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Obama's Magic Moment

Aired January 4, 2008 - 20:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Is Iowa the beginning of something that we are going to be looking back on for years to come? Is it about real change coming to America?
And then there's the story that doesn't change. The Britney Spears saga has become even more sad, if you can believe that. She was strapped to a gurney and taken to a hospital overnight, after a standoff over custody of the kids she had with her ex-husband, Kevin Federline.

And there's even more breaking news. Just a little bit ago, a judge took away the custody and the visitation rights from Britney Spears. This gets complicated and sad as we mentioned. So, what's really going on here? Just when we thought this could not possibly get any crazier, it has. We will have the details.

Also, here's one you got to see. In fact, these are -- yes, these are live pictures. You see this guy right here? This is a man who is determined to bring about change in America politically. But he's not doing it like Romney, like Obama, like Hillary Clinton, like Huckabee. No, no, he's willing to hang out on top of a 320-foot tower just to get his message across.

These are live pictures you're looking at, folks. It's been like 10 degrees and with the windchill below. Unlike any other politicians, he has no money to pay for commercials. And you know what? It might be working. He's running for Senate.

But obviously we are going to begin with this simple question. Let's not try to overthink this, right? Because it's really what a lot of people in America are asking themselves tonight. How does a black guy win in a state where 93 percent of the people are white? This is a huge topic of conversation around the country, and a source of pride in black America.

How it happened in a moment, but first here's Barack Obama in his own words.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.


(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Let's start way couple of programming notes.

First of all, Roland Martin has gotten an exclusive interview with Obama today. He's going to be coming up in just a little bit and he's going to tell us what Obama said after he asked him some very precise questions.

But first, how did Obama even do this? The young people, the women, the independents, first-time caucusers -- boy, is that a fun word to say.

One of them as a matter of fact is from the University of Iowa. She's a student. Her name is Tia Upchurch-Freelove. She's the leader of Students for Obama at the university and she's a first-time voter or caucuser. Also with us now is the former president of Rock the Vote, Jehmu Greene, who is now a Democratic political strategist in her own right.

So, we have got some youth going here on this newscast as we get ready to rock and roll ourselves, you might say.

Tia, let me start by asking you this question. These people seemed at least to those of us who are supposed to know all of this stuff is going to happen before it does, right, like it came out of the woodwork, I mean by the thousands and thousands. Who are you?


Students, young people, old people. We never expected it, no. We wanted to expect it, and we definitely proved everyone wrong. And I heard in the beginning, we were going to come out of the cracks and a lot of people, even my friends, didn't believe us. But it happened. It happened.


SANCHEZ: It certainly did. Out of the cracks is maybe the best way to put it.

Jehmu, let me ask you a question. Why Obama?

JEHMU GREENE, FORMER PRESIDENT, ROCK THE VOTE: Well, I think the one campaign that did believe young people were going to turn out was the Obama camp.

They made young voters their target in Iowa. Their entire field operation was focused on young voters. They had an unprecedented grassroots effort to reach out to them, 175 student chapters delivering caucus voters who were first-time voters, and I just have to say, what a great night for Democrats in general.

SANCHEZ: A lot of people have said in the past that they are going to go after the youth vote, and a lot of people have ended up with egg on their face trying to do so, because this is a group of people that are hard to mobilize, right? What made this different? Maybe that's what I'm trying to get at. Either one of you who wants to answer that question, please, inform us.

GREENE: Well, for the first time, a presidential campaign put a significant amount of resources into talking to young people, finding them, calling them, knocking on their doors, dragging them to the caucuses.

A lot of times presidential campaigns just keep it at a very superficial level, but young voters were the priority for Obama. And now I see Clinton saying -- we see Clinton saying she's going to do that as well, that she's going to reach out to young voters.


GREENE: They proved the naysayers wrong. Young people increased their turnout in 2004. They did it again in 2006. Barack saw the trend and put his money into this group.

SANCHEZ: And took it over the top.

Tia, let me go back to you on this question once again.


SANCHEZ: What is it specifically about Barack Obama? Is it the man or is it his message? Because, let's face it, if you're young right now, the anti-war message resonates and perhaps his anti-war message is as solid and well-defined as anybody's, correct?

UPCHURCH-FREELOVE: Yes. But it's not just the anti-war message. It's everything, everything from his health care policy to just the way that he stands up and really encourages all of us to do our best, and it's not just about kind of getting us to, you know, go out and caucus. It's about us to actually start believing in it again and I think that that's something that he really pointed out.

SANCHEZ: And you're committed with this guy? You're in this thing for the long run?

UPCHURCH-FREELOVE: Oh, yes, definitely. Definitely. I couldn't have it any other way.

SANCHEZ: Hey, Jehmu and Tia, you guys have been great. I have a feeling that I will be talking to you guys again as this story continues to unfold.

Will, let's do this if you can now. Can you swing -- Jeff, you got your camera? Swing your camera over there. I want the folks to see the smartest man in politics, because what we do now here at CNN, maybe as best as anybody can do, is break things down for you.

And the question here is, OK, Obama won, all right. So who voted for him? Was it women? Was it young people? Was it independents?

Bill Schneider has been breaking all of this down for us and he's good enough to join us now.

Bill, start us off. And where are you going to start this as you break this down and show us what the demographics are?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Where you just were, youth. Youth are a disappointments in politics.

I remember 1972, when young people got the vote. They were supposed to elect George McGovern. But they didn't. Well, last night, at the Iowa caucuses, look what happened. They are the ones who caused Obama to win; 57 percent of voters under 30 voted for Obama. Hillary Clinton virtually disappeared here. Just 11 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. The youth vote was utterly, utterly crucial. They delivered.

SANCHEZ: Is something else going on here? We hear Lou Dobbs just before we go on the air talk about independents. All these people say, look, I don't want to be a Republican. I don't want to be a Democrat. I'm independent. How did they go?

SCHNEIDER: They went for Obama, and they are very important for his victory and they could be very important in New Hampshire. Look at how they voted, 41 percent pour Obama, 17 percent for Clinton. That's better than 2-1 margin for Obama over Clinton, very important, because in New Hampshire, independents are allowed to vote in the Democratic primary, and they are over 40 percent of the Democratic voters. If Obama is going to have a chance to win in New Hampshire, which he does, it's because of the independents.

SANCHEZ: How does a woman named Clinton go into Iowa and lose to a guy named Barack Obama?

SCHNEIDER: Well, women were a disappointment to the Clinton campaign. Here is how female voters voted in Iowa. They gave the edge to Barack Obama, who is I think of the male persuasion, 35 percent for Obama, 30 percent for Hillary Clinton.

This was a big disappointment for the Clinton campaign. We looked very closely at the women's vote. What did we discover? Among older women, Hillary Clinton came in first. Among middle-aged women, she came in second to Obama, and among young women, she came in third behind Obama and Edwards.

SANCHEZ: You know what is interesting, what I think is fascinating here, a lot of African-Americans have said, we don't think, when push comes to shove, that white Americans will really go in there and press the lever for Barack Obama because he's an African- American. But apparently at least in Iowa they have. How will that affect the African-American vote in your opinion?

SCHNEIDER: It could have a very powerful effect. And remember, after Iowa is another overwhelmingly white state, New Hampshire. If he wins New Hampshire, African-Americans in South Carolina, the next state, crucial state, will get the message, whites are voting for a black man. And they are not going to stop Obama, even though in the polls they have been inclined to vote for Hillary Clinton. They're not going to stop this man from becoming the first black president of the United States, if he wins New Hampshire.

SANCHEZ: That's where the groundswell begins. You ready? You ready?


SANCHEZ: There you go.

SCHNEIDER: All right.

SANCHEZ: Thanks for coming on.


SANCHEZ: All right, let's talk to somebody else now. All right.

Let's bring in Roland Martin, because he's been working on an exclusive for us, as a matter of fact, and it's talking to Barack Obama himself.

Roland, you came to us earlier in the day and you say, I think I got the guy. He's going to sit down and he's going to talk to us. And you and I have been talking all day about all the things that maybe Barack Obama needs to say, what's a part of his message.

First of all, start us off with what the conversation was like, what you sensed in him, and then, what did you ask him?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first and foremost, he could barely talk because he lost his voice flying overnight from Iowa to New Hampshire.

And so we really wanted to deal with a number of different issues, electability, this whole notion of him being an African- American winning in Iowa. But also I asked Obama whether he was now the front-runner or still the underdog.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If your name is Barack Obama, you are always the underdog in a political race, but obviously we had a big night last night, and the American people had a big night, because what we showed was that, if the American people are offered a chance for real change, and coming together, somebody with a track record of overcoming the special interests, somebody they trust to be straight with them about how we're going to solve problems like health care, energy, and our education system, bring our troops home from Iraq, then they will respond.

And they responded in record numbers. What was best about it, Roland, was, it was not just one group. You know, we won among union voters. We won among women. We won among African-Americans and whites. We won among older voters who had, you know, not participated in the caucuses before. We had independents coming in. And we had Republicans who decided to change party affiliation to caucus for us, and, most importantly, we had young people.

(END AUDIO CLIP) SANCHEZ: You know as I'm listening to him, Roland, I'm thinking and I think a lot of other folks are, OK, so where do we go from here? Is this springboard material, this Iowa caucus?

MARTIN: Well, obviously that's how he feels about it.

And also somebody is wondering what's going on with the phone? The interview is from my radio show, WVON, in Chicago, and so he wasn't doing any television interviews, because the Obama campaign really wanted last night's speech to really be the television presence all across the country and so that's one of the reasons why we did the phone.

But, Rick, you talk about the springboard. One of the things that I also asked him about was this whole notion of his critics who say that to win in Iowa is one thing, but he and his team are simply not ready for the White House. Here's what he had to say.


OBAMA: I just find it remarkable that these are the same people that we're out-organizing in a presidential campaign. You know, we started from zero, and 11 months later, are competing against organizations that were built over six years, 20 years with all of these great managers and leaders and somehow they can't keep up.

I think that we have shown the ability to set a tone, a positive tone in a campaign, to organize people and organize money, to accomplish goals, to get a message across, to inspire the American people, to lead, and that's what I intend to do as president.


MARTIN: Rick, he did get a kick out of that, this whole notion that, oh, he won in Iowa. Trust me, you will not find a political operative anywhere in America who would have said 11 months ago when Senator Barack Obama announced that he was running in Springfield, Illinois, that he was going to beat John Edwards and Senator Hillary Clinton in Iowa in the first caucus. If they would say so, they're lying.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I was going to say, although, I got to tell you, I bet you we would find a bunch of them now who said, oh, yes, I thought that all along, yes.


MARTIN: Oh, yes, of course.


SANCHEZ: With a wink a nod, right.

MARTIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Hey, Roland, good work, man. Thanks. MARTIN: Appreciate it.

SANCHEZ: So, if he can win in Iowa, which is really more of a conservative state, how well might he do in New Hampshire? You wondered. We wondered.

Dan Lothian wondered. So, he set out to try and find the answer to that question. He's joining us now from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Well, what's the difference? Is there a difference, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: As to whether or not he could win here?

SANCHEZ: Yes, and the difference in folks in New Hampshire, as opposed to folks in Iowa. I mean, is he going in with an advantage or a disadvantage?

LOTHIAN: Well, he certainly comes in with an advantage. You have all that momentum from Iowa, a spectacular victory over Senator Clinton.

But when you look at the two states, they're almost the same in terms of the makeup of the residents here. Iowa being mostly white, there aren't a lot of blacks here in New Hampshire as well, so if you're talking about the issue of race, we're talking about almost equal states with that regard.

But he certainly coming in here believes that he has a very good chance of winning.

And we decided, Rick, to go out and talk to some folks here to see whether or not what happened in Iowa can translate to New Hampshire. Here's what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm surprised Obama did take it there, but I think that says that he's electable, if he can win in Iowa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody pretty much does -- makes up their own mind. They don't care what anybody else is thinking. They do their own thing. They ask their own questions and make their own decisions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama's election -- win in Iowa was huge here in New Hampshire because there are a lot of undecided voters. Still five days before the election, people still want to know who to vote for. Winning in Iowa may mean a lot for him in terms of the independent voter who decides at the last minute.


LOTHIAN: And there you go again, Rick, the word independent, independent voters; 44 percent of registered voters here in the state of New Hampshire are independent. And here's a quick story. My colleague Jessica Yellin was at one of the events this morning, Obama events. He was working the crowd and talking to people, asking them what their party affiliation was. She walked up to eight different people. And all eight of those folks said that they were independents, and they were supporting Barack Obama.

Now, this is not a scientific poll or anything like that, but it certainly is an indication that he is tapping into some of these independent voters that could be crucial in helping him to win in this state.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, you're keying in on the word independent. Let me tell you another word that I'm keying in on just listening to the folks that you interviewed there. That first guy who came out, I think he was -- we don't have his name, but he was a diner customer, right?


He said I think this shows that he's electable. I think this shows it.


SANCHEZ: And it seems -- did you get this sense, that what's happening here is that if 93 percent of the people in Iowa who happen to be white, not black, think this guy's got the comeuppance to be able to do this job then maybe, by golly, I ought to give him a second look?

LOTHIAN: Well, certainly that's what you're hearing, is that some people were sort of taking that wait and see because there was that concern as to whether or not he would be electable. All of sudden he comes away with a big win, that momentum he's hoping will translate here in New Hampshire. And certainly if it translates to New Hampshire, who knows what will happen from here on.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Exactly. It seems to be a hurdle that's crossed, maybe not the last, but a hurdle nonetheless.


LOTHIAN: That's right.

SANCHEZ: Hey, Dan, good job. Thanks so much. Thanks for working for us late on a Friday night. Appreciate it.

LOTHIAN: OK. OK. Thanks a lot.


OBAMA: We are one people, and our time for change has come.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Here's what we're going to look into next. How big is this in black America? Are people pinching themselves? I mean, look, there's an emotional component to this story, and that's what we're going to be talking about next.

As we go to break, here now some sound from Harlem, where we sent our cameras today to talk to people about what's going on in this country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's history. I think history was made last night. It was -- I think it was probably shocking to some people, but I think the country is definitely ready for a change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We support him wholeheartedly. He's going to do good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, to win in Iowa is a great thing, being 95 percent white.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a black male, I think that's incredible. Especially in a place like Iowa? That says a lot. That says a whole lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama is the future, is America's future.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty cool. It says something about our country, I think, or at least about Iowa, but maybe it says something about our country, too, that we're changing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It says a whole lot for minorities and I think it's a move in the right direction. I think that he has some excellent leadership skills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you're getting is a whole new generation with not having those issues, and so in turn he just resonates that kind of message that we're all one and that we're going forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go, Barack. We're pulling for you.



SANCHEZ: That's Harlem today.

Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. You know when I first got my first inkling something like this might be coming? About a month ago I was in Miami covering what I thought was a very important story at the time. And I ran across an old-timer at a park. He and I went and shot some baskets. And we were talking about the state of black America.

And this guy is about 70 years old. And he told me that he's never voted before because he doesn't trust the system.


STANFORD PATTON, NEVER VOTED: I have never voted in my life. I ain't seen a God-damned thing to vote for. I'm going to vote for this time, the first time, for Obama, you know, because the one thing he said, he's going to try to get some justice for black men.


SANCHEZ: Isn't that interesting? It just came out of the blue, by the way.

What I get a sense of today and I think a lot of folks who have been watching this get that same feeling, is, from talking to a lot of African-American voters and reading the blogs, is that Obama's win in Iowa has triggered something that has people waking up today with a certain spring in their step, if you will indulge me.

Joining us now is Baratunde Thurston. He's a comedian and a writer for the blog Jacques and -- Jack and Jill -- not Jacques and Jill -- that would be the French version of it. And then Michael Washington, he's president for the group Harlem for Obama.

Hey, guys, thanks so much for being with us.


SANCHEZ: I guess congratulations are in order. You both backers?





SANCHEZ: Is this akin to a color barrier being broken in this country? Is this akin to Joe Louis winning a fight, like my dad used to tell me when I was a kid, or even Ali, or Jackie Robinson breaking into baseball? Is it like that yet?

THURSTON: I think it's a lot like that.

I was telling Michael backstage when he won, when the results came in and they called it, I stood on a chair. I threw my arms in the air.

SANCHEZ: Did you really?

THURSTON: Because I felt like I won.

And in the second you just showed this old man, it actually -- it hurts to see someone who feels so disenfranchised from the process, they wouldn't trust the system at all to even cast a vote and to see that they have been changed, they have been brought into this process because of some hope they have that things might get a little better.

SANCHEZ: Michael, let me bring you into this, because I think there's something interesting going on in terms of people who -- I have been reading all these blogs today by a lot of smart African- American writers, who say, goose bumps, tears in my eyes, that kind of feeling. Can you help us understand that?

WASHINGTON: Yes, I mean, we're on the streets of Harlem. We're doing the outreach.

So, what we find is that a lot of people, you know, up until this, you know, this Iowa win, a lot of people didn't really believe it could happen and especially a lot of people in the African-American community, because a lot of times people make a lot of promises and they say things are going to happen, and it doesn't happen.

But this kind of confirmed that, you know, this is real. This is going to happen, and you can get behind this candidate, because this is the real deal.

SANCHEZ: Well, you guys are young. You're part of the new thing that's going on in this country. You're both younger than I am obviously.

Think about what this must be like, though, for people who have been a part of this struggle for half a century now, people like the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a former presidential candidate himself, who many would say even opened some doors here. And, before that, he was there when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

As a matter of fact, he's with us tonight. He's good enough to join us.

Are you honored to see a guy like this come over here and talk to us about something like this?

You have fought the battles. How are you, sir?

WASHINGTON: Good to see you.


BLITZER: Good to see you, Reverend.

Did you get that feeling? You have been there. You have won primaries. You were an African-American presidential candidate who's actually had this. How is this different from what you did?

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: It's one of those great moments. He's running a crusade, not merely a campaign.

I will only warn people, faith is the substance of things hoped for, and hope and substance has to come together. Kennedy represented the hope. We had to fight for a public accommodations bill. There is the hope that Obama represents...


SANCHEZ: But let me stop you just for a moment, because something seems -- and you guys correct me if I'm wrong. And you can jump in here and talk to the reverend as well.

It seemed like what you did was astonishing. But, then, I don't know if we can call it the dark ages, but there seemed to be a dip, sir. And there was a period of disillusionment. And I think what these guys are saying is, we may be coming out of that sense of disillusionment now.

JACKSON: Well, we have some need to overcome the structural gaps.

For example, there are 2.2 million Americans in jail. A million are young blacks. That's the substance of our crisis. In every major city, seven of 10 young black males don't finish high school. That means there must be some investment in urban education and choose schools over jails.

And, so, the substance involves budget and agenda. I think Barack represents that hope, that feeling. We must also fight for that substance. And that substance -- Dr. King would say, freedom is not enough. We must pay for equality.

SANCHEZ: Are you -- go ahead.

THURSTON: Just on that point -- and I love that you brought up the prison thing, because that's an issue that very few people even talk about.

One of the pieces of Obama's plan that I was so impressed with, he wants to restore voting rights for ex-felons. With those 2.2 million prisoners....


SANCHEZ: Do you think that Bush won the first election because of what happened in Florida? Was there a disenfranchisement there?


THURSTON: First of all, I don't think Bush won that election. I think he earned a selection from some people.

SANCHEZ: Do you agree with him, Reverend?


JACKSON: Well, he had the fewest number of votes. He won by a Supreme Court appointment.


JACKSON: Gore got the most votes.

And really coming now by '88 campaign, Clinton -- Bush and Gore got more white votes than Clinton, didn't get more rainbow votes. And he won.


JACKSON: But, in 2000 and 2004, Bush, by nullification, took away votes and won.

SANCHEZ: But is that -- maybe what I'm trying to get at here -- Michael, maybe you can help us with this. Is that feeling so entrenched, that that's what people are feeling, a release of pressure now with this Obama win? Is that it?

WASHINGTON: Well, I think, with the Obama win, it's kind of -- you know, it's basically saying, yes, we can do this.

And I think we have to give a lot of credit to, you know, the run that Reverend Jackson did, because he kind of set the -- he set the pace. And now I think Obama has taken that baton and run with it.

JACKSON: So, I think, as a campaign, he's going to keep doing well, but that it remains for us the challenge of structural inequality, black babies, infant mortality rates higher, and life expectancy shorter, health care gap, education gap, income gap, access to capital gap, today, the mortgage foreclosure, subprime, exploitation gap.

These gaps require a real commitment to invest in closing these gaps. That's -- so, hope and substance has to come together.


WASHINGTON: I totally agree with you, I think.

But we have to do this simultaneously. I don't think we can just look at one aspect of the campaign. And I think we need to be in the forefront. The African-American community needs to be in the forefront, so that we can address this.

JACKSON: I think, for so long, that we have assumed that whites could not rise above their own racial fears.

To see -- I think, tonight, I would say Dr. King would be happy that -- he would be glad that our last night and America rose above its own historic fears. We have been ready for a long time. It seemed like more and more white Americans are getting ready. We have been qualified. Dr. King was qualified.


SANCHEZ: Especially when you break down the numbers.

JACKSON: We're not changing. America is changing...


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I'm being told we're about out of time, guys. I know we can go on this forever. Are you -- what role are you going to take now that this guy looks like a front-runner, Barack Obama, in his campaign? And I know it's a delicate thing for him because he wants to see these young faces out there, right?

JACKSON: Well, I think it's important, but his campaign must determine strategically where he wants people to fit in the campaign.


JACKSON: And those who put them must respect the distance and proximity that he wants. And so far, he has running a campaign where he's tried to bridge that delicate gap.

SANCHEZ: But you're willing to support? You're willing to help? You're willing to endorse, wherever needed?

JACKSON: We've done that already. I'm telling you the real challenge remains. We must connect hope and substance.


SANCHEZ: Ten seconds.

THURSTON: I think he's done that. What I took away from you yesterday was participation. He got more people in the process.


SANCHEZ: There's no doubt, guys.

THURSTON: He got younger people in the process.

SANCHEZ: They're yelling at me in the control room. Sure, they're young. They're independents, women, young --

THURSTON: People have spoken loudly, and I think they will continue. That's why I appreciate his campaign.

SANCHEZ: We appreciate you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're doing a lot in South Carolina.

SANCHEZ: We have a lot more to say tonight. Reverend, thanks so much for being with us, sir. JACKSON: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Well, Baratunde Thurston, Michael Washington and Rev. Jesse Jackson. All of us with this one.

By the way, speaking of New Hampshire primaries, you're going to be able to see all of it right here. Join us Tuesday night for the best political team on TV and results as they happen. That's Tuesday, starting at 8:00 p.m., right here Eastern.

And call this guy towering candidate. Why? Well, can hanging out on top of a 320-foot-high tower get him elected to the U.S. Senate? It's an interesting story. It's a little different than Barack Obama's way, but it's his way, nonetheless.

Later, just when you thought that things couldn't get any worse, we've got this afternoon's breaking news about Britney Spears. We'll bring it to you.


SANCHEZ: Not only was Britney Spears strapped to a gurney and taken to a hospital last night, there's more breaking news today. Will she ever be able to see her kids again? A ruling has just come down. This gets sad, folks. We're going to have a live report on this in just a little bit.

By the way, those are pictures as the EMTs were taken away last night. Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. This is OUT IN THE OPEN.

If the big theme of our coverage tonight is about change in Washington, then we've got a candidate in Georgia you really have to hear about. I mean, this isn't a tale. This is a show, so let's show it.

This is Dale Cardwell. And you see that tower right there? All right. He's at the very top of that thing, and it's cold in Georgia. He's been camping out on top of this 320-foot-high tower in downtown Atlanta for three days now, despite unusually cold temperatures and bracing winds.

He's our former investigative reporter, by the way, who's running for the Georgia/U.S. Senate seat. And look he says, I don't have the money to go out like other candidates so I'll do this and see if somebody is willing to come out and listen to our message. So I figured anybody who's willing to do that we should talk to him. He says he's going to stay up there for 24 hours a day, frigid weather and all until he says, his message is heard.

Joining us now from that 15-foot-ledge at the top of the 320-foot tower is Dale Cardwell. Hey, Dale, thanks for being with us. All right, man, here's your opportunity.


SANCHEZ: You're on CNN. You're right. You don't have money to pay for commercials, so what's your message?

CARDWELL: Here it is. For 23 years, I've been an investigative reporter going behind the lines of power and big government to bring people the real story.


CARDWELL: Like everybody, I'm disgusted by what's going on in Washington. Democrats and Republicans unable to fix the problems. It seems so obvious to us, health care, immigration, our addiction to foreign oil, our crazy tax system, but you know what? My skills led me to find out exactly what the problem is.

Our government and most of our elected leaders no longer work for us. They work for the special interest and giant multinational corporations that pay for their campaigns and then tell them exactly what they can and can't do when they get to Washington.

SANCHEZ: You know, it's interesting. You know, I'm sitting here -- I'm sitting here listening to you and I'm thinking well, that part of your message sounds an awful lot like what Barack Obama was saying in Iowa, and I imagine you probably got a message similar to what Huckabee said in Iowa at least in terms of immigration, right?

CARDWELL: Yes, that's right, Rick. You know the problem is, the guy I'm running against, Saxby Chambliss, is the third closest senator to George Bush. He's lost three bases in Georgia, and this guy is out of touch with the people of Georgia. That's because 75 percent of his money comes from corporate interests.

Agra business is a huge contributor to his campaign. Just a few months ago, he voted against health care for Georgia children for parents who made $46,000 a year or less.

SANCHEZ: Well --

CARDWELL: But you know what? He just voted through the farm bill to give tax payers subsidies to farmers.

SANCHEZ: Look. Hey, Dale.

CARDWELL: They come to $1 million to $2.5 million.

SANCHEZ: Just to be safe, just to be fair because he's not here with us, it wouldn't be fair to just, you know, go on about all the things that he is or isn't. So let's take Chambliss out of the mix, other than the fact that I do understand that you're hanging on pretty tight in the polls, apparently 36-49 percent, right? You got the 36, but still --

CARDWELL: That's right.

SANCHEZ: Georgia is not a place that usually elects Democrats, at least not about -- not this time. Not these days, right?

CARDWELL: Well, Rick, I'm an independent Democrat. I mean think Harry Truman. Think JFK. I mean, I'm sick of this gridlock in Washington, and I know it's because these guys don't work for us anymore. They work for giant multinational corporations and somebody had to --


SANCHEZ: Well, this is an interesting way of getting them.

CARDWELL: -- the noise.

SANCHEZ: This is an interesting way of getting your message out. So you've been up there how long now?

CARDWELL: Four days.

SANCHEZ: And how long are you going to stay?

CARDWELL: I've got to accomplish two things. I've got to be convinced that my message has been heard and then I've got to find out if people are still willing to rally around an everyday guy like me who doesn't owe anyone anything...


CARDWELL: ... but the people of Georgia if they'll support me.

SANCHEZ: Well, let me -- I got only one more question for you because I'm just curious, you know, and when you're curious I guess you should ask. How do you go to the bathroom?

CARDWELL: Around the corner.

SANCHEZ: So you got like a little --

CARDWELL: I've got a -- I've got a little camping facility if you know what I mean.


CARDWELL: But Rick, it's very important. Very important that people --

SANCHEZ: Dale, Dale, Dale, we're out of time, my friend but we thank you for doing what you're doing. You certainly -- any guy who is willing to stay out there for days and days when it's been below zero with the windchill in Atlanta, I guess deserves to be heard. What's the difference between that and a TV spot? Thanks again, Dale.

Not only is Britney Spears in the hospital. There's breaking news about her kids now. We're going to have the very latest ruling. It's coming in, in just a little bit. These are some of the very latest pictures.

Also, that tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo, this is one of those media gone wild stories, pardon the pun. Why do some people insist on blaming the victims for what the zoo may have been responsible for? We'll get into that as well. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to OUT IN THE OPEN. I'm Rick Sanchez. Tonight, we're also following this wild and dramatic Britney Spears story. The very latest just a couple of hours ago, a court commission awarded her sole custody of her children, not to her though, but to her father, their kids' father, I should say, Kevin Federline, and he also cancels Spears' visitation rights. Here's how this has come to this. We've got some video we can share with you.

Last night, Spears was strapped to a gurney and wheeled out of her California home after she reportedly refused to give up custody of those two children. Well, that was the end of the three-hour standoff that started when Federline's bodyguards came to pick the boys up after her prearranged visit, so you get that? They come to try and pick the kids up and apparently she resists and says no.

Spears had reportedly taken 1-year-old Jayden James, locked herself in the bathroom. Last night, police officers said that they suspected that she was under the influence of some unknown substance but today, they backed off that claim. Spears was taken to Cedars- Sinai hospital where she is still being involuntarily held for mental evaluation.

Let's bring in entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson who's been following these for us. Boy, Brooke, I'm not sure where we want to start this.


SANCHEZ: I guess, as sad as it is, there's worse news for her now that if she was depressed before, she may even become more depressed and that is if the judge has said what? She doesn't even now get visitation rights on top of the fact that she doesn't have the kids as custody?

ANDERSON: No. She has been completely cut off from seeing her sons at all, Rick. The court has suspended visitation rights completely and you have to remember, she only has limited monitored visitation rights before this anyway. But her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, does have primary physical custody but you have to remember, this is a temporary arrangement.


ANDERSON: And there is a hearing on this matter, January 14th. So there is still hope for Britney Spears but it is like you say, very, very sad and I think a lot of us, you know, we should have compassion for her because it's humiliating what she's going through.

SANCHEZ: Oh, yes. Well, you know -- hey, Will, if we got those pictures again last night of her in the ambulance, I think, can you explain to us, Brooke, what set her off? What led to, I mean, EMTs and police coming to her house and having to take her away, as humiliating as that sounds? ANDERSON: You know what? It's really unclear what set her off. She did have to attend a deposition earlier in the day on Thursday, and she was nearly two hours late for that, really angered Federline's attorney, but the police were called around 8:00 p.m. local time to mediate a custody dispute. She didn't want to return the children to Kevin Federline at the appropriate scheduled time. Basically there was a big standoff, and we are looking at some of the video right there, where she was taken to Cedars-Sinai.

It took three hours, though, from the time that the police were called to her house, for her to be wheeled out on that stretcher she was strapped in. And some of the video from certain angles, I could see where she was violently shaking her leg so she was restrained. It seemed that she was resisting it.

SANCHEZ: But did you say -- but if you say she was violently shaking her leg, was she under the influence or was she not under the influence because we're really getting a lot of conflicting reports there? I mean, is this just a matter of perspective of the police officers?

ANDERSON: Well, it's a matter of the testing and at this point we don't have the test results.


ANDERSON: And the hospital is being very tight-lipped, citing patient confidentiality laws but officers on the scene did say that she seemed to be under the influence of an unknown substance. Now, she was tested for drugs and alcohol and also given a psychological evaluation. At this point, though, we just don't know the results of those tests.

SANCHEZ: Finally, shouldn't this just come down to somebody coming to her and helping her, from, I mean I'm serious, from a psychological standpoint, maybe a counselor, psychologist, you know, a shrink, somebody who can come to her aid and because obviously there's a problem here, right?

ANDERSON: There does seem to be a very serious problem but the question is, Rick, will she listen to anyone? You have to remember, three legal teams now have dropped her, citing breakdown in communications and that it's impossible to work with her, that she won't listen. And also, she's had a very strange relationship with her family.


ANDERSON: She hasn't really surrounded herself maybe with people who had her best interests in mind, but her father visited her earlier this morning. We're told her brother is coming to visit her. We're also told that her mother is "on her way." So while their relationships still may be tenuous, if this isn't a wakeup call for Britney Spears, maybe it's a wakeup call for those around her that she does need serious help.

SANCHEZ: It is so sad, and it really is.


SANCHEZ: You know, the fall of an icon. I mean, a pop icon, but an icon nonetheless.


SANCHEZ: And one can only imagine the pressures that have, I imagined been on her. Hey, Brooke Anderson good report, thorough stuff. Thanks so much.

ANDERSON: Thanks, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Brooke and the rest of the "showbiz" team is going to have a full hour on Britney, and this sad situation is coming up tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. It's on CNN "HEADLINE NEWS." Good watch, good show, we recommend.

Also, there's going to be much more on Britney Spear's story tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE." We're moving on to another story, though, about people everywhere and what they're talking about.

How does a tiger get loose and attack people at a zoo, and then it seems that many in the media end up saying, well, it's the guys who were attacked's fault? Hmmm, something about the logic there. Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree. We'll take it up when we come back right here OUT IN THE OPEN. Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: It's Friday and in English it's the king. In Spanish, it's "el rey" with a lot of rolling of the "r." Larry King, ladies and gentlemen, to tell you what's coming up in our next hour here at CNN.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": I like you better in Spanish. I don't know. I like you, and I like you better in Spanish.

SANCHEZ: There you go. CNN Espaniol.

KING: Coming up at the top of the hour, we're going to follow the ongoing drama that is Britney Spears, the tragedy you've been talking about. We'll talk to Hollywood insiders and TV judges who've been following the chaos surrounding this troubled pop star. We've also got televangelist Creflo Dollar who's under scrutiny in Congress over the finances of his mega church. All that at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, Rick.

SANCHEZ: We could go on forever but both of our producers would get mad at us. So I'll say to you, adios, until next week.

KING: Yes. Adios.

SANCHEZ: All right. A tiger attacks people at a zoo. Why are the victims getting blamed? We're looking at answers on this one.


SANCHEZ: This next story is one that people just can't seem to get enough of. On Christmas day, that 350-pound tiger you saw there gets out of its pen at the San Francisco Zoo and attacks three people, killed one of them. The pen turns out to be four feet shorter than recommended, but police are now investigating whether the men taunted the tiger, and it seems like people are blaming those victims for potentially taunting the tiger.

Joining us now, by phone, because the weather is so bad is Phil Bronstein. I mean, not only is he the editor and the executive vice president of the "San Francisco Chronicle," he was attacked by a Komodo dragon himself at a Los Angeles zoo just a few years ago. Hey, Phil, thanks so much for being with us. I know you're joining us by phone because of the weather situation out there.

You're furious about the way the media has been treating this. I've been watching the same stories, and it seems to be the victimization of the victims, right? I mean, how dare these guys? And look, what they did may have been stupid, right? But?

VOICE OF PHIL BRONSTEIN, EX. VICE PRESIDENT, THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Well, look, I mean, we've run stories, Rick, that talk about what they may or may not have done. That's just part of trying to piece together what happened that night.


BRONSTEIN: But that's very different than saying they deserved to get killed or mauled for it. I mean, the fact is that you know, being a pain and being difficult and acting out and provoking an animal and being a jerk, if in fact that's what these guys were doing, and we don't know that yet, doesn't mean you get the death penalty.

SANCHEZ: Well, here's the point. Imagine, hey, look, my kids, guess what? Here's a shocker. They misbehave from time to time.


SANCHEZ: They do dumb things. Imagine if that was your kid or my kid or one of the viewers' kids who went over at a zoo and did something dumb by poking an animal or something, and then the animal jumps out of its cage and attacks our kid and somebody's going to say well, your kid was acting. You know, was misbehaving. Well, yes, he was misbehaving. But what does that have to do with the animal getting out?

BRONSTEIN: Look, it has nothing to do with the animal getting out. The fact is, and we've reported this from day one, the zoo was issuing all sorts of measurements that were inaccurate about how high that wall was and how wide that moat was until, you know, we were about to measure it. You know, you have a way of measuring it from the air with some degree of accuracy and we were about to do that, and then they came out and said, well, it really wasn't 16 feet high. It was 12 feet high. And the fact is that a tiger that size on its hind feet can reach 10 feet and it can jump from its hind feet 4 feet. So guess what? It's two feet too short to contain the tiger. Now, why the tiger decided to get out of there at that particular time is of interest, which is why we're reporting on it.


BRONSTEIN: But really had nothing to do with the zoo's responsibility.

SANCHEZ: No, the fact of the matter -- the fact of the matter is, the tiger got out of his pen and that has nothing to do with what may have provoked him. Phil Bronstein, thanks so much for being with us. Interesting talk. We wish we could have gone a little further, but we've had a lot of stuff going on today.

Britney Spears taken to the hospital, then loses custody of her kids. A lot more on this story. It's coming up on "LARRY KING" in just a little bit. You have a fantastic weekend. I'm Rick Sanchez. Thanks so much for being with us. We'll see you again next week.


SANCHEZ: See we faked you out when in fact, "LARRY KING" starts in just a little bit. By the way, when we get it wrong the last time, it was the director's fault and his name is Will Nunez (ph).

All right. Let's take you out. Will, do the thing with that little boom camera. See that? Is that cool or what? Good night.