few wrecks.

JOHNS: ... who gave the keynote address at fellow Southerner Bill Clinton's Democratic convention in 1992.

MILLER: The American dream still lives. At least it lives in the Democratic Party.

JOHNS: And blasted his party at George Bush's Republican convention.

MILLER: Our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief. What has happened to the party I've spent my life working in?

JOHNS: Democrats tried to dismiss Miller as a crank, but observers say he made an important point, that the party is out of step with the South.

BLACK: There virtually is no conservative movement left in the national Democratic Party. And many of the criticisms that Senator Miller was making apply to the entire party. And I think that that probably affected the votes of some of the remaining conservative Democrats across the region.

JOHNS: Another retiring Southern Democrat, Louisiana Senator John Breaux, warns that his party will not regain the majority if it ignores its Southern flank.

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), RETIRING LOUISIANA SENATOR: I think that it performed a very valuable role in terms of giving some balance to the Democratic Party. I mean, we can't all just be New York and California. That doesn't create a majority.

JOHNS: A message Democrats heard loud and clear after their losses in the last election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Congressional correspondent Joe Johns in Washington for us.

Well, don't get the idea that all the Southern Democrats are gone. Paula recently talked with Louisiana soon to be senior senator, Democrat Mary Landrieu.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: And Senator Landrieu, good to see you. Welcome.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Why is it that Democrats have not won a single Southern state during the last two presidential elections?

LANDRIEU: Well, Paula, first of all, we had some terrific candidates throughout the South, and we had a great ground war, if you will, going on with getting our voters out and giving a message that we thought really resonated. We didn't have as much air cover from the national campaign as we would have liked. But you know, I still have hope that people in the South and throughout the country want to govern from the center out, are looking for common ground, particularly on getting this deficit under control, getting issues forward that really move our country forward.

So I'm hoping that, you know, in the next round, we can do a little bit better getting our message out in a way that resonated with people.

ZAHN: Back to the presidential campaign, though, did John Kerry make a mistake by not campaigning more extensively in the South?

LANDRIEU: Well, I would say that I would hope in the future our presidential candidates would campaign, Paula everywhere, because we are one nation, and I do believe that we really are red, white, and blue. And that these messages, in order to work not for the election, but to be able to govern and move a great nation like ours forward.

Now, there might be some technical reasons, you know, that the managers and the pollsters will say, don't go there. But I'm hoping next time we've learned a lesson. Both camps should compete, I think, vigorously for votes in big cities and small cities, because I can tell you there's a great middle in America.

ZAHN: It strikes me, though, as you watched what went on with Senator Arlen Specter and his fight to become the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that Washington really doesn't want anybody in the center here. Do you think the centrists are an endangered species?

LANDRIEU: Well, I'll tell you, you're right about something, that Washington does not nurture the center. But I think we better find the center pretty quickly.

And the group that I belong to, whether we call ourselves moderates or centrists -- I like to think of us as an independent study group of Democrats and Republicans, led by Senator Lieberman and Senator Snowe.

And we have a large group, a larger group gathering to talk about how we strengthen Social Security without abandoning the wonderful notion that, if you work hard in America and you play by the rules, even if you don't make $200,000 a year, you still can retire in security for yourself, your family, and your grandchildren.

ZAHN: You talked about not having the air cover in the South from the national campaign. Do you think the Democrats have the wrong message this time?

LANDRIEU: I think we've got to -- we've got a good product. I think we've got to hone our message to tell people that, you know, we understand people's frustrations about their anxiety about sort of the moral dilemmas that they see. But Democrats like to put their faith in action. We believe that many of the programs we support speak to fairness and justice and equality and helping lift those up that are on the bottom and encourage those at the top to get as high as they can get without harming anyone, but doing it in a way that really meets everyone where they are and builds a nation we can all be proud of.

And I think that Democrats can explain that a little bit better next time and will do a better job throughout the South and around the country.

ZAHN: Senator Mary Landrieu, thank you so much for your time.

LANDRIEU: Thank you.

ZAHN: Have a great holiday weekend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: And now from party politics to one man's personal campaign to make all this holiday hubbub obsolete. He wants us all to spend less of our holiday time in the malls. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: It is called Black Friday, the mad scramble start of the holiday shopping season. It's just about over for most Americans. By the end of the weekend, if the National Retail Federation's estimate holds up, 130 million of us will have joined the bargain hunting.

But our Tom Foreman found one man who's not having any of this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shoppers are piling up presents, storming the sales clerks, and camping on sidewalks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is something that her and I do together every year. It's like our tradition.

FOREMAN: But on this, the holiest of all shopping weekends, heretics are in the temple, promoting what they call Buy Nothing Day. Kalle Lasn is the heretic in chief.

KALLE LASN, ADBUSTERS MAGAZINE: Why don't we do it different this year? Instead of going into the malls and stressing out and maxing out on our credit cards, why don't we, instead of spending more money on each other, why don't we spend more time with each other?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the most voracious consumers in the world.

FOREMAN: For 13 years, through public education campaigns like this one, anti-consumerists have argued rampant materialism is exhausting natural resources and creating envy and anger in less fortunate countries. Their solution? For one day, don't spend one dime.

LASN: We'd like people to ask themselves the question, how much is enough?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It might sound like a great idea, but we think there would be some very negative consequences.

FOREMAN: Of course, Ellen Colley (ph) with the National Retail Federation is less than completely enthusiastic. Store owners, wholesalers, manufacturers, shipping companies rely on holiday sales for a quarter of all retail income, and consumers keep it all going.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every year, usually consumers spend about 4 percent more than they did the year before. Two years ago in 2002, we had a miserable year, and that was still up 1.2 percent.

FOREMAN (on camera): Still, buying nothing for one day is not such a radical idea. Remember, Charles Dickens wrote about possession obsessions in "A Christmas Carol." Charlie Brown, the Grinch, George Bailey, even Clark Griswold found joy in their pals, not presents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're selling Christmas trees again this year.

TIM ALLEN, COMEDIAN: We're not going to need a tree.

FOREMAN: Right now, "Christmas with the Cranks" is preaching the gospel of less getting.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS, ACTOR: We skip Christmas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isn't that against the law?

FOREMAN: But Kalle Lasn does not expect a buy nothing Christmas, just more balance, as he sees it.

LASN: I'm going to buy myself a big bottle of vodka and share it with some of my friends.

FOREMAN: So here's to him. Here's to the retailers, and here's to all the shopping days left, whether you use them or not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: That's our Tom Foreman. We're going to be right back with the results of tonight's "Voting Booth." Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: And welcome back.

So how do you combine politics and Thanksgiving? Well, this is a job best left to the late night comics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": There's not much news on Thanksgiving Day, so we sent our own John Melendez.

You searched the Internet. Did you find anything?

JOHN MELENDEZ, ANNOUNCER, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I've got a special Thanksgiving moment. Here's an old tape of President Bush, our commander in chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be the death of any thoughts this man ever had of being president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Turkeys vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turkeys vote?

All right!

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": And how many folks saw the big Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade?

Whoa. I've seen it every year for the last 10, 15 years, and I'm telling you, it's more and more exciting.

Here's how they do it. You know, each giant balloon, each of those giant balloons that you see, takes 54 men to control it with tethers. Big cables that are tethering the balloon. It's the same team that gets Michael Moore into his pants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: There you go.

Well, Wednesday we asked you about overeating on Thanksgiving. Fifty-six percent of you said you thought you might. You did better. So tonight we wanted to see how many of you did.

A few of you had more self control than you thought. Fifty-five percent say they ate too much; 45 percent of you say you didn't. This is not a scientific poll. Just a sampling from our web site.

There you go. That's PRIME TIME POLITICS for tonight, and join us again Monday. "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up next. I'm Rick Sanchez. For all of us here, good night and have a wonderful weekend.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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