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Slow Road to Recovery?; Karzai Declared Winner in Afghanistan

Aired November 02, 2009 - 12:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And time now for your top-of-the-hour reset.

I'm Tony Harris in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is noon at the White House, where President Obama is getting new opinions on the recovery from Washington outsiders.

It is 9:30 p.m. in Afghanistan, where there's a winner, finally, in the flawed presidential election.

It is 12:00 on Capitol Hill, where the push for a government-run health care program runs into reality.

Let's get started.

A bankruptcy that could mean trouble for retailers just ahead of the holiday season. And President Obama gets advice on reviving, revving up the economic recovery. Two stories affecting you and your finances.

Let's bring in two of our correspondents, Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry and Christine Romans of our Money team.

Ed, first to you.

What is the president looking for when he brings this group together?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is an outside board. It's run by the very highly respected former Fed chairman Paul Volcker. And what they're aiming at, what's new here, is they are trying to find sort of long-term solutions beyond just the stimulus -- that still hasn't been fully paid out and obviously is a temporary measure -- find long-term ways for job growth. It's sort of a conundrum that Washington has been struggling with.

A lot of Republicans would like to see tax cuts, for example. The president considering some of those, perhaps, but also kicking around other ideas. I'll give you one funny example.

A participant in this group just a moment ago was saying we need to find a way to replicate the success of Cash for Clunkers, but for people to weatherize their homes. Sort of have greener homes.

So what do you think they'd call that, Tony? Cash for Clunkers, in this case, weatherizing homes, Cash for Caulkers. That's the kind of idea.

Maybe it's a little silly. Maybe it will actually help the environment and also kick-start some jobs. But they're trying to kick around, in all seriousness, just different ideas, sort of think outside the box, and figure out beyond just the traditional let's cut taxes, let's stimulate -- you know, pour out more government spending. What can you do to create jobs and grow the middle class?


HARRIS: And just to piggyback that point, Ed, the president, it seems to me, is looking for ways to move beyond economics through boom and bust cycles.

HENRY: Absolutely. And, you know, what he's struggling with, frankly, we've got an off-year election tomorrow, where, for the first time, in a way, even though he's not technically not on the ballot, President Obama will be facing a little bit of a verdict. It's only a handful of races, but obviously people are still uncertain about the economy.

And we saw that in the president's message here when he spoke to the media briefly. He basically said, look, as he said many times before, we've pulled the economy back from the brink, but that's not good enough. People are still hurting, we need to do more.

And as he said, we're not where we want to be right now. We have a long way to go. That's what they're struggling with, is the fact that while, sure, there has been some economic growth, sure, Wall Street is starting to come out, but there are a lot of people obviously on Main Street who are just not feeling the recovery yet -- Tony.

HARRIS: All right.

Our senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry.

Ed, appreciate it. Thank you.

Christine Romans now.

And Christine, I saw you nodding a bit. It does sound as though the president -- and Ed hit on it. He definitely struck on this idea that the president wants, it seems to me -- is searching for ideas.

What can we do? What can we put in place right now so that we're building something sustainable with this economy, with all the sectors fired up, so that we're not waiting for the next boom and then the inevitable bust?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I think he said we're looking for, how are we going to have a post-bubble world? What's the world going to look like post-bubble, and how are we going to have growth, sustainable growth for the economy -- and that means sustainable growth for you, for me, for our households, for our jobs -- and more opportunities so that we can get a college degree, go to work, right down the line? How do we have sustainable post-bubble growth?

And I think, Tony, we are still feeling the effects of the bubble. I mean, the bubble, in some cases, is still popping.

CIT, a perfect example. CIT, the fifth largest bankruptcy in American history, this weekend. This shows that this big consumer bubble, this lending bubble, this problem that we've been dealing with for the last year or two years is still popping. And the president is still -- and those people in that room, they have a lot of real tough choices and things to talk about.

You know, the president also said we need some bold, innovative action on our part, on Congress' part, on the private sector's part. I think that's interesting. I think that tells us that they are still thinking of new things that they can try to do to ease the pain here.

HARRIS: Well, let's stay with CIT for a moment, because for a moment there, you talked about what they do. Tell us they are so important and what this bankruptcy filing really means in terms of winners and losers here as we go into the holiday season.

ROMANS: So, what they do, CIT is this huge lender, a key huge lender to small businesses, mid-sized business. They have a million customers and 30 different industries. They're very heavily involved in the retail industry in a way that the retail industry gets capital. It's called factoring.

Anybody out there who works in retail knows what I'm talking about. But it's an incredibly important way to get capital in the system.

Also, they are a big lender to minorities, to women. Overall, Tony, some 90 million American workers work for a company that relies on CIT for financing or lending. That's a whole lot of folks.

So this company has filed for bankruptcy. We've known it's had a lot of problems. It's been having trouble for more than a year now.

Now they have this prepackaged bankruptcy. They are going to try to get through this process and keep as much of their business intact as possible. But it's making people a little bit nervous.

The fifth largest bankruptcy in American history. That's a big deal -- $71 billion is the value of that company heading into bankruptcy. The losers are taxpayers who plugged $2.3 billion in December, and shareholders, who, at the end of this, if you own stock in CIT, when it comes out of bankruptcy -- as you know, we tell you this all the time -- that stock will be worthless.

And Tony, we mentioned this before, earlier this morning, but four of the five biggest bankruptcies in American history have come in the last year. That goes back to the president's point about the post-bubble world.

A lot of very scary things have happened in the past year. They've got to figure out, what are we going to do next and how are we going to have sustainable growth once this whole bubble has finally popped?

HARRIS: All right. Christine Romans of our Money team.

Christine, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARRIS: Good stuff.

New reports out today point to improvements in the economy. Pending home sales rose more than expected in September. The National Association of Realtors pending sales reached their highest reading since December of 2006.

Construction spending also rose a little, but 08 of a percent. The increase was powered by a big jump in housing construction. And private measure of manufacturing activity grew in October, at its fastest pace in more than three years.

Checking the wire and some of the day's big stories now.

The Bay Bridge is reopening to traffic right now. OK. Live pictures. We told it was going to happen, and we love it when you predict something and you get the information and it turns out to be accurate.

The San Francisco to Oakland link shut since Tuesday, when a temporary fix failed. Workers installed new metal supports to shore up a cracked beam. The Bay Bridge carries an average of 285,000 cars and trucks every day. This six-day closure was the longest for the bridge since the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.

Two suicide bombers strike in Pakistan today. The blast coming in Rawalpindi, about 18 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

And in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, at least 35 people were killed in Rawalpindi. Dozens more were wounded. The victims were waiting outside a bank to get their paychecks when the bomber struck. The bombing in Lahore was at a police checkpoint. Seventeen people were hurt there, three seriously.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has one another term in office without having to go through a runoff. The president was declared the winner today by the country's Election Commission after challenger Abdullah Abdullah withdrew.


AZIZULLAH LODIN, ELECTION COMMISSION PRESIDENT: We declare that Mr. Hamid Karzai, which got the majority votes in the first round, and he is the only candidate for the second round of elections of Afghanistan in 2009, be declared as elected president of Afghanistan.


HARRIS: Our Sara Sidner is in Kabul. And Sara, Abdullah Abdullah, it seems to me, when you cut through this, pretty much figured he couldn't get a fair election this time around. Correct?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely correct. He came out pretty strongly saying that when he made his announcement on Sunday. He believed that the election system is broken. He believed that he could not get a fair shake and it would be as fraudulent as the first election, which forced this runoff in the first place. So, he withdrew, but he said that he hoped to be able to be part of the solution here in Afghanistan and that he wasn't going anywhere -- Tony.

HARRIS: Sara, did the United States or any other nations play any role in this weekend's developments?

SIDNER: Certainly people believe that the U.S. and the international community put pressure on the administration and put pressure on this commission to do the right thing, so to speak. A the lof people hoping that the runoff didn't happen once Dr. Abdullah pulled out of the race because it would be such an expensive endeavor and a dangerous one for voters and those who decided to help put this race on in many parts of Afghanistan. And the fact that there would only have been one person, Hamid Karzai, on the ballot, effectively putting the people who are already for him out to vote and other staying away from the polls, it just seemed like a bad idea.

But we spoke with the Independent Election Commission president, who told us that any decision they made was a separate decision. Everyone is allowed their opinions, but they are making decisions on their own and making decisions on a legal basis, making decisions on an ethical basis, and that the decision is solely theirs and theirs alone -- Tony.


Sara Sidner in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Sara, good to see you.

And we are listening to your views and your concerns about the war in Afghanistan, and you can, boy, call right now and voice your comments. 1-877-742-5760 is the number. Let us know what you think the U.S. should do next in Afghanistan.

And we had record rain in October, but this week brings a new month, maybe a sunnier forecast. Chad Myers is tracking it for us in the Weather Center. We will talk to Chad in just a couple of minutes -- Chad, there you are.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Tony, it wouldn't take much to be sunnier in November.


MYERS: I mean, look at these. We have flood warnings. Every little green dot here, flood warnings, almost from Chicago all the way down to Louisiana. And levees not doing so well in Louisiana.

We'll tell you that story in a few minutes.


HARRIS: Battle lines forming over the public option and health care reform. Senator Joe Lieberman says the country would be better off with no health care reform than one with government-run insurance. Democrats would need Lieberman to block a filibuster attempt by Republicans, but he is clearly against the public option.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: And it's fascinating and, frankly, troubling that it has suddenly become a litmus test. If you're not for a government health insurance company, you're somehow not a good Democrat.

If you look at the election last year, the presidential election, the public option was never discussed. This was all about, how do we control the increasing costs of health insurance, and how do we make health insurance available to people who can't afford it now? Those are our goals.


HARRIS: Well, the White House and Republicans couldn't have more divergent views on the impact of a public-run health care reform. Take a look at this debate.


DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think both the House and the Senate are going to move forward on bills that likely will have a public option. The president believes a public option is valuable to create competition within the insurance industry.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: What this is going to do is bankrupt America. It's going to cost millions of Americans their jobs and cut benefits for seniors. This is not what the American people want. They want a more gradual approach to fixing our current system.


HARRIS: Both House and Senate health care overhaul bills now include a limited public option. The House bill could hit the floor this week. House and Senate leaders are prepared to work through this coming weekend, and they have canceled the Veterans Day Parade.

(WEATHER REPORT) HARRIS: A horrible crime, just a flat-out ridiculous crime in California, has an entire community coming together. And now a message from the parents of the victim. And Josh Levs is following it for us -- Josh.

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hey there, Tony. This is what police call the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl after a homecoming dance while bystanders were there.

What do her parents say? We are going to show you.


HARRIS: A look now at our top stories.

An incredible site in the waters off Manhattan. The USS New York sails in for a special homecoming with a 21-gun salute. The bow of the $1 billion Navy assault ship contains more than seven tons of steel from the World Trade Center towers.

It seemed to be an especially violent weekend. Four people were gunned down outside a television store in Mount Airy, North Carolina, the quite town that inspired "The Andy Griffith Show." Police have taken this man into custody. He was found at a motel about 50 miles away in Virginia.

And in Cleveland, police are investigating the deaths of six women whose decomposing bodies were found at the home of a convicted rapist. He is in custody but has not been charged yet. Police say the victims were strangled. They are looking at missing person's cases to try to identify the victims.


KYANA HUNT, DAUGHTER OF MISSING WOMAN: I want to get some closure to this because it's been over so many months. But I do not know.


HARRIS: We will get another check of our top stories in 20 minutes.

As police investigate what they call a gang rape of a 15-year-old girl after a homecoming dance in California, the girl's parents have released a message.

Our Josh Levs has been following that story for us -- Josh.

LEVS: And Tony, you know, last week, part of what caused so much national attention here was that police were saying there had been a group of people who saw what was happening and did nothing to stop it. Well, this weekend, there was a community event at Richmond High School in northern California, responding to all of this, and a pastor read a statement from the girl's parents. We have a quote for you. They said, "Stop the violence. Please do not respond to this tragic event by promoting hatred or by causing more pain. We've had enough violence already in this place. If you need to express your outrage, please channel your anger into positive action."

So, that's what they put in their statement there.

Now, this weekend, in the NEWSROOM here, with Fredricka Whitfield, we actually devoted an entire hour to this subject and made it a national conversation. People reacting, asking questions.

We spoke with Kami Baker, who is a classmate of the victim, and she's told us that students have an event scheduled for tomorrow.


KAMI BAKER, STUDENT, RICHMOND HIGH SCHOOL: Tuesday, after school, we have a vigil which will include performances, and we'll receive donations to put into a bank account for the victim. And myself is performing, along with my friends, who are doing poems.

And one of the seniors, he's in Youth Together, and Youth Together is doing a big statement. And all of the men will, like -- they'll wear wristbands. At my school, we're actually wearing blue wristbands to show that we support the victim entirely, and to accept donations. And a lot of the men are actually writing speeches. I've read some of them, and they are amazing.


LEVS: So we'll be keeping an eye out for that tomorrow.

And Tony, I also read viewers' comments, and some were calling for really tough laws against bystanders who don't take action. Here's what one of our guests told us about that.


DREW CARBERRY, NATIONAL CRIME PREVENTION COUNCIL: Some persons in our community, in our civilization, are compelled to report crimes when children are abused or in danger. And it may be a time to examine what are those roles, or expand those categories of who must report this kind of abuse. And you think about teachers, principals, social workers must report this kind of abuse. Perhaps there is a way to legislate or to certainly explore the idea that we need to expand those categories of who must report.


LEVS: You can see there was a real national conversation.

I want to show you how you can see a lot more. will get you there. And at the graphic here, We've linked you to all of it. Also, Facebook and Twitter, JoshLevsCNN.

Tony, people weighing in a lot on what this event says about our society, and we're going to follow every twist of it.

HARRIS: And Josh, thanks for following that story for us.

LEVS: You got it. Thank you.

HARRIS: The Afghan people had been gearing up to vote in a runoff election, but now it's canceled. We will explore what this may mean for U.S. relations with Afghanistan and thousands of U.S. troops there.


HARRIS: Ten major attacks in Pakistan in the last month, and the terror spree continued today with two suicide strikes.

Reza Sayah is live now from the capital city, Islamabad.

And Reza, let's start first with the latest attack in Lahore.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that happened a few hours ago, Tony. Two suicide attackers, in a car, according to police, drove up to a police check post. While they were being searched, officials say, they blew themselves up. At least 17 people injured, according to police. And police say these two men were probably after a much bigger target. And they're convinced they really prevented a major attack.

Earlier on Monday, though, police say a suicide attacker did get to his targets. This attacker was on a motorcycle, according to police, and he blew himself up in front of a bank. And in front of that bank was a line of people, government workers, soldiers and civilians, waiting to withdraw their salaries and pensions. This was payday, the first working day of the month.

Police say this attacker knew very well that many of his victims would be civilians. It didn't matter. He blew himself up anyway.

In the line were several soldiers. Police say it's likely that those were the targets. But again, many civilians part of the fatalities. The death toll tonight in that attack is at 35, police say. Sixty-five people were also injured.


HARRIS: Hey, Reza, what is the latest in the Army offensive targeting the Taliban in south Waziristan?

SAYAH: Yes, the Army's position is all these attacks are originated and launched and planned in south Waziristan by the Taliban. That's why they're staying they continue that offensive in south Waziristan. Today they held another press conference updating us on what they call progress. They say they've captured more territory.

Their biggest achievement they say over the past 24 hours is the takeover of a village of Konegram (ph). Konegram, according to the army, was the stronghold of the Uzbek fighters. The army says about 1,000 Uzbek fighters are fighting alongside the Taliban, but the town of Konegram, the army says, is now in military hands. But we should note, Tony, there's no indication if the leadership of the Taliban, namely Hakimullah Mehsud, is still here in south Waziristan fighting or if he's fled. It's too early to tell says the army.

HARRIS: What's your thought on this one? Will defeating the Taliban put an end to the suicide attacks?

SAYAH: Well, that's the big question. The Army says they're making progress. But when it comes to the average Pakistani citizens, they want to know if progress is going to translate into an end of these suicide attacks.

And that's the question we put to military officials when they took us to the battle zone last week. And they bluntly said, do not expect an immediate end to these attacks, even if there's success in this offensive in south Waziristan. They say the problem of militancy is widespread and what a challenge that is for the Pakistani public and its citizens, to endure these types of attacks and to continue to have faith that this military is going to continue to do its jobs from a military standpoint in south Waziristan.

HARRIS: Reza Sayah for us in Islamabad, Pakistan. Reza, thank you.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai gets another five-year term. The country's election commission declared him the winner today after challenger Dr. Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of this weekend's scheduled run-off election. Our Ed Henry is at the White House for us.

And, Ed, how does this play into President Obama's consideration about adding more troops to Afghanistan, if at all?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it has a major impact, Tony, because, let's face it, it was the Obama administration that was pushing hard for the runoff in the first place, working very closely with Senator John Kerry, to try to bring some credibility to an Afghan election process that, let's face it, was in shambles. And still really is because just because Dr. Abdullah has stepped aside, it does not guarantee that credibility is going to be brought to the administration of President Karzai.

Instead, you've had this administration here in the U.S. raising questions about corruption there and, in recent days, this administration has been saying, look, we need a credible partner in Afghanistan as we potentially send more U.S. troop to that war.

And a little earlier today on "AMERICAN MORNING," Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan during the Bush administration, said the onus really now is on President Karzai.


ZALMAY KHALILZAD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: I think the administration could use the decision on troops to send a strong message to President Karzai that he must put a strong government together, an effective government together, that America's decision and commitment to Afghanistan will depend on his decision to put a strong and effective government together.


HENRY: So, certainly pressure on President Karzai, but pressure as well here on President Obama. His aides have said in recent days that he could not really announce this decision on U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan until the runoff was dealt with on November 7th. That's no more. So the pressure on the president to make this decision and announce it to the world so that things can start moving forward, it's only going to increase now.


HARRIS: Yes. Senior White House correspondent Ed Henry. Ed, we're going to let you go. We know the daily briefing is starting soon.

And we are listening to your views and your concerns about the war in Afghanistan. Just give us a call at 1-877-742-5760 and let us know what you think the U.S. should do next in Afghanistan.

Where were you 20 years ago? You may remember these pictures from Germany. This month marks 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down. A look back at its significance then and now.


HARRIS: Berlin looking back on a notorious chapter in its history, the wall that once split the city along an ideological divide was destroyed two decades ago. But the memories of life in its shadow still very much alive. Jim Clancy looks at the night everything changed.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): November 9th, 1989, the day German's concord the wall that had divided them socially, politically and economically for almost three decades. Few may remember how a public relations blunder helped speed the wall's demise.

Hours before, Gunther Schabowski, the press official for the communist government, had announced east Germans would be allowed to travel anywhere they wanted effective immediately. In reality, a new travel law was not supposed to go into effect until the next day. Some former east German politicians are still enraged.

HANS MODROW, FORMER EAST GERMAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The man didn't have a clue what he's doing. Then he gets into his car and goes home where he intends to enjoy his evening after work. CLANCY: But it was done. Hopelessly outnumbered and confused border guards were besieged by growing crowds at crossing points. In the end, the guards flung open the gates. Less than a month before, the east German government had tried to showcase its power, but east Germans had lost trust in their own leadership and invested in the Glasnose (ph) and reform of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER SOVIET LEADER (through translator): Well, it was very obvious that change was necessary everywhere. Change was in the air.

CLANCY: Throughout the summer, hundreds and thousands of east Germans had been fleeing their country through Hungry to enter the west. Those who stayed behind in cities like Lipsic (ph) went on the march demanding change from the streets. It was a long time coming. The wall started going up in Berlin in August of 1961. Armed border guards were ordered to shoot to kill anyone who dared to scale it. One of the first to die was Juergen Litfin's brother, Gunther (ph), on the 24th of August, 1961.

JUERGEN LITFIN, BROTHER OF FIRST WALL VICTIM (through translator): We realized what had happened on the morning. No, it was the evening of the 26th when a neighbor called me up the stairs and said, Juergen, come up quick. There's something on the news about the first person to die crossing the wall.

CLANCY: Hundreds were killed trying to flee. The wall's fortifications became more sophisticated and more deadly through the years. But by 1989, the east German economy teetered on collapse. A sharp contrast for the growing prosperity on the other side of the wall. The west looked more than ever like the promise land.

ARND BAUERKAEMPER, FREIE UNIVERSITAET BERLIN: There was a kind of two-type promise of the west, prosperity and economic freedom, liberty. And the (INAUDIBLE) and the last resort, I think, depended on the wall. It could not exist without the wall.


HARRIS: Jim Clancy joining me now outside of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

What a walk back in history there, Jim. You know there is a -- I'm told there's a study out that says that there are some reservations still about the end of communism.

CLANCY: Well, you don't need to do a study. You can hear that from a lot of people, especially if they're rural people, if they're lower income.

But, yes, the Pew Research Group did a study talking with people in all of the former Soviet satellites about what has happened here. You find in Russia and in places like Ukraine, there's a lot of nostalgia for communism. Even here in east -- in what was east Germany, where we're standing, where it was west Germany. But when you talk to the east Germans today, right after the wall came down, Tony, everyone said, within 10 years, we're going to catch up to the west economically. Well, now, 20 years later, they poll them, 87 percent say, haven't caught up yet. So there are still some pretty deep divides, culturally and economically.

HARRIS: Yes. One more quick one. Can you just sort of describe the mood there in Berlin for this, you know, anniversary week?

CLANCY: Well, you know, they're just now -- they're beginning to get into it. Of course, they're thinking a lot more about it. There are all kinds of art exhibits, photo exhibits. There -- I can't tell you the number of things and events that are going on in this city of Berlin right now. It gives the average man time to think and he looks around -- I'm here at the Brandenburg Gate -- he looks around and he says, well, you know, the wall is gone, but it's all about how we feel.

And one thing that came out in that study that we were talking about, Tony, people here overwhelmingly happy to see the fall of that wall and the collapse of communism. They know that it changed their lives for the better. I think you find that reflected in the people every day.

HARRIS: All right. Jim Clancy for us in Berlin, Germany. Good to see you, Jim. Thank you.

And checking our top stories now.

Seattle's mayor calls it a cold-blooded shooting. A veteran police officer shot to death sitting in his patrol car. A rookie cop wounded as well. Police say someone opened fire from a vehicle that had pulled up along side their cruiser.


MAYOR GREG NICHOLS, SEATTLE: We will not rest until we make sure that the people involved are brought to justice.


HARRIS: Ford Motor Company gets a big bump from the government's Clash for Clunkers program. The only major American automaker not to file for bankruptcy protection this year reported a surprise. Third quarter profit close to $1 billion.

A Queens, New York imam pleads not guilty to charges he lied to federal agents at an on-going terror probe. Mad Abzali (ph) arraigned about an hour ago in federal court in Brooklyn. He is accused of tipping off an Afghan immigrant who was later charged with plotting a bomb attack in New York City.

They are often the last faces of Americans they see before shipping off to war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JERRY MUNDY, MAINE TROOP GREETER: I read the casualty list every day in the paper and I say to myself, I wonder if I shook that guy's hand.


HARRIS: They're called the troop greeters. Why these volunteers are often unsung heros.


HARRIS: Troop greeters have a profound impact on service men and women as they pass through U.S. airports on their way to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these greeters are senior citizens. They say they get as much out of the experience as the troops. A new documentary focuses on greeters at Bangor International Airport. They're called, appropriately, the Maine Troop Greeters.


DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bill Knight (ph), Jerry Mundy, and Joan Gaudet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home, heroes.


LEMON: Since 2003, these seniors have sent nearly 1 million U.S. service men and women off to war and welcomed them back. Why do they do it?

JOAN GAUDET, MAINE TROOP GREETERS: It's just such a good feeling to see them coming home. I love to say it when they come down some of the guys will run up and hug each other, like, we made it. We're back.

LEMON: Joan's son, Aaron Gaudet, has made a documentary film about the Maine Troop Greeters called, "The Way We Get By."

AARON GAUDET, DIRECTOR, "THE WAY WE GET BY": I didn't understand why suddenly she was out at 11:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m. And, you know, talking to my brothers and sisters they were saying, "Oh, she goes to the airport to greet troops," and I didn't quite understand what that meant until I went there and saw it myself.

J. GAUDET: Welcome to Bangor.

LEMON: In making the film, what he saw was that his mom, Bill and Jerry, were fighting their own private wars.

BILL KNIGHT, MAINE TROOP GREETER: Everybody has got to die sometime. Nobody got out of this world alive yet.

LEMON: Bill is 87, a World War II veteran now battling prostate cancer. KNIGHT: It's not a very good thought to think that something's eating your body right out from under you, you know. My life don't mean a hell of a lot to me, but if I can make it mean something to somebody else, that's my endeavor.

LEMON: Jerry has a bad heart, but his biggest enemy is loneliness after losing his dog Flanigan (ph).

JERRY MUNDY, MAINE TROOP GREETER: I'm very gregarious when I'm around people, but I'm alone and always have been alone. And the dog has always compensated for that. I love doing it. I love the men. And that's the best of it all, is just telling them, thank you and wishing them luck when they leave.

LEMON: Joan's knees are racked with constant pain.

J. GAUDET: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten pills I take in the morning. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven pills at night.

LEMON: So she does whatever it takes to get to the airport as often as possible.

J. GAUDET: A lot of times you go out when everything hurts. If you get out and you get down there and you're around people and you get to talk to the soldiers, you don't -- you kind of forget.

I feel like I'm letting them down when there's flights I can't go to. It's really an addicting thing.

LEMON: In her son's film, Joan describes a proud, but difficult day when she had to send her own granddaughter off to Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes its safer above the ground than it is on it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To even worry about it.

J. GAUDET: Thank you.

They're in the middle of a war. How can you be safe? Not like being home. I can't do this.

A. GAUDET: And I'm sitting behind the camera on deployment day when my niece is deploying and my whole family is breaking down in front of me and, you know, I'm trying to watch it through this lens and not break down.

LEMON: The Maine Troop Greeters also pay tribute to those killed.

KNIGHT: It takes a minute to get down there to where we are waiting for them. They're (INAUDIBLE) of the wall where we have all the pictures of the fall. MUNDY: I read the casualty lists every day in the paper. And I say to myself, I wonder if I shook that guys hand when I think of how hard it's going to be on this family.

LEMON: All of the troop who pass through Bangor International Airport leave a little of themselves behind. Coins, patches, plaques, pins. Some left in the care of Joan, Bill and Jerry.

MUNDY: I carry one with me that a Marine gave me. He says, hang on to this until I get back. I told him when he gave it to me, I said, how am I going to remember you? He said, I'll remember you. And he hasn't claimed it and I hope the movie, if he sees it, he'll come get his coin, because I've got it right here now.

LEMON: Sloan Gibson with the USO says people like Jerry, Joan and Bill are unsung American heroes and he hopes the film will inspire others.

SLOAN GIBSON, PRESIDENT/CEO, USO: I think one of the most important message of the movie is the power of one individual to make a profound difference in another persons life.

LEMON: Making a difference through one handshake, one hug, one well wish at a time.

KNIGHT: There's cell phones in there, radios. Talk all you want. Call somebody up and make them happy, ugly or honey (ph). There you go.

MUNDY: Thank you, captain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for being here. We appreciate it very much.

MUNDY: Yes. Well, thank you for everything you've done for us.

LEMON: Don Lemon, CNN, Atlanta.


HARRIS: Boy, that is some film.

Still to come, it is the fifth largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. How did CIT fail and will it affect other companies asking for bailout money?


HARRIS: Hi. Let's do this. Can we do this, Scott (ph)? You got a shot of the New York Stock Exchange. Want to give folks a look at the big board. If not, that's fine as well. There you go. The Dow is -- wow, that's a pretty dramatic sell-off. We were in triple digit, positive territory a little more than an hour ago, but now pretty steep declines here but we're still positive. Up 8, 9 points. We're following these numbers with Susan Lisovicz throughout the day right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. You know one of the biggest lenders to small and medium-sized businesses has filed for bankruptcy. For more on what that means, let's check in with's Poppy Harlow in New York.

And, Poppy, a lot of people may not have heard of CIT Group, but what can you tell us about it?

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Right. It's very important. I mean this is a huge lender to small and medium-sized businesses. The sell- off we're seeing on Wall Street, Tony, I'm not sure that's connected to this whatsoever because this news broke last night. So not sure what's driving that. But this does mark the fifth largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, filing for Chapter 11.

This is a restructuring, not a liquidation, of the company. And, of course, this company lends to about 1 million small businesses across 30 different industries. So it's critical to the system. A number of retailers rely on it, right, to make sure they can get the money to fund their business day to day, get their goods on the shelves. What CIT says, Tony, is that 90 million employees work at the businesses that use (INAUDIBLE) to operate. This company says it's going to continue to loan during this reorganization.

One example of someone that relies on CIT is Dunkin' Donuts, right? This is a brand that a few years ago decided they wanted to expand substantially. They got the loans for their commercial real estate for all those new stores you see popping up through CIT. That's just one example.

What CIT says is, listen, during this bankruptcy, it will be business as usual. We will continue to lend. That's really still to be seen, Tony. We'll be watching that.

What we could see here, though, is some positive effects. One being weeding out unstable businesses that can't find lenders outside of CIT, Tony. So we've been expecting this one for a while.

HARRIS: Hey, Poppy, boy, I had a quick question I wanted to follow with you on, but I can't because I've got to get everybody to the daily White House briefing with White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs.