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Half of Florida and Michigan Delegates Seated; Barack Obama Says Goodbye to Trinity United Church; Barack Obama's Early Days of Campaigning; Ellen DeGeneres Wedding Plans at Bush Ranch

Aired May 31, 2008 - 22:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bet your ass it was flawed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, you can see there. Things get heated inside the Democratic rules meeting. Are they including Michigan and Florida votes?

And on the outside --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PROTESTORS: 50 states, not 48! 50 states, not 48!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: You see the protesters are not shy about their feelings about the candidate they support. And speaking of support, he is officially withdrawing his. Obama says goodbye to Trinity Church's roster.

And meet Arthur. He's the first-named storm of the hurricane season. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon in tonight for Rick Sanchez. And as you can see, we are very heavy on politics tonight and for good reason. Something happened today in Washington that rocked the American electoral system and I mean, rocked it. And it created a chapter of U.S. political history that if you weren't paying attention, you would have missed.

OK. So they have solved the Florida and Michigan delegate debacle. Well, it's a solution, but not one that everyone is happy with. And it's also about those uncounted delegates representing Democratic voters in those two states. Remember, they were excluded from the primary process as a penalty imposed by the Democratic National Committee.

But this evening, after a full day of debates, sometimes heated, sometimes profane, you heard that in the top of our newscast, the rules committee compromised and will allow all delegates from both states to cast half a vote each at the convention. So that's the fight. And here is the prize. Delegates and lots of them. Now parsed out between candidates Clinton and Obama. Here's the split. In Florida, 105 delegates for Senator Clinton. 67 for Senator Obama. In Michigan, sworn delegates with half a vote each. 69 for Clinton, 59 for Obama.

There is so much more to digest here tonight. So much data as well. The historical importance plus the fact that Hillary Clinton's chief delegate counter says the senator reserves the right to appeal today's decision. Let's talk to CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Now at our election headquarters in New York.

Very interesting day, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, a lot of fireworks and emotions as well. Essentially what the DNC did, they are ruling here and moves the goal post forward effectively to get the Democratic nomination. So before today, Barack Obama needed 42 delegates to clinch the nomination. Now that turns into 68.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): After hours of deliberations, an occasional fireworks. A deal, then a threat by the Clinton campaign to keep the fight going.

HAROLD ICKES, MEMBER, DNC RULES COMMITTEE: Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee.

(APPLAUSE)

MALVEAUX: The DNC rules and bylaws committee voted to seat all the Florida and Michigan delegates at the Democratic convention, but cut their votes in half for holding their primaries early.

But the biggest uproar from the Clinton camp erupted over how the delegates would be divided in Michigan where Obama's name was not on the ballot. Roughly 60 percent to go for Clinton and 40 percent for Barack Obama from voters who checked uncommitted.

ICKES: I am stunned that we have the gall and the hotspot to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters.

(APPLAUSE)

Not only will this motion highjack four delegates for Mrs. Clinton, it will take 55 delegates from uncommitted status, which is a recognized presidential status, under our constitution, and convert them to Barack Obama.

MALVEAUX: The deal was a compromise. Obama's camp believed Michigan's delegates should have been split in half. Barack Obama reacted cautiously to Clinton's threat to take the delegate controversy all the way to the August convention.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I'm not going to do anything to dissuade Senator Clinton to do what she thinks is best. I trust that they're going to do the right thing. Well, I think they'll have to make a determination of that. But I think that they will be motivated by an interest of bringing the party together.

MALVEAUX: From the passionate protests, it is obvious there is much work to be done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Mr. Cochairman, Mr. Roosevelt, I do not believe that everyone was able to hear due to the raucous in the hall what the yes vote was. So would you remind -- once we can have it -- quiet --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please have the courtesy -- please have the courtesy to allow people to hear what the vote was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And let me just tell you this. When we get this vote, we will leave here more united than we came. This is not -- this is not about each other's campaigns. This is about the finding a way to make whole, to some degree -- can I tell you something?

That vote failed. Do you believe in democracy? Then, if you do, then here is the next best thing. And I want to ask all of you to respect it and to please conduct yourselves like proper men and women.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Don, it really was a bitter disappointment -- this decision by the DNC for Hillary Clinton, because essentially she was hoping these wins in these two contests would bring her significantly closer in closing the gap of pledge delegates and also leading in the popular vote.

And despite what Harold Ickes said, her representative there at that hearing, there are some Clinton supporters who say they really have no intention of taking this any further.

Don?

LEMON: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you, Suzanne.

Joining me now is Mark Brewer, who is the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Mr. Brewer, do you consider this a victory for the people who voted in Michigan?

MARK BREWER, CHAIRMAN, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Yes. We're very pleased with the results today. Not only were half of our delegates restored, but the committee adopted our proposal to how to allocate those delegates, which had been a very contentious issue before today.

LEMON: I'm going to talk to you about being inside of the room because you're part of the decision making process. But I want to talk to you about the people we saw outside of that room who were reacting. Some of them were very happy. Others were upset by that.

Tell us about what you saw and what you're experiencing as far as people's reaction to this decision.

BREWER: Well, obviously there are people who are disappointed and happy. The compromise we had in Michigan today was really truly a compromise, because Obama didn't get everything he wanted. Nor did Clinton get everything that she wanted. We think it's a fair compromise that will enable us to unify the party in Michigan.

LEMON: Well, you're saying compromise. (INAUDIBLE) saying this is sort of an appeasement vote because it's half so it's kind of counts but it doesn't really count because it sort of, you know, one counteracts the other one.

BREWER: No. Our votes in Michigan will now count. We're very confident. We're going to get the rest of the delegate votes back in the next few weeks. So we get to Denver. We're going to have a full complement of delegates. They are each going to have a full vote and we're going to have a full voice in every issue at that convention.

LEMON: Talk to me about the reaction -- I kind of interrupted you when you were talking about that.

BREWER: Well, you know, their reaction (INAUDIBLE). People have very strong feels about their candidates. That's great. But in the end, I believe everybody is going to come together. This is going to be about Democratic nominee versus John McCain.

And I don't think there is a single Democrat in that room today who believes John McCain should be our next president.

LEMON: Inside the room, tough decision -- what was it like? What was the environment like inside of that room?

BREWER: Well, the committee's deliberations -- I was very impressed. I worked with this group now for several years. Very thoughtful. Very deliberative. We spent several hours discussing the pros and the cons of how to seat the Michigan delegation. That took up the bulk of the time this afternoon.

I thought the presentations that Carl Levin made were very helpful. He also let me know that they thought that the information I provided was helpful to them. I was very impressed. Our proposal in the end was supported by Obama supporters, by Clinton supporters and by people who are truly neutral. So I think that's a very good sign.

LEMON: Mark Brewer who is the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. Our thanks to him.

Joining us now from Washington tonight, that's where he was. The way the Democrats resolved the debate over Florida's delegates -- well, it appears so far to be OK with most Floridians. Let's check in now with some of them.

Our John Zarrella is standing by. He is in Davie, Florida.

John, where are you joining us from? JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, we are at Lefty's which is a tavern and grille here in Davie in Broward County, which is of course the heart of Democratic country in Florida.

We've been here all day talking to Democrats. A lot of them whom we invited here throughout the day. And the consensus from everybody is they're glad it is over in Florida now and they can move on, concentrate on the general election.

I'm also here tonight joined by Bob, Jeanne and Sara Dernbach.

And Bob, we were talking a little while ago and -- you think it should have ever gotten this far where they're splitting up the amount -- the half of the vote for each delegate. What's your feeling?

BOB DERNBACH, FLORIDA DEMOCRAT: I think as far as the process goes, there should have either been a revote started way back months ago for Florida and Michigan and seat the delegates. Or if this is part of the normal process of seating the delegates, then that's fine. If it's part of the rules process, then that works.

But for this to take as long as it's taken seems like way too long. I mean, we've had the Republican decision way back -- when was it, February? So it's time for the Democrats to move on. Bob, you're an Obama supporter.

ZARRELLA: Jeanne, you're a Clinton supporter. How do you feel right now about Hillary Clinton's chances?

JEANNE DERNBACH, FLORIDA DEMOCRAT: Well, I think unfortunately it's too late as far as the delegates go. I think this should have been done at the beginning. I really -- unfortunately, you know, think that Obama will be on the ticket. I wish it would be Hillary. But I really do -- I think it's too late.

ZARRELLA: Sara, now, you're going into a seminary school. And we were talking of today Obama renounced the church. He's getting out of his church. You think that as an Obama supporter yourself, you think he made the right decision?

SARA DERNBACH, FLORIDA DEMOCRAT: I think he definitely made the right decision. He doesn't want any negativity as part of his campaign and he made the right decision to renounce something that he didn't agree with. He's definitely the candidate that I'm voting for. And he has my full support and the support of many probably with the decision that he made with the pastor.

ZARRELLA: Right. He didn't renounce the church, he resigned from it. So you're glad that he made that decision. You thought it was the right thing to do. Now, all of you, you are still going to vote Democratic though in November, right? You're still not -- this didn't turn you off so much that you won't vote.

D. DERNBACH: No, we'll vote.

ZARRELLA: Same for you? J. DERNBACH: Definitely.

ZARRELLA: Even if it's Barack Obama?

J. DERNBACH: Yes. And I would never vote for McCain.

ZARRELLA: OK. Well, again, that's pretty much been the sentiment here. That most folks here that we talked -- in fact, most of all of them have said, Don, that they will still go ahead and vote Democratic despite all that has transpired in Florida come November. And that they're glad that this is all over with.

Don?

LEMON: All right. The Dernbachs and our John Zarrella at Lefty's. And they're having a good time there at Davie, Florida. Thank you very much for that, John Zarrella.

Republican John McCain let the Democrats have the spotlight today. He stayed off the campaign trail. He did, however, make an unscheduled two-hour visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. The visit was close to reporters that's why the only time that we saw McCain was when he rode by in that SUV.

Walter Reed, of course, treats many of the U.S. troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was recently under fire for allegedly shoddy conditions.

His church gave his campaign more than its share of headaches. But now Barack Obama is saying goodbye to Trinity. What was the final straw?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All he had was really about two options. And tonight, Barack Obama has decided which one he is taking. He says he will no longer -- no longer attend Trinity United. The church where he's been worshiping for the past 20 years.

The fallout -- well, I'm getting ready to play some comments for you. The last thing the senator ever wanted to hear, especially after all that controversy -- remember that -- how could you forget it? Surrounding Former Trinity Pastor Jeremiah Wright.

Well, this time, the uproar comes from visiting Reverend Michael Pfleger. I should say Father Michael Pfleger, who delivered this message at Trinity last Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FATHER MICHAEL PFLEGER, CATHOLIC PRIEST: And then out of nowhere came -- hey, I'm Barack Obama. And she said -- oh, damn, where did you come from? I'm white. I'm entitled. There's a black man stealing my show! Oh!

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Well, CNN contributor Roland Martin was first to report Senator Obama's decision to leave the church and he joins us now from Houston this hour.

And Roland, I think, Barack Obama -- the first thing you said was someone gave the letter that he wrote to the pastor to CNN, and I guess you broke that story. But I want to tell you, I've talked to Father Pfleger tonight and he says the whole situation has been deeply painful and he's going to talk to his church family tomorrow about it. But he was essentially -- I guess we could say rebuked by Cardinal Francis George.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, he also said of the story I went online because the "Chicago Sun-Times" -- well, "The Chicago Tribune," talked about that he's received more than 1,000 death threats and e-mails and comments as well as a result of this.

But you have to look at Obama's decision to leave Trinity, to resign his membership where to come a couple of advantage points. There is no doubt it follows the comments from Pfleger, but also, he talked in the letter about and also in the news conference earlier the intense scrutiny the church has been under.

The fact that the church has received death threats, bomb threats, people who are sick and shod in reporters have been calling them. And so the decision I would say is partly political because he needs to be able to get this behind him.

But also as a way to say to the church, it is unfair that you have to endure all of this while I am running for president. So it's best that we simply part company. And so that was playing a critical role as well in his decision to leave Trinity.

LEMON: So, Roland, I'm just looking at some of the things that people have been saying about this. They have been saying this is the last thing Obama needed -- Jeremiah Wright. You know, now this that he had to do what he did because there was no other option. Stay and then suffer the consequences.

But also, let's talk about the other side, the republican side. McCain-Hagee, that controversy. It really had a short self life. And so do you see any similarities, any differences here.

MARTIN: Well, it had a short shelf life primarily because he was not a member of those churches. But again, the point that Obama stressed is that -- look, he's in a different position running for president -- and again, a member of Trinity United Church of Christ and we're going to play something he said earlier.

LEMON: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's clear that now that I'm a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will be imputed to me, even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Roland, he thought this was behind him.

MARTIN: Well, again, though, Don, if you listen to what he just said on that particular point there, he recognizes that he would have to apologize, rebuke, denounce anything said from the pulpit.

And also I had a chance to talk with Reverend Otis Moss III, the senior pastor of the church. They also sent me a statement that they release and they also shared their views as it relates to the decision to leave. They recognize it was a difficult one but wish the Obama Family well as they move forward. And call for God's grace to be owed with the Obama Family as they move forward.

LEMON: Yes. And I don't know if you can see it here but I just want to read it for our viewers. "As in the prayer for the Ephesians, our entire Trinity family ask that the nation entrust Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha, to God's care and guidance, so that Christ may continue to dwell in their lives, in their hearts, and in their work."

MARTIN: And you know, Don --

LEMON: That's the official statement. Go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE). Maybe some people out there who are saying -- well, you know, why would you send a letter to your pastor? Why not just leave? Well, first, you know, my wife is an ordained minister. And I actually made that difficult decision of leaving -- I left the Catholic Church after 25 years.

And typically what happens when you leave a church you do notify them in an official way. When I joined a church in Chicago, they transferred a letter from my church in Houston to that church saying this person is a member in good standing. So for the people who are not of the faith, then they wonder why do you send a letter to your pastor, that's why. You do make it official when you do leave by sending such a letter.

LEMON: Roland Martin, CNN contributor. Thank you so much tonight for joining us. And nice job breaking that story for us, Roland. Make sure you have a good weekend.

MARTIN: Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you.

Well, the Democratic Party hopes today's decision on Florida and Michigan is the end of that whole fiasco. But one man in Florida, he is not quite satisfied. And he's suing the Democratic Party to prove it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Long before today's DNC's slug fest in Washington, a Democratic strategist rolled up his sleeves and said, oh, no. No one will take away the Democrats' right to vote in Florida.

Victor Dimaio sued the DNC and this week a federal judge -- well, tossed out his lawsuit. Mr. Dimaio joins us now from Tampa, Florida where he's been watching the events of the day with a very keen interest and a unique perspective.

Your argument was very interesting to me. We talked a little bit earlier about your argument. You basically claim -- this term is weird for me. Reverse discrimination. You claim discrimination in this case. Explain that to us.

VICTOR DIMAIO, SUED DNC: The reason I filed this -- in fact, I filed this lawsuit in August of '07. Almost, ten months ago. So I filed this suite long before the very first vote was counted or even cast for that matter. So my vote was -- my lawsuit, along with my attorney, Michael Steinberg, who's done a unanimous job for the last ten months of putting this whole thing together was based on the fact that the DNC stripped Florida of all of our 211 votes to the Democratic National Convention. And we both looked at each other like, are these guys nuts? Are they crazy?

This is Florida. I mean, this is the land of the hanging chads, for Christ's sake.

LEMON: Explain to us, what the discrimination part of this. Why is it discriminatory?

DIMAIO: Well, here's the deal. The lawsuit is based simply on the fact that the Democratic National Committee receives about $16.3 million to put on the convention every four years.

When you accept that federal taxpayer money, it comes with strings attached. You cannot discriminate, for example, when you receive the money. So -- and the Republicans get the same amount of money as well. So according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you cannot discriminate when receiving federal funds. This is the basis of many discriminatory lawsuits that have taken place.

LEMON: But with all due respect, Mr. Dimaio, a federal judge tossed out your lawsuit.

DIMAIO: He didn't toss it out. It wasn't dismissed. It was just -- we had competing motions and they accepted the motion of the DNC. We have automatically appealed. We received our notice from the court.

LEMON: Well, that's the question. Even with today's decision, are you still going to go forward with this lawsuit?

DIMAIO: Absolutely. This doesn't change a thing. You know, I'm a whole person. I'm not half a person. You know, many years ago, African-Americans were counted as 3/5 of the vote. And they were not happy with that. And I'm not happy with being 1/2 the vote. So this has not change a thing in my book. LEMON: OK. It hasn't change a thing in your book. But also, there's a statement from Howard Dean who talked about today and talked about the lawsuit and all this.

He said, you cannot violate the rules of the process and then expect to get forgiven for it. He's talking about Michigan. He's talking about Florida. He says, both states violated the process and thus accordingly will have to play by the rules and not get their delegate (INAUDIBLE) today.

DIMAIO: Well, listen, my attorney, Michael Steinberg, who happens to be chairman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party and myself. I happen to be the finance director of the party, so we're not against the party making rules. We're just basing our lawsuit on the fact that this rule is unconstitutional.

You cannot discriminate when you receive federal funds and turn pick -- and this is the other part of the suit that I didn't get into. South Carolina was picked ahead of other states. Nevada was picked ahead of other states. South Carolina, because of the large number, over 55 percent of the Democratic population there is African- American.

Nevada was picked for the -- because the vast majority of their population is Hispanic. You cannot use race or ethnic origin as a base for prioritizing --

LEMON: I understand that to break it down.

DIMAIO: It's not because I'm white. It's not because -- I'm just -- look, what's one little guy, I'm Victor Dimaio, representing all the Floridians in Florida. That's, you know -- we as a state were discriminated against. And that's what the 14th Amendment and the other half of our lawsuit is about. You cannot treat one state differently from another.

LEMON: We've been talking a lot about race. Basically, New Hampshire and Iowa, usually first when it comes to the primary process. But in order to make it fair, the Democrats said they wanted to pick two states that are a little bit more diverse. So they picked two states that you're saying because of their minority status.

And so thus, your primary had to be moved back, which caused you to be penalized. So that's what you're saying. But Florida has a huge Hispanic population, which is considered a minority population as well. So how does this even have any juice?

DIMAIO: Because the minority population here, even though we have a huge number of Hispanics, a huge number of African-Americans. We have 20 million on the 20 million Floridians. It's not as large as South Carolina.

LEMON: OK.

DIMAIO: Our Hispanic population is not as large as Nevada. And besides they told Florida -- look, you can go ahead and apply to be first but you're not going to get picked. You're too big. You're too expensive. That's why those smaller states were picked.

And listen, we're trying to protect the civil rights of all Americans. If Barack Obama in this state, for example, loses, next time around, they can say -- you know, what, we're going to pick all white states. We're going to pick West Virginia, Kentucky, Iowa, Nebraska, whatever. And then if we're not successful, that's it. They can do that.

LEMON: That would have to be the last word. Thank you. We're running of time. Mr. Victor Dimaio. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Enjoy your evening and your weekend as well.

DIMAIO: Thank you very much. Thank you.

LEMON: All right. Well, this year's Democratic primary has driven interest among young voters to an all-time high. But what are they saying as the race drags on? Our Rick Sanchez who's out tonight.

Earlier, he sat down with some of them to find out exactly that. It's our "League of First Time Voters," and it's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this year's Democratic primary has driven interest young voters to an all-time high. But what are they saying as the race drags on. Our Rick Sanchez who's out tonight. Earlier, he sat down with some of them to find out exactly that. It's our "League of First Time Voters," and it's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, guess what they're talking about at the Berlin Air Show this week? The same thing that you're talking about at the pump -- soaring fuel prices. Here's CNN's Diana Magnay.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's not much flying that's as fuel-efficient as this. But here at the Berlin Air Show, the big industry players say they're trying their best to produce aircraft which are less dependent on oil.

Egon Behle, Chief Executive of German engine maker MTU, shows me what the future of flying what might look like and how radically new designs might drastically reduce the amount of fuel needed to fly.

EGON BEHLE, CEO MTU AERO ENGINES: It is possible to do that and to achieve, as I've said, one liter per person per 100 kilometers -- one- third of Airbus A380 fuel consumption.

MAGNAY: How long until we can see that in the skies above us?

BEHLE: It's still ahead. I would say 2030 is a good figure.

MAGNAY: 2030 seems to be a date which crops up a lot. By then, the Airbus says it hopes to have phased out kerosene-based jet fuel all together. Even now, Airbus says its gigantic new A380 consumes only as much fuel per passenger mile as a medium-sized car.

But it hopes by 2030 that the entire Airbus fleet could be powered by a biofuel made from slow-growing algae, which, it says, wouldn't compete with food stuffs.

ROSS WALKER, AIRBUS FUEL SYSTEMS ENGINEERING: Fuels on algae, then (INAUDIBLE) fly the world with aviation kerosene.

MAGNAY: In the shorter term, though, the big plane makers are exploring other ways to improve their fuel efficiency. One working solution, hydrogen-powered fuel cells.

MAGNAY (on camera): This is a regular Airbus A320. But inside it, for the first time, Airbus is demonstrating its new fuel cell technology. Now, the fuel cell, it says, will never be able to power an entire plane. It won't be able to replace kerosene all together. But what it will be able to do, Airbus says, is at least fuel all the electrical systems inside.

MAGNAY (voice-over): One key advantage here is that a by-product of fuel cell technology is water. And that can be then be used in the aircraft's waste systems, meaning there's less water to transport in the first place.

For many of the spectators of the air show, though, the high price of oil is a secondary concern. It's (INAUDIBLE) and military might which your average air show enthusiast is after. And there's nothing fuel efficient about that.

Diana Magnay, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, you've been hearing a lot about all of them lately. The female vote, the Hispanic vote, the African-American vote and the list goes on and on and on. But one group encompasses them all. And they are the young voters in a league of their own. One we like to call "The League of First Time Voters."

CNN's Rick Sanchez sat down with students at Auburn University.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Why would you vote for Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he has a lot of international appeal -- first as a candidates.

SANCHEZ: Why is that important -- the international appeal?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we kind of tarnished our reputation. I think it's time to get that back and prove that Americans are ready to go and move forward. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think putting a junior senator with three years behind him in office right now in time of war, with the economy where it's at, is a good idea. We still have soldiers over there. We need to find a way to win the war, support our troops while they're in a harm's way and then come back and see what we can do better.

SANCHEZ: Since you brought it up, allow me to ask it to the whole group. Was the war justified?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was started on the basis of lies. I don't think -- I think that the country was in a sort of a sense of fear at that time. And we were just going to listen to the president because we thought he had our best interests at heart, when really he just had his own.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The question is (INAUDIBLE) ending this war and how do we win this war? How do we bring our troops home safely and with success?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, the war is the number one issue that faces the American voters in November. We have two simple choices. You can go to the polls and vote to end the war and bring the troops home and wait to be attacked in three to five years by a stronger Iraq, a nuclear Iran, and an Afghanistan that's rebuilding if we leave without us, or we can win the war.

SANCHEZ: Who will be better at handling the economy?

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Why McCain?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he believes in lowering taxes, smaller government and sort of laissez faire hand's off, which, I think, is what our country needs right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not going to bankrupt the economy by proposing $500 billion in new programs that we can't pay for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both Democrats want to end this war and that's where a lot of our money is being, you know, wasted on in Iraq. And so bringing our money back here, we'll have the opportunity to do things. I think Clinton has the initiative that will start -- I think right away it will start like a million new jobs. And that's the green -- her new green collar jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

SANCHEZ: Why Barack Obama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's passionate about changing the economy. And that's a big deal. If you have the passion, I think you can get in there and get it done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little bit naive I feel like, because he thinks his coming can change things. And, you know, when Jimmy Carter, no one worked with him because he didn't know how to play the game. There's a game to play and you have to know how to play it. You can't think you're going to come change it, because it's not going to work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: That was Rick Sanchez with our "League of First Time Voters." Whether you're voting for the first time or are newly energized at the polls, join "The League of First Time Voters" powered by you, informed by CNN. CNN is the most trusted name in news, of course. Check in, join in, weigh in. And for more information, log on to cnn.com/league.

Is Barack Obama seasoned enough to fight in the hostile environment of a general election campaign? Well, if his very first political campaign is any indication, the Illinois senator isn't opposed to getting a little dirty. A CNN Special Investigation is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, you may be surprised to hear about Barack Obama's early days of campaigning for state senator in Illinois. Drew Griffin from CNN's Special Investigations Unit uncovers a tough-fighting candidate out to get rid of the competition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's running on change. No more politics as usual.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But we know in our hearts we are ready for change.

GRIFFIN: But here on Chicago's South Side, in his first race for office, Barack Obama relied on old bare knuckle political tactics to eliminate a popular incumbent and launch his political career in the Illinois State Senate. "Chicago Tribune" columnist John Kass says it may not sound like the Obama way, but it is the Chicago way and back in 1996, Obama used it to full advantage.

JOHN KASS, CHICAGO TRIBUNE COLUMNIST: He used lawyers to knock out -- you know, this is not the message of Barack Obama -- let everyone join in democracy and the better ideas shall triumph, right? No, that was Chicago politics. Knock out your opposition, challenge your petitions, destroy your enemy, right?

GRIFFIN: Obama had been a grassroots organizer in this gritty neighborhood, registering thousands to vote before going off to Harvard Law School. He came back to Chicago to work as a lawyer and saw a chance to run for State Senate. But in his first race for office, he made sure Democratic voters had just one choice -- him.

GHA-IS ASKIA, FMR. CANDIDATE: He wasn't honorable. Right. This is what I'm saying. I want it done.

LEMON: Gha-Is Askia is no longer in politics. The race against Obama was his last. He and two other Democrats were kicked off that ballot before a single vote was cast. How?

Obama sent a team of lawyers and volunteers to the Chicago Board of Elections and challenged the petitions of his opponents. He needed 757 signatures of registered voters to become a candidate. Askia said he gathered 1,899. But when the Obama team was through challenging his signatures, addresses and voter registrations, Askia came up 69 signatures short.

ASKIA: I fought for every single -- they was going to technicalities.

GRIFFIN: If names were printed instead of written in cursive, they were kicked off campaign workers told CNN. The signatures were good, but the person collecting the petition wasn't properly registered, all of those signatures were kicked off.

ASKIA: Yes. So, it was technicalities.

GRIFFIN: Jay Stewart with Chicago's Better Government Association says there is nothing illegal about what Obama did. That is the way politics are played in Chicago.

JAY STEWART, BETTER GOVT. ASSN. OF CHICAGO: He came from Chicago politics. "Politics ain't bean bag," as they say in Chicago. You play with your elbows up and you're pretty tough and ruthless when you have to be. Senator Obama felt that was necessary at the time and that's what he did. You know, does it fit in with the rhetoric now? Perhaps not.

GRIFFIN: But Askia wasn't the incumbent. When we come back, how Barack Obama also wiped out the rest of the competition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. Call it politics as usual or the Chicago way. But in part two of CNN's special investigation, Drew Griffin uncovers how Barack Obama's campaign team took down the incumbent in his first race for a State Senate, a seat in Illinois. It is not pretty.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Barack Obama was a relative unknown in 1996 when he first ran for office. To win, he had to get around the five-year incumbent, Alice Palmer. After losing a bid for Congress, Alice Palmer decided to try to keep her Senate seat. She would have been tough competition for a newcomer, but Obama planned to beat her before she ever got on the ballot.

Will Burns was one of the volunteers assigned to challenge Alice Palmer's signatures.

WILL BURNS, OBAMA VOLUNTEER: One of the first things to do whenever you're in the middle of a primary race or any race, especially in primaries in Chicago, you look at the signatures. If you don't have the signatures to get on the ballot, you save yourself a lot of time and effort from having to raise money and have a full-blown campaign effort against. GRIFFIN: And you guys successfully kept her from running. You also did your job on everybody else on that ballot.

BURNS: There are rules. I mean, if you don't have --

GRIFFIN: But I know there are rules.

BURNS: Right.

GRIFFIN: But let me be a real senator, the guy that registered 150,000 voters, the all-inclusive candidate. Let everybody have their vote. Make sure he's the only guy on the ballot in 1996.

BURNS: The rules are there for a reason.

GRIFFIN (on camera): We have had multiple conversations with the Obama campaign about this story. In one of them, the campaign called this a rehash. In another, a hit job. We were denied an interview with the campaign and instead, the campaign directed us to a quote the Senator gave the "Chicago Tribune" last year.

"To my mind, we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up," Obama told the "Tribune." "My conclusion was that if you couldn't run successful petitions drive, then that raised questions in terms of how effective a representative you were going to be."

But in that same "Tribune" article, Obama had this appraisal of that incumbent, Alice Palmer. "I thought she was a good public servant."

Alice Palmer, who is now campaigning for Hillary Clinton, told CNN she doesn't want to talk about her elimination from the ballot by Obama.

BURNS: I don't think he enjoyed it. It was not something that he particularly relished. It was not something that I thought he was happy about doing.

GRIFFIN: But the "Tribune's" John Kass says Obama did it anyway. And in 1996, Alice Palmer, who, along with her husband, Buzz, two legendary South Side activists, learned you didn't have to be a Chicago native to play like one.

KASS: Here comes Barack Obama out of Harvard using political tactics of a machine to get rid of the Palmers and then called himself progressive. And I guess -- listen, if you want to believe that, believe that, you know.

Just remember this: Richard M. Daley is the boss of Chicago machine. His spokesman was David Axelrod. Their candidate is Barack Obama. Who speaks for Barack Obama? David Axelrod. There's no such thing as coincidences. Chicago politics doesn't have coincidences. And it wasn't a coincidence to get rid of Alice Palmer that way.

GRIFFIN: Alice Palmer never ran for public office again. Drew Griffin, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: Well, this year's Atlantic hurricane season could spawn more storms than usual. And the first one is already wreaking havoc. We'll introduce you to Arthur.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins tomorrow. Tomorrow is Sunday. But tonight, we already have the season's first-named storm. There you see it spinning right there, this tropical storm Arthur. And it's turning over the Yucatan Peninsula right now. Well, Jacqui Jeras is keeping a close eye on Arthur in the Weather Center.

Lots of other weather as well but close eye on that because, Jacqui?

(WEATHER REPORT)

LEMON: Yes. I've been called many things but never hurricane. Maybe a tornado and some other stuff. All right. Thank you, Jacqui.

Well, she's looking for something borrowed and something blue. But Ellen Degeneres is also looking for a wedding venue. Is the presidential ranch a possibility?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHYMEAN NOUN, CHAMPIONING CHILDREN (through translator): We're standing on the big dumpsite. The scavengers are collecting cans, plastic bags and other things that can be sold to buy rice. There are a lot of children here. I have seen many kids get killed by trucks. They work here for about 10 to 12 hours a day and they make about $1.30. Sometimes, they don't make any money at all.

One day at lunch, I was eating chicken. And when I threw it away, 10 children ran straight to the trash to collect the bones. I wanted to do something to help them.

My name is Phymean Noun. I recruit children from this dump to attend school at my organization. I want them to have an opportunity to learn.

Good morning. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Fine, thank you.

NOUN: Some kids in my school collect trash until late at night and they fall asleep in the classroom. If they don't have an education, some kids will collect trash until the day they die. It continues from one generation to the next.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): When I was at the dump, sometimes I was pierced by broken glass, needles and razors. The school provides me education, materials and a place to eat.

NOUN: These children are our next generation. And our country depends on them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK. So, Ellen DeGeneres wants to have her same-sex wedding at the Bush ranch. And she wants John McCain to walk her down the aisle. OK. Jeanne Moos will explain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In case you couldn't tell from all the handholding and cozy body language --

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST: I'm madly in love.

MOOS: But the body language is slightly more awkward when Ellen DeGeneres has not so gay marriage-friendly guests on her show. And ever since this announcement --

DEGENERES: I am announcing, I am getting married.

MOOS: With her spouse to be, Portia de Rossi, clapping in the audience. Ever since, Ellen has been tweaking certain guests about her upcoming wedding. Most recently, Laura Bush and her just-married daughter, Jenna, married at the Bush ranch.

DEGENERES: So, the ranch was a great place to get married. It looked like nobody could fly over and get pictures or bother you, really.

JENNA BUSH, PRESIDENTIAL DAUGHTER: Yes, that was really nice.

DEGENERES: So, can we borrow it for our wedding? Can we get the ranch?

BUSH: Sure.

DEGENERES: OK. Great. I appreciate it.

MOOS: Note Laura Bush nodding silently. Just the week before, it was John McCain's turn.

DEGENERES: When we come back, I will be discussing with you California overturning the ban on gay marriage and --

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can hardly wait.

DEGENERES: Me, too.

MOOS: When they did return --

DEGENERES: We are all the same people. All of us. You're no different than I am. Our love is the same.

MOOS: But same-sex marriage was too much for Senator McCain, though he did say -- McCain: I, along with many, many others, who wish you every happiness.

DEGENERES: Thank you. So, you'll walk me down the aisle. Is that what you're saying?

MOOS: And speaking of saying don't to gays saying "I do," check out this Republican congressional candidate's attack ad that's causing laughing attacks.

NARRATOR: In San Francisco, Nancy Pelosi is throwing a party for Kay Barnes. A ritzy California fundraiser celebrating Barnes' San Francisco style values -- yes, to same-sex marriage, yes to abortion.

MOOS: All that gay dancing earned this Missouri congressional ad the title "Worst Campaign Ad of the Year" from the liberal "New Republic." Many couldn't believe it was a real ad, saying it seemed more like a "Saturday Night Live" spoof.

(on camera): Like the Village People on a bad hair day.

NARRATOR: Yes to same sex marriage. Yes to abortion.

MOOS (voice-over): Yes to mullets from the '70s. The attack ad provoked a counter-attack ad.

ANNOUNCER: Sam Graves' negative campaign is sad.

MOOS: Or at least cheesy. There will be nothing cheesy about the Ellen-Portia wedding. We've taken the liberty of preparing the invitations. Ellen will be given away by the Republican candidate for president at a ceremony held on the Bush ranch. Unless we hear any objection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: OK. Great.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: I was just picturing Ellen in a wedding dress in her signature sneakers. Now that would be interesting.

All right, that's our show. Thanks for joining us in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Don Lemon. Hopefully Rick will be back tomorrow. If not, you may see someone else sitting in this seat. Have a good night.

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