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CNN TONIGHT

Trump Tweet Blasts Carrier Union Leader; Trump Team Announcements; Time Names Trump "Person of the Year"; President Barack Obama's Legacy. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 7, 2016 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:21] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: You just saw our CNN special report, "The Legacy of Barack Obama." But will Donald Trump's legacy be Twitter tirades?

This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. Breaking news, The president- elect lashes out tonight at the union leader who said this to our Erin Burnett about Trump's Carrier deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK JONES, PRESIDENT, UNITED STEELWORKERS 1999: There are 550 being laid off. Now, that never was mentioned by anybody. Trump, Pence, or any of them never mentioned about 550 moving to Monterey, Mexico.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, Donald Trump taking to Twitter almost immediately saying, quote, "Chuck Jones, who is president of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country."

Let's get right to CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash and political commentator, Kevin Madden, contributor, Salena Zito, and political commentator, David Swerdlick.

Good evening to all of you.

Dana, you first. Tonight, Donald Trump apparently watching an interview here on CNN with a union rep critical of how the president- elect portrayed the Carrier deal and then unleashing a Twitter attack on him. What happened?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, you just laid it out. It's obvious that what happened was Donald Trump did not like that criticism, did not like the fact that it was taking away from something that he got pretty much universal kudos for just last week, which was figuring out a way along with the -- his vice president- elect, the sitting governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, to save jobs that were already heading towards Mexico.

Instead, what this union leader did on "Erin Burnett" is say, OK, that's really nice. But the fact is that a lot of the workers who thought that they were going to have their jobs saved did not because it -- it didn't -- what Donald Trump was saving didn't represent the scope of all of the workers who were getting laid off.

Now, we reported that pretty much real time. But it's one thing to report the number and it's another thing to be a union leader as Chuck Jones is and to have to deal with this reality with the people he knows very well.

LEMON: Kevin, Donald Trump has proudly talked about saving 1,100 jobs in the Carrier deal. But here is Chuck Jones.

Again, he is the president of United Steelworkers 1999 speaking to Erin earlier. Seemingly, this is what sparked Trump's Twitter attack. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: When Carrier announced the closedown of the whole facility in February, they announced at that point in time the research and development jobs. About 350 of them were going to remain here in Indianapolis.

Then when Mr. Trump got involved, what the actual number of jobs saved is 730 bargain unit jobs, the workers of the union members, and another 70 office supervisory, clerical workers for Trump (ph) management. And what they're doing, they're counting in, 350-some-odd more that were never leaving this country at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Kevin Madden, Jones says more than 500 jobs are still being sent to Mexico. Your reaction to the president-elect's response to this?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think the -- the -- the political benefits, particularly in the short term for Donald Trump, on the Carrier issue, were pretty obvious and I think undisputed. Most -- even his critics would say that the headlines that he drove in the immediate aftermath of announcing the deal and the polling that we've seen in the immediate aftermath all show that this was a total win for Donald Trump.

I think what we're seeing is a window right into how Donald Trump engages in political combat. The second he sees a critic, even if it's somebody like Chuck Brooks (sic) who's not really well-known, he immediately confronts that critic and engages with them.

LEMON: Chuck Jones -- Chuck Jones.

MADDEN: Most -- I'm sorry, Chuck Jones, I'm sorry -- most -- in the past, you'd see a lot of transition staff say, look, this is -- we don't want to engage in a day-to-day, back-and-forth with -- with any of our adversaries on this. Let's take the political win and go.

Donald Trump -- not the case.

LEMON: David, Trump fired back immediately tweeting. And I read it once. So again, maybe we can put it up, "Chuck Jones, who's president of United Steelworkers 1999 has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country."

You know, it's one thing to take on the media. And he's taken on lots of us in the media as a whole.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.

LEMON: It's another to take on Boeing or United Technologies. What about taking on an individual American citizen like this who is fighting for workers?

SWERDLICK: Yes, it's incredibly thin-skinned. And it's, at least to my mind, not becoming of the office that President-elect Trump is about to assume.

[23:04:56] Look, if President-elect Trump and Vice-President-elect Pence dispute the numbers that Chuck Jones is giving to CNN or to the "Washington Post," then, of course, it's -- it's well within their right to say, no, this is not our understanding of the deal points. These are not the numbers.

We'd like to discuss it. We'd like to get on air and tell our side of the story. But to attack him personally, it's thin-skinned and divisive.

We started today talking about the "Time" magazine cover and how he was disputing that he should be described as divisive, well, this is divisive.

LEMON: Yes.

Salena, I mean, what do you think about Trump's criticism, whether it's -- it's personal or not? Why is he picking this fight and because there's -- they're going to be -- he's going to get much more criticism over the coming years?

And will he have a problem with the pressure and the scrutiny that every president faces?

SALENA ZITO, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, I mean, Chuck Jones and Donald Trump are -- are guys that are going by numbers, right? So is that -- that Carrier event. They told us at the event.

And Carrier tweeted it. And they put it in the press release that it was a thousand jobs. So to -- in Trump's mind, he's looking at this and Jones is disputing that -- that -- that Trump is telling the truth.

On one hand, Jones is a numbers guys, too, right? He was -- it's his job -- I've known these union guys all my life here in Pittsburgh, you know, their job is to save every single job that they can get their hand on.

LEMON: Right.

ZITO: Trump looks at it like, I was just there. I just -- they told me it was a thousand jobs. And -- and you know, in his mind, he's not doing his job.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But Salena, I understand where you're going with this. But listen, Chuck Jones didn't say Donald Trump is a terrible president- elect.

He said he simply came on and gave numbers.

ZITO: Right.

LEMON: The personal attack came from the president-elect, not from Chuck Jones.

ZITO: We're entering a completely different paradigm. I -- I don't think this is going to be unusual of -- of Trump.

I think this is going to be normal. And I -- we are not used to it. But I think--

LEMON: Yes.

ZITO: --we're going to have to get used to it.

LEMON: OK.

ZITO: I don't -- I don't necessarily say it's right or wrong. It's just the new way things are going to go on in this town.

LEMON: The new way, yes. I don't know if we'll have to get used to it. But I think that it's probably going to go on. And -- and it's our job--

ZITO: Right.

LEMON: --to -- to point it out.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: And Don, can I just make a point about the politics of this?

LEMON: Go ahead, Dana, yes.

BASH: That, you know, we -- we can talk about whether or not it is appropriate for the leader of the free world to be -- to pick on an individual the way he did. But the bottom line is it's not just that.

It's -- he's almost -- when you talk about the raw politics of it, he's kind of biting the hand that seats (ph) him.

LEMON: Right.

BASH: I mean, Chuck Jones is -- and union workers and more broadly, I mean, they were the old-time Democrats who said that the Democratic Party was not speaking for them and voted for Trump because he was.

LEMON: And voted for Trump, right.

BASH: And so--

LEMON: That was the point of my question, why would he pick a fight with someone who is fighting for the job for -- yes.

BASH: Exactly, exactly. And -- and to your -- and you read one of the tweets, it wasn't just one. He also tweeted again as CNN was talking about it.

There you see right there. "If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana, spend more time working, less time talking, reduce dues."

LEMON: Gee.

BASH: So going after the union in general, again, a lot of these people, I would bet a lot of money voted for Donald Trump.

MADDEN: That's a good point, Dana. It's just a--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Hey, Kevin -- Kevin, hold on. Let me play this because I think this will -- you can respond--

MADDEN: Yes.

LEMON: --to this as well. After Trump tweeted, Chuck Jones called into CNN, he responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: Now, what we do as a labor union, we negotiate fairly living wages and benefits. So on the Carrier situation in its entirety, it was all about wages.

We can't compete with $3 an hour extra workers. We've got a skilled workforce. The company's been profitable.

But because of corporate greed and unfair trade, they want to move these jobs out of the country. So if he wants to blame me, so be it.

But I look at him, how many millions of dollars he spent on his hotels and casinos, try to keep labor unions out--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: There you go, Kevin.

MADDEN: Yes. Dana makes a good point -- Dana makes a good point about why would Donald Trump do this, and particularly if these are the union members that supported him. Well, I think what he -- I think the thinking there is that many of these union members aren't happy with union leadership.

And Donald Trump, the one thing he's done is try and shake up the status quo--

BASH (?): Great point.

MADDEN: --whether it's in Washington or whether it's with union leadership around the country. The other thing that's interesting is in that speech or in that -- that second call by -- by Chuck Jones, he -- he was carrying a message that Donald Trump carried to those very voters in those states that resonated, which is questioning some of the -- some of the big economic -- some of the big economic trends that are affecting the overall economy in -- in the Midwest.

And in that sense, they actually have a very similar message.

LEMON: Yes.

SWERDLICK: Don, can I just say one more thing?

LEMON: Yes, yes.

SWERDLICK: I agree with Kevin on the politics. I would just add, though, if you look at the substance of that second tweet that you put up, Trump has changed the message, right?

The message about the--

[23:10:05] LEMON: Yes, put that up for us (ph). Thank you.

SWERDLICK: --the -- the -- the message throughout the campaign was that it's the rigged system. It's the elites in Washington that have done nothing to look out for jobs.

If you look at that tweet on its face, what it's saying is is that part of the blame goes to the -- the poor leadership--

LEMON: The union workers.

SWERDLICK: --of the union.

LEMON: Yes.

SWERDLICK: Yes. So that's -- that's a bait and switch.

LEMON: Yes. So, and here is -- here is what Robert Reich (ph) said to -- in response to Trump's tweets tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: So let me just say it because Donald is probably watching right now. Let me just say, with all due respect, Mr. Trump, you are president-elect of the United States.

You are looking and acting as if you are mean and petty, thin-skinned and vindictive. Stop this. This is not a fireside chat.

This is not what FDR (ph) did. This isn't (ph) lifting people up. This is actually penalizing people for speaking their minds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: David, does he have a point?

MADDEN: Yes, I -- I do think he has a point. Secretary Reich knows -- he was in the Clinton administration, a cabinet secretary, and I do think this is divisive. Look, I do think that the Trump administration, President-elect Trump, should and will and do take credit for saving those 700 or 800 jobs as has now been reported by the "Post," by the "Indianapolis Star."

But I also think the union reps are right. If they believe that it's less than originally advertised, they're in their rights to -- to stick up for their side of the deal because -- because if we get started before inauguration day without having some clarity about how these deals are going to go, Salena is right.

There is going to be more of them. Then you know, we're in bad shape.

LEMON: Salena, is -- speaking to that, is Trump's approach, which is cutting individual deals with different companies in order to save jobs, then firing at them via Twitter, is that the right strategy? Can that be replicated on -- on a national basis, a nationwide scale?

ZITO: Well, do you -- do you mean firing at, like, Boeing or firing back at Chuck Jones?

LEMON: Well, both, I would say firing back at Chuck Jones as everybody on the panel has probably come to the consensus that it probably was not a good thing for him to do but for Boeing and for Carrier and -- and on and on.

ZITO: Well, you know, I mean, I want -- Kevin made an excellent point because, you know, I know a lot of these union guys and a lot of them get really sort of upset with their leadership. And they look at their dues going and, you know, going for political things.

And -- and they're not keeping their jobs. So some of this is probably not going after union workers but going after union leadership and going after the status quo. So, you know, I don't think that he's losing people on this. But--

LEMON: But that's kind of the danger of a hundred and 40 characters, though. There's no nuance. And it doesn't say the leadership.

ZITO: Right.

LEMON: It just says, you know, union workers, steelworkers 1999, which is everyone.

ZITO: Right.

LEMON: It's not just the Chuck Joneses of the world.

ZITO: Well, but when I looked at it, and I come from a union town, when I looked at it, to me, that -- when I saw that tweet, I was like, oh, that's the leadership because those are the ones that are responsible for keeping those jobs. Those are the guys that negotiate.

Those are the guys that go to the ownership and say, what can we do to keep these jobs? So in my mind's eye, that's how I saw it.

LEMON: All right. Stick around--

BASH: And to her point and Kevin's point, they do historically endorse Democrats and -- and -- and Republicans do try to split off the rank and file from the leadership. So I -- I do agree with that.

LEMON: Stick around, everyone. When we come right back, new announcements today from the Trump transition team as the president- elect reveals he's been consulting President Barack Obama on some of his cabinet picks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:17:17] LEMON: Breaking news, a federal judge has given Michigan's board of elections the go ahead to stop the electoral recount. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued the order tonight effectively denying Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's efforts to keep the recount going. And meanwhile, on the day President-elect Trump is named "Time" magazine's person of the year, new announcements today from his transition team.

Back with me now to discuss, Dana Bash, Kevin Madden, Salena Zito, and David Swerdlick.

Never a dull moment in the last couple of months, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

So Dana, let's start with you this time. Let's talk Donald Trump's transition. No word on his pick for secretary of state.

But he is tapping another general to join his ranks, plus a former pro-wrestling CEO. What do you know?

BASH: How is that for a duo? We know that -- that let's just talk about the WWE, Linda McMahon, that she is not somebody who was that thrilled with Donald Trump during the primary process, had said in an interview that she didn't think he was great for women.

But when he became the nominee, she gave money to his Super PAC. And when Donald Trump announced that she was his pick today, he talked about the fact that she does get business.

She grew her company in a very big way. And she's actually kind of ironically given, you know, where she comes from, wrestling, probably going to be one of the least controversial nominees, given the fact that her opponent, because she is a two-time -- she ran twice, and a two-time loser for the United States senate, her opponent who beat her the first time, Senator Blumenthal from Connecticut, said today in the hallway that he's going to vote for her.

So you know, there you go.

LEMON: Yes. As I said, never a dull moment over the past couple of months. He's selecting Oklahoma's attorney general, Dana, though, Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hasn't Pruitt sued the EPA before?

BASH: Yes, he has. He, as attorney general of the state of Oklahoma, which, of course, is a state with a lot of energy resources and energy money, which if you look back at some "New York Times" pieces that have been done over the years, they've done some investigative work on this man in particular about the money that he got from -- from donors and even some of the practices that he was part of. What they reported was that he took letters from energy lobbyists and just kind of copied them and put them on his letterhead and sent them to the EPA.

Big picture, though, what does this mean? It means that the meeting that Donald Trump had with Al Gore that gave people on Capitol Hill -- I was up there this week -- some hope that maybe his rhetoric about, you know, being a climate change denier and -- and so forth during the campaign was just that, that that hope is out the window because there is a lot of -- of anger at the fact that Donald Trump nominated Pruitt.

[23: 20:15] However, again, we've said this many times, elections do have consequences. And this is a man who many conservatives are cheering bout because they think the EPA has totally overstepped their bounds.

And they want him--

LEMON: And they're not.

BASH: --to go into the EPA and shrink it from the inside.

LEMON: And they don't really believe in climate change. They think it's, you know, a hoax.

BASH: Right.

LEMON: So Kevin, to that point, what was that high-profile meeting then (ph) with Al Gore at Trump Tower? What was that all about?

Was it an attempt to show people he is more moderate, get some attention for -- for that while still appointing a very conservative leader for the position?

MADDEN: Yes, well, if he's going to meet with Mitt Romney, meeting with Al Gore is not that big of a stretch, right? I mean, somebody who's -- had been fickle (ph) with him (ph) in the past--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You should know, Mr. Romney (ph) whisperer.

MADDEN: --I would know. I would know. Yes, I -- I really do believe it's an effort to -- to, you know, gather as much insight as possible.

And, look, Donald Trump is -- is unique in the sense that he is one of the -- he's the first president to ever be elected without prior government experience. And to get insight from someone like Al Gore who has a lot of it, he's even met with Rahm Emanuel, another person who despite there may be differences on politics and policy, has an incredible amount of insight of how Congress works and how the White House works.

So gathering as much of that insight and intelligence, I think is something that the transition has -- has shown a -- it's been a pattern for this transition. And I think that's a good thing, even for those who were critics of (AUDIO GAP).

LEMON: (AUDIO GAP) Swerdlick, let's talk about Donald Trump as "Time" magazine's person of the year. He says it's an honor.

But of course, he's taking issue with something, you know, as he often does with the headline, calling him the president of the divided states of America. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, I think putting "divided" is snarky. But again, it's divided. I'm not president yet.

So I didn't do anything to divide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What do you -- what do you make of Trump saying he didn't do anything to divide the country?

SWERDLICK: He did do something to divide the country. Look, during the last 18 months, President-elect Trump ran a divisive campaign.

He made the comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel. He mocked the Khan family. He talked about Carly Fiorina's looks when he was running against her.

I could list on and on the things he did that were divisive. That doesn't mean that he can't go on and have a successful presidency.

That doesn't mean that he can't come out and really give a meaningful address or a meaningful sit-down with -- with a journalist such as yourself that explains why he was misunderstood or why he did what he did. But he hasn't done that yet.

And so I think the label, "divided," at least for the moment, sticks.

LEMON: Salena -- yes, Salena, do you get the sense that -- that Trump only wants to take credit for the good things? He says he didn't do anything to divide the country, but also says he hopes his presidency will be judged from election day, pointing to the stock market bounce.

What do you make of that?

ZITO: Well, I mean, you know, at heart, he's a showman and a businessman. And -- and both sort of career paths are ones where you want everything to look good.

And you want to look powerful. And you want to look strong. And you want to look confident.

So I think there's always going to be that part of him that -- that wants to constantly portray that. But he has shown in -- in several different instances where he has been contrite.

He's apologized for either things that he said or he's admitted mistakes. Those have been few and far between.

Nonetheless, he has done them. But I think that Trump relishes projecting confidence and projecting positive things.

And you will -- you will probably always see him doing that. And the other thing he does really well that's something Bill Clinton used to do really well is always show that he's working.

You know, even when Bill Clinton was at his worst part, you know, he was out there with Lanny Davis, and you know, had his sleeves rolled up, and I'm just, you know, doing the job for the Americans, and -- and Trump has showed that since the day that he won that he was going to work on his --on his transition, that he was going to be meeting with people. And -- and that shows a lot of political savvy.

LEMON: Dana, Kevin, Salena, David, thank you very much.

Up next, the legacy of President Barack Obama, what will be -- what will he be most remembered for?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:28:23] LEMON: In 44 days, President Barack Obama steps down after eight years in office. I want to talk now about that, his legacy with CNN presidential historians, Timothy Naftali and Douglas Brinkley and Michael Higginbotham, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Baltimore and author of "Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America."

So good to have all of you on CNN (ph). I'm looking forward to this conversation.

Douglas, so I'm going to start with you. Aside from making history as the first African-American president, what will President Obama be most remembered for?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENT HISTORIAN: Getting America out of the great recession. I mean, we sometimes forget what it was like in October of 2008 when everything crashed. He had to come in in an emergency situation and started working at

ways to get the economy stimulated. I also think that killing of Osama bin Laden will be a major piece that's remembered.

But in the end, it'll be the first line that he was America's first African-American president and was successful and had two terms, although he had a lot of headaches along the way.

LEMON: You know, he is leaving the president-elect with a -- a solid economy. Our unemployment is at 4.6 percent, the GDP for the last quarter of 3.2 percent, the highest growth rate in two years.

Will history record it that way? Will history be kind to him?

BRINKLEY: I say everyday -- you know, the day he leaves office, that will be the way (ph) -- how he left the American economy. And, you know, I -- going from seven-point of unemployment all the way down to 4.7, let's say, by the time he leaves, he's also probably going to have close to a 60 percent public approval rating.

So he's a beloved figure now that the fact of the matter is America's been very center, center-right. And it's been a little hard for Barack Obama to develop the legislative record he wants.

[23:30:13] We're going to have to see what happen to the Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act in the age of Donald Trump. There are headaches for Obama's legacy yet to come.

But he's leaving with a very squeaky clean, ethical record. And parents, mothers, and fathers all over (ph) America could say I want my kid to grow up to be like Barack Obama.

LEMON: And Timothy, much -- much of what looked like President Obama's legacy just a couple of months ago is now in jeopardy -- Obamacare, green fuel, climate change initiatives. Will any of it survive now, you think?

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, a couple of things. First of all, it takes a while to know what a president's legacy is.

LEMON: Right. You can't believe we're talking about it this early.

NAFTALI: No, I can't believe it, but it's OK. It's -- it's an ongoing conversation. But if we were having a conversation in 1988--

LEMON: Right.

NAFTALI: --about Ronald Reagan, there were people criticizing Ronald Reagan in 1988 for being too soft on Gorbachev. And if Gorbachev had been overthrown in '89 rather than in 1991, who knows what the outcome would have been?

And -- and Ronald Reagan's legacy is the one who won the cold war, what (ph) wouldn't (ph) be the legacy of the man who won the cold war. So there are a number of things to play out for Barack Obama that are going to shape his legacy. For example, what happens in Mosul, whether after the surprise of 2014

when he comes to grip with the ISIS/ISIL problem, does he -- does he really actually deal with it effectively before he leaves office? Obamacare -- it looks as if President-elect Trump doesn't agree with the congressional leadership about what Americans deserve to have.

He's talking about people with pre-existing conditions continuing to be insured. He's also talking about people 26 years or -- and younger still being covered by their parents' insurance plans.

That's not something that the congressional leadership has really promised Americans. If he pushes for that, that's the legacy of Obamacare. It's -- it's President Obama who made those requirements for the American safety net.

And then the issue --the issue of climate change -- absolutely, President-elect Trump said he will pull out of the Paris agreement. Well, let's just see what happens.

Let's see how much of this he really can undo. So -- so part of the legacy issue will depend on President-elect Trump's relationship with Congress and how much he achieves.

And part of it will do -- will -- will relate to how President Barack Obama as a former president talks about the values that he espoused.

LEMON: And what he does next.

NAFTALI: That he does next because Jimmy Carter -- Jimmy Carter, I mean, as, you know -- as Doug knows very well, Jimmy Carter's legacy as a president was very low. But Jimmy Carter as a person gained a great personal legacy because of what he did after he left office.

LEMON: And listen, you know, as I mentioned to -- to Douglas, Michael, you know, his legacy -- part of his legacy just without saying is that he is the first African-American president of the United States. And so African-Americans, in general, feel a particular way, certain kind of way, as we say, about the president.

How do African-Americans specifically view his presidency?

MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: Well, I think as you mentioned, he is the first black president. And clearly, that is very significant.

But there's no question that most blacks view President Obama very, very positively. I mean, this is somebody who's not only, you know, saved the economy and has done a great deal for individual rights in terms of gender and in terms of gay rights during his presidency.

He stood strong. But he's also done a great deal in terms of race. His Justice Department, Eric Holder -- very strong in terms of evaluating police departments that violated civil rights and in terms of suggesting changes that they can make.

And I think a lot of African-Americans look at that very positively. And then finally, I think and most importantly, he has been somebody who has been so professional in the job.

He has been so measured, so objective. And like -- as a professor, you know, I'm supposed to evaluate and grade.

I mean, President Obama deserves an A-plus for anger management. There's been so many -- so many opportunities for him to be angry, right?

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It's funny you should say that. If we were watching this -- this documentary with Fareed Zakaria just before the show, and there was (ph) -- there are a few of us sitting in the office and saying, it's -- it is quite remarkable that he's not angrier, considering, you know, when he first got into office, Republicans said, we're going to make you a one-term president.

We're not going to do anything. You're not going to get anything passed. And then considering what the president-elect said about him, delegitimizing his presidency, making him present his birth certificate, it's amazing that he is not angry.

And most people would have been really ticked off about it and probably would not have been -- the word is so classy about it.

HIGGINBOTHAM: They absolutely would be. And he is a classy person. He is somebody with strength, with courage, with dignity.

And that's what he brought to the office. And I think African- Americans are so proud of him for doing that. And it's incredible.

[23:35:13] LEMON: Yes.

HIGGINBOTHAM: He deserves a great deal of credit for that.

LEMON: Douglas, President Obama does not have the same background that most American black folks do -- a white mother, a father who's from Kenya. How did that influence how he dealt with race as a president?

BRINKLEY: Well, I think because he operated on two tiers. One, he was the leader for African-Americans and recognized the symbolism of it all, that he was following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the bridge that Selma of John Lewis (ph).

And he -- he knew he had to make sure that he -- he -- he honored that. And you saw it in the Charleston shooting which was in Fareed Zakaria's documentary was played up.

What a brilliant moment where here he is, Barack Obama talking to the AME (ph) Church after the horrible slayings in -- in Charleston. He's singing "Amazing Grace" and has the rhythm of the African-American pulpit, the AME (ph) Church was the freedom church of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglass.

Yet, he's also understood the concerns of -- of white America, having a family. He's a mix-raced American.

He's multicultural person. And so I thought fine, that he's only going to grow in stature. He's going to probably get about $15, million, $20 million for his memoir.

He's a great writer. He's going to write. He's going to have the library in Chicago. I don't think he's going to be like Jimmy Carter in the sense of being that activist.

He doesn't really like politics. But he's a constitutional lawyer. Someday, you might even see him on a Supreme Court like William Howard Taft had once been president and then went back to the court.

And let's not forget, Barack Obama got two women onto the U.S. Supreme Court. And there's a legacy inherent with that.

LEMON: That's interesting to think that, you know, born in the 1960s, a -- a white mother and black father, that's where the country is going now. And we're going to see more of that.

And that may be his legacy as well.

Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. When we come right back, for many, it seemed like the election of Barack Obama would change everything.

But after eight years in office, what is the president's legacy on race in America?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:41:15] LEMON: A black man in the White House -- for many, it seemed the election of Barack Obama would change everything. But now, eight years later, what is -- what is President Barack Obama's legacy on race?

Here to discuss now is former Philadelphia Mayor, Mr. Michael Nutter and Calvin Tucker, chairman of the Pennsylvania Black Republican Council and CNN political commentator, Bakari Sellers.

Good evening, gentlemen.

Mayor, you are first. I want you to listen, again, to what President Obama told Fareed Zakaria about race. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: The first line of your biography, almost certainly been not something you did but who you are--

BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Right.

ZAKARIA: --the first African-American president. And yet, you're half-white.

OBAMA: Right. ZAKARIA: You were raised by three white people, your mother and two

grandparents.

OBAMA: Right. And an Indonesian, you can throw in there (ph).

ZAKARIA: And an Indonesian. Are you comfortable with this characterization of you?

OBAMA: I am, actually. And the concept of race in America is not just genetic. Otherwise, the one-drop rule wouldn't have made sense.

It's -- it's cultural. It's -- this notion of a people who look different than the mainstream suffering terrible oppression but somehow being able to make out of that a music and a language and a faith and a patriotism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Mayor Nutter, what did you hope race relations would look like after eight years of a President Obama? And do -- what do you think the reality is?

MICHAEL NUTTER, FORMER MAYOR, PHILADELPHIA: Well first, Don, I'm still not sure that more than a few years ago, I ever thought in my lifetime that an African-American would be elected president of the United States of America -- always a hope, wasn't sure it was actually going to happen. I didn't know for many older folks, they never thought this would happen.

That's one. Two, what we've seen is a very proud, secure black man, take care of America -- classy, dignity, grace, under fire, be a great husband, father, consoler-in-chief, understand people because of what -- that clip we just heard from the president. His multicultural history and background has clearly helped to shape him, but more importantly helped him to better understand a whole lot of other folks than possibly we've ever seen in a president of the United States.

LEMON: Calvin, do you agree?

CALVIN TUCKER, CHAIRMAN, PENNSYLVANIA BLACK REPUBLICAN COUNCIL: Oh, absolutely, I agree--

LEMON: He had to -- he had to--

TUCKER: --although--

LEMON: --he had to walk on tightrope when it came -- when it came to issues that other presidents before him didn't have to in a way other presidents before him didn't have to. Go on, continue your thought.

TUCKER: Well, no, I mean, I just would have liked to -- while all of those great attributes that the mayor has talked about with respect to the president, I certainly agree with those. I just would have liked to, you know, see him do more things in the underserved community to help eradicate some of the issues in -- in that -- in that community.

LEMON: Bakari?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we can look at the numbers of President Barack Obama, whether or not you have a violent crime rate, which has been trending down, whether or not you look at the unemployment rate in African-American communities, the dropout rate. You can look at all of those numbers.

But for me, I think it's three things. I think it's three -- it's three images, which will be forever lasting in my heart and in my mind when I think about President Barack Obama.

The first is a picture from 2009, when a little boy named Jacob who was five years old entered the White House, he was rest (ph) to death and whether with his white dress shirt on, and he asked the president was his hair like his, and the president then told her, yes (ph), and Jacob reached up and touched his head. Number two was just recently this year was a young three-year-old boy named Clark Reynolds at the White House, Black History Month Program. And you can see him gazing up at the president as the president gently touches his cheek.

[23:45:09] And -- and number three was an image that we've all talked about but was very personal to me, when the president sung "Amazing Grace" at that funeral.

LEMON: Yes, let's listen to that because we were both there covering that, Bakari. And let me give this caveat because of the trial of Dylann Roof is under way right now in Charleston.

He's accused of shooting nine people at a bible study at the Emanuel AME Church there. So let's listen to the president at the memorial service to honor the victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: God works in mysterious ways.

(APPLAUSE)

God has different ideas. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And Bakari, sadly, that is how you and I met. That was June of 2015, only a year and a half, you know, left in his presidency.

Do you think this was a turning point for him on the way he handled race?

SELLERS: Well, I think it was an exceptional moment. I think that people forget sometimes that we are just 48 years away from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., 48 years away from the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, and 48 years away from the Arnford (ph) massacre.

And you have things like this that happen. And the president was -- was--

LEMON: Why is this -- why is this affecting you so much, Bakari? You all right?

SELLERS: Yes.

LEMON: Yes.

SELLERS: That was a tough day for us all.

LEMON: Yes.

NUTTER: The president has seen a lot of tragedy and had to deal with, of course, the economic recession. I mean, you know, those of us who have been in elected office, during our time and after our time, there will always be those who say, well, I wish he had done this. I wish he had done that.

I wish he'd done another (ph) thing. Well, quite frankly, I wish Congress had supported the American Jobs Act. I wish Congress would stop trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the one that brought seven million African-Americans health care, who did not have it before, rising incomes for African-Americans.

And that list can go on. So you know, I think until you've been in that kind of situation, it is really hard to judge.

But you do the best you can with what you have. President Barack Obama will be seen as one of best presidents in the history of the United States of America.

LEMON: Yes, history will be kind to him. An listen, that was a tough time for all Americans, and particularly, tough for my brother, Bakari Sellers there, being right in the center of where it all happened.

So Bakari, we feel for you. We're going to take a break. And we're going to regroup and will be back on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:52:08] LEMON: Back with me now, Michael Nutter, Calvin Tucker and Bakari Sellers.

So Bakari, thank you for sharing that moment with us. It was very special and again, we know it's tough because the trial is going on.

And there's a lot happening in Charleston right now and in the country. Let's talk about this, though.

"Time" magazine named the president-elect the person of the year but also called him the president of the divided states of America. What do you think?

SELLERS: Well, I think we do have a divided state, and a divided country. And I think that, you know, my hope and wish is that Donald Trump puts some of his pettiness aside and work with unifying the country.

I'm not sure if he's capable of doing it. I really hope and believe that he is because there are a lot of people in this country that are hurting.

And there are a lot of people in this country who feel as if their voices don't matter. It's a lot of people in this country, especially persons of color who simply feel as if we don't get the benefit of our humanity.

And the fact is, I don't think Donald Trump sees that. I don't think Donald Trump hears that.

And Donald Trump didn't win this race by bringing people together. He won it by dividing. So I don't know why we would expect him to do something different now.

LEMON: Yes. Here is his response this morning on "The Today Show."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I didn't divide them. They're divided now. I mean, there's a lot of division.

And we're going to put it back together. And we're going to have a country that's very well-healed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Mayor?

NUTTER: You know, first, if he would stop tweeting and start speaking and really talking to America using the pulpit (ph) that he has as president-elect, stop denying what you did, own up to it, acknowledge it, you won. Now, try to bring people together.

Any of the debunk, all the stuff he said, that was just campaign rhetoric, and now say what you really mean as president-elect. You're going to get sworn in on January 20.

But it's time for leadership now. Cut the rhetoric.

LEMON: So do you take his thank you towards (ph) a blue state, Calvin?

TUCKER: Well, he's just thanking (ph) across America, regardless of whether it's a red or blue state. You know, he won. He has to represent all Americans, red or blue.

LEMON: Yes. Calvin, on "60 Minutes," the weekend after the election, Lesley Stahl asked Trump about acts of violence and use of racial slurs against minorities by some of his supporters. This was his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I am very surprised to hear that. I would -- I -- I hate to hear that.

LESLEY STAHL, CBS HOST: Telling Muslims--

TRUMP: I mean, I hate to hear--

STAHL: But you do hear it.

TRUMP: I don't hear it. I -- I saw--

STAHL: You're not seeing this on--

TRUMP: --I saw one of two instances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He doesn't hear it? He--

TUCKER: Well, he doesn't hear. I mean, I didn't -- I didn't hear the context for that statement. He doesn't hear racial slurs?

LEMON: He said he didn't hear it. He doesn't -- didn't hear about the divide, didn't hear about the attacks on some people of color.

He didn't -- he said he was sorry to hear about that. But let me give you a little bit more context in that because in the 10 days after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center accounted 867 incidents of hateful harassment.

As president-elect -- has Trump become more aware of what is happening, you think, in the last couple of days instead of right after that, Calvin?

[23:55:15] TUCKER: Well, I mean, obviously, I think he's aware of what's, you know, the state of this -- the state of the nation. And you know, when he becomes president on January the 20th, you're going to see a man who's fully engaged in all of our society and African- Americans and others.

So a lot of -- lot of where he was is, you know, as the mayor said, is rhetoric and, you know, theater.

LEMON: OK, Mayor?

NUTTER: Go ahead, Pastor.

TUCKER: OK.

NUTTER: Well, Pastor, this is the problem. We don't know that it's rhetoric. Everyone who speaks on behalf of Mr. Trump says it's rhetoric or says he was just saying that or he doesn't mean that.

He spoke it out of his mouth. And until he puts something else in his mouth that we can hopefully trust and believe, that's what we're left with.

So I mean, one of the frustrations is that folks who speak on behalf of Mr. Trump are always interpreting and reinterpreting what he says out of his own mouth.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, gentlemen. And we're out of time. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Bakari. And thank you, Calvin.

That's it for us tonight.