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Obama's Extreme Challenges; Sarah Palin Speaks Out

Aired November 7, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: president-elect Obama facing the media and new economic numbers, job losses, unemployment, car sales all getting worse, much worse. In his first news conference, the president-elect vowed to meet the economic crisis head-on. He took questions. He made some jokes, but critics also say he might have made some missteps, including a reference to Nancy Reagan that later required an apology. We have details ahead.
Also, Governor Sarah Palin speaking out to us about those nasty allegations that she's a diva and geographically challenged. Tonight, she tells her side of the story.

And anger intensifying over California's ban on gay marriage, more protests tonight. This one is live in Long Beach, California, as the backlash against Prop 8 gets bigger.

Let's start with Barack Obama's challenge, running the country and facing an economic mess. Take look at these numbers, 1.2 million jobs lost this year -- the Labor Department reporting today that almost a quarter-million jobs were cut in October, more than expected, while unemployment surged to a 14 year-high.

Also, GM, General Motors, reporting a huge quarterly loss, more than $4 billion. The company said it could be broke in a matter of months. And, on Wall Street, the Dow rose almost 250 points, after two days of big losses, but all three major indices fell for the week. The Dow, the Nasdaq both lost more than 4 percent. The S&P fell nearly that much as well.

Numbers like these no longer ammunition for Obama the candidate. They are now his problems to solve.

Here's CNN's Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reinforced by a bevy of economic advisers, the president-elect made clear his priority in pictures and words.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Immediately after I become president, I'm going to confront this economic crisis head on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity.

CROWLEY: He calls it the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime and he wants what he campaigned on, a new stimulus package, an extension of unemployment benefits, tax breaks for most workers, help for the auto agency. Still, immediately is 74 days away. Barack Obama is in no position to act, a point he was quick to make.

OBAMA: We're going to have to act swiftly to resolve it. Now, the United States has only one government and one president at a time. And until January 20th of next year, that government is the current administration.

CROWLEY: The future president, who spent two years bashing President Bush, meets with him Monday at the White House for what Obama expects to be tension-free talks.

OBAMA: I'm not going to anticipate problems. I'm going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship and a sense that both the president and various leaders in Congress all recognize the severity of the situation right now and want to get stuff done.

CROWLEY: Still, it is the current president who calls the shots. In this period of limbo, as Americans watch an economy continue to fail, the president in waiting is intent on projecting confidence, the show of brainpower, old hands from the Clinton era, elected officials and industry hot shots behind him, and a quick selection of a treasury secretary and other top stewards of the economic policy.

OBAMA: I want to move with all deliberate haste, but I want to emphasize "deliberate" as well as "haste."

CROWLEY: As a commander in chief in waiting, Obama has been fielding phone calls from world leaders, but said he is still thinking about how to respond to a congratulatory letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It was an all-business and cautious post-election debut, with a few light moments sprinkled in.

About that puppy he promised his daughters if he won, there are issues to be reconciled.

OBAMA: Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.

CROWLEY: The country is getting a new president and a family is moving, at so many levels, so many decisions.


COOPER: Candy, Obama and President Bush, they're going to meet Monday. Do we know what we will see of the meeting and -- and what they're going to talk about, how it's going to go?

CROWLEY: I'm sure you will definitely have pictures. You may have that greeting on the White House steps. We certainly have seen that in past transitions. You may see them sit down together at sort of a brief, what we call a spray. You go in and just take a quick picture and get out.

The point here is as symbolic as it is substantive, and that is to show that peaceful transfer of power. They have lots of things they can talk about. Certainly, there are just how the White House works. Here's the elevator. Don't ever take this one. It never works -- whatever those little things are.

And, remember, Mrs. Obama will be there as well with Laura Bush. But there -- also, Obama said that he expected to have substantive talks with the president.

And I'm sure that will be, A, about the economy. But President Bush has said that he also wanted to talk about the transition of Homeland Security, about the war in Iraq, those sorts of things. So, there are both substantive things they can talk about, and then just those day-to-day life in the White House...

COOPER: Right.

CROWLEY: ... that you can't have any idea about when you just walk in.

COOPER: It's going to be fascinating.

Candy Crowley, thanks so much.

Throughout this hour, we're going to be playing you as much as possible from Obama's press conference, so, if you missed it, which we assume a lot of people did today, because it happened in the middle of the day, you will be able to watch it all throughout this hour, as much as big chunks from the press conference.

Obama at the conference talked about his priorities for dealing with the economic crisis. He mentioned some specifics, like extending unemployment benefits. He was also asked about taxes. But did his words today match up with his promises on the campaign trail?

After all, our job every night on this program is to hold those in power accountable for their words and their deeds and their promises.

CNN's Tom Foreman is "Keeping Them Honest" for us -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Obama, Anderson, presented many issues as critically urgent during his campaign. But the calendar used by the candidate might be different from the one used by the president-elect. There were subtle shifts today.

Look at tax reform. Time and again out on the trail, he said, we need tax reform right now.


OBAMA: You need a break. And that's what I'm going to provide when I'm president of the United States of America.

In fact, I offer three times the relief for middle-class families.


FOREMAN: And he said again today, early in his press conference, tax relief cannot wait.

But, when asked later on in that press conference, does that mean he will pursue tax reforms in 2009, he dodged the direct question, and repeated, again, that he still wants to help the middle class.


OBAMA: But, obviously, over the next several weeks and months, we're going to be continuing to take a look at the data and see what's taking place in the economy as a whole.


FOREMAN: During the campaign, he strongly called for talks with Iran. His Web site, which is still up, by the way, says: "Obama supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior."

Asked today, however, if he will launch those talks as soon as he takes office, he said this:


OBAMA: Obviously, how we approach and deal with a country like Iran is not something that we should, you know, simply do in a knee- jerk fashion.


FOREMAN: Now, no one should expect him to deliver on his pledges until he takes the oath. That would be completely unfair. And maybe these slight changes reflect a deeper understanding of the issues from his briefings. Maybe the situations will really change by the time he takes the oath.

But, keeping him honest, we will keep watching to let you know if the promises he ran on survive intact until Inauguration Day -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Tom, thanks very much -- Tom Foreman.

Join the live chat that is happening now at Check out also Erica Hill's live Webcast during the break. Let us know what you think about Obama's conference.

Just ahead on our program: why Obama called Nancy Reagan today and apologized to her. It was something he said at the press conference. We will show you what he said.

And we just heard about some of the extreme challenges president- elect Obama is facing as he prepares for the office, all of them complicated by the economic reality. So, which is most likely to be compromised? Our panel digs deeper.

Plus, this:


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Regarding these allegations, which I don't think -- my colleagues didn't make it up. They heard it from people who said, "You can't use our name" regarding these geography things about Africa and about NAFTA. Are they not true? Were they misinterpreted?


COOPER: Some nasty allegations that followed Sarah Palin back home to Alaska, tonight, she tries to shoot them down, talking with our own Gary Tuchman.

Stay tuned.



OBAMA: Tens of millions of families are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills and stay in their homes. Their stories are an urgent reminder that we are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we're going to have to act swiftly to resolve it.


COOPER: President-elect Obama at the news conference today. The greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, that's what he called it.

The economic meltdown that is causing so many Americans so much pain helped Obama get elected, no doubt about that, but now he has got to figure out to fix it and what to do about it.

Let's dig deeper with our panel, CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, CNN's Christine Romans, and Marcus Mabry, international business editor for "The New York Times."

So, David, before we into some specifics, how do you think he did with this press conference?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Overall, I think he did well. He stumbled once on the Nancy Reagan issue. And you're going to talk more about that.

But, overall, I thought he was presidential. He was somber. He -- just as Candy Crowley has been talking about, he won the election and how he had taken the weight of the world onto his shoulders...

COOPER: It was definitely that Obama at this press conference...

GERGEN: Yes, it was.

COOPER: ... not the sort of lighter, more avuncular.

GERGEN: Yes, that's right.

And I think the very fact that he moved so quickly was also helpful. It's worth remembering that Bill Clinton, who also won on the economy, held his sort of economic summit, if you would, in December, not -- Obama has his three days after -- George W. Bush I think in January.

So, he moved quickly. And I thought that was important. And I thought he sent some very important signals in the press conference.

COOPER: Christine, 240,000 jobs lost last month alone, the highest unemployment rate in some 14 years. How big of a mess, economically, is Obama stepping into?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a big mess, Anderson, and it's getting worse.

In fact, the economy and the job situation deteriorating. You know, half of the jobs lost this year just have happened in the last three months, some 600,000 jobs in the last three months, pretty much across the board. This week, you had the stock market, for example, losing half-a-trillion dollars in value. You have the auto industry really in distress here, in utter crisis.

So, the president-elect is stepping into a situation that is getting worse literally by the day.

COOPER: And, Marcus, despite all this, he's pushing for new stimulus, on top of the one that's already been approved. He wants to move -- to move forward before the inauguration. Can he actually get things done before he takes office?

MARCUS MABRY, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS EDITOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's going to be interesting, Anderson, because he kept saying today over and over again -- he actually said -- you felt like he was speaking for all the American people when he said, we have lived through the longest campaign in recorded history. It's time to put partisanship aside and really concentrate on how to help the American people.

And he kept emphasizing the middle class, and helping the middle class. He's trying to corner the Republicans, to make it so that, if they oppose the things he and the congressional leadership amongst the Democrats are proposing, like, for instance, a $60 billion to $100 billion in stimulus before he's even inaugurated, then they look partisan or petty somehow.

But I think that's going to be a trick for them to get out of that box he's trying to put them in. Lots of Republicans would also be on the side of some stimulus. After the kind of drubbing they just had at the polls, I think may find them more amenable, even than President Bush might be. COOPER: David, during the campaign, he talked a lot about planned tax cuts. When he was asked about it today, about whether higher taxes should be anticipated for some, this is what he said. Take a look.


OBAMA: My tax plan represented a net tax cut. It provided for substantial middle-class tax cuts; 95 percent of working Americans would receive them.

It also provided for cuts in capital gains for small businesses, additional tax credits. All of it is designed for job growth.

My priority is going to be, how do we grow the economy? How do we create more jobs?

I think that the plan that we've put forward is the right one, but, obviously, over the next several weeks and months, we're going to be continuing to take a look at the data and see what's taking place in the economy as a whole.


COOPER: He was asked about higher taxes. He didn't really answer the question. Was he just trying to get wiggle room here?

GERGEN: I think he was trying to get wiggle room on higher taxes.

To go back to Marcus' point, one clear purpose of this press conference today was to signal an urgency on moving forward with most of his plan. And what they plan -- what they're talking about with House Democrats and Senate Democrats is to come back in this rump session in the next few weeks and get a part of the stimulus package, maybe $60 billion to $100 billion, but to do a big part of it after he gets inaugurated.

And, in that second part, he would put his tax cuts for the lower- and middle-class groups. He left wiggle room about whether he would also raise taxes on people above $250,000.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: So, that's -- I think that's it.

But let me -- I think he signaled three things today. He signaled urgency, which was really important. He signaled change. He signaled, "I am going to depart from the Bush plan." The stimulus package that he's pushing, the Bush White House is resisting that.

Big, big package for automobile industry just emerging, we're just starting to learn the details. It sounds like another $50 billion in bailout money for the automobile industry. That's new. That -- the White House is resisting that.

And he also signaled: "Don't push me too fast. I'm not going to move as fast as you think I'm going to move on appointments."

You know, there's been a -- we have all been speculating about appointments.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: I think he -- I think that's become complicated for him. And I think he wants to slow the process down.

COOPER: Christine, why -- why is assisting the auto industry, as he said, you know, so important? Obviously, it's the backbone of the U.S. economy. But how is he going to pay for it?

ROMANS: Well, why is it important? Well, depending on who you talk to, either two million to three-and-a-half million people rely on the auto industry for jobs or for their retirement income or -- or are somehow related to it, in terms of the business that they do. It's really important.

In some of these states, it is a chief -- a chief employer. And, so, some of these state governors have just really been pushing for something to be done.

How do we pay for it? How much is it going to cost? It's going to cost a lot of money. And how do we pay for anything that we do? We put it on our bill. And we borrow money for it. I mean, we're looking at a deficit next year that is going to be big. But even the people who are really worried about a trillion-dollar budget deficit, even the real budget hawks, say, gosh, you have got to spend a lot of money here in the near term just to get this economy back on the rails.

And that's just a bitter pill they are going to have to swallow.

COOPER: You know, Marcus, no one would say this during the election, McCain or Obama, but, I mean, can they really -- can Obama now pay for all these promises? I mean, can he deliver on the promises and proposals that he has talked about for the last, you know, two years on the campaign trail?

MABRY: Well, you know, in some way, Anderson, this horrible economy -- and it's true. This is the worst economy any of us have faced in our lifetimes -- is, in some way, a fig leaf for president- elect and soon-to-be President Obama, because, as Christine says, everyone agrees right now that you have to spend money to get out of the horrible mess we're in.

That is going to be some -- some solace for him. It's going to give him some leeway, some wiggle room. And, so, he may or may not fulfill some of those promises, but few people are going to hold him responsible, I think, because we're going to see millions of Americans losing their jobs next year. It's going to be a really, really horrible situation. And I think that's going to give him some goodwill. And people have been looking for any aid, any assistance, any assurance that he can give at all.

COOPER: Do you agree with that? Do you agree with that, David?

GERGEN: Yes, I do, absolutely.

COOPER: All right, David Gergen, thanks very much, Marcus Mabry as well. Christine Romans, thanks.

Barack Obama also has global issues on his mind. Listen.


OBAMA: Iran's development of a nuclear weapon I believe is unacceptable. And we have to mount a international effort to prevent that from happening.


COOPER: So, what other international hot spots are on Obama's radar? Our panel weighs in on that.

And, minutes ago, these protests continuing, the firestorm in California following voters' rejection (sic) of Proposition 8, which revoked the right of gays to marry. We will have the latest.



OBAMA: It's only been three days since the election. Obviously, how we approach and deal with a country like Iran is not something that we should, you know, simply do in a knee-jerk fashion. I think we've got to think it through.


COOPER: Iran of course just one international hot spot president-elect Obama is facing. There's Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, an ominous-sounding Russia, just to name a few.

Let's dig deeper.

Chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour joins us from New York. CNN's Jill Dougherty is here from Washington, along with CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.

Christiane, at the same time that Obama gets this letter from Ahmadinejad, Israel is warning that -- that any U.S.-Iranian dialogue is -- is, in their words, liable to broadcast weakness.

Are the Israelis skeptical of Obama?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think they're skeptical. On the other hand, you heard a lot of support in Israel for Obama. And, remember, the majority of American Jewish voters voted for him, and not for McCain.

But, clearly, this is an issue of great contention, that Iran has always been an issue of, how is the president going to deal with it? I think Obama -- it was so interesting that that was the one and only foreign policy question he got and that he addressed. And it's certainly going to be front and center of the agenda going forward.

As you know, many U.S. former secretaries of state have suggested that the next president, in this case, Barack Obama, should engage Iran and start negotiations on -- on a certain level, without preconditions, to address both countries' mutual interest.

COOPER: But is it -- I mean, he gets this letter from Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad's not even the most powerful guy in Iran.

AMANPOUR: Well, that's true, of course. The actual power center is with the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei.

But Ahmadinejad is the spokesperson, is the visible face of Iranian politics. And the fact that he sent that letter, I mean, you know, some would consider maybe it the kiss of something other than -- than what he wanted. But, on the other hand, it is unprecedented.

And, to be serious, for the last 13 or so years, I have interviewed every Iranian president several times. And there's been a growing sentiment from them that they're ready to do business with the United States, to restore relations, but, of course, based on mutual interests, mutual respect, and not if it's dictated to them.

COOPER: Just hours -- Jill, just hours Obama is elected, comes from the Russian president this word that, if the U.S. moves forward on missile defense, they're going to put missiles along its border.

Is this the first test for Obama from Russia? Are they -- are they testing him?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN INTERNATIONAL U.S. AFFAIRS EDITOR: Oh, I think, definitely, there's no question.

I mean, the timing was incredible. In fact, the president put off his speech. And, then, right after Obama is elected, the day after, here comes this threat, which is putting missiles right on the border with Europe. So, that's -- there's no question it's a -- a challenge. And there could be others.

You look at Georgia, what happened this summer. There are other potential hot points, flash points. You would have to say Ukraine would be another. And, then, just to tick off two more, energy, using energy as a political tool, and don't forget what he -- what the president of Russia and actually the prime minister, Putin, who is, of course, still running things, they're looking into the Western Hemisphere right here, friendship with -- with Venezuela, for instance.


COOPER: Peter, in terms of Afghanistan, how bad has the situation gotten there? And -- and, really, what options does Obama have? PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I think his options are pretty limited. Obviously, the situation has got much worse, as you know, Anderson.

But, even if President Obama, on January 20, 2009, suddenly decided to take a lot of brigades out of Iraq, that would obviously have some problems in Iraq itself, but they couldn't be immediately transferred to Afghanistan.

Redeploying these troops would take several months. And the -- also, the U.S. military simply doesn't have brigades to send anywhere right now. In the present circumstance, they might be able to send troop brigades, 7,000 or so men, soldiers, in the spring of 2009. But that's not going to be a game-changer in Afghanistan at all.

COOPER: Christiane, it was interesting, I think an article in "The Times" today basically saying that, already, there has been some shifting in the Iraqis' position, sort of in -- in anticipation of Obama's coming to power.


Well, you know, they have been talking about this status-of- forces agreement, and they're basically saying that, unless an agreement is concluded within the next month, it won't be concluded. And this is a real problem. And they're talking about a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops in the region of -- of the end of 2011.

But, interestingly, I also spoke to President Hamid Karzai today and the spokesman of -- of President Putin. Karzai says that they welcome more U.S. troops, but they want them around the borders, and not in urban areas.

And, as for President Putin's spokesman, he admitted that that was pretty bad timing, the speech of Medvedev, right after the election of -- of Obama, and said that they welcome, actually, a new era of constructive engagement.

COOPER: Very quickly, Jill -- I'm going to ask this to each of you.

What do you think is the most pressing international issue for Barack Obama when he takes office?

DOUGHERTY: International?


DOUGHERTY: I still think that -- I think that Russia is going to create continuing challenges all the time. It may not be a big thing. It's not nuclear war, but, every day, there's going to be some type of challenge.

COOPER: Peter, what do you think?

BERGEN: Well, Pakistan is going to be problematic, because that affects Afghanistan. It has nuclear weapons. Al Qaeda is still based there. And we still don't have a really good policy with Pakistan.

COOPER: Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Well, in addition to what they have said, Iran, obviously, Iraq, climate change.

And, again, though, I think that President Obama, president-elect Obama, will benefit from a decrease in the anti-Americanism, which has really been one of the main enemies of America. So, I think that will be very important and constructive.

COOPER: Christiane Amanpour, Peter Bergen, Jill Dougherty, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

Still ahead this evening: Sarah Palin, once hidden from reporters, now she's back home and talking to us. Take a look.


TUCHMAN: Are you sad?

PALIN: Not sad at all. In fact, I mean, energized, I think, certainly, feeling like it's a little bit of different level, because of the perspective now that I have about what national politics are -- are all about. Not -- not sad.


COOPER: CNN's Dana Bash had the first interview with her post- election. Now our Gary Tuchman has another one. After a series of anonymous swipes by McCain staffers, she's swiping back. Hear what she has to say now.

And hurricane season not done yet -- a dangerous Cat 3 storm roaring through the Caribbean, we will try to figure out where it is going. Hurricane Paloma, will it hit the U.S.?

The answer -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: New developments tonight on the blame game that is raging within the Republican Party. Some of the nastiest spears have been aimed at Governor Sarah Palin, but tonight, she is firing back in her second interview with CNN this week.

Up close, here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sarah Palin was greeted by reporters when she entered her governor's office, and then her staff, as she came back for the first time since the end of the presidential campaign. She's now back to the routine that was totally disrupted when John McCain picked her as his vice-presidential nominee. GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is the best join the world, is being the governor.

TUCHMAN: When she arrived back in Alaska Wednesday night, Sarah Palin had started hearing about charges from unnamed McCain staffers that she didn't know what countries were part of NAFTA and she didn't know Africa was a continent.

(on camera) There's no question that they did not put their names forward. And most -- I think a lot of Americans consider that cowardly. There's no question about it.

PALIN: I do, I consider it cowardly.

TUCHMAN: So regarding these allegations, which I don't think -- my colleagues didn't make it up. They heard it from people who said, "You can't use our name," regarding geography things about Africa and about NAFTA. Are they not true? Are they misinterpreted?

PALIN: It's not true. And I do remember having a discussion about NAFTA, as we talked about Alaska's relationship with Canada and how we, heaven forbid we go in and just unilaterally think that we're going to renegotiate NAFTA, as it had appeared that Barack Obama, his position was, yes, he wanted to go renegotiate.

I remember having a discussion with a couple of debate preppers. So if it came from one of those debate preppers, you know, that's curious. But having a discussion about NAFTA, not, "Oh, my goodness. I don't know who's a part of NAFTA."

So no, I think that, if there are allegation based on questions or comments that I made in debate prep about NAFTA. And about the continent versus the country, when we talk about Africa there, then those were taken out of context. And that is -- that's cruel. It's mean-spirited. It's immature. It's unprofessional. And those guys are jerks if they came away with it, taking things out of context and then tried to spread something on national news. It's not fair and not right.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The governor also addressed the controversy over the purse of $150,000 worth of clothes.

PALIN: The RNC purchased clothes. Those are the RNC's clothes. They're not my clothes. I never forced anybody to buy anything. I never asked for anything more than maybe a Diet Dr. Pepper once in a while.

TUCHMAN: Palin says she experienced a type of sexism on the campaign trail she hadn't felt before.

PALIN: You see a quality in Alaska. And so that's a good question, because I think that was a bit of a surprise on a national level. Wait, you mean the other 49 states aren't quite there like Alaskans are? Well, come on, follow Alaska's lead and start allowing the equal opportunities and the equal treatment. TUCHMAN (on camera): we also talked with the governor about media coverage of the campaign. She once again criticized the news media.

But I pointed out to her it seems to be unfair criticism. Sure, there were some mistakes made. I said, "Overall, don't you think the coverage was good and fair?" And she did acknowledge that the coverage was fair, but she did say to me, quote, "One bad apple spoils the whole bunch."

Anderson, back to you.


COOPER: Gary, thanks.

Up next, clashes in the streets. Live pictures from Long Beach, California, a competition between those for and against the gay marriage ban vote in California. We'll have more ahead in our "Uncovering America" segment.

Also tonight, Barack Obama calling up Nancy Reagan to apologize. We'll tell you why.

And the president-elect speaks out on a domestic issue close to home. What kind of dog will he get for his daughters? Some hints today in his first news conference. And some suggestions.

You're watching 360.


COOPER: More protests in California tonight. That, the scene in Long Beach, California, people voicing their outrage against Proposition 8, the amendment reversing the California court's ruling permitting same-sex marriages.

Joining us for our "Uncovering America" segment, Lisa Bloom, anchor of "In Session"; and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Lisa's mother, we should point out, Gloria Allred, was one of the lead attorneys in the California supreme court case, legalizing same-sex marriages last May.

So Tony, there used to be laws banning blacks from marrying whites in America. People said we'd destroy marriage if blacks and whites married. What's the difference with gay marriage? Isn't the same argument being used today to oppose it?

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think that was the argument that was used in the courts. But if you look at what's happened across the nation, not a single state, not Pennsylvania, not Ohio, not Michigan, not California has voted to approve same-sex marriage.

But yet these states voted overwhelmingly for an African-American president. And to say that somehow people who support traditional marriage are, you know, racist or somehow this is equated to the same issue, is simply false. It's not. It's a different issue. We're talking about what's best for children, an environment with a mom and dad, the historic definition of marriage.

And the citizens of California twice now, first time in 2000, by 61 percent, 4.4 million voters, said marriage should be between a man and a woman. Four judges overturned it. People went back to the people of the state. Five -- almost 5.5 million people this time on Tuesday said marriage should be between a man and a woman.

COOPER: Lisa, do you see this as a civil rights issue?

LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": Anderson, every minority group has gained their rights via the courts. It happened with African- Americans, and it's happening now with gay rights, although fitfully.

I think that Prop 8 is going to be overturned by the courts, and I'll tell you why. Prop 8 attempts to amend the California constitution. That can't be done by a simple majority vote. That has to be done by a two-thirds vote of the legislature. And Mr. Perkins and the proponents of Prop 8 know that. So I predict that it's going to be overturned.

And look, you know, I'm a single mother of two children. They turned out just fine. With all due respect to Mr. Perkins, not every child grows up in a home with a mother and a father. There are millions of children in this country being raised by single parents, by gay parents. And if they're being raised by gay parents, they deserve to have a home that's treated equally to a home with a mother and father.

PERKINS: You're absolutely...

COOPER: Tony, isn't the fact that there are children being raised by gay parents, and then doesn't it actually help them, if those parents are married?

PERKINS: Anderson, you don't -- you don't change public policy to accommodate a few. You shape public policy to what is beneficial to society as a whole.

And look, the people of California have played by the rules. They have now twice gone to the ballot, and they have put this issue on, just like everybody else does. I mean, there's rules in a democracy. There's rules. We're governed by a constitution, and there are ways to change the constitution. The people have played by the rules.

I mean, why will not the homosexual activists quit rioting, quit, you know, attacking Mormons and using religious bigotry? And if they want to change...

BLOOM: That doesn't look like a riot to me.

PERKINS: If they want to change the laws, get the consent of the people. COOPER: Where have the riots been? Tony, where have the riots been?

PERKINS: Well, I mean, they spray-painted churches in California. They've been jumping on police cars.

BLOOM: Anderson, we're looking at a protest of peaceful people just like was done in the '50s and '60s for African-Americans.

PERKINS: There were -- there were arrests. There were arrests the other night.

BLOOM: There's always a couple of lunatics on every side of the debate. And by the way, you know, those of us who favor gay rights don't all fall into that category.

PERKINS: No, you don't. I didn't say you did.

BLOOM: You don't have to be gay to be in favor of gay rights. We just want to have equality. You know, if gay people aren't going to have equal rights, why should they pay full taxes? Why don't we give them a discount on their taxes?

COOPER: Lisa -- Lisa, what about the argument that -- that, you know, this is something that the people, through the electoral process, have spoken on and that it shouldn't be adjudicated in courts?

BLOOM: You know, what's the beautiful thing about our federal constitution and the state constitutions like California's is, it protects the rights of minorities.

The constitutional framers understood that the majority occasionally is going to want to oppress minorities in this country. That's why we have constitutional rights like the equal protection clause...

PERKINS: There's no...

BLOOM: The equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment and in the California constitution. And it this is job of the courts to protect minorities. That's just common law 101.

PERKINS: There's no oppression here. There's an attempt to redefine a 5,000-year-old institution called marriage, and the people have California have twice now gone to the polls and defended it. I mean, what keeps this democracy working is law, is the rule of law and the rules.

BLOOM: Yes, and the rule of law says to amend the constitution it takes a two-thirds vote of a legislator and then a constitutional convention. You haven't followed the rules at all.

PERKINS: And even -- even...

COOPER: We've got to move along. But I just wanted to get from each of you a final thought. Tony -- Tony, you don't feel this is oppression on any level? You don't feel there's any discrimination?

PERKINS: No. No, no, no. Look -- look, they have the civil unions scheme out there, which provides the same benefits. There's no oppression. They're not losing any benefits. They get the same benefits.

BLOOM: You know, civil union isn't the same as marriage. Why don't we let heterosexuals have civil union and...

PERKINS: No -- no one says they...

BLOOM: ... gay people have marriages? They're exactly the same.

COOPER: Lisa, let him finish his thought. Lisa, let him finish his thought. I'll let you finish yours.

PERKINS: No one is saying they can't have their relationships, they can't have their legal arrangements. What's being said is they can't redefine marriage for the rest of America and for the rest of the citizens of California.

COOPER: Lisa, why...

PERKINS: And the people of California said that.

COOPER: Lisa, final thought, why is marriage so important? Why is it more than just a civil union?

BLOOM: Because it's about basic decency and respect. And people who have had those rights now in California for the last five months feel so affronted that they're being taken away.

In the midst of all of the inclusion this week, gay people were excluded. I think that's sad. I think it's going to change over time. If you don't believe in gay marriage don't have one, but don't keep other people out of the process.

PERKINS: Don't redefine it for everybody else.

COOPER: We're going to leave it there. Tony Perkins...

BLOOM: It's been (ph) redefined many times.

COOPER: ... Lisa Bloom, appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

Still to come tonight, Barack Obama's "I'm sorry," why he called up former first lady, Nancy Reagan, today to apologize to her.

Plus this.


OBAMA: Our preference would be to get a shelter dog. Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: A lighter moment from today's news conference. The dog debate depends. We've got the buzz on the next White House pooch.

Plus, our "Shot of the Day," snapshots from Obama's historic night, behind the scenes look. We got these for the first time today, how the first family, or soon to be first family, reacted when they heard the news. Stay tuned.


COOPER: Barack Obama called it major issue today at his news conference. And indeed, the dog or puppy that's been proposed to -- or promised to daughters Sasha and Malia, is a huge deal, no doubt, for them. It was one of several light-hearted moments from the president-elect during his first news conference today.

Here's the president to be in his own words.


OBAMA: What happened to your arm?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cracked my shoulder running to your speech on election night.

OBAMA: Oh, no. I think that was the only major incident during the entire Grant Park celebration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for asking.

Here's my question. I'm wondering what you're doing to get ready? Have you spoke to any living ex presidents, what books you might be reading? Everyone wants to know what kind of dog are you going to buy for your girls? Have you decided on a private or public school for your daughters?

OBAMA: Let me list those off. In terms of speaking to former presidents, I've spoken to all of them that are living. Obviously, President Clinton. I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.

I have reread some of Lincoln's writings, who's always an extraordinary inspiration. And by the way, President Carter, President Bush Senior, as well as the current president, have all been very gracious and offered to provide me any help that they can in this transition process.

With respect to the dog, this is a major issue. I think it's generated more interest on our Web site than just about anything.

We have -- we have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.


COOPER: The first dog issue is generating huge interest. We've brought two special guests in to talk about it from New York, Jake and from Washington, Nola, along with their owners, Erica Hill and Tom Foreman. So Tom...

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, I'd just like to interject quickly. I'd really prefer to be called Jake's mom. I don't believe you can own them.


HILL: I'm Jake's mom.

COOPER: So you're the mother of Jake. So Tom and Nola, hypoallergenic dogs, what kind of dogs are hypoallergenic?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are such hypoallergenic dogs. They're dogs that basically have less dander coming off their fur.

COOPER: Nola, my sense is, had a lot of dander.

FOREMAN: She has a lot of dander, because she's got what's called a double coat here.

COOPER: She's got quite a shedding (ph), though.

FOREMAN: Exactly. Lots of shedding. But if you get, like, a poodle. There are certain terriers that are this way. And the Xoloitzcuintle.

COOPER: The what?

FOREMAN: That's a poodle.

COOPER: That cannot be the White House dog.

FOREMAN: No, that's not. This -- here we go, a Mexican hairless. Mexican hairless, but they're very little dander. That's -- there's your hypoallergenic dog.

COOPER: Erica?

HILL: No dander there, nothing to worry about.

Well, I'm with Tom. That was my big issue. The other thing for me is, I was very happy to hear President-elect Obama said that they did hope to get the dog from the shelter.

But here's the thing. You can have a dog that's not necessarily hypoallergenic as mentioned but is good for people with allergies and who's also a rescue dog. Doesn't have to be from a shelter. Pretty much any breed you want has a rescue group. Google it. Go to Petfinder.

Jake is a rescue dog. Of course, he's a mutt like his mother. But, Jake sit. Jake, sit.

But for example, Tom mentioned terriers, the soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, very good for people with allergies. Ton of rescue groups I found online today.

So the bottom line is, Obama family, since we're sure you're watching 360 tonight. Get a Jake, get a Nola. You can find one that will work for both Malia and your need to save a dog.

COOPER: Great. You're like Cesar Milan, Erica, with Jake.

HILL: You know, the funniest thing is, my husband is probably watching right now, going like, "This dog wasn't trained."

I mean, Jake is trained to sit, and he can do paw and other. High five, Jake. High five.


HILL: All right. Now we have to give him a treat. And that's pretty much the extent of it. But as long as you all think he's well behaved, we're happy.

COOPER: High five. I'm very impressed with it.

FOREMAN: I didn't know there were going to be tricks involved.

HILL: Although Nola has tons of tricks, I'm told.

FOREMAN: Nola has tons of tricks but, you know, she's having her quiet time.

COOPER: She's doing some quiet time. All right. Tom and Nola, thank you very much. And Jake and Erica, as well.

Moments ago you heard a remark Obama made, a reference to Nancy Reagan and seances. Later today, President-elect Obama called Nancy Reagan, apologized to her for what he described as a careless and off- hand remark he made during the news conference. The two went on, according to the spokeswoman, to have a very warm conversation.

We've seen a lot of images from election night, but tonight we're going to show you behind-the-scenes photos of Obama, his wife and kids, how they saw the night unfold. Results coming in a fascinating, intimate look of the new first family.

Also, buried in the rubble. A school collapses. The death count is climbing. Desperate rescues efforts underway. We'll have the latest.


COOPER: Still to come today's "Shot." We take you behind the scenes tonight on election night to see how the Obama family, including little Sasha and Malia, watched the election results and how they reacted when they knew they were headed to the White House. But first, Erica Hill joins us with the 360 bulletin -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, Brian Nichols is guilty of murder and other charges in the shooting rampage and escape from an Atlanta courthouse three years ago. A judge and three others died that day.

Nichols confessed to the killings but said he was mentally ill at the time. Jurors, however, rejected the defense, and they will now decide if Nichols deserves the death penalty.

Hurricane Paloma has strengthened to a Category 3 storm with winds near 115 miles per hour as it lashes the Cayman Islands. The storm's next stop is Cuba. It is then expected to turn north into the Atlantic Ocean, away from the U.S. mainland.

Near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a school has collapsed, killing at least 50 people. All through the night, rescue workers and volunteers plan to search for students and teachers who are buried in the rubble, hoping to find survivors. And many of them are digging with their own hands, because they just don't have the necessary equipment.

And winter arrived a little early in the Dakotas. A blizzard has hit the region. Look at that. Dumping up to three feet of snow. November, what are we the 7th? Wow.

COOPER: Just amazing.

Up next, snapshots for the history books, a glimpse of what it was like behind the scenes with the Obamas on election night. Our "Shot."

And at the top of the hour, after two days out of the limelight, Barack Obama back on center stage, his first news conference, talking up what he'll try to do to fix the economy. We'll bring you all the latest.


COOPER: All right. Time for our "Beat 360" winners, Erica. It's our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one we can think of based on a picture that we put on our blog.

So the picture: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a few weeks before the election with Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who was just named Barack Obama's White House chief of staff.

Our staff winner tonight, Cate: "Mmmm... Power... it's intoxicating, isn't it?"


HILL: I think the photo was fantastic.

COOPER: The winner is Brian from Bakersfield, California: "Do you like my new perfume? It's my new creation, Complete Power." (SOUND EFFECT: DRUM BEAT)

HILL: Wah-ha-ha.

COOPER: Brian, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

You can check out all the entries at and play along on Monday there, as well.

All right. Tonight's "Shot," Erica, wonder what it would have been like to be behind the scenes on election night with Barack Obama? Well, now we kind of get a close glimpse. The photos were released today by the Obama campaign, show how the waiting to game played out on election night in a Chicago hotel room.

Barack Obama seeming calm, cool and pretty collected as he sits in the hotel room with Michelle, his wife and his mother-in-law. Certainly nothing tense, it seems, in his demeanor. And daughters, Sasha and Malia, look as relaxed and poised as their dad. I'm not sure they know how transformed their lives are about to become.

And then, Jill and Joe Biden join the Obamas.

Were you talking to Jake?

HILL: I'm sorry.

COOPER: Were you talking to your dog?

HILL: I'm trying -- I'm trying to make sure there's no...

COOPER: That's OK. As long -- as long as...

HILL: I think these pictures are fantastic.

COOPER: They are.

HILL: I don't want to take away from them.

COOPER: All right. We'll do one -- one more picture. Jill Biden and Joe Biden joining the Obamas, right before their moment in history began. An unforgettable night for everyone.

HILL: It's so great that they shared those pictures to give us that inside look.

COOPER: It's cool. How's Jake doing?

HILL: Jake is doing great. Jake is a big kid here. He has a lot of new friends, I think.

COOPER: We should have Bring Your Dog to Work Day everyday.

HILL: That's a great idea.

COOPER: All right. Well, coming up at the top of the hour, President-elect Obama facing a room full of reporters at his first news conference. See how he did. And what signals did Obama send about how and when he's going to try to take action to fix the economy? You're watching 360.


COOPER: Tonight, President-elect Obama facing the media and new economic numbers: job losses, unemployment, car sales all getting worse, much worse. In his first news conference, the president-elect vowed to meet the economic crisis head-on. He took questions. He made some jokes.

But critics also say he might have made missteps, including a reference to Nancy Reagan that later required an apology. We have details ahead.