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THE SITUATION ROOM

Should U.S. Pull out of Afghanistan?; New Orleans After Katrina; Residents Refuse to Evacuate in L.A.; Controversy Regarding Obama Education Speech; Nick Jonas Interview; Ted Kennedy Autobiography Excerpts

Aired September 5, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, HOST: The Obama administration confronts hard realities in Afghanistan and slipping support at home. This hour, civilian bosses get a crash course in military live to help troops with their economic survival.

Plus, life and death decisions in California, as wildfires race towards their homes. Families consider whether to stay or leave. Our Brian Todd is near the line of fire.

And the White House is forced back to the drawing board, to tweak a presidential assignment for school kids. And some are asking, did the administration play politics with education or get bullied by conservatives? Stand by for the best political team on television. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Obama administration is resisting new pressure to pull troops out of Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that he knows he has limited time to turn the war around, but he says it would be a mistake to fight the battle from afar with unmanned drones and special operations forces, an idea that is getting a lot of attention this past week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I absolutely do not think it is time to get out of Afghanistan. And I think that the notion that you can conduct a purely counterterrorist kind of campaign and do it from a distance simply does not accord with reality. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Well, here is a reality the Pentagon is facing right now. Our new CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that 57 percent of Americans are against the war. That is up from 46 percent in April. And 62 percent now say the U.S. is not winning in Afghanistan.

Right now, about 100,000 reservists and National Guard members are on active duty, fighting America's wars. Now they're supposed to get their day jobs back when they're done serving their country, but unfortunately, it doesn't always happen. But what if the civilian bosses could experience their military lives firsthand? Would it actually change things? Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has been looking into that program, a program just like that, and it's a story that you'll only see here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE0

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is no way for a banker to spend his day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, fire!

LAWRENCE: Christopher Kret is a team manager for Chase Bank. This year he temporarily lost two employees to deployment.

CHRISTOPHER KRET, CHASE BANK: One in particular was gone for about six months. The other one was gone for about, maybe five to six different times within a six-month period.

LAWRENCE: Now he and other employers are getting a chance to see the reservist's other life.

MAJ. GEN. MATTHEW KAMBIC, U.S. ARMY: We want you to understand what their soldiers and airman are going through when we rip them out of your employment.

LAWRENCE: The Ohio National Guard calls it a boss lift. Employers trade wing tips for walking boots. Commercial flights for Chinooks. They fly to a training ground in Michigan, where lunch hour is a few minutes scarfing MREs. They feel the explosives that detonate bridges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You might have to line up.

LAWRENCE: And pull the trigger on a real piece of artillery. They give up their employees to the government. Boss lift tries to show them it's worth the sacrifice. A federal law is supposed to protect their jobs but tens of thousands of returning reservists have filed complaints or sued their employers.

JOE WYNN, VETERANS ENTERPRISE TRAINING & SERVICES: The employers don't continue to keep that position active, and so does find a way to kind of circumvent the law.

LAWRENCE: And the discrimination can snowball if a company decides deployments are too much trouble.

BOB LABADIE, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: After an experience, it doesn't necessarily feel so good to them. There may be an inclination to maybe not hire guardsmen or reservists in the future.

LAWRENCE: The general was honest with the employers.

KAMBIC: Sometimes they don't come home to you the same way you send them to us.

LAWRENCE: Not after Iraq or Afghanistan, but in some small way, these employers can now understand.

KRET: It really helps one to put that into perspective and make the necessary accommodations and understand where somebody's coming from when they return.

LAWRENCE: Chase Bank took its reservists back with open arms. But Kret says after seeing this, the next time he'd spend even more time talking when they come home.

KRET: Just to see where they are and how you can help them out.

LAWRENCE: There's one more boss lift schedule for later this year with the ultimate goal of making employers across Ohio aware of what the Guardsmen are doing.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Grayling, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Two journalists detained for almost five months in North Korea spoke out for the first time this week in a "Los Angeles Times" op-ed piece. Laura Ling and Euna Lee describe clinging to bushes to try to stop guards from dragging them across the border.

I want to bring in our own Abbi Tatton. And Abbi, did they say that they actually set foot in North Korea?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did, Suzanne. They say that they had crossed the border, though they wonder if they were tricked into doing so. In this firsthand account, Laura Ling and Euna Lee said that it was 5:00 a.m. on March 17th when they arrived at this frozen river that forms the international border between China and North Korea. And there were four of them that morning on the China side, Ling, Lee, a producer, and a guide who was there to show them smuggling routes between the two countries.

Beyond that, there wasn't a lot else there. There was no barbed wire, no fences, no sign to show this international border. They say they had no intention of crossing in to North Korea that day, but when their guide stepped out on to the ice to head across to the other side, they say they did follow. That's when they crossed over to the riverbank, on to the North Korean territory. And they say they were there for no more than one minute.

At that point, they got nervous and headed back, got to about half way across the river. And that's when they say they heard yelling, looked behind them, saw two North Korean guards who were armed, running towards them. And that's when they say they ran as well, ran to the China side. But at that point, they were apprehended and they say violently dragged across the ice once more.

At this point, there were just two of them, just Ling and Lee. The producer had outrun the guards. The guide who was showing them that day, they say he had already fled at this point. And they say in this account, that he, the guide had behaved oddly that morning. And they speculate whether they had been lured into some kind of trap.

MALVEAUX: Now Abbi, these are journalists. So they had tapes, they had notes, these types of things. What did they do with them? What happened to all that?

TATTON: They swallowed their notes. They destroyed their own tapes. They had been doing interviews for a story on Current TV, leading up to these days before their capture. They had all their materials with them. And they say they had to destroy them in order to protect the subjects that they were talking to, so that the guards wouldn't find these tapes and notes.

MALVEAUX: Fascinating story. Thank you, Abbi.

Well, how do reporters stay safe in hostile parts of the world? CNN International Correspondent Cal Perry, he spent a lot of time in war zones. And he spoke to us from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: I want to start off first, what do you make of how these journalists behave when they crossed over into the North Korean side?

CAL PERRY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was really fascinating to hear what Abbi had to say. And I -- I think as journalists we -- we have to talk to these governments. We have to talk to certain people that other governments will not do so. But at the same time, that being our job, we don't want to be caught up in international incidents. We don't want to be caught up in international diplomacy. It sounds to me like what happened in this case was, of course, the North Koreans were using these two journalists to get at the Americans.

It's certainly not a position you want to be in. When you're dealing with your sources, you want to protect these sources, as these two journalists did, because your sources, in the end, can be your protection. So you really have to walk a fine line in talking to people that your government cannot talk to, because that, at the end of the day, of course, is our job.

MALVEAUX: And, Cal, have you covered some six wars in five years. You've had to rely on people -- translators, guides -- in hostile situations.

How do you develop their trust?

How do you know if the people that you're with are going to undermine you or work with you?

PERRY: It's all relationships.. And these are really the unsung heroes. These are the people we can't name on TV, the local producers and security guards. These are the people that become your family. And these are the people you rely on to tell you how they're feeling and what they're feeling and to give you an idea of where you are. Because, of course, oftentimes we will come into these war zones and we'll be fresh in these war zones. We will have not -- have never been there. And you rely on your local staff to tell you what's going on, to tell you what the street is safe, which street is unsafe, to tell you when they have a bad feeling, to tell you when to turn back. And our security guards are really advisers. It's a conversation that we have with them. The answer is never no. The answer is can we do it a different way?

Is there another way that we can approach this?

Let's not set a pattern, those types of things -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Cal, have you ever been misled by a guide or somebody who you trusted in a story?

PERRY: Well, certainly, we found ourselves in difficult situations. But have you to follow your gut. We were just, two months ago, headed for Latfiyah, which is just south of Baghdad. We came to a checkpoint and the Iraqi Army started asking a lot of questions. Somebody who we didn't know, who was out of uniform, reached in the car and started feeling whether or not we were wearing flak jackets.

Our local cameraman, Samat Kasiyra (ph), who has been here with me for more than five years said, that's it. I have a bad feeling. This doesn't make sense. Let's get out of here.

And we immediately turned around and we came back to Baghdad. The next day, three suicide bombers were found in the town that we were headed to. So you have to rely on the unsung heroes that are surrounded with you -- these local producers, these security advisers. These are the people that allow us to do our jobs, which is to tell the world what's going on out here.

MALVEAUX: And, finally, Cal, how do you prevent your own family from going crazy with worry and distress?

They don't know where you are. The two journalists were saying that this is a top secret mission for them.

How do you handle that?

PERRY: You -- you lie. You lie to your family. I mean, it's a horrible thing to say, but you don't want to give -- you don't want your family to be worried about you unnecessarily. It's easy when it's to tape. You can you go here in Baghdad on an embed, come back and warn them, what you're about to see on TV, it looks a lot worse than it really is.

When you run into problems is when you're live.

In Southern Lebanon, in 2006, I remember speaking to my parents. And I told them everything is fine. It's nowhere near as bad as people are saying. And then I got a phone call 10 minutes later from my mother and she said I can see you and I can see the mushroom clouds of the explosions going on behind you. And there's nothing you can say. She's sitting there watching you.

MALVEAUX: Well, we're glad you're safe, Cal, and we're glad your mom's -- she's OK, too.

All right. Thank you, Cal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: At least one Democrat is miffed at the president. Is President Obama wrong for not yet going to New Orleans amid the four- year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina? I'll ask the man who led the military response, retired Lieutenant General Russell Honore.

At a health reform rally, one person leaves missing part of a finger after someone bit it off. What is this health debate coming to?

And Ted Kennedy says in death things he never said in life. Wait until you hear what he reveals in his memoirs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: At this very moment four years ago, the people of New Orleans were going through hell, all around signs of death, desperation, and cries for help. It was just days after the worst natural disaster in the U.S. in recent memory, Hurricane Katrina. There was water virtually everywhere. And victims endured deplorable conditions, including at the Superdome.

Enter Lieutenant General Russell Honore. He led the military response. And now amid Katrina's four-year anniversary, we look back at the city's progress, even ponder what may be next for Honore himself. He is putting to rest speculation about his political ambitions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LT. GEN. RUSSELL HONORE (RET.), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not running for Senate. I've never said I was running for Senate. And I applaud those who take the courage to serve their nation. Those in Louisiana that will run and have the courage to run, I encourage them to do so, but I have no personal plans to run for Senate.

MALVEAUX: Do you have any political ambitions, any office that you could see in your future?

HONORE: There are things that I dream about, but they will remain to be dreams until I get my family moved and we figure out what we're going to do the next few years.

MALVEAUX: You won't give us a little hint at the moment what your dreams may be or we'll just wait a little while longer?

HONORE: That's why they're dreams, Suzanne. MALVEAUX: Okay. Obviously we are looking at the four- year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. There are some things in New Orleans where we see improvements, job numbers, housing, that type of thing. But you ask a lot of folks who were down there, including my parents, who were just there, and the murder rate, number one per capita in the country. How are the police, Louisiana's law enforcement, doing in terms of trying to control that city? And do they need to bring back the National Guard?

HONORE: Well, I do think they need help. I spent a couple of days down there over the weekend talking to a lot of the police who have been under a lot of strain because of the pressure put on them because of the high crime rate. Most of them attribute that high crime rate to the flow of drugs through New Orleans. And I think we do need a state and federal effort to help seal that city off to stop the drugs from flowing in, which is attributed to most of the murders that's happening in the city.

MALVEAUX: Would you say that's the National Guard?

HONORE: Well, there's the National Guard. We've got a lot of federal capability that probably could do some more work there. And we need some more police on the streets of New Orleans, whether it's the National Guard, that National Guard brigade from the Louisiana National Guard is getting ready to go back to Iraq, Suzanne, in January.

MALVEAUX: I want to you take a listen, we heard from President Obama over the weekend, his radio address, saying that he would make a pledge to go back to New Orleans by the end of the year, but what one of our Democratic strategists from CNN, James Carville, he felt, he's rather concerned and that's not good enough for him. He's frustrated. I want you to take a listen to what he told our John King in state of the union.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president said he would go there. There are some -- soon this year. Some say why hasn't he been there already? But take me no your hometown in the sense of four years later. What's right? What's still wrong? And is there something the president could do tomorrow, next week or next month to help out?

JAMES CARVILLE: First of all I'm a Democrat. And this is a Democratic president. I wouldn't describe myself as slightly miffed that he hasn't been down yet, but he says he's coming down before the end of the year. And we're hospitable people and we certainly will welcome him. He's had any number of cabinet people. And they've been very helpful.

MALVEAUX: General does the president need to go down sooner?

HONORE: I think what we need for the president is for his staff to continue the progress of releasing some decisions that have been in limbo for almost four years.

MALVEAUX: Like what?

HONORE: Like one of them being the charity hospital. It was a combined effect between the state and the federal government, not resolving the amount of money FEMA would pay to rebuild that hospital. Time has passed. The economy has changed. We think the federal government and the people that I talked to in the state, the federal government should take this on and help the state of Louisiana rebuild that into a world class medical center for the poor people in the Gulf Coast region.

MALVEAUX: Has the president done enough, in your view?

HONORE: I think the president, and Secretary Napolitano, and Mr. Fugate (ph) have lessened the amount of bureaucracy it takes, along with the Louisiana recovery formation to start getting through the bureaucracy of releasing that federal money, but there's a lot of federal money setting there that has not been obligated because they're still arguing over rules. The thing with the Charity Hospital, it's been kicked down the road again to a foreign arbitrator to resolve.

MALVEAUX: Okay.

HONORE: The federal government could easily solve that problem, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right, thank you very much, Lieutenant Russell Honore for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

HONORE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: In the mountains above Los Angeles, danger closing in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the flames on the hillside there. Looks like a pretty fast-moving fire.

MALVEAUX: But some residents refused to leave, instead staring down a wall of flame.

Plus there is more to this teen idol than meets the eye. Nick Jonas explains his cause and why it's so personal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The giant wildfire burning above Los Angeles now ruled to be arson, and the two deaths of the firefighters homicides. An even as flames race up one canyon and down the next, some people are simply refusing to leave their homes.

Our CNN's Brian Todd is there.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, as much progress as firefighters have made in containing these fires, this is still a very unpredictable situation. And today in these hills, we got some real insight into the stress of a mandatory evacuation. Stress on firefighters and homeowners.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Around dawn, a menacing fire creeps down a ridge in Tujunga Canyon, posing an immediate threat to nearby homes. We just heard of a mandatory evacuation order, two communities called Dillon Divide in Pacoima Creek, they have another hour to get out of their homes. Headed up there now and you can see the flames on the hillside there. Looks like a pretty fast-moving fire.

BRUCE HECTER, DR.: Coming down the canyons.

TODD: We catch up with Dr. Bruce Hector, a family practitioner who's lived in Pacoima Creek for ten years. A fire fighting unit is manning his property.

HECTOR: I'm confident with these guys, we can defend this house.

TODD: And he watches with the crew as a column of smoke builds over a nearby ridge. While we're there, a sheriff's deputy arrives with a warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know it's under a mandatory evacuation. Okay, you're not leaving?

HECTOR: No.

TODD: Hector's got his own fire truck.

HECTOR: I've had it for about six, seven years.

TODD: And is determined to stay, despite the warnings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor, you've been told to get out. You've got this fire crew here on your property. They said they'd be here whether you are here or not. Your house is made completely of wood. What are you doing here? Why stay?

HECTOR: The reason I'm staying is because I have a fire retardant to apply to the house. When I have about an hour prior to when it will hit here, then apply the retardant and I leave.

TODD: Hector says he's not a "crazy cowboy" but a battalion chief who's guarding Hector's property tells us this fire is bearing down.

FRED BLAND, CHIEF, L.A. COUNTY FIRE DEPT.: It's very dangerous. Where their house sits and the type of fuel load they have around their home, and the fire intensities we've seen on the fire, it's very hazardous for them to stay.

TODD: Dr. Hector, his wife Justina, and son Bruce Jr. are confident when we first get there, but grow increasingly worried and keep packing. Is this stressful for you, Justina?

JUSTINA HECTOR: Quite, yes.

TODD: How?

J. HECTOR: Not having to leave, just not knowing when, when the time's to go. This goes back to the early '80s.

TODD: Justina makes sure the irreplaceable things are in the car.

J. HECTOR: That's my son, Bruce.

TODD: Just down the road, fire crew is forcing 30-year resident Bill Chambers to leave.

BILL CHAMBERS: You know, I have flashbacks, other people that have experienced this. And you can understand where they're coming from. Okay, so I better get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay, so you need to get out of here.

TODD: The crew follows Chambers out. His neighbor, who's staying, offers perspective. Any of this ever make you think about moving?

HECTOR: Sure, but you know, there's hazards everywhere. And I live three miles from 1.3 million people. And at night, I have no visible lights. It's all green around me.

TODD: And you like that?

HECTOR: Yeah. So you got to pay a price.

TODD: And this has given us even more insight into the dedication of all of these firefighters. They told us they had been at these houses the entire night before this mandatory was ordered. They said even after these homeowners left, they were going to stay on the property and do whatever they could to save these homes. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Brian.

President Obama gives an assignment to the nation's school children. Now critics charge that he is politicizing education and worse.

And Levi Johnston reveals more about the grandmother of his son, Sarah Palin and may soon be revealing almost all of himself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Now time for a political time-out with our CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dianne and senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. But first, CNN's national political correspondent Jessica Yellin's going to kick it all off for us. Hey, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne.

Well, talk about outrage. Conservative commentators are crying foul because the president plans to give the first ever presidential address to school students. He'll do it via C-Span and the Internet. And the White House has asked school teachers to play it in class and even tie it into their curriculum by having students write a letter to themselves about how they can help the president of the United States.

Well, the fury is intense. Some conservatives call it indoctrination and accuse the president of politicizing the classroom. Some schools won't broadcast it. And there are calls for parents to keep their kids home.

Okay, let's put this in context. Other presidents have spoken to school kids, remember? Where was George Bush, President Bush on 9/11? Speaking to school kids . And on the fourth anniversary of the event when no child left behind was announced, President Bush was at a Maryland elementary school to stand up for it. In fact, he made these comments at that elementary school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH: Any attempt to roll back the accountability in Washington, D.C., will be -- I'll fight any attempt to do that. Just not going to let it happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: That sounds pretty political.

Now as for President Obama, the White House says his speech is all about challenging kids to stay in school and reduce the dropout rate. No health care, no politics. They changed the essay question.

It will now ask kids to write letters explaining their own educational goals, not to write a letter to the president. And they'll release a text of the speech in advance.

So the question is, what is the outrage about?

MALVEAUX: All right, let's kick it off with you, Gloria. What do you think it is?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I hate essay questions, first of all. So I think it's ridiculous, honestly, Suzanne. I mean, there was -- the Florida Republican Chairman called it a socialist power grab? Come on. Maybe the questions weren't the best questions in the world. But why can't the president try and inspire young people to do well? I mean, what's wrong with that? I see no problem with it.

MALVEAUX: David, is there anything?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: There's something wrong with plan "a." I think we're going to end up with don't take drugs, stay in school. Everybody's cool with that. That's one of the things presidents do.

But there was in the first reports of this, as Jessica said, an attempt to mobilize children. And when you say to help the president, I mean, to help him do what? That is something that I think rings alarm bells. And it was that feeling of mobilization that I think excited a lot of people. And I'm glad to see that the White House backed off. It was one of those ideas that should have landed on the cutting room floor in the first place.

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: This is outrageous right wing extremism. The letter didn't say -- if you actually read what the Department of Education was saying, he is giving a speech telling kids to stay in school. He's telling them to work hard. Everybody said Barack Obama can be a great role model for low income kids. He's doing what he promised. And what they were saying is, how to meet the goals he's going to set, which is about staying in school. And now they've changed the letter. If telling kids to stay in school and work hard is socialism, then Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater were socialists. It's ridiculous.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They wouldn't have changed what they want the kids to write about, unless they saw that there was a bit of a problem here. And they started out saying, I want you all to write a letter to yourselves about why you want to stay in school, about what your educational goals are. Fine, but they changed it from write a letter to the president about how you're going to help him.

So I mean, I think it's clear that the White House thought it was a problem. Now whether or not it was a problem, he didn't get a chance to speak, so who knows? And I think there's a difference between George Bush going to the fourth grade, or Jimmy Carter going to the third grade, and a national, everybody tune in to the Internet, I'm going to talk to all the kids, which is a great idea.

DIONNE: But there was nothing in that letter that was about anything political. It was all about you kids stay in school, you kids work hard and that there was a lousy sentence in there.

CROWLEY: And if (INAUDIBLE), then why did they change it?

DIONNE: They changed it because they didn't want it misunderstood.

CROWLEY: Right.

DIONNE: Because right wing commentators took it out of context. So they said okay, let's make clear what we meant.

FRUM: There's a difference in a politician coming to a school and speaking and the kids either listening or not listening, either liking it or not liking it. They are left free to have their own reaction. And some attempt to mobilize some kind of reaction to what particular politician...

BORGER: Well, wait a minute.

DIONNE: How are we going to stay in school, what's wrong with the president telling kids in America they shouldn't drop out of school?

BORGER: Right, and presidents, you know, talking to children...

CROWLEY: How can you help?

FRUM: There's nothing wrong, but not in the whole context of that.

BORGER: George W. Bush told children to go...

FRUM: (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: ...to donate $1 to Afghan children. Remember that? That was a cause, a very good one, I might add. That is mobilizing kids.

FRUM: Right. There was no one - okay, there was no one checking up whether the kids followed up. And that there's nothing wrong with the politician speaking to the children. It is the requirement that the children speak back, that was the problem. And I'm glad they're not going to do it. They'll make it more neutral. And...

DIONNE: That's what they intended in the first place.

MALVEAUX: Okay, we have to leave it there. This is very interesting for a topic. We're going to have you stand by for another topic here, the rage over health care reform, now getting uglier. A protester's finger is bitten off during a fight with a counter-demonstrator. Is this where things are heading?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: We're back with our best political team on television. Let's kick it off with Jessica Yellin. Jessica?

YELLINS: Suzanne, here's something you don't hear about every day. Last night, a man had the tip of his pinky finger bitten off at a rally for health care reform in southern California.

Now, CNN producer Kevin Bond spoke with the victim, this man here, William Rice. And he won't say if he's actually for or against health reform, but he says he got into a confrontation with someone who does support the president's reform plan. He says that man taunted him and called him names, so he hit the man.

His hand ended up in the man's mouth -- or his finger did. And that guy bit down.

Now, he severed the tip of Rice's pinky. On the bright side, reportedly he has Medicare. He was treated at a local hospital and the hospital tells us he chose not to have the pinky tip reattached. He didn't want to get surgery.

OK. So, clearly, this is not the norm at health care rallies. It is the first incident of contact politics I can remember in recent years.

But the question is, how did the health care debate get to this point -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: OK -- Candy, let's start with you this go around.

CROWLEY: Well, let's just begin with ick.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: There's a lot of ick factor in this story.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: That's pretty much what we need.

CROWLEY: You know, it's time for winter to come so everybody can go back in their homes and not come out until spring.

And it -- you know, who knows, because you know, sometimes people show up at rallies and they're all het up and, you know, they apparently do stuff like this.

But this is -- I don't think you can say this is the result of town hall meetings. This is like two people getting out of hand, as people tend to do, even without liquor.

DIONNE: It's a pretty gruesome way to demonstrate the need for universal health care coverage, I'll tell you. But, you know, what's funny about this -- or not funny, but sort of sad is a lot of the Congress people you talk to who've come home says most of the town meetings were not about screamers, they were not about people disrupting, they were about a lot of Americans, some of whom support health care reform, some of whom are skeptical, who actually asked a lot of serious questions. And guess what?

That's not interesting television. That doesn't get a lot of coverage. That's what most of the town meetings were about -- not about the shouters. And, certainly, thank God, not about people biting fingers off.

FRUM: Well, you -- you want to call it school yard, except when I was in school, I remember the rules were no biting, kicking or scratching. So, you know, it was a good -- a good, clean blow.

It is -- it is a big country. There are a lot of people involved in this debate. And it is maybe statistically predictable that something like this would happen.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: Has it kind of just gotten out of control, though?

BORGER: Yes, well...

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: Is there a point where people need to step back and say need to step back and say look, you know, let's -- let's lower the temperature here and let's have a real healthy discussion?

BORGER: Well, you know, as E.J. said, there was a lot of that going on over the Congressional break -- clearly, not between these two people. And I think -- look, there's a lot of anxiety out there. We have economic anxiety. You have a lot of senior citizens that are worried what's going to happen to their health care.

And so I think it -- it's kind of a, you know, a pot that gets stirred...

FRUM: And there are a lot of...

BORGER: ...and shook.

FRUM: ...there are a lot of bar fights at the top of bull markets, too. I mean in good times, people also will sometimes take a swing at their neighbor.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: This is about two people out of control.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Well, it's about anger, let's put it that way.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: I mean this is just sort of so -- such an outlier here. I mean there's a difference between people getting up and yelling in a town hall meeting and biting someone's finger off. I mean this is...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I don't even know how to bite someone's finger off.

(CROSSTALK)

DIONNE: ...also got way more attention than their share of the population. And I think their role in this was way overplayed in all this.

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: Well, who was doing more of the yelling?

DIONNE: This was much more complicated (INAUDIBLE)... MALVEAUMALVEAUX: Was it Democrats or Republicans?

Who was doing more of the yelling, do you think, in this, when we saw these town halls and (INAUDIBLE)?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- did the most, yes.

DIONNE: It was a small group of right-wingers who showed up and were mad and yelled and disrupted and were (INAUDIBLE)...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: -- of the right-wingers, but people who don't want the health care plan, who think it's a bad idea. I mean that's always the case in any issue -- the people who are against it are the most passionate and those are the (INAUDIBLE)...

FRUM: And I think, actually, that way of framing it, as Republicans versus Democrats, is seriously misleading to both sides, because Republicans are getting the idea that there's this great populist head of steam out there for them.

What there is, is a great populist head of steam out there against tampering with Medicare. And that will be -- and that head of steam will be the same when it is a Republican who is trying to restrain the growth of Medicare spending, as it is with -- as with a Democrat.

And what I am left wondering about this is if there's a Democrat who's volunteering to do that job, I don't know why you want to get in his way.

MALVEAUMALVEAUX: All right. We're going to leave it there.

Thank you, everybody, for joining us here. A very lively discussion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: A look back at the life of Ted Kennedy by Ted Kennedy himself. In his memoire, the late senator reveals details about his own family and rival politicians with some critical comments about Jimmy Carter.

Plus Supreme Court justices confess to feeling just a little stressed out by the changes they face, as they prepare to seat their newest colleague.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Just days after Ted Kennedy's funeral, the late senator's memoir leaked out ahead of publication. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reports that it contains some fascinating revelations. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over) The Kennedy memoir, obtained by "The New York Times," promises to be not just the senator's story, but a family story. It is the tale of a sprawling family of nine siblings as told by the youngest and only one of four competitive brothers to survive beyond his 40s. He went on to become one of the most effective, hardest driving senators of the 20th century.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: "My entire life," Kennedy wrote of his brother's legacy, "has been a constant state of catching up."

According to the times the late senator's memoir includes his final months and his battle with terminal brain cancer. Excerpts published by the paper indicate a book rich with details of an exceptionally turbulent life, ignoring neither the highs nor the lows.

On the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, the late senator says he always accepted that only one gunman was involved. He also reveals that his other brother, Bobby Kennedy, was so despondent after JFK's death that the family worried about his emotional well-being. "It," Kennedy wrote, "veered close to being a tragedy within a tragedy."

Five years later, Bobby was assassinated and Ted, the only surviving brother, describes his own deep despair, his heavy drinking and pushing himself and his staff hard. "I tried," he said, "to stay ahead of the darkness.

Kennedy also covered Chappaquiddick, a car accident, which killed a young campaign aide. He was at the wheel and fled the scene, failing to contact police until the next day, when the body was found. Kennedy called his behavior "inexcusable," much as he has since the early days following the accident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The times reports (ph) that Kennedy believed the event of Chappaquiddick might have shortened the life of his father, who was already sick.

On politics, Kennedy found Ronald Reagan charming, but removed from the details of policy. "The Times" says he also wrote critically of Jimmy Carter, with whom Kennedy had a chilly relationship after a bitter primary fight. Kennedy accuses the former president of being too timid to address any substantive health care reform. "He did not really listen."

The 532 page memoir is scheduled for sale September 14th. Kennedy did not plan it this way, but they are his final words on Ted Kennedy -- the successes, the failures and everything else. "Our sins," he wrote, "don't define the whole picture of who we are."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Well, speculation is swirling around the Supreme Court, amid word that the oldest justice, 89-year-old John Paul Stevens hired only one clerk for the upcoming term. And that is seen as a signal Stevens may soon retire.

The newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, will be formally seated next week. In a fascinating group of interviews, her colleagues actually confessed to feeling, well, a little bit stressed out by the change in their ranks. They spoke with C-Span about the impact of a new member on the court and what it's like to be a junior justice.

First, let's listen to Chief Justice John Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE: To some extent it's unsettling. You quickly get to view the court as the court as composed of these members. And it becomes kind of hard to think of it as involving anyone else. I suspect it's the way people look at their families. You now, this is the family. How could it, you know, be different, but you do get new arrivals in both of those situations.

It's a tremendous sense of loss. Justice White always used to say when the court gets a new member it, changes everything. It changes everybody. Simple changes. We move the seats around in the courtroom. Their seats are by order of seniority so there will be a shift there. Same in the conference room.

But more fundamentally, I think it can cause you to take a fresh look at how things are decided. The new member is going to have a particular view about how issues should be addressed, that may be very different from what we've been following for some time. So it's an exciting part of life at the court.

ANTHONY KENNEDY, JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT: This would be a very different court. And it's stressful for us, because we so admire our colleagues. We wonder, oh, will it ever be the same? But I have great admiration for the system. The system works. It gives us the opportunity, again, to look at ourselves to make sure that we're doing it the right way, so that the new justice will be able to take some instruction from our example, if we are doing it the right way. And I'm sure a new justice can always ask the question, well, what are you doing this for? And then we have to think about whether or not we should continue to do it.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: We've heard often in our discussion with the justices that the junior justice has special privileges and responsibilities in the conference. Can you explain how that works?

SAMUEL ALITO, JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT: I don't think the junior justice has any special privileges but the junior special privileges. But the junior justice has two duties. The first, and the less onerous, is to open the door in the conference. When we meet in the conference, there are no staff members present. And occasionally someone will knock on the door. It's the job of the junior justice to get up and answer the door. And usually it's somebody's glasses or a memo or something like that.

And then the other duty is to keep the official vote of grants of serve, or decision to hold the case. And we have a conference, we'll go through a long list of cases. And we'll vote on whether we're going to take the case or deny it, or do something else. And it's the junior justice's responsibility, again, since there are no staff present, to keep the official vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what about the way justices speak in conference? I understand it's seniority to the most junior. And is that an advantage or disadvantage?

ALITO: Well, I think it's a disadvantage to the junior justice, because by the time he or she speaks, everybody else has spoken and voted. So when I was the junior, which has been up until now, by the time they got to me, I was either irrelevant or I was very important, depending on how the vote had come out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The interviews with C-Span were conducted this summer for a special to air when the court's term begins in October.

Well, the father of Sarah Palin's grandchild takes off the gloves in one magazine. Will Levi Johnston take off more for another?

And a teen heartthrob with a cause. We'll hear from pop star Nick Jonas, who's struggling with Type 1 diabetes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: He is one of the biggest stars in the music industry today. But Nick Jonas juggles fame with Type 1 diabetes, which means he is checking his blood sugar several times a day. And Jonas has made it his mission to help others manage the condition. He spoke to us during a visit to Washington. and I asked him about being diagnosed four years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK JONAS, JONAS BROTHERS BAND: I started to see some symptoms of diabetes. Didn't know what it was at first. Really, really bad attitude. Lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time, and thirsty all the time. And so went to the doctor and found out that I was a diabetic. My blood sugar was over 700. And spent the next three days in the hospital. And it was an interesting time, but got through it and I'm here today. MALVEAUX: And why are you here? I understand that you are speaking to lawmakers, and you want to make sure that there's more research for diabetes funding?

JONAS: I'm here to basically raise awareness and encourage people to continue to do what they can to raise awareness as well in their own circles, and on a broader scale, you know, through TV, and trust and things like that, whatever we can do, but also to encourage them to raise funds to fund research. Obviously we made some advances in technology to better manage our diabetes. But we're hoping for a cure one day. And that's what the main goal is.

MALVEAUX: Now, you've actually had a chance to meet with the president, to speak with the president since he has become president. What did you talk about? Did you tell him about your concerns about diabetes? And what did you two talk about?

JONAS: It was very brief. But we took a picture together with about 100 advocates from a bunch of the states who came and basically showed their support for diabetes. A lot of diabetics Type 1 like myself. And it was -- we shook hands, and he said, thank you for being good to my daughters. And we took the picture. It was a cool thing.

MALVEAUX: Do you follow the health care debate? Have you been watching all the points that have been made back and forth over what kind of plan should go forward?

JONAS: I have been watching a little bit, but I just stay out of that and keep my opinion on that kind of thing to myself.

MALVEAUX: You're a little bit of a politician there, Nick. I noticed. You're going to keep away from some of those hot- button issues. But I understand that your brothers call you the president. You're the youngest out of them, but they call you the president because they say you're the leader. Political future perhaps for you?

JONAS: I've always said I'd like to be president. It's kind of my whole thing, maybe 2040.

MALVEAUX: Starting your campaign now?

JONAS: Starting the campaign now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Along with serving as spokesman for Bayer Diabetes Care, Nick Jonas and his brothers and mother are part of a series of public service radio and magazine ads. To find out more about diabetes, go to www.yourdiabetesinfo.org.

Well, Levi Johnston is back in the spotlight, talking about Sarah Palin and exposing even more about himself. Our CNN's Jeanne Moos has this most unusual report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don't jump, Levi Johnston, not when you've just made it into "Vanity Fair." And to add to your vanity, now Playgirl tells CNN it's finalizing the details that they're very close in negotiations to have Levi post at least semi-nude. Even if the "Vanity Fair" shoot, Levi and his manager were talking about Playgirl.

LEVI JOHNSTON: I'd do it. I guess it's a dude posing for women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to have some Johnson. You can't come in there.

MOOS: Hey, he's already posed half naked in "GW", when his baby was totally nude. For "Vanity Fair," the clothes make the man.

UNIDIENTIFIED MALE: What you see right here is Wasilla wear. We're going to show you "Vanity Fair" wear. See?

MOOS: And when he stepped outside to pose on a ledge, he was also wearing a harness, as Levi explained back when he escorted comedian Kathy Griffin to the Teen Choice awards.

JOHNSTON: I was looking down about 25 stories. I was a little harnessed up. It was a little scary.

KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: By the way, we're going to recreate that later tonight at my place. I've got the harness, the camera. It's going to be great.

MOOS: To think that it was just last summer that Levi Johnston was awkwardly holding Bristol Palin's hand onstage, getting patted by John McCain as he was welcomed into the political family. And now he's in a "Vanity Fair" video waving a mask of his almost, but not quite, mother-in-law. He's spilling more beans, writing that Sarah Palin nagged him about a great idea she had. We would keep it a secret. Nobody would know that Bristol was pregnant. She told me that once Bristol had the baby, she and Todd would adopt him. No comment from Sarah Palin. Playgirl isn't the only racy outfit out to get Levi. The gay magazine "Unzipped" has a standing offer, says its editor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a really handsome guy. He's rugged. A real guy's guy.

MOOS: And who knew Playgirl magazine doesn't even exist anymore? All there is an online version. Playgirl says it's hoping for a long-term relationship with Levi Johnston. Of course, so are the Palins. Reports are that he wants to keep his skivvies on, though everyone's trying to separate Levi from his Levis.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern, and every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on CNN, and at this time every weekend on CNN International.

The news continues next on CNN.

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