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Burris Defends Testimony to Impeachment Committee; Stimulus Plan Passes, Debate Continues; President Signs Stimulus in Denver; Colin Powell One-on-One; Health Care Reform; Clinton Visiting Asia

Aired February 15, 2009 - 22:00   ET



ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: Hold it. Hold it. Please.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: On the record or political disaster? A rowdy news conference to say the least from the man who replaced Barack Obama in the Senate.

On the road again, President Obama making a statement with his stimulus signing. We will take you there.

A doomed flight on auto pilot, should it have been? The NTSB uncovers new information about what may have caused the crash of Flight 3407.



LEMON (on camera): Did you cry?


LEMON: Did you cry?

POWELL: Yes, did you?


LEMON: ... an African-American pioneer turns the tables on this reporter, asked questions and opens up about race, family and personal feelings during a very candid interview.

And the sky is falling. Deep in the heart of Texas a true UFO, an unidentified falling object. What the heck was it? All this in the news right now.

Good evening, everyone. Thanks for joining us. A man who replaced President Barack Obama in the Senate, Roland Burris has found himself on the hot seat again. Here's just a small portion of his news conference which aired live earlier on CNN.


BURRIS: No, no. Just slow down. Slow down, slow down. That means I talked to all of those --


BURRIS: Hold it. Hold it. Please.

QUESTION: You don't have three different versions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, wait a minute.

QUESTION: Let me finish, please.


QUESTION: No, no, excuse me.

BURRIS: Well, it's based on what you all are writing. You all are writing inconsistent information. Thank you very much.


LEMON: Burris has been under fire ever since ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed him. During Blago's impeachment hearings, Burris did not tell state lawmakers that the governor's brother had asked him for thousands in campaign cash, but now Burris has released an affidavit confirming those conversations. Today, he denied any wrongdoing.


BURRIS: Rod Blagojevich reached out to me in three separate phone calls to ask for assistance raising money for his brother, then Governor Blagojevich. The fact that I fully disclose in my affidavit to the impeachment committee. I made it very clear to him that I would not contribute, that it would be inappropriate and a major conflict because I'd express an interest in the Senate seat.


LEMON: Obviously, a lot of ground to cover here. CNN political editor Mark Preston and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times." They're here to help us out with this.

Lynn, are his statements on this matter inconsistent?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: They are, because he did not tell -- he wasn't 100 percent clear in telling the whole story. He has a technical out I think because he said at one point this is parsing and we won't get into the detail here. He said yes to overall question, and then I suppose that might make, that was his out today, that I did say yes when asked a broad question, but it wasn't clear.

The damage here, Don, is really political. The legal angle here, you know, will play out. I know there's some calls for him to be investigated if this was truly perjury, but his immediate problem here is a pretty big political problem. He's starting his first swing of Illinois this week as the senator and he has this big story abut how he just didn't come clean when he could have in front of the House Impeachment Committee. He has an affidavit now as he noted that clears things up after he got the appointment.

LEMON: Yes, not a good way to start off.

Mark Preston, I have to ask you, was this a politically savvy move for a freshman senator already clearly under the microscope?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Don, he had to address these allegations. You know, this news of this affidavit was just broke a couple days ago, broke by Lynn's newspapers and he had to address them head on. I will tell you, this news conference, though, is very combative. I don't think that he came out of it looking very good, and there were some conflicting answers to some questions specifically about whether the FBI had reached out to Mr. Burris or to his lawyer.

We heard some, you know, conflicting answers to that. So I think that this is a story that is not going to go away for Mr. Burris. He's going to have a lot of questions to answer as he does towards the state over the next week.

LEMON: Mark and Lynn, thank you, both. We'll talk politics a little bit later on.

SWEET: Thank you.

LEMON: Let's go to Washington now and what seems like the never- ending discussion over the president's economic stimulus plan. Across Washington and beyond, it is still stirring lots of heated debate, even though it is a done deal. It becomes a law of the land on Tuesday when the president signs it in Denver and Republicans are united, but they're not happy.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It was a bad beginning because it wasn't what we promised the American people. What President Obama promised the American people that we would sit down together. But I appreciate the fact that the president came over, talked to Republicans. That's not how you negotiate a result. You sit down together in a room with competing proposals, almost all of our proposals went down on a party line vote.


LEMON: That was earlier on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" with John King. Well, the president's spokesman insists the two parties can and will work together.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When we hope that Republicans will decide they want to reach back. We understand that nothing is going to get done in this country to improve the lives of the American people if the parties in Washington continue the same old game and continue to fight. Only by working together can we move this agenda forward. We were fortunate to have Republicans that wanted to work with the president, to move this stimulus package forward.


LEMON: We can expect to see the president on the road a lot more in the days ahead after signing the stimulus in Denver, Tuesday. He is heading to Arizona, that's on Wednesday, to talk about the housing crisis. More on stimulus and Obama's next big battle straight ahead this hour.

Let's go to Buffalo, New York, now where investigators today say passengers and crew aboard Flight 3407 never had a chance. The plane dropped 800 feet in five seconds just before impact leaving 50 people dead. We also learned tonight that the plane was on auto pilot and while the NTSB discourages the use of auto pilot in severe ice conditions, officials say there was no sign of severe icing at the time of that crash.

Federal investigators wrapped up a news conference just hours ago and they have begun the hard task of interviewing family members and removing victims from the wreckage.


STEVEN CHEALANDER, NTSB: The medical examiner believes that three to four days are going to be required to recover the victims of this crash and they're in the process of doing that. They've already pulled some of the folks out of there, but they've got a long way to go. So, it's a slow process, but we are making progress.



LEMON: A day of remembrance today in Upstate New York. A tribute to the victims of Thursday's crash. Special memorial services were held at churches across the area. This was at Clarence Center Methodist Church in the town where the plane slammed into a home.

We have some nasty weather developing tonight, and it could get worse. People in California under all kinds of warnings.

Bonnie Schneider, tell us what's going on.


LEMON: Appreciate it, Bonnie Schneider. You know, Bonnie, we can explain the weather today, but we can't explain this. It is a fireball over Austin, Texas. Cameraman Eddie Garcia of our affiliate News 8 Austin was filming a marathon when the mysterious object streaked right out of the sky. CNN spoke with him about his amazing video. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF EDDIE GARCIA, NEWS 8 AUSTIN: When you see something like that, it's -- you don't really know what it is. And you just kind of -- you stare at it for a little bit and then you just wonder for the next five minutes, what was that? And for me, I wanted to make sure that I got that on tape and I sure did.


LEMON: There is speculation tonight that the debris is from a pair of satellites that collided several days ago over Siberia, but that has not been confirmed yet. So far, there's no indication it actually hit the ground. The FAA says it's got numerous reports of falling debris across Texas.

The Mile-High City back in the spotlight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's going to come out here, sign that bill, put the emphasis on the jobs and on the specific projects, get out of that negative Washington environment.


LEMON: President Barack Obama takes his economic message straight to the people and out of the beltway.

Also, California on the brink of bankruptcy. Legislatures working overtime over a long holiday weekend trying to balance an overblown budget.

And we want you to be on our show. Send us your comments to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or They might just end up on the air.


LEMON: Well, the state with the biggest economy is running in the red. It is so bad that lawmakers there had been working to exhaustion on the job for more than 30 hours and still going. And they still can't agree on a budget.

The proposed deal includes huge tax hikes and painful spending cuts. California faces a massive $42 billion budget deficit. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to do a little arm twisting tonight. He needs three more votes to get the budget through the Senate through the state Senate.

The stimulus package becomes law in just two days, but President Barack Obama will not be in Washington when he signs it on Tuesday. He will be in Denver, Colorado, 1,700 miles away. There's a clear political message in signing the bill outside of D.C.

Kelly Brough is a chief of staff for the city and county of Denver.

Thanks for joining us, Kelly. First question, why do you think the president chose Denver for his economic bill signing? Any ideas?

KELLY BROUGH, CHIEF OF STAFF, CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER: Well, we think there's about a million reasons why he's come to Denver, but I suspect I'll just try to highlight a couple of those for you. First is, you know, I think we're at a critical point in his campaign and he's coming back maybe to recognize that. But, more importantly, is I think there's a spirit in the west of the people, an optimism, a sense of team work. We've overcome a lot of challenges and I think those traits maybe needed in our country now more than ever.

LEMON: Talk to us about the economic conditions in Denver and the industries that are driving your economy whether or not they're in trouble and if you're concerned about it.

BROUGH: Yes. The good news for us is Denver is coming in a little late behind the national recession, and so, we haven't had some of the crises or real challenges that other large urban areas and states have faced. That said, we're clearly coming in the '80s oil was our big industry and I think we learned a good lesson to diversify our economy and it's paid off. So, now our industries are aerospace and aviation, very large for us, technology, financial services, and, of course, energy, which I think you're going to see us really push in the next decade and really drive towards a new energy economy here.

LEMON: Obviously, you're going to be taking advantage of the president being in your own backyard. What do you plan to talk to him about, possibly confront him with, your concerns for him?

BROUGH: Well, I suppose that list is longer than anything just about the economic stimulus bill. Our focus when he is here is really to welcome him and we're very thankful he is coming to Colorado for this announcement and we'd love to have him here.

LEMON: Kelly Brough, chief-of-staff, in the city of Denver -- city and county of Denver. Best of luck to you and we shall see what happens on Tuesday in Denver. Appreciate it.

BROUGH: Thanks so much.

LEMON: We've been asking you for your comments and a lot of you are weighing in. Np9455 says "I wonder how much tickets to the bill signing are going to cost. That will stimulate the economy."

City_Stylz says "Wondering if Burris's campaign donation of $10,000 is looked at as a payoff for the Senate seat by Congress."

Not exactly sure that he paid. He said he didn't pay $10,000.

ZEPROF says "Nothing against Senator Burris, but he should resign. Impeached and crazy governor named him on top of this "omission"? Too much, Don.

Suebird631 says "It is very sad about Senator Burris. However, my question is what other politician on The Hill has not paid their taxes?"

You want to be part of the community, part of the show tonight? Make sure you logon to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or We will get your responses on the air.

Meantime, President Barack Obama might have won the battle and gotten the stimulus bill he wanted, but, at what cost to his political clout? We're digging much deeper.


LEMON: All right. Some of your comments. This one is about the stimulus. This is from PresJackFord, "I think that the stimulus package will mold how President Obama's first term will come out and will mold how the economy is handled."

Want to be part of our community just like PresJackFord, your comment could end up on the air -- Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Let's talk more about the stimulus now. Joining me again CNN political editor Mark Preston and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times."

OK, Mark, who were the winners in the stimulus deal and the losers? I would imagine the president won, but some people say at what extent to his clout? Maybe he damaged his clout a little bit in the process.

PRESTON: Well, Don, let me just take through the list. So what I think, the short list anyway is the winners and losers. Certainly, Barack Obama is a winner, Don. He got the bill through. He will sign the bill in Denver. It's pretty much what he wanted. Of course, it's not everything he wanted, but you have to compromise in order to get anything done in Washington.

I would also have to say that congressional Republicans are the winners even though they were not able to stop the bill, Don. They actually found something to rally around. You know, ever since November, Don, they really have been in the wilderness. They've been without a leader so to speak. And they really haven't had an issue that can really bring the party together. They did on this issue, fiscal spending and I will say the three centrist Republicans in the Senate, Don, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter Pennsylvania. What they showed us in the past couple of weeks is that they are going to be major players in the Senate and certainly for the Barack Obama administration.

LEMON: It also looks like -- I mean, at least -- well, you know, from the public's point of view that they are at least trying to work with the new administration rather than being partisan about it and saying, no, I'm not doing it because of this and because of that.

OK, let's talk to Lynn Sweet about this. Lynn, speaking of, you know, Susan Collins and others working with the administration, this bipartisanship, so-called bipartisanship, where was it?

SWEET: Well, you didn't see it in this bill. You know, the winner Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter are winners, too, because they turned out to be very, very powerful, this trio.

So the bipartisanship was trumped by the need of the Obama administration just to get a bill that could address the economic mess we're in and the crisis that we're in. And I think they're leaving for another day true bipartisanship. I don't think anyone could say this. Having three Republicans on the bill is making a final deal is the same thing, but I think the president and some of his staffers were pretty clear in saying maybe it didn't turn out the way we want it to in bipartisanship, we're going to try again. But we wanted the bill -- yes, it was pretty much in a shape we had it.

Also, President Obama had to deal with a lot of Democrats who didn't think they needed to since they had the majority compromise away some things they thought were important to have in the bill.

LEMON: Hey, Mark, really, I just had five seconds, I want to ask you this. Because there are, I have been reading a lot of editorials saying in the end, the Obama administration will come out on top, because at least they're looking as if they're trying to reach across the isle. They did lose the message early on and gain it back after they sent the president out on the road. Do you believe that to be true?

PRESTON: Yes. High expectations for the Obama administration. He put them upon himself, anyway, saying that he was going to come to Washington and change the tone. The fact is Washington is a political town. He wasn't going to get everything that he got. But you know something, Don, he did get a win. He got a little dinged up.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. Mark Preston and Lynn Sweet, appreciate it.

SWEET: Thank you.

LEMON: Let's talk about paving the way for change.


POWELL: I'm more impressed by those who came before me who could have done the same thing I did, but they didn't have the opportunity because of racism and segregation and Jim Crow-ism, but they still fought.


LEMON: My exclusive conversation with Colin Powell, another African-American first about the people who inspired and continue to inspire him. The conversation gets candid and gets emotional and it gets real.


LEMON: The election of Barack Obama as the first African- American president and incredibly powerful and moving moment in America's history. Among the millions of people overwhelmed by its significance was Colin Powell, a pioneer in his own right. In an exclusive and emotional conversation last week I asked the former secretary of state about the people who helped pave his way.


LEMON: So how are you doing?

POWELL: Fine, how are you?

LEMON: It's good to see you. Thank you for doing this.

POWELL: My pleasure.

LEMON: It is my honor to be sitting here with you. So, you know, this thing called African-American first, you were a first in many ways, right? What do you think about the new first that we have?

POWELL: Well, you can't really go any higher than this now. So we're going to have to stop thinking about firsts and thinking about our fellow citizens, many of whom are African-American and Hispanic and rural kids who are coming along and see these firsts. First secretary of state, first chairman, first national security adviser and now we see the first president who happens to be African-American.

But we can't think that, well, everything is well now, we've got it. We've got a black president. We've got to think about the other members of our society, many African-Americans, especially, who are still in need and they are not first.

We have 50 percent of our young black kids who are not going to be first anything because they haven't graduated from high school. They're dropping out, particularly in our inner cities. And so we should be so proud of how far we have come in the last 50 years so that we now have a man who is president, who is African-American but let us not rest on that pedestal. Let's recognize we have a long way to go.

Not too long ago I spoke at the Ole Miss, University of Mississippi, which 46 years ago they stood in the doorway and wouldn't let a James Meredith, a former air force sergeant come into the school. And it took the President of the United States, the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division to get this one black man through the doors of Ole Miss and they had to guard him for a year.

And then some 40 odd years later, they celebrated that event by doing it again and having James Meredith walk right through the door accompanied by the leadership of the school. And when you see Ole Miss as I spoke to this audience, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, everything -- all the colors and diversity of our great country. And so we've come a long way but we can't rest.

LEMON: What does that mean to you personally to see that? Do you feel like that you in some way contributed to where we are now? That moment, this new president?

POWELL: I think I did. But I'm not bragging about it because hundreds of thousands contributed. I contributed in a visible way by becoming the first secretary and first national security adviser and chairman who is black but I was given that opportunity.

I'm more impressed by those who came before me who could have done the same thing I did but they didn't have the opportunity because of racism and segregation and Jim Crow-ism but they still fought. They did the best they could.

LEMON: Like who?

POWELL: I'll give you a perfect example. We recently buried a wonderful lady, Martha Putney, who was a lieutenant, a black lieutenant in the Women's Army Corps in World War II. And she insisted on being treated as a lieutenant in the United States Army and she fought for her rights and she demonstrated just by her performance what a black woman could do.

And that little microcosm of what's been happening across our society by showing the rest of Americans that we are just like everyone else. You give us the education, you give us the opportunity, you open up the avenues and we're coming along. My fear is that we don't have enough kids coming along who have got the education and the determination to take advantage of what's been created for them.

So, yes, I think what Mr. Obama was able to achieve, many people will helped him get there. But not just visible people like me, hundreds of thousands of African-Americans who did what they could in their time over our history.


LEMON: We talked about much, much more in our discussion, including has the U.S. become a post-racial nation. We'll explain that question and get an answer for you from Colin Powell. Much, much more on my one-on-one conversation that will happen just a little bit later on. You don't want to miss that.

But first, President Barack Obama versus Congress. The fight to fix the economy was round one, round two is overhauling the health care system. What are the odds?


LEMON: As we discussed earlier, President Barack Obama plans to sign the stimulus bill on Tuesday in Denver. So, once that's done, what is the next big fight? Joining me again, CNN political editor Mark Preston and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times."

I think the next big fight, we can all agree, is probably health care, correct?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, certainly one of them, Don, no question about that.

LEMON: I want you guys to take a listen to an ad that's out today which is from Senator Christopher Dodd, then we'll talk about it.


ANNOUNCER: With today's economy, there hasn't been a lot to celebrate, but recently Congress voted to provide health care coverage for 11 million children, giving their parents one less thing to worry about and Senator Chris Dodd helped make it happen. Call Senator Dodd.


LEMON: You can see it's from Families USA Pharma. So the next big thing is going to be health care. Is this going to be quite a fight, Mark Preston? As big a fight as the stimulus plan?

PRESTON: It's going to be an even bigger fight, I think, on many fronts. In that ad we just saw, Don, is one of many that we're going to be seeing across the country in the next couple weeks. It's a $10 million ad buy. It's targeting 34 senators, nearly 50 congressmen.

What they're trying to do is put an incredible amount of pressure on the senators and congressman to come back to Washington and really try to enact health care reform. We know right now, 45 million people do not have health care and CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, Don, says that by 2019, you know, that could eclipse into over $50 million. So, it's going to be a very big issue.

LEMON: OK. Lynn, so are we going to see any bipartisan support on this issue?

SWEET: Well, you may because this is an issue that labor unions and business have been working together on and that would bring in Republicans. But here's why this is much, much tougher than the stimulus, and that is because in the stimulus it was a matter of giving out money and tax credits. You know, there might be ideological differences as to if this was the right balance and, you know, we all prayed that this helps the economic crisis.

In the health care arena, some people might be afraid that they might get less, that they might get to have to pay more for more. You just have a lot of other much thornier issues because people will be looking at, you know, just whole demographic areas. They'll be looking at people with health care issues. It's a lot more complicated than having a broad stroke stimulus bill.

And an interesting footnote that I've reported on today, the chief of staff of the White House, Rahm Emmanuel, his brother, who's a noted bioethicist and oncologist, is now advising the White House on health care policy.

LEMON: Very interesting. Thank you for adding that. I'm going to talk to Mark Preston now. Mark, you know, when it comes to this issue, I guess the concern is -- that I've been hearing is that this is socialized medicine and the criticism is that we don't need socialized medicine. So, do you think it's going to happen? Will it happen? And will they be able to pass a reform -- health care reform that really most Americans agree upon?

PRESTON: Well, you know, I hate to be the naysayer here. I just don't know right now how they're going to pay for it -- I mean, the stimulus bill in itself. Everything that happens moving forward is going to be marked against how much was spent on the stimulus bill, Don.

So, it's going to be a huge fight over money and how it's going to be done. And you're right, the whole idea that we could be turning into socialized medicine is not going to play well. So, this is going to be a huge fight for the Obama administration. And, you know, they don't even have a health czar right now. They don't have an HHS secretary. This is what Tom Daschle was supposed to do, Don, and he's no longer there.

SWEET: But one of the things -- if I could make a quick point.


SWEET: One of the things that Obama said and stress about in the campaign trail...

LEMON: Very short, though, Lynn. Very quick.

SWEET: that if you're happy with your health care plan now, nothing will change when he's president.

LEMON: Lynn Sweet, Mark Preston, appreciate it.

SWEET: Thank you.

PRESTON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

Some of your responses. Amsaltzman says, "The last thing we need is socialized health care. As bad as the current system may be, a bureaucracy is never the answer."

Evanandrews, "We're a rabid pack of heathens for not having socialized health care." OK, why don't you say how you really feel (ph).

Jbtamayo (ph) says, "California legislators are incompetent. They can lock themselves up for weeks and still couldn't pass a budget. Meanwhile, Californians suffer."

Sirbanio (ph) says, "One key thing is that Colin Powell is a Republican. Wonder what Michael Steele thinks." OK. I wonder what, too, Michael. Call us. Tell us what you think.

We want you to be part of our show, part of our community. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, That's the place to go. Send us your comments.

You've heard what they're saying inside the Beltway just now. But what are the rest of us saying? Really talking about around the country. There they are -- Martha Zoller, Warren Ballentine. Our hosts are in the house, radio hosts in the house. And you know they have got their finger on the pulse and you know they won't hold back. Stay with us.


LEMON: Very busy week for us. Talk radio, no exception. Martha Zoller, Warren Ballentine, both host syndicated radio shows out there in America. Tonight, I'll let you two slug it out over the issues your listeners are talking about. Thirty seconds each. We're not doing a minute any more. We're going to bring you guys in.

All right, Warren, we're going to start with you because you mentioned earlier that there was a heated debate on your show about whether to keep black history month. Go.

WARREN BALLENTINE, HOST, "THE WARREN BALLENTINE SHOW": We need to keep Black History Month. There's no doubt about it. We learned so much about Martin Luther King, but what about the Greensboro Four? What about Hosea Williams? What about all the other black history? We need to keep this and ingrain this not only in black children but in all Americans because black history is American history.

MARTHA ZOLLER, HOST, "THE MARTHA ZOLLER SHOW": Well, and I want to see correct history month. You know, we are doing so much revisionist history out there that what I learned from this election is people don't know about our history, black or white, and they don't know about economics. So, you know, keep Black History Month if you want to, but let's make sure we have accurate history and that we push harder on the school level.

LEMON: You don't think there's a need for Black History Month? I'm going to break this up a little bit. Why not?

ZOLLER: Well, I think that it ought to be -- we ought to be teaching our history all the way through. Black History Month is fine, but it ought to be that we teach accurate history and we're not doing that.

LEMON: OK. Warren, do you agree with that?

BALLENTINE: I agree to some extent, but we need to keep Black History Month in the forefront because we have to -- we have to keep the issues of what happened in the past so we know where we're going in the future. And, look, as bad as it is, slavery did occur, the civil rights movement did occur, and we need to talk about these things to make sure that they never occur again in this country.

LEMON: OK. Good. Let's talk about $800 billion in stimulus bill. We talked about that. Your thoughts on that. Let's start with Martha.

ZOLLER: Well, I got to tell you. I hope it's successful because I do want the president and our economy to be successful, but I got to tell you, this is too much money being spent in the wrong way and the markets are going to tank on Tuesday. I hope I'm wrong about that, but this is not what the markets want.

LEMON: Warren?

BALLENTINE: I think the markets are going to -- going to be surprisingly well, but I will say this. What's scary to me that this is not bipartisan in any way, this is all on the Democrats and if this bill fails, the Republicans are going to have a great shot in 2010 because this is all on the Democrats.

LEMON: All right. I want to get back to this. We have this time thing, but we're missing on a whole lot on this that occurred just by doing these 30 seconds. First of all, though, lets talk about socialized health care and we'll get back to the stimulus.

ZOLLER: Well, my biggest concern about socialized health care is a lot of those things are in the stimulus bill. There are a whole bunch of things in the stimulus bill relating to health care and it is about telling, especially older folks, that it's not going to be cost- effective to continue to treat them and Democrats have been scaring older folks for 15 years about Republicans taking away what they have.


ZOLLER: I think the Democrats are doing it now.

LEMON: Warren?

BALLENTINE: I respectfully disagree with my colleague. I think what's going to happen here is that they're going to have the opportunity to help the poor and the elderly. And in fact, the president has always stated that if you're happy with your health care, you can keep it the way it is. This bill, the stimulus package, is only going to help the poor and the elderly who cannot afford health insurance right now.

LEMON: All right. This is an appropriate question for both of you. We heard so much about the stimulus. Before we get to our last topic, which is going to be Roland Burris -- Senator Roland Burris, I want to talk about the stimulus package.

We heard so much about reaching across the aisle, bipartisanship, bipartisanship, and this was clearly voted on -- voted on along party lines. When the president goes to the public, it appears that the public has a different idea about what they want than the folks in Washington do. Where is the disconnect? Starting with you, Martha.

ZOLLER: Well, the public, I mean, overwhelmingly, was opposed to this, except when they heard President Obama talk about it. And I think they're going to see...

LEMON: The polls don't show that, though.

ZOLLER: I don't know. The polls I've looked at had roughly between 30 percent and 50 percent liking it, and it was going down every single day. What I do think was good was President Obama going out and making his case. I'd like to see him come to some red states and do that.

LEMON: OK. Warren, 30 seconds with that.

BALLENTINE: You know, I'm just going to say this. I think that we have a president who really wants change in Washington, D.C., and I think that's what the people want. I think the people want change and I hope the Republican Party understands this isn't about partisanship right now. It's about doing what's best for the United States of America.

ZOLLER: And he's learning getting out of Washington is what's going to get it done.

LEMON: OK. All right. This is -- I mean, really, just quickly on this. We saw Roland Burris holding a press conference today. The reporters seemed very aggressive when it came to him. Do you think that he was sort of -- in a way disrespected, Warren?

BALLENTINE: I do. I think he was very disrespected in this sense. Even though he had some questionability there with what he said doing the impeachment and doing the affidavit, he didn't do anything legally wrong. He's going to stay in the Senate, and this is more a political issue than a legal one.

LEMON: OK, Martha?

ZOLLER: I'm glad -- I'm glad to see the press doing their job and asking the tough questions.

LEMON: Even though it didn't seem respectful to many people. I got lots of e-mails saying, oh, they just seem...

ZOLLER: Well, the press aren't supposed to be liked, they're just supposed to be accurate.

LEMON: Thank you very much. That has to be the last word on that. I tell you, I'm sure your listeners will be talking about all of this come Monday.

ZOLLER: All of it.

LEMON: We appreciate it. Thanks to both of you.

BALLENTINE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Crossing the color line, making history.


POWELL: It hit me. It hit me emotionally. I was expecting him. I supported him. I voted for him, but it was still an electric shock.


LEMON: Colin Powell shares his thoughts and his emotions on Barack Obama becoming the first African-American president. One pioneer to another.


LEMON: We continue now with our series, "Up from a Past: African-American Firsts." On November 4th, 2008, voters made history and the U.S. really ushered in a new era by voting in the first African-American president. Does that mean that racism is done? Have we truly entered a post-racial era? Those are my questions to former Secretary of State Colin Powell in an exclusive and candid conversation just a couple of days ago in Washington.


LEMON (on camera): There are those who say, you know, it's over. You know, we don't need certain sorts of programs, affirmative action, what have you, that racism is over in this country because of the election of Barack Obama.

POWELL: It isn't. Racism is not over. We have to be candid. I was so happy that Americans came to the polls, went to the polls and a lot of people said, oh, you know, those white folks, they will -- they will say they're going to vote for Obama, they'll go in the booth and they won't.

Well, it turned out most of them did. Ten million more Americans voted for Mr. Obama than did for my dear friend Senator McCain. But there were places in our country where white folks voted for Mr. McCain up to 88 percent of them. So, there is a racial element of that. And black folks voted up to the 98 percent for Mr. Obama.

So, we have not become a raceless, classless society yet, not when you go into our inner cities and see young African-Americans who don't have good schools, don't have job opportunities, are in need of health care, in need of better housing. And so we should use Mr. Obama's presence -- President Obama's presence as an indication of how far we have come, but also as inspiration to go even further.

LEMON: That was a very personal moment for you. Did you cry?

POWELL: Yes, we all cried.

LEMON: Did you cry?

POWELL: Yes. Did you?

LEMON: I was busy working. I was emotional. I can't say that I did cry, but there was a moment where it hit me...


LEMON: ... when I was -- I was here in Washington -- when he got out of the car and walked with his wife. But you cried. Tell me about that moment and why.

POWELL: Well, I was in Hong Kong. I was not in the United States. I had voted early and I was in Hong Kong. And it was morning in Hong Kong when it was evening here in Washington.

And so, I was getting up, getting ready for the meeting I'm going to in Hong Kong, and I'm watching the news. All of the broadcasters giving results. New Hampshire's done this. New York's done this. The exit polls from Maine say this.

And as I'm getting dressed and watching the television, I'm talking to my wife who's in Fairfax County, Virginia with my son and daughter-in-law, and I'm texting with one of my daughters in New York. So, the whole family watching this even though we're 89,000 miles apart.

And we saw the results start to come in. And I remember 2000 where it took five weeks. I remember 2004 where it took all night. And as I'm waiting for the results to come in, suddenly, one of your colleagues on another channel - it's the one I happened to surf to -- says, we have one more exit poll to report. And he simply said Barack Obama is the next president.

And it hit me. It hit me emotionally. I was expecting him. I supported him. I voted for him, but it was still an electric shock. And I just sat down in my chair. And my kids were crying. And I said to myself, we did it. We actually did it. What a great country. What a great inspiration to all Americans. And what a great inspiration in the world, because many people in the world thought Americans can't, they're not ready for this, they won't do it.

LEMON: You're emotional about it now. You're almost crying.

POWELL: Yes, every day.


POWELL: Well, I don't know why. Maybe it's because I remember the days when a young black kid growing up in the Bronx could only look to a Joe Louis or Ralph Bunche or to a Jackie Robinson for inspiration. Maybe it was because, even though I grew up in a great neighborhood in New York City, I knew I was a second-class citizen.

I've been telling a joke recently to try to convince people of the changes we have gone through, that I remembered, as a young kid in the Bronx, hearing one day in the early '50s -- I forget exactly when it was. And I was a teenager. And we all were sitting on the corner stoop.

And we heard, "Hey, did you hear?"

"What, man?"

"Did you hear that" -- it was either Greyhound or Trailways. I can't remember which one.

"Did you hear Greyhound hired its first black bus driver to drive in the South. They're actually going to let a black man drive a bus down the interstate in the South."

And we said, "Whew."

And then we all kind of smiled and kidded, and said, "Lord, I hope he don't have an accident.


POWELL: Because you know what the white folks will say.

We felt that insecure about ourselves, because we were taught for 200 years to feel inferior and insecure about ourselves. But things were changing.

And I got an education that allowed me to be not insecure about myself. And I went into an institution -- the United States Army -- that was ahead of everybody else. And they said to me, the only thing we care about is performance. We don't want to hear about your immigrant background. We don't hear about -- hear -- want to hear about you being a poor kid. We don't want to hear about the fact that you're black. The only thing we care about is performance.

Are you ready?

And I said, yes, I'm ready.

LEMON: What do you think about Lincoln's 200th birthday and this big celebration going on and the new president has this whole connection to Lincoln. Do you think -- do you feel that he was a great emancipator.

POWELL: No question that he was one of our greatest presidents. Not just a great emancipator. He had a more important role than just to emancipate the slaves. He had to keep the country together. And that was his first goal -- to preserve the Union. And the process of doing that, he emancipated the slaves as part of his efforts to preserve the Union. And we should thank him for preserving the Union and emancipating the slaves.

It's unfortunate that we lost President Lincoln because I think the whole reconstruction period would have been entirely different. And the great tragedies of our country is that after that war that preserved the Union and ended slavery, it was able to slip back into a position of racism, Jim Crow, segregation and all the other terrible things that happened for the next 100 years until we had the second civil war, more peaceful civil war led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

So, I think Lincoln will always be seen as a great president. I regret that we lost him too soon and we perhaps lost some opportunities to have avoided that second civil war or at least had it earlier, so that all Americans could have become equal much earlier than we now are on the verge of doing.

LEMON: Do you romanticize his legacy, you think?

POWELL: No. I don't think so. I think he's very deserving of all the tributes that he's getting, especially on the 200th anniversary of his birth. I'm a great admirer of President Lincoln. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: And the former secretary of state, Colin Powell, is now working with a nonprofit organization that he had founded. It's called America's Promise. Go to to get more information on that. You see the Web site right over my shoulder here. He and his wife Alma Powell are working on that. Thank you very much for that conversation, Mr. Powell.

They are just your typical 21st-century working family. One spouse on the road traveling for work, the other wishing he was with her. We're talking about the former first couple. They get used to their new roles.


LEMON: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on her way to Asia. This is her first trip overseas as a chief diplomat. Clinton's tour includes stops in Japan, Indonesia, China and South Korea. A stop on North Korea is not on her schedule, but the ongoing nuclear standoff with Pyongyang is likely to be high on the agenda.

So, what is a former president to do when his first lady is now one of the most powerful women in the country, really in the world? "AMERICAN MORNING's" John Roberts sat down with former President Bill Clinton. They discussed his new role or rather what some think it should be. Listen.


ROBERTS: The "U.S. News and World Report" this week commissioned to poll, surveyed a bunch of women in America and asked them what role you should take on with your wife as secretary of state. 37 percent, the greatest number of women, said house husband. I'm wondering what you think about that.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, it's funny, I told her when she left that I wish now that I was an ordinary citizen because I wish I could go with her and be there when she comes home at night and do for her what she did for me when I was president. But it's not in the cards. We're doing the best we can to work through this and do the right thing.

ROBERTS: Would you ever be comfortable being a househusband?

CLINTON: No, I have to go to work. I'm too much of a Calvinist. If I don't work every day, I get nervous.


LEMON: That conversation in its entirety tomorrow morning on "AMERICAN MORNING" with John Roberts and Kiran Chetry right here on CNN beginning at 6:00 a.m.

You are joining our conversation tonight. Straight ahead, more of your thoughts. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. So much easier to read them this way because I get to see them before -- here's what Wlperie says, "There is so much black history. I feel we need more than a month to commemorate it."

Then Talkingship wrote in and says, "No one should have to worry about money when their child comes down with cancer. Case closed."

We appreciate all of your comments. Make sure you logon to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or Tell us what you're thinking.

I'm Don Lemon right here in Atlanta at the CNN world headquarters. I'll see you back here next weekend. Won't you join us? Right now, "D.L. HUGHLEY BREAKS THE NEWS."