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President Obama Visits Afghanistan; Tornado Warning for Greensboro; Afghanistan Analysis

Aired March 28, 2010 - 19:01   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: There's other breaking news that we're following here as well. We're talking about President Obama springs a big surprise, slipping out of the country to make his first visit to Afghanistan as commander-in-chief; fresh-off his major victory on health care. Now at this hour the president is returning home on Air Force One.

The secret journey began in the middle of the night with the president leaving Camp David and then flying out. Soon after touching down, he met with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. Then he met with military officials at Bagram Air Base and spoke to a crowd of about 2,000 U.S. and allied troops.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And make no mistake this fight matters to us. It matters to us. It matters our allies. It matters to the Afghan people. Al Qaeda and the violent extremists who you're fighting against want to destroy but all of you want to build and that is something essential about America.

They've got no respect for human life. You see dignity in every human being. That's part of what we value as Americans. They want to drive races and regions and religions apart, you want to bring people together and see the world move forward together. They offer fear, in other words and you offer hope.

And that's why it is so important that you know that the entire country stands behind you. That's why you put on that uniform, because in an uncertain world, the United States of America will always stand up to the security of nations and the dignity of human beings. That's who we are. That is what we do.


LEMON: The president got in and out quickly; the entire visit lasted just a few hours. President Obama's meeting with President Karzai lasted about half an hour at the presidential palace in Kabul.

Our Atia Abawi -- our Atia Abawi is in Kabul tonight and she's joining us from there. What went on during this meeting -- Atia?

ATIA ABAWI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a very short meeting, Don. It is said that they were talking about various things and a way forward when it comes to Afghanistan, including President Karzai stamping out the corruption that has plagued his government.

The cabinets of both President Obama's administration and President Karzai's administration met discussing Afghanistan, discussing the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, the international community's efforts in Afghanistan and what exactly the Afghan government's role will be when it comes to Afghanistan, because President Obama himself has said time and time again that the U.S. will be involved in Afghanistan.

In fact, even raising the troop level by 30,000 additional troops but he also says that there will be a time where the U.S. will have to withdraw and what they need is a strong Afghan government and strong Afghan Security Forces to actually lift the burden off the international community's shoulders.

But that being said, it was about a 30-minute meeting, not enough time to discuss exactly what needed to be done but what did happen is President Obama invited President Karzai to Washington on May the 12th.

What's interesting about that date is that just ten days after a planned peace (INAUDIBLE) -- that's a peace meeting that President Karzai has planned here in Kabul where he wants to talk to Taliban commanders and issuing a way forward in Afghanistan, making some kind of peace deal to bring some kind of security, peace to the Afghan people -- Don.

LEMON: Atia Abawi, in Kabul. Thank you very much for that, Atia.

And as we said, the President is aboard Air Force One now, on his way back to the United States, to Washington. And our own Dan Lothian is standing by in Washington, live at the White House.

Dan, the president is coming off perhaps his most successful week as we have said with health care reform, that victory.

So, why Afghanistan? Why now?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well senior administration officials say that this is something that the President has wanted to do for quite some time. And he believed that this is really a critical moment, coming off what they say was a successful effort in pushing the Taliban back in Marjah and now focusing on Kandahar, where they'll also try to push back on Taliban.

They believe that they need to get a viable partner there on the ground. And so the president really wanted to sit down with Hamid Karzai there. But more importantly the president said the reason he wanted to go there is to meet directly with U.S. troops and thank them for the sacrifice. Let's take a listen.


OBAMA: I know that sometimes when you're watching TV, the politics back home may look a little messy and people are yelling and hollering, Democrats this and Republicans that. I want you to understand this, there's no daylight when it comes to support of all of you. There's no daylight when it comes to supporting our troops.


LOTHIAN: Now, in summarizing the meetings there, U.S. officials traveling with the president say that the meetings were productive and useful and that they are trying to set the stage for what happens next and that both sides have agreed that they need to continue to work together, Don.

So, a very short meeting there on the ground but something that the president has wanted to do for quite some time, giving a boost to the U.S. troops as he pointed out, for sacrificing for their country.

LEMON: Our Dan Lothian at the White House. Dan, thank you very much.

He knows Washington, he knows politics. Tonight, he's with me right here in Atlanta -- there he is. He is the man. Mark Preston joins me to talk about the president's trip to Afghanistan. He is working over there with our Rob Harbor on the story coming up in just a bit.

And check your mail. It's time again for the U.S. census. What could be controversial about counting people? What could be? As it turns out, a whole heck of a lot. And make sure you become part of our conversation tonight, just log on, we'll get your comments on and we'll give some to Mark Preston as well.


LEMON: The U.S. is fighting a war in Afghanistan as a direct result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The rugged Muslim country is the home turf of the Taliban and also al Qaeda. It is worth remembering exactly what the U.S. is up against.

So here is what the U.S. is up against. Afghanistan is a land- locked country slightly smaller than Texas, sandwiched between Pakistan and Iran. It has about 30 million people.

The U.S. must deal with about 35 percent jobless rate on one hand there and the lucrative drug trade on the other hand. Afghanistan is the world's number one producer of opium, the raw material for heroin. Money from narcotics helps fund the insurgency.

And as of today, there are 83,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan and by the end of the year that number is to jump to 98,000. In addition there are about 39,000 troops from other countries with another 10,000 to follow. 1,022 U.S. troops have lost their lives in combat in Afghanistan since 9/11; 83 of those deaths were just this year.

The administration's new strategy is having a measurable effect on public opinion. Last November, only 32 percent believed the Afghan war was going well. Now, that number has spiked to 55 percent.

It's a great perspective to know what we're up against. So let's talk now to Mark Preston. He is here to talk politics with us.

Mark, good to see you in person.


LEMON: I see you in person all the time when you go to D.C., but it's good to have you here in Atlanta.

So health care is picking up a huge amount of the president's time but today we see foreign policy on the menu here and Afghanistan. So, I want you to listen to what the president said to the troops and then we'll talk about it.


OBAMA: We did not choose this war. This was not an act of America wanting to expand its influence, of us wanting to meddle in somebody else's business. We were attacked viciously on 9/11 and thousands of our fellow countrymen and women were killed.

And this is a region where the perpetrators of that crime, al Qaeda, still base their leadership. Plots against our homeland, plots against our allies, plots again the Afghan and Pakistani people are taking place as we speak.


LEMON: All right, so Mark is it fair to call this strategic. Was it planned to come on the heels of the health care vote?

PRESTON: Well, you know something, Don, he had to go to Afghanistan. And let's not forget when he ran for president, he talked about how President Bush was not focusing enough on Afghanistan. This is his war; he decided to send 30,000 additional troops over there. He had to go. This was his first visit.

But very much like health care, the American public is divided. And in fact, let's look at this poll just out from CNN Opinion Research Corporation. It paints a picture for us.

LEMON: Forty eight percent in favor, 49 percent oppose the war in Afghanistan. So it's really almost split down the middle there.

PRESTON: Split down in the middle, very much like health care. So you know, he had to get that trip over there because foreign policy has pretty much been put on the back burner.

LEMON: Ok, that's how the American people feel about the war but how do they feel about the president's handling of Afghanistan? And I know that's playing into this as well about why he went there?

PRESTON: Sure and there is some good news for that, I mean, the fact is, Afghanistan has been on the back burner. We've been so focused on health care. We're so focused on the economy.

Let's look at these numbers out of the CNN Research Opinion Corporation Poll. It actually shows that his -- the American public's opinion of him has actually increased by 13 points over the past couple of months, he's now at 55 percent.

But again, let's go back to what we're talking about here. We're talking about sending young Americans over to Afghanistan, some of them are not going to come home. This is very much his war. He needed to go there.

LEMON: Yes, he said his war and you said some of them are not going to come home. And he talked to them about doing three, four -- sometimes four tours of duty over there. And he said anguished over the decision of having to send them.

Hey, let's show this real quickly, because people are writing in about this. This one is coming from Twitter. I think it's Kwright39, she says, "As a mom with a son in Afghanistan, the 12-month tours are destroying families. The divorce rate is around 80 percent and it's too much for only one percent of the population."

He did address that and that -- that is real. A lot of people in the country feel the way that this -- this woman does about sending people, especially loved ones over to Afghanistan.

PRESTON: Sure. And again, President Obama came under a lot of criticism for not really having a cohesive strategy until just at the end of last year. And when he decided to announced that he was sending 30,000 additional troops where did he do it? He did it at West Point. He also made the point there to them.

Look, I wouldn't send you in harm's way unless I thought that we needed to do this. We heard that again today when he was in Afghanistan.

LEMON: It is interesting, because you know, we've been talking so much about health care reform and this may be a return to at least some foreign issues instead of domestic issues and the press is going to be on the president's plate. So even more, there are people who are saying don't push the president, he can only do so much. He is the president. And the buck stops with him.

PRESTON: Well, the buck stops with him and the fact is that he can't be a one-trick pony. He has to deal with health care, he has to deal with the economy, he also has to deal with foreign policy. Remember, there's a lot going on beyond our borders.

LEMON: Mark Preston, we're going to see you back here at 10?

PRESTON: I -- absolutely.

LEMON: All right, good to see you. Thank you very much, Mark Preston.

The child sex abuse scandal rears its head at the Vatican's Palm Sunday service. We'll tell you what the Pope said to parishioners about the waning public opinion of the Catholic Church. And the Southeast, awash in severe weather, creating conditions favorable for tornadoes. Live pictures now, Greensboro, North Carolina, a tornado warning just announced. You're looking at live pictures on the right. You see the radar there on the left. Jacqui Jeras is going to join us in just a little a bit.

If you are in that area, please be safe. Go to a safe place and get your NOAA weather radio, as Jacqui, as our meteorologists always say. But again, breaking news, there's a very bad weather rolling through. Make sure you stay tuned to CNN. We'll have the latest moments away.


LEMON: Breaking news here on CNN. And this is serious so pay attention, especially if you are in this area, in the Charlotte area, in the Carolinas.

Jacqui Jeras, I'm just going to let you take it away. I think the pictures here -- live pictures on that radar kind of tell us a story.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We have confirmation now that a tornado we have been tracking now for well over an hour is back on the ground. And this time it is over Welcome, North Carolina. This is about eight miles north of the Lexington area.

And here you can see it -- let's put it in perspective for you -- here's High Point. Here is the Greensboro area. And so that storm is just southwest of you.

So, the tornado warning has now been about extended from Davidson County to also include Randolph, Gilford and Forsythe counties. The storm is moving very, very quickly to the north and the east. This has been seen by local law enforcement.

Also, we're getting reports that the hail could be as large as baseball to tennis ball size. That, in and of itself, can cause a tremendous amount of damage. The winds are coming down with these storms too, up to 70 miles per hour. You need to stay inside to the lowest level of your home away from doors and windows until this storm has passed.

It is going to be probably, you know, maybe 20 minutes-plus before this thing moved toward Greensboro and it's more likely to be impacting the western side of the city than the eastern side. So we will continue to track that storm as we get more of these reports from law enforcement as well as our spotters. We'll continue to bring that along to you.

Now, let's go ahead and show you what else is happening here. One thing I want to mention too, quick, before we pull out of this area; this red box right here that is the tornado watch. So notice where we have got the actual tornado right now is just outside of the watch so this is a good example of how, if you are even near the watch, these storms can certainly be impacting you as well. Now here is Charlotte. You can see everything is doing just fine in Charlotte at this time. We'll take you down towards Greenville and Spartanburg. We just got a tornado warning for Spartanburg, it looks like just east of the downtown area, this is I-85. You know it's really been right along that I-85 corridor where these storms have been developing and tracking and pushing eastward. We know the storm has already been producing hail, at least the size of quarters.

And now, Doppler Radar indicating tornado on the southern part of this storm just also moving east northeast along I-85. So you folks need to be taking shelter as well. Greenville, you are doing ok. But over toward Simpsonville, we have some heavy rain and probably some hail.

There you can see live lightning strikes which continue to happen so we will continue to monitor the situation.

LEMON: Hey Jacqui --

JERAS: The tornado watch in effect, by the way Don, until 11:00 tonight.

LEMON: I wanted to make you aware of something. As you were talking we have some information coming out. Show these photos so Jacqui and I can talk about it.


LEMON: This is from -- our national desk is getting this in. This photo is from Rhonda Thomas (ph). You see this is in the Charlotte area. So you can see just how strong these winds are. This happened just moments ago, according to our desk. This is again, from a CNN viewer. Not sure if it's an iReporter, Jacqui but that's a big tree that toppled there.


LEMON: So something strong went through that area.

JERS: Yes. Western Mecklenburg County, Belmont, we know -- we're hearing that a mobile home has been damaged there but no word of any injuries associated with that. Quite a few power lines and trees being reported down in western parts of the county as well.

LEMON: Ok. Thank you, Jacqui.

This is just starting to come in. Make sure you stay tune here to CNN; our meteorologist Jacqui Jeras on top of it.

Go to a safe place, as Jacqui said. This is serious. Lives are saved when do you that, when do you what our meteorologists tell you.

Thank you very much, Jacqui. We'll see you in just a bit.

Meantime, some other news here on CNN. It includes this story. A Christian militia group raided on several fronts by the feds. "Detroit News" reports at least seven arrests in three states, including Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

Militia members describe themselves as Christian soldiers who are preparing to battle the anti-Christ. At the moment it is not clear what they are accused of. The FBI, Homeland Security and joint terrorism task force all had a hand in the raids.

Celebrating Palm Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI urged Christians today not to be intimidated by the chatter of public opinion. The Pope has been the target of withering criticism over reports linking him to a German priest convicted of child abuse. The "New York Times" says Benedict, while head of the Munich Archdiocese, was told the priest was returning to his duties despite being treated for pedophilia.

Former first lady Barbara Bush is undergoing what a spokeswoman calls routine tests at a Texas hospital. Mrs. Bush was admitted to Methodist Hospital in Houston yesterday. She reportedly hasn't been feeling well for about a week. A spokesperson for her husband says Mrs. Bush is expected to leave the hospital in a day or two.

Afghanistan rolls out the red carpet for President Barack Obama as he makes a secret trip to the country under a cover of darkness. More on what he discussed with the Afghan leader.

And don't you dare call these folks political fat cats a bipartisan effort to shed some pounds in Mississippi.


LEMON: All right. At this hour, President Barack Obama is on Air Force One. He is flying home from a surprise trip to Afghanistan. He took off the suit jacket and donned the bomber jacket, there you see the video from Afghanistan and Kabul.

He spoke to about 2,000 U.S. and allied troops; that was at Bagram Air Base. Before that, he met with Afghan president Hamid Karzai to reaffirm the partnership between the two countries. President Karzai began with some words of thanks.

Take a listen.


PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Welcoming President Barack Obama to Afghanistan with pleasure and once again expressing my gratitude to the American people for giving Afghanistan the taxpayers' money for the rebuilding and refurbishing the institutions in Afghanistan.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to send a strong message that partnership between the United States and Afghanistan is going to continue. We have seen already progress with respect to Military campaign against extremism in the region. But we also want to continue to make progress on the process of ensuring that agricultural production, energy production, good governance, rule of law, anti-corruption methods; all these things resulting in an Afghanistan that is more prosperous, more pure, independent and is not subject to meddling by its neighbors. A transition will be able to occur so that more and more security efforts are made by the Afghans and so we very much appreciate the partnership.


LEMON: So what are we to make of this visit to the site, of some are calling the site Obama's war, right?

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us now from London.

Hey Nic, I just want a little bit of guidance that we are getting from our people in Washington to talk about the president's visit. He stopped at a hospital, quick meeting about 15 minutes with Ambassador Eikenberry and General McChrystal and then it goes on and on. And it also talks about his meeting with Hamid Karzai.

The question is here, is the president trying to send a message to Mr. Karzai about corruption and what's going on in the country?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Everything is at stake for President Obama here; Afghanistan, his biggest foreign policy issue and it all rides on President Karzai. If President Karzai can't deliver on corruption, can't help instigate a strong national police force, a strong Afghan national Army then there is no hope of a true reduction in Afghanistan and this will have a direct impact on how U.S. troops can perform and how quickly they can get out of the country.

One of the key things for President Karzai to do is to continue with his initiative he's talked about of engaging with some moderate Taliban. Really what that means is building confidence across the whole country. President Karzai has had a collapse in confidence in the southern and eastern parts of the country, the places where the Taliban is strong.

If President Obama can't convince him to make the changes that will make that happen, this will have a direct impact, one can see on President Obama's own re-election chances if Afghanistan isn't working out for him.

LEMON: Let's talk about the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai meeting with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this weekend. Coincidence, Nic?

ROBERTSON: Certainly Iran knows it has got a huge amount to play. You know, over the past couple of years, anyone you talked to in Kabul will say that the Iranians have had perhaps the most active diplomatic core of any nation, the United States, Britain, other NATO countries have got, you know, tens of thousands of troops in the country. They're building small clinics. They're building small educational facilities around the country.

But you look in the capital, Kabul, the Iranians spending a huge amount of money, they built a huge religious seminary, a religious school. They're trying to sort of stamp their own influence in the country. We hear reports that they are supplying the Taliban. This has been going on over a number of years now. Iran has a stake in the outcome, in the political outcome in Afghanistan, as does Pakistan.

Pakistan people will tell you play their hand through the (INAUDIBLE) of the Taliban. The Iranians played their hand in their way, too. So it is by no coincidence at all. I think what we are beginning to see. This is the beginning perhaps of a diplomatic track, when everyone, everyone starts coming in and putting on the table what they are willing to settle for in Kabul.

Pakistan is one of the stronger Pashtun influence. The Iranians will have their own input as well. They used to support the northern alliance militarily against the Taliban. All these countries have had a long-term engagement in Afghanistan. So no coincidence at all the Iranians are getting diplomatically involved in a much higher level than they have been in the past, Don.

LEMON: Our senior correspondent Nic Robertson. Nic, we appreciate it.

Did you know the U.S. Census is asking Americans to identify their race including this one, Negro. You will be surprised what else is on the census form. We are going to talk about it in just a little bit. We have some analysts, some guests we are going to interview.

And a U.S. automaker today says good-bye to another famous name plate, a brand synonymous with Europe will soon call Asia home.


LEMON: The U.S. Census is supposed to be a simple counting of all Americans, right? In reality, questions about race are causing some anger and confusion. Question eight focuses on Hispanics, but it prohibits anyone from claiming Hispanic as a race. Question nine goes even further. It even includes the outdated term -- some think it is outdated, Negro, which most African-Americans find extremely offensive and many people feel long-time racial classifications are no longer accurate or even appropriate.

Some filmmaker Raquel Zapata asked New Yorkers to look over the census form. I want you to listen to their responses. Then we're going to talk about all of this. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from the Bronx.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, really, born and raised?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, born and raised. My parents are from Honduras. Different story, different time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under here, under the person's actual race, not ethnicity but your race, what will you pick from white, black, American Indian --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I put African-American.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are African-American?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you talking about after I put Hispanic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After you identify --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. After, I put African-American.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you at all confused by the racial categories that are offered to Latinos in the census?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. Because there are a lot of African and there are a lot of black that are Latino and Hispanic. But I also see very interesting is that underneath the Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin, you got a Mexican, Chicano, Puerto Rican and a Cuban slot. So, you know, I was born in Puerto Rico, all my family is Cuban. On top of that I'm white.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, I don't know if you notice this, but they reintroduced the term negro to the black category.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you heard that word --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like Negro or Negro.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negro in English? Exactly. Exactly.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Negro is on there, right here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would Negro be there? It should be African-American.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you hear the word Negro, what do you think? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Slave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is all politically correct that is what you got to think about. You try to include everybody from Negro to black or whatever, whatever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think that -- so you would choose Negro before African-American?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I wouldn't choose Negro.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You would choose African-American, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. Yes. But then you know, you were called Negroes before called black and then jumped into black.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The easiest category here is white. Why is it so easy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because white people also have various ethnic versions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. I always wonder why we are all grouped together as white, although I wouldn't necessarily know where I am. Where I do belong?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where do you belong?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got Indian in there, too. But you know, one drop Indian doesn't make me Indian, I'm still classified as white.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So do you think that that's fair? Do you think that these racial categories represent the true composition of America today?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that these categories represent the true composition of what America is today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there are so many people who have so many different races in them that, no, because you're just saying, what are you, Vietnamese, all Vietnamese or part Vietnamese. You know, it's like putting you in a box.


LEMON: All right. Fascinating. Fascinating in the census. I really want to talk about this. Joining me now from New York are Raquel Cepeda, who shot that piece that you saw for us, very good stuff. Baratunde Thurston, as an editor for satire News, it's like the "Onion" and co-founder of, Jack and Jill politics really good. He is the author of the forthcoming book, "How to be Black" and Los Angeles, blogger, Christian Lander, author of "Stuff White People Like."

So listen, I'm going to start -- let me start with you, Baratunde. You -- I don't know, I never thought about it. I got my census form right here and I saw Negro, for some reason, maybe I'm just old school or just didn't think about it, I'm too busy. It didn't offend me. I just really didn't even think twice about it.

BARATUNDE THURSTON, WEB EDITOR, "THE ONION": Yes, I'm actually in a similar boat. It didn't offend me in the same way that the term 8-track doesn't offend me but it feels outdated, if somebody were to come over and say let's listen to some music and they say 8-tracks, I think, are you in the wrong decade.

I was watching C-SPAN and saw a caller call and she was really emotionally upset by that because it reminded her of her childhood in the south when that term was used really negatively and the Census Department's response was, look, we have studied how people have written in answers to this question and we're trying to be as inclusive as possible. And in their attempt to be very inclusive, they've actually upset a fair number of people at the same time. So it's not really offensive to me but it is weird.

LEMON: It did say black, African-American or Negro. And you know, I know some older African-Americans who still say Negro and so -- anyway, I'm just saying, sometimes -- just saying. OK. So listen. That was a great piece. So Christian, what did you -- what did you think when you first saw the census form?

CHRISTIAN LANDER, AUTHOR, "STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIE": Well, you know, I saw it checked white and sent it in. Although I would say from watching that segment, they shouldn't let white check that they are partially Native American because every single white person thinks they are partially Native American.

LEMON: I know a lot of African-Americans who think that they are part Native American as well. But you know, we are supposedly this big melting pot, right, all different races and there are different backgrounds in my family, But you know, I have to say, Raquel, even though, you know, my grandmother may be Caucasian or there may be other people. When people see me see, they me as an African-American man, isn't that part of sort of how the world sees you, how America sees you, how the workplace sees you. So when you --did you take that into account when you were shooting this film?

RAQUEL CEPEDA, JOURNALIST/FILMMAKER: I absolutely did. But you know, for me I was a little bit offended from a Latino perspective. Because you know, I studied the civil rights movement, and all the sacrifices that you know, African-Americans made during the civil rights movement, I don't know when I hear and see the term Negro, it kind of like takes me back to the Jim Crow era.

I don't think it was really cool. I was offended by that and also just because people typically describe African-American or black on you doesn't mean that you are only African-American or black, you can embrace everything that you are. We live in America. You can embrace being Native American, even if you are while. You can embrace whoever and you know, whatever you are.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I think it is interesting when I meet people and then you find out, you know, because your eye sees one thing and you never know what someone is and they can look, you know, especially if you go down south, you can see African-Americans who look really white, you know, and my aunt had blue eyes and some of my cousins have blonde hair but yet they're still, they are African-American.

And I agree. I think maybe the term maybe outdated. The census saying it is not going to put that term, especially Negro on the next time around. Maybe they're learning. There is always a curve. So, listen what were people's responses, I will stick with you this just on this question, Raquel, what were people's responses in general about the census? Did they understand how serious it was to the country or what it means to the country or they just really sort of taken aback by the language?

CEPEDA: I think because we live in an racialized and extremely racialized community. People couldn't really get past what the census, participating in the census does for the community. They were really taken aback and offended by the inclusion of the term Negro and just how confusing all this, especially for Latinos.

I'm a Latina. I'm going to check off the Hispanic/Latino and/or Spanish origin, even though I'm not a Spanish origin but racially, it's confusing. I don't think they took the time out to really help people fill out the form, explain you can check more than the one box.

I don't know. I just feel like the people that I spoke to were just stuck on the whole race, the race issue and the confusion behind, to talk about anything else.

LEMON: So listen, Christian, how do we -- you know everyone says you are color blind. I don't believe in color blind, I think people see people's color and that is part of what is good about America is that we are all different and that people see each other's color and that you don't discriminate, that you welcome differences, right?

So then what's the solution here as far as acknowledging race without sort of being labeled racist?

LANDER: Well, I mean, it's a tough thing. I mean when I saw the census form. When I saw those words in there, I mean, Negro, African- American or black, I was confused. I mean, as a white person, we are desperate to have a black person tell us exactly what was supposed to say and we will say it forever but we're completely confused as well.

And as far as the solution goes, I mean, you know to say something like I don't see color as ridiculous. I mean, that is to say you don't recognize this person has a heritage that this person hasn't had a different experience in America. That is completely ridiculous. But at the same time, I fail to recognize that person as a human being is a huge mistake and that's where racism comes from.

LEMON: OK. I asked the same question, Baratunde, listen, I think the thing is here, the -- the question I'm trying to get at is that let's not let this be a distraction or is it a distraction because of this one or two words that's on the census form, the greater good that comes out of the census may be overshadowed by just this one issue?

THURSTON: Well, and that greater good is important for people watching this to keep in mind, over $400 billion in federal money are allocated based on census information. Redistricting is coming up in a number of states and a number of representatives that folks get in the House of Reps are going to be determined by the Census. Shat is real money, real policy implications. I think it's always going to be a challenge to try to take a static snapshot that captures everyone in a fluid environment of race.

I mean, this country was forged in a fire of race and our future likely lies in it in some way but no single simple form can really appeal to and respect everyone's different perspective. Two Latinos or Latinas are going to have a different idea. Two black people or a black person and a Negro are going to have a different idea and I just -- I hope in the next version of this, they keep that in mind but I hope we also recognize the whole art is really imperfect and certainly not a science.

LEMON: I think that's incumbent upon us as a people, not a form to do that, right? We have to talk about that. Thank you, Baratunde. Thank you, Christian. Thank you, Raquel. Really appreciate it. Good to see all of you.

President Barack Obama is returning from a surprise trip to Afghanistan. He met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and reaffirmed the partisanship between the two countries. He also met with military officials at Bagram Air Base and he spoke to a crowd of about 2,000 U.S. and allied troops. The president told them their service is vital to U.S. interests.

The Coast Guard is calling it a non-credible threat but security teams scrambled overnight after reported bomb scare on this cruise ship. The "Carnival Sensation" was returning from a three-day trip to the Bahamas when the threat caused the ship to stop just off of Port Canaveral, Florida. The Coast Guard searched the ship and gave it the all-clear by 10 a.m..

Ford Motor Company is saying goodbye to the Volvo name. Volvo, which will still be based in Sweden will be sold for nearly $2 billion to a company based in China. That's considerably less than the more than $6 billion Ford paid for the company just a decade ago.

Republicans and Democrats find something to agree about in Mississippi. Shedding pounds and setting an example for one of the fattest states in the nation.


LEMON: Mississippi is one of the most obese states in the nation and lawmakers there decided to do something about it. Not with legislation, but by hitting the gym themselves. Almost 12 weeks ago, more than 100 lawmakers began a Paul Lacoste Fit 4 Change Mississippi Challenge. Republican, Democrats, and even governors' staffers are taking part in it. I asked two of those lawmakers how much weight they've dropped. There are really pumped (ph) too.


JOHN HINES, MISSISSIPPI STATE HOUSE: Well, I have lost 76 pounds in the Paul Lacoste Program.


HINES: Altogether, we have cleared over 1,300 pounds.

LEMON: Why did you do it? Why did you decide to do this?

HINES: Well, I got involved because they were going to donate money to our local school districts and I wanted to take the money back home for the school. In the midst of that I was blessed by being one of the largest losers in weight. It was a real opportunity to say that I cared about my community and in return somebody cared about me.

LEMON: What about you Representative Hines, why did you decide do it?

CARMICHAEL: Mine is similar to that. Paul Lacoste is a great name in Mississippi State University. So it's a real easy factor to be a part of what he's doing. And so I was overweight and lazy and eating habits were terrible. This is a good way to join my colleagues in a friendly competition. (INAUDIBLE) the state and the nation that we're not just fat, we're friendly and we're trying to do something right.

LEMON: Is this really -- you know we've been hearing so much about bipartisanship not being able to work together, this is really an example of bipartisanship, don't you think, in a different way?

CARMICHAEL: Well, yes, in a different way. We're not in this. We're friends. We see each other on the other side of the halls sometimes. But this really brought us closer together. Paul did a great job of being the leader. Our team leader on our side was Terry Burton (ph). He was a great captain for the city. It was fun. It was hard work but when you are (INAUDIBLE) together you have a purpose for that.

LEMON: What are you going to do, Mr. Hines, to celebrate once you're done?

HINES: Well, I think I'm going to go back with (INAUDIBLE) and run around the weight room with a huge (INAUDIBLE) I gave it up. I am extremely happy that I had an opportunity to lose some weight. I want to spend a lot of time with Paul. Trying to help him promote his program. Spending time talking to children about making quality choices, about their lifestyle. I want to really invest in African- American males because we really don't understand the importance of being in shape and having a healthy lifestyle. It is my dream that we can push Mississippi on a whole new pedestal that will not allow us to be (INAUDIBLE) but celebrated.

LEMON: Mr. Carmichael, what are you going to do to celebrate?

CARMICHAEL: You know, I've already started celebrating last week. Yesterday I reached my own personal goal. I wanted to lose between 25 and 30 and I exceeded that. So I started celebrating by eating greatly last night. We had some pork chops.


LEMON: Better watch those pork chops. And hopefully he'll enjoy the pork chops in moderation from now on. The course is almost over and it wraps up with a 5-k run on Tuesday. That's the last thing they do. So good luck to them, we wish them well.

Hey listen, we always talk about social media here. We ask for your comments. And this is proof that we appreciate them. The discovery of wreckage of a World War II bomber like this one prompts a viewer to send me a message on Facebook. I tell you about it next.

Also -- looking at severe weather happening in the south here. And our Jacqui Jeras is on top of it as well. We want to see if the threat is over. It may not be. Jacqui is going to tell you in just a few minutes. So don't go away.


LEMON: All right. Let's get to Jacqui Jeras. Jacqui, you said the threat isn't over, it's still going on.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it is. We got multiple warnings out there. A new tornado watch which has been issued and extended across parts of North Carolina, Raleigh Durham now included in that threat area. We're going to zoom in here and show you the one that we're real concerned about continues just north of the Greensboro area right here.

We've got reports now that when this thing moved through Lexington right back here, there were multiple mobile homes which were overturned and at least one confirmed injury reported. This was near the Lynnwood area. And then in addition to that, when it moved through High Point, there was reported a large tornado on the ground, near the Green Street Baptist Church. So that storm continues to move to the northeast, rotating right now. But no ground truth on it.

A new tornado warning right here for Davidson County. This includes you in Lexington. So that's the next storm that's going to go through for you. And then go down to Greenville, Spartanburg. Spartanburg, east side of town, still under a tornado warning. So we continue to get these storms which pop up and rotate and move on through there. You know, they're going to continue over the next several hours, at least through this evening, Don, potentially we could see some action here overnight.

LEMON: All right. Jacqui Jeras, very serious stuff. Thank you so much. We'll get back to Jacqui, in just a little bit. Hey, Jacqui. stick around. Because you may want to talk about some of this next story. We got contacted from the bureau. Not this one, but something else we're going to do a little bit later.

So try to wrap your head around this one. Anyone who got married at the Cactus Rose Wedding Chapel in Arizona over the last 30 years, well they had their ceremony by a convicted murderer. His name is Frank Dryman. He was on parole when he disappeared from Montana back in 1972 after serving 15 years for murder. A private investigator recently found Dryman living under an alias and running a wedding chapel in Arizona. And authorities say, if you were married by Dryman, the marriage is still legal.

So, in Oregon, loggers have discovered the remains of a military bomber that's missing. It's been missing for more than 60 years. It positively identified as a Curtis SB2C Helldiver which vanished during a routine flight in August of 1945. This is what the Curtis looked like. It's a small two-seater. I received a Facebook e-mail from Barbara Hudatz (ph), who must be from New Orleans, whose father flew one of these planes in World War II, incredible stories and these veterans really, really have to share.

A photo of Robert J. Adams. He just turned 88, and to Mr. Adams, I say thank you, sir, for your service and to Barbara Hudatz (ph) Adams, thank you very much for sending that in. And also, I want to say, happy birthday to him as well. We have the e-mail here. We don't have time to show it to you.

Thank you so much for your comments. We appreciate you getting in touch with us. I'll see you back here at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.