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Illinois Governor Clings to Power; Rep. Jackson Speaks Out

Aired December 13, 2008 - 23:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, chasing Blagojevich. A growing scandal and mounting pressure on Illinois's troubled governor.
CNN exclusive. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., uncut, on his political future, his personal and professional crisis.

Approaching storm. The weather taking an unusually frigid turn, even for December.

And, heart-to-heart, parent to child. How do you tell your kids you're broke for Christmas? Dr. Phil tonight with some answers.

The news starts now.


LEMON: Good evening, everyone. He just might be the most wanted man in America tonight. Wanted, as in everyone who wants to hear from him. I'm talking, of course, about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. He usually seeks out the cameras. But after being accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder, tonight, he is suddenly camera shy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor! Do you have any comment at all?

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: Got a recital to go to -- baby's recital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No comment at all? Nothing at all?


LEMON: Well, tonight, Rod Blagojevich is ignoring a growing course of political heavy hitters. Just one day ago, the Illinois attorney general drew up papers to try to force him from office. And just moments ago, perhaps the most powerful politician in Chicago said that Blago should do the right thing.


MAYOR RICHARD DALEY (D), CHICAGO: He should -- first of all, look at his family. And also understanding what the people of Illinois want. And he should do the right thing on behalf of his family, on behalf of the people of Illinois. I really believe that. He has to really look deep in his heart, in his soul and figure that out -- what is good for his family and for the people of Illinois.


LEMON: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley tonight. Well, he has been called, Daley has, the head of Chicago's machine, a machine in which the president-elect cut his political teeth. So, it's hard for Barack Obama to distance himself from a city where back door political scheming and under-the-table deals seem to be business as usual.

Here's our "Chicago Trib" reporter John Kass described it months before the scandal even broke.


JOHN KASS, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Just remember this, Richard M. Daley is the boss of Chicago machine. His spokesman is 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.


LEMON: Well, prosecutors in the governor's case say there appears to be no wrongdoing from the new administration. But in Illinois, there's always an angle. Is a woman trying to push the governor from office? Is State Attorney General Lisa Madigan angling for his job? And has all the controversy doom the political aspirations of a prominent congressman?


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is just Lisa Madigan positioning herself as the anti-Blagojevich and saying, "Look, I am trying harder than anybody else to get rid of this guy," which is good for the state, she says, and good for her politically because she wants the governor's job, or perhaps the Senate job that started this whole thing.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: David, very briefly, does Jesse Jackson, Jr. still have a shot at this job?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Not through the appointments process. He could still win an election.


LEMON: Jay Stewart from the Better Government Association of Chicago is among those who called on Rod Blagojevich to resign.

Jay, can we call this guilt, when it comes to the president- elect, when it comes to other players in this, guilt by association? And is that fair?

JAY STEWART, EXEC. DIR., BETTER GOVT. ASSOCIATION OF CHICAGO: Well, I think really everyone should be focusing on the governor, because he's really at the center of all this. There may be ramifications for others in a political sense. Some people are probably looking at some criminal problems. So, it's hard to say. But the U.S. attorney did go out of his way to say this had nothing to do with the president-elect.

But we've learned, it's been reported that Congressman Emanuel made some phone calls. You know, that in and of itself is not -- doesn't -- may not mean anything. But we're going to have to wait and see. But clearly, it's a distraction. It's already sort of sucked the president-elect back into the morass of Illinois politics, when he was probably getting ready to, you know, move on to Washington and deal with the nation's problems.

LEMON: And Jay, just looking at it, I mean, this is a copy of the "Chicago Sun-Times," just from this morning, "The People Versus Rod." You've got Lisa Madigan on the front. Of course, Rod Blagojevich. And then below that, you've got, you know, another embattled governor, a governor who is in jail now, former Governor George Ryan.

So, what is it about Chicago and Illinois politics that opens up this sort of element, that makes it OK for these things to be done? And I want to -- I say that, because these are just accusations now for the governor.


LEMON: He hasn't been proven guilty. But what is it about politics there?

STEWART: Well, our current governor hasn't been found guilty, but our former governor, George Ryan, was, and there have been numerous scandals in the last five or six years, separate from whatever is going on with our governor.

Why does Chicago have this problem? There are multiple reasons. It is a systemic problem. Some of it our political culture, sort of a what's in it for me, to the victor goes the spoils attitude. Some of it has to do with our very weak laws regarding ethics and campaign finance.


STEWART: And some of it just deals -- there's not a lot of political competition. The state seems to be, you know, there's not a lot of competition, and that doesn't lead to smart decisions.

LEMON: All right. Jay Stewart from the Better Government Association. Real quick, yes or no, do you think Rod Blagojevich will resign?

STEWART: I hope he does. But I don't know. We're going to have to wait and see. It's hard to predict the governor. That would be the understatement of the century.

LEMON: Jay, thank you.

STEWART: Thank you.

LEMON: Illinois governor's words and actions both past and present have caused some people to question his mental capacity. In other words, what was he thinking? CNN's Gary Tuchman takes a look.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mind of Rod Blagojevich is being discussed in polite company. The president-elect.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I can't presume to know what was in the mind of the governor.

TUCHMAN: The Illinois attorney general.

LISA MADIGAN, ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL: And I'm not qualified, you know, to make any, you know, psychological diagnosis. But, you know, clearly something's wrong.

TUCHMAN: What do you say about a governor who knows he's been under investigation for years, yet says something like this just this week?

BLAGOJEVICH: I don't care whether you take me privately or publicly, I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful.

TUCHMAN: But then prosecutors say they caught the Democratic governor on tape saying this about his chance to appoint someone to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, quote, "I've got this thing and it's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) golden, and I'm not just giving it up for (EXPLETIVE DELETED) nothing."

Here's what another fellow Democratic state senator says.

MIKE JACOBS (D), ILLINOIS STATE SENATE: I think, at the very least, he's having some kind of mental breakdown.

TUCHMAN: And he exclaimed that before this all went down, when he was summoned into the governor's office and said he wouldn't support a bill Blagojevich wanted.

JACOBS: The governor blew up at me. And he began to make threats to me, including, you know, I will destroy you, I will destroy you personally, I will destroy your family, I will (EXPLETIVE DELETED) do whatever I have to do to make sure that you end up in a bad position in Illinois.

TUCHMAN: The governor, who has not commented to CNN, has had disagreements with reporters in the past.

BLAGOJEVICH: And you're not just interested in sensationalizing something so you can, you know, do your big news story. You won't even bother asking a question.

TUCHMAN: Here's what other state politicians have said. Representative Joe Lyons and other fellow Democrats said the governor was, quote, "insane." And Democratic Representative Jack Frank says Blagojevich has, quote, "delusions of grandeur." But they are not psychologists. Dr. Gail Salz of New York Presbyterian Hospital is.

GAIL SALZ, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I would say it's highly likely that there is some mental or emotional issue that this man is dealing with.

TUCHMAN: A true diagnosis needs a face-to-face assessment. But Dr. Salz and Chicago psychologist Dr. Scott Ambers share the feeling the governor is not insane and does know right from wrong. But --

SCOTT AMBERS, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: He probably does suffer from some form of psychopathology, some form of psychiatric disturbance, which I think is best captured by a diagnosis called narcissistic personality disorder.

TUCHMAN: Which in plain English, they say, is exaggerated or grandiose fantasies of one's self, which isn't that uncommon of a condition.

The "Chicago Tribune" reporter thinks it's much simpler, though.

JOHN KASS, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": He's merely a Chicago politician who was caught on tape.

TUCHMAN: But recent comments like this...

BLAGOJEVICH: I'm not interested in the U.S. Senate. I love my job as governor.

TUCHMAN: And his own experiences make Senator Jacobs feel much differently.

JACOBS: Well, he got over the top of me and he doubled his fist this way, and, you know, I'm not a shrinking violet myself. I'm a good sized man. I'm 6'3." I played football at the University of Iowa. You know, I know when someone's about to strike me.

TUCHMAN: The governor did not strike, which indeed sounds like a most sane decision.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Chicago.


LEMON: Even TV's Dr. Phil is weighing in. He wouldn't talk about this case specifically, but tonight he tells me if someone actually did the things Blagojevich is accused of doing, then mental stability is a legitimate concern.


DR. PHIL MCGRAW, HOST, "DR. PHIL": We have to speak about this hypothetically because these are allegations. And we don't know that the governor is guilty of any of the things of which he is accused. But I can tell you this. If a person has done this kind of thing, if what we believe -- if the allegations are believed to be true, then you have to assume that you're dealing with somebody that is very anti-social in their mental adjustment, meaning that they have very little ability to have a conscience. They don't feel remorse. And they just believe that they are completely and utterly above the law.


LEMON: We are going to hear a lot more from Dr. Phil later this hour.

We're talking about the financial facts of life here and how to talk to your kids about them.

Also, from east to west, winter is here. Boy, it is here with a vengeance. Our Jacqui Jeras is keeping a close eye on the very frigid forecast. Maybe -- we may be talking about a blizzard here. We'll check in with Jacqui.

And, we want to know what's on your mind tonight about the Blagojevich scandal or anything. Make sure you to log on to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Tell us what you're thinking. We'll get them on the air. Your responses are scrolling on our crawl right now.


LEMON: All right. Well, Utah is racking up its first major winter storm of the season, and it's also racking up the accidents that go along with icy, treacherous conditions. Plow drivers were out before the first flakes fell. But many motorists -- many motorists apparently were caught off-guard. Police reported more than 90 accidents, about 17 resulted in injuries.

And on the opposite end of the country, New England is also dealing with its first winter storm. This is Sanford, Maine, cleaning up after a fresh coating of ice. All told, more than 1 million customers were without power across the Northeast. And President Bush tonight declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, which was hit especially hard. The governor there says it could be days before streets are cleared and power is restored.

Oh, boy. Sorry about that.

And it's not just the Northeast, you know. Look at this time lapse video. It's from the Pacific Northwest. Our iReporter -- the name is Hillary Ohm. She started recording the snowfall outside her home in Colville, Washington. That was yesterday morning. By noon, she says several inches had fallen. And by this morning, she says there were eight to 10 inches on the ground.

Our Jacqui Jeras, our meteorologist, in the CNN severe weather center.

Jacqui, we're talking about a growing storm, and are we talking blizzard here and ice as well? JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, absolutely. In fact, we've got bona fide blizzard that meets the definition, the criteria across eastern parts of Montana into northern and South Dakota as we speak. In order to have a blizzard, you need to have snow or blowing snow, visibility of a quarter of a mile or less and winds blowing or frequently gusting to 35 miles per hour for a minimum of three hours.

So, you know, that's pretty tough criteria to meet that. And we've had that going for awhile now across parts of the northern Rockies and the northern Plains states. And that's going to continue into tomorrow as well. We've got this huge intrusion of Arctic air that's been spilling into the region. We've got moisture coming in from the Pacific. And that spells one big mess -- an unbelievably cold temperatures. In fact, this is the coldest air to hit this area in about 15 years.

Wind chill factors are going to be down between 30 and 50 degrees below zero tonight and through the day tomorrow. Here's just a sampling of the wind chill index across parts of Montana. And check out Cut Bank. You know, we're looking at mid- to upper-30s at times. And your skin can just freeze in a matter of minutes in temperatures that cold.

More snow through the Cascades tomorrow as the snow levels are going to be dropping down to the valley floors. And you might even see some snow on the beaches, believe it or not, on the Oregon coast. Portland, you're under a winter storm warning. Several inches of snow expected through the Columbia River Gorge area and down through the Willamette Valley as well as into the upper Midwest, where we've got the blizzard conditions in the dark red. That's going to go throughout, at least, half the day tomorrow.

But the cold air kind of combined right up here. We're looking for some melting, Don, for the folks in the Northeast that have all the ice. Look at these 50s on the way. Cold air coming close behind it. But hey, at least we'll have a couple of days to go.

LEMON: Melting. When 50 is melting, then there was a huge issue there.

JERAS: Of course.

LEMON: All right, Jacqui. Yes, best of luck to folks all across the country. Thank you, Jacqui Jeras.

I want to show you something now. It's really what not to do if you happen to see blue and white lights in your rear view mirror. This is a car -- it's a car chase in southern California. A suspect here is trying to outrun the police. He loses his tires. He proceeds to fly down the freeway. Sparks, fire, and all of it. Looks like a stunt out of a movie. And then this happens. It was either a surrender or be burned alive. An unlikely decision to run. I think this one was a no-brainer that he surrendered.

All right. And an unbelievable tragedy. This is out of Oregon. Police were called to a bank where a suspicious device was reported outside. And officers evacuated the bank and allowed technicians to bring the device into the bank. Well, it blew up and it killed a police officer and a bomb squad technician, and critically injured two bank employees who were not evacuated. Law enforcement is hunting for the person responsible, calling that person, this is a quote, "dangerous" and offering a $35,000 reward. No word on why officers took the bomb inside the bank in the first place.

All right. Jessie Jackson Jr. talks tough.


REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: I'm fighting now for my character, and I'm also fighting for my life.


LEMON: More on my exclusive interview with the Illinois congressman, fighting for his political future.

Also, we want to know what's on your mind tonight. Log on to Twitter, to Facebook, MySpace or Tell us what you're thinking. We'll get it on.


LEMON: All right. Take a look. These are the comments tonight coming in on Twitter. We have some coming in on Facebook. Some coming in on MySpace. We intend to read a whole bunch of them later. Keep them coming.

Let's turn now to the news that we've been talking about, the situation in Illinois. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., of course, has found himself in the middle of this huge controversy. He's identified in the criminal complaint against Governor Rod Blagojevich as Senate candidate number five.

But a law enforcement official close to the investigation tells CNN there is no evidence, other than taped remarks by the governor, that Jackson or others on his behalf ever approached Blagojevich in an improper way. Now as you're about to see, in more of our exclusive conversation, Congressman Jackson is eager to defend himself.


LEMON (voice-over): This is what Senate candidate number five, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., woke up to -- a "Chicago Tribune" investigation questioning whether two of his campaign contributors, along with Jackson's brother, Jonathan, took part in a scheme to raise millions for Governor Rod Blagojevich. In return, he'd appoint Jackson to Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

(on camera): Do you know these businessmen? Have you done business with them? And to your knowledge, were they emissaries at all to raise money for you in order to get you that Senate seat?

JACKSON: No, they were not. I made that perfectly clear. And so Mr. Nayak also happens to be a friend of the governor. Did I ask him to advocate on my behalf? No. Did I send him as an emissary to me on behalf of the Senate campaign? The answer is no. And that's unequivocal.

LEMON (voice-over): Jackson and his wife, Sandi, sat down with me and talked about what they say is the fight of their lives.

JACKSON: On this question of being in the United States Senate or not, let me be perfectly clear. While I would be honored to serve the people of this state, it is clear to me that I am in no capacity to serve them if there is a cloud over my head that seems to suggest I'm involved in some unscrupulous scheme to be a United States senator, or to be anything else. And so it's very important for me to allow this process to play itself out. I need to find out, and we all need to find out the truth.

LEMON (on camera): Your name is being dragged through the mud.

JACKSON: I've got a great name. I've got a great name given to me by great parents. And I've got a great father who has a great legacy of public service.

LEMON: But it plays now -- what people say.

JACKSON: It's so great, it's so great, that I named my daughter Jessica and I named my son Jesse. So, I'm fighting now for my character, and I'm also fighting for my life. And I'm very serious about that.

SANDI JACKSON, JESSE JACKSON'S WIFE: Absolutely, absolutely. And let me say this, Don...

J. JACKSON: And I'm fighting for them. And I'm fighting for them. And I'm fighting for them. This is about my children being able to Google their name in five years, and there will be nothing there associated with it that suggests anything wrong.

LEMON: Do you personally know the Blagojevichs, both of you? Do you know them?

S. JACKSON: Yes. Yes, sure we do.

LEMON: Do you know Patti?


LEMON: What do you make of it?

S. JACKSON: Even that surprised me. I -- because I just -- I've never saw that side of Patti. So, I was shocked by it. I don't know why she said what she said. I could only think that, you know, she's under an immense amount of stress. Whatever was going on in their lives had to be promoting some stress. And so maybe she was reacting to that. I don't know.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: So who does Jesse Jackson Jr. blame for the mess he finds himself in? Or what does he blame? My exclusive conversation with the Illinois congressman continues.


LEMON: Well, I spent a number of years as an anchor and reporter in Chicago, covering Chicago politics. And I have covered many a scandal. But no one knows how the corrupt Chicago political machine, how corrupt that machine is, like those who are right in the middle of it.

I had an exclusive conversation with Illinois congressman, Jesse Jackson Jr., in the wake of the scandal swirling around Governor Rod Blagojevich. And I asked Jackson who is to blame or what is to blame for the flagrant dirty politics that continue to plague Chicago and Illinois.


J. JACKSON: I blame a culture in this state that -- when I mean culture, people who don't understand the Illinois culture need to understand this. That's why I want to take this opportunity, wherever the chips may fall.

Our examples at the top are not right. And those who follow the examples then seek to emulate and even imitate the examples at the top. And very seldom do we ever get an example at the top that allows a new generation of people to enter the process saying, I want to be like Barack, I want to be like this guy, I want to be like -- maybe like Congressman Jackson -- or at least the Congressman Jackson of a week ago that everyone knew.

And with that example, other people enter the process -- Larry Rogers Jr., David Miller, a lot of other young -- Sandi Jackson, very capable people inspired to get into the process, once they have a model. But in Illinois, we have a very different model. We have a model that allows -- a process that allows insiders to pick and choose who succeeds who. We have a different process here.

S JACKSON: It is deeply flawed.

J. JACKSON: And the process imitates and emulates the past in such a way that it makes it difficult to break from.


LEMON: All right. A very interesting interview there. And we've been asking your thoughts on this and other -- anything that we're following tonight. And here's what some of you are saying.

Let's take a look at -- what's this, drchrystal. Drchrystal says, "Governor B is not insane, just corrupt and an opportunist. Not unusual in Illinois-Chicago politics."

Happygirl1616 says, "Blago must resign. It is the honorable thing to do. Of course, he might not know what that's about. JJJ won't be senator."

MichelleStephPR says, "I think the governor should resign. I would like for Jesse Jr. to be appointed. But to be fair, they should hold a special election."

All right. Those are just some of the comments that are coming in. We appreciate all of them. We also have some of our iReporters who are watching us by web cam tonight as well and they are weighing in.

Also, tell us what's on your mind. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, We'll get your responses on the air. We're going to read some more for you.

Well, it's probably going to be a blue Christmas in more ways than one this holiday season. Consider this, the United States Post Office sees thousands of letters to Santa. But this year, they're seeing an increase of letters like this. It's very sad.

"Dear Santa, I would like for you to bring my mother, father and brother something for Christmas. I am 6 years old. And I have no money. Thank you."

Well tonight, we'll tell you how you can help kids in need and how to talk with your kids honestly about the new financial facts of life.


LEMON: It is no secret that money is tight and times are tough. And you've probably changed some of your spending habits to deal with it. Chances are the little kids in your life are picking up on that, too. Especially around this time. Around the holidays. Around Christmas, because it's for kids.

You may not know it, but they might be more worried and more stressed out about money than you are. And maybe you've already had to tell them that Santa can't come to your house this year. Or Santa won't be carrying a big sack this year. Now that can be very scary for kids. And for the next half hour, we're going to focus on helping children understand what is going on here. So they won't be afraid.


LEMON: So why can't you guys go to the aquarium?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Because it's too much money.

LEMON: It was too expensive to go?


LEMON: And so what did dad say?


LEMON: Are you disappointed?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: The times are changing. And that he can't buy (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: What did Santa bring you?


LEMON: A what?



LEMON: Wasn't she cute? Did you see her? Yes, Jacqui and I went down --

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They were all adorable.

LEMON: Yes, they were really adorable. A lot of them we couldn't use, because we would ask, what do you think?

JERAS: They're shy.

LEMON: I know. But they're all adorable.

I don't have kids. I'm just an uncle and, you know, whatever. Just hang out. And a brother.


JERAS: And it takes a village, they say, right? Everybody counts.

LEMON: Do you have kids? Are your kids worried? Are they talking about this?

JERAS: They are talking about it a little bit. We know a lot of people who are impacted by it. And, you know, some of our extended family members have decided they're not buying for everybody this year. We have some friends who have lost their jobs in the last couple of months.

LEMON: Gosh.

So, it's been tough and it impacts the kids, definitely.

LEMON: OK, yes. You know, we want to move on and talk to some of the folks here. You know, if any of this is ringing a bell with you, and your family, guess what, you're not alone. Check this out, Jacqui.

Parents all over having these conversations with their kids and each other. In fact, one place we have found it online is

Have you been there?

JERAS: I have been there.

LEMON: You have? All right. Take a listen. Let's take our viewers there.


UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: My husband and I are stressed out. And who isn't. And I'm sure she's picking up on that -- my poor little girl. She's like, I have 15 cents in my drawer. You can have it.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: My boys and I would just pick up without even thinking. Oh, yes, sure, you can have one of those. I just don't do that anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: Do you need the swimming set Polly pocket thing? I don't think you do.


LEMON: Oh my gosh. You know, you've got camp, you've got ballet, you've got soccer, or whatever. You see these ladies right there? Hello, ladies. Joining us now --



LEMON: Hi, Mindy Roberts, divorced mother of three, in San Jose, California. And the author of The Mommy Blog wave. Mindy, is a blonde, right?

MINDY ROBERTS, AUTHOR, "THE MOMMY BLOG": Thanks for having me.

LEMON: And Asha Dornfest, who lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and her two children. Her Web site is All right? Both of them are active members of our -- of

I'm going to let you moms work it out and I'll jump in. But it's really hard. The kids all knew who we talk about moms, and all of you, Jacqui, as well. They knew what we were talking about, but some of them couldn't really find the words to express it, Jacqui.

JERAS: Absolutely. It's a difficult thing. So my question, ladies, is where do you begin? How do you start talking to your children about the economy?


Asha Dornfest, Publisher, Parenthack.Com: I think (INAUDIBLE)

ROBERTS: Well, fortunately it's sort of timely (INAUDIBLE).

JERAS: Why don't we start with Mindy? Go ahead. ROBERTS: Well, it's sort of seasonal thing. Now that Christmas is coming up, it's been an issue for a couple of months, because they started thinking early. And we had to tell them, you know, we are going to have set for one gift for the entire family and we're going to vote on this because things are tight. And we're just going to do everything smaller this year and concentrate on the family gallery.

JERAS: Asha, how do you -- do you explain it age appropriately? At what age did you start talking to your kids about this? As little as 4 or 5? Or do you wait until maybe they are a little older, like 9 or 10?

DORNFEST: Well, I think it's really important to remember that little kids especially, they just really live in the moment. And so while the conversation about money should be ongoing, I think it's a great thing to be talking about money as soon as you can. Big topics like the economy or joblessness really have to be broken down into little tiny pieces, based on the age of your children.

LEMON: All right, you know -- I've got a question. Is this the time, maybe, maybe this is sort of a wakeup call for us that we haven't really thought about, that we start teaching our children about what's really important instead of putting, you know, emphasis on credit cards, and tennis shoes, and toys, and things that are really just sort of superfluous and that we thought were important, and not anymore?


DORNFEST: I think that's -- absolutely. I think we actually have a really wonderful opportunity to turn the holidays into something much simpler and much more intimate with our families. I mean, obviously, there's a big difference between families who have to pull in their belts a little bit and then those families who are facing a foreclosure. But I do feel like this is a chance to really step back from all of the, you know, all of the hype and all of the commercialism, and really enjoy ourselves again.

JERAS: Mindy, what do you say to your kid when they tell you, mom, I want something really expensive, like a video game for Christmas?

ROBERTS: Well, first I start laughing. No --


JERAS: Because your kid did it.

ROBERTS: They know what I'm going to say. Mom, can I have -- oh, you're broke. No, what we've done is -- you know, I've been honest with them. And I think that's the right way to do it. You know, I wasn't a rich kid growing up. We grew up poor.

And I think that my mom -- trusting us with that information and making us part of the team really did make a difference in how I viewed the world. So you share enough information, make them part of the team. Don't freak them out, but reassure them that this is a temporary thing, and that we have the skills and resources to climb out of it. And concentrate on being empathetic.

LEMON: All right. Mindy, Asha, stick around, because we're going to bring you back and talk more. It's interesting to me. I feel like I'm in their living room hanging out with them.

ROBERTS: You are in the living room.

LEMON: I am. It's all be over in a little bit for a glass of wine or something.

All right. So really, that's what our moms think. But what about Dr. Phil? What about Dr. Phil?


DR. PHIL MCGRAW, HOST, "DR. PHIL": Maybe this is a forced return to what Christmas is all about.


LEMON: More of my conversation with him, straight ahead.


LEMON: I want to scroll up. I want to read one from Kaye Miley who happens to be joining us by Web cam. One of our iReporters now joining us with her husband. We'll show her. She'll came out. There we go.

She says, "Blago needs to resign, but he won't. Lisa Madigan did the right thing. JJ Jr. will have to wait for public judge to judge him."

So, thank you for all of your responses. We appreciate it. We'll get them on the air. Keep them coming.

Parents know that tough economic times, what they mean and they mean fewer gifts under the Christmas tree. But how do you explain that to a child? I spoke with Dr. Phil tonight, and he and his wife, Robin, were in Washington where they're rehearsing for the T&T holiday Christmas special in Washington.


LEMON (on camera): It's so festive behind you. When you look into the crowd, as you're doing this special, you know this really, this season is mostly about the children, right? It's about kids and being excited about Christmas. You know, a lot of folks have been asking us, how do you talk to your kids about this economy? They're expecting so much during the holidays.

P. MCGRAW: You know, I really do think we have created a generation of kids with entitlement issues. And I know it's tough out there for people right now, for everybody in America. And I hate that for all of us. But the point is, I think there's a silver lining to every cloud. And maybe this is a forced return to what Christmas is all about. I think it's gotten too commercial. I think it's gotten too materialistic. I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to buy and do. When really, the focus should be -- I mean, whatever it is for you, if it's a religious holiday for you, then focus on that. If it's a time of togetherness and sharing, then focus on that. But it's really not about the commercialism at Christmas. So maybe that's a silver lining here.

LEMON: At what age should you start?

P. MCGRAW: Well, you know, I think you have to talk to kids at age appropriate levels. But I think certainly by the time they're 4, 5, 6 years old, you can sit down and say, you know, this year we're going to focus on making some Christmas decorations, some time together, prepare a meal. Just spending time with family that we don't see all year long.


LEMON: Yes, and Robin, I understand that you guys are doing the same. Even though your kids are older, I wouldn't know from looking at you. But even though your kids are older, you said you're telling them that you're going to cut back as well. And you're really going to spend time together.

ROBIN MCGRAW, DR. PHIL'S WIFE: We really appreciate our family time. And especially at the holiday time. And at Christmas time. And we did. We had that discussion and we decided we're going to be really appreciative of the fact that we're happy, we're very healthy. We have everything we possibly could want. Just in our family.

So we're going to spend that day together. We're going to have a nice, big breakfast. And even a big meal at the end of the day. Spend the entire day just hanging out.

LEMON: And you know what --

P. MCGRAW: I have a great suggestion that parents can give their kids for a gift back to their parents, if you want to hear it.

LEMON: Yes, go ahead. What is it?

P. MCGRAW: I think it's great if they would sit down, get a piece of paper, and give those parents a token that says, here is a token for one hour, sometime during this week, that I will sit down with you, mom or dad, one on one, and talk about anything you want to talk about. No TV, no video games, no nothing. Just, here, you can cash this in. And we'll sit down and just talk about anything you want to talk about.

LEMON: Thank you, Dr. Phil. Thank you. Can't wait to see the special either.

P. MCGRAW: Well, thanks, Don.

R. MCGRAW: Thank you. P. MCGRAW: We're so proud to be part of it. Christmas in Washington. Coming up on TNT.


LEMON: I love his accent. Thank you. Just with your family. Thanks for joining us, Dr. Phil, and Robin McGraw.

OK, so we're talking to moms, Mindy and Asha. They're joining us now by Web cam. And it's very interesting.

Jacqui wants to continue on this values thing. Do you think that's really important?

JERAS: Absolutely. Well, it is. And you know, it's a time to reassess and look at things in your life. We all say on the surface that family and health and things like that are what's important to us. But yet, we go to the bookstore, or we go to the toy aisle or the gum aisle and say yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But we really should be teaching our children, you know, what needs are versus what wants are.

LEMON: Mindy is shaking her head over there. Yes, Mindy, what are you thinking?

JERAS: Mindy, do you have a comment on that?

ROBERTS: Absolutely. My kids will ask for anything. (INAUDIBLE). He does it just to see my face. And in fact, I think that we've done something right, because they're not really taking it all that hard this year.

For instance, when I told my kids that we wouldn't be doing the family photo and making cards and sending those out, my 6-year-old said, don't worry, mama, I'll do it. And she has been writing cards for a week now and it's so darling.

LEMON: That's really sweet. So, Asha, you know, I want to ask you because, I remember, I did it as a kid. You know, when your legs fall from under you. I want that now, mom! And your mom is going to disciplines you.


DORNFEST: My kids never do

LEMON: Oh, I did it a million -- I did it. I'll bet my mom is watching now saying, yes, you sure did.


So what you -- I mean, how do you handle that, especially now? Especially, especially, because kids now are used to having so much. How do you go back?

DORNFEST: It's true. They are used to having a lot. You know, Dr. Phil had a point when he was talking about entitlement. I think that we talk about wants versus needs all the time. You know, it's just a -- it's a regular part of our life. In some ways, it's not so different than any other time. So we just really try to keep that conversation open with our kids. They handle it. I mean, they really do handle it. We've been talking about the stuff for a long time. And I just think that, you know, helping them get some perspective on all the wonderful things that they already have sometimes can really help.

LEMON: All right. We're hanging out by Web cam in the living room and offices of Mindy and Asha in their homes tonight. We love it. I love joining us by Web cam right here. We love being interactive on the show.

And of course, our iReporter, Cain Miley, who is a psychologist, is shaking her head going, yes, Mindy is right. Asha is right.

OK, so listen, we're going to continue to talk to those moms. We're going to bring them back. So going without issue, Jacqui, right? Toys for Tots is having trouble filling its chest. More tots in need, fewer toys to give. We'll tell you how you can help out.


LEMON: Caught me there. I didn't realize I was on. That's all right, though. You know what, Jacqui, for the last 18 years, "CNN Headline News" money expert Clark Howard has been hosting a toy drive for children in foster care. He says if you want to give, there's a way to do it without breaking the bank.


CLARK HOWARD, CNN HEADLINE NEWS MONEY EXPERT: What I ask you to do is what you can afford. And if there's some little pleasure that you normally might go spend $5 on, or something like that, give it up that one day, and take that $5 and spend it for a child or some other cause that you really care about. But you don't feel you can afford to support right now.


LEMON: You know, despite the recession, people showed up at the Wal-mart store outside Atlanta, excited about giving. We like that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, actually, our daughter is adopted. And we think that helping out children, you know, during the holidays is just another way of giving back. What we're so grateful to have our little girl. So we picked another little girl that was close to her age. And we want to do something to help another child during the holidays. You know, someone who might not have that much, to have more.

MURPH DAWG, ADOPTED A CHILD: I'm not the richest guy in the world at all. You know, I have debt just like everyone else. But I think about a kid waking up on Christmas and not having the gift, or any gift, for that matter. And it just breaks my heart. It really kills me. So it's the least that I can do.

TAMERA GARDNER, ADOPTED A CHILD: I just think it's important to help some of these kids in foster care that aren't as fortunate as some other people, especially this time of year. It's sad enough that they don't have a family, biological family to be with. At least this way they know people care about them out in the community.

LORI CRONIN, ADOPTED TWO CHILDREN: Actually, we did scale down our home. But I wanted to make sure these kids didn't go without. Last year, they said that sometimes this is all these children got. So we want to make sure they got something, too.


LEMON: Did you see the kids there? Did you see the little girl with the red nose? She was so cute.

JERAS: So cute. Oh, my gosh. With the ponytail.

LEMON: She's like me. And my nose will turn red in a second outside. It's kind of weird. People used to call me Rudolph as a kid. OK, for more information on helping kids in need, logon to Jacqui Jeras.

JERAS: Well, there's one group that's trying to make sure that every needy kid in American has a gift to open, but getting donations can sometimes be a tough sell in tough times. CNN's photojournalist Bob Crowley visited the Toys for Tots in Boston.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon, Toys For Tots.

KAY CARPENTER, TOYS FOR TOTS VOLUNTEER: Toys For Tots started by the Marine Corps in 1947.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have an idea of how many toys you collected?

CARPENTER: The Marine Corps Reserve picked it up as something they would do at Christmas to distribute toys to needy children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you bag these?

SGT. DANIEL SAMPSON, U.S. MARINE CORPS: This is the warehouse for the Greater Boston Toys For Tots program. All of the toys from the local areas, and collection points, and events, come into this facility. They go into the orders, and then they go right out from this area.

CARPENTER: The needs this year is rather overwhelming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These games here, all behind you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have some. We've got like 31 for the boys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 46 of 125. BETTY WHALEN, TOYS FOR TOTS VOLUNTEER: We are at a standstill. We can't fill anymore orders. We are down the zip. These bins should be full of the toys in their respective age groups. And as you can see, there is absolutely nothing in them. Normally, we would throw the toys in there, but we haven't even bothered putting them in there, because as soon as they come in, we just start bagging them.

It is really bad. I have never seen it this bad. I am sure that the economy has a lot to do with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we can get them in earlier then some of the people that are on the waiting list might be able to receive toys.

CARPENTER: I hope that we get enough help that we can fill all of the orders. And right this minute, it looks like we're going to be turning people away.

SAMPSON: Every kid deserves a present on Christmas. Just to put that smile on a kid's face that might not have a toy on Christmas, it really makes it worthwhile.


JERAS: And there will be some more smiles this Christmas. We're glad to report. We just found out that the Boston Toys for Tots Program has gotten more last-minute donations so that they can fill all their orders. But volunteers in other cities say that they're still hurting. If you'd like to help, logon to We'll be right back.


LEMON: That -- who is that? Alice Marsalis (ph). All right, cool. Very cool, very cool. OK, Dear Santa -- those are two of the most popular words this time of year after "I want." I should say I want, I want, I want. That's like six words, you know, in a row.

But you know what, really, far too many families this holiday season. Kids and parents alike are really hearing "I can't," as in I can't afford to buy gifts or toys or in some cases, food or clothing. Nationally, the United States' post office sees thousands of letters to Santa, but this year, they are seeing ones that sound a lot like this one.

This is "Dear Santa: A friend of mine told me that you could help me, because you helped my friend last year. I don't want much. But my mom couldn't afford it, because she lost her job a while ago, and is looking every day."

All right. If you want to help out, go to to find out how you can make someone else's Christmas a bit more merry. Right? We all want to help out. We all want to help out. It makes you feel better, right? And you know that really could be a silver lining to this economic downturn. It could be perfect -- the perfect opportunity, Jacqui, to teach your children that there are some things more valuable than money. Why don't we talk to Asha Dornfest, again, joining us.

Oh, and she's back.

JERAS: And Mindy's back.

LEMON: Mindy's back.

JERAS: We lost you for a minute.


LEMON: OK, Mindy, we lost you for a little bit.

JERAS: We lost you for a minute, but she's back.


LEMON: Yes. So, go ahead, Jacqui. You're in charge with this.


JERAS: We're glad that you're back with us. One of the things we wanted to talk a little bit about, is how do you help your children at this time of the year when you're so focused on cutting back yourself. Think about other people who actually have a much greater need than you. Maybe helping others out this holiday season?

LEMON: Mindy?

ROBERTS: Right. You know, something occurred to me when I was listening to the earlier segment. You know, you could go to and for like $50, you can get dozens of pencils and crayons and drawing paper, and it doesn't cost much. It's pennies and you have it delivered anywhere. I mean, maybe you think you can't get up and drive somewhere to drip something off, but that's something you can do right from your home and have it ship to a shelter or anywhere. And it's dirt cheap and you can get so much.

JERAS: Asha, tell us how you can get your children involved in helping others.

DORNFEST: Well, I think there are so many ways. I mean, the shopping mall near us has something called The Giving Tree, where you can choose someone specific to give holiday gifts to. There are lots of relief organizations where you can sponsor children, and then there is Toys for Tots and places like that.

I also know that, for example, my children's school collects toys and all sorts of things for a homeless shelter in the area. So there seems to be lots of ways that kids can see just how much they actually have, and they can make a connection with somebody who needs them more.

LEMON: I love it, I love it, I love it. If we could get that through to kids, that would be amazing. But I think you're going to have a hard time, you know, when they want -- I want a video game! But we'll see.

JERAS: I feel bad --


LEMON: All right, guys. Hey, listen, we have to run. Thank you so much. We enjoyed hanging out in your house this evening. All right.

DORNFEST: Thanks for having us.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much.

You know, and we want to tell you, Jacqui, about ways that you can help to support your local charities here, right? You can go online for information for Toys for Tots or Toys for Tots or Help out

JERAS: So many ways.



LEMON: OK. Some of your responses. Before we get off the air. Let's look at Axleroderick. He says, "Special election -- we're talking about Illinois here. Anything less than that is going to be considered tainted. Let the people speak on this one."

Also -- I can't even say the name. Something chef -- irasciblechef? Is that what that is? "We need this downturn to reset our values and realize what really is important -- family." Family is important.

How much time do I have, guys? 10 seconds.

All right. "My niece just had a birthday party tonight. She's got $6 for me, a $1 from everyone, every year, instead for another Barbie or Brat doll."

All right, I'm Don Lemon here in Atlanta. I'll see you back tomorrow night, 6:00 p.m., 10:00 Eastern. Hope you enjoy the show. Have a good and safe and warm evening.