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CNN NEWSROOM

Missing Yale Student; Tea Partiers Fed Up with Washington; Pushing for Reform in Minneapolis

Aired September 12, 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: All right, Wolf, thank you very much.

Vanished: new details emerging about a missing Yale grad student. Just moments ago, police revealed what the surveillance video shows and what evidence they have collected. But where is she?

Plus, teed off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You work for us! You work for us!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The biggest Tea Party to date, where else, but the nation's capital, and they say there's more to come.

What about name-calling?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The reforms -- the reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

REP. JOE WILSON: You lie!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: A member of Congress calling the president a liar. Town hallers yelling at lawmakers, carrying guns to rallies, refusing to let kids hear the commander-in-chief, and on and on and on.

What's behind it? Is it racial?

Yes, I said it and we're going to talk about it.

Tim Weiss joins us with some wise words.

Plus open house. The first family's Chicago neighbors are moving out. Why? And can they even sell in this environment? We're giving you a personal tour.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon live here at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.

Investigators say they don't know where Annie Lee is, but here is what we do know. One, her body has not been found. Two, items that are potential evidence have been seized. And thirdly, there is no person of interest in Lee's disappearance. There was a news conference just a short time ago. Take a listen to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just ask your questions, but you have to understand, we don't know where she is. We don't know what happened to her. We don't know if a crime was committed or not, and that's why the investigation is continuing, and you probably have a lot of questions, and maybe a few of them can be answered, but there's not going to be any speculation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a report out there that a body was found, and that's really alarmed people on campus. Do you categorically say -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will categorically say a body has not been found.

(INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I will say is that items that could potentially be evidence have been seized. None have yet been associated with Annie Lee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We'll bring you more details as we get them. Police say it's an active investigation, and they are uncovering things by the minute. They say the government is too big. It is too much. It spends too much money, and they say they're fed up with the Democratic Congress and the president's health care reform plans.

Tens of thousands of people marched to n the nation's capitol today bringing together conservative groups and their supporters including the coast-to-coast tea party express we've been telling you about now for about two weeks. And CNN's Kate Bolduan spent the day talking with people at that rally.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, the crowds have left but it was a massive turnout here on Capitol Hill today. Speakers at the podium said they believed it was the largest gathering of conservatives, fiscal conservatives, that they had ever seen. The rally was organized in large part by a group called Freedom Works. They're a conservative advocacy group that in general supports less government and lower taxes and protesting the government and government intervention especially is something we heard a lot of today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK ARMEY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: When the federal government just decided to go wrong over a year ago and try to bail out Wall Street, we tried to tell them, it won't work. And it didn't work. When the first tranche of stimulus didn't work, what did they do? What the government always does with a bad idea. If it doesn't work, do more. And we told them that wouldn't work. Then we had the election. And President Obama came in and said we're going to give you change you can believe in. And what did he give us? More of the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And during the rally we walked the march route to speak to some people about what motivated them to come to Washington to come to this rally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I felt that, you know, the government has grown too big. It's gotten too out of control with the spending, and the taxes are just way too high. And I'm just sick and tired of government growing and spending and taxing everybody into oblivion. And I just believe, you know, true freedom comes from the Lord. We are blessed by it to be living in this country, and I just really want to celebrate freedom today. That's really what I'm here to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And throughout the rally this afternoon, a very loud, very spirited crowd, one thing that you heard over and over again is can you hear me? And that seems to be the message that the crowd and the speakers and the organizers, Freedom Works, are trying to send to Capitol Hill and Washington today. Don -

LEMON: All right. Kate, thank you very much.

Conservatives aren't the only ones out in force today. President Barack Obama staged a campaign-style event to promote his health care reform efforts inside a packed arena in Minnesota.

Our Elaine Quijano traveled to Minneapolis with the president.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, President Obama was back in campaign mode at a rally here in Minneapolis, pitching health care reform to an enthusiastic crowd of about 15,000 cheering supporters. The president had a new twist on his health care argument. He said in a new Treasury report that estimates over the next 10 years, about half of all Americans under 65 will lose their health coverage at some point. But the president's speech here largely reiterated what he told a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night including blasting his critics who argue the administration shouldn't rush reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We are closer to reform than we've ever been before. But this is the hard part. This is when the special interests and the insurance companies and the folks who think, you know, there's a good way to bring Obama down. This is when they're going to fight with everything they've got. This is when they'll spread all kinds of wild rumors. Designed to scare and intimidate people. That's why I need your help. (END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: But outside the hall there were signs that the president still has some convincing to do. Protesters echoed concerns voiced not just by Republicans but also some fiscally conservative Democrats as well. One of the biggest sticking points right now continues to be how exactly to pay for the president's $900 billion plan. Don -

LEMON: Elaine, thank you very much.

While the president was in the midwest, his supporters rallied in Florida as part of the health insurance reform now tour. Supporters gathered in Orlando to promote the president's reform plans voicing their concerns about lack of access and growing costs in the nation's current health care system.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My concern is that everybody should be able to get health care. Maybe not everything, but at least basic health care. That's my concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I only have health insurance because I work for somebody. If i were to get laid off or I lost my job or wanted to transfer and had a pre-existing condition, I might not have health care. That's a problem.

LEMON: The reform now tour includes many of the same groups that rallied behind President Obama's election campaign. It's made stops in 11 cities across the country.

You know, perhaps no two words in the history of the U.S. of politics here have been so lucrative. I'm talking about "you lie." Not since the Republican Congressman Joe Wilson said those words. He's from South Carolina yelled those words to President Obama. His re-election campaign has raised $1 million. That means Wilson has pretty much caught up with his Democratic challenger, Rob Miller, who also has raised $1 million in the wake of the outburst.

Up to 3,000 additional U.S. troops could be headed to Afghanistan in the near future to deal with the rising threat of roadside bombs. A Pentagon spokesman says Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been analyzing the deadly threat for the past couple of weeks. And he's decided more troops are needed, and they need them right away. The White House earlier approved sending 21,000 additional troops by the end of the year, boosting the U.S. force to 68,000.

Five U.S. soldiers were killed today in two separate attacks in Afghanistan. A roadside bomb killed two U.S. troops in the eastern part of the country. Three others were killed in a roadside bombing followed by a gun battle with Taliban fighters in western Afghanistan.

Hundreds trapped by flooding in Turkey. You're not going to believe the video. And in Texas, a similar scene. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is watching all of the wild weather for you. Also, a huge speech by President Obama overshadowed by two words, "you lie." His speech to kids sidetracked over a lesson plan.

And red-hot rhetoric at some of the tea party rallies. What's really going on here? We're looking at all the issues from all the different angles. We're going to talk about race as well. I've heard a lot of you have been e-mailing me about that. So you want your comments on? You should follow us on twitter. Make sure you follow us. Twitter, myspace, ireport.com. That's how you get your thoughts on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: You know, we have some incredible video to show you. It is out of northwestern Turkey. It's some of the worst flooding in that country's history really in almost a century. Vehicles were overturned and people swept up, as you can see, by the river's muddy, fast-moving water. We'll take you there because CNN's Ivan Watson is in Istanbul where authorities are keeping a nervous eye on the skies.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Days after the deadliest floods in Turkey's recent history killed at least 32 people, authorities here in Istanbul are on alert.

(voice-over) Closely monitoring weather conditions in case there's any repeat of those disastrous conditions on Tuesday and Wednesday. They say there have been some incidents of minor flooding in the north of Istanbul.

The city of Tekirdag, about two hours drive west of Istanbul was not so lucky. There several factories were flooded, requiring military helicopters to come in to help evacuate about 150 employees off the roof of a brick factory. Now, the spokesman for Istanbul's Disaster Management Center, he says they will remain on alert overnight on Saturday. They are predicting sporadic rains and hoping that the storm front will move away from Turkey's largest city by daybreak on Sunday.

Ivan watson, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Thank you, Ivan.

Now to Jacqui Jeras in the CNN severe weather center. Jacqui, what is going on? Flooding there but we have some flooding here, too.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, we do. Specifically Texas. You know, this is a drought-ridden state that we've been talking about for months how much they need the rain, but it was a little too much just at one period of time. Check out some of these pictures that we have for you. This is out of the Austin area. Just outside of there where the rains have been very, very high. Williamson and Belle counties received as much as 15 inches of rain in less than 24 hours where dry creekbeds ended up overflowing in just a very, very short period of time. Now, this isn't a tropical system in nature, but we've got an area of low pressure here over the gulf that's making its way up towards the north. It's in the upper levels of the atmosphere. So the winds in the upper levels are fast that we don't think it could turn into a tropical system. But you can see how it's pumping in all of this moisture. And we also have a lot of moisture here across the state of Florida. So both of these areas are dealing with torrential downpours and those flooding rains.

This is helpful in areas like Austin down towards San Antonio where we certainly need it. We could get an additional two to three inches of rainfall in the next 24 hours. Here's that area that we're talking about. More specifically flash flood watches remain in effect across much of this area through Oklahoma, even into Louisiana. And then we're also seeing that continuing across parts of Florida today as well.

Some of the rainfall totals have been incredible. Look at that. The Belle and Williamson county line nearly 15 inches. So those totals are going to stay up there, we think, through the weekend, Don, and then the system pulling out by your Monday.

LEMON: All right. Thank you for that, Jacqui.

Mourners gathered today to remember two firefighters who died battling the largest fire in the history of Los Angeles county. A crowd gathered at Dodger Stadium to honor the fallen firefighters. Vice President Joe Biden hailed the two as part of a special breed of heroes, unafraid to risk their lives to save others. Ted Hall and Arnie Quinones died on August 30th when their vehicle slid down a 700- foot embankment in Angeles National Forest. Firefighters are still fighting the blaze which is about 84 percent contained.

Police in California are looking for art thieves who made off with a rare collection of Andy Warhol paintings. The stolen pieces include large pop art portraits of champion boxer Muhammad Ali. You can see it there. Tennis pro Chris Everett and basketball great Kareem Abdul- Jabbar. Los Angeles Police say the multi-million dollar collection was taken from the dining room of businesman Richard Wiseman. A $1 million reward has been offered for the information leading to the recovery of the art.

The president knew the stakes before he addressed Congress on Wednesday. But he could not have imagined it would be a Republican congressman from South Carolina who would steal the headlines and really he would do something very rude and uncalled for. What was behind Joe Wilson's outburst, and has it changed the way the opposition on either side of the aisle will behave in the future? We're talking about that. Join us on twitter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK. Let's talk now - you ready - pay attention. This is going to be good. "You lie!" I couldn't wait to get back from vacation to talk about this one. Those two words shouted on the floor of the House of Representatives during the president's health care speech dominated much of the talk in the nation's capitol this week. They were shouted by South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson as President Obama said his health care reform efforts would not insure illegal immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms - the reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!

OBAMA: That's not true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. The outburst prompted some some boos on the floor, and as you can see, there it is, Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, her disbelief at that. And then you can see Joe Biden's as well. He looked over as well. Congressman Wilson apologized to the president. We'll talk about that apology, kind of. Was it really an apology? But angry Democrats want an apology to Congress. And they're threatening a resolution of disapproval. Early next week if he doesn't comply. So let's talk a little bit more about that.

Joining me now, Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer, and I've talked to you about something else, the school thing, and syndicated columnist David Sirota. Thank you guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

LEMON: Jim, I'm watching the president's speech with my family. I was home - the entire family, both white and black in the family - and when that happened, everyone gasped. And I had gotten the same reaction from every single person I run into the airport, the supermarket, everyone's, like, how disrespectful of him to do that. If you don't agree with the president's policies, that's one thing. But you should respect the office.

JIM GREER, FLORIDA GOP CHAIRMAN: Well, there's no doubt about it, it was wrong. It was inappropriate. It was disrespectful, as you said, to not only the president, but the chamber of the House of Representatives. But it's time that we move on. The congressman apologized immediately afterwards.

LEMON: I agree with you. It's an apology, but in it, I don't have the quote, we may have it somewhere, the apology said, "I was asked by the members to call the Wite House." Let's listen, and then we'll talk about it, Jim.

GREER: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: Last night I heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and state that my statements were inappropriate. I did. I'm very grateful that the White House, in talking with them, they indicated that they appreciated the call and that we needed to have a simple discussion about the health care issues. And I certainly agree with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. "I was asked by the members f the leadership to call." Not, you know what? I screwed up. It was boneheaded. I'm sorry. I was asked. That wasn't really an apology.

GREER: Well, I think he issued a written apology, too, that shortly after the president spoke. And I think the written apology was more in line with what he needed to say. I'm disappointed that he talked about leadership. But regardless, Don -

LEMON: Why hasn't there been a call by all the members, all the GOP, saying you know what? Why haven't you denounced - some people are defending him. How do you defend that?

GREER: Well, you know, I don't think you do defend that. But there's a discussion taking place throughout America about health care. And we need to not lose sight of what we need to be looking at, what we need to be considering. Congressman - the congressman apologized. He should not have done it. But let's move on. Let's get back to business of governing.

LEMON: Well, we're going to move on. I agree with that, we should move on, but we're smart enough and big enough to talk about more than one thing at a time. We can talk about health care.

GREER: Or America needs to move on.

LEMON: I'm going to get to you, not to worry, David. But now that I have him here, I want to talk to him about it. OK, so, you know, he's got a campaign ad. He's raised all this money. Again, why hasn't the GOP, en masse, said, hey, why haven't you denounced this guy?

DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think the reason they haven't denounced it is because he was successful. He was successful in thrusting a fake issue into the debate.

LEMON: But Jim -

SIROTA: -of immigration.

LEMON: David, I want to get to Jim because Jim is a Republican and I want to know, from a Republican, why not?

GREER: Well, I think, first of all, he's tapped into the frustration of many Americans.

SIROTA: But that still doesn't - that's an excuse.

GREER: You're absolutely right.

SIROTA: That's an excuse.

LEMON: And hang on. The reason I say that, and I talk about defending him, there are people who defend him, even all the way up to the top. Michael Steele didn't really - didn't really denounce the guy. He says everyone keeps saying we should move on. We should move on. There's something underlying here and something wrong about this.

And I think that our leaders, especially our elected leaders, should set the example. So by him doing that, people at the town halls feel that they have the right to do the exact same sort of thing. Let's listen to Michael Steele and then I'll talk to you guys after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEEL, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: It's not been embarrassing for the Republican Party, but it's been very embarrassing for the congressman. And I appreciate the congressman not doing the typical Washington move and trying to explain it or justify it. He acknowledged, within 30 minutes after the speech was over, that that was not an appropriate thing to say as a member of the United States Congress to the president of the United States. And he's apologized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So what do you make of that? Can we show all the people during the speech when the president is talking? They're on their blackberrys, I don't know if they're twittering, they're e-mailing, they're holding up signs. I was floored by that. I said, these are our leaders. These are the people we're looking up to? Even when people didn't agree - many people - you know, with former presidents, they'd sit on their hands. They wouldn't applaud. But never was the behavior like this.

I'm going to get off you, Jim. I'm not going to hold you so long on that.

GREER: I'm not sure that's true. When President Bush spoke sometimes, Don, there was booing. There was hissing.

LEMON: Absolutely.

GREER: It's not right. It's not right on either side of the aisle. The man has apologized. We don't want to draw and quarter him. We don't want to make it a political issue that has nothing to do with the health care debate.

LEMON: But is that part of the problem that you don't want to make it a political issue? It is an issue because it goes back to behavior. And it is an issue. So I think that in the first - the first thing to realize, when you have a problem, you have to acknowledge it. And it appears that the GOP is not acknowledging that this is - you don't do this.

Yes, people, you know, protested President Bush. Yes, he was booed when he was in Congress. Especially when he was - when he tried to reform social security, yes. But never behavior to this level. GREER: Well, I don't know, Don, I mean, I'm the chairman of the fourth largest state's Republican Party. I've said it's inappropriate. I've said it's wrong. It was disrespectful to the president and the chamber. He apologized 30 minutes later.

LEMON: The people who were watching, the American people.

GREER: And to the country, there's no doubt about that. So now that we've done that and now that a Republican Party chairman of a state like Florida has said it was wrong and inappropriate, what more should we do? Should we get back to the discussion of health care, or should we continue to talk about a congressman who made a vocal comment that he should not have made? It was inappropriate. It was wrong. But do we keep talking about that? Or do we get back about talking about what families across this country are talking about, and that's health care.

LEMON: Yes, I think, you know, and like I said, I don't mean to come after you that way, but it was just - that really got me and everyone I've been talking to.

GREER: I understand.

LEMON: So thank you for that. I don't want to beat up on you. So I appreciate you being so candid about it. I'm going to give you the last word here on this issue, Jim, and then we're going to - David, and then we're going to move on to talk about the next topic.

SIROTA: Well, the only thing I would say about it is is that I do think it represents a coarsening of the debate. I think that the tea party protests, the furor, the anti-government furor, the attempt to ram right-wing, really right-wing, manufactured issues into the health care debate, immigration into the health care debate, for instance, that's what this is a product of. And so I think Jim is right that the decorum is less important in this than what the political effort was. The political effort was to try to ram a manufactured, right- wing, framed issue into the health care debate, and that's really what was unacceptable.

LEMON: OK. Thank you. Jim, we're still friends, right?

GREER: We are, absolutely.

LEMON: OK.

GREER: Absolutely.

LEMON: Jim and David, stick around because the president's address on Wednesday wasn't the only thing that had people talking this week. His speech to school kids on Tuesday prompted some parents to keep their kids out of school as well as some school districts not to show it. But what was the big deal here? One person who's behind it. Jim Greer is going to join us to talk about that. We are digging deeper.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: So just last week critics said the president was trying to inject his political views into a speech to students in a classroom. They said they had problems with his suggested lesson plan. That was the proof of it. So they sort of rewrote the speech a little bit, changed the lesson plan, and then all was right. It seemed to be pretty standard stuff once you listened to the speech. Take a listen to a little bit of it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: No one's born being good at all things. You become good at things through hard work. You're not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don't hit every note the first time you sing a song. You've got to practice. The same principle applies to your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right. You might have to read something a few times before you understand it. You definitely have to do a few drafts of a paper before it's good enough to hand in.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength because it shows you have the courage to admit when you don't know something, and that then allows you to learn something new.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. Jim, so - Jim and David join us again. The president calls this a teachable moment. You had a problem with it. Jim, of course, is the Florida Republican Party chair. Jim, president Bush 41 did the same sort of thing. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Write me a letter. And I'm serious about this one. Write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals. I think you know the address.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What's different about that? Jim?

JIM GREER, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR: What's different is what started this whole thing, Don. Is lesson plans that were sent out nationwide to teachers leading students in a discussion before the speech and a discussion after the speech that, in my opinion and the opinion of many parents, would have allowed a policy discussion to start to take place in the classroom. It was never about he speech. It was never about the speech of a president talking to children.

It was about the lesson plans in conjunction with the speech. And we seem to miss one thing about all this, Don. The Department of Education revised the lesson plans and recognized that there was some inappropriate statements in the lesson plans.

LEMON: OK. GREER: The White House eventually -

LEMON: They revised it, and we get it. And you took your lumps for that.

GREER: Right. I did.

LEMON: Did you apologize?

GREER: No.

LEMON: You didn't apologize?

GREER: Well, what would I apologize for based on the information I had before the speech?

LEMON: All right. Got it. All right. David -

DAVID SIROTA, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I mean, what would you apologize for?

LEMON: I mean, here's - let me ask you this question. Wouldn't you want your kids to see the president no matter who he is to have that experience and then you can talk to your child about what the president said if you agree or disagree with it? Don't you want your kids to have that experience? I would want my kids to hear the president of the United States.

GREER: Yes, absolutely. Yes. Absolutely.

SIROTA: I think absolutely. But -

LEMON: Go ahead, David.

SIROTA: What the conservatives don't want to acknowledge is there's a deep strain of right-wing conservatism that really does not want to acknowledge that President Obama actually is the president. Now, I'm not saying that that's what Jim represents, but there is certainly a strain of the hardcore right that does not want to recognize President Obama as a legitimate president.

My real problem with the outrage, the fake outrage, about President Obama speaking in schools were people who said, like Jim, that lesson plans or not, that the president was trying to indoctrinate children to socialism. That is crazy. Even we can have a debate about whether the lesson plans were appropriate or not.

But indoctrinate children to socialism? That's really, really crazy. That's over the top. And that's what we were talking about in the last segment. The debate, the right wing has driven the nation's political debate into a place that is absolutely insane and absolutely unacceptable.

LEMON: All right. Jim, that's going to have to be the last word on that topic because we've got to move on to another topic. But I do have to say that even the former first lady, Laura Bush, who's a very classy lady, she defended the president. She goes I think there's a place for the president, President Obama, to speak. You know, she was very nice about it. So she didn't understand the controversy. So that's the last word on that. So we're going to move on now.

And talk about other issues like this one. It's almost hard to believe what some people are saying at some of these tea party rallies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can have my country when they pry it from my cold, dead hands!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think their agenda is to slowly but surely take away everything that we've worked for and everything the constitution stands for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Socialism, fascism, comparing the president to Hitler. President Bush was compared to some pretty unsavory characters as well. But this seems to be really getting out of control. How did we get to this point, and what does it say about us as a nation?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. We're talking about all the yelling and fighting and lack of respect that's been going on in the country. What's behind it? Why? Why? CNN all platform journalist Jim Spellman traveled with the anti-big government caravan known as the Tea Party Express these past two weeks. It was a colorful trip across the country full of passionate opinions to say the least. Here's just a few highlights for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyday tea partier is an American citizen that is frustrated with the direction the country is going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are truly concerned about the heartbeat of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're taking our liberties away. It's tyranny. It's a Gestapo-type tactic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's too much involvement in the government, we can take care of ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't vote for him but I didn't necessarily have anything against what he was saying. He gets into office, and it's like all of the things that I was kind of afraid of really happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can have my country when they pry it from my cold, dead hands! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think their agenda is to slowly but surely take away everything that we've worked for and everything the constitution stands for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kill the bill! Kill the bell! Read the bill! Read the bill!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the czars that he picked are all either communists or socialists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't want to be a guinea pig for the experiment they have for population control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going after our kids to try and try to indoctrinate them into a national defense army. And we're not going to let him do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're kind of the ultimate check and balance, I suppose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want a revolution. I don't want a civil war. I would hate for that to happen. But it is a possibility. It's there as an option, as a last resort. Should our government turn on its own people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. Jim and David, you know, that's what America is about. You have every right to protest and state your opinion. But, I mean, really, and a lot of that stuff, a lot of it, and like you said, I don't disagree with those people being able to voice their opinions. But sometimes what they're repeating is misinformation. And to take a gun again to a rally. I mean, David, what's happening here?

SIROTA: Well, again, I think that there's a segment of the population that does not want to accept President Obama as a legitimate president. And I think that you can tell that this is really a partisan lynch mob by understanding that these people were not out making the exact same criticism of President Bush. Where were the people who were worried about the constitution when President Bush trampled the constitution with the Patriot Act? Where were these people talking about government spending when President Bush inflated the deficit to record proportions?

LEMON: Jim, that's a good question.

SIROTA: Where were they?

GREER: Well, I think you saw where they were when the polls showed that unfortunately from a Republican standpoint, President Bush was down in the 20s. I mean, the American public -

SIROTA: Where were the protests?

GREER: Well, you know, there were people protesting President Bush because I saw them quite often as I traveled the country. SIROTA: Do you think conservative tea partiers are protesting -

LEMON: I do have to say no that people did protest the Iraq war. I saw a lot of that. I covered a lot of it.

GREER: A lot of that.

LEMON: People said they had pictures of President Bush. They hung things of him in effigy. They put it in on fire, lit them on fire. So there were things, but they were protesting a war, and that they were looking for evidence that never turned up. So it's kind of a different thing, but he was protested.

SIROTA: Those are different protesters.

GREER: Where we are today -

Well, they may be different protesters, but you asked me, where were they? And there were people protesting President Bush. Where we are today, Don, David, is that this administration has tried to radically change the role of government in our daily lives and the role of government in major industries that have made this country great. And that is why Americans, not just Republicans, but Americans are frustrated. They can't get answers to their questions. They're concerned about President Obama's views of what America should look like today and what it will look like in the future. And they just reject that. And they're angry. They're frustrated because it's not the America that they brought up to have great respect for, and they're concerned.

SIROTA: Can I - can I respond to that? Let me just respond and say -

LEMON: Quickly, David.

SIROTA: I understand the frustration about the bailouts. I was opposed to the bailouts. My point here is that there's a double standard. We did not see the tea party protests against President Bush. And that leads all of us - it should lead all of us to conclude that this is a partisan lynch mob. This is a segment of the population that does not want to accept President Obama. Some of that - part of that population does not want to accept them as our president.

LEMON: What are you saying here?

SIROTA: Because he's an African-American.

LEMON: Are you saying you think racism is a factor?

SIROTA: I think there's - I think there's partisanship. I think there's ideology. I think there's racism. I think these people are, again, a political lynch mob. They do not want to accept the legitimacy of President Obama. And I think that's a real tragedy. I mean, you want to talk about the role of government, and you want to talk about socialism. Let's just talk about that for a second. LEMON: When you talk about socialism, really, I talk to people, and I don't think that they know what socialism really means. Because we don't live in a socialist society. I'm sure there can be socialist aspects to our - hang on - to our side of it. Really, it's contrary to popular belief, socialism is not a political system. It is not an economic system. It is distinct from capitalism.

SIROTA: Yes, but we don't live in a pure capitalism, Don. I mean, I drove on a road to get here. That road was built with a socialist enterprise. The schools, the public schools, they're a socialist enterprise. Medicare is a "socialist enterprise." So let's have a fair, honest debate about what's we're really talking about.

LEMON: And Jim, you don't really like bringing race up for this as well. Talk about that.

GREER: Because I think when you bring race up when it's not legitimate part of the conversation, it doesn't provide the opportunity that when race is a problem for it to be addressed like it should be. You know, most Americans, if not all Americans, watched on January 20th when President Obama took the oath of office, he is president. He is a legitimate president. It is about his approach to governing. And when we have 38 czars, senior policy czars that are setting policy for cabinet secretaries without going through the process of senate confirmation -

LEMON: I do have to tell you, though -

GREER: There's a lot of concerns about this.

LEMON: I do have to tell you, Jim, it is the elephant in the room. And, again, everywhere, I was at a big event in Chicago, and the same thing. People in the room saying hey, Don, nobody's talking about this. And these weren't African-Americans who were saying this. And these weren't necessarily liberals who were saying it as well.

Some of my conservative friends, some of the conservative people said it's the elephant in the room, no one really wants to talk about it. It's not the whole thing but it is a factor and you can't deny that. And maybe this is good for the country in a way because at least we get it out in the open, talk about it, maybe come to some understanding about it. David -

SIROTA: That's the problem, it's not out in the open. You hear Jim denying that this is an impulse. Look, you've got the same tea party people questioning whether President Obama is an American citizen, demanding his birth certificate. It's already been shown, already been put out there. You have these people saying he was trained in a madrassa saying that he is not Christian. This all adds up to an effort to try to drag race into the conversation.

And then you have people like Jim who say, well, that's not really going on. You know what we call that? That's called dog-whistle politics. That's the right wing trying to signal to its base to try to play to a - LEMON: Jim, I'm going to let you respond and I'm going to give you the last word because, you know, I talked to you a lot. I kind of beat up on you before. I'll give you the last word.

GREER: No, that's all right.

LEMON: What I want to ask you though is -

GREER: Sure.

LEMON: What's the solution? How do we - if you deny it, right, and the people are telling you hey, it's part of it, especially African- Americans or minorities. If they're telling you it's part of it and you deny it then you deny their truth. Maybe it's not a part of it once you come to some sort of, you know, agreement if you have a conversation. So then what is the solution? How do we work together, Jim? How do Republicans, Democrats, libertarians, everyone, how do you work together to get something - to get this resolved?

GREER: Well, if it deal is with the race issue, you make sure that anyone who is a decision-maker in the process or a leader of any political party or organization who's participating in this national discussion does not in any way tolerate the race issue and brings everyone back to what they need to be talking about, and that is the discussion of how America should be governed.

There's no place for this race issue. If it is present - and I'm not saying it's not - racism does exist in America. But it cannot always be the fallback position when we disagree with public policy issues. And I also think, Don, when race is talked so much by certain people about President Obama, it is disrespectful to the president, and it somehow goes back to, well, do you consider him legitimate?

And when I and others say, well, of course, we do, why are you even asking the question, I think it's disrespectful to the president.

LEMON: Right.

GREER: He is the president. America should celebrate the election of the first African-American president. But let's move on and talk about governing and the philosophy of governing.

LEMON: Yes, we're out of time. Great conversation, guys. I appreciate you both coming on and being so open and transparent.

SIROTA: Thank you.

LEMON: And really, Jim, I often call you - I wonder if you're a liberal sometimes. Remember I used to do that until I was on vacation and I said, what is he doing? But anyway, you know. It's all good.

GREER: Try not to call me a liberal too much as chairman of the Republican Party.

SIROTA: I can attest, Jim is hardly a liberal.

LEMON: All right, guys. Hey, thank you very much. We'll see you in a bit on the show here.

All right. We're going to continue to look at what's really behind the red-hot rhetoric being heard at rallies all across the country. Anti-racist activist and writer, there he is, Tim Wise, will help us to break it down. He's been taking notes. I saw you, Tim. He's ready to go.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK. So we are going to continue our discussion now over the health care rallies and the tone of what's going on in the country. Tim Wise joins us. He's frequent here on the show. The author of "Between Barack and a Hard Place" and among the most prominent anti- racist activist in the country. Thank you, sir. Always good to see you.

TIM WISE, AUTHOR "BETWEEN Barack AND A HARD PLACE": You, too.

LEMON: You heard the chairman from Florida say no, it is not race.

WISE: I did.

LEMON: It does a disservice. You heard David Sirota say it is the elephant in the room.

WISE: Right. Well like I said in the show before, it is the background noise of a lot of the opposition, not all of it but a lot of it. You know, when you have someone like Glen Beck saying as he did about a month ago that the health care debate isn't really about that. It is just reparations for black people, where you have Rush Limbaugh yesterday on the air saying first that community service is the first step towards fascism, which is bizarre even for him.

And then almost immediately after that saying one of the problems with America is too much multi culturalism. You wouldn't say that unless you are trying to stoke white racial resentment. And so when you say those things, I want to know when are Republican leaders going to condemn that kind of rhetoric because that is where race is being interjected. It is interjected by us, it's interested by the leading talk show hosts in this country.

LEMON: I mean, but is it knowingly or is it maybe unwittingly they're doing it and maybe they don't realize they are doing it.

WISE: Well, two things, it may be either or but it doesn't matter. I mean, racism needs to be evaluated based on outcome. If you do something which has a predictable consequence, you have to be accountable for that consequence. So for example, when Glen Beck lied and said that Van Jones was involved in the Los Angeles riots which was not true. That is a very clear, as David said, dog whistle politic moment.

You're saying that because you know that the L.A. riots are viewed as this racialized rebellion and it scares white folks to death. So you say that about this man. It isn't true. Glenn Beck had to know that wasn't true. That is a way to scare white folks. Where race comes in, it is old fashion but it's white racial resentment that they are trying to whip up.

LEMON: But you know, it is very - it is smart if you want to get your message out. So listen, as we've been saying, it's the elephant in the room. Let's talk about this Congressman Wilson thing.

WISE: Yes.

LEMON: One person wrote me on Twitter and said I think (INAUDIBLE) if it is not racism then I don't know what it is, self-indulgence, selfishness, egotism or all the traits pure lack of thought. And then one person says I'm with Ron Reagan and Bill Maher. If Obama's skin color was closer to his mom's, talking about Joe Wilson, he would not have shouted out. And I have to tell you -

WISE: I believe that.

LEMON: I have to tell you, for the first time - last night I was watching "Real Time" with Bill Maher and I was like finally someone is talking about this. Finally is talking about this.

WISE: Right.

LEMON: Do you think that Joe Wilson would have done that to a president who was of another color?

WISE: No, I don't.

LEMON: He may have done the same thing if it was a woman president.

WISE: I don't know but I know here is a guy who is an avowed neo confederate who says Strom Thurman and (INAUDIBLE) segregation was his hero. There is some racial stuff going on, I hate to say it, with this congress person and it makes me wonder with that kind of background. It makes me wonder.

LEMON: But isn't it - what is behind - I think that the thing that we are not getting to is what allows him to be - to feel that is OK to say it.

WISE: Right.

LEMON: Isn't that what it is?

WISE: I think it is what David was talking about. There is a large segment of the American population, particularly a sizable amount of white folks, frankly, and in the Republican Party who do not view him as legitimate, the Berger (ph) phenomenon. Let's be honest. If this man's name was Oshanasi (ph) or O'Malley and I made a birth certificate that said he was born in County Court Ireland in 1961, nobody would care or believe it. But if you say he is from Africa, he has an African daddy. He is from Kenya. People will believe that.

They want to point him as a foreign outsider out to destroy America. And that kind of over the top rhetoric isn't just about political disagreement, it is about an attack on his identity and his American- ness. Because some people simply can't accept that we are not the only folks in this country, we are not the standard anymore for what an American is. It is a multiculture nation.

LEMON: I hear African-Americans all the time are used to when talking about President Bush and they would say not my president. That is not right, either.

WISE: Oh, it is not right. It's not right. You know, I was at rallies where occasionally people had signs that would compare President Bush to Hitler. But you know, what, it wasn't the leading spokespeople on the left doing that. It wasn't our talk show hosts, it wasn't our authors and our columnists and our commentators, it was folks on the streets. It is not right. But it is not equivalent. That is coming from the very top of the conservative mouthpiece community.

LEMON: Hey, listen, I got to go. Do you think this is good for us so because now we can examine and talk about it? It is out there.

WISE: Oh, I think so. It is bringing some things out of the woodwork. If we address it honestly, we can move forward but if we continue to stay in denial I don't think we will.

LEMON: Denial, it is not just a river, right? Thank you. Tim Wise, it's always good to have you on. Appreciate it.

We'll take a closer look at the hostile rhetoric aimed at the president tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, including these incendiary words from the pulpit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR STEVEN ANDERSON, FAITHFUL WORD BAPTIST CHURCH: I hate Barack Obama. I'm going to prove from the Bible tonight why I should hate Barack Obama. Why God wants me to hate Barack Obama. Why God made Barack Obama?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That was Steven Anderson, pastor of a small fundamentalist Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. He had those harsh words a couple of weeks ago and you won't believe what else Pastor Anderson had to say. Right to a person in front of his face. You're not going to believe it. You'll hear for yourself tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Want to end with a cute little story in Chicago moving but we ran out of time because of the lively discussion. I'll see you back here at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm Don Lemon.

Now "AC 360" a special report, INSIDE AFGHANISTAN'S BATTLE ZONES. It begins right now.