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CNN NEWSROOM

Obama to Speak to Gay Rights Activists; Obama Weighing Afghan War Options

Aired October 10, 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. Thank you, Wolf.

Tonight, President Obama up close and personal with the people who helped elect him but some now feel he's turned his back. We're live as the president talks gay rights.

A war ambush horror story like you've never heard before, from the men who survived it. Eight of their comrades didn't make it.

Chicago, the attorney general and the education secretary made a high- profile trip there. What did they accomplish and will it save young lives?

A bar brawl that started with a punch, ended in a shootout. All of it caught on tape.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.

In just a short time from now, President Barack Obama is going to speak about an issue that divides many Americans, much the same way as race does. We're talking about gay rights. He is going to address the nation's largest gay rights organization tonight in Washington, the Human Rights Campaign.

Thousands of activists are gathering this hour for the black tie dinner. And then a huge march on Washington on Sunday, similar to the first one held back in 1993, that celebrated gay and lesbian political successes and political action on their top priorities.

No American president has ever promised so much to America's gays and lesbians.

The question now: Can the president deliver, and is he moving fast enough for a constituency that helped put Democrats in control of both the White House and Congress?

Our Jessica Yellin is standing by in Washington. She's reporting on this story. In anticipating the president's remarks, we'll join her in just a minute for some perspective on this.

But first now, CNN's Randi Kaye tells us what's at stake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to fight for gay rights. So why, nearly a year since the election...

CROWD: Yes, we can.

KAYE: ... are so many gays and lesbians growing impatient with the president they overwhelmingly supported and helped elect?

(on camera): Barack Obama has called himself, a, quote, "consistent and fierce advocate of the gay community." Has his presidency lived up to that?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, FMR. CLINTON ADVISER, SAME-SEX ISSUES: Not in these last 11 months, not yet at least.

KAYE (voice-over): Keeping them honest, here are just some of the promises the president made. Promise number one: To end "don't ask, don't tell," which bans anyone openly gay from serving in the military.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that we should end "don't ask, don't tell."

I have stated repeatedly that "don't ask, don't tell" makes no sense.

I believe "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't contribute to our national security.

SOCARIDES: The government is actively discriminating against us just because of who we are and this is happening on his watch.

KAYE: Promise number two: The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. The president says he supports civil unions, not same-sex marriage.

SOCARIDES: President Obama has said he wants the law changes, but he's taken no action towards doing that.

KAYE: Promise number three: A hate crimes bill that would make violent attacks on members of the gay community, because of their sexuality, a federal crime. The House approved the measure, but the Senate has yet to.

(on camera): In June, the president did celebrate gay pride at the White House and he just appointed an openly gay U.S. ambassador to New Zealand. But critics call these, quote, "peripheral moves." As a candidate, the president promised them fierce action. Still, the White House says the president is intent on making progress on the issues. But even supporters in the gay community say the president has made a lot of promises and still no action.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: All right, Randi. Thank you very much.

And we can see here there, there's our Jessica Yellin. She is our national political correspondent. She joins me now in Washington.

Jessica, why is his speech tonight at this dinner so important for the president?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, because, as you and Randi outline a bit, this is an important constituency both to President Obama and to the Democratic Party. Gay and lesbian activists are reliable voters for Democrats, huge donors, and a huge piece of the base that neither the president nor the party can afford to alienate in the long-term. And right now, much of the community is beyond outraged.

I mean, the intensity of anger cannot be overstated because they truly feel -- a portion of this community feels that the president has let them down by not prioritizing at least one of these issues, say, "don't ask, don't tell," and just going to Congress and saying, "Hey, let's make this a top legislative priority, let's get this done now, let's overturn 'don't ask, don't tell.'"

LEMON: And we showed, Jessica, in the beginning of this, when I started, the 1993 march, where thousands of gays and lesbians marched on the Capitol. And we -- you know, we saw the Million Man March and other marches.

There are some -- even high-ranking politicians like Barney Frank who are saying, "I don't know if this is really going to have any effect." Let's listen to him and I'll talk to you about it afterwards.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Barack Obama doesn't need any pressure on these things. Secondly, if you do want to pressure Congress, I don't know what standing on the Mall on weekend when no member of Congress is in town is going to do, all that's going to pressure is the grass.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. That was on the "Michelangelo Signorile," who's actually going to join us after the speech to talk about it.

So, what do you make of that? What are you hearing in Washington about this? This is -- do you feel that this puts added pressure, these huge groups, on the administration to take some action?

YELLIN: Well, you can always count on Barney Frank to speak his mind, quite clearly.

LEMON: Let's have a sound bite, right, to make a good sound bite.

YELLIN: Right. Look, it does put pressure on the White House, and the people I talk to know that they're being criticized. They feel the pressure.

But the bottom line is, Don, many of them agree with what Barney Frank is saying, which is politically, they can't afford to prioritize gay and lesbian issues right now. So the larger argument is: the president has other items on his agenda that also matter to the gay and lesbian community, things like health care reform and financial reform, and that the president needs to get that done before he can move on to even more hot button social issues that matter to gays and lesbians.

And I think when you hear his speech tonight, he will essentially make that point, that what you'll hear him say is that lesbian gay issues matter to him and that he wants to push this and he will, but not yet -- sort of a large frame message from the White House right now is: please be patient.

LEMON: And it's very interesting what you say, I'm going to ask my next guest about that. Thank you very much, Jessica, for coming in and for watching this.

The president is going to speak in just a little bit. We'll be standing by. We're going to bring it to you live right here on CNN.

Thanks again to Jessica.

Steve Hildebrand is going to be listening very closely to what the president has to say tonight. He was the deputy campaign manager for President Barack Obama. He's also openly gay, and Steve's been speaking out lately about his frustration with the Obama White House, with the administration. He joins me now from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Hey, Steve. How are you this evening?

Thanks for coming on.

STEVE HILDEBRAND, FMR. OBAMA DEP. CAMPAIGN MANAGER (via telephone): I'm great, Don. Thanks for having me on.

LEMON: Thanks for coming on. So, you heard -- what Jessica, I thought, was very interesting. She said, politically, that the White House, the administration can't prioritize gay issues right now. Do you believe that's so?

HILDEBRAND: Well, I disagree with a lot of things Jessica said. They are prioritizing issues important to gay and lesbian Americans, it's why, you know, in a few days, the president's likely to sign the hate crimes bill, which will provide protections for LGBT Americans, American youth that don't have protection right now.

And I think the next piece of legislation that we'll see being pushed is employment nondiscrimination, gays and lesbians don't have rights, or recourse, I should say, in the workplace right now if they're discriminated against.

LEMON: Well, see -- I've got to ask you this, because, I mean, Jessica is not just saying that, she is getting -- that's the information that she's getting from people in the administration, that politically, they can't afford to prioritize those issues. So, that's coming from somewhere and it's probably from inside the White House. But here's the thing that I want to ask you. You know, you talk about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, there's DOMA, there's "don't ask, don't tell," these are four things, I think, out of five or six that the gay community want the president to address. It's been, what, 11 months now since he's been elected. You know, eight or nine months since he's been in office since January.

Do you know of any other group that has asked for that many things to be resolved or addressed in that short period of time?

HILDEBRAND: Well, Don, I just -- I've got to disagree with the statement about Jessica getting it from the White House. There is no sign from the White House, or from anywhere in the administration, that issues important to gay Americans are not being addressed and being addressed in a timely fashion. There's no indication of that.

LEMON: I have heard that...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You can make your point, I'll let you finish, but I have heard that this -- that the issue of gay rights, this sort of social issue that they deem it, it could -- it's inside the administration or political advisers may be saying to the president you can address this, but this is a second-term issue. If you tackle this issue...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: If you tackle gay issues in the first term, much the way that Bill Clinton tried to do with "don't ask, don't tell," or the same thing with health care, and you see what the president, the kind of grief he's getting about that, that he may not be around for a second term. And so if he's going to tackle those, maybe in the second term.

HILDEBRAND: I wish we had more time, because there's a lot to talk about.

LEMON: We do. Go ahead. As much time as you want.

HILDEBRAND: First of all, I want to say this. The Stonewall riots in New York following the police raids at the gay bars in New York 40 years ago, in that 40-year time period, not one piece of legislation has passed Congress that has helped -- provided equality for gay and lesbian Americans. Conversely, Congress has passed laws, including the Defense of Marriage Act, and the "don't ask, don't tell" provision in the military, that have taken more rights away from gay and lesbian Americans.

So, not only have we not made progress because of Congress, they've actually effectively taken more rights away from us. So, gay Americans have every right to be impatient, and they should pressure the president, they should pressure Congress, but they should also understand that, while President Clinton -- while President Obama will sign any of these pieces of legislation that they put -- that Congress will put on his desk, he does not have the ability to act on his own. So, our pressure must stay on the president, but we should ratchet up the pressure in a big way for Congress to give us the rights that all other Americans have.

LEMON: OK. So, you said since...

HILDEBRAND: Forty years, Don. Forty years.

LEMON: Since the Stonewall riots 40 years ago -- and I have you on that. You know, I don't disagree with you on that, but is that necessarily the Obama administration's fault?

HILDEBRAND: No. The point is, this will be the first president in more than 40 years who is pushing for and going to sign legislation to further equality for gay and lesbian Americans. He is going to be the first president to do that. It's not going to wait until his second term. It's going to happen within the first 12 months of his term.

After waiting 40 years, we can wait 12 months.

LEMON: And let me ask you this...

HILDEBRAND: He's going to push and he's going to push and he's not going to push and he's not going to stop. It's not going to be a second term issue.

LEMON: Let me ask -- let me ask you this, Steve. By bringing so much attention to it and people saying, "You know, the president hasn't helped our cause, he's not addressing it or whatever," when in fact maybe behind the scenes the president and the administration are addressing it. You know, you say that they are, could activists be doing more harm than good for the cause by bringing so much attention to it, rather than having it handled quietly or in a more diplomatic fashion?

HILDEBRAND: Absolutely not. There should be a lot of activity. The dinner tonight is important. The march on the Mall tomorrow is very important. Efforts that people are taking out in congressional districts all across the country to put pressure on Congress are very important.

We need to work this at every angle and people need to understand that if we're going to get this done, it's going to take serious pressure because Congress isn't going to act on this alone. If they can't get health care passed with a public option when it's got 65 percent approval rating by the American people, how are they going to get gay rights legislation passed without significant pressure.

LEMON: All right. Steve, thank you. Steve's going to -- you're going to stick around and join me for the speech, right?

HILDEBRAND: Yes.

LEMON: So I would -- love to talk to you again on the other side. Thank you, Steve Hildebrand. He has been speaking out about the Obama administration lately and was his deputy campaign manager for President Barack Obama's campaign early on. We appreciate it.

He's going to join us for the speech. It's going to happen in just a little while in Washington. The president addressing the largest gay rights organization in the country tonight, and we're going to bring it to you live here on CNN.

Meantime, a rare inside look at the battle that killed eight American soldiers in Afghanistan last week. Four of the men who were there tell their story.

And a shootout at an Ohio bar. It was a brawl that got way out of control. The whole thing was caught on tape and we'll show you what happened there.

And it is Saturday night, we need to have some fun, right? "Playboy" magazine has a new cover girl, and believe me, her identity will surprise you.

And you can join our conversation as well at Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or iReport.com. The president live addressing civil rights according to -- civil rights for gay people, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Gunshots, hostages and pandemonium at Pakistan's army headquarters. Heavily-armed insurgents wearing military uniforms stormed the compound today, sparking a gun battle that killed six soldiers and four militants. Pakistani soldiers are still struggling to gain the upper hand at the Rawalpindi complex. More than 15 hours after the surprise assault, the Taliban is reportedly claiming responsibility for the attack and holding as many as 15 people hostage.

A looming issue for President Barack Obama -- Afghanistan, and what it takes to fight terrorism there. Should he send at least 40,000 extra troops into the war zone as requested by the military commander? Mr. Obama is mulling it over right now after spending three hours in the Situation Room with the national security team on yesterday.

The president is planning another session with his top advisers on Wednesday.

Well, the shape of the battle plans in Afghanistan could be changing, but the futures of two u.s.-based camps in the rugged Nuristan region are sealed. They are shut down after a brutal Taliban attack that left eight American soldiers dead last weekend. The surviving troops say they were surrounded on all sides and they were clobbered by hundreds of heavily-armed insurgents.

Now, they're opening up about how they held their ground. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT) 1ST LT. CASON SHORDE, U.S. ARMY: Probably 90 seconds into the fight, they ended up hitting one of our generators, so we lost all power. At that point, I made a call up to (INAUDIBLE), and basically just said, you know, we're taking heavy, heavy contact. At that point, I knew that this was something bigger than normal.

SGT. JAYSON SOUTER, U.S. ARMY: We found out our mortar systems were unable to fire at that time. So, me, I started working on the fire support assets with nearby O.P.s and COPs to see exactly what fire support assets we can use.

SHORDE: I think the numbers were so more significant than 25 to 30 that we -- we got -- they got 25 to 30 with the initial push, but because we were basically surrounded 360 degrees, I think there were significant numbers that allowed them to continue to fight throughout the day.

ROSS LEWALLEN, APACHE PILOT, U.S. ARMY: My initial impressions were, of course, we came over the hill in the first time to call them and we got no response. We thought everybody was gone. We could tell everything around them was going to hell, and we could hear it in their microphones. We could hear the guns going off. So, we knew that it was a -- it was a pretty intense situation that they were facing.

SOUTER: After the aftermath, COP keeping was completely changed, like he said. Almost all of the buildings had burned down. There were trees that were cut down, trying to save other buildings from catching fire, and then just remnants of a mass attack afterwards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Really compelling stuff there.

I want to bring in now our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She is joining us on the phone from Washington.

Barbara, thank you for joining us. There's no doubt, though, that this attack, as you heard from the guys there, was pretty intense.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, Don, it is really just heartbreaking to listen to these kids, 12-hour firefight. It was even hours before they could secure the landing zone to bring in medical helicopters to evacuate the wounded, they tell us. In fact, during those interviews with -- we should point out -- with military reporters, it was the military that had these interviews, one of the soldiers says during the firefight, some soldiers started donating blood to help save the wounded because they couldn't get the Medevac out of there.

LEMON: Hey, Barbara, you know, you're exactly right. Let's -- let's listen to that and I want to you react to that. I want the audience to hear that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SOUTER: I think the best moment that told me, you know, what great unit I was in, what great guys I was working with, was when everyone basically came together and -- in the mix of it all, they were donating blood for the wounded that we had. They all pulled together to make sure, you know, we can pull everybody out of this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: They were committed. So, why do they talk so freely, you think, about this, Barbara?

STARR: Well, you know, this really is the classic case of a "band of brothers" where young, military men in combat fight and die for each other to save each other. This combat outpost was shut down, as you said, over the last few days. They've now come into a more centrally- located area where they're able to sit them down in front of a camera.

I think the military realizes that this was an extraordinary incident of valor, courage, and very grim battle. And it's a story that needed to be told.

It should be pointed out -- some of the insurgents actually breached the wire and got inside the U.S. base, pretty unprecedented.

And so I would just circle back and tell people -- these remote combat outposts are all in the process of being shut down because General McChrystal says he doesn't have enough troops to do the job properly. And a lot of these outposts may be vulnerable as they go through this shutdown period. It really is a matter of urgent concern for the U.S. military.

LEMON: Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara, we appreciate you joining us on a Saturday evening. Thank you.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria takes a closer look at the war in Afghanistan and President Obama's options. He'll do that tomorrow on "GPS," 1:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN: The worldwide leader in news. Right here on CNN.

It sounds like it was a heroic fight at those two U.S. outposts, but eight U.S. soldiers -- well, they didn't live to tell their stories. And tonight we're remembering the fallen: Sergeant Justin Gallegos, Specialist Christopher Griffin, Private 1st Class Kevin Thomson, Specialist Michael Scusa, Staff Sgt. Vernon Martin, Specialist Stephen Mace, Sgt. Joshua Kirk and Sgt. Joshua Hardt.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. We are following the situation in Chicago in "Chicago's Deadly Streets." Chicago teens shot, stabbed or either beaten to death. They are terrible stories of violence that we have told you time after time.

But now, the city and the nation seem to be uniting to break the cycle of kids killing kids. Today, 11 vigils at the scene of 11 unsolved murders, all in hopes of finding new clues about the killers here. The vigils are topping off a week of rallies, community meetings, even a visit from two of President Obama's cabinet members.

So, let's get some perspective on this from Victor Woods. He's the author of "A Breed Apart." He is in Chicago.

And then Lynn Sweet of "Chicago Sun-Times." She is a columnist for PoliticsDaily.com as well. She is in Washington tonight.

So, Lynn, I'll start with you. You know, covering the area for the "Chicago Sun-Times," the attorney general, Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was a CEO of Chicago schools, made a high profile trip there to Chicago last week. Did they get anything done, in your estimation?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, yes, because if nothing else, Duncan dropped off half a million dollars to be used to the -- in the area around the high school where the latest murder took place. It's called Fenger High School on the far south side of the city. So, if nothing else, there's some money there. The other thing that happened is that they are going to try and get some more Justice Department resources to the city, that's what Mayor Daley wants.

And, Don, both Holder and Duncan talked about having a national conversation with parents and students having more after-school programs and Saturday programs -- that remains to be seen, whether or not those get in place very soon.

LEMON: OK. So, Victor, how are people in the community -- how are activists reacting to this visit from the education secretary and the attorney general?

VICTOR WOODS, AUTHOR, "A BREED APART": Well, first of all, Don, I'm delighted to be here. And let me say that, you know, I'm glad that Barack Obama sent a peace envoy here to Chicago with the attorney general and Arne Duncan.

But let's be clear: that the community is upset. You know, they were downtown, in the comfort of downtown. And they had their meeting in city hall, and while they have a meeting in city hall, a fight broke out at Fenger, and shortly after they departed Chicago, a woman was shot three times.

And so, what we don't want to happen -- and I applaud them on giving $500,000 to that community, but what we don't wanted to happen...

LEMON: This is a picture of the woman that you're talking about.

WOODS: ... is that Justice Department...

LEMON: This is a picture of the woman (INAUDIBLE) at the bus stop that you are talking about.

WOODS: Absolutely.

LEMON: So, go ahead.

WOODS: She's a mother -- and she's a mother of three. And what we don't want the Justice Department to do is unleash law enforcement like ninjas and go into a community that's already been terrorized, and then terrorize those young black boys and treat them like al Qaeda members. Let's give the programs that we're trying to put in place an opportunity to work before we just lock people up.

We've done that before in Illinois and it has not worked, and the problem has gotten worse. Let's not treat these young black boys like animals.

LEMON: And...

WOODS: Let's treat them with some care and concern.

LEMON: And, Lynn, and some of -- you know, I've heard some people are saying, you know, the meeting or the trip to Chicago was, like, they went in, went out, and people are concerned about what's going to happen. But the mayor offered to put a lot of money, the new CEO of schools is trying to start this new innovative program with mentoring and what have you. So, at least, it appears they are trying something.

SWEET: Well, they were trying something before. You know, part of this is the optics of the situation. Rahm Emanuel, who is chief of staff of the White House, who's from Chicago.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It was his idea, right?

SWEET: Yes -- to send these two cabinet members out. I put this under the category of it doesn't hurt. And yes, they stayed downtown. They also had a breakfast with religious leaders and community leaders at the Four Seasons Hotel beforehand.

But they did meet with -- I was told by Fenger students and people from the community, just not at Fenger, if nothing else, it might have caused a commotion just to have them go out there. So, I'm willing to very charitable on the point that they physically didn't go to the far south side which logistically would have just taken a lot of time.

LEMON: OK. All right.

SWEET: That's not the point. The point is: what they left that can help the city combat crime.

LEMON: All right. That's going to have to be the last word on it.

Lynn Sweet, Victor Woods...

WOODS: Don...

LEMON: Sorry, Victor, we need to move on. But we'll get you guys back.

We're going to continue to follow this story. You know, we've been following, so this isn't it. We'll see what happens, if they make any progress, we'll report along the way. Thanks to both of you.

A bar brawl turns into a shootout.

(VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. So, the whole thing was caught on tape, as you can see there and some pretty stern language as well.

And by now, you know President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Our Tom Foreman tells us how the prize is awarded and about some people who perhaps should have won it but haven't.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We want to tell you now, we're standing by for President Obama's speech to the human rights campaign. It is the nation's largest gay rights organization. And we're going to bring you the president's remarks live around the top of the hour, as soon as they start. The president has enjoyed strong support from the gay and lesbian communities, but there are signs of growing frustration there with critics saying the president hasn't delivered on some of the biggest promises he made during the campaign.

Let's rejoin our Jessica Yellin now in Washington. She is our national correspondent in Washington. She's paying attention to this dinner and will be helping us out. So Jessica, you heard Steve Hildebrand, who is a former campaign manager saying, you know, this is - he said, I don't know what - where Jessica got that from. This is a priority. Gay rights are a priority to the Obama White House. What do you say to that?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I say I wouldn't dispute what Steve Hildebrand says, I think it's a difference of opinion on what a priority means. So for many gay right activists, the sense is they want it at the very top of his list of his to-do items. In other words, get in the White House, you immediately made an announcement about gitmo. They would have been thrilled if that first announcement had been action I'm going to take action on gay rights or that if he had called for Congress to move forward on don't ask, don't tell.

One of the things that you heard Steve Hildebrand say earlier is Congress is pushing forward with hate crimes legislation to include gays and lesbians, also nondiscrimination stuff in the workplace, those are things Congress has taken the lead on. And one of the gay rights activists that I'm in touch with says to me today, look. We want the president to lead on these issues. We feel like we're getting -

LEMON: Instead of Congress to lead, they want the president, the person they helped put into the White House.

Hey, you know and that and you're talking about the employment non- discrimination act as well. A lot of people are upset that gays and lesbians that that hasn't happened because they feel if you don't have a job and you can be discriminated against losing your job. That's really your main security besides wanting to get married. That's the other main issue really.

YELLIN: Right. That your protection in the workplace is the same way that one is protected on the basis of gender or race or religion and it does look like Congress is likely to pass a non-discrimination in the workplace this session.

LEMON: All right. let's get to some of this. Because I'm looking at some of the reporting that you've been doing and my other colleagues here. Some of the sources are saying, and I think, you know, I'm not sure if you reported this or someone in "The Situation Room" yesterday that a senior White House official said that, shouldn't expect any big announcement tonight, maybe, as you said, the activists would like the president to call on Congress to immediately overturn don't ask, don't tell, and what have you. But we're hearing that there might be some sort of announcement tonight. Is that what you're hearing?

YELLIN: I'm told two things about the speech. One is that there will be some announcement of some sort in the speech. It's not very helpful. I can't give you much guidance about what that is. One thing that activists would like to see the president do, for example, is to extend health benefits to the partners of federal employees. He has the power to do that. So perhaps it could be something along those lines, I just don't know.

I am told that the White House perceives this as a speech that is enormously forceful defense and argument for gay rights in terms that a president has never before used. So they see this a very strong line in the sand that the president is saying this is a top item in my agenda. It will just be a discussion about whether it's high enough up for many of the activists in the room.

LEMON: And it's very interesting, we'll talk about this a little later on. So just sort of put this in your memory banks that we have talked. You know, the president has had to address issues from religion, to race, and now he's heading to gay rights, really unlike any other president has had to do in recent history. So many topics - not as president, even as he was campaigning. So -and this is sort of similar, I would imagine, it's going to be similar to the race speech that the president gave while he was on the campaign trail.

YELLIN: I think that's an excellent assumption. He is exceptionally good in these moments when he has to describe in large, understandable terms, why an issue is important.

LEMON: All right.

YELLIN: And I think this will be a big speech for the president.

LEMON: Jessica, great. You have great information, so I can't wait to see what he has to say, and then we're going to talk about it, Jessica and I are going to break it down, along with, my mouth isn't working today. Some other folks, who do we have Michael Seniorelli, Daniel Choi, and Dan Savage, and then also Hillary Rosen as well. They're going to break it down, and our Jessica Yellin. So thank you. As you know, President Barack Obama arrives at tonight's dinner as a newly-awarded recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The president himself says he didn't expect the honor and most people didn't even know he'd been nominated. He didn't know he'd been nominated as well.

Our Tom Foreman has more on the prize and how the winner gets chosen and some of the other people who could have won.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, let me show you how the Nobel Prize is awarded. The committee is comprised of five people. They're all Norwegians. Right now, there's one man on the committee, four women. The deadline for nominations is February 1st of the awarding year, which means that Barack Obama was considered a nominee in this process 11 days after he was inaugurated and the prize that you get along with the medal is $1.4 million.

The president says he will give that to charity. A fair number of people who win this prize do that. But now, let's take a look at some of the people who have not won the prize that many people think probably should have been considered over the years.

For example, if you will set up a global aid foundation and you raise $46 billion, and you help provide education and AIDS awareness and medicine and food and clean water and all sorts of things to more than 200 million people around the world, way more than that, plus you had been a president who worked on peace in the Balkans, Northern Ireland, and in the Middle East, you might think that you would qualify.

However, Bill Clinton has yet to get a Nobel Prize, even though many people think he should. What if you were a person who was very, very involved in Afghan women's rights, and despite great personal danger you promoted health in that country and education for young women, that even when you were chased out of the country you helped get this kind of help for women who are struggling as refugees out of there, all while facing death threats, because you are standing up to the very, very conservative Taliban government. Well, you might think that you might get a Nobel Prize for that but Dr. Sima Samar has not, even though many people think she should.

What if you spent 20 years in activism for the poor of the world? You spent all of your time to try and promote awareness, get world leaders together to address issues about the things that poor people suffer from, and what if you were one of the biggest givers to charity in the world among these celebrities out there, you might think you get a Nobel Prize for that. But Bono has not, even though many people think he probably should too.

So we'll put all of them aside and look at the very prestigious company that Barack Obama has now gone into. It includes the Dalai Lama. He is one of the recipients of it. It includes Nelson Mandela. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many more. And now Barack Obama joining this very, very prestigious list of people. Don. LEMON: Tom foreman, thank you for that. You know, we're standing by to hear from the president, at the top of the hour here on CNN. Also two people dead after visiting a sweat lodge in Arizona. There is now a criminal investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We want to warn you this video is dramatic and it can be disturbing to some, so just fair warning to you. It is a dramatic shootout. It was caught on tape. And take a look at this unbelievable surveillance video. It started as a bar brawl between several men just before midnight. It was on Thursday in Toledo, Ohio, right? Well then shots rang out and there was a mad rush for the door.

Can you imagine that? You can see one gun wielding man ducking behind the pool table and others join in on that, but amazingly, no one was struck in the barrage of gunfire. Police are now trying to identify the gunmen and figure out exactly what started this in the first place.

Investigators are trying to determine if criminal negligence played a role in the deaths of two people in a Sedona, Arizona, in a sweat lodge there. The sheriff's department is focusing on self-help expert and author James Arthur Ray and his staff. 40-year-old James Shore of Milwaukee and 38-year-old Kirby Brown of West Town, New York died Thursday night after being overcome by heat in the sauna-like temperatures. 19 others were treated in hospitals and one is in critical condition. They all were taking part in the spiritual cleansing ceremony led by Ray.

Well, we all know tsunamis are powerful waves generally caused by earthquakes. But take a look at just how devastating they can be. This is surveillance video and it was released yesterday evening by the FBI from their office in Pago Pago. That was in American Samoa. This happened last month. Of course, so this video just shows you the devastation and how powerful that wave is. Now watch as this huge title wave crashes into the parking lot and tosses vehicles around like they weigh nothing. More than 180 people died in this tsunami. Recovery efforts still under way there.

We go now to the weather here in the United States and standing by is Bonnie Schneider. Bonnie, I understand you might have snow somewhere. We had very warm temperatures yesterday, kind of muggy until well into the evening.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. The southeast is enjoying 80s and 90s, but in Denver, Colorado, the high temperature today got up to 19. The low? 17. That shattered a record. It not only did that, but it delayed game three of the playoffs. Take a look at Coors field. You'll see what I'm talking about. That's right. That's snow on the ground in Denver. The Phillies and the Rockies were supposed to play, but unfortunately, not going to happen. Well, tomorrow. But they'll see better weather tomorrow.

It's so interesting because Denver had highs in the 50s on Friday, and only into the teens today. Right now the temperatures holding stead in the 30s at this hour, but we are also monitoring for some changes. We're also monitoring a big winter storm that's about to break out tomorrow night and into Monday and Tuesday. These are winter weather advisories all the way across from South Dakota to Minnesota and we are going to see some very heavy snow at times with the system but down south, it's just stormy and warm with high temperatures in the 90s this week, Don, so we're really looking at extremes in weather from, you know, the heat in the south to the cold in the north.

LEMON: Oh, boy. And that does it this time of year, doesn't it? And it will do it again when summer comes. It will be cool in someplace and really hot in others. Hey, listen. Guess who is going to be in "Playboy?" You want to take wild guess?

SCHNEIDER: I have no idea.

LEMON: Did you see the prompter there?

SCHNEIDER: No, I can not.

LEMON: OK. Marge Simpson is going to be on the cover. She is going to pose for "Playboy." Yes, check that out. She has an interview and the Centerfold.

OK. This is a little odd.

SCHNEIDER: That is odd.

LEMON: Kind of in the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe, Farrah Fawcett, you know, Hugh (ph) Hefner did started all of this, right? The pictures, I believer, were shot by Homer.

SCHNEIDER: That saved him some money.

LEMON: By the way, it is the November issue. It's out on October 16th. And it is part of the "Simpsons" 20th anniversary. Do you know who is the first animated character to don the cover of "Playboy"?

SCHNEIDER: No.

LEMON: Jessica Rabbit.

SCHNEIDER: Of course. But notice, Marge's hair is perfect, tall and blue.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

LEMON: And now you know. Now, to more serious news. A group of men who believed they are part of a breast cancer cluster have one thing in common, the Marine base, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. We'll have a report from CNN Investigation Unit into this shocking story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: OK. He's a hero. Efren Penaflorida grew up in poverty and saw firsthand how gangs were ruining the lives of thousands of teenagers in the Philippines. Now his company is offering an alternative by training teens to teach children in the slums and help them stay out of gangs. For his work, Efren has been named one of this year's top ten CNN heroes. He joins us now via Skype. Because you know, he knows all of these new technology stuff. that sometimes it doesn't work. He's in the Philippines. There he is. How are you doing today, Efren? Are you excited about this?

EFREN PENAFLORIDA, 2009 TOP TEN CNN HERO: Yes, I'm excited.

LEMON: OK. We're going to fix that and we're going to get back to Efren as soon as we can fix that. I apologize for that.

OK. So we'll fix. So listen, if you want to learn about our heroes, I tell you this. Why don't you go to our website at cnn.com/heroes. And you can vote for the CNN hero who inspires you the most and then we're going to talk to all of our top 10 heroes.

Anderson Cooper is going to host it on Thanksgiving. CNN Heroes. And I want to tell you again. We're going to go to Washington live because the president is about to make a speech in front of the largest gay rights organization in the country, live in Washington. We're going to bring you his remarks in their entirety tonight here on CNN. We'll try to get Efren Penaflorida back, one of our top 10 CNN Heroes when we can get that technology to work. We're back in a moment here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK. I want to tell you before we go to this. I'm on Twitter now, talking about the president's speech. A lot of you are talking about it. So join us there and I'm actually doing it while the president is speaking and during the show now. You know he's going to speak shortly to the human rights campaign. We've been told that he is en route. He is getting very close to being there and as soon as he arrives, right, he's going to talk.

At 10:00 p.m., we'll chat with the blockbuster panel of experts about his address to the nation's largest gay rights group. And we're going to analyze the president's speech and what it means to the gay and lesbian community and beyond, to the larger community as well. That's tonight. 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

So we're going to bring you the president's remarks, live as we said when he speaks and we expect him, again, to arrive very shortly. As a matter of fact, we're getting some information, again, he's on his way. He'll start speaking soon.

So let's go to Jessica in Washington. She's going to be standing by with this. Jessica Yellin, our national correspondent. So Jessica, we had been talking about all these issues when it comes to the gay community and there are some who believe, you know, hang on a little bit. The president hasn't been in office for very long. You're asking a lot of him. We know you supported him and he understands it. What do you make of that? Are you hearing some of that from folks?

YELLIN: Sure, you hear that. You needed to split view. There are many in the LGBT, lesbian gay rights community that feel the president should be prioritizing their issues. It should have been the thing that he took on right away. Some others argue that look, you have to be practical. You have Barney Frank say, right now, this is not the moment to go marching through Washington, lobby your Congress members -

LEMON: But that said though, when you look at the civil rights movement or any movement of that sort. You have to have people who are passionate about it and who put pressure on the powers that (INAUDIBLE) to make things change.

YELLIN: Absolutely. One of the things, I'm told that we're going to hear from the president tonight is a forceful argument for overturning don't ask, don't tell. That in the speech, he will make a strong case for letting gays serve openly and lesbians in the military. Now whether that would be enough to satisfy folks who are critical, we have to hear his language on how he says it.

But that is one of those key issues for so many people and one of the challenges this White House has had, Don, is that when they got into office, some people thought, you know, he could sign an executive order and right then and there let gays and lesbians into the military and they had the lawyers look at it and realize, no it has to go through Congress. It has to be a bill passed by Congress to overturn the original law. So that takes longer. So, you know, leading is challenging and this is one of those areas that he has to plod through the spigot on a big issue.

LEMON: OK. Jessica Yellin, I'm looking at the feds from the room now of the national - the human rights campaign and they're showing a video now. We can't go to the room until the president starts to speak. But it's going to happen very shortly. Jessica Yellin standing by and as we said our blockbuster panel.

And we're going to put some of your thoughts for our panel as well, on twitter, on Facebook, myspace, ireport, send them to us, seriously, and we want to know what you think about this issue. Thanks, Jessica Yellin.

The president speaking on CNN. Speaking to the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C..

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right. Standing by for the president's speech. And that's going to happen any moment now. Let's go back to Washington and our Jessica Yellin. Jessica, looking at some of the things here on twitter. That's before you - let's make sure because we're just going over it.

Some people are saying, you know, you should let gay people into larger society and if you do start letting gay people get married, what happens next? Sort of the similar questions that a lot of people ask about this. Also, I just got a tweet from James Carvell, says he's attending and he's going to be in the room. He may actually tweet us while he's there, Jessica. So the issues that are on the able here and the people who are in the room. They are going to be some heavy hitters and we're not expecting fireworks but you said there's going to be some announcement?

YELLIN: The president, I'm told, will make some kind of an announcement but I'm also warned that it's nothing major that we shouldn't expect big news out of it, which to me means nothing huge on any of the leading issues. He's going to make some sort of very strong argument overturning don't ask, don't tell, and a broad base defense of gay rights, the importance of gas lesbian rights in the community.

So it will be a speech that says in essence, this is on my agenda. This is it's important to me. Many of the people in the room want it to be acted on immediately. And so that's where some of this disconnect comes from. As one person told me, Don, a leading activist in the community, now you have Bill Clinton, a top Republican for gay marriage, and the president of the United States is not for any gay marriage and that, for some, will always be the dividing line and will always be angry with the president if he continues to be opposed to gay marriage.

LEMON: Yes, you know, the timing of this. I mean, it comes one day after he was awarded the, you know, the Nobel peace prize. That says something about. At least, how the people outside of America look at America and what the world thinks about the president's inclusion. So that probably will be part of the theme, Jessica we just have a few seconds left here. Do you think it's going to be a warm reception for the president in the room. I imagine some people are anticipating. Some people may be ready to -

YELLIN: I do. I think, you know, you always have some activist who are going to be outspoken. But this is a community of people who worked very hard to elect the president and want to see him in the office, like him, and I'm he's going to get a warm reception.

LEMON: Clearly, he heard the criticism. He has felt the heat because he is speaking and the last president to do it was president Bill Clinton. So Jessica, thank you. The speech getting underway very shortly here on CNN.

We're going to do this. We're waiting for the president. As soon as he comes in, we're going to bring it to you but, of course, we want to go to my colleague, Soledad O'Brien. She has been working on something that's very important. She's going to take you inside the massacre that left more than 900 people dead. We're talking about "ESCAPE FROM JONESTOWN."