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President Obama on the Hill; Criticism over New Afghan Policy; Climate of Controversy

Aired December 6, 2009 - 19:00   ET


MORGAN NEILL, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Polanski still faces the prospect of extradition to the United States, the country he fled more than 30 years ago, after pleading guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

But the idyllic backdrop of his latest confinement will add fuel to the fires of critics who say he's never really paid for his crime.

Morgan Neill, CNN, Gstaad, Switzerland.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, straight up, we want to get to the health care debate, a Sunday night visit to the Capitol today by President Obama. And he told Senate Democrats that he'll do anything he can to help them pass our health care reform bill.

Both parties worked today in a rare weekend session. Democrats are still divided over abortion and the proposal for a government-run insurance plan. The Democrats Senate Leader says, the president urged them to focus on the big picture.


SEN. HARRY REID (D) MAJORITY LEADER: Ten, 20, 30, 40 years from now, people are going to look back at what this Congress did. And each time they see a child being able to go to the doctor when they're sick or hurt, seeing someone that just because they lose their job they don't lose their insurance, someone who gets diabetes doesn't mean a lifetime of not being able to get insurance. That's what this legislation is all about.


LEMON: Well, Republicans remain united in their opposition to the Senate bill. Arizona's John McCain says the Democrat's legislation will help drug companies and other medical providers but it won't help the American people.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When we talk about these deals, who is it that's left out of the deals? The American people, they're the ones that are left out.

Good example, the deal that Pharma cut, which was reported on the front page of several newspapers around America, that in return for their support of the legislation the administration would oppose drug re-importation from Canada, which drug prescription and drug prices could be as much as 50 percent lower and would oppose competition for Medicare recipients for -- by the pharmaceutical companies.

So who got damaged by that deal? Certainly not the pharmaceutical people, but the American people did.


LEMON: Well, some Republicans say they are feeling snubbed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Obama's decision to exclude Republicans from today's meeting. He says that shows how partisan the process has become.

Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson is one of those moderate Democrats we keep hearing about in this debate. Well tomorrow, he plans to introduce an amendment to the Senate bill designed to block abortion coverage by any insurance plan that is purchased with federal subsidies.

Last hour I asked him if he would vote for the final bill if it does not contain his amendment.


SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: This is one of the things that has to be handled in this legislation if I'm going to be supportive of it. But there's also the public option. There are taxes that are questionable as far as I'm concerned. There's the class act. And I'm also worried about the so-called Medicare cut. So...

LEMON: I just wanted to make sure Senator Nelson that this was a deal breaker for you and you're saying that it definitely is?

NELSON: Oh, yes. It is a deal breaker. If we don't get this type of language in the bill, but I can say also that even if we get this language in the bill, there are a number of other concerns that I've expressed over quite a period of time that are also deal breakers.


LEMON: This has been a very long weekend for senators. Where do they go from here?

Well, Majority Leader Harry Reid says, he wants the bill passed by Christmas so we could see senators working all the way up to Christmas Eve. And if and when they pass a bill, it will have to be reconciled with the one passed last month in the house. And the House measure includes that controversial public option.

The Senate Finance Committee Chairman could find themself in the middle of an ethics investigation. Democrat Max Baucus is coming under fire for recommending his girlfriend for U.S. attorney position in his home State of Montana. The woman, Melody Hanes later withdrew her name. Baucus says the move was an open and fair process and Hanes' name was one of six submitted. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is calling for an investigation.

So the debate is raging across Washington today about President Obama's new Afghan policy. It seems no one is happy with it. And some are upset he is second 30,000 more troops to fight the Taliban. Others are angry he has set a target date of July 2011 to begin withdrawing -- or drawing down troops, I should say, U.S. forces there.

Some of the criticism has been extremely harsh and CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan as they try to implement a winning strategy.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As America moves to put 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan to take the fight to the Taliban Captain Brandon Anderson says, when he rolls out of his base in Zabul province, he doesn't want to fire a single shot.

Taliban fighters fired rockets on an American base from this village. Anderson says the villagers were afraid he'd shoot back.

CAPTAIN BRANDON ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY: That's what the insurgents said they do, they'd say you drop bombs, are you going to do that. And I said, "No, this is my battle space. And we're precise and we're disciplined in the use of force. So we'll target the insurgents but we're here to keep you safe."

PLEITGEN: This is the essence of the counterinsurgency strategy laid out by the commanding general for Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal.

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER U.S. FORCES AFGHANISTAN: Well, we have young sergeants, young officers who've been on the ground and dealt with people and understand counterinsurgency and understand at the end of the day it's relationships and it's relationships with people.

PLEITGEN: It also means offensives against the Taliban. Only a few days ago, the Marines launched a major operation in Helmand Province, a stronghold of the insurgency. Most of the additional soldiers will head to southern Afghanistan, where more than 34,000 NATO troops are already on the ground. British General Nick Carter commands this region.

MAJOR GENERAL NICK CARTER, BRITISH FORCES: This is about creating momentum. It's about regaining the initiative from the Taliban. And counterinsurgencies are ultimately about winning an argument. They're about persuading people that the forces of the government are better supporting than those of the opposition.

PLEITGEN: Back in the village, Captain Anderson is having trouble winning that argument. The village elder refuses to be shown on TV, for a simple reason.

(on camera): Do you think that the Afghan Army, the Afghan Police and the Americans can protect you? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban spent ten minutes in this village. They can kill one person a second. Can you come here that fast?

MCCHRYSTAL: We don't talk about the number of insurgents that we've killed. Because it's not about how many you've killed. It's about preventing them having access to the population.

ANDERSON: We'll work together to help you stay safer.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The president is putting his faith in General McChrystal's strategy, hoping the U.S. and its allies can win over frightened Afghans like the ones in this village.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kabul.


LEMON: Make sure you stick with us a little bit later on this hour. We'll introduce you to one of America's freshest military recruits, our exclusive profile of a young man as he joins the Army. That's coming up in 30 minutes here on CNN.

It is the great climate debate. At this hour, world leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to try to hash out a new deal regulating greenhouse gases. What does it mean to you? We'll take a closer look at what's on the table here.

And a new message from Tiger Woods; we'll tell you what he's saying now.

And blizzard conditions: Jacqui Jeras, what's going on?

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, my gosh. This is a doozy of a storm. Let me tell you Don.

LEMON: Doozy, I like that.

JERAS: This is the strongest storm -- I'm glad you did. The strongest storm of the season by far and impacting nearly every inch of the U.S. So we'll have all the details coming up.

LEMON: All right, Jacqui Jeras details on a doozy of a storm coming up in just a bit. If you want to comment on the doozy of a storm or any of the stories here on CNN, we welcome your feedback; Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or

We're back seconds away.


LEMON: It is an issue that's bringing more than 100 world leaders and 15,000 people to Denmark for a two-week summit starting tomorrow. It's global warming. There's wide agreement in many quarters on this issue, but it remains fiercely controversial in others. Why does it matter? Well, for starters, scientists say a warmer earth has dangerous consequences -- storms, droughts and rising sea levels. Most support cuts in greenhouse gas to reduce and even reverse the impact of global warming.

But critics say that's foolish. Global warming, if it is happening they say is being exaggerated for political purposes. It's this sometimes bitter debate that awaits President Obama when he heads to Copenhagen for the U.N. Climate Summit on December 18th.

The talks in Copenhagen open with a cloud of controversy hovering over the conference. It might be called climate-gate, a series of stolen e-mails that may cast some doubt on global warming research.

CNN's Mary Snow reports.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two weeks after computers were hacked at the UK's University of East Anglia, and e-mails between climate scientists were posted on the Internet, the head of the U.N.'s climate science body told the BBC Radio he wants an investigation.

RAJENDRA PACHAURI, CHAIRMAN, IPCC FROM BBC RADIO 4: We are certainly going to go into the whole lot and then as I said, we'll take a position on it. So we certainly don't want to brush anything under the carpet. We don't want to sweep it under the carpet. This is a serious issue and we certainly will look into it in detail.

SNOW: This U.N. probe is in addition to an investigation under way at the University of East Anglia which says it's looking to see if there is any evidence that scientific data was manipulated or suppressed.

Bill Jones, the head of the university's climate research unit has stepped down temporarily. Those who've questioned the effects of human activity on climate change have seized on the e-mails accusing scientists of conspiring to hide evidence and trying to destroy data.

Among them Republican Senator James Inhofe, who's called global warming a hoax; this week he called for hearings. No decisions yet. And the e-mails were raised at a house hearing this week.

REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R), ARIZONA: Anyone who thinks that those e-mails are insignificant, that they don't damage the credibility of the entire movement is naive.

SNOW: But at that hearing, a top government scientist said the e- mails do nothing to change the science.

JANE LUBCHNECO, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: E- mails really do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus and the independent scientific analyses of thousands of scientists around the world that tell us that the earth is warming and that the warming is largely a result of human activity.

GAVIN SCHMIDT, NASA GODDARD INSTITUTE FOR SPACE STUDIES: These are the temperature records from the U.S.

SNOW: Gavin Schmidt is a leading climate scientist with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In the weeks since the e-mails were hacked and questions arose, he has been putting large volumes of data links on the Web site that demonstrates a consistent trajectory of a potentially dangerously warming climate.

SCHMIDT: So what we've done is we just said, you know look, you're not aware of that data. But here is all the date that that's already existing.

SNOW: His name appeared on those e-mails and he says he has nothing to hide.

SCHMIDT: There is nothing in these e-mails that's problematic. Most of the stuff that has been talked about has been taken completely out of context and there's a lot of nonsense that's being spoken.

SNOW: Debate over these e-mails comes as world leaders head to Copenhagen next week for the U.N. climate change conference. As to what impact these might have? The UK's Energy and Climate Change Secretary is quoted by the BBC as saying the idea that they could derail the conference is in his words, nonsense.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


LEMON: And CNN has learned that officials at this week's climate conference in Copenhagen will not shy away from the controversy over the leaked e-mails.

Let's go now to CNN's Phil Black who is in Copenhagen -- Phil.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, here in Copenhagen just hours before the climate change conference opens, United Nations officials admit that "climate-gate" is already being discussed by delegates here. The U.N.'s climate change chief Yvo de Boer, says the issue of those e-mails from the University of East Anglia will be addressed directly in speeches during the opening ceremony.

I asked Yvo de Boer what he makes of the allegations. And he said he believes there is a positive side to this scandal.


YVO DE BOER, UNFCCC EXECUTIVE SECRETARY: I actually think it's very good that what's -- what has happened is being critically addressed in the media because this process has to be based on solid science. And if the quality and the integrity of the science is being called into question, then that needs to be examined.


BLACK: Don, many climate scientists believe those e-mails were deliberately hacked and leaked to try and destabilize the negotiations here. And they say the e-mails do nothing to discredit the work of thousands of climate scientists around the world, independent scientists whose work draws similar conclusions.

Some climate change skeptics are also traveling to this city to try and make their case. But they shouldn't expect a friendly reception because this conference is based on the scientific theory accepted by a broad consensus that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal -- Don.

LEMONS: All right. Thank you, Phil Black.

Over the next two weeks, CNN has the Copenhagen climate summit covered as world leaders descend on the city to discuss plans to address global warming. Why is matters and what it means to you, make sure you stay with CNN for the most complete coverage.

And be sure to watch tomorrow night -- Monday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern when Campbell Brown will take an in-depth look at the e-mail controversy surrounding this summit.

Riots break out in the capital of Greece. Protesters face off against police in masks and riot gear.

And the lead singer of the rock band Weezer involved in an accident. We'll update you.


LEMON: Officials in Iran are trying to stifle possible anti- government protests tomorrow. It's a continuing fallout from the nation's controversial June elections and declared incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the overwhelming winner. Tomorrow is Students' Day in Iran, marking the anniversary of the 1953 killing of three university students by former Shah's security forces. The government is warning against demonstrations and even ordering foreign media not to venture outside.

In Athens, Greece: rioting in the streets today on the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old at the hands of police. Some protesters are holed up in a university building throwing rocks and they're throwing burning garbage also at police. More than 230 arrests have been made since the demonstrations began.

Tomorrow has been designated a national day of mourning in Russia for 112 people killed in a nightclub fire. The fire broke out Friday night in the city of Perm. There were an estimated 300 people in the club at the time. Five people, all associated with the nightclub, are facing charges that include violating fire safety regulars. Russian President Medvedev is calling for the harshest possible punishment.

Oh, boy, we have got a lot of -- I shouldn't say a mixed bag because it's all really what -- it's all snowy stuff that's going on right now. We had the fog yesterday out west. But ok so it's a mixed bag.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is going to be, yes. Not for everybody. The people that are getting snow are getting a lot of it. But we are going to be seeing some heavy, wet weather out of this, too.

Los Angeles, for example, we have flood watches in effect to the burn areas because we're going to see some really heavy rain there, especially into the mountains and a lot of this moisture already starting to stream in. And so we're going to get going with this storm by late tonight. And this is going to affect a whole lot of the country in the upcoming days.

In the meantime, at this hour, our snow really focused here across the plains states. This is just one little puff that's going to be pushing on through compared to what we're going to be getting.

But still be careful. We have slick streets along I-80, I-70 pushing up towards the I-35 corridor at this hour. So use a lot of caution as some of those roadways are getting a little icy and a little bit on the slick side.

Here's what we're expecting in the days ahead. Our area of low pressure just really starting to develop at this time and it's going to be intensifying as it moves towards the Four Corners Region. Heavy snow in the Sierras throughout the Four Corners along with winds, which could be reaching 50, 60 miles per hour at times, and that means travel is going to be a huge nightmare.

Heavy snow moving midweek across the upper Midwest along with those strong winds so blizzard watches have already been posted across northern parts of Iowa into southern Minnesota.

What is a blizzard? It has a specific definition by the way. We need to have for at least three-hour period of time falling or blowing snow, sustained winds of 35 miles per hour or greater or frequent gusts within this range. And visibility has to be down to a quarter of a mile or less. That's pretty much as bad as it gets in terms of winter weather.

Our storm system then by the late part of the week is going to move out of the East. And we're going to also see a threat of severe weather along the Gulf Coast. Snowfall totals really, really impressive here. There you can see what we're expecting.

And look at the legend up to the top. These dark purple areas, yes, that's several feet of snow. We could even see over 12 inches across parts of the Plains States as well. So winter storm watches and warnings have been posted across much of the area for the upcoming days.

We have to have a little fun before I go, our iReporters have been sending in some great video by the way.

This is from Greg Reese (ph) out of Cincinnati, Ohio. This is Santa and elf and Rudolph -- check out the blinking nose -- rappelling down a building in downtown Cincinnati for the dazzle holiday celebration.

I want to see a lot of Santa video in the coming days as well as snow videos. So send us your iReports at I want to see them, but as always, stay safe. LEMON: Hey, that looks like a lot of fun. Who was it -- was it -- it used to be Marshall Fields or Macy's that would do that with the Santa sort of rappelling down the side of a building. Or dancers -- they were dancers.

JERAS: Dancers? Have you ever been rappelling.

LEMON: No. and I don't think I will.

JERAS: It's fun.

LEMON: An airplane is high enough for me and out there enough.

Thank you, Jacqui.

A lot of you have been weighing in on global warming, on the Roman Polanski story, on sports gifts for the holidays from Rick Horrow.

Let's see what you guys are saying. Real quickly here.

APicasso (p), "The letters from a small group of people change nothing. Have (INAUDIBLE) suddenly grown back? No facts. Don't change."

Dr. CMG says, donlemoncnn, "Polanski sodomized and raped a young girl -- suddenly it was only rape. Tonight it became just unlawful sex. What will it be next? Does it change your opinion now?

Supreme says, "Absolutely not."

One other viewer says, "It definitely creates suspicion. However the event of global warming can clearly be seen by all of us."

Let's move on and see what we have here.

(INAUDIBLE), "I'm getting Tim Tebow (ph) a Snuggie and a Shamwow (ph). That should be enough to soak up all those tears."

"Ha-ha, you're being a little bit creepy;" SOMEONE laughing about what I told Rick Harrow about his Maria Sharapova bag.

So thank you for your comments. We really appreciate it. You can go to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, We'll get your comments on and we really love our iReporters so send us an iReport, please.

We often only hear about the negative effects of the war in Afghanistan. But as our Barbara Starr shows us, there's a great deal of good work going on with progress being made in many areas. Her story from behind the lines in Kabul, just ahead.


LEMON: Time now to check your top stories.

LEMON: President Obama spent part of Sunday on Capitol Hill. He met with Senate Democrats urging them to overcome their differences and to unite behind the health care reform bill.

Party moderates are balking at provisions related to a public insurance option and the use of federal money for abortion coverage. Democrats need all 60 votes from their caucus members if they hope to pass the measure.

On the eve of the Copenhagen climate change summit, the UN's climate chief says industrialized nations should dig deeper into their collective pockets to help finance efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and global warming. The 2-week environmental conference kicks off tomorrow. President Obama plans to attend the summit with other world leaders on December 18th.

The debate is raging across Washington today about President Obama's new Afghan policy. It seems no one is happy with it. Some are upset he is sending 30,000 more troops to fight the Taliban. Others are angry he has set a target date of July 2011 to begin drawing down U.S. forces.

Some of the criticism has been extremely harsh. Our Kate Bolduan has the latest from the White House -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, top Obama administration officials including the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, top generals and advisers came out in force to make the case for President Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan. A major topic, the July 2011 date to begin transferring U.S. forces out of Afghanistan and it seems this administration is still having a hard time explaining that.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Where's the end of the ramp? If the beginning is 2011, where's the end of the ramp? Is that 2015, 2020...

GEN. JAMES JONES (RET.), NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The end of the ramp will be predicated on exactly how much progress we're making.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no time line, no ramp, nothing like that. I think it's very important to note, as many have observed, this doesn't trigger a rush to the exits.


BOLDUAN: Ramp or no ramp, Defense secretary Robert Gates says this is not a date certain, not an exit strategy. He stressed that it was a conditions-based balance, sending a signal of resolve to succeed in Afghanistan. Also sending a message of urgency to the Afghan government saying they need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for their own security. Either way, this 2011 date continues to prove controversial with the left and the right.


SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: I'm afraid the president's idea, which is to set a date where we may start withdrawing troops, gives nobody anything they want. It doesn't give the Afghan people a belief that we're actually leaving. It doesn't give the American people any confidence that we have a plan to finally end this.

SEN. JOHN McCain (R), ARIZONA: To send the message that you are going to leave at a certain date is not the way to convince the enemy that you're there to beat them.


BOLDUAN: President Obama is scheduled to meet with the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry and the top commander on the ground in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, here at the White House Monday. Don -

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Kate, thank you.

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan is improving in certain areas. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr traveled to Logar province where she couldn't openly walk the streets just one year ago. Barbara -

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Don, we are continuing to travel throughout eastern Afghanistan, having a look at the security situation on the ground. Now, we went to Logar province about 30 miles outside of Kabul, the capital. I was there a year ago and you could not move around on foot, everything was in traveling by armored vehicles with heavily armed troops.

Now, it's a much different situation in this one area, at least, that we went to. We visited a busy marketplace with a security detail but we had no helmets, no vest. We were able to around very freely on foot, talk to shopkeepers, see what was going on in the town. This is an area where a small number of U.S. troops have stationed to work with the Afghan National Police and they have been able to make a difference, at least in this one corner of Afghanistan. They've been able to at drive the insurgents out.

It's not to say that there aren't a lot of problems, Eastern Afghanistan is seen a good deal of violence continuing. There are areas that U.S. troops have not been able to move in to yet, we are told, where violence and Taliban influence is very heavy. They are still in fact about 3,500 to 4,000 insurgents here in Eastern Afghanistan. When more U.S. troops arrive in country, a good number of them are going to come to this area. A lot of them are going to be devoted however, we are told, not to frontline combat but to training those Afghan forces so they can continue to try and take over the security situation and look after their own needs. Don -

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Barbara. You can see Barbara's report on the situation on the ground in Afghanistan tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING 6:00 a.m. Eastern and "The Situation Room" starts at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai sat down with our Christiane Amanpour for an exclusive interview this morning, his first since President Obama's announcement Tuesday on U.S. troop escalations for Afghanistan. Listen.


PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan will be there and will make it, with or without the help of the rest of the world. It's the rest of the world that needs to be in Afghanistan to bring them some security from the problems that they caused themselves by promoting Islamic radicalism, by promoting radicals for the past 30 years, first against the Soviets and then by abandoning Afghanistan. So I think the west needs to use this opportunity correctly to help Afghanistan and to help themselves.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Karzai, do you think that the U.S. surge will finish the job in your country?

KARZAI: Well, the most important element in the new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan is concentration on protecting the population. And doubling economic assistance to Afghanistan. And also concentrating on the regional aspect of the problem. Afghanistan welcomes this new strategy. And Afghanistan will do all it can to be a good partner in it.

AMANPOUR: You yourself have said, even in your inauguration address, that it would take some five years to be able to hand over security to the Afghan forces.

KARZAI: We want to have, in Afghanistan, in another two years, the ability to lead operations and provide security for the Afghan people in many parts of the country, especially in parts of the country where we have trouble fighting and terrorism and trying to bring violence down.

By the end of five-year term of the current government, we plan to lead operations for the security of the Afghan people in all of Afghanistan, in the whole country. That is our objective. Now, we as Afghans also must try our very, very best to reach that goal. And we hope that our allies will help us reach that goal.


LEMON: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on "Amanpour." Just a reminder for you, "Amanpour" airs every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

A new survey shows Americans aren't too optimistic about the U.S. role in the world. What's behind the gloom and doom? Here's CNN's Tim Lister.


TIM LISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The war in Afghanistan, the growing power of China, the United States' influence in the world. On all fronts, Americans seem wary, even pessimistic.

ANDREW KOHUT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: Americans are uncertain about the United States' role in the world or apprehensive about it.

LISTER: A Pew survey finds Americans in more isolationist mood than at any time in the past 40 years. Very nearly half of those asked said the U.S. should mind its own business and let other countries get along as best they can, sharply higher than previous surveys. The numbers saying the U.S. should go its own way, and not worry where other countries agree, also at a historical high.

KOHUT: It's probably a reflection of two things. One a very bad economy where the public wants to focus on the United States itself. But also at a time when we're waging two wars, that the public thinks - both of which the public thinks are not going very well.

LISTER: The survey was done before President Obama's West Point speech on Afghanistan. The American people are evenly divided about the chances of success. 47 percent believing it unlikely that Afghanistan can withstand the threat of the Taliban. Barely one-third favor increasing the number of U.S. troops there.

Adding to the mood of uncertainty, Americans are dazzled by China's surge into the world stage and its growing economic clout.

KOHUT: The American public thinks that the U.S. economy has been greatly weakened. They don't get the same sense probably that the Chinese economy has been hurt as much.

LISTER: 44 percent of Americans now feel China is the world's leading economic power. Up dramatically from last year. Just 27 percent feel the U.S. is the top economy, sharply down. Last year, then candidate Obama promised a huge crowd in Berlin. The U.S. would reengage.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice. It is the only way, the one way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

LISTER: This survey suggests Americans are traveling in a very different direction.

KOHUT: If there are other problems that will require American sacrifice, looming ahead, in a climate like this, it's going to be harder to get public engagement than it would have been at the beginning of this decade.

LISTER: A decade in which America has spilled more blood and money in war than at any time since Vietnam. Tim Lister, CNN, Atlanta.


LEMON: Help for soldiers in the form of comfort homes. We'll explain what that means.

And the Kennedy Center honors, red carpet arrivals, getting under way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: We want to focus now on today's American warrior. It's one thing to think about joining the army. It is quite another to suddenly have your head shaved, and be given a uniform and get shipped off to boot camp. The Pentagon granted CNN unprecedented access to the induction process.

Here's CNN's Jason Carroll with an exclusive look at one young man's journey from civilian to soldier.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tearful good-byes as Will McLain's parents see their 18-year-old son leave home in Rosamond, California, for the first time.

BILL MCLAIN, FATHER: She wasn't looking forward to this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody understand that?


CARROLL: As McLain takes his first steps toward joining the Army, questions about his future begin to weigh on him.

WILL MCLAIN, U.S. ARMY RECRUIT: The major unknown, I guess, is I want to know where I'll end up stationed at. You know you got a four-year contract. But it's like, are these four years going to be fun and enjoyable or I'm going to be I hate my job?

CARROLL: For now those answers will have to wait.


MCLAIN: Thank you.

CARROLL: First, there's registration at a nearby Army processing center in Los Angeles.

MCLAIN: I'm anxious. But you know, I'm kind of glad it's starting finally. Like one of those days you don't think would come and then it's here.

CARROLL: This is where Will McLain finally becomes Private McLain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will obey the orders of the president of the United States, so help me god.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me god.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I tell you to (INAUDIBLE) quickly but safely, is that understood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, drill sergeant.

CARROLL: 12 hours later. McLain is now more than 1,600 miles from home. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) your bags.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, drill sergeant.

CARROLL: At an Army base in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Row by row, let's go. Let's go. Let's go.

CARROLL: For several days of orientation.

(on camera): You look a little different. You shaved the goatee. How does it feel?

MCLAIN: It feels weird. It's the first time in a while. You know, (INAUDIBLE) they did. You know, I mean, I'm surprised I haven't had to do push-ups or anything yet. That's always a plus.

CARROLL: Well, it's coming.

MCLAIN: I know.

CARROLL: I'm sure it's coming.

MCLAIN: I'm sure it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you do not have an electronic device, do not take an envelope.

CARROLL (voice-over): After turning in personal items for safekeeping, Will and the other privates are issued gear.


CARROLL: Will finds his bunk and turns in for a short night. Four hours later, his morning begins on unfamiliar territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing? What is going on?

MCCLAIN: I am thinking of all these movies that I've seen with the drill sergeant and you pretty much fit that role.

SGT. JOSHUA SMITH, U.S. ARMY: He's a type-A personality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry up. Hurry up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your food and get out.

CARROLL: Will couldn't eat much in the three minutes it took him to finish.


CARROLL: Not a problem for sergeants eyeing his weight. He's 5'9", 228 pounds. (on camera): You look at him and your assessment is he's got a little weight to lose.


CARROLL: Do you think you can get that off?

SCOTT: Yes, sir. There's plenty of ways to get that off of him.

CARROLL (voice-over): There are just a few more tests - and then the regulation cut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's your faith?


CARROLL: But he still sees the same Will.

(on camera): Do you feel like a soldier yet?

MCLAIN: Not yet. I haven't been through boot. I won't even claim being a soldier until I'm done with boot.

CARROLL (voice-over): And that basic training comes next.


LEMON: Nice report from CNN's Jason Carroll.

Hey, we want to tell you this, once he finishes boot camp, Private Will McLain will be paid just under $1,300 a month. That is his base pay. The Pentagon uses a complicated system based on rank, years of service and many other factors to determine pay. But here are the basics. We want to give you the basics.

Salaries for enlisted men range from almost $1,300, say enlisted men and women, range from almost $1,300 a month up to nearly $7,000 a month for a sergeant, major with many years of service. At the top end, generals can make between $7,500 a month to nearly $15,000. The joint chiefs chairman and the heads of each service branch make more than $19,000 a month. Everybody deployed to a combat zone gets from $150 to $250 extra each month in hazardous duty pay.

They are homes, I should say for wounded troops, other veterans and their families as well, they are actually called comfort homes and they are funded by the Fisher House Foundation. Yesterday, I spoke with its chairman and CEO about the need for donations to house American warriors.


KEN FISHER, FISHER HOUSE FOUNDATION, CEO: Well, we like to think we are partners with the magnificent work being done by the doctors and the nurses that is resulting in our troops living through horrific catastrophic injuries that would have been fatal in previous conflicts. Fisher House provides a home away from home for their families to stay in for as long as they need to free of charge while their loved one is recovering.

LEMON: You say that but that is a lot to do and that it takes a lot of money to do that. So where do you get the money from? I would imagine it's partly from the government, partly from donations?

FISHER: We get a grant from the government and the balance is private donations.

LEMON: OK. So you can use help. And where can people go if they want to help out and then give a donation?

FISHER: Well, you can go to our web site which is There is a variety of ways to get involved. We got a variety of initiatives, there is the lodging, of course. There is a program called Hero Miles, which is a partnership with participating airlines where people can donate their unused frequent flyer miles and we can use that to buy tickets for family members, that would not be covered by travel orders.

LEMON: I don't mean to put you on the spot there but I think it is important work that you are doing and I think if there is a way that people can give that they should be allowed to be able to do it. So listen, you have these - it's called comfort homes that your family's foundation is building. Tell us more about the comfort homes.

FISHER: Well, the homes were smaller when the program began almost 20 years ago. They were consisting of about six to eight rooms. But because the demand has grown and because, again the doctors and the nurses doing such magnificent work the size of the houses have increased so that we can help more of these families and veterans families as well. So now the houses are 20 rooms consisting of 16,000 feet.

LEMON: All right. Very good stuff there. Listen, we are going to have to call it quits here. I'm glad we got the information out on how people can donate. 10,000 military families live in Fisher Homes and they're planning to build more. You got bigger ones, comfort homes. Good work that you're doing. Thank you for joining us. Best of luck to you, OK.

FISHER: Thanks, Don.


LEMON: Very good work they're doing there

Still ahead, details on a bus accident involving a popular rock band. We'll have an update and also a new message from Tiger. What is he saying now?


LEMON: The lead singer of the Indy rock band "Weezer" was injured in a bus accident today in New York state. Singer Rivers Cuomo, his wife, daughter and another passenger were in the van/bus that slid off the New York throughway after hitting a patch of ice. Cuomo and another passenger were hospitalized but their injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

In the wake of the auto accident that set off a scandal over his infidelities, Tiger Woods has released a statement apologizing for his absence this week from his golf tournament that benefits his foundation. In a message to his sponsors, staff and foundation board, Woods says, "I am sincerely sorry. I was unable to fulfill my duties as host and player in this important event."

The president and first lady hosted a reception for the 2009 Kennedy Center honorees this evening. The black tie event took place in the East Room of the White House. The five American performing artists being honored include opera singer Grace Bumbry, singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen, "the boss," actor/director Mel Brooks, actor/director Robert De Niro and pianist composer Dave Brubeck. President Obama quoted the first lady in his description of the five honorees and their importance to America.


OBAMA: These performers are indeed the best. They are also living reminders of the simple truth. And I'm going to steal a line from Michelle here. "The arts are not somehow a part from our national life. The arts are at the heart of our national life."


LEMON: Well, the entire show airs nationwide on December 29th.

A major world conference on climate change begins tomorrow. And we'll take a closer look at what's at stake here.


LEMON: We're hours away from the start of the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen. Negotiators will be trying to build a foundation laid by the Kyoto protocol. You probably, probably heard about it but wondered exactly what does a treaty entail?

CNN's Anna Coren reports.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): More than a decade ago, leaders gathered at this building behind me to form what would become the Kyoto protocol. It was the first time the international community had come together to tackle the issue of climate change. After 10 days of discussion and sometimes heated debate, the treaty was signed on the 11th of December, 1997.


COREN (voice-over): The agreement called on industrialized nations to cut emissions by an average of about five percent by 2012. There were disagreement but it was viewed as an important move by the international community on climate change. For some who were there at the original summit, there was a feeling that something momentous was taking place, despite the negotiations being fraught with disagreements.

YURIKA AYUKAWI, WWF MEMBER AT KYOTO SUMMIT: It was a first step that was the first time the developed countries ever made a commitment with our targets and timetables. So in a sense, it was very good.

COREN: But the treaty failed to gain traction. The Kyoto protocol depended heavily on the so-called Annex 1 countries who were seen at the time as the biggest polluters. The United States was responsible for one-third of the world's emissions in 1990. But Washington refused to sign and other key members like Australia and Russia delayed passing the treaty. So the Kyoto protocol sat idle for eight years.

It needed industrialized countries to commit to a global cut of more than half the emissions from 1990 levels. It was only in 2005 when Russia signed on that the Kyoto protocol officially came into force.

Today with only three years left on the treaty, the E.U. is the only major player expected to meet their targets. Another shortcoming of Kyoto was that developing countries like China, India and Brazil weren't required to meet the same cuts. The upcoming Copenhagen summit was intended to pick up where Kyoto left off. The Copenhagen agreement would reflect a growing awareness about climate change and a new world dynamic.

TIM FLANNERY, ENVIRONMENTALIST: We're seeing a big shift in the politics and in the economics and in the business sentiment around this. I am quietly confident that we'll get to where we need to get to. And as I put it, we've got every reason to be confident but not a second for complacency.

COREN: But at the recent APEC meeting in Singapore, leaders agreed that finding successor to Kyoto at Copenhagen would be highly unlikely. It's been a long journey from Kyoto to Copenhagen, but where we ultimately end on this climate change issue remains a mystery.

Anna Coren, CNN, Kyoto, Japan.


LEMON: You know the passion debate over global warming and climate change just into high gear this week as world leaders and scientists meet in Copenhagen. But what is the truth about global warming? Well, beginning tomorrow on CNN, we'll take a look at the science, the skepticism and the secrets surrounding global warming. We call it "Trick or Truth."

And coming up tonight at 10:00, we'll hear from CNN's John Roberts who is at Copenhagen at East Engel, the University at the center of the e- mail scandal surrounding this climate debate. And the health care reform, will President Obama's appearance on Capitol Hill give the issue the boost it needs? I'm Don Lemon at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. See you back here at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. So glad you watched and we hope you enjoyed. "Black in America 2: Today's Pioneers" begins right now.