Return to Transcripts main page
Two Americans Kidnapped in Egypt; Paychecks for Firefighters, Policemen Reduced in Pennsylvania; Tyler, J.Lo, Out on 'American Idol'
Aired July 14, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Hey, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow, in for Don Lemon tonight here on the CNN NEWSROOM. Let's get you up to speed on some of the day's headlines.
First off, this man, Pastor Michel Louis, one of two Americans held tonight by kidnappers in Egypt. His family and his congregation are anxiously awaiting any news from the U.S. embassy. The pastor and one woman from his church group were reportedly taken by Bedouin who says they'll exchange them for relatives that are jailed in Egypt.
And Visa, MasterCard and some big banks have agreed to pay more than $6 billion to settle a huge anti-trust lawsuit. It has to do with alleged price fixing in so-called swipe fees charged to retailers when they accept your credit card payments. But don't celebrate just yet. That bill will allow retailers to pass along those additional fees to you, the customer if you use credit standards. Now, a judge solemnly approved that settlement.
Meantime, Sylvester Stallone's son, Sage, has been found dead in his Los Angeles home. The 36-year-old part-time actor was in a couple of movies with his father, who's reportedly devastated, of course, by his son's death. Foul play is not suspected, but an autopsy will be performed.
Connor Boss made history today as the first legally blind contestant at the midst for the U.S.A. pageant. She finished in fifth place and was chosen as Miss Photogenic. Boss has a hereditary the disease that has caused her vision to get progressively worse over the years. Congratulations to her.
And Penn State plans to honor a contract made with former football coach Joe Paterno, even as a child sex abuse scandal surrounding Jerry Sandusky was exploding. That new deal gave the late coach a package worth over $5 million. A devastating report released last week has damaged Paterno's legacy. But the school is said to be leaning toward keeping that statue of Paterno outside of Penn State's stadium.
As many as 180,000 capped crusaders, dark evaders, wall crawlers and everything in between, yes, it is that time again, comic-con in San Diego. The one time where heroes and villains cheers in the escalator, the annual gathering brings together sci-fi and coming book fans of all ages from all over the world to see latest and greatest in fantasy film and fiction. About 180,000 people attending.
All tight, those are your top stories and now what we're working on tonight.
HARLOW: Going broke from Wall Street to Main Street, now entire cities. The paychecks for firefighters and police in one town, now minimum wage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $7.25 an hour.
HARLOW: Is your town next?
The black vote helped him win the White House. But is the president's lock on those votes --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You vote for people that you can relate to.
HARLOW: Slipping? Sex, drugs and Olympic gold, what goes on in the village, stays in the village, until now.
And swimming with sharks. Idle chatter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's exciting?
HARLOW: And vacation or die or both, on CNN Saturday night.
HARLOW: Well, you know this well, the great recession hit Wall Street and then it hit Main Street and now it is landing at the steps of city hall, this time public safety, your safety, my safety may take the hit.
Cost on city services are up for debate and cities large and small, from Compton (ph) to Detroit to Sacramento. So, are the nation's financial problems especially cuts in fire and police protection, is it making all of us less safe? A good place to look for answers is in Scranton, Pennsylvania where police and firefighters recently saw their salaries, get this, cut to minimum wage.
Earlier I spoke with Scranton firefighter who described what he and his colleagues are going through.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB ZOLTEWICZ, SCRANTON PENNSYLVANIA FIREFIGHTER: I'm a very proud parent. You know, I'm proud to be a firefighter, but also, you know, I'm more proud to be a parent and to be able to provide for my family. You know, I'm very concerned that if this maintains, I won't be able to do that. You know, that's -- it's very stressful right now. You know, with that being said, I'm very fortunate, you know, to have a job in this economy. But I need to pay the bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: You know that was Bob who we talked to earlier tonight, and now we're joined by Ron Alongi. He is a police officer in Scranton and this new rule means he's getting $7.25 an hour.
Ron, thank you very much for joining me tonight. I appreciate it.
OFC. RON ALONGI, SCRANTON PENNSYLVANIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you for having me.
HARLOW: Obviously, this had to be a huge shock to you, right?
ALONGI: A great shock, yes.
HARLOW: How long have you been serving?
ALONGI: 20 years for Scranton.
HARLOW: Twenty years. Let's talk about big picture and then for you personally what this means. So big picture, what do you think this means for the citizens that rely on you? You know, there are a lot of folks that are scratching their heads right now, wondering, you are right, if they're going to cut pay that much, so that people who put their life on the line every day protecting citizens are going to make the same as if you're flipping burgers somewhere, are you doing your job the same way? Do you feel as incentivized to risk your life for minimum wage?
ALONGI: Well, myself and my fellow firefighters, we all swore to do our job. We took this job and we're proud to do our job, and we're going to continue to serve to people of Scranton, regardless of the financial issues that are going on right now.
HARLOW: But how long can you sustain this for yourself, for your life, for your family, for your retirement savings? I mean, I think you got an 80 percent pay cut? Is that right?
ALONGI: Yes, 80 percent, we have done.
HARLOW: So, what is your plan long term?
ALONGI: It's day by day. I mean, we hope things get worked out in a timely fashion that we can just go back to until it's worrying about our jobs instead of worrying about our finances. But, I don't know. I mean, it' day by day.
HARLOW: Give me a sense of what this reality is like for you, everyday going home to your family. You know, the mayor of Scranton said look, we have a $16 million deficit. We can't pay out bill. This is what we have to do.
But for you, how does it change your life?
ALONGI: You have to watch every penny. I mean, you live within your means the whole time and then all of a sudden you take a hit like this, 80 percent. And we don't have much morning. It was a week prior to our last pay that we were notified that we were getting cut down to minimum page, you couldn't even prepare for it.
So now, you watch every penny.
ALONGI: In summer time, you may not be going on a vacation that you had planned. You'll be back to school shopping in a few weeks. And I don't know. I mean, we'll try and figure it out as we go along.
HARLOW: Do you have kids?
ALONGI: I'm sorry?
HARLOW: Do you have children, you mentioned back to school shopping, do you have children relying on you?
ALONGI: I do. I have a son, yes.
HARLOW: Yes. It's very hard as a father. That's what Bob, the firefighter from your town was telling us as well earlier tonight. Give us a sense, Ron, of what the citizens are saying to you, the people of Scranton, what are they saying to you about all of this?
ALONGI: Most of - I mean, everybody that I have dealt with in the last week have been very supportive. That calls have go on. They wish us the best and they hope it gets resolved too and everybody's been great.
HARLOW: As you said, this was a huge shock to you. Do you think or do you fear that this is the new reality for more cities across America? Do you think you're an anomaly, or do you think that this could persist as the economy continues to remain in very dire straits?
HARLOW: Yes, I don't know, I hope not. I mean, we saw what happened in California over the last couple of weeks and now this in Scranton. And you know, I pray other people don't have to go through what we're going through because it's tough, it's scary. It's all you think about.
HARLOW: Why is it scary?
ALONGI: You don't know what tomorrow brings. You don't know, I mean, they cut us down to minimum wage. Prior to that, there was rumor of even going to pay less paydays. We don't know our next pay checks are supposed on July 20th and we have no information. We don't know what's coming.
HARLOW: Do you have any explanation of what needs to happen to get the city's finances back in order where you may get back upper close to the pay that used to for the two decades you've been serving?
ALONGI: Well, you know, the council and the mayor are battling back and forth, you know, whatever's going on with trying to achieve some type of loan. As the employees, we just hope that they decide to sit down and work together and try and expedite whatever they need to do. I mean, I'm not involved in any of the political stuff. You know, I just want to go to work, work my full day and get a full day's wage and be happy with what I do and provide for my family.
HARLOW: It sounds like you feel pretty powerless, Ron, that you fell you this need to serve the citizens, at the same time you're getting -- it's getting so tight it's hard to provide for the family?
ALONGI: Right. It's a - I mean, when I go to work, my mind needs to be on the job, the fire department, their minds need to be on their job, to their safety and their security and instead of having 100 percent, you know, focused on what you should be doing. I mean, this is in the back of your mind.
HARLOW: Yes, of course. All right. Well, we're thinking of you and all the folks you work with there in Scranton.
Thanks for joining us tonight.
ALONGI: Thank you.
HARLOW: Well, Scranton is just one of several cities in this financial meltdown. Big question are these cities just anomalies or is this what's next for a lot of cities? That's next and --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had the wrong person and it took them a while to straighten it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Thousands of criminal convictions are now under government review because they might be wrong.
Coming up, I will talk with the former FBI man about how this all happened.
HARLOW: You probably heard this week San Bernardino, California declared bankruptcy, just a few weeks after Stockton, California. And as we discussed a few minutes ago, Scranton Pennsylvania police and firefighters are now getting paid minimum wage, 7.25 an hour.
So, is the wave of austerity about to sweep to America State City. And so, who is to blame and what can be done about it.
We want to bring in two of our guests, Peter Navarro. He is an economist and a professor at the University of California-Irvine. And joining is from Scranton, Gary Lewis, the consultant who specializes in distressed assets.
Thank you both, for being here this evening. I appreciate it.
I just want to run through a few quick numbers. When you look at San Bernardino, almost 12 percent, unemployment. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that 70 percent of homeowners in San Bernardino are under water. They owe more on their mortgage than their home is work.
So you've got this confluence of factors, you've got the mismanagement of money in, you know, in a number of these cities. And a lot of questions about how the finances were held there - handled there.
Professor Navarro, you say look, bankruptcies are the tip of an iceberg for what you call failing American cities?
PETER NAVARRO, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-IRVINE: Yes, Poppy. Ninety five percent of the cities in America are having trouble. And you know, bankruptcy is literally the tip. But every major city in this country, because of the economy is having pressure now on wages, on pensions, potholes being filled schools, police and fire.
And the tragedy here, Poppy, is that you can't fix this problem locally, and the only thing you can do is managing the shrinking pie. And the real problem here is the macro-economy. Over the last decade, our economy is only growing at a third of the rate, it gated in the previous five decades.
And so, you know, guy like Ron, the firefighter, making minimum wage now, hey, you can't have a job, Poppy, unless you also have manufacturing jobs generating good wages and having that income ripple through, so across America it's an issue.
HARLOW: But here's - here is the issue. On top of that, not the fact is, you know, there's a strong argument that those jobs and that growth that we saw that just exploded for decades is not coming back to the United States. Yet, some of that manufacturing is coming back, but it's not going to come back in the way that it did. So then what do cities do? What can be done on a national level to help these cities?
PETER NAVARRO: Well, what can be done on a national level, that's jobs program is trade reform with China. What the heck is China have to do with Scranton and San Bernardino, everything.
They stole our jobs. We have shutdown 50,000 factories over the last ten years. When we open trade with China, we have lost six million manufacturing jobs. We have got 25 million people, Poppy, in t this country who are under employed, not earning a decent wage, and the reason why, is we don't make stuff anymore. We consume more than we make.
And the tragedy of these cities is that they can't do anything, the only thing they can do is basically penalize people and cut their wages or cut pensions, or make to the bondholders take a haircut. That's the only thing you can do, and bankruptcy is the tool to do that.
HARLOW: Let's talk Gary. I mean, Scranton is not in bankruptcy yet. Would a bankruptcy filing really allow Scranton to pay police officers, firefighters more than minimum wage or is it going to obscure a bigger problem here, because it's going to raise the cost of borrowing significantly, it's going to tax the Muni bonds, which is going to affect investors. It is going to affect the people there.
GARY LEWIS, CONSULTANT, SCRANTON RESIDENT: But the cities shouldn't be doing the borrowing it has done. We got $100 million in total outstanding debt. We got $55 million in authority the other week, though the authority has already defaulted on.
The problem and the reason that we can't pay our public servants is because we're paying eight to $10 million a year in basically, you know, debt service costs. We need to get that under control. We need to restructure the debt. We need to address the pensions which are becoming a massive problem and are a massive expense for the city. I mean, we can't just cut the salaries of our employees and say that's saves us money. Work can actually obligated to pay them less money. They will win that lawsuit.
HARLOW: You know, it's an interesting thing --
PETER NAVARRO: You know what's funny here, Poppy, it sounds like he's talking about the federal government, because it's the same problem. We have got an economy that's not performing and so, we can't pay our bills, and nobody gets it.
So, if it's in Scranton, you think it's a Scranton problem. If you're in San Bernardino, you think it's a San Bernardino problem. But you go across America, and our cities are dying. Our cities are dying because our economy is dying. And our economy is dying because we don't make staff.
We have got to get our manufacturing jobs back. And that's why we have presidential election. I want to hear Obama. I want to hear Romney talk about how we get the jobs back in Scranton, back to San Bernardino and everywhere in between.
HARLOW: Reality is, the manufacturing jobs in this country has loss is in the millions, if you look just in the last decade loan. All those are not coming back.
PETER NAVARRO: Into million, Poppy.
PETER NAVARRO: Why do you say that those jobs aren't coming back? The problem we have is --
HARLOW: Because I talked to the heads of big, big companies, General Electric and others that have brought some of those jobs back here, but a lot of them aren't coming back, and Steve Jobs says the same thing with apple.
NAVARRO: General Electric is a big part of the problem, they offshore to China, they make a bunch of money over there and they take their jobs out of Schenectady, they take them out of familiar and they tell you that we can never give them back.
HARLOW: Professor, I want to give Gary the last word. Gary go ahead, and I just want to preface it by saying it's interesting, you know, the "L.A. Times," the mayor of Vallejo, California told the "the L.A. Times," Vallejo filed for bankruptcy in 2008. He told "the L.A. Times" it was a bad idea, costing 10 million in legal, didn't cut their borrowing - didn't cut many of their costs significantly and he said it hurt their reputation. So, that's something to think about too, right Gary?
LEWIS: It absolutely is, but if you look at the problem we have, we simply can't keep going the way we are. We need to do something to address the structural deficit. And creating jobs is a great idea. It is not something that happens overnight. If we do this correctly, if we have a properly planned bankruptcy, we can reduce our debt service, we can reduce the Muni compensation, we can fund our pensions, we can cut the fed, and we get this city operating.
Scranton has an $86 million budget and $56 million of tax revenue. There's no reason we should have that kind of a gap. We need to do something immediately, right now, at the local level and bankruptcy does that.
HARLOW: Gary, thank you. Professor Navarro, thank you. Appreciate you both coming in tonight.
PETER NAVARRO: Thanks so much, Poppy. Take care.
LEWIS: Thank you.
HARLOW: Well, the FBI will review thousands of criminal convictions because they might just be wrong. I'll talk with a former FBI special agent who has helped free men who were convicted by mistake. That's coming up next.
RAYMOND JACKSON, EXONERATED BY DNA EVIDENCE: I have dreamed for this day right here. I want to show the people that we did not do this crime.
HENRY JAMES, EXONERATED FROM RAPE CHARGES: It's been a long road, but I had to stay positive.
MICHAEL HANSEN, EXONERATED FROM MURDER CHARGES: I'm glad people have finally seen this for what it is. And I just want to go on with my life. Yes. No amount of money could make up for the six years I sat in prison as an innocent man.
BARNEY BROWN, CONVICTED AT THE AGE 14: It's a moment I could not have even imagined. DALE HELING, EXONERATED FROM MURDER CHARGES: It's overwhelming. An hour and a half ago I was in prison. I never gave up. I always knew one day I would walk out a free man.
RAYMOND TOWLER, EXONERATED BY DNA TESTS: They had the wrong person and it took them a while to straighten it out, but all I care about right now is that they did straighten it out. Now I can go on with my life.
WILLIE "PETE' WILLIAMS, EXONERATED AFTER 21 YEARS: The moment they told me, well, we found your DNA, it was like oh, my God, you know, I'm going home.
HARLOW: Those are the voices of the free, exonerated for crimes they did not commit. But could we see thousands more in the years to come?
The FBI and the justice department have launched an undertaking unlike any they have ever done before, reviewing thousands of criminal cases trying to find out if defendant were wrongly convicted based on faulty evidence on faulty forensic analysis. It is really a fascinating story.
We are going to go in depth and talk about with a former FBI special agent, Harold Copus, joins us now from San Francisco.
Thanks for coming in. Appreciate it.
HAROLD COPUS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Thank you.
HARLOW: So you have some really interesting perspective, I think, because you work to help exonerate two individuals, you reworked their cases, you were telling me during the break, you had to do it in your own time, you couldn't be paid for doing that. Give me a sense of how big an undertaking, how massive an undertaking something like this is?
COPUS: You know, I can't even begin to imagine what it would take. I know in the particular cases I worked in, it was unbelievable the amount of time and the effort and the obstacles that you run into it.
So, if you think about that the FBI were to do this, they would do this in their field offices, I suspect they would create a task force which would mean an FBI agent and then some officers from local law enforcement. That's about the only way it can be done and quite frankly, maybe you can only do one or two cases a year.
HARLOW: Do you have any insight as to why this is happening now? I mean we know the innocence project for example has worked on this for years, this is their life blood. This is what they do. But why is the FBI undertaking this now?
COPUS: You know, I can't answer that. I guess, though, as all of us sitting across this great country, we can be thankful that the bureau is going to move in that direction. You know, it will sound cold, Poppy, but I haven't been a person that was in jail that will never tell you that they didn't deserve to be.
The problem you have is that, there are some obviously, that did not belong there and I was either lucky or unlucky, however you want to say it, and I was convinced to look at two cases and work those. Both of these men had been in jail, spending a long time in jail and absolutely did not think they would ever get out. So it's rewarding, but it's almost unbelievable what you have to do.
HARLOW: Now, I know that you left the FBI about 15 years ago. But I want to play something interesting that was reported in the "Washington Post" in April. They reported that justice officials had known for years about questionable forensic evidence or testimony in some trials, but they didn't take a new look at the cases at that time. They didn't notify the defendants or their attorneys about possible problems with the evidence. And I wonder, Harold, did your reaction to that. Did anything like that occur while you were working at the FBI that you know of?
COPUS: Well, you know, I did and I would venture to say that most of the agents would not know. If that happens, that sounds bad on the surface. We need to get that corrected.
I will tell you that me and most of the agents I have worked with would go out of their way to work real hard to make sure that the person that was potentially going to be indicted, arrested and hopefully convicted, that it was a righteous case, meaning that there was no doubt that that person was guilty. We're not talking 99 percent or some 99.9 percent. It has to be up. If it's not 100 percent, it's not worth going. The justice system cannot be allowed to be broken that way.
HARLOW: You know, I think what's really interesting is, in the cases that you dealt with that exonerated these men, you said one of the biggest challenges was dealing with families on both sides, re- opening that wound that the families thought was settled on both sides. Explain.
COPUS: Well, really, you know, there are always going to be least the minimum of two victims. You've got, if someone wrongfully goes to jail, that is. You have the person that is in jail that is victim, and you have all the family members of the person in these cases they were murdered. But you have every one of those people, that extended family, they think, the family does, that justice has been served. And then all of a sudden, something comes and says we're going to turn this cart upside down and we're going to shake it up and sometimes they're going to walk away and after all this time has passed, how do we find this person who caused this crime, that caused my loved to maybe die.
COPUS: Well, that's very unsettled. HARLOW: That also brings up the issue of statute of limitation, and whether or not, if it is indeed leaning towards another person, if they are exonerated if they can even be tried depending on the crime.
COPUS: It does and it requires in what I said a lot amount of time. It's not just investigative time. It is attorney time and research. But just you have to go is you have to go back in there and hopefully uncover some evidence that will then allow the attorneys to create an appeal on new evidence. A difficult task.
HARLOW: Absolutely. Harold, thank you for joining us tonight, we appreciate it.
COPUS: Well, thank you.
HARLOW: Well, coming up next, we're going to update you on all the stories of the day, and this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: The black vote helped the president win the White House. But, is the president's luck on those votes --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You vote for somebody you can relate to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: So, you're now out and about and you are not in front of television. Stay connected to CNN, you can. You can pull it up on your cell phone like I do or you can watch it from your computer, even at work. Just go to CNN.com/TV.
Tell them, Don Lemon sent you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Coming up to half past the hour now, let's get you updated on the headlines of the day.
First stop, two Americans kidnapped overseas. Now, the people who grabbed them are making demands.
Here's where it happened. Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. A pastor from Massachusetts, Michel Louis traveling with the woman and a group of church goers and their Egyptian tour guide, both Louis, a woman traveling with him and the tour guide were abducted. We are told, they were stopped by Bedouin in northern Sinai and ask for they are still being held at this hour.
Meantime, Sylvester Stallone's son, Sage, found dead inside his home. His father, devastated over that death. 36-year-old Sage Stallone performed in a few movies with his father. Authorities say foul play is not suspected but an autopsy is to be performed.
And debauchery at the Olympics, U.S. Olympic soccer goalie hope solo told ESPN magazine that the Olympic village was home to nonstop antics including alcohol and sex. She said, quote, "athletes are extremists, when they're training, it's laser focus, when they go out for drinks, it's 20 drinks. With the once-in-a-lifetime experience, you want to build memories, whether it's sexual, partying or on the field."
U.S. Olympic gold medallist, Dominique Dawes, talked about with our own Randi Kaye this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINIQUE DAWES, U.S. OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST, GYMNASTICS: I will see that she is right that athletes are disciplined and do have laser focus, so, everything else I don't agree with because that was not my personal experience in 1992 when I stayed in the Olympic village.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Well, the London Olympics begins just a few weeks, July 27th.
Turning to politics now, overall Mitt Romney and President Obama are neck and neck in the polls except when it comes down to race.
Take a look at this, among white voters Romney has a 15 point advantage over the president. But when it comes to black voters, it's not only close, only five percent of black voters in this Gallup survey say they would vote for Governor Romney.
We talked with voters here in Atlanta about why they think that is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You vote for people that you think you can relate to. That you feel that can walk in your shoes a little bit more than the other person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The black and white has grown support because that's the closest thing that we have. As far as being a black American, that's the closest thing we have to being in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Just a few opinions, certainly not a full poll or study. But, here to talk about this race for the races, Ana Navarro, Republican strategist, CNN contributor and Frederick Harris, he's Columbia University professor, also director of the Center on African- American politics and society there. Anna, let's start with you, because we all know right now, we have heard bits at least of Mitt Romney addressing the NAACP this week. There were times when she was cheered and applauded and there were times when he was booed like when he said he wanted to repeal Obama care. But there was one thing that he said that really stood out, to me at least.
I want you guys, to take a quick listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real enduring best interests of African-American families, you would vote for me for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right, Ana, why doesn't he just tell them? I mean, he's saying if you can understand what's in my heart then you would vote for me, and I would be the best candidate for you. Why can't he just tell them?
ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, that's a good question. I think Mitt Romney has a problem emoting and I think we all need to hear more about what's in his hard.
But I don't think, Poppy that, Mitt Romney went to the NAACP to speak to the 5o00 people that were in that room. And he knew he was going to get booed. I saw him get booed for the same line about Obama care when he spoke to a Latino audience.
So, I think, what he has chosen to do, and say look, I'm going to be consistent, and I'm going to say the same thing to every audience. You are not going to hear me, pondering and saying different things with - to one audience or another.
That's a choice he's made, it was courageous for him to go there. The NAACP is a nonpartisan organization. I think they gave him a lot more applause than they did boos. They give him one or two boo lines and they did 25, 27 applauses, that's what we've all focused on. But, you know, and although they are nonpartisan, their members can be partisans and most of them are and most of them are Democrats and most of them are for Barack Obama.
HARLOW: And as you say, he was applauded. He was applauded when he talked about defending traditional marriage and other topics.
Why do you think so, Professor? Why do you think that he's having such a hard time resonating with black voters?
FREDERICK HARRIS, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, I'm not sure how courageous he is. I think he's really, he is being strategic. I think he is trying to come off as this passionate conservative as President Bush did in 2000. And so, I don't think black voters care about what's in his heart. I think they care more about what his policies are going to speak to black America. What is Mitt Romney's plan for criminal justice reform? What is Mitt Romney's plan for the high levels of black unemployment?
And so, you know, it was mostly rhetoric. It was mostly him bashing the president again about Obama care. And so unfortunately, the Republican Party has provided no new bold initiatives or alternatives when it comes to black America.
We hear the same old tired proposals around vouchers that have been taunted around ever since Reagan was in the White House in 1980. So, I don't hear anything new coming from the Republicans.
HARLOW: Guys, let's talk about jobs. And Ana, to you first, right?
OK. So, even under this president, President Obama, that has the support of the majority of black voters, you've got almost 14.5 percent unemployment for black Americans. It's 7.4 for white Americans and it's 8.2 percent average and for Hispanics, it's 11 percent.
So, when you're addressing that group that was just so helpful to the president in 2008 and getting him elected and jobs are the number one issue, once again the economy and job this is election, has the president failed black voters when it comes to jobs?
ANA NAVARRO: You know, that's going to be a question that black voters are going to have to answer. But obviously, you're looking at black voters that have been disproportionately affected by this economy under Obama, 40.4 percent is a painful, painful statistic.
And, not only that -- but you know, I think one of the problems that Barack Obama has with the black voters is that there were huge expectations by the African-American on what having that first African-American president would mean -- the first black president would mean.
And I think many of them are disillusioned, the same way that many Latinos are disillusioned. So, there are a lot of promises from Barack Obama four year ago that has he has not delivered on, and that's why though, he still have the predominant report of the African-American community, it has slipped, according to polls, seven or eight percent.
ANA NAVARRO: And that can make all the difference, Poppy, in states like Florida that are going to be very close.
HARLOW: You're talking about the Gallup poll, in 2008, the Gallup survey found 84 percent black voter turnout right now. Let's look in that numbers down to 76 percent. It's very important when you automatic talk about certain states, when you talk about North Carolina where the president in 2008 won by a very narrow margin.
Professor, I just want your reaction when it comes to job and this really the most important point for Americans and you got black unemployment at almost 14.5 percent, what does that do to support and energizing that base for the president?
HARRIS: I'm sorry, is that question for me?
HARLOW: Yes, Professor.
HARRIS: Well, I mean it's a very difficult electoral map. You know, unfortunately, half of the black electorate is in a reliable red state in the south. And those key battle ground states where African- Americans is going to have a huge influence. We are going to be North Carolina and Virginia in particular.
And so, what he has to do is really make the case, he needs to make the case, he needs to make the case about why is it that he hasn't been able to come through with the small promises that he did make in 2007, 2008, particularly around criminal justice reform.
HARLOW: Professor on jobs, on jobs, how critical is it?
HARRIS: On jobs. Yes, I mean. What's this difficult, I mean, what should have happened during the first two years is that there should have been a massive job plan coming out of Congress with the president's signature. And unfortunately that didn't come through. You know, the Republicans came in, they blocked him ever since, but what he needs to talk about --
HARLOW: Well, the president started off with health care reform. I mean, that was the administration's choice.
ANA NAVARRO: And he had two years where he had a democrat house and a democrat Senate, let's not forget it that.
HARRIS: Exactly. Exactly, as I have written about in my book "the price of the ticket" I think that was a huge mistake. But what he needs to do is go forward, looking at, talking about what specifically he plans to do if he gets re-elected. What is he going to do about black unemployment, what is he going to do about the promises he made about the promises he made in 2007 and '08. I think that's going to close the enthusiasm gap that appears to be a problem among black voters.
HARLOW: We got to get to a quick break. I want you guys to stick around in the next segment. Interesting conversation about Condi Rice, VP, maybe? That's next.
HARLOW: All right. Blast off, destination, international space station. This was the scene just moments ago when a Russian made Soyuz rocket. (INAUDIBLE) out there lifted off from a Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, board three space travelers, in each from the United States, Japan and Russian.
They're going to four months in orbit. Docking day is Tuesday.
All right. And as Mitt Romney fights to gain traction with black voters, the rumored meld went into overdrive this week. This week, the drive for Fort name, the former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice as a front runner for Mitt Romney's VP ticket, is it even a possibility.
With us to discuss, Republican strategist Ana Navarro and Columbia University professor of Political science, Frederick Harris.
Guys, you know, Condoleezza rice said about running for office to CNN Piers Morgan last year, I want you to take a quick listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I cannot imagine myself running for office, not because politics is so tough. But it's just not me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: She's said it time and time again. This is a policy woman, she's an intensely private woman, she really has no interest, at least she said in the past in running for office. This service is on the drudge report. Professor what's your take? Is this even probable?
HARRIS: Well, I mean, I think it is interesting. This question about credibility with minority voters having Condi Rice on the ticket is interesting. I think actually, she provides Romney with credibility around foreign policy experience is just because Romney had no foreign policy experience. I think if anything, he needs Condi Rice for that.
HARLOW: But Ana, when we look at how central she was to the Bush administration, when it comes to the invasion of Iraq, defending weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist and when it comes to abortion, she's mildly pro choice, if she's not on the same page with Mitt Romney when it comes to that.
ANA NAVARRO: And that's the problem. That's the problem with the conservative base in the Republican Party. I think saw to reactions that tell you that -- probably if Condi right was being considered earlier in the week, she's probably not as highly considered at this point in the week.
One was their reaction from the conservative base. Mitt Romney has promised that he's going to have a pro life number two and they're going to hold him to that.
And number two is actually the reaction from Condi Rice herself who has said and let it be known again this week that she is not interested in being in politics she's not interested in being Mitt Romney's VP.
I think, you know, I think, but I'm really intrigue by the idea that her name is even there. I think it's wonderful, she's an intellectual woman, she's a woman of substance, and I think she deserves just on her mirror rids to be considered.
But however she's never run for office. And though she's been on the field for many, many years, there's a huge difference between being on the field, those are huge difference being on the field, being part of the field and being the number two at-bat, there's a huge difference and it's two completely different games.
HARLOW: Not to mention the timing, it was Bain, Bain, Bain all week, and then end of the week, it's Condi, Condi, Condi, so you got to wonder about the timing.
ANA NAVARRO: Well, you know Poppy, I think Romney needs to stretch all this out this VP thing as long as he can, because whenever he need to, he can just needs to pop a name out of left field and we'll all go there and get upset with them.
HARLOW: So guys, thank you. W got to go.
Here's what's ahead. Stephen Tyler out, Jlo out. Is the queen of soul that are going to replace them n American Idol. That's next.
THULANI MADONDO, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: Since -- the town has not changed. There's no electricity, people are living in shacks. Growing up in Kliptown makes you feel that you don't have control of your life. Many children drop out of school because they don't have the student uniforms and textbooks. I realized that the only way that can change is through education.
I'm Thulani Madondo. I'm helping educating the children so that we can help them together. We help the children by paying for the schoolbooks, school uniforms, our main focus is our tutoring program that runs four days a week.
As young people who were born and raised here, we know the challenges of this community. We also do a number of activities. We have got to come together for fun while we lost come together for academics.
MADONDO: This program gives me a chance to go to school and they pay for my fees. I also come back and help volunteer. A little can go a long way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My favorite is Math and Science and English. I did not go to university, but I want to help them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am going to be an accountant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to be a lawyer.
MADONDO: The work that you're doing here is bringing change.
HARLOW: Empty seats at the American idol judges table, Jlo is out, Steven Tyler is out. And the challenge is going to be to find someone to give us unique clothes like this one from Steven Tyler, who said, "After some long, hard thoughts, I decided it's time to let go of my mistress, "American Idol" before she boils my rabbit. OK.
Dean Obeidallah is in New York. Dean, what do you make?
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: I think that "American idol" ratings are down, 20 million viewers this year, the lowest since 2003. They got to push people up.
Steven Tyler will be fine. He's on tour. I think he's eligible for Social Security now, he's 64. So, he will be fine. He will land on his feet. Everything will go well. They will have to get new judges to re-invent the show, the (INAUDIBLE).
HARLOW: Yes. You say, the ratings are down. This is still the highest rated show in television in the U.S. It has big, big sponsors like Coca-Cola and Ford.
I got to tell you something. Aretha Franklin, 18-time Grammy award winner, told CNN and an e-mail today, she is interested in joining the show as a judge. What do you think?
OBEIDALLAH: You know what's interested? Me, I am available for being a judge on "American idol." But, I don't think she is the one that is going to bring back the young the people. Maybe like Lindsay Lohan. She's been in front of judges than most lawyers.
OBEIDALLAH: You know, think outside of the box, American idol, if you are listening, get chief justice John Roberts, he's big on health care.
HARLOW: It will bring politics. It will bring older and younger people, like who is this guy? Maybe Charlie Sheen, another guy like the (INAUDIBLE). Let's have the whole cast of "Jersey Shore" together at one time.
HARLOW: That I might watch.
OBEIDALLAH: We have to bring something exciting back to the show, frankly. I mean, it's still number two. But since 2003, it was the number one show and losing their average age of viewers is up to 50 years old, which doesn't sound that old, but for them it is important.
HARLOW: It's all relative, I am voting for you for judge. OK. We'll be back with Dean. Really interesting op-ed by Dean, "Vacation or Die," it's got a lot of CNN viewers fired up, he's going to explain coming up next.
HARLOW: Well, comedian Dean Obeidallah says you better vacation or die and he is here to make his case, 30 seconds, Dean, really?
OBEIDALLAH: Go to CNN.com, read my article, I'm telling you, everyone watching, go on vacation, don't put it off, study after study show that your chances of a heart attack go way up if you don't vacation. That's what Don Lemon is doing today. He is saving his life.
There should be Science up in our work place saying warning, if you work take a vacation, you're going to die, we're serious, we're not kidding you.
So, go out there, take some time off. Go anywhere. Go to the Jersey Shore. I'm going next month go to the mountains, go camping. It doesn't have (INAUDIBLE). It will re-charge you. It will make you more productive at work. Your boss should want you to take off.
I'm not kidding. Read my article, you will see why.
HARLOW: All right. Here's the article, fascinating stuff, all of the stats in here backing it up. We're helping to save Don's life. Enjoy your vacation.
Don, everyone, thanks you for joining us. Good night.