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Interview With Morgan Freeman; Bergdahl Controversy; Dr. Ben Carson Compares Obamacare to Slavery; Mississippi Primary Results Hold Nation's Attention
Aired June 3, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
A 23-year-old soldier walks off his observation post in the middle of the night in Afghanistan and disappears. Nearly five years later, his government trades five prisoners to free him from the Taliban. That's what we know about Bowe Bergdahl.
But what we don't know is setting off a political firestorm. Was he a deserter? Is the deal that freed him a mistake? Is it even legal? And what was the White House thinking? That's our big debate tonight.
Plus, the rising GOP star who says Obamacare is as bad as slavery and compares America to Nazi Germany. And Dr. Ben Carson is absolutely serious. He is here tonight. We will talk to him about all of that and more.
Also, the man with the golden voice himself, the voice of God, Morgan Freeman, is here.
We want to know what you think about all of these stories. Make sure you tweet using #AskDon.
But, first, my make on Bowe Bergdahl, from prisoner of war to political pawn. The transition happened at lightning speed. Last night on this program, Alan Dershowitz said the worst thing that could happen to this story is that it becomes partisan and political. And, sadly, it has, with at least one Republican strategist organizing media interviews with some of the soldiers who served with Bergdahl.
I don't think anyone has a problem with these young men speaking their piece. They have earned that right. In fact, they have fought for it. But many would probably question the motivations of a political operative encouraging them to speak out.
Turns out you don't have to go out of your way to politicize the Bergdahl saga, especially when the Democratic administration in charge appears to have completely misjudged the impact of the negotiations, the release, the bipartisan dismay and the reaction from Bergdahl's fellow soldiers.
The Army sergeant hasn't said one word about how or why he went missing or answered any questions in any investigation. Until that happens, maybe everyone, including the White House, should at least try to withhold judgment and not turn this into a political talking point.
Now let's go in-depth on the Bergdahl backlash. Washington is taking sides, as usual, over the deal that freed the Army sergeant after five years in captivity. And the political storm shows no signs of clearing any time soon.
Tom Foreman has that.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bergdahl deal has the White House under siege, the president saying the swap was clear and clean, five Taliban members released, one Army sergeant coming home.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity, period, full stop. We don't condition that.
FOREMAN: But the uproar in Congress, especially from Republicans, is growing louder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was just wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like the deal.
FOREMAN: So, what makes them think this trade stinks? For starters, all five of the freed insurgents were allegedly important players for the Taliban, accused terrorists now set free. Never mind that they will be held in Qatar for a year.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is ill-founded. It is a mistake and it is putting the lives of American service men and women at risk, and that to me is unacceptable to the American people.
FOREMAN: Next, there is Bergdahl's own record. Accusations are growing from some of his fellow troops that deserted them in combat, costing the lives of other soldiers.
EVAN BUETOW, FORMER U.S. ARMY SERGEANT: It was like a light that went on. He just walked away. That's exactly what happened.
FOREMAN (on camera): Almost all the critics say they are glad Bergdahl was rescued, but they say his behavior must be investigated, that the deal to bring him home could have long-term consequences, and that the president may not have had the right to make it anyway.
(voice-over): Historians acknowledge a long history of such swaps. George Washington traded captured British soldiers to get Americans back. Abraham Lincoln did the same between North and South. Jimmy Carter tried to barter for hostages. Ronald Reagan swapped arms for Americans held abroad.
But some legal analyst say President Obama undermined U.S. law itself by failing to inform Congress as required that this deal was imminent.
Jonathan Turley from George Washington University:
JONATHAN TURLEY, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It's a system that will survive anything. It is like the all-terrain vehicle of constitutions. The only thing that will bring it down is if you go outside the rules. And I'm afraid he did that.
FOREMAN: It may all be making the Bergdahl deal look politically less triumphant and more toxic by the day.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
LEMON: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you very much for that.
Joining me now, CNN's Gloria Borger, also General Mark Kimmitt, the former assistant of state for political military affairs, Joe Reeder, former undersecretary of the Army, and Michael Waltz, a senior national security fellow of the New America Foundation and author of the upcoming book "Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret's Battles From Washington to Afghanistan."
Good evening to all of you. I appreciate all of you joining me tonight.
Joe, I'm going to start with you.
You served in the military, as well as being a former undersecretary of the Army. Does it matter to you if Bowe Bergdahl was a deserter or not? Do you think trading five Gitmo prisoners for the life of a soldier was worth it?
JOE REEDER, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF THE ARMY: Well, first of all, it matters a lot whether he was a deserter or not.
Do I prejudge him at this stage or should any of us as Americans? Absolutely not. Look, it's part of our ethos to go after. If it is man overboard, you don't ask, did he fall over, was he pushed over, was he drunk, or how. It is man overboard and you pull him out.
It is Private Ryan, and people die going after prisoners. And there will be an accountability. It matters a lot whether he was a deserter. But, right now, first things first, and that is to recover him.
LEMON: General Kimmitt, to you now. You think this was a horrible deal, but you also say that it should have been done, correct?
BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), FORMER U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR PLANS AND STRATEGY: Oh, I agree with Joe Reeder.
There is no doubt that we should have done everything in our power to bring any soldier off the battlefield back. We have left them behind in the past. The North Korean -- the American who deserted went across the line into North Korea and stayed there for many, many years, we didn't make the effort to do that, so it has not been holistic over the years.
But whenever we have the opportunity to bring a soldier back, we have a moral obligation, not only for that particular soldier, but also for all future soldiers that we put on the battlefield that they know that their country will be with them throughout.
LEMON: It seems that most members of the military, and people who have served, have had similar sentiments. So, maybe the criticism that we have been seeing, Gloria Borger, is mostly coming from the critical side. So, let's go to you.
The Daily Beast is reporting tonight that Hillary Clinton opposed this deal when it was being debated even as far back as 2011-2012. Gloria, the Taliban detainees were deemed too high of a risk -- we reported that -- to release in the past.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
LEMON: What happened to change this calculation?
BORGER: Look, as General Kimmitt just said, I do not believe that there is a political discussion about whether the United States should have tried to bring Bowe Bergdahl home.
Everybody kind of agrees, of course, that is what we do. I think the political questions that are being asked are, first of all, was this the right deal? Was it a good deal? And that is the question that, according to reporting tonight in The Daily Beast and "TIME" magazine that was debated internally at the administration for quite some time.
And the administration was divided on that. And I think that's a big issue, which is, was it the right deal to strike? Did we strike it with some really bad guys who are going to come back and hurt us again?
And the second issue here in Washington is, should the president actually have consulted with Congress? And this is part of a whole issue with President Obama.
BORGER: When you have the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I'm stressing Democratic here, say that this was a problem that she needed to know about because she had been in discussions about this over the years, I think it makes you wonder, gee, wouldn't the White House have been wiser, forgetting the legality -- I believe the president does have the right to do this -- would it have been wiser for the White House to have brought people inside this decision?
And I think you're exactly right on that. And as I said here, you really don't have to go out of your way to politicize this. Democrats are upset about it. Republicans are upset about it as well. So, Michael, to you, back on the battlefield, as an Army special officer, you commanded units involved in the search for Bowe Bergdahl in 2009. Does it really make a difference to you if he left on his own or if he went missing?
MICHAEL WALTZ, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: It absolutely makes a difference.
I was out on the ground leading a number of special forces teams, conducting our missions, everything from reconstruction operations to getting ready for the Afghan presidential elections in 2009 to hunting Taliban commanders.
And we stopped everything when Sergeant Bergdahl went missing and stopped everything and went after him. Men died searching for Sergeant Bergdahl. And we were -- we believed at the time and still believe today that he deserted his post. It makes a huge difference whether you're going after someone because they were captured on the battlefield or because they left voluntarily and walked into the hands of the enemy.
LEMON: Do you think he should have been brought home safely? Would you have gone to get him?
Listen, when we deploy overseas, we know there is a likelihood we could get captured. We also know that the United States will do everything in its power, everything in its -- in the power of the United States government to bring us home.
But we also know that we're not going to be bargained for. There won't be a ransom. There won't be terrorists, in this case, the Taliban war cabinet, as one Afghan told me earlier today, the Charles Mansons of Afghan society, handed over for us.
So, no one disputes and no one is arguing that Sergeant Bergdahl should have been brought home. But we are questioning the price that we paid for him.
LEMON: All right. General Kimmitt, I want to get this in.
We have learned tonight that a 2009 investigation, Pentagon investigation, into Bergdahl's disappearance concluded that he had left his -- on his own accord, of his own accord, because his weapon, his night-vision goggles, bulletproof vest, they were all left behind. And he wasn't classified as a deserter because they didn't know his intent.
Will we ever be able to prove what his intent was after five years in captivity? We don't know his mental state. Will we be able to prove that even if he is questioned, investigated, interrogated?
KIMMITT: Well, again, the standard is the overwhelming preponderance of evidence. He will have to, after an Afghanistan is conducted, probably stand in front of a court-martial board and convince them of his intentions. It will be difficult, but I would suspect that this long investigation and the long trial that will follow will probably -- from that, truth will emerge.
But if you believe his soldiers and his peers that were with him out on that outpost, they are pretty convinced. And that's pretty persuasive evidence when you have your peers saying, this guy deserted. This guy left us behind. This guy left us in the battlefield. This guy put us out on the battlefield to find him because he chose not to do his duty.
That enough would be -- if proven true, would be enough to convict him in my mind.
LEMON: General, Joe, Michael, and Gloria, stay with me, everyone.
When we come right back, is President Obama going to regret this picture? We are going to talk about that.
Also, Dr. Ben Carson is here. He says he has the formula to save America's future. He also says Obamacare is slavery. So this should be very interesting.
LEMON: President Obama stood in the Rose Garden this weekend with Bowe Bergdahl's parents by his side and proudly announced that the sergeant was free after five years of Taliban captivity.
But is the commander in chief paying a higher political price than he thought?
Back with me now is Gloria Borger, retired General Mark Kimmitt, Joe Reeder and Michael Waltz.
Gloria, did the White House underestimate the fallout from this deal?
BORGER: I think they did.
I think they had a Rose Garden ceremony, which they thought would be widely applauded. And then the stories came out from Bergdahl's peers about the circumstances of his disappearance and his capture. And word came out about these bad guys that were part of this deal.
And so I think that, while the White House clearly understood that there was going to be a reaction against the trade, because these are bad guys, I don't think they anticipated the degree to which people would be up in arms about this because of the testimony of Bergdahl's peers and compatriots and soldiers.
LEMON: General Kimmitt, if you were advising the commander in chief, would you have advised him to do this deal knowing what we know now?
KIMMITT: Well, I don't think I would have any problem with him doing the deal.
But the manner in which he advertised it and promoted it with the Rose Garden ceremony, with the, this is a joyous day, this soldier served with honor and distinction, that kind of wrapping that was put on this event is probably what has caused the largest amount of trouble to the average American citizen.
That's what's getting this in trouble. If this had been handled in a different manner, recognizing that this was probably the best of a lot of bad options, I think the American people would have been more supportive of the action that he took than the reaction that he's getting now.
LEMON: If -- initially if the president said what he said today in Europe, that, listen, no matter what the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, we still have to bring him home, and left it at that, probably, are you saying, General, there probably wouldn't be that backlash?
KIMMITT: Yes, I think that's right, especially with what his fellow soldiers are saying about him.
This would have gone over much better had the president been a little more somber about this and some of his advisers on TV been a little more somber about this.
LEMON: And the intelligence was there. According to most of the sources, the intelligence was there to know about the possibility of Bergdahl being a potential deserter.
LEMON: But, Joe, here, the question is, the complaints from Congress that they were not informed, politically, is it easier though to ask for forgiveness rather than permission here?
REEDER: Well, it is, Don, although I would have -- with the senators, I would have consulted with them.
But I'm having a very hard time Monday morning quarterbacking here. The president is accountable for his judgment. And this will come out. More about the deal will come out. We will probably never know everything there is to know.
But, hey, you know, Israel swapped, I think, 1,000 Palestinians for one Israeli soldier. And I don't think we have ever gone through a calculus in advance of, hey, he's not worth it kind of thing, nor am I very comfortable prejudging what some soldiers say.
What they are saying, as Mark Kimmitt aptly points out, is very troublesome. But I wouldn't adjudicate on the basis of that. First things first. In the words of General Dempsey, he will answer to the music. And we will all be there.
LEMON: I'm curious you're saying that we probably won't know everything. Listen, I'm sure the White House, I'm sure the administration officials know a lot more than we do, obviously a lot more than even his comrades on the battlefield know.
Do you think that it will change? Do you think that we will ever get that information, and is there something in that information possibly that will change our minds?
REEDER: We will get more information, Don. How much -- what troubles me is, he was promoted twice in absentia. Now, you don't promote deserters.
And if you have got concrete evidence of a deserter, you don't promote him. So, there are some still questions to be asked.
REEDER: We are going to get more. I don't know that we will ever get it all.
BORGER: And there is going to be some declassification.
Well, Congress is asking to declassify some documents about this entire transaction. And so there are going to be congressional oversight hearings, after the fact, albeit, but I think we will unspool this a little bit more as time goes on.
LEMON: Fair enough.
Michael, Susan Rice said on Sunday on the talk shows, that Bowe Bergdahl, or Bowe Bergdahl, had served with honor and distinction. Is that -- in your view, did he do that?
WALTZ: I just want to follow up on the point of him being afforded POW status.
I think to, you know, probably the average viewer, that sounds, you know, fairly normal. That's actually a distinctive status that is bestowed upon someone. That affords you the promotions in absentia. It affords you back pay. it essentially affords you a lifetime of benefits.
And to put this gentleman in the same vein as our POWs from the Bataan Death March, as our heroic pilots that were shot down over Vietnam and tortured in Hanoi Hilton, I think is a -- frankly, an insult to those fine gentlemen and to the men and women who died looking for Bowe Bergdahl and aren't going to enjoy...
LEMON: Honor and distinction?
WALTZ: ... a tearful -- a tearful reunion with their parents over the weekend.
From every indication that I have, being out on the ground, he walked off his post. He abandoned his duty. And fine men and women died looking for him. And he deserves to be held to account.
LEMON: OK. Thank you, everyone. Appreciate you joining me here on CNN tonight, Gloria Borger, General Kimmitt, Michael Waltz, as well as Joe Reeder.
Up next, he's a favorite of conservatives and not afraid to speak his mind. He compared Obamacare to slavery and was applauded for it. I look forward to speaking now with Ben Carson, there he is, on the other side of this break.
LEMON: We hear a lot from voices inside the Beltway about the issues facing this country.
Now rising star on the right Dr. Ben Carson is making his conservative voice heard loud and clear. And last year at the National Prayer Breakfast, attended by President Obama, he denounced political correctness said that education in America has been dumbed down, and criticized the tax system.
Dr. Carson is the author of "One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future" and he is a professor emeritus of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, and he joins me now.
Thank you for joining us. How you doing?
DR. BEN CARSON, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: I'm doing very well, thank you.
Before we get into your book, I want to talk to you about -- and before we talk about your political aspirations, I'm curious as to what you make of the president's handling of Bowe Bergdahl and the Taliban prisoner swap.
CARSON: Well, I think there are a number of different levels of problems.
First of all, we released these terrorists. These are not amateurs. These are real dangerous people. And to believe that they're not going to cause more harm is probably a little naive. The other thing is, you know, Bergdahl was not really a POW. He was really a hostage.
And I think the analysis that will go on will demonstrate that that is true. If this is the case, it will be the first time that I know of that we, as a nation, have negotiated with terrorists over a hostage. That sets a pretty dangerous precedent.
LEMON: The administration said that they had to act fast to make the deal because Bergdahl's health was failing. And, as a doctor, do you appreciate at least that particular motive of freeing an American soldier, who is, as you said, held hostage?
CARSON: Well, I understand what they said, and that's why I say I think further investigations will reveal what the truth is. And then the third issue is that of an administration that has already been accused of ignoring Congress taking this step without consultation probably just exacerbates the situation.
LEMON: Right. And the administration has said it was going to be the most transparent administration in history.
And, listen, and you have been very critical of the administration. Since this prayer breakfast speech, you have made some very controversial statements. I want you to listen to what you said about Obamacare in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: And I have to tell you, you know, Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.
And it is in a way -- it is slavery in a way, because...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CARSON: ... because it is making all of us subservient to the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Now, I have to tell you that I was watching that, and I was really confounded about what you meant.
How can you compare a health care program to the brutal oppression and abuse of black people in this country?
CARSON: OK, I can tell you very easily.
First of all, if you listen carefully to what I said, I said it is the worst thing since slavery. Now, there are those who will say, he said it is equivalent to slavery, who probably don't understand how the English language works.
And it is sort of like the kid on the playground at school who runs over the one kid and says, he is talking about your momma, and then he goes to the other kid, he is talking about your momma, so that they can get in a fight, rather than actually concentrating on the issue.
The issue here is that we have turned over to the government the most important thing we have, which is our health and our health care. And for those who are well-read, they will know that many people who have not had the interest of the United States at heart have advocated making the population dependent in order to achieve the -- quote -- "utopian society."
LEMON: OK. All right, let me jump in there, because...
CARSON: And the best way to do... LEMON: You said -- I understand where you are going.
You said, and the best way to do that is to control people through health care. But you're saying that these have been influenced by people who didn't have America's best interests at heart. Are you saying the president and this administration don't have Americans' best interests at heart...
LEMON: ... trying to get people health insurance?
CARSON: No, I'm talking about the neo-Marxists. This literature is easy to find.
LEMON: I know, but you're comparing it to the Obama administration and to Obamacare.
CARSON: I am -- I am -- what I am saying is factual historical information.
Now, you can make whatever allusions you would like to make to that in order to try to inflame the situation, but what I'm saying is quite easily verifiable.
LEMON: I'm not trying to inflame the situation. I'm trying to understand it, because you're saying you're not -- you're not talking about the Obama administration, but you're comparing Obamacare to that, and you're saying that the way that people have been controlled is...
CARSON: I'm comparing Obamacare to what? What am I comparing...
LEMON: Well, you compared it to a slavery. You said in a way it is slavery, because...
CARSON: Did I -- did I just tell you -- did I just tell you that it's not the worst thing since -- that it's not comparable it slavery?
LEMON: What you said is...
CARSON: Slavery is a horrible, horrible thing. I can tell you a lot of things about it. But the reason that this is the next worst thing is because it is taking the most important thing that you have and subjecting it to control by the government. That is the first step to government control of everything. And again, this is something that is easily verifiable by those who are historical and indulge in reading history.
LEMON: Here's where -- here's where people would take issue, because they would say that Jim Crow is pretty bad, that World War II was pretty bad, that Vietnam was bad, that D-Day was pretty bad, that Iraq was pretty bad Japanese camp is were bad. All these things were terrible, and they have happened since slavery and you say Obamacare is worse than all of those things?
CARSON: I do say that, yes. All of those things are bad. But those do not fundamentally change the United States.
CARSON: This is the beginning of a fundamental change of moving away from a government that is formed by the people to a government that is for of and by the government. It flies in the face of what America is all about.
LEMON: OK. I want to move on now to the V.A. scandal, and I want to read what you said about the scandal at the V.A. just last month.
And you said, "I think that what happening with the veterans is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health-care providers."
A gift from God? I mean, granted, no one thinks that the V.A. is performing properly, but veterans who served this country may have died waiting for care. Do you regret at all saying that?
CARLSON: Well, let me tell you exactly what that means. Because most people know exactly what I'm talking about. It demonstrates to us very easily, without a lot of subterfuge, what happens when you place layers and layers of bureaucrats between patients and between the health-care providers. It gives it -- it makes it crystal clear what's going to happen. That's why it's a gift from God, to be able to show that to people.
Now, I know that some left-wing people have said, "Carson said that God wants veterans to die." But I don't think anybody with any sense actually believes that.
LEMON: I know. But doctor, you just said that you think that the rhetoric should be toned down in this country. And you know, you can't go over and say, "She said this about you." But when you use comparisons like that and words like that, then you don't really -- then you're ratcheting up the rhetoric. You don't think so?
CARSON: It only ratchets up the rhetoric when people misinterpret it. When people listen to what I'm saying, it doesn't ratchet up at all. It makes it very clear what's going on.
LEMON: All right. Let's talk about your book now, "One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future." What's wrong with America, in your view, and why do you feel compelled to write this book, Doctor?
CARSON: Well, the reason it's called "One Nation" is because our unity is where we derive our strength. But there are forces at work, trying to drive wedges into any crack they can find. So hence, we have all those wars. Race wars, income wars, age wars, gender wars. There's a war on virtually everything. And of course that comes right out of the pages of Saul Alinsky's book, "Rules for Radicals": divide and conquer.
We should be looking at ways that we can unite people. And I know that there are some on the left who say, "But yes, but you're saying bad things about other people." What I'm doing is shedding light on what is going on in America.
LEMON: So you've written a book. Hillary Clinton has a book that's coming out. You did pretty well in the straw poll and people have been talking about possible presidential aspirations. Would you run for president?
CARSON: Well, certainly, it's not something that I desire to do. I think you are have to be a little nutty to want to do a position like that. I notice everybody who goes in there for four or eight years looks like they've been there for 20. And having had already a very arduous career, I wasn't looking forward to that.
But I do recognize that sometimes we're placed in positions that were not of our choosing. So you know, I'm keeping my eyes and ears open. We'll see what happens. I'll be very interested in what happens in November. Because the American people will have an opportunity to state pretty clearly whether they want to continue down this path of increasing government control over our lives, or whether they'd rather move back to a nation that is for of and by the people.
CARSON: And that will inform a lot of decisions by me.
LEMON: I have to run. I take that as a yes. We will see new November. I appreciate you coming on, and I appreciate the honest conversation.
Coming up, the big night in eight states, with primary results pouring in. We'll have the very latest. That's next.
Plus, a man who can make anything sound good. The one and only, Morgan Freeman.
LEMON: We have breaking news tonight. Election results across the nation are in. And this is Super Tuesday in the primary season, with a bitter mudslinging war in Mississippi. So joining me now to talk about this, CNN's political all-stars, Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash.
Wolf, why is Mississippi so important tonight?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, if the incumbent, Republican Senator Thad Cochran, loses to the challenger Chris McDaniel, then the -- a lot of the establishment Republicans fear that the Tea Party winner, that's Chris McDaniel, they fear that he would have a potentially tougher time winning against the Democrat in November. Although, Mississippi is usually a pretty Democratic state.
One of the things they fear about Chris McDaniel -- Dana can speak more about this -- is some of the controversy that erupted when some of his supporters went into a nursing home and took pictures, very confidential pictures of Thad Cochran's wife, who suffers from dementia. This was a crime, an alleged crime in the state of Mississippi, and a lot of establishment Republicans fear, those who oppose Chris McDaniel, that potentially in the coming months, more details could emerge. Four individuals, supporters of Chris McDaniel, were arrested. So they're pretty nervous if they look at these results right now.
LEMON: Dana Bash, you're there in Mississippi tonight. What's the very latest?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is so incredibly tight. We knew that this was going to be neck and neck. But nail- biting like this, maybe not so much. It is -- I think our understanding is about 80 percent of the precincts are reporting.
And at this point, Chris McDaniel has a slight, slight edge at about 50 percent. But that could flip, because it has been flipping as we watch these returns come in.
There is so much nervousness here at Cochran headquarters, as you can imagine.
Part of the issue, which has really been fascinating to watch here on the ground, is that it's been hard for both campaigns to really track the voter turnout. Really track how well each side can do. Because, this is in many ways unprecedented.
And the reason I say that is because Thad Cochran has been in the Senate, as Wolf mentioned, for 36 years. When he won, he was the first Republican since Reconstruction to win in Mississippi. And he hasn't had a primary since. So there hasn't been any kind of precedent for this kind of race. Only on the presidential level have you seen the focus on Republican turnout and in sort of small numbers in a primary.
So that's why it's hard for -- I talked to people running both campaigns at the highest levels, and they admitted that it was very hard for them to tell if what they were doing was actually working or not. So that's why this is so incredibly close.
But as Wolf said, big picture, this has been huge for the Tea Party nationally. Because they have poured millions of dollars here. They have felt that this was their last gasp to try to topple a member of the Republican establishment. And that Chris McDaniel, the 42-year- old kind of upstart, was their best chance to do that.
LEMON: Wolf Blitzer, is this race in Mississippi a predictor of November?
BLITZER: Well, look, the Republicans, if they're going to be the majority in the Senate, they need a net gain of six. There is an incumbent Republican in Mississippi. Assuming that that stays a Republican, whether Thad Cochran or Chris McDaniel wins in November, that's not necessarily a gain for the Republicans.
There are other states like Iowa, for example. There's a contest going on in Iowa right now. There's an incumbent, Tom Harkin, who's retiring. So if the Republicans were to pick up a seat there, that would be significant.
But it's drama. Dana's absolutely right. Tea Party versus establishment Republican unfolding in Mississippi right now.
LEMON: Wolf and Dana, appreciate both of you. Thank you very much.
When we come right back, Morgan Freeman on the American dream. Pulling up yourself by your boot straps and the secret to his amazing voice.
LEMON: Morgan Freeman has won an Oscar, two Golden Globes. His films have grossed over $8 billion worldwide. So when he lends his voice to a project, people listen. Earlier this year, it was "The Lego Movie," one of the most popular films of the year so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: With proper training, you could become a great master builder.
CHRIS PRATT, ACTOR: I could?
FREEMAN: The prophecy choose you, Emmett.
PRATT: But I can't do any of the stuff that prophecy says I'm supposed to do.
FREEMAN: All you have to do is to believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Very nice. Morgan Freeman is now opening our eyes to the wonders of science in season 5 of the Science Channel's "Through the Worm Hole." And Morgan Freeman joins me now.
Good to see you.
So let's talk about this, because this has really become a passion project for you, "Through the Worm Hole." Why is that?
FREEMAN: Well, it's -- No. 1, it's my company. Revelations Entertainment. We came up with it. We produce it. And it's caught on for some reason or other. And we're very proud of the fact that we have a lot of young -- we have a very broad range of viewers. From young people to old.
LEMON: Well, it's very mystical. It opens your mind about the universe. And if you have a different concept of what the higher power is, this show takes you there in a non-preachy way.
FREEMAN: Yes. Because we don't -- we don't set ourselves up to preach. We just ask the questions. That was one of our mantras, ask questions.
LEMON: And you're very provocative. Because this is season five now. And the first episode asks the question that I think is very provocative. You say, is poverty genetic? Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREEMAN: Pharaohs, kings, great industrialists and CEOs. Throughout history a select few have claimed enormous health as a birthright. Some of them say they also inherit qualities and virtues that keep them rich. Could the chasm that separate rich and poor really be the result of our DNA?
Scientists are trying to discover if there a biological reason the rich stay rich. And whether equality and prosperity for all contradict the laws of nature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You also get personal. You share a bit of your life story in the show. You talk about growing up collecting bottles to go into movie theaters. Do you think poverty is part of genetics, to answer your question?
FREEMAN: No, you can't say that. I don't think wealth, personally. I don't think wealth and genetics have anything to do with each other, actually.
If you're born in the U.S., it really doesn't matter the condition of your birth. What matters is what you inherit from your nurturing, from your environment, whether or not you are -- I mean, this is from the standpoint of having been born with little. Here, you can always get out of that. Poverty is just...
LEMON: The environment affects.
FREEMAN: Yes. Say you're born as one of the Untouchables in India. There you are. If you're born into the super-rich, there you are. Here, you can be born to the super rich but three, four generations down the line, it's gone. That's -- that's...
LEMON: Here's a stat from your show. And it's just the richest 85 people on this planet have as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion.
FREEMAN: Yes. Right. That's on the planet, however. That's...
LEMON: That's not far off in America.
FREEMAN: No, it isn't far off in America. But we still -- we still hear don't abandon the idea, that it isn't finite. It isn't finite. And you were born -- where were you born?
LEMON: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
FREEMAN: Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. I had a long haul from where I came from, to here. But here we are. So proof is in -- proof of the pudding is in the eating. Here we sit at the dining table.
LEMON: But it's hard to -- when you say that to people because they say, "Here you go with the pull yourself up by the bootstraps. You're just being respectable. Not everybody can do that."
FREEMAN: Bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Everybody can. Not that it doesn't -- courage. Courage is the key to life itself. A lot of people were born in situations, "I'll never get out of this." So they won't. I say to people who say, "Well, I would like to have done so and so and so and so."
"Well, you could have done it."
"I couldn't get out of here."
"Man, the bus runs every day."
LEMON: You're exactly right. If there -- if you can conceive it in your mind...
FREEMAN: If you can think of it, you can do it. That's the human condition. If we can imagine it, we can do it. And I think the -- the condition of each individual human.
LEMON: Right. So when -- the whole thing, especially the president and Democrats are now talking about income inequality. And that's basically what, you know, when you talk about the richest 85 people on the planet, it's income inequality. When you think this -- looking at what's happening in the news now, is that a good idea...
FREEMAN: It is a great idea. It is the greatest idea. We have much more vibrant society when we don't have such a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots. We need a middle ground that we call the middle class, the people who buy everything, the people who use the products that the rich are creating, if they are creating anything other than wealth, right?
FREEMAN: So it's what's happening with the Chinese economy right now. They're changing their whole outlook, because they need consumers. Without a middle class, you're not going to have consumers. You're not going to have at the level that we normally would have it.
LEMON: So can I go back to, because I thought what you said was fascinating. Because you called it bull when you said people can't pull themselves up. Do you think that race plays a part in wealth distribution or either a mind-set that you can't...
LEMON: You don't?
FREEMAN: No, I don't. I don't. You and I, we're proof. Why would race have anything to do with it? Put your mind to what you want to do and go for that. It's kind of like religion to me. It's a good excuse for not getting there.
LEMON: You know, I said -- this will probably get me in trouble, but I said to some of my colleagues recently, so I know that it's an issue. But I've been -- it seems like every single day on television I'm talking about race. And it's because of the news cycle and it's in the news, but sometimes I get so tired of talking about it. I want to -- I want to just go, this is over. Can we move on?
FREEMAN: And if you talk about it, it exists.
FREEMAN: It's not like it exists, and we refuse to talk about it. But making it a bigger issue than it needs to be is the problem here.
LEMON: So I understand you recently had a birthday. You're 27?
FREEMAN: No, no. No, no, you've got that all -- 37.
LEMON: Thirty-seven, 37. We have a little surprise for you. Can we get it?
FREEMAN: Oh geez.
LEMON: There you go.
FREEMAN: That's more like it.
LEMON: Happy birthday, sir.
FREEMAN: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you for joining us.
FREEMAN: Oh, it's a pleasure.
LEMON: So Season 5 of "Through the Worm Hole" premiers tomorrow and airs Wednesday nights on Science Channel -- on the Science Channel.
FREEMAN: Ten o'clock.
LEMON: Ten o'clock. We'll be right back.
LEMON: Time now for "CNN TONIGHT Tomorrow," the stories you'll be talking about tomorrow.
We're keeping an eye on those powerful storms moving through Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri tonight. There are fears of tornadoes and a big cleanup tomorrow.
Meantime, President Obama wraps up his visit to Poland and heads to Belgium for the G-7 meeting. He kicks off tomorrow night with a working dinner.
Tomorrow also marks the 25th anniversary of China's brutal crackdown on protesters camped out in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Troops opened fire on civilians who were protesting Communist Party rule. We still don't know how many people were killed, but estimates range from several hundred to several thousand. And tonight there is a heavy police presence in Tiananmen Square to prevent demonstrators from commemorating the anniversary.
That's it tonight. I'm Don Lemon. "AC 360" starts right now.