Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Proper Strategy in Afghanistan; Wildfires in California Continue; Marijuana Legalization

Aired May 9, 2009 - 19:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: California's burning ferocious wildfires eat up thousands of miles and no home is safe. There are new developments but the danger is not over yet.

Peace in the Middle East: The president is sending more troops to Afghanistan, but is it the right strategy? A military officer says no. We'll talk to him live.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em: A bipartisan call to legalize marijuana is catching fire and could become law. We debate the issue live for you.

And meet the press and take them on: The president, well, he usually feels the heat -- well, tonight, his chance to turn the tables, no questions asked. We go live to the White House correspondent dinner as you see the arrivals there of the stars and journalists. There they are on the red carpet. Ludacris on the right and Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C. are there now.

Hi, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.

Violent times: Springtime storms and tornadoes killed at least four people last night and it is not over yet. A second round is tearing across the nation right now. The path of destruction stretches from Kansas to Kentucky. Homes are flattened; vehicles tossed to the air; thousands could be without power for days.

One man had to cling to his doorknob to keep from being blown away. The storm hit so fast that some Kentucky residents had little time to react.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN WOOD, STORM VICTIM: I went around to make sure everybody was OK; and I come out here, everybody was hollering and screaming. She was in here on the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I stepped away from the door, all my windows starts going like bombs.

JOHN JACKSON, STORM VICTIM: I remember that it thundered and all the shingles come off the house, and the roof almost come off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: In Tennessee, a tornado picked up an entire house and moved it about 15 feet -- there you see the amazing pictures there. Luckily, no one inside was seriously hurt. But it was terrifying all the same.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERRI BIRD, STORM VICTIM: I just thank God that my husband, Mrs. Matthews and the people that was helping him in the garage was OK, because I knew the garage was gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, we might hear similar headlines soon out of Arkansas tonight.

Our Jacqui Jeras has been watching the line of storms moving through that state.

Jacqui, what's going on now?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, just heavy rain and, you know, a lot of wind associated with these storms today, Don.

And I don't think we're going to see quite as much rotation on this favorable for tornadoes. And that's why you see all the yellow boxes lined up from New England stretching down through the Carolinas. Even into the Deep South and into Texas, we've got watches just lined up all over the place. And a new one, which was just issued, which includes the Delmarva area and down through eastern parts of North Carolina, really wicked storms just moved through the Raleigh area and you're going to see some back fill coming in there as well.

If you're going out to dinner tonight, or heading to a show in New York City, down through Philly, you guys aren't in the watches, but be aware that some isolated stronger storms could be moving through in just the next couple of hours and here's that situation going on across Arkansas and that's going to spread eastward throughout the day, heavy downpours. We're talking several inches of rainfall on top of already very saturated ground. So, flood and flash flood watches have been issues all across the area.

Speaking of severe weather and extreme weather, our CNN Rob Marciano is out storm chasing. There's a huge new experiment, the largest ever, it's called VORTEX2 and it's going to be taking place in the plains this coming week. So, watch him on "AMERICAN MORNING" and on CNN.com all in the upcoming week starting Monday, Don.

LEMON: All right, Jacqui. Thank you very much. We're going to talk to you in a little bit about what's going on in California, the fires.

So, the weather is providing some relief for weary firefighters in southern California. Fog and calmer winds are helping in their battle against the Santa Barbara wildfire. The blaze is now 30 percent contained. The firefighters aren't letting their guard down, though. They know the weather could change at any moment.

The blaze has already destroyed 80 homes; 30,000 people are under evacuation orders, and 13 firefighters have been injured. Reporters, residents -- everyone in the line of fire. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, it was a full twister. I mean, it was just going and going and going up and just getting bigger and bigger and just hopping. I mean, 200 yards, 300 yards and then all of a sudden, we're almost -- I think we were pretty much enclosed. We couldn't get out of here if we wanted to.

JANA KATSUYAMA, KTVU REPORTER: The smoke from this fire has really expanded across Santa Barbara. Anywhere you go, you can breath it, you can see it and it really is stinging the eyes and the lungs of people even in downtown areas.

KARA FINNSTORM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Overnight, the winds whipped up here in Santa Barbara, pushing this already destructive fire into some new areas and threatening more homes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That's just shows you what the people out there are dealing with -- containing these fires often depends on the weather, specifically the winds. And also, whether or not there's some moisture or precipitation in the forecast.

Jacqui Jeras take it away.

JERAS: Hey, Don. We have a lot of moisture move into the area early this morning, the marine layer as we call it, a real shallow layer of fog and low-level moisture moved in through the lower levels, up to about maybe a thousand feet, and that really helped the situation with the calmer winds. However, that layer has broken. The sun has come out and that really mixed things up in the atmosphere a little bit. We've got high pressure here, low pressure here, and a gradient in between the two. So, that's been bringing in the stronger, gustier winds.

And now that we're into the afternoon hours, there you see the winds a little bit variable across the Santa Barbara area from west to southerly -- we like that south because we're getting a little bit more moisture into that area, but we do think predominantly west to northwesterly as we head into the evening hours.

A little bit also good news by tomorrow morning, Don. We think the winds calm back down; the marine layer moves back in and brings some of that moisture in. So, some containment has taken place over the last 24 hours plus because of that. So, a little bit of good news in all of this.

LEMON: Let's hope that continues. Thank you very much, Jacqui.

We have breaking news out of Tampa, Florida to tell you about. It's a terrible boat explosion involving young children. It happened shortly after noon in Tampa Bay.

Now here's what people there on the scene are saying. Six adults and six children were injured when the 35-foot pleasure boat blew up while I was anchored off Beer Can Island. The most seriously injured victims were airlifted to nearby trauma centers.

A short time ago, we received audio of the 911 call from that scene.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, 911 TAPE)

DISPATCHER: Tampa Fire and Rescue. What's the address of the emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We're out on Beer Can Island in Tampa Bay and a boat just exploded.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

LEMON: It's not known yet what caused the explosion. We'll continue to update you on that story.

There's a red carpet and the president and first lady are there, and a parade of Hollywood celebrities are showing at tonight's White House correspondents' dinner.

We asked our very own celebrity, CNN's Kate Bolduan, to give us a preview of tonight's big event.

Kate, I have been watching you on the preview monitor with some really big stars from Ashton to Demi to Ludacris -- I mean, everyone, Barbara Walters -- I have never seen this many celebrities at a White House dinner.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not at a White House dinner. Everyone looks amazing. I must say, Don. I even had to keep a list of all the celebrity tonight (INAUDIBLE) this evening. I mean, from our -- my colleagues, Ed Henry on down, very well known journalists are here, of course, this is a White House Correspondents Association dinner.

But you know that the biggest screams or the loudest screams from the crowd here are coming from the A-listers that are here. Everyone from Samuel L. Jackson, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Sting and his wife, Jon bon Jovi, Chris Tucker was even nice enough to offer some advice to the president on good comedic timing. Actor Bradley Cooper and "Saturday Night Live's" Amy Poehler.

And we even had a very good chance to speak with Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, who was with our very own Wolf Blitzer. And I asked Ashton and Demi about that duel between CNN and Ashton in getting the most Twitter followers. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHTON KUTCHER, CELEBRITY ACTOR: It's sort of felt like it was a kind of -- it's like changing the guard for media and the way media is distributed and consumed, and I think it was a relevant story. So I wasn't that surprised. I was surprised that I won, but, you know ...

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: So, Demi, how much fun you're having loving hanging out with our lovely Wolf Blitzer?

DEMI MOORE, CELEBRITY ACTRESS: How much fun? Sorry, I can't (INAUDIBLE).

BOLDUAN: How much fun is it hanging out with our Wolf Blitzer?

MOORE: Well, I am looking forward to an evening of good stories and good laughs.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to give you the inside story.

MOORE: That's what I meant.

BLITZER: And you know what? Both of you are in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

MOORE: Right now?

BLITZER: Right now. Because I'm here, which means you're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

MOORE: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Our Wolf Blitzer always knowing that perfect one-liner, Don. I have to tell you, it was a very funny moment. I spoke with Wanda Sykes; she is the featured entertainer this evening. And I said, "Wanda, what do you think when you were invited to speak at tonight's event?" She goes, "Well, first of all, I had to make sure my taxes were in line." I thought that was pretty fun.

LEMON: I'm looking at -- that is funny. Yes, I got to say, I was looking at some video which is just kind of startled me there. I saw one of the FOX News hosts with the husband of Sarah Palin.

BOLDUAN: Todd Palin, yes. Todd Palin is here. Sarah Palin was invited to come. It's not every governor -- it's not one of those things where all the governors were invited. But Sarah Palin was invited. She did decline. She said there's -- we've heard from her office that there's flooding in Alaska, that she is staying behind. But we did see Todd Palin is coming and he did walk past a little earlier.

LEMON: Yes.

BOLDUAN: But you can see, the crowd is still having a lot of fun. It's starting to thin out in terms of people getting into the dinner because it will be starting. But it has been quite an evening here in Washington.

LEMON: Yes. That is a very odd date. I'm not sure about that, a journalist and the presidential candidate's husband, vice president.

So, listen, Wanda Sykes is the entertainment. I saw Christian Slater there. I saw our very own Kiran Chetry. All of our CNN folks are looking quite dapper this evening. BOLDUAN: Well, I like to say it takes a village to get me going every day.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: But it was -- it's been very -- everyone looks very wonderful. I have to tell you, Tyra Banks, and I know you love Tyra.

LEMON: Yes, I do.

BOLDUAN: I talked to her a little earlier and she said, "You know what, tonight is not about us, it's not about the dress, it's about not about (INAUDIBLE) ...

LEMON: Hey, listen.

BOLDUAN: ... keeping in mind that these are tough economic times.

LEMON: They're telling me to move on. I know you're in the middle of a live shot. But who's the screaming for? It's got to be somebody big around you, Kate. Who is it?

BOLDUAN: I think I can tell who that is. That's our very own Alicia Keys.

LEMON: I can't see. Move that guy. Yes, there we go. There's Alicia Keys on the red carpet at the White House. She looks great.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I will try to grab her. We'll see if we can (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: OK. I know we're going to go back. Yes, and thank you.

They're wrapping me, but more interesting than a lot of things we have in the broadcast. We want to see what the guys there are doing in Washington. Again, Kate, this is -- I haven't seen this many Hollywood celebrities and big names at a dinner like this ever. This is almost like the Academy Awards with all these folks out here.

BOLDUAN: Oh, absolutely.

LEMON: Yes. So, there's Alicia Keys. Our Kate Bolduan is going to get Alicia Keys. There she is.

She's going to come to you after.

BOLDUAN: Yes, we're in line, Don.

LEMON: OK. Thank you, Kate. We appreciate it.

We're going to get back to Kate Bolduan throughout our broadcast.

And also, remember tonight, at 10 o'clock, President Obama is going to speak tonight around 10 o'clock. So, make sure you join us. It will happen right here in the middle of our broadcast. Make sure you join us then, you'll see it live right here on CNN. Hopefully, we'll get that interview with Alicia Keys from Kate Bolduan in just a bit.

A suspected drone attack in Pakistan turns deadly. Meantime, thousands more are running from the fighting between military and the Taliban militants.

Plus, new developments today in the front -- in the hunt, I should say, for a University of Georgia professor accused of killing three people.

Also, send us you comments. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or iReport.com, we'll get your responses on the air.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right.

Well, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan is accusing the Taliban of using innocent civilians as human shields. Coalition investigators are confirming reports that civilians died during U.S. air strikes this week, but they're blaming Taliban rebels. They say Taliban fighters forced villagers into houses then used those houses to staged attacks on coalition forces. The coalition says it can't tell how many civilians died. Afghanistan is conducting its own investigation into those air strikes.

Next door in Pakistan, a humanitarian crisis is emerging as civilians try to escape the fighting between the Taliban militants and the country's military. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes. And for one family, it's another hurdle toward trying to get their son the life-saving help he needs.

CNN's Reza Sayah brings us their story from Islamabad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is a glimpse of the humanitarian crisis Pakistan is facing because of the fighting going on in this spot region.

This is the Mullahkel (ph) family. A hundred members of this family left the Swat region and made their way all the way to this village in Islamabad to get away from the danger. There's 55 children in this family. Many of them are sick. But for one 9-year-old, his ailment is a matter of life and death.

OK. This is Abdul Zaman. He is 9 years old and this is his father, Muhammad Zaman. And this is how they left Swat. His father Abdul Zaman on his shoulder much of the way, the rest of the way, they took the bus. Abdul Zaman suffers from a very rare bone marrow disease.

And if you look at his leg, you can see some of the signs of it. These patches on his leg, it's a disease that's weakening him. He's losing strength. The doctors are giving him medication. He has 60 percent chance of surviving.

(voice over): "It was very difficult carrying my boy all the way from Swat," says Muhammad Zaman. "But what's more difficult is getting him medical attention."

Doctors say Abdul Zaman needs a bone marrow transplant to survive. The cost, $15,000 -- money his father doesn't have. Abdul and his family are among 200,000 civilians who fled the Swat valley. They found refuge in a village of Madhad (ph), outside of Islamabad.

Elsewhere, refugee camps are overflowing, the government and humanitarian groups struggling to provide basic needs. The U.N.'s refugee agency says another 300,000 are on their way out of the region, escaping the fighting between the army and militants. Locals say innocent civilians are being caught in the crossfire.

"I don't know who's killing them, the Taliban or the army," says Zaman, "but innocent citizens are dying every day."

(on camera): Without the help of relief organizations, the thousands of families who have been displaced will be left with nowhere to go. This is one of those relief organizations who's taken five families in this building. We're going to go and meet one of them.

This is the Qatankel (ph) family. They're from the Swat region where the fight is going on. OK, this is Amjid, he's 10 years old. That's his brother, Zajid Ali (ph). This is Nazr Mohammed (ph), another brother. And this is the youngest brother, Wajid Ali (ph). He's five. Look how cute he is.

Amjid said during the fighting, he was very scared. He was taking cover inside his home while the gun fire was going on. He left behind everything. He said his favorite item that he left behind was a cricket bat. And when I asked him what he would like to see, he said, "Aman," which means peace in Urdu.

(voice-over): The children's mother, Zebah (ph), says the bodies of civilians are scattered in the streets.

The Pakistani military acknowledges civilian casualties but has yesterday to provide numbers.

Muhammad Zaman saved his child from the conflict. Now, he's taking on his son's deadly disease. The fighting has brought them closer to Pakistan's best hospitals in the federal capital. But with no job and very little money, time is running out.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Stabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan -- well, it's a top priority for the Obama administration. The president has pledged to send in 21,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. Is it the right strategy? Will it work?

To help us answer those questions, we are joined now by a man who knows a lot about taking on extremist groups. And we welcome now Peter Blaber. He's a former Delta Force commander.

And, Mr. Blaber, well, you spent a lot of time in Afghanistan during one of our biggest operations there, correct?

PETER BLABER, FORMER DELTA FORCE COMMANDER: That's correct.

LEMON: Yes. So, tell us about -- you know, we've been watching these reports and we have been seeing the violence that's happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Let's talk about Afghanistan first. Sending in these thousands of troops that the president has said he will do -- is this the right strategy, sending more troops into the region?

BLABER: I don't think it is, Don. But if President Obama was to ask me, I would advise him to conduct a reality check. And to do that, I would tell him to talk to the guys on the ground and ask them one simple question: what's their recommendation?

President Karzai was here this week and he did a TV interview where he asked the interviewer, "How can we expect a people who continue to lose their children to remain friendly?" And if you watched him when he asked that question, you could see the passion in his eyes, the sorrow, and the pent up frustration with this situation that continues to degrade his ability to achieve credibility as a leader. And also ...

LEMON: Explain to us what you mean by that, though? What do you saying -- is it about civilians or families who are being killed? Or are you saying that the military there -- all of these people who are being sent in, that they don't have any connection to these folks?

BLABER: Well, in part both. It is about the hearts and minds. As trite as that sounds, that's what Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan, that's what being successful is all about.

The Afghanis in particular, they have lived under Taliban control before and they're not buying what the Taliban are selling. They don't want a Taliban theocracy to run their country.

But, you know, on the other side of the coin, the Taliban commander in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud also gave an interview in the last few weeks. And in his interview, he said, "I combed the Frontier for three months to find recruits and I found one. After an errant American air strike, I found 100."

And, you know, the situation is, we're hurting our ally and we're helping our adversary. We've got it upside down and we have to reverse that.

LEMON: So, there's no -- you're saying there's no power. And the power there is not necessarily in numbers. Is it a more focused initiative, you think, that should be in the area? And tell us specifically what you mean.

BLABER: Yes. So, sometimes, to find your path going forward, you need to look behind you and look into the past. And we don't have to look that far here. We can look back to the fall of 2001 when less than 500 Special Operations, Special Forces and CIA operatives used swarming tactics to develop the situation and overrun what many military historians consider the most daunting physical geography in the history of warfare, and we overthrew the Taliban and sent the al Qaeda forces running.

And we did that because we used common sense. We worked with the Afghans and we stayed small. One of the greatest threats in Afghanistan is Afghan xenophobia, and you cannot -- you cannot have large formations moving around Afghanistan without instilling that xenophobia in the Afghans and turning them against you.

LEMON: Peter Blaber ...

BLABER: President Karzai knows that. I know he passed that on this weekend to President Obama. But we -- we need to take it to heart and continue to follow that advice.

LEMON: Peter Blaber, you know, I let you talk there for a while because I think you're making some very good points and I know that you spent a lot of time on the ground in Afghanistan. We appreciate you joining us.

And also, now (ph), he's spending there. Peter Blaber is author of "The Mission, The Men and Me: Lessons from a Former Delta Force Commander."

Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate your sage advice, sir.

BLABER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: While this is going on in Afghanistan, the president, you know, this is part of his foreign policy strategies. So, he's taking a little break tonight and he is going to be at the White House Correspondents dinner.

And there you see some of the arrivals, live. That is -- is that Donatella Versace? I can't tell. Yes. It doesn't look like her to me but maybe this -- no, I'm looking at a burgundy dress, that's not her. So, anyway, folks are arriving there for the White House Correspondents dinner.

Oh, there's Donatella in front. I see her there. And there she is. I didn't see her there before.

A lot of stars. I don't recall seeing this many stars at a White House correspondent dinner, ever. Red carpet, folks out there on the red carpet.

So, the president is taking a break tonight. He's going to be joshing with the reporters, but then, it's going to be back to work because he's got foreign policy and economic issues to deal with.

Meantime, we have some new developments to tell you about in the hunt for a University of Georgia professor accused of killing three people. Cadaver dogs discovered a concealed body in the woods near where George Zinkhan, where his jeep was found in North Georgia. Athens- Clarke County Police say the body has been taken to the state crime lab for identification. Zinkhan is accused of shooting and killing his wife and two others last month outside of a community theater.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are in Boston after a pair of trolley cars collided, injuring nearly 50 passengers. You won't believe what might have caused this. It happened last night on the city's green line which is now shut down for the investigation.

About 50 people were hurt in the accident, the transit authority's general manager suspects one of the trolley operators may have been texting at the time of that collision.

His progress was painfully slow but his will and determination will inspire you to no end. A disabled British soldier walked across the finish line of the London marathon this morning, two weeks after the race ended. Well, per doctors' orders, British Army Major Phil Packer was only allowed to walk on his crutches for two miles a day. Packer suffered a spinal injury in the Iraq war and was told he probably wouldn't walk again. But he defied the odds, and today, thanked those who supported him along the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL PACKER, WOUNDED VETERAN: It's been a very different journey, one that I didn't expect to have any kind of support like this. And I'm just very grateful to the sincerity and kindness of people that have donated and have encouraged me along the way. It's made it much easier for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, Packer is hoping his marathon success will help raised money and awareness on the plight of the British war veterans.

We want to get you back now live to Washington, to show you what's going on. It is the White House Correspondents dinner. It is tonight and those are the arrivals.

Who is that? Isn't that the lady from -- I forgot the name of her show. It's on TNT. But I can't remember the name of her show.

Anyway, there they are. They're arriving at this dinner, red carpet. We've seen tons of celebrities. As a matter of fact, I'm going to send a Tweet to Ashton Kutcher, hopefully, he'll respond. If you, guys, are, you know, following him, tell him to respond to us. We'll have it -- we'll bring it to you live here.

So, we're going to follow more. At 10 o'clock, the president will be speaking tonight. We'll carry that for you live. It will happen right during our hours.

Oh, I thought it was the lady from "Crossing Jordan." That's the name of the show. Is that her? I think it is.

All right, 10:00 p.m., you don't want to miss that, the president. White House -- the Washington, I should say, White House Correspondents dinner.

Plus, the debate over -- tonight -- whether or not to legalize marijuana. It is drawing some controversy, because some are saying that pot can help boost the economy, we're going to talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Red carpet events, the president, first lady are there and the parade of Hollywood celebrities, but it is not Hollywood. It certainly looks like it, it is Washington and you're looking at live pictures inside the room.

Looking at them just as they're coming in. I'm seeing them with you. They're conducting seems like the military, the marine corps band and folks getting ready to have dinner there. Tonight's White House Correspondent's dinner is going to be a fantastic event. We're going to carry much of it live here on CNN.

We have asked our very own celebrity, CNN's Kate Bolduan to get out on the red carpet, pass at the red carpet, if you will. And talk to some of the folks. She's got a preview for us tonight. Last we saw you, Kate Bolduan, you were hobnobbing with Alicia Keys, where does it stand now?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's just a regular day for me, Don. It was right after you had to go into the commercial that we were able to speak with Alicia Keys. She's very wonderful and she was kind of talking what this evening means for her and what she's kind of hoping for and expecting here at tonight's dinner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALICIA KEYS, SINGER: Well, you know, I have been invited to the Correspondent Dinner before and I just didn't feel like it was the right time to go. Now it feels like the right time to go. I think that obviously with the new administration, I mean, there is such a feeling of hope and resilience and possibility. And I think that it's a wonderful thing to be a part of it.

I love to see what happens when I enter the room just in a sense of who is there and who I can I meet and who can I learn more about that I may not have known before, who can I - what conversations will possibly happen in that room. I just think it's very interesting, and it's historic and it's been happening for years so I'm glad to be here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: It's a similar story for many celebrities. I have to get out of the way, me, not being the celebrity. (inaudible) Forest Whitaker, his wife, Keisha. Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives" is right across the way. All coming in and enjoying the evening. There's so many celebrities down here, they're just quite excited to be part of it and to meet many of what they say are so many people that they have never met before. Hobnob. (inaudible) journalists. When it comes down to it, who needs the Academy Awards? We got the White House Correspondent's Association dinner.

LEMON: You know, I got to say that, it just crossed my mind as I was looking at all of this, I mean, it just seems a little weird to have all of those celebrities there. I mean, it is, you know, it's Washington. It's supposed to be politics and this is supposed to be between journalists and you know the people who cover the president. And I don't know, it just seems weird.

BOLDUAN: It is a little foreign, there's a funny feeling, especially from my perspective being here. You know -

LEMON: It's like it's too much. It's too much. It doesn't seem like Washington. It's overkill for Washington, D.C. which is supposed to be safe from all of that Hollywood stuff - the trivialness of Hollywood.

BOLDUAN: Yes, well, they themselves actually says it seems like - well, they themselves - as I've been talking to them are spectators. They're very excited to meet with journalists that they watch on CNN and other networks. And you know, it's one of these dinners that many people will talk about afterwards.

You know, of course, critique the president. But it's a big crowd, it's an opportunity, it's an awards ceremony, people presenting journalism awards to some of our colleagues in the journalism industry. And they're also awarding scholarships to aspiring journalists who are going to universities. It's an opportunity to - it's also kind of relax a little bit and to hobnob and (inaudible) as well as the people we cover -

LEMON: Kate, can you move your mike up closer to your mouth? We can barely hear you.

BOLDUAN: I'm sorry.

LEMON: That's OK.

BOLDUAN: I'm sorry. This is an opportunity for people to just kind of let loose and relax, and tomorrow we're back on the job.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you. I don't mean to, you know, be a downer, but it just seems like something is amiss here. Thank you, Kate Bolduan. I want to show you quick because we've been talking about celebrities who are there. Ashton Kutcher, you know, we have the challenger then. We just went on to his twitter page and here's what he said. Maybe we show his address.

He says I'm off to the White House Correspondent's Dinner, I will shoot live vid if something exciting happens. Maybe Obama will take the pee challenge. I don't know what that is. LOL. It was sent about an hour ago from his desktop. So he's going to take video. We don't have a shot of it. There you go. That's it. That's where we come, celebrity-wood. Washington-wood. What can we call it? What's a good name? Washington, D.C.-wood? I don't know.

OK, we expect President Obama to speak tonight during the 10:00 Eastern hour, right in the middle of the CNN NEWSROOM. Make sure you join us when the president speaks. You'll see it right here on CNN of course.

Critics call it reefer madness, but California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says his state should at least debate the possibility of legalizing pot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGER, CALIFORNIA: And I think that we ought to study very carefully on what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Some marijuana advocates say legalize pot could be a solution in California's budget crisis. They say state tax on pot could bring in 1.3 billion dollars a year. That is a lot of money.

Allen St. Pierre is executive director of Norml, and the Norml Foundation. He's written, debated and lectured on the topic of cannabis and its prohibition. And the Kevin Sabet is the former White House Drug Policy adviser under both President Bill Clinton and President George Bush. Thank you very much for joining us here tonight.

OK. This is a very interesting, I don't know, some may find it a conundrum that lawmakers have found themselves in, because they have a liberal assembly man, a democratic assemblyman who is being supported by a conservative republican governor with the possibility of legalizing marijuana.

So does this pose a problem for you as, you know, the past adviser to presidents Clinton and Bush?

KEVIN SABET, FMR. WHITE HOUSE DRUG POLICY ADVISER: Well, I don't know if it's a problem for me, personally, I think it would pose a problem for the country. Actually, to be very clear Governor Schwarzenegger didn't endorse legalization he said we should study it. And I'm very open, we should study it. If we did, we would see actually that two already legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, combined kill half a million people a year.

LEMON: But he's not endorsing it, but he's supporting it. What's the difference, if he's not endorsing it but he's supporting it?

SABET: Well, because he's supporting and studying it. No, it's not semantics, actually, he's supporting studying it. I have spoken to people close to the Schwarzenegger administration and they are really backing away from any sort of idea that he's in favor of legalization of marijuana. Let's be very clear, he's in favor of studying it which I think any good researcher should be. I think the whole debate is not about legalizing -

LEMON: I think the whole debate is really not about legalizing it, we keep saying legalizing, I think it's decriminalizing it. And not necessarily legalizing it which they do in other countries. But let's listen to what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had to say and then we'll come back and we'll talk about it just to be specific about what he said.

SABET: Sure.

LEMON: OK, we don't have the governor? OK. We don't have that. We have a from bite the assemblyman. Sorry about that. Can get the governor's sound bite because there was something with him. I want to hear it again though. Can we get the governor's sound bite and then we can play it? All right, thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWARZENEGER: And I think that we ought to study very carefully on what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, there you go. Thank you. So look at other countries are doing, he says legalized marijuana.

SABET: Sure.

LEMON: So go ahead, I cut you off, Mr. Sabet, go ahead.

SABET: So, you know, so we can look at other countries, we can actually look at the Netherlands. When the Netherlands actually, they have a de facto legalization, they do more than just decriminalize. They've actually commercialized it and they very much promote it. I mean anyone who has been to Amsterdam can tell you that.

They've actually seen a three-fold increase within that country of young adults marijuana use. And we can look at alcohol and tobacco. I mean 65 percent of Americans use alcohol over 30 percent who use tobacco. Less than five percent use marijuana. So I think we can look at our examples of our two legal drugs. Especially with alcohol, look at the tax revenues, we're all talking about budgets.

LEMON: OK.

SABET: We get about $5 billion a year for alcohol in terms of alcohol-related taxes. We spend almost $200 billion on lost social costs.

LEMON: OK. I want -

SABET: It's really a pipe dream. LEMON: I want Allen St. Pierre to get in on this because he hasn't has a chance to speak yet. Do you hear what he's saying? He's saying it's not going to help the economy at all. He's saying that actually, the governor, is not really in favor of legalizing marijuana, but yet he is still supporting it. So what's the difference? What do you make of this?

ALLEN ST. PIERRE, NORML/NORML FOUNDATION: Well, 13 states in the United States have already decriminalized marijuana. 13 states already have medical marijuana laws. As Kevin well knows, in California, marijuana has also been de facto legalized under the guise of medical marijuana where the governor in his tenure has had a very laissez faire attitude. I remember this is the only governor you can actually watch smoking marijuana in the movies, on youtube.

So I think there's a changing of the guard here and legalization of marijuana, according to field polls in California, 56 percent of Californians is now support it and a (inaudible) poll just release this week in politico, 52 percent of the American public now supports legalizing marijuana.

LEMON: And it's very interesting to hear him say that because the government in some ways does sell marijuana because it does it for medical purposes. But yet and still people are being arrested on the street for possession or for selling as well. Is there a double standard here, Mr. Sabet?

SABET: I don't think so. Actually you bring up a good point, Don. Also Allen in talking about what's going on in California. I think we need to be very clear about what's going on right now with arrest rates in the United States regarding marijuana. Yes, almost a million people last year were technically arrested for marijuana possession, but actually if we go deeper in that, we see, over 90 percent of them got off with nothing more than a parking ticket.

People are not filling our jails and prisons for just simple possession of marijuana. Most of them what are in prison either admit to distribution or actually have a prior record of some other offenses.

LEMON: It is something that is mark on your record -

SABET: Not for a simple possession.

LEMON: For employment and for those sorts of things.

(CROSSTALK)

ST. PIERRE: In today's world, in a world of digital records, as soon as you interface with police, it is on your record. There is no such thing as expungement anymore. So frankly, every 38 seconds in the United States -

SABET: No.

ST. PIERRE: somebody is negatively impacted. And you and I, the taxpayers, we pay for that negative interaction.

LEMON: OK. That's going to be the last -

SABET: I'm not saying there's -- yes. - negative impact.

LEMON: I'm sorry, there's a delay here. It's a bit of a weird interview because of the delay. But I do think that most of you would agree that it is the first time that we really, this may spark an adult conversation about it and a very serious conversation rather than people talking at each other about what pot may do or not do or you know, how much money it may bring in or not bring in or a gateway drug or what have you. And maybe just get down to the basic facts about where we are in this country with drugs and what we are and are not doing and what should be done. Do you agree?

ST. PIERRE: Oh, yes, I agree.

SABET: I definitely agree.

Yes, I mean I do agree with that, President Obama's very committed to looking at reducing the demand for drugs. We have an unmet need for treatment in this country that we need to account for. We have to expand prevention and education. This is not just about locking people up and throwing away the key. We need effective, focused enforcement and effective enforcement, along with prevention and education. And actually an interesting story that really hasn't been covering, is that on Thursday afternoon, President Obama's director of National Drug Control Policy or the drug czar Gil Kerlikowske took office.

LEMON: OK.

SABET: And he's very committed to a balanced strategy so I'm fairly optimistic we're going to have that.

LEMON: Yes. Gil Kerlikowske -

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Out of California, in Seattle, and Seattle had a very interesting drug policy as well. That's something that we're going to have to follow as well. Thank you very much, Kevin Sabet, Allen St. Pierre, we really appreciate you joining us. Sorry about the satellite day, it got us a little befuddled there, but it's all OK. Good conversation. Thank you.

Still ahead, a look at the deadliest place in the country for school aged children right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It is the deadliest place in the country for school aged kids right now. Chicago is the third biggest city in America but leads the nation in murders of children and teens. So far this school year, 36 have been killed, that's more than one a week. And if that is not news to you, if the nation isn't taking note, many in Chicago say that's a crime in itself.

And for the victims' loved ones, their lives will never be the same. Special Investigations Unit correspondent Abbi Boudreau has been working this story for weeks and has this perspective from one broken family.

ABBI BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We really wanted to hear how all of this violence is affecting families in Chicago. We gave a video camera to a mom and her 10-year-old son for a couple of weeks so they could show us just how difficult life is after losing a young family member to gun violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me your name.

TREVON BOSLEY: My name is Trevon Bosley.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how old are you?

BOSLEY: I'm 10 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you had fun with your brother?

BOSLEY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you miss him?

BOSLEY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So, the day when all this took place, you were there, right? You went to the hospital?

BOSLEY: Can you pause it? No, let's talk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You went to the hospital. Come on. OK, it's hard. OK, it's too hard? OK. All right.

So you do miss your brother?

BOSLEY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this is a hard thing for you to do? It's hard to talk about him because everything has changed, right.

BOSLEY: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So you don't have that same happiness in your house anymore?

BOSLEY: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No more music?

BOSLEY: In our community, no one likes to talk about guns because we're scared of guns. And guns, we're scared to walk in our alleys, to play basketball, to play football, to play any games. Since I lost my brother, I have been sad and I have been angry. I have been sad of losing him and I have been angry at the person who did it and I'm angry at guns.

PAM BOSLEY, VICTIM'S MOTHER: Everybody, this is my baby. This is what I have to visit my son at, at the cemetery. This is not fair for any mother to have to visit their baby here. This don't make sense. He didn't deserve this, he wasn't in a gang, he didn't sell drugs or nothing. And I'm here at the cemetery visiting my baby and my kids can't even come out here and see their brother, it's crazy. This is not the type of life that no mother should ever have to go through.

I'm looking forward to god to call me home so I can go and be with my baby. Actually, I tried to leave on my own even though I was raising - first, I tried to commit suicide. I couldn't take the pain. I tried. But I thank god that he did not allow me go out like that because my other two boys are suffering.

TREVON BOSLEY: When I grow up, I want to become president because I want to take guns off the streets so I can save more lives.

There has to be hope over fear. There has to be unity over (inaudible). That's a powerful message that change is coming to America! I did - I had to learn that speech because I want to be president like Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOUDREAU: There's so much more to this story. We also spent time with Chicago's gang task force and interviewed the city's mayor about the rise in student deaths. We will have the full report next Saturday. Don.

LEMON: All right. Abbi, thank you very much. And Abbi is right. Next week in the NEWSROOM, we are taking a closer look at the crisis that is crippling Chicago and what, if anything, can be done. We will check it out for you.

A North Carolina family coping with the collapse of the textile industry in our money and Main Street report coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: If a weak economy wasn't enough, U.S farmers have nature to contend with. CNN's Sean Callebs travel to Bucklin, Kansas and filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is no special effect. This is a young wheat field buffeted by punishing winds. A stark reminder no matter how bad the economy, farmers are always at nature's mercy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is even so dry it has gotten hard and there's no moisture left in it. And without the moisture, this wheat is going to continue to die.

CALLEBS: For generations, Bucklin, Kansas, Rob and Sylvia Sellard own a whopping 14,000 acres. That's nearly 22 square miles.

KRAIG LINDSAY, OFFERLE GRAIN & SUPPLY CO.: Our farm community is really - we consider the backbone of America and we work every day.

CALLEBS: It is not easy or cheap. It cost a fortune to plant wheat last fall. The spike in oil prices driving up the cost of oil-based fertilizers.

ROB SELLARD, FARMER: You know, four to five years ago we were buying $350 to $400 a ton fertilizer. This wheat up here, we would fertilize this last August, September, fertilize it with $1100.

CALLEBS: Grain prices are low compared to last season. Sellers can't sit on his harvest and hope the price goes up. But he has to pay to store it. The Sellards also raise black Angus cattle that make those tasty steaks that the corporate execs have always spent so lavishly on.

SELLARD: And with the fears in Wall Street, people stopped eating out so much. Less beef is sold. Foreign countries don't - you know, they are struggling, too. So we don't have the exports.

CALLEBS: Exports are slowly improving and the Sellards do have the option of hanging on to their prize cattle until prices improve. What farmers do have is a lot of expensive machinery and repairs keep them busy.

SELLARD: If you were buying a new one, it's going to cost you about $240,000.

CALLEBS: In this economy there is no money for a new tractor. So Sellard has to squeeze all he can out of this one. There is some good news. Crop prices have been good the last couple of years. But falling stock prices, the credit crunch, many say things will get worse here before the economy turns the corner.

KELLY ESTES, PRES. B.T.I. BUCKLIN/JOHN DEERE DEALER: You know, it always starts from the east coast and west coast and then it just kind of comes in. And by the time it gets here we are hoping that that tidal wave is a ripple effect.

SELLARD: This plant should be opened up very green. You know, a plant goes into survival mode. These plants just shrivel and curl up.

CALLEBS (on camera): He's trying to hang on.

SELLARD: He's trying to hang on.

CALLEBS (voice-over): Just like the American farmer. Sean Callebs, CNN, Bucklin, Kansas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: All right. Look at that. Live pictures now. The ballroom at the Washington Hilton where the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner is about to get under way. We expect President Barack Obama to speak tonight at 10:00 p.m. during our hour here on CNN. So make sure you join us for that because we're going to carry it for you when he speaks right here on CNN.

You are looking at live pictures from the room. And finally we see some politicians there tonight. And hopefully we will see some correspondents, some journalists. OK. I'm Don Lemon. I will see you back here at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. "Your Money," a CNN Special Investigations Unit report begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: ... Proposes a project that will waste that money. I will not hesitate to call them out on it and put a stop to it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your money put to use. With transparency, accountability.

OBAMA: Every American will be able to go online and see where and how we are spending every dime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is that what's happening? Tonight, we follow the money trail. CNN's Special Investigations Unit watching your money.

ABBI BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT HOST: Thanks for joining us. I'm Abbi Boudreau.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT HOST: And I'm Drew Griffin. Tonight, we're talking about cash, your cash. Massive amounts of it, funding government projects.