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People Talk About the Economy; Truth Squad Looks at Obama's Health Care Plan; It's Tough Being an AIG Executive; Rosalind Carter Interview on Mental Health.
Aired October 11, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments. I will respect him.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've said it before and I'll say it again, Senator McCain has served this country with honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wow, did you hear that? Well, the tone in the campaign trail, that's not exactly what you'd expect just 24 days until the election. We look into what pushed John McCain to praise Senator Obama and scold his own supporters.
Also tonight: High-powered huddle in Washington. Global leaders try to tackle a global economic crisis.
And we have this for you, very interesting -- the culprits of this collapse. How did we get here? One of the most wanted companies, AIG, and how they were bailed out not once but twice.
The news starts right now.
We have a lot to cover for you, starting tonight at 5:00 o'clock Eastern.
The dramatic efforts to rescue the nation's financial system and stop the bleeding on Wall Street, it continues this weekend. We'll have a complete rundown on attempts to ease the money crisis. We'll do that for you in just a minute.
But first, we want to bring you up-to-date on a subtle but very important shift in the race for the White House. Republican John McCain -- there you see him right in the video next to me -- he has led a mostly negative assault on Barack Obama for about a week now, but since yesterday, he has tried to stick to the issues and he did for several hours just in Iowa just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: In so many ways, Washington is still on the wrong track. We need change, and I know how to deliver it. The status quo is not on the ballot. We're going to see change in Washington. The question is: In what direction will we go?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, McCain's decision to drop the negative attacks come just after some of his own supporters put their candidate in a very tough spot. What happened? You want to pay attention to this. This is CNN's Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a week of escalating anti-Obama rhetoric from supporters at his events, John McCain suddenly tried to turn the temperature down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would like you to remain a true American hero, we want you to fight.
MCCAIN: I will fight. But we will be respectful. I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments. I will respect him. And I want...
MCCAIN: No, no -- I want everyone to be respectful.
BASH: Nothing like getting booed at your own event and it didn't stop there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not -- he's not -- he's a -- he's a -- he's an Arab. He is not...
MCCAIN: No, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No?
MCCAIN: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a -- he's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're scared. We're scared of an Obama presidency. I'm concerned about, you know, someone that cohorts with domestic terrorists such as Ayers.
MCCAIN: I want to be president of the United States, and obviously, I do not want Senator Obama to be. But I have to tell you -- I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared as president of the United States. Now...
BASH: But McCain may be trying to put the genie back in the bottle. Ever since last weekend, when Sarah Palin first accused Barack Obama of palling around with terrorist, referring to 1960s radical, William Ayers, rowdy crowds have called Obama...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrorist.
BASH: ... and worse. And now McCain has released this new TV ad on Ayers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN AD)
NARRATOR: When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers. When discovered, he lied.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Yet, he doesn't talk about Ayers unless asked, and then insists, it's about Obama's rhetoric versus reality.
MCCAIN: Senator Obama said that Mr. Ayers was a guy in the neighborhood, when in reality, Senator Obama's political career was launched in Mr. Ayers' living room.
BASH: And while McCain may now be trying to tamp down on over- the-top rage against Obama, he's still careful not to extinguish enthusiasm he needs to win.
MCCAIN: I don't mean that has to reduce your ferocity.
BASH (on camera): The boiling emotions this week present McCain with a dramatic balancing act. He's trailing and needs every ounce of energy he can get, but clearly sees a risk in not stopping those he believes are crossing the line.
Dana Bash, CNN, Lakeville, Minnesota.
LEMON: All right. This leads us to some very interesting conversation. But first, we want to tell but Barack Obama. He is well aware of what was said at McCain's Minnesota rally by McCain's supporters and by John McCain himself. This morning, Barack Obama said he is glad his rival is trying to improve the tone out on the campaign trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to acknowledge that Senator McCain tried to tone down the rhetoric in his town hall meeting yesterday. I appreciated his reminder that we can disagree while still being respectful of each other. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Senator McCain has served this country with honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, some of these rallies are getting rowdy, crowds of John McCain and Sarah Palin's events have taken a turn toward anger, to say the very least. People are attacking Barack Obama, shouting "terrorist" and "off with his head." The comments are off mike and hard to hear, but take a listen to the tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: My plans to reform Washington and get this country moving again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. So, Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst, joins us now.
Bill, I want to get to something that Congressman John Lewis said just a little bit ago, but let's talk about this. Let's start with these hecklers we just heard and the tone of this campaign. What is going on here?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a lot of the McCain people -- I'm not sure I want to call them McCain people. There are people who come to McCain rallies who are getting very angry. A lot of them are angry over the polls, over the fact that Barack Obama has pulled ahead. And they are Obama haters. Some of them are racist, some of them are extreme.
McCain wants to make it clear that he does not endorse those kinds of sentiments among some of the people who attend his rallies, and Obama has indicated that that is an appropriate response, to disassociate himself from people who express those views.
LEMON: And that's probably the only comment I can tell you, Bill, that we're going to get out of the Obama campaign because they really don't want to engage in this at all. And also, this is getting -- it's not even very close to hate speech. If you call someone a terrorist or off with his head, most people would consider that hate speech, Bill.
SCHNEIDER: It is hate speech. And we -- you have heard it, a few political rallies, people come to these rallies, they're angry, they don't like what they're seeing in the polls, they don't like the fact that Obama has been pulling ahead nationally in a lot of the key battleground states. Many of the -- some of them, clearly, are racist and many of them are extremists. And McCain has taken care to disassociate himself from those comments.
LEMON: I'm glad you brought that up because you said many of them are racist. Do you think, in any way, that the McCain campaign realized that they would incite or elicit these sorts of response of what you consider and what many people would consider racist?
SCHNEIDER: I don't really think that McCain deliberately went out to encourage that kind of sentiment.
LEMON: But clearly, it is happening.
SCHNEIDER: But clearly, it is happening. And he feels -- now, he clearly feels under pressure, because there could be a serious backlash. If people see that sort of ugliness at McCain rallies, they're going to associate it with John McCain and he wants to say, "That's not the kind of sentiment that I want to encourage in my campaign." LEMON: All right. Very good, Bill Schneider.
Let's get to Representative John Lewis now. He also weighed in on this, really bringing up Governor George Wallace of Alabama and accusing John McCain and Sarah Palin of fanning the flames of hatred.
Here's what his response was. He said, "What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Senator McCain and Governor Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse" -- Bill.
SCHNEIDER: Well, Representative Lewis didn't make any specific allegations. He did say that he -- he did accuse Palin and McCain of what he called "sowing the seeds of hatred and division" in the campaign without making the specific charge.
And I should point out that the Obama campaign has responded. They've issued a statement. The campaign chairman has said, "Senator Obama does not believe -- does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies, but John Lewis," they add, "was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself has personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for president pals around with terrorists."
LEMON: Senior political analyst Bill Schneider, thanks for putting this into context for us. And, Bill, there is a much bigger conversation to be had about this and we're going to try to have it for you later on. We are going to have it for you tonight at midnight here on CNN.
We want to thank Bill, and also, we want to hear from you. When you hear all of this stuff, "off with his head," "he's a terrorist," whatever you're hearing out on the campaign trail, what do have you to say about it? Do you think it's hate speech? Do you think the McCains are inciting hate speech and hate practices?
Log on to Twitter.com/donlemoncnn, or go to Facebook there, MySpace or iReport.com and, of course, CNN.com as well and look for the sound off. We want to hear from you and I'm going to read some of your responses right in this newscast.
OK. We're going to continue on now with our political team and talk about the other headline off the trail. Strong words today from Governor Sarah Palin. She is questioning, or should I say, asking voters to question Barack Obama's stance on abortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama is a politician who has long since left behind even the middle ground on the issue of life. He sided with those who won't protect a child born alive. And this exposes the emptiness of his promise to move beyond the old politics. So, ladies and gentlemen, in both parties, Americans have many concerns to be weighed in the votes that they cast on November 4th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. Well, those are some harsh words but -- there, and also some harsh words in a report, but no criminal probe for Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. We have the findings of an Alaska legislative investigation and it says Palin abused her executive power -- abused her executive power and violated state ethics laws when she had her former brother-in-law, an Alaska state trooper, fired from his job.
But the report recommends no criminal investigation and the legislative investigators say they have no power to punish the governor. We should say, tried to have him fired from his job. Of course, the issue came up on the campaign trail today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PALIN: No, and if you read the repot, you will see that there was nothing unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member. You've got to read the report, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, the McCain campaign released a statement on the report saying, the report also illustrates what we've known all along. This was a partisan-led inquiry run by Obama supporters, and the Palins were completely "justified in their concern regarding trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior." Again, tried to have him fired.
Wednesday night is McCain and Obama's final face-off. You don't want to miss that, a minute of this action Wednesday night on CNN: Your home for politics.
Also, your iReports have given us a dramatic view of how the economy is affecting your street in America.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACE ANDERSON, IREPORTER: I sure could have used some of that tax money sent -- you know, that I paid to help fund this ridiculous war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Ace Anderson from Havelin, Kansas. More from Main Street when we take you live to Dallas. There's a pumpkin festival going on there.
LEMON: President Bush up early this morning with a group lined up behind him, you could call the "trillionaire's club." They're also known as the G-7. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In my country, it is important for our citizens to have understood that which affects Wall Street affects Main Street as well. And all of us recognize that this is a serious global crisis, and therefore requires a serious global response, for the good of our people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, the G-7 or Group of Seven, it's an elite group comprised of the world's wealthiest economies, I should say. They're holed up in Washington right now to figure out what to do about the global financial crisis before it gets worse. And let's hope it doesn't get worse.
So, who is this group? What do they do? What are they doing here? What can they do to help you and me?
Team coverage for you tonight, Maggie Lake is in Washington where that meeting was held. Our Stephanie Elam -- there she is -- she is in New York City to tell us what this means to you and she's going to talk to us about Henry Paulson.
But first, we want to start with Maggie in Washington.
Tell us what the G-7 are. What do they do?
MAGGIE LAKE, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, it's simply, as you said, represents the group of countries that's are the richest, they have the most mature economies, U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, and Japan. Traditionally, they are the ones who met and coordinated economic policy. It's sort of bureaucratic stuff except this time they're in the spotlight.
The feeling is that this global crisis is too big and too complicated for any one country or even the private sector to tackle. No one has the resources that these richest nations have. So, the hope is that when they get here, they're going to hammer out some sort of plan and get the global markets, the credit banks lending again, stock markets to stop failing.
Now, of course, there are a lot of people skeptical including a lot of our viewers who write in, who have no faith they'll be able to do that. But that's, at least, what some people on Wall Street and some analysts are hoping, Don.
LEMON: OK, Maggie, IMF, what role does that IMF play in this?
LAKE: Well, this is sort of interesting. Certainly, not something we usually talk about. They're an international organization who usually comes to the aid of countries that are having economic hard times. They can't pay their bills, they're defaulting on loans. The IMF steps in. Argentina, Thailand, they're usually emerging markets, helps them out, gives them loans, helps them reform to get back on their feet. In this case, people are asking, because they're this global organization, could they play a role in helping in this crisis, especially because we're in kind of unchartered territory, they might have some mechanisms because they talk to everybody, they have offices in every country, they deal with financial issues with everybody? Do they have some facilities in place that maybe people can use to try to get confidence back, backstop lending between banks?
You can think of it instead of building a whole new train station, do they have train tracks that are already in place that we can dust off and use for this new measure? People are talking about, maybe they do and maybe they can play important role here. Again, not everyone convinced, a lot of skeptics out there. But that's what we hope these guys are trying to hammer out in the building behind me.
LEMON: And a lot to be worked out. Maggie, we appreciate your reporting. Thank you very much.
Stephanie Elam is in New York now.
And we saw Henry Paulson there standing behind the president when he made that statement this morning. He is moving forward, Stephanie, with this massive financial bailout. Has his task been raised at all, has it changed? Is he doing anything differently now to help the American people?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, I think there's no doubt that the pressure is on Henry Paulson at this point to make something happen here. And obviously, by announcing what he announced on Friday, the idea that they're going to basically perhaps buy some support into the banks, both healthy ones and ones that need some help, it does show effort here to get the idea that credit can move again freely between the banks, and then, hopefully, that will help out consumers. But he is in a tough position because his time at this job is actually running out.
LEMON: Yes, that was sort of my next question so I won't ask that one. I will move on and say, it's Saturday night and we know, you know, less time for European markets, they're going to open soon, 24 hours or so, just a little bit longer -- but for us, ask it too early to look forward to Monday and especially now that you say Paulson is really, you know, it's amped up for him, is it too forward, too soon now to look forward?
ELAM: What we -- the thing that we know about this, Don, is that they, obviously, this has been -- we've been seeing this for like a month now...
ELAM: ... where we get these big news breaks Friday evening or sometime over the weekend. The reason being is that they want to take some time, set things in motion, work things out, and hopefully, have some plan in action before the Asian markets open. I don't think that this weekend is any different. He's made it clear that they're working through the weekend. They're working very hard to get this done. It would be in the best interest.
And if you take a look how the week was for the Dow, just the Dow last week, lost more than 1,800 points, lost 18 percent of its value in the last week. So, if you take a look at that, obviously, they need something out there to calm the markets around the world. Around the world the marks have been hit.
ELAM: Hopefully, this will help out, Don.
LEMON: Yes, and calm people because I know you're getting it, I'm getting it as well. When are we going to see this? When is it going to ease up? Man, oh, man, it seems like you guys are gloom and doom everyday.
ELAM: Everyday, even on the weekends now.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you. Yes. We're right here doing it. Thank you, Stephanie. Appreciate your reporting.
LEMON: We'll see you a little bit later on tonight.
OK. A lot of folks are skipping these expensive vacations right now, doing a lot of things, changing their habits. You know, in places like Hawaii, look at that. It looks beautiful. Live, 11:20 a.m. in Hawaii. A live shot for you. This is Honolulu.
A group that tracks tourists' activities on the island says hotel occupancy has reached its lowest point in a decade. That's happening in a lot of places, not just Hawaii. Hotels in August were on the average only 74 percent full. The rooms were booked there, compared to 81 percent just one year ago.
OK. We want to hear from you. Nearly everyone is cutting back, as we are seeing.
That's a live look now at Dallas at a farmer's market. We want to hear from ordinary folks there. What they're doing to stretch their dollars, we're going to hear live from them live in just a moment.
And you can hear the outrage, a $700 billion bailout, and CEOs walk away with millions of dollars in their pocket. Well, we tracked them down, we tracked down those CEOs.
Plus, it might seem like fall to most of you, but for some of you, it may seem like a little bit later on in the year. Winter's first blast. Man, it's early. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: And look at that. We saw snow on that graphic and there you see snow -- wow -- right next to the "rest area" sign. It's an October surprise for Lake Tahoe, California, snow not much of it stuck to the ground, though, but temperatures did plummet to about 20 degrees, that's cold enough for ski resorts to crank up their snow machines and blanket the mountains with even more snow.
One resort says a few more cold nights could allow them to start the ski season before Thanksgiving. That would be an early ski season.
Also, the northwest getting its share of snow. A major storm is hitting that region. Our Karen Maginnis is in CNN severe weather center. She is tracking that system for us.
KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Don.
And we are looking at a major winter storm system, a little bit on the early side, but still packing a wallop on the backside of this area of low pressure. All the way from the Sawtooth, to the Big Bear, to the Wind River, it's the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains, we're looking at feet of snowfall. And just to let you know, right around Matisse (ph), and Cody (ph), and Powell (ph), they're looking at one to three feet possible. Gusty winds but not just there, all across the interior basin.
Now, still in Colorado some of this has not changed over, but certainly, it has for those higher peaks, Loveland has picked up some snowfall. Also in Estas Park we're looking at some snow there as well.
In our forecast, we see the dark purple could see in excess of 20 inches of snowfall, but generally speaking, right around that Salt Lake basin between about three and six inches of snow.
We've got live picture out of Salt Lake City, where the temperature is 46, and only made it to 49 degrees, way below normal for this time of year. Let's take a look at that Salt Lake City picture now. We've got cloudy skies and a winter storm warning is in effect. That's a look at your weather across the west. And, Don...
MAGINNIS: ... you better hold on, it could be a rocky season.
LEMON: I've got to ask you something, Karen? Are you cutting back with this economy? I know I am. Are you cutting back?
MAGINNIS: Probably, yes -- more so with the gas, I think.
MAGINNIS: That's the big issue.
LEMON: We all have to watch it, I mean, no matter if you're doing well or OK. Whatever you're doing, everybody is watching it these days. Thank you, Karen.
Because the sound is loud and clear on Main Street, I'd rather say your street, because not everyone lives on Main Street, everyone is suffering. And that's just where we're headed in this economy. It's issue number one for you. And we're going to talk live to some of those folks. See those two people there, we're getting them ready. They are at Dallas at this farmer's market.
Do we have the other page up that we can show you? We're getting some very interesting responses -- we don't want the close-up of the guy's nose there. Twitter.com/donlemoncnn. Also iReports, people are talking about what's happening on the campaign trail and the economy. But mostly about this tone that people are finding -- of hate speech. That's the only way to say it.
Send us, Twitter.com/donlemoncnn. We want to hear from you. We're going to read them in just a bit.
DON LEMON, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: All right, this just in to CNN. We're hearing that Billy Graham has been released from the hospital. We've been reporting that he fell and tripped over his dog at his home and was taken to a hospital in North Carolina. He was not seriously injured. And this just in to CNN, again, the 89-year-old stayed overnight at Mission Hospital in Asheville with discomfort and bruising. X-rays showed no broken bones. He is at home today and doing fine. If this warrants any update in this broadcast we'll bring it to you.
In the meantime, we're focusing on the economy and also on the campaign trail in the "CNN NEWSROOM." They're working overtime in Washington this weekend, trying to get a handle on the financial crisis that has swept from Wall Street to markets around the world. It is a global crisis.
Finance ministers from the world's economic power houses, the G- 7, the group of seven, they are meeting in D.C. this weekend right now. President Bush met with the leaders early this morning and afterwards he tried to reassure everyone that the countries will work together to ease the current crisis.
There's no better sign of the hard times on Main Street -- I should say your street, again, not everyone lives on Main Street -- than slow auto sales. As automakers struggle, there are published reports that General Motors and Chrysler have discussed a possible merger. There was some talk earlier in the week that GM might not even make it.
In tough times, people have to buy basic necessities.
The Dallas Farmer's Market is a popular spot to save money for you. Bobbi and Billy, they join us now live.
First of all, thank you very much. How are you guys doing?
BILLY: Thank you. Fine, and you?
BOBBI: I'm doing great. How are you?
LEMON: I'm doing very well. In the Dallas area, you have got the school district there, the ISD, laying off 1,100 people, and American Airlines are laying off people. You've got other businesses are laying off people. How has this affected you? Are any of you in a layoff? Any of your friends or neighbors in layoffs, Bobbi?
BOBBI: Yes, I have. As you know, in Dallas, they're having a big crisis with the DISD layoff. I know people involved with that, and it's really affecting people here very, very bad.
LEMON: Yeah. And...
BOBBI: It's been very hard.
LEMON: You're shaking your head. Why, why so?
BILLY: Well, for example, I work with a nonprofit organization, freedomrelease.org. The fact is, going out there, trying to raise money for any kind of a cause is very difficult. Most of our donors are telling us that they've got to hold off on donations right now. And when you're in my position, I'm 100 percent dependent upon the donations of people that are in high places and are in high financing and so that's affected me.
Secondly, I've had to get rid of my car. I've had to downsize. I live and work in the downtown Dallas area, so I've actually gone 100 percent electric, gotten myself an electric scooter because I couldn't afford, you know, the $800 a month that I was paying for my car. So I've had to downsize that way.
LEMON: So everyone is affected. I've got to ask you, Billy or Bobbi, either one of you jump in here. When you see, you know, the big guys in Washington, you see the president and Paulson and all of these G-7, people, the IMF, all of these folks, do you feel this is affecting you? That they're doing what you need to be done to help your wallet?
BILLY: Well, they should have been there earlier. They should have been there earlier. You know, I see President Bush talking, you know, almost like he's sleepwalking in his first speech. I didn't see him being angry. I don't see the presidential candidates being angry enough. And then all of a sudden, it needs to happen. The fact that they are showing solidarity, the fact that they are getting behind the president and showing that in every single country that they're here in the united states, giving the world a little bit of peace that we're not on an island.
LEMON: Let Bobbi jump back in here. Let Bobbi jump in real quick. BILLY: Go ahead, Bobbi.
LEMON: Bobbi, the last word.
BOBBI: Also, about the bailout, you know, first of all when this did this $700 billion bailout or whatever, I really thought maybe it was going to help the CEOs. That's not right because we need to help the people. The people are in need, not the big companies. And I feel like, you know, until we see something happening or some effects or some trickle down of that money coming down to help the people, then we just don't know. But as far as the bailout for the CEOs, I think that's ludicrous.
LEMON: Real quick, we have to go. If you could give me a yes or no, one word answer, both of you, do you think the candidates for the most part are talking about things that are important to you or is there a lot of distraction going on in?
BILLY: I believe they are, yes.
BOBBI: Yes, I believe they are at the most part. Sometimes they sway away a little bit. But if they stay focused on the issues and try to help the people, I think we will have -- and plus getting the right president in there that's concerned about people and not the CEOs and the big companies I think we'll be better off.
LEMON: Thank you very much. We appreciate it. We know you guys are busy and trying to enjoy your weekend as well. Thank you for sharing with our viewers, at least they can see many people are dealing with what they're dealing with as well.
Thank you, guys, best of luck to you.
BILLY: Appreciate your hard work, Don.
BOBBI: Yes, appreciate it.
BILLY: God bless you.
LEMON: Thank you very much. God bless you guys too.
We've been talking about what's going on in the campaign trail as well. Let's bring this up by twitter. Let me pull it up. You see this msstrategiesinc? He says, Don -- let me get mine up here. He says, "Don, what they're doing is recklessly waging a culture war and it is getting obvious."
Also, there's other ones talking about this, that "it is distraction as well," talking about that. "It is rhetoric, because they're afraid of Barack Obama." And also on the other side, there are a few that talk about Barack Obama as well. "It is ridiculous for him to try to link John McCain to Keating as well."
So we told you earlier about what Congressman John Lewis said. He talked about Alabama and George Wallace. Here is what John McCain is saying. John McCain has a response to that now. It just came in to CNN. He says, "I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hard-working Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track."
John McCain responding to Representative John Lewis's comments about the flavor of this campaign, the tone, so to speak, just moments ago. We'll continue to update that as well.
OK, looking for the culprits behind this economic crisis. It's hard to be the executives of AIG. The nation's largest private insurance company is now on its second bailout, and it's costing you $38 billion, and that is not all.
CNN's Joe John explains why they go on the list of the top-ten most wanted culprits of the collapse.
JOE JOHNS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First insurance giant AIG gets an $85 billion life line from the U.S. taxpayer. And then it comes back for more, another $38 billion.
And now, word of what the company was up to as it blew through the first installment. Get ready for this. As the ink was still drying on bailout number one, AIG was treating 100 independent insurance agents, some of the company's top earners, to the glamorous life at the ultra-luxury St. Regis resort in southern California. The bill tells the story: $140,000 for hotel rooms. $147,000 for banquets, $23,000 for the spa. All told, the bill came to a whopping $443,343.71.
Needless to say, from Capitol Hill to the campaign trail to the White House, no one was happy.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D), MARYLAND: They were getting their manicures, their facials, their pedicures and their massages.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I tell you what, the treasury should demand that money back and those executives should be fired.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's -- it's pretty despicable.
Reporter1: AIG says the event wasn't for company executives but a reward for independent agents who sold AIG products.
NICHOLAS ASHOOH, AIG: It's a way of rewarding people who have gone out and done a good job selling our product.
Reporter1: But he admits it's didn't look good.
ASHOOH: But this has been an entrepreneurial company for a long time and that mindset just isn't at work. But people are sensitized to the fact that even things that we've done that are good operating procedures can have perception problems.
Reporter1: Perception problems? The problem is a lot bigger than that. AIG has become a symbol of the financial collapse because it gambled billions of dollars on what turned out to be bad mortgages without the collateral to make good when business went bad. In fact, AIG once boasted it mine neared some of the exotic investments that have now brought down Wall Street and is now dragging down the global economy.
And now the taxpayer is on the hook for $120 billion for one company's bad bet. And that's why AIG is one of our ten most-wanted culprits of the collapse. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LEMON: CNN's Joe Johns. Thanks, Joe.
Well, that's just one. Find out more about the top-ten culprits of this collapse all next week, "AC 360," 10:00 p.m. eastern, only here on CNN.
OK, we're still talking about politics here. It is a new era for politics. Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, all with huge impacts on this year's election. We'll hear one woman making a difference more than two decades after she was in the White House. What is she doing now? We'll talk to Rosalind Carter coming up in the "CNN NEWSROOM."
LEMON: So if you have at all paid attention to the campaign, both candidates have the prescription to fix America's health care problem, the issues here. Both of them are calling each other wrong. John McCain insists Barack Obama's wrong, Barack Obama insists John McCain is wrong. What is the truth behind all this?
Our Josh Levs.
Josh, great job with this truth squad and you heard the people out there, the real folks, they want to know, you know, how it affects them. Health care is a big issue. So give us the diagnosis on Barack Obama's health care plan.
JOSH LEVS, CNN BUSINESS ANALYST: This is one of the biggest topics that keeps coming up for the "Truth Squad." We seem to hear this a lot. This latest attack comes from McCain. It zeros in on Barack Obama's health care plan and one specific aspect of it. Let's look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Under his plan, he will fine employers who don't offer health insurance to put their employees in government health care. He'll fine them. You know what that does? That costs jobs. That costs jobs for small business people in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEVS: So is that true? Is there a fine that could ultimately seriously hurt small businesses? Let's go to a graphic to summarize things for you.
Obama health care plan requires employers to offer what he calls meaningful coverage or contribute to a national fund that would help people who can't afford health care pay for it. That contribution would come from a pay roll tax, which is really more like a tax than it is a fine. In fact, John McCain's own website refers to Obama's plan in that respect as being a tax and not a fine.
Also, Obama says small businesses are exempt from that. When we looked at this, the CNN "Truth Squad" had to rule that one false, because obviously as you're seeing there, he calls it a tax on his own web site, not a fine. Also, because Obama says small businesses will be exempt.
Let's zoom in on the board for a second. I want to show everyone. You can get more and more details about any of these fact checks at CNN.com. There's a button at the top, you just press Fact Check. That's the one I'm showing you right now.
Don, we're getting great traffic online. Millions and millions of hits for this, because people want the facts as they decide who they're going to vote for.
There you go.
LEMON: OK, there you go.
Josh, again, this is great and it plays into what we're about to do next and something you would be very interested in. We're going to talk to Rosalind Carter next about mental health, which is part of mental health as well.
So, Josh, thank you very much.
Josh, talking about Barack Obama's health care plan.
Both candidates, they're going to face off for the final, final debate before the election. What are we, 24 days out? Don't miss one minute of the action this Wednesday night on CNN. Of course, CNN, your home for politics and the best political team on television.
Let's get back to our health care topic. Mental health, it can be a taboo issue and an issue people are reluctant to talk about. I had the opportunity to sit down with former First Lady Rosalind Carter. She is a real champion for mental health. I asked Mrs. Carter why the subject is sometimes it's still the elephant in the room.
LEMON: The stigma that still goes along with mental health, how do you explain that, Mrs. Carter? ROSALIND CARTER, FORMER FIRST LADY: I don't. It's so hard to understand, because one in four families in our whole country has a family member with mental illness or a very close personal friend with mental illness. But it's still the misconceptions that go back to when we knew nothing about mental illnesses, when -- if somebody was mentally ill, they were just shut away and out of sight. I've been working on this since Jimmy was governor, a long time ago.
LEMON: That was the '70s. For a long time. Way back when your husband was governor, you took up this issue, this task. Was it personal for you? Why would you do it? It's been years, decades. Why?
CARTER: Well, I was campaigning for Jimmy for governor, and so many people asked me what my husband would do for a mentally ill loved one in a big state institution. And I got in line with people when they went down to shake his hand and shook his hand. He said, what are you doing here? I said I came to see what you're going to do for mental ill people when you're governor of Georgia. He said we're going to have the best program in the country and I'm going to put you in charge of it.
LEMON: Before you were first lady, you have this platform, and since, you've been first lady -- before you were first lady of the state and then first lady of the United States and you have this platform. And now look how far you've gotten this legislation with your help. How do you feel about that?
CARTER: There's a lot of -- a lot of people had a lot to do with getting the legislation.
LEMON: But having you on board was a big help.
CARTER: Well, I hope I helped a little bit. I worked on -- I wrote a book in the late 1990s about mental health. And I was working on "Parody" then. And in 2001 I called George Bush to have a conference committee and the Republican head of the committee wouldn't bring it to the floor and never did.
LEMON: And you called George Bush?
CARTER: I called him.
LEMON: What was that like?
CARTER: It was interesting. It was toward the end of November or December after 9/11 and he said, well, to tell you the truth, Mrs. Carter, I haven't thought about it much lately, but -- he did tell me he'd get it for me the next year which hadn't happened yet.
So many people were impacted by that. There was a great need for everybody, almost everybody in this country had some emotional experience about this terrible situation and needed help.
LEMON: So you will pick up the phone. You'll call George Bush and say? CARTER: I'll call anybody. But that's one of the best things about Jimmy being president. I can call experts in any field and it's a blessing.
LEMON: So we hear a lot about health care, a lot about the economy in the run-up to the White House in the debates and the issues. Would I like to see it play higher in that?
CARTER: I think mental illness -- mental health issues ought to be one of the top issues in the campaign. It's so right now, it's he -- we hear so much about the trauma and the post-traumatic stress disorder among the returning service people. World War II put the issue -- actually brought it out in the open and was the first time it was talked about at all was with soldiers coming home from war.
I have hopes that we can -- that our country will help those coming back and maybe it will become a better issue.
LEMON: Get on the phone. You said you're not afraid of calling anybody.
CARTER: I'll call. I'll call.
LEMON: Thank you.
CARTER: We'll see who's elected president and I'll call him.
LEMON: Thank you very much. You were very kind.
CARTER: Thank you.
LEMON: It's a pleasure and honor to meet you. Thank you. It's a pleasure and honor to meet you. Thank you.
LEMON: What an amazing lady.
And it was mental health awareness week, and Friday was mental health awareness day. That's why we're bringing it to you, an important subject. I really enjoyed meeting her.
I asked her an interesting question because she's in politics. I said what do you think of the women in politics now? They're really at the top, running for president, vice president, speaker. This political season, you may be surprised at her answer. We'll hear from her at 12:00 a.m. eastern. That's when we're on tonight because the folks in Washington, including the president and all of those people, are working around the clock, and we are as well. We are your home for politics and the economy as well.
Speaking of the economy, gasoline for under $3 a gallon? Were those the good old days? Well, they're back, at least for a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Well, when was the last time gasoline was less than $2? It was 2005. You may recall, we complained about it then. Lucky motorists can sometimes run into a promotion like this one in New Hampshire. For six hours, they got to fill up at $1.99. Gas isn't quite that cheap in other places though. But in parts of the Midwest, it's less than the national average. Some stations in Topeka, Kansas, are selling it for $2.69. That's cheap. And that is not a promotion.
Or you can skip the gas altogether. Check out this sweet ride. Look at that. All you have to do is get three friends to help you make it go. It has zero emissions unless your friends -- I'm not going to say that -- eat a certain food. And there is a battery back up if your friends -- I'm not saying that either -- OK, it they poop out.
Enough about gas, about cars and gasoline. Jim in Oregon has found a way to use your pedal power to power other equipment. Our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, explains in today's "Fit Nation."
LEMON: All right, let's put this right up. Take that Roger. This is a ballot, an early ballot in Albany, New York. It says Barack Osama instead of Barack Obama. They said it was a typo and they're going to correct it.
OK, we're getting your responses as well at twitter about the tone of this campaign. I've my eye on you, shorty's daughter, says, "You know what, it is sad what politicians have to do to smear each other in this political environment."
We'll keep taking your questions. We'll read them 12:00 a.m. eastern. We'll be live here.
We'll talk a lot more about race in the "NEWSROOM" at midnight pacific time. Plus, we'll have this for you. A superstar speaks up about getting young people out to vote. Usher is casting his ballot. I went along with him and cast my ballot as well. We'll do that for you tonight. You don't want to miss that interview and what he has to say. We'll do that for you tonight, "CNN NEWSROOM."