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Don Lemon Tonight

President Biden To Fill A Supreme Court Seat; Joe Rogan's Jaw- Dropping Conversation On Race; U.S. Delivers Written Response To Russian Demands On Ukraine; Repeating Same Mistakes Of Pandemic; Los Angeles Officials Plead For Help In Solving Murder Of Black Teenaged Girl Dumped On Freeway Ramp. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 26, 2022 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): President Biden getting his shot to fill a Supreme Court seat with Justice Stephen Breyer deciding to retire. Will the president deliver on his campaign promise to nominate a Black woman? The short list circulating in Washington signals his history is about to be made.

And you've got to hear this. Podcaster Joe Rogan thinks that he has the definition of what makes a Black person.


JOE ROGAN, PODCASTER: Unless you're talking to someone who is, like, 100 percent African from the darkest place where they're not wearing any clothes all day and they've developed all that melanin to protect themselves from the sun, you know, even the term "black" is weird.


LEMON (on camera): Okay. Professor Michael Eric Dyson's name coming up as part of this uninformed rant. He joins me just ahead on that.

And the country might be sick of COVID, but the CDC is predicting more than 62,000 deaths over the next month. Warnings from an expert straight ahead this hour.

But I want to start now with CNN's Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck and global affairs analyst Susan Glasser to talk about what is going on with Breyer's official retirement. Retirement has not happened but that's the word. That is going to happen soon. Good evening to both of you.

Susan, President Biden gets a Supreme Court pick, a chance to turn a new page in his presidency, a way to shore up the base and fulfill a big campaign promise. But still, it probably won't be an easy road, will it, in these divided times that we're living in right now?

SUSAN GLASSER, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, POLITICO: You know, nothing is easy, Don, anymore in our politics. I mean, you know, for President Biden, it's really full circle. As the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he was around three decades ago helping to preside over the confirmation hearing of Justice Breyer. Now, he'll get to pick his replacement.

I'm struck by the initial tone from conservatives which has not been fire-breathing, you know, this will be the fight to end all fights, and it really reflects actually their success of the last few years in reorienting the court and now having what appears to be a 6-3 conservative majority.

LEMON: Steve, why are -- why are you shaking your head in agreement?

STEVE VLADECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, I think, you know, Susan hit the nail on the head, Don. This is -- you know, this not as nearly high stakes a confirmation process as, you know, Amy Coney Barrett replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Brett Kavanaugh replacing Anthony Kennedy, as Merrick Garland at least hypothetically replacing Antonin Scalia.

And, you know, I think that's part of why we haven't seen the same kind of fire-breathing, it's part of why I think this process is not going to be quite as divisive and contentious as the last few we've seen.

You know, from the Republicans' perspective, what's the point? You know, if President Biden is able to successfully confirm, say, the first Black woman in the Supreme Court's history, they still have a 6- 3 majority on the Supreme Court, they still have what they think is a very strong agenda to use against President Biden in the midterms.

And so, I think this is going to look very different, Don, from the last couple of Supreme Court confirmation fights that we've been through.

LEMON: Hey, Steve, you've been going through this list, President Biden's potential short list of picks. Who stands out to you?

VLADECK: Yeah, Don, I think any conversation is going to start with the same two names. There's Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who's currently on the D.C. Circuit, very important federal appeals court in Washington. She spent eight years on the district court bench in D.C.

You know, Don, as you know, she was confirmed just last year by this same Senate, 53-44 with three Republicans. Senators Collins, Graham and Murkowski joining all 50 Democrats, including senators Manchin and Sinema in voting for her. So, she's going to be, I think, very high on the list, 51-year-old, highly regarded federal judge.

Also, a bit younger, I think maybe a bit more progressive of a pick, a name folks may not know is Justice Leondra Kruger, who sits on the California Supreme Court.

The difference there, Don, is that she hasn't recently gone through the gauntlet of Senate confirmation. Possible that she's a bit more of a fight for President Biden. I think that's going to be a big chunk of at least the political calculus in the White House in the coming days and weeks.

LEMON: One more for you, Steve. What kind of cases will the new justice be considering? We know affirmative action in universities, that's coming up.

VLADECK: Yeah, I mean, Don, I think it's remarkable that we have this coming right on the heels of Monday's news that the Supreme Court is going to take up race-based affirmative action in higher education as early as next term. Could be the very first case that this new justice hears.

And so, you know, we're going to have, Don, a very busy summer not just with this confirmation process but with major decisions from the Supreme Court on abortion, on guns, on environmental regulation, on administrative law, on religion in our schools that I think it's going to just set the tables for the new justice to come in to a very divided court and, Don, a court that has handed down rulings that are going to further I think polarize our view of the court as an institution and its role in our system.


LEMON: Speaking of which, Susan, the Supreme Court is central to the GOP's strategy of turning the country to the right, giving them favorable rulings on issues even if the majority of Americans don't support them. How much of an advantage does that give Republicans politically? Is the court essentially a GOP backstop?

GLASSER: Well, you know, that is sort of an unknowable question. But I do think what we do know is that the politics of this are shifting, Don, and that it's very likely that it's now Democrats who may become more focused not only this election year but in the coming years in organizing around a campaign for a long-term effort to retake the Supreme Court to restock the federal judiciary with progressive-type judges.

And I think that, you know, you've seen that conservatives basically are now in the victory lap and with the spoils of their really long- term plan to retake the Supreme Court.

So, what will be interesting to me is how much is President Biden and are Democrats this year able to use organizing around not only this open seat on the court but the major rulings that we're expecting in things like abortion and affirmative action to rally the democratic base and to convince them that this ought to be a voting issue.

For years, the conventional wisdom has been that it was for Republicans a motivational factor to get out there and to make sure that conservative Supreme Court justices were appointed. Are we seeing sort of the pivot point at which it's now a rallying cry for Democratic voters in this midterm election and beyond?

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate your time.

I want to bring in now CNN political analyst Natasha Alford and political commentator Scott Jennings and Bakari Sellers. Hello. There you guys are. Good to see you. Bakari, by the way, is the author of a new book, "Who Are Your People?" Natasha, I'm going to start with you. Black women deserve a lot of credit for delivering Biden the White House as well as the Georgia Senate runoff races. Those victories are -- that's what's going to elevate a Black woman to the highest court in the land. What does it mean to have that kind of representation?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, VICE PRESIDENT OF DIGITAL CONTENT, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT FOR THE GRIO: I think it means everything. I think that there are so many Black women who have been fighting for this for a long time. It's important for people to understand that this is not something that started with the Biden administration. It went back to the Obama administration and beyond. Black women have showed up in record numbers at the polls. They've registered millions of voters. They've run for office.

And so, no one is really doing us a favor here. This is a reflection of what democracy is supposed to be. Democracy is about representation. But I do think that this moment means something special for so many Black women who have shown up. And it's important to remember that these are Black women who have worked very hard to be ready for this moment. They are qualified. And it's important that their voices are represented on that court.

LEMON: Bakari, Congressman Jim Clyburn telling CNN political analyst Laura Barron-Lopez that he thinks that this Supreme Court pick could really reinvigorate the democratic base. Do you agree? Will this pick help Biden with a much-needed reset, so to speak?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I think this pick is about the politics of now, but I also think, to Natasha's point, is something larger than that. For a long period of time, I mean, even going back to Rahm Emanuel simply blurting out that they didn't have time to deal with the courts, I think one of the most valid criticisms of the Obama years was that they did not take the judiciary serious enough.

And Democrats have not put the judiciary on the ballot enough, although Hillary Clinton tried to tell us that and tried to talk to us about the importance and the urgency of the courts.

But the fact is, Don, we've had 115 Supreme Court justices in the history of this country and all but seven, I believe, have been white men. So, this is larger than the politics of the day. This is a time where we have to have that fierce urgency of now because it's necessary.

LEMON: One hundred and fifteen justices so far. There have been 108 white men, two Black men, five women, four of them white and one Latino. And those are the potential nominees up on your screen now.

There's a lot of talk about D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Bakari, who served as a clerk for Justice Breyer. But Clyburn is talking up Michelle Childs. Could that give Childs a boost here? Does that -- how much, you know, impact could -- you know, would Clyburn want impact? SELLERS: I mean, I think it matters, but I think that Judge Childs's record matters as well. I mean, you have Supreme Court Justice Kruger from California. But the difference between Michelle Childs and many of other justices on the court, say, for Amy Coney Barrett, is the fact that she doesn't have that Harvard, Yale pedigree.


What she does, though, is bring that diversity from another perspective. University of South Florida, University of South Carolina School of Law. Simply saying that someone checked the box because they went to Ivy League does not necessarily qualify them for the Supreme Court. We're looking for an entire plethora of experience. And Judge Childs brings all of that, including her full self to the court.

I will not knock any of these women. They all deserve to be on the court. However, there is something that needs to be said about that level of diversity by having someone who didn't just have that Yale, Harvard experience but actually had a maybe more full, diverse experience with their background and upbringing.

LEMON: Scott, there's now going to be a huge political battle ahead of the midterms. How will Republicans try to use this pick to their advantage? Is there a way that they can do that?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, they can't stop the Democrats. Obviously, the Democrats will be able to confirm whoever they want. And by the way, the president should get to nominate whoever he wants and the Senate should be able to handle it however they see fit. I support that. I supported it during the republican years. And so, I think it's important to say that for the Democrats as well.

I do think what Republicans should do here is point out that Joe Biden campaigned as a moderate and he's going to wind up appointing someone who is from the far more liberal or progressive end of the political spectrum. That's number one.

And number two, I think ultimately, if this goes quickly, then Republicans will eventually just want to get back to talking about the core economic and societal issues that are driving the political environment overall.

So, I think they ought to put up a vigorous set of questioning for whoever comes up. I think they ought to point out the differences in values. I think they ought to ask this person hard questions. But ultimately, I think as a political matter, the best thing Republicans could do this year is keep the focus on Joe Biden, keep the focus on inflation, the economy, schools and crime, and by election day, I suspect this will be a distant memory.

LEMON: You think -- Natasha, do you want to respond to that? Someone who is on the far left -- because these women have very substantial records when it comes to the court, I'm not sure if their records indicate that they are far left.

ALFORD: Well, I try to consider myself neutral in terms of these issues. I mean, I think what's interesting is that, you know, Manchin previously voted for Judge Brown Jackson when she was nominated for a lower court, and he also voted for folks who were on the right as well. So, I think that, you know, there are people who have appeal across the board. And so, yeah, I can't really say what is going to happen.

One thing I do want to say is that with this story, often people wonder why we focus on Black women. Right? Why does being Black matter? And it's important to remember that representation actually benefits everyone. Right?

It's not just about scoring political points but it's about a viewpoint and a perspective that, as Bakari pointed out, for years and years has been left out of these important rooms where lifelong decisions are being made. So, very important to remember that.

LEMON: Well, listen, I think the main reason we're having this is because candidate Biden promised on the campaign trail that he would nominate a Black woman. And so, we'll see if he keeps that promise, and that's the reason we're having this conversation.


LEMON: Yeah, Bakari, I wanted to respond to something, but quickly, go ahead, what do you want to say?

SELLERS: No, no, no. I was just going to say, to Natasha's point, I think one of the worst and most perverse phrases we have in our political lexicon is that of color blindness. We want you to see the full value of who we are. And I think not having a Black woman on the Supreme Court for 223 years is more than a travesty because you do not get that diverse thought on issues such as abortion, voting rights, et cetera.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah. And look, that's -- every single woman that we put up on the screen earlier have immense qualifications. So, that should not even be an issue. Maybe politically the right will try to make it an issue. But these women are very qualified.

Bakari, I just want to ask you about the White House press secretary because, you know, they were talking about Kamala Harris. Jen Psaki asked if Kamala Harris would be considered as a SCOTUS pick. This is how she ultimately responded.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has every intention, as he said before, of running for re-election, and for running for re-election with Vice President Harris on the ticket as his partner.


LEMON (on camera): What does it say about the vice president or about -- I don't know, anything, the press corps or us, that the vice president is even a question here?

SELLERS: I mean, it's B.S. I mean, that's what it is. I mean, this is not a real question. People need to stop wasting time and --

LEMON: Scott disagrees with you.

SELLERS: Ain't nobody putting the vice president of the United States on the Supreme Court. She is (INAUDIBLE) away from being president of the United States. She's going to run for vice president in the future.


This is just -- you have Judge Childs, Judge Kruger, you have Sherrilyn Ifill, you have Ketanji Brown (INAUDIBLE) qualified --

LEMON: Bakari, I get that. But I think the implication is that her polling numbers and she's not seen as effective or people don't see her -- Scott, is that -- go ahead and then I'll let Scott --

JENNINGS: Yeah, I --

LEMON: Hold on, Scott. Let Bakari finish and then I'll let you respond. What were you going to say, Bakari?

SELLERS: No, I mean, look, I mean, people want to find any way that they can take a dig at this vice president. And she's withstood it. And they've only been in office for 13 months.

LEMON: Okay.

SELLERS: She'll be just fine. But she ain't going to be on the Supreme Court.

LEMON: Go ahead, Scott.

JENNINGS: I agree with Bakari, they're not going to put her on. But I did marvel today at the fact that there were more than a handful of Democrats and more than a handful of reporters who were begging for the idea that Kamala Harris would be appointed or put on the list. And I assumed it was because they believe she's a political liability to Biden and they want him to choose someone else.

So, I agree with Bakari, she's not going on. But make no mistake, this whole theory was floated today by people who think Biden would be better off if he had a different running mate.

LEMON (on camera): All right. Thank you all. I appreciate it.

He's got the most popular podcast in the world. But when the conversation turned to race the other day, well, what was said on Joe Rogan's podcast about prominent Black Professor Michael Eric Dyson was jaw-dropping.



ROGAN: Well, I'm Italian mostly.

PETERSON: And he was brown, not Black.

ROGAN: Well, isn't that weird?

PETERSON: Yeah, it's really weird.

ROGAN: The black and white thing is so strange because the shades are so --

PETERSON: Tan and brown.

ROGAN: There's such a spectrum of shades of people.





LEMON (on camera): A conversation about race on Joe Rogan's podcast taking an uninformed turn. A guest on the show, psychologist and commentator Jordan Peterson, questioned the racial identity of prominent Black Professor Michael Eric Dyson. You may have seen Dyson on this program before. So, take a listen to what happened on that podcast.


ROGAN: Depending on who you ask, either you're a voice of reason and rationality and, you know, personal responsibility, or you're a voice of intolerance and bigotry and anger and hateful.

PETERSON: Sexual oppression. Prejudice.

ROGAN: What did Michael Eric Dyson call you? A mean, white man?

PETERSON: Yeah, a mean, angry white man, yeah.

ROGAN: Hilarious.

PETERSON: Yeah, yeah.

ROGAN: You're not mean at all. That's what's dumb about that statement. It's you're not mean at all.

PETERSON: I am white. Actually, that's a lie, too. I'm kind of tan. And he was actually not Black. He was sort of (bleep).

ROGAN: Because I'm darker than you.

PETERSON: Yeah, yeah. ROGAN: That's ridiculous.

PETERSON: But neither of us are white.

ROGAN: Well, I'm Italian, mostly.

PETERSON: And he was brown, not Black.

ROGAN: Well, isn't that weird?

PETERSON: Yeah, it's really weird.

ROGAN: The black and white thing is so strange because the shades are so --

PETERSON: Tan and brown.

ROGAN: There's such a spectrum of shades of people. Unless you're talking to someone who is, like, 100 percent African from the darkest place where they're not wearing any clothes all day and they've developed all that melanin to protect themselves from the sun, you know, even the term "black" is weird. It's -- and when you use it for people that are literally my color, it becomes very strange.


LEMON (on camera): Okay. Michael Eric Dyson, professor of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, joins me now. He's the author of "Entertaining Race: Performing Blackness in America." Hello, professor. Thank you for joining us.

So, your name was dropped because here's why. Because you have previously debated Jordan Peterson. And they mentioned it, right? He said he called you. He said you were -- I don't know, something, an angry, white man or something like that, or mean. I forget.

Let's go beyond these two guys. Talk about what's really happening here. Is it really that perplexing to people that Black America exists in all kinds of shades? That doesn't change the Black experience in America.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN AMERICAN AND DIASPORA STUDIES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Not at all. Thank you for having me, brother Don. You know, you would hope they were joking because if they weren't, this exposes the vast lethal ignorance at the heart of so much whiteness, whether intentional or not.

We all know that Black is not a phenotypical reality. We're not talking about a genetic predisposition toward darker skin. We're speaking about an existential context. We're talking about a philosophical idea. We're speaking about rooted cultures in deep histories that have vast traditions, that have generated complicated identities. And we know that blackness in terms of its identity ranges from vanilla vitality to chocolate charm. And all ranges in between.

So, it's not about shade. It's not about a kind of inherited characteristic of race. Race is, as we've been arguing in school, and I would advise Dr. Peterson and brother Rogan to take a class, when we talk about race as a social construct, what we're saying is it's not about a biological determinism, it's about an inherited set of beliefs that depend upon a society to imbue it with meaning. And therefore, it's not simply about who you are, your skin color, your hair, your shade and tone.

Now, while they unsuccessfully challenged my blackness, they damn sure proved to their whiteness. Indifferent to history, oblivious to truth, and indifferent to reality.

LEMON: Mm-hmm. So, just -- it was kind of a weird thing to say, to refer to people as Black.


That's what he said, it's weird to refer to people as Black unless they are from Africa, not wearing any clothes. There's a fundamental misunderstanding, as you've been pointing out, of what it means to be Black.

DYSON: Absolutely. They're harkening back to Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." Brother Rogan is smarter than that. People who are in Africa who don't wear clothes, who have deeper melanin, was he speaking about thousands of years ago? Is he talking about today when he refers to what it means to be African, when he refers to what it means to be Black? Are you that obtuse, indifferent to truth, ignorant about traditions?

But yes, so many people are. This is the same kind of ignorance that fuels the belief that CRT is being taught in elementary school. This is the same kind of ignorance that would have us believe that 1619 is an anti-democratic, anti-American project. This is the nature of the whiteness we continually confront. This is willful ignorance.

This is not, oh my, God, I just don't understand it, it's too complicated. No. What's too complicated is to acknowledge your whiteness, your privilege, your perspective, the shades through which you view the world and the ways in which whiteness provides a kind of lens through which we view -- yeah, they know better than that.

LEMON: Listen, I mean, do they know better than that? look, we all speak for a living. That's what I do for a living. So, you know, at times, you screw up. And so, I like to give people grace when they speak for a living because, you know, especially he has a podcast. I'm not sure how long it is or how long he goes. You're just speaking off the cuff. But one would think that you would do your research if you're going to talk about topics that are this sensitive and this important.

But do they know better or are they just speaking to the people in their audience and just sort of capitalizing on that thinking that's what they want to hear? Do you understand what I'm saying?

DYSON: Sure, absolutely. And I don't think those things are mutually exclusive. I think on the one hand, you're absolutely right, they're speaking to their audiences, they're ginning up a kind of resistance and a kind of anger at look at this guy talking this kind of stuff, and blackness is much more complicated, and look, by the way, he's lighter than us or darker than us and therefore he's not really Black. Come on.

So, yeah, they're playing to the ignorance of their audience, but they're also, you know, exposing a kind of lethal ignorance about the very nature of race itself. And in that sense, yeah, they know better.

Look, I met Joe Rogan and spoke to him after a concert by Dave Chappelle. You're opening for Dave Chappelle, one of the blackest men in America. Not because of his brown skin tone, not because of the shade of his skin, but by virtue of the ideals he promotes, the ideals with which he wrestles, and the ways in which he gets it right or some would say wrong.

LEMON: And his life experiences.

DYSON: And life experiences and the way in which he channels those. So, Joe Rogan, you're opening up for a guy who is redefining for many people blackness in the last 15 years and yet you're claiming not to know what blackness is. Yeah, I think that's a deliberate willful ignorance and it's the unintentional hilarity of a certain kind of whiteness that refuses to own up to what it is, because if he refuses to acknowledge my blackness, he doesn't have to confront his whiteness.

The moment he acknowledges that I am a Black man, he has to confront the fact that he is a white man. And in order to deflect that and to defer that and to defend his whiteness, he would rather disappear it.

As Gore Vidal said, we live in the United States of amnesia, and my brother Joe Rogan and Mr. Peterson from -- Dr. Peterson from Canada are parts of that, you know, United States of amnesia, you know, the Canadian virtue and province of amnesia. This is what we're talking about. A willful, whiteful -- a white disregard for the truth before them.

LEMON: I hope he has you on to talk about it because I think you'd be great.

DYSON: I mean, I'd love to have -- be on Joe Rogan's show, but I don't think -- look, he wants to talk behind my ear. He doesn't want to talk to my face because, you know, I'd have to challenge some of that stuff. But I'd love to engage him and would love to talk about it and hopefully educate himself, our audiences, myself, and the whole of us as we try to grapple with what it means to be Black and to have race in an American society.

LEMON: Dr. Dyson, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

DYSON: Thank you for having me, Don.

LEMON: More news from Spotify tonight. They are sticking with Joe Rogan's podcast and removing Neil Young's music from their streaming platform. Last night, I told you about Young's ultimatum to Spotify that it can have his music or Rogan on but not both, citing Rogan's rampant COVID misinformation on his podcast.

Well, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the rock and roll icon is not backing down after discussions with Spotify. So, the service is taking down his music. Rogan's podcast is the most popular on Spotify. He reportedly has a $100 million deal with the platform.


The U.S. handing Russia a written response over the Ukraine crisis. Now, the ball is in Putin's court.


LEMON: Secretary of State Tony Blinken says the U.S. has delivered a formal written response to Russia's demands regarding Ukraine. The document is confidential, but Blinken today calling it -- quote -- "a serious diplomatic path forward should Russia choose it."


And tonight, sources telling CNN the U.S. and some allies are discussing putting thousands of troops in Eastern Europe NATO countries.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller, the former Middle East negotiator for the State Department. Aaron, good to see you. Thanks for appearing. The U.S. now waiting to see Putin's next move. You say that you don't see a clear diplomatic off-ramp. So, where do you see this going?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, FORMER MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR FOR THE STATE DEPARTMENT: You know, I've been reading tea leaves and coffee grinds, Don, all night trying to get -- come up with a coherent answer to the question of where this is going. And truthfully, I don't think anyone, our analysts at the agency, secretary of state, President Biden and most of Vladimir Putin's generals and political advisers know where it's going.

Right now, there is no off-ramp for a diplomatic process. To have a process that's credible, you need three things. You need two parties who are committed and are willing and able to participate in negotiations. You need some semblance of a balance of interests so that each party would be able to extract from that negotiating process, something that they could call a win. And finally, you need a sense of the right time. And frankly, right now, January 27, six, seven, I don't see any of those in place. And that raises a serious question.

I think the United States wants the diplomatic off-ramp. The real question is what does Vladimir Putin want. And frankly, nobody on planet earth knows that.

LEMON: Well, he does want Russia to be viewed as a great superpower. But Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc countries are drifting further west. Do you think he's going to try anything to stop that from happening?

MILLER: You know, I think he has created sort of a box for himself. On one hand, he has ramped up his performance on the military side by mobilizing 100,000-plus forces, sending forces from training exercises to Belarus, talking about cyber, disinformation campaign.

And yet on the other, he has defined objectives for himself, NATO out of Ukraine and getting Ukraine completely divorced from any membership in NATO. And the chances of Ukraine joining NATO, Don, are slim to none, certainly for the next several decades.

So, I think he has climbed up a tree, and I'm not sure even he understands or realizes a way to climb down. I think the point you raised before, though, is an excellent one. Even if we managed to find a way out of this crisis, the reality is that Putin fashions himself, as you just identified, as a great power. And great power, like China and the United States, have spheres of influence.

Even if this Ukraine -- this phase of the Ukraine crisis somehow is defused, Putin has a serious problem because he has actually strengthened Ukrainian nationalism, he has strengthened the NATO alliance, he has pushed the president to, I think, I give the president relatively high marks here, create a measure of deterrence and punishment if in fact Putin goes ahead with any military intervention.

And yet Ukraine is going to inexorably, I think, drift further to the west. So, he can't solve this problem which means that this is a movie we're going to be watching for quite some time.

LEMON (on camera): Early on in his presidency, President Biden clearly predicted that the world is right now a contest between democracy and authoritarianism. Watch this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I predict to you your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded, autocracy or democracy? Because that is what is at stake. This is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies.


LEMON (on camera): So, to that point, now the president is facing a world where Russia is eyeing Ukraine, China has its sights on Taiwan, North Korea is ramping up missile tests. Are autocrats feeling emboldened right now?

MILLER: Well, I don't think there's any doubt about that and every American president in the modern period has summoned up the democracy theme. And, you know, it's a very good one. Certainly, domestically, it plays well and it's consistent with our values.

But I have to say, Don, I'm weary of trying to divide the world into democracies and autocracies because a lot of the problems, pandemic, proliferation, preservation of biodiversity, climate, all of these things are transglobal problems.


They aren't going to be solved by democracies alone. We're going to have to figure out a way. I think the president is open to this. The quote you read was actually directed toward China, and that, I think, is the other irony here. The administration is prepping for a policy in China and yet Vladimir Putin has essentially made an entrance and is now keeping the world at the edge -- on the edge of their seats.

So, yeah, we should promote policies consistent with our values, but it's a cruel and unforgiving world and we're going to have to deal with a lot of non-democratic entities as well if we want to deal with the world's problems.

LEMON: Aaron David Miller, always a pleasure. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

MILLER: Thank you, Don. Take care.

LEMON: With Omicron peaking in the U.S., health experts are warning that we still need to be vigilant. My next guest says we need to look to the 1918 pandemic to make sure we don't repeat the same mistakes.




LEMON: So, right-wing people are saying that they are done with COVID. The CDC is predicting at least 62,000 more COVID deaths over the next four weeks. At the same time, there's a lot of talk about the pandemic dying down. What can we learn from the last devastating global pandemic about what could happen next?

Well, John Barry is the author of "The Great Influenza," and he joins me now. John, thank you for joining us to talk about this. You say that most people think that the 1918 flu pandemic ended the summer of 1919, but they're wrong. What actually happened, sir?

JOHN BARRY, AUTHOR: Well, even the CDC website says there were three waves. But the reality is that's because people at the time were so tired of having lived through it, they basically just stopped thinking about it.

In 1920, however, there was another wave in Kansas City and Detroit, in Milwaukee and Minneapolis and other places. It was actually the deadliest. And people did nothing. In 1918, they did what we did in 2020, closed down. When another wave came, not every place closed down, but some did. 1920, they basically just forgot about it. And it actually was quite a deadly year.

You know, we're on the verge sort of doing that right now. As you said, there is a projection for over 60,000 deaths. Right now, more people have died from Omicron, supposedly the mild version of the virus, than died from Delta. And it's not over yet.

LEMON: Let me jump in here because I hear it all the time and I'm sure you do as well. People say, I've got all this and why do I have to wear a mask, whatever, I've got all these shots in me. They think that, okay, I've got three shots now and on top of that I was infected with Omicron, now I'm totally protected against COVID. You say people had a similar feeling after a few waves of the Spanish flu.

BARRY: We got tired. They got tired of it then just as we're tired of it now. You know, we can't allow both weariness and optimism -- I'm optimistic over the near-term future, too, but you can't let that overpower your good judgment. The reality is it remains a threat. No one can predict what the next variant is going to be.

I think it is most likely that the next variant is going to continue a trend toward mildness, that it will continue the shift toward infecting the upper respiratory tract so you get like a cold as opposed to the lower -- the lungs where you get pneumonia and you're at greater risk of death. I think that trend is the most likely thing to happen. But there's no guarantee. It could turn in another direction.

You know, that is what happened not only in 1920. You know, we had three milder pandemics, 1957, 1968, and even 2009. All three of those pandemics a couple of years after the fact when there was a tremendous amount of natural immunity. And in those modern pandemics, they even had a vaccine available. You also had upticks that were in many cases deadlier than the wave when people were not protected either by a vaccine or by natural immunity.

LEMON: Just really quickly, where are we when it comes to herd immunity? Because -- herd immunity, did that end in 1918?

BARRY: Well, you know, that's a funny concept. You know, if you think herd immunity means that -- I mean, technically, it would mean that so many people are protected by either infection or vaccine that a new -- the virus can't even get a foothold. So, everybody's protected. That is never going to happen with this virus.

LEMON: All right.

BARRY: It changes too fast.


You know, I am again optimistic because of Paxlovid and other therapeutic drugs that will be coming on line, but they're not there yet.

LEMON: That's going to have to be --

BARRY: Again, I'm optimistic. Go ahead.

LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, John Barry. Thanks so much. Los Angeles officials going to the public for help in solving the murder of a Black teenaged girl found dead on a freeway off-ramp. Now, police are offering a big reward for any information.



LEMON (on camera): Tonight, police in Los Angeles asking for the public's help in solving the murder of a Black teenaged girl. The body of 16-year-old Tioni Theus was found nearly three weeks ago dumped on the ramp to a busy freeway, killed by a gunshot wound to the neck.

Well, the L.A. district attorney says that Theus may have been the victim of human trafficking. The court documents indicate she was a child victim of sexual exploitation. The county supervisor saying that all too often, cases of victimized Black women and girls are overlooked and that needs to stop.


HOLLY MITCHELL, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SUPERVISOR: It is imperative that we not allow implicit bias or the adultification of Black girls to continue to influence the lack of media coverage or public outrage over their murders.


LEMON (on camera): The supervisor going on to say that the murders of Black women and girls often go unacknowledged, underreported, and unsolved. We will keep on top of this story for you.

Thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.