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Senate Debates Health Care Reform; Obama's Approval Ratings Fall; Baby Born at 30,000 feet; Kasim Reed Named Winner as Atlanta Mayor
Aired December 5, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Health care reform forcing senators to work the weekend and they're pressuring the president to join them. Will Mr. Obama show up?
What caused a fire at an Ohio racetrack? Two people are dead and so are dozens of expensive horses.
Special delivery 30,000 feet up. An emergency appeal from the pilot, passengers and crew jump in. It a boy or girl? More importantly, did mom and baby make it?
And Santa Claus is coming to town, this time by boat instead of sleigh. Regardless, an update on Santa sightings from our iReporters tonight. Good evening everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.
It is a sure sign that something big is brewing in Washington. Senators are hard at work on a Saturday and there's word that the president himself is headed to Capitol Hill to make a personal appearance to rally his fellow Democrats on his signature issue on health care reform. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is handling this for us. We'll get to Dana in just a little bit.
In the meantime, we want to move on and talk about the health care debate because coming up in about seven minutes, we're going to be talking with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow who supports a public option about what she hopes will happen with tomorrow's session.
The health care debate looks like it's starting to wear on some of the senators. Republican John McCain today criticized meetings between the Obama administration and health care industry groups that took place while Democrats crafted their health care bill. Democratic Senator Max Baucus took issue with McCain's remarks in the normally collegial Senate floor turned very tense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R) ARIZONA: They're not too interested in seeing their --
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D) MONTANA: The senator will yield the time being equally allocated to both sides on this colloquy. Mr. President, will the senator --
MCCAIN: I don't know what the deal was. BAUCUS: I can tell the senator.
MCCAIN: We'll find out --
BAUCUS: I can tell the senator the deal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senator from Arizona has the floor.
MCCAIN: I don't know what the deal was, but we'll find out what the deal was just like the deals were cut with all these other organizations which is full of lobbyists. I can't walk through the hallway here without bumping into one of their lobbyists.
BAUCUS: Does the senator want to hear the deal?
MCCAIN: The senator keeps interrupting. He is violating the rules of the Senate. I thought he would have learned them by now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: One deal often criticized by Republicans, a June cost- cutting agreement between the Obama administration and pharmaceutical companies. That agreement has been incorporated into the overall Senate bill.
The first wave of additional U.S. troops will ship out this month for Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the order yesterday. It means about 1,000 Marines will deploy in the coming weeks. They will be the vanguard of 30,000 extra troops that President Obama is sending to Afghanistan. The Army says its first contingent of soldiers won't ship out until March at the earliest.
Emotions ran high today in New York City at a rally to protest the upcoming trial of five 9/11 suspects in the city. Those suspects are currently held at the U.S. Military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Obama administration has said it would bring them to Federal court near ground zero to stand trial. Our Susan Candiotti was at a rally and she spoke to one protester about why she opposes bringing the terror suspects to New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What is one of your main objections?
NANCY LAGRANDE, PROTESTER: One of my main objections is that the terrorists will be granted constitutional rights. They're not American citizens and are not entitled to the rights of American citizens.
CANDIOTTI: And what do you think will happen if the trial is held here? Do you fear for your safety as an example? Some people have raised that question.
LAGRANDE: Yes, I think that that's certainly something to consider. I think that the NYPD and the FDNY are wonderful. I mean here we were today gathered by the thousands once again and in a vulnerable position with a controversial cause and yet we were perfectly safe. Why? Because we have the FDNY and the NYPD protecting us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Among those speaking at today's rally was actor Brian Dennehy, a former Marine who said a trial in New York would give the terrorists a public forum they don't deserve. No timetable has been set for the trial.
Guilty. That is the verdict for which Amanda Knox and her family prepared themselves while hoping for a different outcome. An Italian court found the Seattle college student guilty of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher. The court also sentenced Knox's former Italian boyfriend Rafael Sausolito (ph) (INAUDIBLE) I should say to 25 years. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of life in prison. Italy does not have the death penalty. Knox's mother spoke to reporters after leaving the prison where her daughter will serve her time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDA MELLAS, MOTHER OF AMANDA KNOX: Amanda, like the rest of us, is extremely disappointed, upset about the decision. We're all in shock. We're all heartened by the support (INAUDIBLE), many Italians, people from all over the world have been sending us messages of support all through the night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And Meredith Kercher's brother expressed his family's thoughts on the verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYLE KERCHER, BROTHER OF MEREDITAH KERCHER: We're very satisfied with the prosecution of her case they worked very hard for. It has reached a climax, as it were, if it's not the ultimate climax for now because, of course, I'm sure there will be some ongoing appeals and so on which, you know, I'm sure will be discussed later. But ultimately, you know, we are pleased with the decision, pleased that we've got a decision, but it's not a time -- you know, it's not a time of celebration at the end of the day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Two families, two very different reactions to the Amanda Knox verdict. CNN's Paula Newton is in Perusa (ph) with that perspective. Paula.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The real contrast is the suffering of two families today, the Amanda Knox family saying they will continue to fight on. Amanda Knox herself is staying strong but has had quite a day and has been really inconsolable during certain parts of the day. But the family of Meredith Kercher, again, what a contrast. Them really have been keeping quite a dignified distance so far, but today told us that they were satisfied with the verdict.
What will happen now though is an appeals phase in which all those controversies that we heard about during this trial will be able to get through. And it's this whole concept of reasonable doubt that the appeal will begin to really peel back the layers of a lot of that forensic work, a lot of the controversy surrounding how the police investigators interrogated Amanda Knox. All those little points they will begin to look into, but this appeals process will take a long time. You won't even have an initial hearing for several months and the key thing is they have to wait for the motivations, the reason why Amanda Knox (INAUDIBLE) why they were convicted. That expected within the next 60 days. Paula Newton, CNN, Perusa, Italy.
LEMON: All right, Paula, thank you very much. A packed Russian nightclub erupts into flames. More than 100 people are killed and a criminal investigation is now under way. Investigators are picking through the burned out Lame Horse Club. It's (INAUDIBLE) , Lame Horse Club, a night spot in the industrial city of Perm that was celebrating its eighth anniversary yesterday. As many as 109 people are believed to be dead and 130 more are injured. Police say the blaze started when a performance artist juggling cold flame pyrotechnics caught the ceiling on fire. The club owner, manager, and several others have been detained by police.
Small businesses on the front lines of the economic crisis. Still ahead, a look at what it will take to get them back in black.
And tragedy at an Ohio racetrack. A fire rips right through a stable killing two people and 43 horses. And as always, we want you to join our conversation. You can do that by twitter, Facebook, MySpace or i-Report.com. Your comments will get on the air.
LEMON: As we told you at the top of this broadcast, senators are hard at work on a Saturday and there's word that the president himself is headed to Capitol Hill to make a personal appearance to rally his fellow Democrats on his signature issue I should say on health care reform. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has the latest on today's debate and what lies ahead. Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, the Democratic leader opened this Saturday session by saying that people out in the country can't take the weekend off from their health care troubles and that's why the Senate will work all weekend debating health care reform legislation. Now, what they're debating on the Senate floor are issues really revolving Medicare and the fact that the Democratic bill has nearly $500 billion in what Republicans call cuts, what Democrats call savings.
And what this particular debate was about was about home health care and the idea that this bill would cut $42 billion over 10 years in agencies that help people who are on Medicare with home health care. There was a vote that Republicans lost to try to put that money back in. That put Democrats in a pretty tough position by basically voting against restoring money for this very, very important issue and program for so many people who are on Medicare around the country.
But while that was going on on the Senate floor, the real reason frankly why the senators were in session were to keep them in here and in meetings in private, behind closed doors and the big issue that they are debating is Democrat on Democrat and the whole question of whether or not there will be a public option, a government-run health insurance option in this bill. There currently is. It exists in the current bill, but there are a number of moderate or pretty conservative Democrats who say they won't vote for this and it would put this bill in jeopardy if the public option remains in.
So behind the scenes there were meetings all day long of the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Democrats trying to see if they could come up with a compromise on this very contentious issue that threatens the president's top priority. Several senators say that they made some progress towards a potential compromise, but they are not there and that is why on Sunday the president himself will come and speak to Senate Democrats and try to rally them, try to find some kind of bridge for the divide on this very big difference, a philosophical difference on whether there should be a government-run health insurance option in this Democratic bill. Don?
LEMON: All right, Dana, thank you very much. Let's talk more now about the health care debate. I'm joined now by Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Thank you for joining us. I know it's a very busy time for you. Does it help that the president is possibly or probably going to show up tomorrow to rally the Democrats?
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D) MICHIGAN: Well, Don, I think it's always terrific when the president comes and talks to the caucus and I think it's important that we all stay focused right now on what we're really trying to do and not have all the misinformation that's going on by those who frankly profit out of keeping the system the way it is right now. The president can help us keep focused. We talked about Medicare. This is not about cutting any benefits. AARP and all the major senior groups in the country wouldn't be supporting this if we were cutting benefits. What we are cutting, the overpayments for profit insurance companies.
LEMON: Let's stick to Ms. Stabenow to this issue of the president coming to Capitol Hill tomorrow because it has been said by some Democratic leaders that the president needs to get more involved in the intra-wranglings or negotiations with health care, especially when it comes to the public option because the way it is now, it is dying. Talk to me more about that. What are Democrats saying about that? What's the inside thought on that?
STABENOW: Well, Don, the White House has been very involved all along. I know there's always speculation about the role of the president, but the White House has been working with us on a daily basis and right now, as Dana was reporting, we are in negotiations with members of our caucus. The key question is how do we bring competition to bring costs down, prices down for families with private insurance companies? And I believe a public option is an important way to do that, but there are other ways to do that. Our goal overall is to make sure that we hold insurance companies accountable and we do that in a number of ways in the bill, but we're looking for other ways in which to do that.
LEMON: How far along for those of us -- the people who are not politicos, how far along are we on this health care debate in the Senate to getting a bill to the president, if at all? Are you guys close? Is it something that the president -- are you that far apart that the president needs to show up there tomorrow to talk to folks?
STABENOW: I think we're close. I think we are very close and frankly, when you think about it, our country has been debating this and talking about it for 100 years. This is the closest we have ever gotten a bill actually passing the House of Representatives and a president who will sign it and now we're in the very final stages in the Senate. So this is pretty historic and frankly, we're mainly talking about helping small businesses and individuals that don't have insurance through their employer to be able to group together, to be able to get a better price, get tax cuts to help them pay for health insurance as well as shoring up Medicare for the future.
LEMON: Senator --
STABENOW: When you get through all the debate, I think people are going to look at this and go, you know, this really makes sense.
LEMON: You're there, you have been working on this . What does the president need to do tomorrow and really beyond tomorrow? What do you expect to hear from him tomorrow and then beyond that, what does he need to do to help this go through, this legislation?
STABENOW: Well, they need to continue doing what they're doing, which is talking with us, meeting with us every day and I think the president needs to really focus on what I just said in terms of the fact that this is a historic time. We have too many people losing their jobs, then losing their insurance, too many families that can't get insurance because of a pre-existing condition, small businesses can't find insurance they can afford. The president really needs to focus on what is really going on and what's at stake. Doing nothing, Don, is not an option. The next 10 years business costs are going to double and we're going to lose another 3.5 million jobs. I know in my state that is absolutely unacceptable.
LEMON: This is going to be my last question to you because I have been away for a little bit. I came back after Thanksgiving but I didn't get a chance to talk to any of the senators, any of the law makers. When you were at home during the Thanksgiving holiday, did you hear from constituents and your neighbors and friends and if you did, what were they saying to you about this and especially the public option?
STABENOW: Well, there's really differing opinions. Lots of questions, frankly, because there has been so much misinformation, but overall I hear from people that want us to stop business as usual from insurance companies and a lot of people feel that a public option is an important way to bring competition, to bring prices down, but I also hear an awful lot from people who paid all their life into the insurance and then somebody gets sick, they get dropped on a technicality because the for-profit insurance company doesn't want to pay or a pre-existing conditions or just recently working with a 12- year-old boy who couldn't get the prosthetic arm that he needed in Michigan because of a cap on the number of times he could get help even though his arm is growing. His body is growing. He's growing up and he needs to be able to continue to get that.
LEMON: So they don't -- people at home --
STABENOW: I hear this all the time.
LEMON: They want to see change and they want to see it pretty soon I would imagine.
STABENOW: You're absolutely right.
LEMON: Thank you so much, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Appreciate it. Come back and let us know if you do talk to the president tomorrow. We'd appreciate some insight on what he had to say, OK?
LEMON: Thank you.
President Barack Obama has set his sights on growing jobs and the economy, the U.S. economy, as well as health care. The president said today in his weekly radio address that the country is emerging from an economic storm and that's a quote, an economic storm and he's working to put people back on the payroll. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the coming days I will be unveiling additional ideas aimed at accelerating job growth and hiring as we emerge from this economic storm. And so that we don't face another crisis like this again, I am determined to meet our responsibility to do what we know will strengthen our economy in the long run. That's why I'm not going to let up in my efforts to reform our health care system, to give our children the best education in the world, to promote the jobs of tomorrow and energy independence by investing in a clean energy economy and to deal with the mounting Federal debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The latest job figures are more positive. November had the biggest monthly decline in unemployment in three years, but the rate is still at 10 percent.
Small businesses are shedding employees like water, some even shuttering their doors due to the recession and ensuing credit crunch. Our Kate Bolduan talked with some small business owners who say what they really need from the president and Congress is cash.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Denise D'Amour opened Capitol Hill bikes in 2000.
DENISE D'AMOUR, OWNER, CAPITOL HILL BIKES: Our first expansion was really to open up that back room where we had a lot of our accessories, pumps, helmets.
BOLDUAN: You just outgrew your space.
D'AMOUR: We outgrew the space.
BOLDUAN: When economic times were good, D'Amour needed to expand to make room for the booming business, a small business owner's dream.
D'AMOUR: Then came the perfect storm of the recession, the lack of cash. We couldn't support this real estate anymore.
BOLDUAN: D'Amour cut payroll from 20 to eight employees. She even tapped into her retirement fund to keep the business afloat, but frozen credit and limited access to cash is forcing Capitol Hill bikes to close its doors. Small businesses across the country are facing the very same painful decisions. ADP, a payroll processor, estimates companies with fewer than 50 employees cut another 68,000 workers last month. It's something President Obama is trying to show he's tackling head-on, hosting a jobs forum Thursday and promising new ideas to kick start hiring once again.
OBAMA: We are constantly looking for more ways that we can push the banks and the credit markets to get money into the hands of small and medium-sized businesses.
BOLDUAN: $730 million of stimulus money went to the Small Business Administration to unlock lending markets. But small business owners on the front lines say they need more help.
RYAN FOCHLER, OWNER, DOG PAW'N (ph) CAT CLAWS: The lack of capital has just completely stunted our growth and has prevented us from even hiring even more people than what we, you know, currently have.
BOLDUAN: Until that happens, Ryan Fochler says for his pet daycare and grooming company, the credit crunch is like working with his hands tied behind his back. Back at Capitol Hill bikes, Denise D'Amour is proof that doesn't work for long and she hopes Washington is listening. What would you say to them about your situation and what you need?
D'AMOUR: We need ready access, easy access to cash to support some cash flow through the hard times.
LEMON: There you see our Kate Bolduan. She joins us now from Washington. Kate, small businesses that making it clear, you can see it, that they need help. So Congress, the White House, what are the plans to do something about that?
BOLDUAN: Hi there, Don. Democrats on Capitol Hill are already considering a jobs package of sorts to include more direct lending to small businesses like the ones that we spoke to and that would be among other members -- other measures to spur job creation and President Obama is expected to lay out his specific ideas for creating more jobs in a speech scheduled for Tuesday.
LEMON: Kate, thank you very much for that.
Still ahead here on CNN, a special delivery at 30,000 feet.
And snow in the south this early. A look at who got it and where the snow goes next.
LEMON: A horrible fire early this morning at a fairgrounds near Cincinnati. A barn filled with harness racing horses was destroyed in the pre-dawn blaze. At least 43 horses were killed along with two men. It's not clear who the men were or why they were in the barn. The wooden building held 80 stalls and was the size of a football field. Dry hay and wood, well, they can make barns instant fire traps. By the time firefighters arrived around 4:30, it was already too late.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. KRISA WYATT, LEBANON FIRE DEPT: Our first engine arrived to find barn number 16 fully involved in fire. The roof had already collapsed into the building.
SHANE CARTMILL, OHIO STATE FIRE MARSHAL'S OFFICE: We have no idea who this individual could be. Of course, we have some circumstantial things, people that may have been there last night, but, of course, that changes daily.
UNIDENTIFIED FIRE FIGHTER: The other thing that will complicate looking for victims and animals as well is because the similar structure, bone structures of the animals to the humans. So we want to make sure that we're very thorough, methodic and take our time. It's not something that we're going to rush through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Today's racing schedule was canceled because of the tragedy.
We turn now to the weather. Severe weather, some people loving it. Look at that. Snow, snow early in December. Not a big deal in some places, but check this out, in Houston? It's a little strange, that area got several inches yesterday. The earliest snowfall on record there in the past 15 years. It's only snowed there four times. That storm is now moving east, parts of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, also getting in an early taste of winter. We've got this emergency phone call last night, Karen Maginnis, from my mom saying in Louisiana it's snowing, it's snowing. I said take a picture. She goes, it doesn't show up. I said that's not real snow then, mom.
LEMON: I don't mind snow here. When it doesn't stick and it's fun, but after a couple days, you're sick of it.
KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You like it when it's novelty snowfall, not the real thing.
LEMON: Unless you're skiing on it and it's fresh powder. You talked a lot about out West. Have you started your -- are you tweaking the radar for Santa yet?
MAGINNIS: Haven't done that yet.
LEMON: Look here, Santa is arriving by ferryboat instead of sleigh. Can you believe that? Karen, this is a tradition. It's in -- I think it's in Coronado, California. Every year, Santa arrives via the San Diego ferry to kick off the season. The city brings in the snow for the children to play with. It's never snowed there. A little water cooler talk or an umm moment, Coronado is a cute little village that celebrates Christmas. The "Wizard of Oz" books were written there. It's that kind of town. That's according to the iReporter, Chris Morrow, who is a great iReporter out west and she sends that from San Diego. The kids were singing there for a minute "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" so I thought we should put that on.
MAGINNIS: It's very cute.
LEMON: Start tweaking that Santa radar. It's getting close. What do we have, three weeks now?
MAGINNIS: I think so, but just like seven more shopping days to my birthday.
LEMON: OK. Good, I will remember that. Thank you, Karen. See new a bit here on CNN.
President Obama's approval rating continues to fall. A look at what may be the culprit.
And later, a baby born on board a Southwest flight at 30,000 feet. The amazing story straight ahead. How is mom doing and baby? We'll let you know.
LEMON: Want to check your top stories. Senators are pulling a rare weekend shift in Washington, debating health care reform. President Obama is heading to Capitol Hill tomorrow in an attempt to rally some wavering Democrats. The bill is projected to cost almost $1 trillion over the next ten years. Harry Reid has said he hopes to get it passed by Christmas.
An Italian court has found Seattle college student, Amanda Knox, guilty of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Knox was sentenced to 26 years and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, to 25 years. Prosecutors had asked for life in prison. Italy does not have the death penalty.
About 1,000 Marines will ship out this month for Afghanistan. They will be the first wave of about 30,000 additional U.S. forces President Obama has called up to fight the Taliban and try to win over the Afghan people. NATO has pledged another 7,000 troops as well. At full strength, there will be about 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and about 50,000 NATO forces.
President Obama's approval rating has taken a hit in recent weeks, falling below 50 percent for the first time in our new CNN/Opinion Research poll. It's apparently not the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are bringing down the numbers, but the fact that many folks are looking for a job.
Our Candy Crowley has the numbers for you.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trouble on the home front is eating into his political capital, but the president's hard sell on Afghanistan did the job.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda.
CROWLEY: The latest CNN poll found that a majority of Americans still oppose the war in Afghanistan, but 62 percent favor the president's plan to send 30,000 more troops there. 36 percent are opposed.
In the good news/bad news category for the president...
OBAMA: These additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.
CROWLEY: Two-thirds of Americans favor the president's exit plan, but 59 percent think it was a bad idea to announce it.
Despite his success in gathering public reinforcement for more troops in Afghanistan, the president's overall approval rating has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in a CNN poll. The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll numbers show 48 percent of Americans approve of the way he's handling his job. That is a seven- point drop in less than three weeks.
Partially fueling this decent is this, just 36 percent of whites who never attended college approve of the way the president is handling his job, an 18-point drop from Americans most likely to work in mining, construction, and manufacturing, the three hardest hit areas of the recession.
With his numbers so far in the positives in Afghanistan policy, it's clear what's dragging down the president, jobs, jobs, jobs. It is not a wonder he was in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Friday.
OBAMA: Americans who have been desperately looking for work for months, some of them maybe for a year or longer, they can't wait, and we won't wait. We need to do everything we can right now to get our businesses hiring again.
CROWLEY: The president is promising to send new jobs initiatives to Congress next week.
(on camera): Beyond the obvious urgency of getting jobs to desperate people, there's political urgency, too. The president can afford to take a hit over high unemployment right now, but congressional Democrats can't. A third of U.S. Senate seats and all of the House seats are up for re-election in 2010. And a 10 percent unemployment rate in the new year is no place to start.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
LEMON: All right, Candy, thank you very much for that.
An unexpected diversion for a Southwest Airlines flight and it's all because of a baby. The flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City and Boise had to be diverted to Denver when a passenger went into labor. A crew was ready on the ground for the plane's arrival, but too late. With the help of a doctor and two nurses and the flight crew, the woman gave birth before the plane landed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JOHN SARAN, HELPED DELIVER BABY ON PLANE: I pulled the shoestrings out of my shoes, so that baby is walking around with one of my shoestrings on its umbilical cord.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mom and baby are doing just fine. We'll try to find out the name and sex of the baby. We'll figure it out for you.
A recount request is expected, but officials have just certified Kasim Reed -- there he is -- a winner of this week's election for mayor of Atlanta. Officially right now, at least, according to the elections board, he's the mayor of Atlanta, but someone else wants a recount. We'll talk live to him coming up in the 7:00 p.m. eastern hour of the CNN "NEWSROOM."
And out of the Army and into the job market. We'll talk about the challenges veterans face when they come home to look for jobs.
LEMON: OK. So this has been a very interesting election to watch. Pay attention because I want to you learn something from this. Atlanta was the first major southern city to elect a black mayor back in 1973, and since then blacks have continuously held the mayor's office. But with the white population in Atlanta growing, this was seen as a year when that might change, could have changed.
Tuesday's mayoral runoff between former state Senator Kasim Reed and city councilwoman, Mary Norwood, was extremely close, only 700 votes separating the two out of more than 84,000 votes that were cast. Norwood has requested a recount, but it appears that Reed will continue the tradition established in the '70s and become the new mayor here.
He joins us right now in the CNN "NEWSROOM."
Good to see you Mr. Mayor-elect.
KASAM REED, MAYOR-ELECT, ATLANTA, GEORGIA: I'm glad to be here. Thank you so much.
LEMON: I spent some time with you and Mary Norwood before the election. We were watching it very closely here in Atlanta. The headlines were, "Atlanta to elect its first white mayor in generations," and Mary Norwood was way ahead. What happened?
REED: I think it was the work. I think we had a message that was focused on creating jobs for the citizens of Atlanta and keeping Atlanta safe. We never stopped talking about that. I went to more than 4,000 doors. I was seeing somewhere between 500, 600 people every single day. And I think that the more that voters got to know me, the better we did. And I always had confidence in the citizens of Atlanta. and I still have that confidence today.
LEMON: I want to get my facts straight here, Mayor-elect Reed. It says Norwood finished ten points ahead in the first vote on November 2nd.
REED: She did.
LEMON: You closed the gap, you say, by knocking on, you said, over 4,000 doors.
REED: That's correct.
LEMON: When you talked about it, and also Mary Norwood, it was a lackluster showing for the general election on November 2nd, right?
LEMON: You had to do an old-fashioned get out the vote campaign. What gives?
REED: What gives was door to door. Wherever people were, we went. We went to shopping malls, to the train station. We went to bus stations, and bus stops. We went to senior high-rises. It was very old fashioned. We also merged that with new technology such as MySpace and all of the rest.
LEMON: So you're trying to deal with the presidential contenders...
REED: We did. We did Facebook, MySpace, merged with an old- fashioned campaign.
LEMON: So what do you say? How much did the current mayor help in an interview just days before the election? She said...
REED: Election Day, actually.
LEMON: Was that Election Day?
LEMON: Yes. She said I'm going to vote for Kasim Reed. I said, OK, have you said this? She said no. How much did she help? And Andrew Young, the former mayor, the ambassador, how much did he help? And also other big wigs here in Atlanta?
REED: Reverend Joseph Laura (ph), I think they all helped. I think Mayor Franklin was helpful. I would not be sitting here were it not for Ambassador Young. Reverend Joseph Laura (ph), a presidential Medal of Freedom winner, standing by my side, working hard for me, helped. Also Lisa Borders, a former council person.
LEMON: But this vote did -- the former council person who ran. And that's why, many say, you got her vote. when you got her endorsement, you got her votes. That may have put you ahead.
REED: She was incredible.
LEMON: So, listen, it did break down along racial lines. You got 56 percent of the vote from predominantly black districts and 16 percent from white districts. Norwood got 62 percent of her vote from white districts only 15 percent from black districts. When everyone interviewed you during the time you were saying this is not about race, it's about economics, about jobs, about safety, but it did break down along racial lines. You can't deny that.
REED: I think we have a lot of work to do. But what I know is Atlanta will get through this in a good fashion. This was a tough election. You had a well-qualified opponent on the other side. Atlanta will get through this just fine, but it was tough. And I think that both of us handled it reasonably well.
LEMON: OK. A lot people were talking about this November 2nd election saying this was a referendum on the president. What happened in New York, what happened all over, what happened in the New Jersey with the governor?
LEMON: And also what happened in Atlanta? Because it was believed Mary Norwood would be elected. Atlanta's black population dropped from 61 percent in 2000 to 57 percent in 2007 while the white population increased 33 percent and 38 percent. Even more whites are moving back into the city. and so I want to know, what's the effect on the future, because many people considered Atlanta a black city. No longer is it a black city. REED: First of all, I want everyone to know that we welcome all people who are moving into Atlanta, first and foremost. But I do believe that this election had significant repercussions for the president, and it was important because I am hopeful that President Obama will be competitive in Georgia during the next cycle. and if we were not able -- progressives, I don't mean we, meaning a race, I mean people who are progressive, Democrats, forward-thinking people, are not able to do well in Atlanta, I don't believe that that would have boded well for President Obama. So I do believe this election was important.
LEMON: You know him, you have worked with him.
REED: I do. I campaigned for him, supported him, and am working forward to working with him as mayor of Atlanta.
LEMON: Mary Norwood said she would come work for you if you won. Are you going to ask her?
REED: I sure am.
REED: I am.
LEMON: What do you think of the recount?
REED: I think it's fine. After a tough campaign, you have to be respectful of your opponent and their own process in dealing with their issues in their own way. But what I do want the citizens of Atlanta to know is I am focused on leading and on governing. We're making our appointments right now. We appointed a wonderful COO over the weekend. We will appoint an acting chief shortly. We have to move on and we have to lead.
LEMON: You're talking to the citizens of Atlanta, but this race got national headlines.
REED: I know. And I'm always focused on home.
LEMON: But that's what you have to do. Thank you for coming in.
REED: Thank you.
LEMON: Congratulations to you.
We asked Mary Norwood to come in. She did not want to come in to be interviewed, but she has sat down with me before. We wish her luck as well.
REED: Thank you.
LEMON: Still ahead on CNN, details on a recall of a popular diet shake. Why Slim-Fast is being taken off shore shelves. And later, you need to take a few pounds off from that Thanksgiving feast? I do. We have a few tips for you from an NFL star. He'll tell you how to get in shape and stay that way.
We'll be back in a minute.
LEMON: If you have Slim-Fast in your pantry, get rid of it. The makers of the popular supplement are recalling all cans for possible bacterial contamination. Company officials say the product could cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Officials with Slim-Fast say the possibility of anyone coming down with a serious health problem is remote.
"The Situation Room" straight ahead.
Wolf Blitzer, what do you have for us, sir?
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Don, thanks very much.
We have lots coming up in "The Situation Room," including our exclusive interview with the president's national security adviser, General Jim Jones. He has a lot to say on the new strategy in Afghanistan, what's going on.
We'll get a very different perspective from Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. He disagrees with the president's new strategy.
We'll also hear from David Goldman, father of that little boy who was abducted, taken to Brazil. David Goldman, trying to get his son back.
All that and a lot more coming up at the top of the hour in "The Situation Room."
Don, back to you.
LEMON: We'll be watching. Thank you, Wolf.
A hot toy that could be a hazard to your child's health. That story ahead.
First, professional athletes know a thing or two about staying fit. For them, of course, it is essential. In today's "Fit Nation" report, an NFL player shares his advice on diet and exercise with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
LEMON: All right, one of the hottest toys this holiday season could be a hazard to your child's health. The Consumer Product Testing Company "Good Guide" says the Zhu Zhu pet named Mr. Squiggles contains high levels of potentially toxic chemical, a potentially toxic chemical. The robotic hamsters have been one of the top-selling toys this year, flying off the store shelves across the country.
Coming up in our 7:00 p.m. hour, a closer look at the American soldier, our warriors who go off to war and what they face when they come home. We hope you join us tonight. We want to know how tough it is for them to find a job. What about health care, even job satisfaction? We're going to take a close look at those questions and more, coming up in the 7:00 p.m. hour of the "CNN NEWSROOM." We'll look at the American soldier.
I want to get to some of your tweets. How much time do we have? A little bit of time. Got a minute? Wow. We've got a long time.
Let's see, some people have been tweeting about some of the stories.
"Wonderful weather in Alberta, Don Lemon."
"I was impressed with the store owner, a little compassion change."
"Florida or Alabama, Don"?
I'm not answering that one.
"What's going on in the news still, Tiger and Knox," they said. "Jobs, don't you know the national championship games are on right now?"
No, they're not, only the news is on right now.
"What did you do for your days off?"
I slept and didn't do anything. I sent out a tweet saying that I'm sorry I hadn't been tweeting because I was off a couple of days and I turned off the computer and cell phone and everything. and everyone thought I was -- something happened. But I just needed to get away. Maybe the news, need to turn that off.
"Welcome back, Don. I ate too much turkey and it's still feeling strange."
"I slept for two days after our feast."
There you go. Thanks for tweeting me.
We'll tweet about the American soldier coming up at 7:00. We hope you join us. It's going to be a very informative hour.
I'm Don Lemon at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Look at that beautiful shot of Atlanta. Do we have that? We've got it? Just for me. There it is, beautiful Atlanta. And that's where we are live.
We'll see you back here at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Meantime, "The Situation Room" begins right now.