Return to Transcripts main page


Miracle on the Hudson; Historic Journey; Mychal Bell's Struggle

Aired January 16, 2009 - 23:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New details on the investigation tonight and a unique look at what the flight crew saw. And a spouse's perspective on her heroic husband. He piloted the airliner to a safe landing and was so calm afterward that when he told his wife there had been an incident she thought maybe he had run into somebody in the parking lot.
Also tonight, a CNN exclusive in what is probably his last interview before he takes the oath of office: Barack Obama talks to John King about history and about keeping it all in perspective.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then we go and look at the Lincoln second inaugural which is on the other wall. And Sasha looks up and she says, "Boy, that's a long speech. Do you have to give one of those?"

I said actually that one's pretty short. Mine may even be a little longer at which point then Malia turns to me and says, "First African- American President. Better be good."


O'BRIEN: Yes, she wasn't kidding.

Later, Mr. Obama's historic journey, traveling the route that Abe Lincoln took to Washington and Lincoln and Amtrak Joe Biden.

All that and much more tonight.

But we begin with US Airways 1549 still resting in the Hudson River but not for long. Investigators hope to raise it by tomorrow and recover the so-called black boxes and speak with the flight crew too.

In the meantime, we're learning more about just what happened to the Airbus and how just about everything that could go wrong instead went right.

Details now from David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): 24 hours after it used the Hudson River as a runway, the best way to see the downed Airbus 320 is by boat. Towed from the impact site it is now tied to a pier and missing both engines, key pieces in the investigation of a crash possibly caused by birds.

KITTY HIGGINS, NTSB BOARD MEMBER: It's not unusual to this kind of impact for that to happen but until we can actually look at the physical evidence, find the engines, do a much closer examination I don't want to speculate on what might have happened.

MATTINGLY: And investigators will want to study this video from New York 1. It shows a jet banking left and disappearing from sight. The images were captured after the TV crew heard a loud explosion and saw flames.

T.J HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You heard that bang --

VINCE SPERA, SURVIVOR: Yes. And you heard some screams like that real quick. And then after that it was pretty calm.

MATTINGLY: A near catastrophe averted by a skilled flight crew and the quick work of ferry boats and first responders fighting the elements.

(on camera) It's very windy out on the water today and you can see that it's very choppy but Coast Guard crews say it was even worse last night. It was very tricky for them to try and rescue those last few passengers off the plane, so much so that the pilot of the Coast Guard vessel says he had to improvise and try something he had never done before.

(voice over) Petty Officer Ian Kennedy, actually ran the bow of his boat up on the jet's wing. It was a gamble to stabilize the plane and it worked.

PETTY OFFICER IAN KENNEDY, U.S. COAST GUARD: The water was too choppy and there was debris all over the area of the crash site. And, there was you know, still four people left on site that need to be picked up.

BRAD WENTZELL, SURVIVOR: Fire and rescue up in New York if you're going to go down in an incident you want to be in New York. I promise you. Those people took care of us.

MATTINGLY: The real Hudson hero as he's called is C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger, the veteran pilot who after landing the plane in the Hudson went through the cabin twice to make sure everyone was out.

WENTZELL: This pilot, and if this guy doesn't get the recognition he needs --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it's unbelievable.

WENTZELL: Is the reason my daughter -- my two and a half has a dad.

SPERA: It's just incredible I hope he flies every flight I take from now on. MATTINGLY: Back home, the hero's wife makes it sound like it was just another day at the office.

LORRIE SULLENBERGER, CAPTAIN'S WIFE: Most people have no idea the professionalism that he has and I think he would just brush it off. He was doing his job.


O'BRIEN: So David, they're going to try to raise the plane tomorrow. How do they do that? What's exactly involved?

MATTINGLY: Salvage operators moved in -- they've got some very large cranes and they're going to slowly lift this aircraft out of the water. The plan is to bring it up intact, place it on a barge, and then move it to a place where investigators can go through and take it apart if they need to and look at everything about this airplane.

The important part about this investigation is not only to find out what brought the plane down but to find out, answer some very important questions. Why did it stay in the water and float for so long? How did it stay intact when it ditched in the water? How did all of these people get out alive?

If they find really good answers to those questions, they might be able to save lives in the future.

O'BRIEN: David Mattingly for us tonight, David thanks.

A little more now on Captain Sullenberger or Sully as he's called and what he and his first officer accomplished.


HIGGINS: Having a successfully ditching an airplane is a very rare event so it's something that they plan for but it's not something that is executed with any kind of regularity at all.


O'BRIEN: And it's rare in part because ditching an airliner of course is always the very last resort and rare, also, because not every pilot is Chesley Sullenberger. His story and his family's story now from Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The only message we've heard from Chesley Sullenberger has been relayed by his wife.

L. SULLENBERGER: We are very grateful that everyone got off the airplane safely and that was really what my husband asked to say to everyone. And of course we are very proud of dad.

MATTINGLY: So is the rest of the country. President Bush called him today and New York Mayor Bloomberg wants to present him with the key to the city.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK: I was with him and he was as cool and calm as you could possibly hope for.

MATTINGLY: But the most heart felt praise is coming from the people whose lives he saved. People like Joe Hart, one of the passengers on Flight 1549.

JOE HART, SURVIVOR: There's 155 people today that are absolutely thrilled that he was in charge and made the decisions he made.

MATTINGLY: For Sullenberger's wife and two daughters in California, it's all just --

L. SULLENBERGER: Overwhelming. I mean, the girls went to sleep last night talking. I could hear them in the bedroom saying, "Is this weird or what?"

MATTINGLY: No doubt very weird for a 57-year-old former air force fighter pilot who's been flying for more than 40 years.

Ironically Chesley Sullenberger, "Sully" for short is also an airline safety expert. He runs a firm that gives advice on emergency management and security, served as a safety consultant for NASA, and has investigated major airline accidents.

After avoiding disaster by bringing down his crippled airliner in the Hudson River, Sullenberger walked through the plane twice after it was evacuated making sure everyone had gotten off.

L. SULLENBERGER: This is the Sully I know. This is -- I always knew this is how he would react, so to me, this is not something unusual. It's the man I know, to be the consummate professional.

MATTINGLY: Sullenberger's wife also tells CNN her husband may be the only person who isn't aware he's a national hero.

L. SULLENBERGER: He doesn't know. He's been sequestered and hasn't turned on the television and so he only knew what I told him last night. He turned it on a little bit but he has -- he is going to be shocked.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Friends and deliverymen carrying flowers have been pouring into the pilot's home behind me. At this point, Mrs. Sullenberger isn't quite sure if she's going to stay here or eventually meet up with her husband in New York but there's already talk that the community is planning to organize a parade in the pilot's honor.

Dan Simon, CNN, Danville, California.


O'BRIEN: President-elect Obama spoke with Captain Sullenberger today, thanking him and his crew for doing such a terrific job. As a result, so many people have such amazing stories to tell. We'd like you to hear more from the survivors in their own words. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we hit the water it was a pretty big jolt and don't have much recollection of that. It was just kind of jostling around. And was just glad the plane was intact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's really where people started to panic. Inside the plane there were only one or two that were really kind of not knowing what to do. It's when we got outside and in the cold water and I mean the water was cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a couple people who just kind of took charge and just started yelling to calm down. And just took everybody out and once I think people realized that we were going to be ok, everybody kind of calmed down and just tried to get outside of the boat and get to safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were helping each other; they weren't just looking after themselves. And people were helping folks get down on the wing or get down on the raft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This pilot -- and if this guy doesn't get the recognition he needs -- is the reason my daughter, my two and a half has a dad and my wife still has a husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kudos to the pilot. He did a hell of a job. So he saved my life so I'm happy and thankful to him.


O'BRIEN: Survivors' voices and the story thank goodness was nothing but survivors.

In a moment some breaking news: We're just now getting the 911 tapes of the incident and we're going through them and will have them for you shortly.

Also, we'd like to know what you think. Join the live chat that's happening now at and check out our special floor crew Friday live web cast during the break.

Coming up next, Gary Tuchman takes us inside a simulator for a pilot's eye view of Flight 1549.

And then later, John King's exclusive interview with President-elect Obama.

That's all tonight on "360."


O'BRIEN: And as we mentioned some breaking news now. What a 911 operator heard as Flight 1549 went into the Hudson River. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Edgewater, New Jersey. There's a plane on the Hudson that looked like it was crashing. A big jet was going down into the Hudson and has pulled back up. And I'm telling you, this plane was way too low.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What city? What city?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's New York. I'm in Edgewater, New Jersey. This was in Manhattan. It was right there.


O'BRIEN: That's how it sounded to a 911 operator. It's the kind of call that ordinarily would signal a disaster.

In this case, though, it was a prelude to a miracle and a tribute to the training that all airline pilots have to undergo. Can you imagine it?

Well, Gary Tuchman didn't have to. Take a look at what the crew saw inside the cockpit.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Here at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach, Florida, the largest and oldest aerospace and aviation university in the United States, they're training today's students to protect you tomorrow.

There are 14 flight simulators here. They don't look like airplanes from the outside but it's a whole different story on the inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tower, Flight 447 is ready to take off.

TUCHMAN (voice over): Flight instructors Kathleen Ridall (ph) and Ryan Mishon (ph) are pretending they're on a routine flight. All is well aboard this jet. We're flying over a realistic looking New York and New Jersey landscape with the Hudson River on the horizon. But then --

KATHLEEN RIDALL, FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR, EMBRY-RIDDLE UNIVERSITY: Departure Flight 447 we have a double engine failure, looks like we'll be ditching in the Hudson River.

TUCHMAN: The pilots are taught to stay calm.

RYAN MISHON, FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR, EMBRY-RIDDLE UNIVERSITY: Ladies and gentlemen this is your first officer speaking. Unfortunately we must prepare the cabin for an emergency ditching in approximately two minutes.

TUCHMAN: The altitude drops fast. The moment of truth is arriving. PROF. MICHELE HALLERAN, EMBRY-RIDDLE UNIVERSITY: You approach the water just like you would asphalt, just like a runway and as slow as possible. And just before it stalls is basically how you touch down.

TUCHMAN: And the wheels are up.

HALLERAN: The wheels are up exactly, because you don't want any friction to cause you to skid or to flip the aircraft over.

RIDALL: The aircraft is down.

MISHON: Prepare for evacuation.

TUCHMAN: A successful landing in the Hudson River.

MISHON: Now we're going to lower our nose. We're going to ditch so we have the horizon right on top of us.

TUCHMAN: They then allow me, a former student pilot, to give it a go. I put on a simulator for propeller plane where water landings are not a practical option but today we're going to land on Daytona Beach's Halifax River after a propeller has quit.

And so we're now a glider. We need to make an emergency landing. We are losing altitude pretty rapidly.

MISHON: We're going to start leveling off. Ok.

TUCHMAN: 78. 56. Tension here now. We're in the water.

MISHON: We're in the water.

TUCHMAN: Was that a good landing?

MISHON: We're bouncing out of the water.

TUCHMAN: I'm glad the pilot did a better job on the US Airways plane.

Water landings are not desired but it's good to know pilots are rigorously train for the possibility.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Daytona Beach, Florida.


O'BRIEN: Coming up tonight, four days from the inaugural, Barack Obama on everything from his date with history to how his kids are taking it to keeping his Blackberry. The President-elect and John King only on CNN.

Later, the protestors stirred a nation. Now one of the central figures in the Jena Six controversy is back in the news, this time for the personal demons he's battling. Mychal Bell's story only on "360" tonight.


OBAMA: Given the magnitude of these challenges, none of this is going to come easy. Recovery is not going to happen overnight. It's likely that even with the reinvestment factors that we're putting forward, even with the measures that we're taking, things could get worse before they get better. Now I want everybody to be realistic about this.


O'BRIEN: A short time after giving that speech today at a factory in Bedford Heights, Ohio, President-elect Obama sat down with chief national correspondent John King for a one-on-one exclusive interview.

John joins us now from Cleveland. Hey, John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you Soledad. Good evening. He was remarkably calm for a guy who was just a couple days away from making such dramatic history for himself and for the country.

Also quite mindful, though, of the huge lists of challenges, many would say problems just ahead. He was very thankful in our interview that the Congress has authorized the second installment of that $700 billion bailout for Wall Street.

He was also quite confident that Congress will soon give him more than $850 billion to invest in a stimulus plan that he says should create jobs. But even though he will get that money soon he thinks he also was urging Americans to be patient saying 2009 will be another very tough year; so trying to lower expectations that those jobs will come very quickly.

And it was quite interesting, Soledad. We discussed a lot of subjects and one of the things I wanted to talk about was whether the transition had changed his impression at all of President Bush, the man he so harshly criticized, as you know, during the campaign.

I also asked him about the controversy about his treasury secretary nominee Timothy Geithner. He didn't pay more than $30,000 in taxes and he had to pay those taxes late, he paid interest as well. And many in Washington are saying, does this perhaps undermine Barack Obama's big campaign promise to restore trust and confidence in government to have a man as the head of the treasury meaning also the head of the IRS who failed to pay his taxes on time?

Well, the President-elect told me emphatically he believes the answer to that question is no.


OBAMA: Nobody disputes that this guy is the best-equipped guy for the job, that he's got the best qualifications imaginable, that he's dealt with financial crises consistently, and steadily. And so the notion that somebody who has made what is a common mistake because they worked for an international organization, they paid this money back, paid penalties, and the notion that somehow that's disqualifying makes absolutely no sense.

And, you know, I think that one of the things that we need to change about Washington is this notion that if you can play gotcha and you find over the course of an exemplary record one mistake that somebody makes, that somehow that's disqualifying.

If that were true, then I couldn't be President. And you probably couldn't be a correspondent.

So what I want is somebody who has terrific qualifications for the job, who has core integrity. I'm not looking for somebody who's never made a mistake in their life and I don't think the American people are either.

KING: You spent two years traveling the country saying President Bush was incompetent when it came to domestic leadership, had a debacle of a war in Iraq and has hurt our image around the world.

You've gotten to know him a little better during what by all accounts is an incredibly smooth and professional transition.


KING: Anything about him you want to take back or any new judgments about him?

OBAMA: You know, I think if you look at my statements throughout the campaign I always thought he was a good guy. I mean, I think personally he is a good man who loves his family and loves his country and I think he made the best decisions that he could, at times under some very difficult circumstances.

It does not detract from my assessment that over the last several years we have made a series of bad choices and we are now going to be inheriting the consequences of a lot of those bad choices.


O'BRIEN: We're going to have more from John's exclusive interview straight ahead.

Taking office, what Barack Obama says it'll mean to put his hand on the Lincoln Bible and what his daughter Malia now calls him. Plus history and pageantry: new details, about the inauguration. A preview from the parade to the after parties.

That's all coming up.

Plus, Patrick Swayze is back home from the hospital. We've got an update on his condition.

Stay with us.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The formal inaugural parade is 200 years old this year and has seen many firsts. African-Americans first took part under Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Women first joined in 1917.

Warren Harding was the first President to ride in a car in 1921. Harry Truman the first on TV in '49.

Jimmy Carter broke all the records in '77. The first modern President to walk, he made provisions for the handicapped to watch and his reviewing stand was solar heated.

Ronald Reagan, in '85 could have used some of that heat. His second parade, the first one canceled by a wind chill of 20 below zero.


O'BRIEN: Oh, let's hope the temperature won't be that low on Tuesday.

That was Tom Foreman, with a look at the inaugural parade. After the pageantry comes all the hard work. And for President-elect Obama there is lots of hard work ahead.

Mr. Obama spoke to John King today. Here is more of the exclusive CNN interview in tonight's "Raw Politics."


KING: You are on the verge of putting your hand on the Lincoln Bible and taking the oath of office on the steps of the United States Capitol built on the back of slaves.


KING: And you'll walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and you will move into a historic house built on the backs of slaves.


KING: You're known as "No drama Obama." Some people say well, he's too detached and he is so cool. You never see his emotions. This has to be incredibly overwhelming.

OBAMA: Obviously it's an extraordinary personal moment but, you know, you don't have to go back to slavery. You can think about what Washington D.C. was like 50 years ago or 60 years ago. And the notion that I now will be standing there and sworn in as the 44th president, I think, is something that hopefully our children take for granted but our grandparents I think are still stunned by it and it's a remarkable moment.

KING: You took your family to the Lincoln Memorial.


KING: What did you talk about walking around and looking at the President and reading those walls?

OBAMA: Now, this is a good story. I love the Lincoln Memorial at night. It always inspires me. So I take Michelle and the girls.

We're looking at the Gettysburg Address and Michelle is describing what Lincoln's words mean, the fact that these soldiers died on this battlefield means that any words that Lincoln could have said or any of us could have said would ring hollow. They've already consecrated this ground and what we have to do is to honor them by working for more justice, more equality here in America.

At which point Malia turns to me and she says, "Yes. How are we doing on that? Mr. President-elect?"

KING: Accountability in the house. That's a good thing.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

And then we go and look at Lincoln's second inaugural which is on the other wall, and Sasha looks up and she says, "Boy. That's a long speech. Do you have to give one of those?"

I said, "Actually that one's pretty short. Mine may even be a little longer."

At which point then, Malia turns to me and says, "First African- American President. Better be good."


O'BRIEN: Yes, and she's not kidding; a special moment for the next First Family. On Tuesday, Barack Obama will be the President. Will he bring change to Washington and the country? That is the $64,000 question.

Let's talk a little bit about that interview. Let's talk strategy, too. John King joins us again along with CNN's senior political analyst and former presidential advisor David Gergen and Pamela Gentry joins us as well, she's a senior political analyst for BET.

David, I want to start with you because you're a guy who has written a few important speeches in your day. Talk about the pressure that's on this speech. We've talked about it in the past but this one, what does he have to hit?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as someone at the campaign transition headquarters told me today, he's got to give that great, soaring speech.

I think the pressure is really on because of the historic nature of this presidency and also because of the extraordinary moment in which we find ourselves with this terrible recession.

So somehow, he has to capture the moment where the nation is, he has to capture the moment of where he is, and then he has to lift our spirits. And that is a lot to do in a single speech but, you know, because he has such a high reputation for giving excellent speeches, especially that speech he gave on race relations in Philadelphia, the expectations for this one are just, well, they're soaring.

O'BRIEN: It has to be soaring as David says, Pamela, but at the same time we've heard him consistently say over the last several weeks, going back to setting expectations over and over again 2009 is going to be a difficult year. Everyone has to reset their expectations. Will we hear that as well?

PAMELA GENTRY, SR. POLITICAL ANALYST, BET: I think he will. I think he's going to lay out to the American people that he can't fix everything overnight and he's buying time because of course we know like in a year, 18 months, all of these problems will be his problems. They won't be the former administration.

But I was going to say that his speech is going to be probably second to his race speech. I think that that is the mark he has to meet. If that speech, if this inaugural address surpasses the speech that he gave on race, I think that it will be another book probably.

But I'm looking forward to it. And I think it's going to be a challenge for him.

O'BRIEN: Well, one has to think that it's better to have your own speech compared to your own speech as opposed to your own speech compared to somebody else's speech if I'm looking for a silver lining there.

John, let me ask a question, when you talk to him about all the range of topics that you did, is he nervous? I mean, he gets where he is in history, not to mention the huge economic problems. Is he anxious a little?

KING: He does not display that publicly but I think he is very, very, very mindful and cognizant of the list of challenges. And what he has decided is to not be incremental and do one at a time, Soledad, but to try to -- from a challenge, from a crisis try to turn it into an opportunity and try to do many things at once while he has everyone's attention, not just the American people but the political people in Washington as well.

And that's a huge challenge not only because the country is very broke at the moment in terms of a very weak economy but people in the country don't trust their government.

And for all the good will they have about Barack Obama, there's a great deal of skepticism still about government. And he is going to be the leader of the government come Tuesday, so as he tries to do all these things, he has to convince people to trust him. One way you build trust is by getting things done. But these are monumental challenges, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes. We're going to talk about some of those poll numbers that reveal those very facts, John, in just a moment. I'll ask you guys to stick around. After the break we're going to have more with our panel and more of the challenges that Obama is facing plus what he's promising in order to fix the economy.

And a little bit later tonight, the teenager at the center of the Jena Six controversy talks for the very first time about why he tried to end his own life. The emotional and exclusive interview is just ahead.

Plus, some breaking news: Miracle on the Hudson. More of those 911 calls we're just getting in to CNN.

That's all when "360" continues.



KING: Tuesday noon you have to give this up.


KING: You're going to do it?

OBAMA: I think we're going to be able to beat this back.

KING: Beat this back?

OBAMA: I think we're going to be able to hang on to one of these.

KING: You want mine?

OBAMA: Now, my working assumption -- and this is not new -- is that anything I write on an email could end up being on CNN. So I make sure to think before I press send.


O'BRIEN: That's probably something most of us should do more often. President-elect Obama's Blackberry bond will not be broken he's saying when he takes office.

On a more serious note then, Obama has made many major promises to the American people and now we have to see if he's going to deliver. Let's get right back to our strategy session: with us once again David Gergen, John King, and Pamela Gentry, senior political analyst from BET. Nice to have you all back.

David, let's start with you. New CNN poll out today: 61 percent of the American people do not -- do not want that remaining $350 billion in relief money handed out. So you have a president-elect with a very high favorability completely at odds pushing something that's completely at odds with what the American people want. How long can that last?

GERGEN: Well, you know, Lincoln said, and this inaugural is going to have a lot of Lincoln in it, that a president can only accomplish things with the public behind him. Boy is that going to be true for Barack Obama. It's that public support that was behind him that did help to persuade the Congress, the senate to vote 52-42 yesterday in favor of this very unpopular program.

And I think as long as he personally has the public behind him, he can overcome the sentiment against some of these bills. That's what's called leadership. You know, bringing people behind you even though they're not really sure they want to do it.

And there are going to be some big choices ahead as John King's interview with him revealed. He's going to be asking for a lot of sacrifices in the months ahead this year and he's going to need the public with him almost every step of the way.

O'BRIEN: You know, John, earlier tonight, I heard you talking about this. And you talked about it as two trains running maybe on the same track, basically one of those trains hope and good will, that leadership that David's talking about, and then the other train is the anxiety over the economy, you know, and the bailouts. At what point do those two trains slam into each other?

KING: And that is the question and which one carries the day of the momentum, if you will? I don't mean to sound tragic about it.

But look. David is on the right point here and you just mentioned those polling numbers. When he becomes president -- he's still the president-elect -- he has this good will. He will carry that into the White House without a doubt.

But Soledad, when it comes to this bailout, it was President Bush who is paying the price for the collapse of the economy. Senator McCain did in the campaign. When Obama is the president every president becomes the vessel for economic anxiety.

And people saw the first $350 billion. And when you travel the country they say, where did it go? If it went to the banks why won't they lend me any money? Why are they still saying they're going to foreclose on my home?

When this is Barack Obama's money and it will be Tuesday at noon he has to quickly prove to the American people, give me a second chance. We're going to do it differently. If he can do that, those poll numbers will move -- and David's right -- it's about leadership.

If he cannot convince people that if you think the first half was wasted we're getting the second half right, if he can't pass that test and pass it quickly, his numbers will start to come down.

O'BRIEN: That could be a big problem.

Pamela, let me ask you a question. You saw this very difficult editorial in the "New York Times" about Barack Obama's choice for the treasury secretary, Tim Geithner.

Here's what they wrote. "Even in the best of economic times, it would be hard to accept a treasury secretary who, after all, is in charge of the Internal Revenue Service, with a cavalier attitude toward paying his taxes. Today, in a time of economic peril, the nation cannot afford a treasury secretary with a tainted ability to command respect and instill confidence."

Are they hitting the nail on the head in that editorial, or are they being too harsh on this guy? Everyone who supports him says he's innocent. It was a mistake.

PAMELA GENTRY, POLITICAL ANALYST, BET: Right now it's really going to be determined by President-elect Obama. If he sticks with him these types of editorials may keep coming but it's really going to have to determine whether or not he's going to buckle under this.

It appears that there's a real dissension. The few people I've talked to on Capitol Hill, they can't decide what to do because I think they're also waiting to see if they'll make a move before the president-elect does. I do think it's a touchy situation because he didn't pay some taxes. I mean, it is international money and he's saying that it was a mistake but it is tough because right now the American people are being asked to pay a lot, make a lot of sacrifices and it appears here is a very wealthy man who didn't.

O'BRIEN: And David -- yes, go ahead. Of course he's going to run -- he'll be in charge of the IRS so it's not like a regular guy who didn't pay his taxes, David. It sends a message, doesn't it?

GERGEN: I think that's right but I must say, there are indications that he has a letter from an accountant or lawyer saying that he didn't have to pay these taxes. They weren't owed. Now, if he can produce evidence that he was counseled by some authoritative figure that he did the right thing, then I think this cloud will dissipate very quickly. And it will not depend simply upon Barack Obama's continued support. So I think we have to let this play out a little more.

I will tell you this, that if it plays out too long, I think he really will get more and more hurt. And I think that it's proved wise of Barack Obama and when he chose his economic team also chose Larry Summers because Summers has stepped in to the breach now and helped him on a number of fronts where we thought Tim Geithner by now would be up and running and in place.

He's not and it's going to take a little longer but in the meantime Larry Summers had been a great help.

O'BRIEN: And, finally John, some seriously big news for you. Your new show on CNN, "State of the Union" is going to premiere this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time. How come you didn't call it "Politics Fit for a King?" I like that name; that works.

KING: We had some great suggestions. We settled on "State of the Union." We're going to have -- we'll have a lot of fun with this program we hope, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Good, we're looking forward to it. Congratulations you to. KING: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: And thank you to our panelists as well, of course, as always.

Coming up, a "360" exclusive: for the first time Mychal Bell talks about why he tried to take his own life just after Christmas. The Jena Six case thrust him into the national spotlight and into jail. He was given a clean slate and people were rooting for him to succeed. What exactly went wrong? We'll take a look.

Plus the presidential inauguration still four days away but the big lead-up to it begins tomorrow. We'll take you inside the preparations and show you just what awaits the president-elect.


O'BRIEN: Remember this? Back in September, 2007, more than 15,000 protestors flooded the tiny town of Jena, Louisiana. It was a massive show of support for six black teenagers who had been charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate. The charges had been reduced but one of the teenagers, 16-year-old Mychal Bell ended up in jail anyway and he was still behind bars.

The Jena Six case became a flashpoint for civil rights groups and for Bell it proved to be almost too much. After his release from jail he went to high school but this past December landed back in the news after being arrested for shoplifting. He then sank into depression, bought a gun, and tried to kill himself.

As he put it in a "360" exclusive interview with Sean Callebs, the devil had him.


MYCHAL BELL, JENA SIX DEFENDANT: I put the gun to my head and when I put it to my head, the gun sounded like it didn't go off. And I thought it must not work, so then I put it to my chest. When I sat, it actually shot, you know, and I just stood there. And then I just hit the floor and I couldn't breathe.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mychal Bell says the bullet from the .22 caliber hand gun collapsed his right lung, and he was bleeding badly. But if the gun had fired the first time, he wouldn't be doing this interview.

BELL: I wanted to do right. And I'm going to do right. But it's just so much pressure.

CALLEBS: A big kid from a small, rural Louisiana town, he's lived in the uncomfortable glare of the spotlight for more than two years, a glare cast by the so-called Jena Six incident.

Racial tensions in the small town had been simmering for months. They finally exploded when Bell and five other African-American teenagers pummeled a white classmate. (on camera) Do you ever think back on the incident, the fight, and think, "If I could do anything in my life over again, I would avoid this"?

BELL: I mean, you know, anybody, you know -- because my dream was to play football, with a scholarship, you know. And after that happened, you know, I was like attempted murder and everything. I might be doing like 30 or 40 years in prison.

CALLEBS (voice-over): The local district attorney initially charged the teens in the group with second-degree attempted murder before reducing the charges. Bell was considered the ringleader and the only one to go to jail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Injustice anywhere is a threat everywhere.

CALLEBS: Bell's case became a major civil rights cause. More than 15,000 demonstrators descended on Jena, saying Bell's punishment for his role in the fight was extreme. A watershed moment and a show of support that had tremendous impact on the young man at the center of this controversy.

BELL: You know, I think, if it weren't for the supporters, everybody who came out and helped us get out, I wouldn't be here today. I'd still be in prison.

CALLEBS: After 13 months, Bell was freed in December of 2007 and moved from Jena to live with a foster family in the nearby town of Monroe.

BELL: It ain't nowhere on my birth certificate that it says "Mychal Bell, Jena Six" on it. It says Mychal Bell.

CALLEBS: A clean slate and a chance to start over, but Bell's life began to unravel.

A former all-state halfback with power and blinding speed, Bell began practicing with his new school and petitioned the state for another year of high school eligibility. It was denied. And Bell blames his reputation.

BELL: It really tore me up on the inside. Because you know, I know everybody knows that was my dream; it was my love.

CALLEBS: Hurt and angry, Bell stayed in school and made solid grades.

But the Christmas holiday brought trouble. Bell was arrested on a charge of shoplifting $370 of clothes from a Monroe department store. He says he thought his arrest would ruin his chance to play college football and get an education. It was that disappointment and the overwhelming sense of failing so many people that sent Bell into the streets with money he received for Christmas to buy a gun to end his life.

(on camera) How much pressure do you put on yourself? BELL: I mean, ain't nobody perfect, but it was like I was trying to be perfect. People praying and just waiting on me, so it was people just praying. He's messed up. He's messed up, you know. It was a lot of pressure on me.

CALLEBS (voice-over): Bell, about to turn 19, vows to continue chasing his dream to get a college education and play football. He'll know more in early February.

It's signing day, and he hopes a college will take a chance on him and give him a chance to put his past behind him, including that horrifying attempt to take his own life that left him in intensive care.

BELL: What if the gun would have went off when I had it to my head? Not only am I hurting myself, I'm hurting my family, my friends, my classmates and everybody who supported me.

CALLEBS: Sean Callebs, CNN, Monroe, Louisiana.


O'BRIEN: You can see Sean's full interview with Mychal Bell on our Website. You just go right to

Coming up next, new information about the health of actor Patrick Swayze; we'll have the very latest on his condition.

Plus, inside the inauguration: Tom Foreman takes us along the pres-to- be path, the pomp, the crowds and the security.

And breaking news: those 911 calls reporting the emergency landing in the Hudson. The first eyewitness accounts when "360" continues.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first real inaugural ball was hosted by James Madison's wife, Dolly Madison, in 1809, and tickets were $4 apiece. The idea quickly caught on, and soon massive celebrations were planned for each inauguration.

Occasionally, hard times or war have shut the parties down but not often. This year, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and their spouses are expected to attend, at least briefly, ten different official balls, while dozens of other star-studded parties will go on all over D.C., long into the night.


O'BRIEN: And probably long into the morning, as well, at least first- time party goers. Another insider's view from Tom Foreman tonight.

Celebrations begin tomorrow but not in Washington. With an eye- opening and detailed view of the route, once again here's Tom. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: Obama's big inaugural weekend starts with a train ride, and what a ride it is going to be. He'll board in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the nation, where Abraham Lincoln began his big trip to the Capitol, the final leg of his inaugural journey.

This is going to be the route. It's quite a sight to see, coming down through Wilmington -- where he'll pick up his vice president, Joe Biden, who lives in Delaware -- Baltimore, on into D.C.

All along the way, tremendous security is going to be in place. There will be police from more than 40 different jurisdictions providing protection on the ground. Overhead, the FAA is going to close the air space as the train passes and provide air protection. Even out in the water the Coast Guard is going to have boats keeping people at some distance.

In all, what they're generating here really is a zone of protection that will travel all around this train as it moves. You can see it there. And this is going to be quite a trick when you think about it, because they think they may have more than a million people trying to line this route as they head down to D.C.

Now, let's turn to D.C., because what they're going to find is a city that's been transformed.

We're using a new technology for our coverage and we want to preview it here for you right now. It's called PhotoSynth. And at the Capitol, look at what they're going to find. They're going to find that there's been all this seating put in place, scaffolding, sound systems, video systems, all sorts of things to let people see this.

But nobody knows how big the crowd will be. One million people, two million, more? The estimates are absolutely running wild. But all of this space is going to fill in with people. We don't know how far back they will go. But if you see them all the way back at the Washington Monument, you will know that they are more than a mile and a half from the podium.

The crowd is expected to be so big that anyone who sees the inaugural address will not be able to watch the parade just a couple of blocks over on Pennsylvania Avenue, because it will already be overcrowded with more than 300,000 people.

And that's not to mention the enormous crowds expected at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, just ahead of Martin Luther King Day, as Obama enjoys a huge concert featuring Beyonce, Bono, Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks, all overlooking the same view that Dr. King had when he made his historic "I Have a Dream" speech right here.

Between all these events -- and don't forget the balls that are going to be going on. Obama and Biden will go to at least ten on their own. There will be dozens of others going on all over town.

Homeland security is so worried about safety here, look what they're doing. They are closing off virtually all of downtown. These are the road closures down here. It's almost unbelievable. They're even shutting down all of the bridges into Virginia just across the way here, and the result is going to be remarkable.

You will not be able to drive anywhere down here. Lots of people who have to be here are going to be sleeping in their offices just to have access. And again, it's because they just don't know how many people will be here.

But here's the good part for you. Stay with us here on CNN. We will be anchoring any and all of these events we've been talking about from our perfect vantage point on Pennsylvania Avenue at the Newseum. It's going to be a beautiful sight. We'll be using things like PhotoSynth to bring you absolutely every moment, so you won't miss a thing.


O'BRIEN: It's a good, good idea. Get to see everything. Don't miss a thing. All right, Tom.

And if you're going to any of the inaugural events, be sure to send your digital pictures to We're going to PhotoSynth them all together, just as you saw Tom do in that report a moment ago. Got to love technology. Let everyone see what we got.

Now back for a moment to the river landing we've been talking about all night, one that folks are going to be talking about, really, for a long time to come.

It happened almost literally right outside the window of millions of people in New York and New Jersey. May have paid a little for the river view, but they didn't know that they would be seeing what they saw.

We've got some 911 tapes, and we want to play another call for you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I just saw a plane crash in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, honey. You did, honey. We're aware of it. And we did report it over to the police department. They should be there as soon as possible.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Look like anybody is in there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell. I'm walking down to the shore to take a look.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, sir. Thanks, we'll very. You take it easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No problem. Bye-bye.


O'BRIEN: Well, there were hundreds of people watching that as that went down, Tom. You know, along the West Side Highway, you really had a clear view over the other side, the New Jersey side. It was an amazing thing to see.

FOREMAN: Really astonishing. It's an amazing thing out there.

You know, Soledad, there's a major round of job cuts out there today; layoffs that will put nearly 40,000 people out of work across wide- ranging industries. Among the casualties: 30,000 Circuit City employees. The retailer said today it's closing all of its stores. Hertz announced more than 4,000 job cuts. Pfizer laying off a quarter of its 8,000 sales employees. The insurer, WellPoint, eliminating 1,500 jobs.

Actor Patrick Swayze is out of the hospital tonight and heading back home, resting with his wife, Lisa. Swayze is battling pancreatic cancer and is being treated for pneumonia. He checked himself into the hospital a week ago.

The arctic blast sweeping the nation has hit the western Great Lakes area and is pushing into the southeast. In Chicago, minus 17 degrees, not including the wind chill; that's cold. The dangerous cold is expected to last at least through tomorrow.

And another addition to the star-studded inaugural ball lineup: Beyonce will sing not only at the Lincoln Memorial but also for Barack and Michelle Obama's first dance on inauguration night. And the song, well, Soledad, that's a secret. But I'm thinking it might be that "Let Me Upgrade" tune that's sticking in my head.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you know, I took Amtrak with her from New York City today, Beyonce.

FOREMAN: Aren't you cool?

O'BRIEN: Yes I am. By association.

FOREMAN: The last time I was on the train, it was a big heavy guy that slept a lot and snored.

O'BRIEN: Yes. That's usually the guy I'm next to. But this time --


O'BRIEN: Thanks, Tom.

Still ahead tonight, a pet with an appetite for history, in the doghouse tonight after he ate his owner's inauguration tickets. Seriously. Will they buy that story on inauguration day is the question? We'll take a look at that, up next, on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Tom, I know you're a dog lover, but tonight's "Shot" kind of tests the notion about man's best friend.

Jill Amacker (ph) of California worked very hard to snag a ticket to the presidential inauguration, made lots of calls. In the end her best friend hooked her up, got her a ticket, dropped it off at her house, slipped it through the mail slot. That was the problem: Webster the family dog on the other side of the mail slot.

Take a look. That's what Webster did to that not-cheap inauguration ticket. So Jill tried to piece it together, as you can see there. Let's take a look at the cute little culprit, Webster. Sweet.


O'BRIEN: A Rhodesian Ridgeback, we think, chewing on something else now. He's got a problem, that dog. So he's cute but he's -- who knows if she's going to be able to bring that chewed-up ticket and actually get into anything.

FOREMAN: Yes. Maybe bring the collar with it or something, for the dog.

O'BRIEN: That's not going to work. Security's tight. They're going to say, "You need to go home. Good luck. Just watch it on TV."

FOREMAN: He's a nice dog. He's a nice dog.

O'BRIEN: Yes, he is. Yes, he is.

And that does it for this edition of "360." Thanks for watching "360."

"Larry King" starts right now.