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Afghan Presidential Candidate Withdraws from Runoff; Obama Hits Campaign Trail; Six Bodies Found in Rapist's Home; Iranian-American Student Was Held in Iran Prison; Cornell West Discusses his Latest Book; "CNN Hero" helps disabled Afghan Children
Aired November 1, 2009 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Afghanistan has a new president, but there was no election. We will tell you why.
New details surfacing about a house of horrors in Cleveland, Ohio -- police tell how and where they found the remains of six women.
Election Day 2009. The president out on the campaign trail. Does he help or hurt?
Atlanta hasn't had a white mayor for generations. Things could change very soon. We'll take you inside a very intriguing campaign.
And Maine voters reconsider their approval of gay marriage.
Held prisoner for nearly a month in an Iranian prison -- one young woman tells me just how bad the conditions were for her and others held captive.
Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
We begin with Afghanistan and the man who wanted to be the country's next president. Former foreign minister, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, he was the long remaining challenger to incumbent President Hamid Karzai, but today, he announced his withdrawal from next Saturday's scheduled runoff, saying he's concerned it would be as corrupt as the last election.
Now, here's what he told our Christiane Amanpour about his decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, FMR. AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I (ph) -- I took too many things into consideration. First of all, the electorate process in itself is under a big question after what we went through in the last election. That was the main issue, and apart from that, looking into the situation, security and many challenges which are ahead of us. So, I felt that this was in the best interest of my supporters, the people of Afghanistan, for me, not to participate in the November the 7th elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: And we are getting varied reactions from the Afghan voters on the nation's now one-man presidential runoff. CNN's Sara Sidner has the latest from the streets of Kabul.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The announcement made by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday that he will be withdrawing from the runoff election did not come as a huge surprise to many, but it certainly garnered attention and reaction from the Afghan people, from the international community, and from the Karzai administration.
We went out to the streets, for example, of Kabul today to speak with average citizens, some of them threw up their hands in excitement saying that Dr. Abdullah only left this race because he was not going to win anyway and they were happy and believe that Mr. Karzai is the right person to run the country, but there was a complete different reaction from others who were distraught about all of this and that they believe that Dr. Abdullah was the right man for the job and they're sad that there's only one game in town, so to speak, with it comes to what would be a possible runoff election with only one candidate.
LEMON: Sarah Sidner, thank you very much.
You know, the reaction from Washington right now is somewhat muted as President Obama mulls how this latest development may impact his decision on whether or not to send more U.S. troops there. CNN's Elaine has the very latest -- Elaine?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, despite questions about Afghanistan's runoff election, White House officials are down playing any impact.
Mr. President, any reaction to Abdullah, sir?
(voice-over): As President Obama grapples with the high stakes decision on Afghanistan, his top advisers insist Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal from Afghanistan's runoff election doesn't change the president's approach.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: Every poll that had been taken there suggested that he was likely to be defeated anyway. So, we are going to deal with the government that is there. Obviously, there are issues we need to discuss such as reducing the high level of corruption there. These are issues we'll take up with President Karzai.
QUIJANO: In a statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "It is now a matter for the Afghan authorities to decide on a way ahead that brings this electoral process to a conclusion in line with the Afghan constitution. We will support the next president and the people of Afghanistan."
President Obama is considering whether to fulfill a request by top U.S. Commander General Stanley McChrystal for 40,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan to reinforce the 68,000 already there.
AXELROD: I expect the president will make a decision within weeks. The goal here is not just to make an arithmetic judgment about the number of troops but to make sure we have the right strategy to reach our goal.
QUIJANO: But on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING," House Republican Leader John Boehner warned the president against further delay.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: The longer this decision hangs, the more jeopardy and the more danger our troops on the ground there are in the middle of.
QUIJANO (on camera): The White House is watching the political situation in Afghanistan closely. Sunday morning, President Obama got an update from his national security adviser, retired Marine Corps General Jim Jones. A spokesman says Jones has been in touch with the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan as well as military and State Department officials -- Don?
LEMON: Elaine, thank you very much.
President Barack Obama is on the campaign trail today in New Jersey. He had events in Camden and Newark for Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, who is locked in a neck-and-neck race with Republican challenger Chris Christie. An independent Chris Daggett is the wild card that could tip it either way.
The question on everybody's mind: can the president make a difference two days from the election?
Susan Candiotti is in Newark and she joins us with that. Susan, you know I got to wonder what kind of crowd you are getting there, there's a football game, a couple of football games, a marathon, a lot going on. So, what's the turnout like?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he had a pretty good crowd in Camden. Of course, the president himself joked about that because you have the Eagles playing the Giants not far from where he was speaking and then here, as you mentioned, football game, New York City marathon and the like. So, it's been a pretty busy schedule, but 11,000 people turned out here at the Prudential Center and the place was rocking.
A lot of people are coming out to see President Obama and turnout, of course, is very, very critical here -- the election only two days away, especially critical for the Democrats here because of the incumbent Jon Corzine. He had to claw his way back from a deficit and now as you indicated in a very close race running neck-and-neck with his Republican opponent Chris Christie. And, of course, both of them are also getting a challenge from independent Chris Daggett close behind. If he does well enough, analysts are saying, he could siphon off a lot of votes from Christie.
Now, President Obama's main message here is that: don't blame the state's economic troubles on Jon Corzine. In fact, President Obama said, "Look, this is the hand that we were dealt by the Republicans, but I'm more than happy to try to clean up their mess.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Listening to Jon's opponent, you'd think New Jersey was the only state going through a tough time right now. I have something to report. We have the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. By the way, that didn't start under Jon's watch. That didn't start under my watch. I wasn't -- I wasn't sworn in yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: Don, another thing that they're looking at here is the importance of the star power of President Obama. And while the White House is down playing that, others are saying, no, this is a very critical race to watch, because if Jon Corzine fails here, if he loses, a lot of people are saying, "Lookout, the Democrats could be in big trouble come the midterm elections next year."
LEMON: Yes. We are hearing a lot of that going on around the country. Thank you much for that. Susan Candiotti, we really appreciate your joining us from New Jersey.
CNN's deputy political director Paul Steinhauser was on the trail yesterday in Virginia where there's another governor's race with national implications. And he joins us tonight from Washington.
Paul, will the Democratic base that got Barack Obama elected turn out on Tuesday for these Deeds election?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's the big question mark, Don. And right now, it doesn't seem that way because, as you mentioned, Barack Obama became the first Democrat in 44 years, last year, to win Virginia in a presidential contest. But right now, the Democrat down there who's running for governor this year, if you believe the polls, he's down by double digits. And a lot of these new voters, younger voters, ethnic voters that came out for Barack Obama last year are not that motivated this year. That is one of the interesting story lines down there.
The other one is the Republican candidate, Don, in the race is trying to tie the Democrat to Barack Obama and to the national climate right now in some of these things that are happening in Washington, like health care reform and the exploding budget deficit.
So, it's a state race, Don, and it's about state issues and the candidates down there, but at the same time, there are national implications as well. LEMON: Yes. And a moderate Republican, Paul, who withdrew from New York's, I think, 23rd congressional district there, and he is going to, we hear, endorse the Democrat in this race. So what's up with that?
STEINHAUSER: Yes, that's what we're hearing. A newspaper in Watertown, New York, which is in that district, is reporting tonight that the moderate Republican who dropped out yesterday, Scozzafava, is going to endorse the Democrat.
This is a great story. It's a small district, actually a large- sized district way up in northern New York state, but it's got national implications as well. Why? Because it's kind of like a little taste of this battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. Do you stay conservative or do you try to moderate? Well, the Republicans up there chose a moderate to run, but the conservatives did not like that. They have their own candidate and that candidate got all the backing, the tea party people, Sarah Palin, and because of that the moderate dropped out yesterday. This could play out next year as well when we have more Republican primaries, Don.
LEMON: Let's turn now to talk about a referendum, because gay marriages are legal in Maine, right?
LEMON: And then - I'm just -- just sort of a Prop 8 sort of thing, that ballot is on the measure. I mean, that measure is on the ballot, the referendum is on the ballot. What's going on with that?
STEINHAUSER: Yes, it was about six months ago that Maine's governor signed into law a bill that would allow for legal gay marriage. Now, as you mentioned, the voters are going to get their say on this. And it will be interesting to see if it is a repeat of what we saw last year in California. Similar situation, gay marriage was legal. It was taken away in that Prop 8 vote last year. So, we're really going to keep our eyes on this proposition in Maine, Don.
LEMON: You know, I said this one for you last, I was going to ask you before this but I want to -- I want to get this one because I'm going to spend a little more time on it. Atlanta's mayoral race, it's sort of interesting because I'm here in Atlanta, but Atlanta could have its first white mayor really in generations.
And there is, you know, talk around the country, if you read the newspapers and pay attention to the politicos who are saying that this is -- you know, this is Mary Norwood right here. She is leading in the polls and there is -- you know, the head of the city council here who is an African-American woman who's been in government for a long time, it's actually quite surprising. But some people are saying this is going to be a test to see if the Obama administration might help out in all of these races around the country. And this will be -- this one might be the test for that.
STEINHAUSER: Yes, this is an interesting race. As you mentioned, 35 years since a Caucasian has won in Atlanta. But the current mayor, Shirley Franklin, term limited after two terms in office and as you mentioned, Mary Norwood is leading right now, if you believe the polls down there. So, it could be a big change for Atlanta, but the demographics of the city have changed a little bit over the last two or three decades as well. That maybe play into it as well and she's also very popular and people like the job that she has done.
LEMON: Yes. In the economy, and several very prominent African- Americans have endorsed her, including the daughter of the first mayor, African-American mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson. So, it's very, very interesting.
So, we shall see.
Paul Steinhauser, we appreciate your perspective on this as always.
STEINHAUSER: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: All right.
It is not a huge surprise, but it is still a big deal. Fresh blood hemorrhages -- blood hemorrhages, I should say, from Wall Street with today's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing from Citigroup (ph). It's one of the nation's leading lenders to small and medium-sized businesses. In a statement, the company said it is asking the U.S. bankruptcy court for a quick approval of the pre-packaged plan. It should say CIT group -- the prepackaged plan.
When the remains of six people were found in a home in Cleveland, it brought both pain and relief to the suspect's neighbors. One of them is looking for her missing mother.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
KYANA HUNT, MISSING WOMAN'S DAUGHTER: I want to think that to get some closure to this because it's been over so many months, but I do not know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Also, a student was arrested in Iran on a traffic violation and held captive for a month. She thought she would never be freed. My interview with her is coming up.
And we want your feedback tonight. And that's how you can do it, a social networking site on your screen.
LEMON: The details surfacing from the house of horrors in Ohio. Well, they are stunning. The coroner says some of the murder victims found in and near the home of convicted rapist -- a convicted rapist and may have been dead for years.
Late last week, police began finding the decomposing bodies of six women at the home of 50-year-old Anthony Sowell. Some were in a crawl space, one in a freshly dug grave in the basement, and another in a shallow grave outside of the home. Neighbors were shocked at this gruesome discovery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A sigh of relief. I say this street is now safe again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad he's off the street.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we are just thankful that they got him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, family members of a missing Cleveland woman wait outside Sowell's home for news of her. Emotions are high as they expect the worst, but they are holding out hope that their loved one is still alive.
Reporter Blake Chenault of affiliate WOIO was there for this heart-wrenching story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, WOIO)
BLAKE CHENAULT, WOIO REPORTER (voice-over): Kyana Hunt has not seen her mom Nancy Cobbs in six months.
KYANA HUNT, MISSING WOMAN'S DAUGHTER: I have no words to describe how I feel.
CHENAULT: She thinks there's a chance her mom was one of the two bodies found in this house last night.
HUNT: I want her to come home and then whoever's family that this is, that I am...
CHENAULT: The family is fearful because Nancy Cobbs lived on the next street over. One day late in April, she just never came home. They tell me that was completely unlike her.
The family hasn't heard a word. Now, they worry the convicted rapist Anthony Sowell, who lives here, may have abducted her and killed her.
Kyana Hunt can barely get her mind around the fact that she almost hopes that her mom was one of the victims.
HUNT: I want to think that to get some closure to this because it's been over so many months, but I do not know.
CHENAULT: Kyana Hunt and her family stood outside and stared at the home for most of the morning, watching, wondering and waiting for any news about who exactly it was who was found inside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't know if it is her for sure. But she hasn't been home. It could be a possibility, but we're hoping for the best.
LEMON: That report from Blake Chenault of affiliate WOIO. None of the bodies found in and around Sowell's home have been identified. Police are asking people who are concerned about missing friends or relatives to come forward. Can you imagine?
Water starts rising inside an SUV, a woman and her son trapped. Her harrowing story is next.
Plus, Jacqui Jeras. Hey, Jacqui!
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Don.
We still have some flooding concerns out there, especially across the nation's midsection. We'll show you the latest on the flooding plus tomorrow's forecast p-- coming up.
LEMON: Time now for our top stories. Israeli police are only now revealing last month's arrests of an American immigrant. He is wanted for a decade old murders of two Palestinians, and more recently, two bomb attacks targeting left-wing Israelis. Police say 37-year-old Yaakok Teitel, a married father of four, has confessed to the crimes. Teite's attorney suggests his client maybe mentally unstable.
After 60 hours of searching the southern California coast, rescue teams have given up looking for survivors from Thursday's midair collision between a coast guard plane and a marine helicopter. Nine people were aboard the two aircrafts. This afternoon, the coast guard spokesman explained the decision to call off the search.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. THOMAS FARRIS, U.S. COAST GUARD: We looked at the time that was involved. We looked at the nature of the collision itself. We exhaustedly searched the area where we would have found them if there's anybody who could have survived it. We look at the total water exposure models as far as the time goes, and when he you put all those pieces together, we no longer believe that there's any chance of somebody can still be alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And at the box office, check this out. The late King of Pop, Michael Jackson's "This Is It" movie, the documentary, has taken in $100 million worldwide in just five days. Sony Pictures paid $60 million for the rights to distribute Jackson's behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage shot in the weeks before his death. The film was supposed to have a two-week run, but that has since been extended.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, a mother and son are lucky to be alive today after their SUV was got trapped in floodwaters. A Good Samaritan risked his life and rushed into the water to pull them to safety. Well, the whole thing was caught live on TV because of a reporter from KARK. She just happened to be on the site.
Last night, we talked to the mother and son about their dramatic rescue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA STEWART, RESCUED BY GOOD SAMARITAN: We had just left Wendy's from getting my son something to eat because he was hungry and then we were on our way to the bank. It just so happened that we didn't make it to the bank because we didn't know the water was as deep as it was.
LEMON: Uh-huh. So, you drive up there. Was that a fair assessment of what I said, you get to the water, you realize, wow, this is flooded, I shouldn't go through, and then you stop but your car stalls?
STEWART: Yes. And then I try to put it in reverse, and then it wouldn't go back. It just kept going forward.
EZEKIEL STEWART, RESCUED BY GOOD SAMARITAN: But the water -- but the water was pushing us in.
A. STEWART: It was like the water was floating the truck in.
LEMON: Yes. And you called -- you picked up your cell phone which hasn't gotten wet yet, right?
A. STEWART: No, the water didn't start coming in yet until I start calling 911, it's when I felt my feet getting wet.
LEMON: OK, right. And then...
A. STEWART: And it started coming up in the truck.
LEMON: So, when you see Thomas Hudson at your van or at your car, is it an SUV or is it a van? What is it?
A. STEWART: It's an SUV.
LEMON: SUV. So, when you see him coming, I imagine you go, "Oh, my gosh, thank you but please hurry up."
Thomas, you swam out there, why did -- why did you do? And I know that you help out all the time with rescues, but you just -- you didn't even think, you just jumped in.
THOMAS HUDSON, GOOD SAMARITAN (via telephone): Well, first of all, I want to say, Zeke and Amanda, I'm really glad that you guys are all right. I'm really glad this interview is happening right now, that you are here to do that.
When I -- I had no idea that I was going to be involved in a life or death situation. I thought I was just going to be pulling a vehicle out of the water because at the time that I first backed down, that vehicle was not very deep. I'm really surprised by how fast it went down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, as a local reporter told us, turn around and -- turn around, don't drown. Turn around, don't drown. That's a local reporter said.
But, Jacqui, do we do that here, turn around and don't drown? That's a campaign, isn't it?
JERAS: Yes, that's the campaign from the National Weather Service. And it's great advice. And, you know, you heard that testimonial how quickly that water can rise, you know? So, it throws you off guard so fast. Six inches of water can knock you off your feet. A foot of water can knock a small car and float it, and about two feet of water can move an SUV. So...
LEMON: Once you are in the water -- especially, you know, because usually cars are airtight, like breaking the window is really tough. I mean, you have to have some sort of bearing or something metal or break -- to break that window.
JERAS: Absolutely. So, you want to get out, is the first thing you want to do. If it's stuck, just abandon ship.
JERAS: You know, you are better off that way. Definitely.
You know, the rain -- Arkansas, and the lower Mississippi River Valley has just been incredible, by the way. And we still do have some flood warnings, which are in effect. Look at all this green still across the nation's midsection. Many rivers and creeks are still out of their banks. And it takes a couple days from rainfall for everything to runoff and make their way downstream.
So, a couple of notables, the Sabine River in Texas, still some major flooding ongoing here. The Skunk River in Iowa, the Mississippi River in Missouri. We got the Ouachita River in Arkansas still. And some flash flood warnings just outside of Shreveport and Bossier Parish, the cities of Sligo and Red Chute, both under flash flood warnings because a levee being over top there, and some leakage going on with the sandbags.
So, we're going to continue to follow this story. The good news is, is that the weather is dry in that part of the country today.
Look at how much rain we have had in the month of October. This is the 30-day rainfall total and that white that you see right there, that is some 20-odd inches of rainfall. So that southern part of Arkansas and northern parts of Louisiana.
So, this has been a whole lot of rain. We had a lot of records for the month of October and Shreveport is included in that, 20.35 inches there. El Dorado, Arkansas, nearly 20 inches; about 16 1/2 for you in Little Rock; , 16.56 inches; Vicksburg, Mississippi, just over 13 inches; and just over a foot in St. Louis, Missouri.
So, these are all-time records which have been broken. A couple of other notables. Texarkana -- I guess, I'm getting the quick wrap. We must have breaking news -- Don?
LEMON: I didn't hear, Jacqui, so no, go ahead.
LEMON: I didn't hear breaking news. What are you going to say? Are you done?
JERAS: I just want to mention Texarkana was a good example, that they've had about 67 1/2 inches of rain so far this year. Typically, they would have 30 inches. So, they are double where they should be. It's very wet.
LEMON: That's important to know. I'm glad you got that out. Thank you, Jacqui. Are you watching the game today? You're paying close attention to Brett Favre, huh?
JERAS: Trying to get a few views now and then. Yes.
LEMON: And we're going to talk about that in just a little bit. Stand by, Jacqui Jeras.
LEMON: You know what? She thought that she would never get out of prison, put behind bars inside Iran for a traffic violation. My interview with her is next.
Plus, sensors in the floor, voice commands, all that stuff, infrared lighting -- can you imagine? Nice, huh? We'll take you inside the hotel room of the future.
LEMON: We all remember Iran's election in June that led to massive protests, thousands of arrests and reports of prison abuse. Earlier, I spoke with an Iranian-American student that actually spent time in Tehran's notorious Evan (ph) prison. Esha Momeni was working on her thesis in 2008 when she was jailed for 28 days allegedly for a traffic violation.
LEMON: So, Esha, it must be good to be out of the country. It has been a couple months you have been free. How long have you been back in the United States?
ESHA MOMENI, IRANIAN-AMERICAN: I came back on August 11th.
LEMON: Take us through that. It is October. You are in a car and pulled over. Tell us what happened.
MOMENI: Well, they pulled over and then one guy -- an armed guy jumped in my car sat next to me and then I ran out and sat in the middle of the highway and started screaming.
LEMON: They said you were illegally passing a car or something, but you said it was made up and they wanted to stop you because of the research you were doing as a student on women's rights, is that correct?
MOMENI: That's correct.
LEMON: You spent 28 days there. This is the notorious Evan (ph) prison there?
LEMON: Explain to us the condition in that prison.
MOMENI: I was in solitary confinement. I had long interrogation sessions for 19 -- sometimes from morning all the way to the night. It was a lot of mentally pressures. They threatened my family. They said, you know, if they don't stop talking to the media they would arrest my dad. But, I mean, I was lucky to have dual citizenship, American, so I got a lot of attention.
LEMON: You said you were lucky that you got the attention, but you were still there and you can speak to the idea that there's an idea coming out about Iran that prisoners are being tortured in prison. Did you witness any of that?
MOMENI: No, but now it's different from when I was arrested. Now everything is worse. There are cases of torture, rape, they put -- there are people, like, they just put them in white rooms, everything white for days. No sound, no nothing.
LEMON: I think it is important that the people know this. You said that you were interrogated sometimes for such a long time and that it was so stressful that you would forget basic human functions, like you didn't realize you had to go to the bathroom and wonder why your midsection was numb.
MOMENI: That's correct. I felt pain after like maybe eight, nine hours of interrogation. I felt like, I have pain down here and my legs are number. Then I realize I need to go to the bathroom. I just hadn't realized it because of too much pressure, too much stress.
LEMON: You said even the conditions are probably worse now, you believe. What does this say as we are looking at the elections in Afghanistan coming up? We still hear people, from people in Iran wanting their freedom. People are being tortured they said there. Some people are being killed, the significance of a democracy, living in a democracy for you.
MOMENI: Well, I think that's what we wanted for the past 30 years. We started this fight, not just one night, it's not just the election, we have been fighting from 30 years ago, from actually 100 years ago from democracy, unfortunately, we haven't attained it yet. But people in Iran are off the screens. We don't see them on TV screens, but they are in the street fighting, still fighting. And I want Americans -- as an American, I want Americans to stand in solidarity with Iranians for peace and democracy.
LEMON: What do you say to the people in Afghanistan going to the polls next week for democracy as well?
MOMENI: I think they should go green.
LEMON: For democracy.
MOMENI: For democracy, our symbol.
LEMON: Esha, we appreciate you coming in. Best of luck to you, OK?
MOMENI: Thank you so much.
LEMON: Thank you so much.
MOMENI: Thanks for having me.
LEMON: Well, they had no way to get around until he outfitted them with a set of wheels. Meet an American contractor who came to the aid of disabled Iraqi children. He's one of our top-ten "CNN Heroes."
LEMON: As the anniversary of President Obama's historic election nears, we are focusing on his influence with black men. Is he helping with the issues that continue to plague African-American men in this country, like incarceration, violence, racism, apathy? Who better to talk to than Dr. Cornell West of Princeton University? He has a new book, his 19th, it's called "Brother West, Living and Loving Out Loud, a Memoir."
This week I asked him his thoughts on black men in the age of President Obama and why he decided to write his own story now.
CORNELL WEST, AUTHOR & PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It is true. When I had the bout with cancer, they told me I might not live too long. Brother Tavis (ph) said, it is best to write the story now and he's right. If I can write a story about the power of love and education and touch one person, especially a young person, turn him around.
LEMON: What did this do for you?
WEST: It transformed my life in terms of forced me to deal with dark issues in my own soul and how I had been wrestling with my calling, my vocation, trying to write, teach, lecture, unsettle minds, encourage and empower souls.
LEMON: Who do you mean by that? You're the big-time Princeton guy who has it all going on. We see you on television. You have -- you know, you use these eloquent words. What do you mean dealing with demons?
WEST: A cracked vessel. I'm trying to love my crooked neighbor with my crooked heart and bear witness to justice putting distress on the weak, the poor, working class, be they gay, brothers, sisters, black folk, indigenous peoples, women, physically challenged, all of those folk whose weakness tends to be overlooked by the powerful.
LEMON: Why is that? Why was that your calling? What do you think?
WEST: I think it had everything to do with the West family. Had everything to do with Shiloh Baptist Church, Reverend Willie Pete Cook, my Sunday school teacher.
LEMON: I went to Shiloh Baptist Church, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
WEST: You remember the 25th chapter of Matthew, what you do to the least, the prisoners, the weak, the orphan. That's a deeply prophetic Judaic perception, 1st chapter of Isaiah, keep track of the widow.
LEMON: It is called, "Brother West, Living and Loving Out Loud," as if you were not doing that before. Let's talk about this now. We -- we are discussing this on CNN. "Black Men in the Age of President Obama," do you think that's changing lives, especially the lives of African-American men? To even in the -- the year that the president has been in office?
WEST: I think so. I mean -- I think the symbolic level a magnificent thing to a degree that we have a black man every day on the television, very charismatic and talking about public interests and common good. That's very important because it shatters a lot of stereotypes, often racist stereotypes that do not contribute to the best of we, black brothers. At the same time, though, it makes it difficult, especially for brothers like me, who are still angry, because Brother Barack can't be angry. I'm an angry black man.
LEMON: What are you angry about?
WEST: I have a -- I have a righteous indignation at injustice. I don't care who it is. Whatever human being has been treated unjustly, I have a righteous indignation.
LEMON: In this day and age, we are supposed to be in a post- racial era.
WEST: I know, we are supposed to be very calm and sedate and so forth. I'm not that kind of black man. You see. Barack understands that. He understands division of labor. I'm being facetious on one level. But on another level, on the larger public, they have to recognize, when you talk about the legacy of Martin King or Fannie Lou Haimer (ph), they had a righteous indignation. That legacy must remain alive in the age of Obama even as he must rule for everyone as president of the country.
LEMON: I was being facetious, too, when I said in a post-racial era. Do you really think this is a post-racial era?
WEST: Oh, no, not at all. We have white brothers and sisters who are less racist than their parents and grandparents. That's why they would elect a black man. That's a beautiful thing. That's a magnificent thing. That's progress. At the same time, we have dilapidated housing, disgraceful school systems, depression-like levels of unemployment, underemployment, unavailable health care and child care. That's not just for black people, that's for the poor white brothers, red poor brothers and sisters, brown poor brothers and sisters. That is where the righteous indignation needs to remain.
LEMON: Dr. West's observations highlight our larger discussion next our, what, if anything, has changed for African-American men in the year since the election of Barack Obama. It's at the top of the hour here on CNN.
I want to check our top stories right now. In Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the runoff election against President Hamid Karzai. This guarantees Karzai a second term. Abdullah says the upcoming election would be, in his words, "as fraudulent as the first one." White House aids say the runoff results won't have a major impact on the president's upcoming afghan strategy in that region
Back in the U.S., there's still no telling when the Bay Bridge will reopen. The DOT there hoped it would be sooner than later. The bridge connecting Oakland and San Francisco is closed for emergency repairs. The state DOT says to start planning to take some alternate routes for Monday's rush hour. Take some alternate routes. It will be a crazy rush hour tomorrow in San Francisco tomorrow.
Craven and contemptible, that is what New York City Michael Bloomberg calls the suspected arsonist who set fire to the Memorial Park Chapel on Saturday. It is a temporary site where remains of some 9/11 victims are held. Police have arrested 26-year-old Brian Schroeder charging him with arson and criminal mischief.
When Brad Blauser landed in Iraq as a civilian contractor in 2004, he didn't plan to stay there that long, but his plans changed when he was inspired to help Iraqi disabled children who had no way to get around. For his dedication, Brad was recently named one of the top-ten "CNN Heroes." Brad Blauser is joining us from Baghdad via Skype.
You are fancy over there. It is very exciting for him. I spoke to him just moments ago just to check to see if I can hear him and he said it is all good. BRAD BLAUSER, "CNN HERO" & FORMER CIVILIAN CONTRACTOR IN IRAQ: Thank you. How are you feeling? Are you excited about this? Brad? Can you hear me? I could hear you second ago, can you hear me now? How are you feeling, are you excited about being a hero?
BRAD BLAUSER, "CNN HERO" & FORMER CIVILIAN CONTRACTOR IN IRAQ: I can hear you.
LEMON: All right. So how are you feeling? Are you excited about being a hero?
BLAUSER: I'm really excited about being in the "CNN Heroes" program. It is going to mean so much to what I'm doing over here, helping the children, helping the troops, helping the children and getting them pediatric wheelchairs, which isn't available in Iraq.
LEMON: What is it -- not everyone would do that, you know, would go over to another country and see a need and then come up with a way to help people. What is it about you that makes you want to do something like this?
BLAUSER: Well, it kind of landed in my lap. One of my friends asked me to help him find wheelchairs and we did, and by having the combination of the troops being involved and helping children, the good will coming from back in states, really, from all over the world, the opportunity to reach into the life of an Iraqi family and help their children just by donating some money to sponsor a pediatric wheelchair for them was a very unique opportunity for the people back home. So I'm in a very unique situation I'm happy to facilitate that donation and help these children get gifts they wouldn't otherwise receive.
LEMON: Brad, we hear occupying Iraq, Iraqis don't want Americans there, what is the reception like for you from the families?
BLAUSER: I'm sorry?
LEMON: How did the families receive you, what did they say to you as an American? Even though you are helping Iraqi children, is it a good reception?
BLAUSER: Well, there are always -- whenever they show up for a distribution, they are excited to be there, excited to have the opportunity to receive one of these wheelchairs. UNICEF says there's 150,000 children in Iraq that need one of these wheelchairs and Mercy Corps says up to 1.5 million. We have brought in just under -- just over 700 wheelchairs, about 720, and given them away so far. That's a great offer to the people of Iraq, but it is really barely even scratching the surface. At the distributions, the families are very excited. They know they are the lucky ones getting the wheelchairs. One of the great things about this is families of all different faiths, Sunni, Kurdish and Christians are showing up to the get the wheelchairs. And they realize when they got there, they have something very much in common, they are not just different sects in society, but they are families with disabled children.
LEMON: Brad Blauser, you are a very special guy. Best of luck to you. See you here stateside very soon.
BLAUSER: Thank you, Don. Great to see you.
LEMON: Thank you very much.
You can go to CNN.com/heroes right now to vote for the "CNN Hero" who you think should be the hero of the year. They will all be honored. A tribute hosted by Anderson Cooper on Thanksgiving night right here on CNN.
They say you can't go home again, but Brett Favre is proving them wrong. We'll show you how the former Green Bay quarterback is doing in his first return to Lambeau Field.
LEMON: The big money, big market, world series heads into game four tonight and Brett Favre is making one of the most talked about homecomings in sports history. Who better to talk about it all than -- there's Rick Horrow from West Palm Beach, Florida.
And I know it's Lambeau, but I'm kind of saying that, too, because you know I was in Chicago, and there's not -- there's a little bit of a rivalry there. We say Favre and Lambeau.
RICK HORROW, SPORTS: Yeah, but don't deliberately, don't mash the pronunciation by saying it's deliberate.
LEMON: We know its Lambeau. But it's awesome. It's great for me, the only reason I really care is because he's making us old guys look good.
HORROW: Making us old guys look very good, by the way. And the score is 31-26 now.
LEMON: 31-26, Minnesota.
HORROW: And there's 10 minutes left in the fourth quarters. So his heroics may not be over even though the boos when he got to Lambeau field today were more than you could have ever heard. This guy has led jersey sales now in three straight teams. It is amazing. It is making us all feel younger.
LEMON: The ratings, right, how do you think the ratings are going to be, because he is always -- whenever he plays, aren't their ratings really good?
HORROW: Ratings were astronomical for game one, the biggest cable watched game in ESPN history. The biggest night game, number, biggest this, biggest that. The bottom line is they stirred up a little bit of interest in Green Bay. The mayor, on the web site, challenged some of the viewers to welcome Brett Favre back. What were the suggestions? We'll have the person that played Judas sing the national anthem. Do the world's largest waffle in the shape of a number four.
LEMON: Was it called gives us ways to greet Favre campaign or something?
HORROW: Give us ways to greet Farve.com, something like that. So those were two of them. The third one was, fly the band back from the town that Benedict Arnold was born in.
The fourth one was wear flip-flops. Now the game started -- Jacqui can testify this -- in 48 degree weather. I don't think flip- flops would have worked. But there sure has been some excitement in Green Bay, Wisconsin, today.
LEMON: I knew got people like Jacqui upset when I said Lambeau, because I hear her going, he said Lambeau. And I wait for the reaction. I got it.
Jacqui, you said you were born a cheese head, and then what happened?
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I was. I was never into football until I got a little older so, I moved to Minnesota, and all of a sudden I liked football.
JERAS: Yes. I am a Vikings fan. It's bittersweet for me.
HORROW: Wait. You said off camera that Brett Favre hasn't brought you all the way back. Come Super Bowl time, if the Vikings win the super bowl, you are on that bandwagon like everybody else, I'm pretty darn sure.
JERAS: Then I will. It's hard to have him as part of our team, but Adrian Peterson is doing awesome on his own. He was last year as well. He will redeem himself in my eyes if -- yeah, not just to the big Super Bowl, but it has to be the big W.
LEMON: I think Jacqui, I don't know if she miser her calling because she's a great meteorologist, but I think you should be a like meteorologist/sportscaster.
JERAS: I know. How great to go out a hero, you know, after 16 years with Green Bay, a great year for them, you want to -- it's hard not to go with that.
HORROW: Bottom line, guys, he has eight minutes to hold the lead. Everybody start focusing on that one.
LEMON: Hold your breath and hold that thought, guys, because I want to get on. This is important because of the World Series, game four tonight. The fans are really paying a pretty penny to be there right now, right?
HORROW: Yeah. Well, here's the official Yankee stadium inaugural baseball. It happens if they go back. This is available for sale. Anybody who wants it. In all seriousness, tickets are going $500 to $1,000. Even $5,000 in Philadelphia. This is a major event for them. Can they win two series in a row? Remember, the Yankees have a $1.5 billion stadium. They're making $500 million in revenue this year. They can afford to sign those big guys, so the rich get richer, and they can markup those tickets.
LEMON: OK. Thank you, Rick.
Thank you, Jacqui.
The score hasn't changed, has it, guys?
HORROW: Good call. See you next week. Bye.
LEMON: Jacqui, don't beat me up after the show.
LEMON: An Olympics update for you, countdown to 2012. Oh, isn't that nice? The tower is lit, and London is on a fast track. It is 1,000 days until the games begin in London. The city won their bid back in 2005.
You know, it looks like a scene out of the Jetsons, but this could be coming to a hotel room near you in a not so distant future.
LEMON: You probably think a lot of hotels have a lot of creature comforts. Wait a few years for the hotel of the future. Jim Bolden is checking in to rooms that combine luxury and science for a whole new travel experience.
(EDGE OF DISCOVERY)
LEMON: Beautiful. Love to have that in my home, wouldn't you?
I'm Don Lemon. The CNN special edition, special report, "Black Men in the Age of President Obama," it begins right now.