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Turning Rivals Into Partners: Obama Meets With Clinton, McCain; Economic Emergency Summit; Interview With Laura Bush

Aired November 14, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama consulting his biggest rivals. First he huddles with Hillary Clinton. Up next, a meeting with John McCain. Will the president-elect turn his opponents into partners? Stand by.
President Bush gathers some partners to confront the economic meltdown. Twenty world leaders, they're right now here in Washington for an emergency summit. Can they find an answer to a global recession?

And one-on-one with Laura Bush. The first lady talks with CNN about the historic presidential election and about her visit with the next occupants of the White House.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that's the buzz after a meeting between the former Democratic rivals. And Barack Obama still has a meeting ahead with Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Let's go live to our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. She's watching this story for us. There's drama, intrigue, a lot of stuff going on out there where you are, Candy. Update us on the latest.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is, you know, before, we had been hearing lots of names being thrown out there, most of them not from the Obama transition team or anyone close to the president-elect. But now we are beginning to hear some names more than others. And we're getting some of that information from inside the Obama camp.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton met with Barack Obama yesterday. John McCain is up at bat Monday. Those are the facts. The rest is tea leaves, like she did not say she wouldn't accept a cabinet position.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Let me just say that I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president- elect's incoming administration. And I'm going to respect his process.

CROWLEY: Then, too, one of the president-elect's favorite books is "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: -- talked about how Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his cabinet, because whatever, you know, personal feelings.

CROWLEY: Obamaland is not denying the notion that a Secretary of State Clinton is under consideration, but a Democratic source in a position to know about deliberation says just the suggestion of a Clinton post is problematic.

The worry is that overplaying it inevitably means if she doesn't get it, the actual nominee will pale by comparison in the "wow" category. Downplay the idea, it looks as though they're dismissing her. As for John McCain, don't bet on it.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I pledged to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

CROWLEY: McCain's Monday meeting with the president-elect shows signs of being a symbol symbolic gesture of bipartisanship. The two do have common issues -- ethics reform, climate change -- where McCain could perhaps be helpful on Capitol Hill. But the session does have the signs of a cabinet post feeler. It was arranged by Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and McCain best bud Senator Lindsey Graham, both of whom plan to attend the meeting. Not exactly a heart-to-heart.


CROWLEY: As far as Hillary Clinton is concerned, as recently as this morning, Wolf, we found no one in either camp, Hillary Clinton's or Barack Obama's, that said that this was by any means a done deal. There are still others, at least as of this morning, on the list.

BLITZER: You know, and like you and a lot of reporters, Candy, I've been checking with a lot of sources. And while no one is saying it's by any means a done deal, I haven't found anyone who is even remotely close to Hillary Clinton who's saying, you know what? It's not going to happen, forget about it. I wonder if you've gotten the same reaction.

CROWLEY: Absolutely the same reaction on the other side. We are not pushed away from it. And you know, the Obama team has been pretty good when some bad stories get out there to push back on it. They're not pushing back on this one. And, in fact, you can notice, and I'm sure you have, too, that gradually, it seems that her name is bubbling up a lot more, and they're still not pushing back.

BLITZER: Yes, very interesting. And we're going to watch this story and see what happens over the next hour or two. Thanks very much, Candy, for that.

Let's bring in CNN's Richard Quest. He's here in Washington right now to follow the emergency economic summit that President Bush be convening this weekend. Richard, before we get to that, let's talk about world reaction. You're based in London. What would be the reaction to a Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely amazed, outstanding reaction. I've little doubt.

Remember, Hillary Clinton is an international superstar, known around the world. There would be some reservations, bearing in mind everyone saw the bruising Democratic primary. So people would wonder why, how, what authority she speaks with the president. But no question, the gravitas, the authority that she would bring, would be welcomed around the world.

BLITZER: Because her husband is still greatly admired around the world.

QUEST: And she's an internationalist. She knows her way around. She knows the people involved.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about Barack Obama now.

More than a week after he's been elected president of the United States, in Europe, how are they reacting? How are they feeling now that they've had a chance to absorb this historic moment?

QUEST: Giddy. They're still giddy with excitement about it.

I was in London this just weekend. They can't believe their luck, Wolf. You know, you're talking about people who have been like starving men who have suddenly been given food and a meal, and it tastes brilliant to them.

BLITZER: That much?

QUEST: Absolutely, no question. The expectations are unreasonable, they're way out of the ballpark, but there's no question they're going to be disappointed in the long run.

BLITZER: Well, is it because they really admire and appreciate Barack Obama and what he stands for, or they don't like the incumbent president, George W. Bush?

QUEST: A lot of the second and a bit of the first is the best way to put it. They believe he can solve most of the problems, or at least have a better chance of getting it from him than anyone else.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about this emergency economic summit that's about to take place here in Washington. Leaders from the 20 biggest industrial powers, they're here right now. And people are landing, leaders are landing left and right at Andrews Air Force Base right outside Washington, D.C. The expectations are for what?

QUEST: The expectations are that they are going to start setting an agenda. They're going to start sorting things out. I don't go with the pack on this one. Most people think it's a photo-op and a waste of time. My view is, this is the Europeans trying to railroad the Americans into greater regulation.

They know a Democratic administration would be more favored towards it. They're doing whatever they -- they haven't just turned up here for the sake of it.

BLITZER: But this isn't just the G-8 or the G-7, these are Saudi Arabia and Korea and Japan and Brazil. You've got the major industrial powers, India, China. They're all coming to town.

QUEST: And they're all hoping to start the process off and get their point on the agenda. No question about it, they're not here to waste time.

BLITZER: But they're going to be dealing with an outgoing president, some say a lame duck president. They're not going to be dealing directly with Barack Obama, the president-elect.

QUEST: And that's the point. It doesn't matter, because they can set agenda items now which come January, February, March of next year, come to fruition. They are playing absolute high politics of international order here.

BLITZER: And Richard's going to be covering this for us throughout the next few hours. Indeed, over the weekend, as well. Richard, thanks for coming in.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, one of the longest, nastiest most divisive presidential races in the country's history is now in the books. A little more than half of us are pretty pleased with the outcome. The rest of us, not exactly. But that doesn't mean that we're without hope. Au contraire.

According to a New Gallup poll, fewer Americans see our country as divided now as it has been after other recent presidential elections. We're still a long way from all being on the same page, but it's getting better.

After the 2008 election, 57 percent say the country is more divided on major issues than in recent years, but that is down quite a little from polls taken after the previous two presidential elections. In 2000, 64 percent said we were more divided. And in 2004, that number was 72 percent.

A lot of Americans think that Barack Obama may be just what the doctor ordered. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said the Obama administration will be able to heal the divisions in this country, 44 percent say it will not.

So here's the question: What does it mean that fewer Americans see the country as divided?

Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.

The first lady of the United States talks for the first time with CNN about her meeting with Michelle Obama. Listen to this.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: How did that visit go? And could you tell us any anecdotes?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Well, it went great.


BLITZER: All right. We're going to have that interview, Mrs. Bush speaking about that historic meeting at the White House. An exclusive interview with our Elaine Quijano. You're going to want to hear what she's saying about the Obamas.

Plus, how big is the demand for inauguration tickets? Listen to this -- 29,000 requests to just one senator's office. There's a crush up on Capitol Hill. Everyone wants to come to Washington.

Plus, Republicans tried to link him to Barack Obama. Now for the first time, the 1960s radical Bill Ayers, he's speaking publicly. You're going to hear what he's saying, how he describes his relationship with the president-elect.

That and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: All right. We're continuing to work this story involving Hillary Clinton. There's a lot of buzz out there that she possibly could be the next secretary of state in the Obama administration. Stand by. We're getting details. We're working the story as best as we can.

But let's get to a CNN exclusive right now. Laura Bush, she's speaking out about the election of the United States' first African- American president and what it tells the world. The first lady sat down exclusively with our White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano, and she opened up about showing off the White House to its next occupants.


QUIJANO: The role of the first lady is something that I'm sure you discussed with Mrs. Obama earlier this week. How did that visit go? And could you tell us any anecdotes?

BUSH: Well, it went great. It was very private, really. I mean, it was really much more, I think, two mothers talking about home more in this visit, because, of course, I showed her the rooms that are our girls' rooms now that I think are the perfect rooms for her girls when they move there.

We talked more about really making the White House a home for a family. And what I know from having lived here and from visiting my mother-in-law when she made this family a home, and from reading about all the other families that have lived here, is this house really can be a home. And I know that they'll make it that way for their little girls.

QUJANO: Certainly, there must be some increased pressure, a lot of scrutiny, of course, living in the White House. I was wondering, did you share any advice with her as a mother who has been through it, having had two daughters spending some formative years?

BUSH: Not really. I mean, I think I showed her the closets. I showed her all the things that women are interested in, but I didn't try to give her a lot of advice. I know she knows that she can make it home, and that's what she wants to do.

QUJANO: Last question then. Your husband, the day after the election, talked about it being a stirring sight to see the Obamas because of the historic nature of having the nation's first African- American president. I wonder if you could share your thoughts on that, as well.

BUSH: Well, I also think it's very, very important. I think it's important for American history. I think it's a message to everybody in the United States of what's possible, but it's also a message around the world, because I know, because I heard from them, that there were leaders in the -- around the world who didn't think the United States would elect an African-American man. And so, I think it's a really important message about our own democracy to people around the world.

QUJANO: Mrs. Bush, thank you so much.

BUSH: Thanks a lot.


BLITZER: It's certainly the hottest ticket in town, any town right now. Barack Obama's inauguration still more than two months away, but every second counts in the rush to get ready. Let's go to Brian Todd. He's been looking into this. It's pretty amazing, Brian, the demand for these inaugural tickets. What are you picking up?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this city hasn't seen the likes of this in probably 40 years. This is an event that will probably break records and is putting some extra stress even on a town that's used to it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Webb's office, this is Logan (ph).

TODD (voice-over): They light up every few seconds. Almost every call an impassioned request for inauguration tickets. JACOB TERRELL, AIDE TO SEN. JAMES WEBB: Everybody's telling us about their 85-year-old grandmother who -- she -- they never thought she would live to see this day, and they're real excited and they've got to have these tickets.

TODD: To say the office of Virginia Senator James Webb is inundated is putting it mildly. The only way you can legitimately get tickets to Barack Obama's swearing in is to call your senator or congressman.

JESSICA SMITH, AIDE TO SEN. JAMES WEBB: Eight thousand people have contacted our office, and most of them are requesting four, 10, 20 tickets each. So we're talking, you know, tens of thousands.

TODD (on camera): And how many allotted tickets do you expect to get?

SMITH: It's unclear. We should find out next week. We think probably in the low couple of hundred.

TODD (voice-over): Senator Webb has asked the congressional committee in charge of inauguration tickets for more since his state borders Washington and he expects more requests than most states. But there are 240,000 tickets total available for the swearing in ceremony, and the committee tells us each senator's office will get the same allotment, period.

This is the kind of crush this city is bracing for as it prepares for an inauguration crowd that could break records. You're talking up to a million and a half people converging on the capital. Can the city handle it?

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says normally 4,000 officers make up her force and other law enforcement agencies here, but they're bringing in 4,000 more from other cities. They have to protect the audience, dignitaries, protesters, move human and vehicle traffic.

CHIEF CATHY LANIER, WASHINGTON POLICE: We can't be so focused on any one element that we ignore another element. And fortunately for us in D.C., we have so many large events here, we're pretty good at kind of juggling all the balls.


TODD: Now, Chief Lanier says that if this was not D.C., if this was some other city, this would be an incredibly difficult task. But she says because they are so used to coordinating security with other police agencies, like the Capitol Hill Police, the Secret Service and others, they think they can handle this. But still, Wolf, this is a historic inauguration. It's going to break records, probably. And because of that, the nature of that, Chief Lanier says there's some extra stress involved here.

BLITZER: What about hotel bookings? I guess rooms are going to be at a premium. TODD: Absolutely. I think from what we're getting, indications are that most, if not all, hotels in this town are completely sold out already.

Now, Senator Webb's office and other offices are telling us they're getting anecdotal information that people are staying in places like Richmond, Virginia, which is almost two hours away from here, Baltimore. You're talking about that kind of demand.

And people are starting to rent out apartments and houses. We pulled one bedroom apartment listing from Craigslist. Somebody's asking $10,000 for the week to stay in a one-bedroom apartment that they're going to convert into several sleeping spaces.

BLITZER: Wow. I hope it's a really nice apartment. All right, Brian. Thanks very much. Brian will be watching this for us as we count down to January 20th of next year.

Inauguration Day is always a pretty big attraction here in the nation's capital. Back in 1965, Lyndon Baines Johnson drew the largest inaugural crowd ever. Approximately 1.2 million people came to town.

The weather hasn't been so kind on other occasions. A few million people showed up for John Kennedy's 1961 inauguration despite a layer of snow.

On the other hand, back in 1985, when the temperature dropped below 10 degrees -- I remember that -- Ronald Reagan's second swearing in had to be moved indoors and the parade was actually canceled. About 500,000 folks turned out for that parade.

How would he feel about losing Hillary Clinton? And would he get to name her replacement if Senator Clinton does -- if she does become the next secretary of state? I'll ask New York's governor, David Paterson. He's standing by live.

Plus, California emergency. Raging wild fires destroy at least 100 homes, and many others are now threatened. We'll have the latest right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, from campaign rival to cabinet ally? There's speculation, tons of speculation, swirling right now that Barack Obama potentially could name Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. We have the latest details on their secret private meeting. We'll tell you what we know.

Ominous message. The Taliban delivers a warning to the president-elect. What it says the U.S. must do or face continued, in their word, "jihad."

And shuttle diplomacy, Obama's plan to keep the U.S. at the forefront of space exploration.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Governor Sarah Palin raised lots of eyebrows during the campaign when she accused Barack Obama of "palling around with terrorists." She was referring to Obama's ties with this man, one-time violent radical Williams Ayers.

Let's go live to CNN's Dan Lothian. He's working this story. As you know, Dan, Ayers is speaking out publicly on this day.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. William Ayers is breaking his silence, talking about his past, his relationship with Barack Obama, and the way he was used in the presidential campaign.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): Sixties radical William Ayers is no Joe the plumber, but his name was also part of the McCain campaign's effort to raise doubts about Barack Obama.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: He didn't know a few months ago that he had launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist?


PALIN: So, what's next?

LOTHIAN: But, speaking out on "Good Morning America," Ayers called that narrative dishonest.


BILL AYERS, FORMER '60S RADICAL: The assumption that, if two people share a cup of coffee, or take a bus downtown together, or have 1,000 other types of associations, that that somehow means they share politics, outlook, policy, or responsibility for one another's actions.


LOTHIAN: Despite calling Obama a -- quote -- "family friend" in the new afterward to his re-released book, Ayers now describes the relationship this way.


AYERS: I knew him as probably as well as thousands of other Chicagoans. And, like millions and millions of other people worldwide, I wish I knew him better right now.


LOTHIAN: Obama did attend a political reception at his home while launching his run for state office. And the two men served on the same board. But Ayers says that's as far as it went.


AYERS: And that relationship was public, always in a large kind of context. It's not at all true that he sought me out to listen to my radical ideas or that I sought him out.


LOTHIAN: Ayers helped start the Weather Underground, a radical group protesting the Vietnam War that bombed the Capitol and the Pentagon. He remains unapologetic about his militant past.


AYERS: Frankly (INAUDIBLE) I -- I don't know we did enough.


LOTHIAN: During the presidential campaign, Obama condemned those actions and distanced himself from the controversial figure.


OBAMA: He has never been involved in this campaign. And he will not advise me in the White House.


LOTHIAN: Ayers doesn't think their casual connection should be a -- quote -- "demerit" on Obama's record.


AYERS: The fact that he's willing to talk to a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life, listen to a lot of opinions, and still have a mind of his own is something we should honor and admire.



LOTHIAN: Ayers is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has authored seven books. And, Wolf, he says he never spoke out during the presidential campaign because he didn't want to feed into the controversy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, thanks for that story.

Let's get back to our top story right now: all the speculation that's swirling out there that Hillary Clinton could be headed to the Barack Obama Cabinet. So, how does New York's Democratic governor feel about that possibility, the possibility of losing her influence in the U.S. Senate?

Let's go to Governor David Paterson. He' joining us now from New York. Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: Good to join you again, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, what's the story? You know what's going on. And you can tell us. Is Hillary Clinton going to be the next secretary of state?

PATERSON: I haven't the slightest idea. I came on to talk about budget deficits. But what I would say is, if it came to pass, New York's loss would be America's gain, which is how we felt when Hillary Clinton ran for president. But no one has spoken to me. And I'm not going to speculate on the speculation.

BLITZER: So, she hasn't mentioned anything to you yet about the possibility of giving up her Senate seat? Because I take it you would have tremendous authority, responsibility in naming her successor.

PATERSON: I don't have tremendous authority in many areas right now, particularly in terms of our fiscal deficit. But I do have the authority to appoint a new senator if either of the senators of New York were to leave office.

BLITZER: But nobody's had that conversation with you yet; is that right?

PATERSON: No, they probably know how busy I am and don't want to disturb me.

BLITZER: You have got a lot going on right now.

I want you to listen -- I spoke earlier in the week with Governor Sarah Palin, your Republican colleague from Alaska. And -- and we spoke about the fact that an African-American is now going to be the next president of the United States. And I asked her whether or not that should eliminate the need for affirmative action in the country.

And listen to what she told me.


PALIN: With the intent of treating everybody equally and providing equal opportunity in the workplace, and in education, there are some specific policies that I'm sure, and we can move beyond.


BLITZER: All right. All right, well, she didn't give me a real clear answer, as you probably heard, on that thing. But what do you think? Does this eliminate the need for affirmative action in our country?

PATERSON: Well, I appreciate that Governor Palin recognized that not in all cases that we have moved beyond.

And I think that that's what Senator Obama's election in some way symbolizes, that anybody that doesn't think that we haven't gone a long way towards racial equity in this society is a charlatan. But anyone that thinks that we have solved all the problems, not only racially, but in terms of national origin and women, who are 51.8 percent of the population, and don't get to the areas that I think their talents take them, shows that we still have some distance to go.

BLITZER: Yes. So, what does it mean? Let me just pick your brain for a second. How does it feel to you? You originally supported Hillary Clinton, I believe. Correct me if I'm wrong. But you later supported Barack Obama, very enthusiastically. What does it mean to you that -- that the next commander in chief is going to be an African-American?

PATERSON: Well, I think, just as people turn on television, and they might watch a program in which they were in the audience, and they're looking around for themself, or when they pass around pictures to children after they take their school photos every year, I think that this is something that emerging groups love to see, is being able to find someone who they relate to in government. And I think that's what President Obama does.

But what makes Barack Obama's almost transition above race and ethnicity itself is the fact that there's so many white Americans who seem so happy that our country has reached a point now where we could elect an African-American or a woman or an Hispanic president. And I think that's what was so stunning and amazing about what's gone on in the last 10 days.

BLITZER: Let's talk about my home state of New York and the economic situation, because you have come up with a -- a new approach -- some would call it almost a revolutionary approach -- to deal the enormous fiscal and economic problems facing the people New York right now, a huge budget deficit. Very briefly, tell us what you're doing, because it potentially could be a model for other states.

PATERSON: Well, we are going to go back into session -- and other states, Arizona, under Govern Napolitano, and Kentucky, under Governor Beshear, they're going back in to close their budgets down.

And the chief financial officer of Florida thinks that -- that their economy has turned down so far, that they're going to have to go back in. And California is coming back again.

But, in New York, we are moving the date of our budget submission up by six weeks to December the 16th, hoping that, if we can close our budget earlier, and exact many spending reductions, that that would transform into getting the greater bang for our buck in reduced -- reductions next year.

And, obviously, education and health care comprise over 52 percent of our general fund, the fund that we can cut the budget from. We have a $14 billion deficit over the next two years, out of $56 billion to $60 billion that we can cut. So, we have severe problems, but we think, the sooner we address them, the stronger and faster we can recover from them.

BLITZER: Is -- is New York State, like some other states out there, going to be appealing to the federal government for a massive financial bailout?

PATERSON: Well, we don't want just money from the federal government. We think that, if the government gave us the resources to inject into infrastructure repair, which this country hasn't invested in a decade, we have about 95 shovel-ready projects that we may not be able to afford to complete otherwise.

Remember, New York gets back $86.9 billion less than we pay in taxes. And we have a lot of states right now -- in fact, Governor Palin's state has the highest per capita return for their taxes. They get back a whole lot more than they give.

But even states like South Carolina, with a $16.9 billion return more than they pay in taxes, they are going back in, because they have a $500 million budget deficit they have to close.

BLITZER: So, you have got a lot of work coming up. But you're basically upbeat -- correct me if I'm wrong, Governor -- that the folks in New York State are going to get through this economic crisis right now without too much turmoil?

PATERSON: Well, it's very hard for a lot of our legislative leaders and also our advocates, our unions, people in the fields that are going to have their growth reduced to accept it. It's very hard. I don't think they fully appreciate the seriousness of our budget deficit.

Our national deficit is a trillion dollars. And what we have got to recognize is, this is the worst downturn in our economy since the Great Depression. And, if we want to avoid going through what California went through, we have got to get back to Albany and get to work.

BLITZER: You have got a lot of folks counting on you and your colleagues. Governor, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck.

PATERSON: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it, Governor David Paterson, the governor of New York. He's potentially going to have to make a major decision as well, if -- and it's still a big if -- if Hillary Clinton were to give up her Senate seat and become the next secretary of state, who he would name to replace her in the U.S. Senate. We're watching this story.

One name that's being talked about for Barack Obama's Cabinet is Arizona's governor, Janet Napolitano. You're going to hear what she's saying right now. That's coming up as well.

And life isn't just changing for Barack Obama, but -- but for the people he's known over the years -- just ahead, what Barack Obama's barber is having to say and do these days.

And, later, a leader of the Taliban speaking out about Barack Obama and about the importance of having a black man as president, very interesting stuff, a story only CNN can bring you. You're going to want to hear his words. See what he's saying.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: He's one man who knows Barack Obama in a rather unique way. That would be his barber. He's been trimming Barack Obama's hair now for more than a decade. But things changing, now that his longtime client is about to become president.

CNN's Ed Henry takes us inside Barack Obama's barbershop.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is one spot near president-elect Barack Obama's Chicago home where he's been able to let his hair down and talk about "Da Bears," instead of the da campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a place where he can really -- really wind down and relax, get his haircut and enjoy himself.

HENRY: Obama has been sitting in Zariff's chair for 14 years, and making friends who transformed the barbershop into a party room on November 4.

ZARIFF, BARBER, HYDE PARK HAIR SALON: First time in a long time I was shaking like a leaf, you know, and I was shaking with pride.

ISHMAEL ALAMIN, CO-OWNER, HYDE PARK HAIR SALON: When it was finally announced that he won, everything exploded, man.

HENRY: Fellow customers are still struggling with their emotions...

BLITZER: Now project that Barack Obama, 47 years old, will become the president-elect of the United States.

HENRY: -- almost two weeks after watching the election results.

ROBERT HARDY, CUSTOMER, HYDE PARK HAIR SALON: At that point, I shouted. I went, "Oh!"



HARDY: And then I cried. And then I cried, because I thought about the Dr. King speech. "I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get to the promised land." And I wept.

HENRY: Zariff was busy on election night, because he had to trim the president-elect's hair. But, for security reasons, Obama hasn't been to the barbershop lately, so there's an air of mystery where the buzzing takes place. ZARIFF: You know, it's an undisclosed location, you know? But I cut his hair about two hours before he went on stage. That was a very, very proud moment for me. It was just the way I cut it. And, for a barber, that was a very proud moment.

HENRY (on camera): A little bit of scoop: The owners tells me they may take this show on the road and open an outlet all the way in Washington, D.C., next year to try to cash in a little on this sudden fame.

Ed Henry, CNN, Chicago.


BLITZER: Probably a good idea. Ed, thank you.

The words were tough out there on the campaign trail. All of us remember. But now Barack Obama is meeting with both of his former rivals, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. We're talking about it in our "Strategy Session."

And important world leaders from France, Britain, China, Russia, 16 other nations, they are all here in Washington right now for this huge economic summit this weekend. And it's about more than just meeting with President Bush.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: From fierce campaign rivals to potential allies -- are Barack Obama and John McCain putting the past behind them to focus in on America's future?

Let's discuss this and more in our "Strategy Session." Joining us now, Democratic strategist and CBS political analyst Joe Trippi and CNN political contributor and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

First of all, Joe, let -- before we get to McCain, you think it's realistic that Hillary Clinton could be named the next secretary of state?

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I think it could easily be in the cards. She's very well-qualified for the position. I think Barack Obama is serious about putting the right people in the right jobs. And she is certainly qualified for it. We will see what happens. I think there's clearly a short list, and she could well be on it.

BLITZER: Leslie, what do you think?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I agree with you. And it also taps down speculation that she would be looking at a 2012 run, if this administration didn't go as -- meet all the expectations that surround it. BLITZER: So, you know, there's -- it's obviously an attractive offer, potentially, for anyone to be secretary of state, especially if you like foreign policy, which I know she does.

All right, Joe, let's talk a little bit about this meeting that's going to take place on Monday between Barack Obama and John McCain. You know, a lot of bitter words expressed, tough words, during a campaign, but they're about to get together and make nice, I assume.

TRIPPI: Well, look, there's no question. We saw how tough the final -- particularly the final month of this thing were -- was.

But, yes, look, I think John McCain and Barack Obama -- and Barack Obama understands, he only got 52 percent of the vote here. He needs to reach out to the other side, and actually, you know, bring in a new kind of politics, lay down the -- the swords and work with John McCain. They have done it in the past, both of them have. And I think this is a real important first step --


BLITZER: And he really set the stage, John McCain, Leslie, in his concession speech. Even when he was saying nice things about Barack Obama, and some in the audience were starting to heckle and boo, he said, "No, no, no." And he was very, very gracious in that concession speech. And I think he -- he's ready to work cooperatively with the president-elect.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, one thing about Senator McCain, he's always been ready to reach to the middle. He is -- the McCain middle is where this Congress needs to go, especially in the Senate, if you want to see Senator -- president-elect Barack Obama meet all those great expectations.

I think this country needs that success. And McCain is exactly the right type of person to bring it to him. Not only is he an architect of the gang of 14, you know, those moderates who helped pass some of these judicial appointments, who end these filibusters. But he's somebody who's seen success with McCain-Feingold, campaign finance reform. He moved on immigration reform with Senator Kennedy. He has a record of reaching across the aisle. And it could be very beneficial.

BLITZER: So, which leads me to this question, which some might think is farfetched, but I will ask Joe and Leslie anyhow.

How farfetched is it to think that he could do what Abraham Lincoln did -- and he loves Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, as we all know -- bring his rivals in -- in his Cabinet, and ask John McCain to take a formal role in the Obama administration?

TRIPPI: I think that, too, is really possible.

I think Barack Obama meant it. He's going to change the way we do politics in this town. McCain could be a strong ally. And it would do him well to bring McCain in -- into the administration some way. If he wants to -- if he really wants to get bold here, that would be a bold step to take.

BLITZER: That would be very bold. What do you think, Leslie?


SANCHEZ: I think it would be a bold step, but I think he could be a tremendously powerful asset in the Senate to move a lot of this legislation. It's going to be critical what he's able to accomplish in those first two years.

BLITZER: What issue do you think, Joe, they could work closest on right now, assuming they're going to go forward out of this meeting on Monday? And Rahm Emanuel, his incoming chief of staff, Lindsey Graham, one of his best friends, the Republican senator from South Carolina, the four of them are going to get together. What do you think they're going to be talking about, issues where they agree?

TRIPPI: You know, I don't -- it's not just the issues they agree.

We have got real crises in this country, a financial crisis, I mean, real -- I mean, people are losing their jobs. The -- the parties have to come together. And I think getting -- not just foreign policy, but domestic policy, across the board, Barack Obama needs to reach out. He only received 52 percent of the vote here.

Democrats can't get too cocky. We have got to work with the Republicans and get real solutions for people. It's the only way out of most of these crises that we're facing.

SANCHEZ: You know, that -- that's the interesting point of this. I think Joe's exactly right.

You have a lot of elements on the Democratic side that are going to try to pull to the left. And I think, as centrists, you know, we're -- you're going to see a lot of Republicans trying to keep this in the middle and move forward, especially on the economy, the climate control. But, really, this global economic crisis is first in priority.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. And it's a huge crisis, and probably the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Leslie and Joe, guys, thanks very much for coming in.

TRIPPI: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: She's been first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, New York's influential junior senator, and a Democratic presidential hopeful, but is Hillary Clinton's next stop in Barack Obama's Cabinet? She's talking about the rumors she could become the next secretary of state. Stand by.

And on the president-elect's agenda, reading, writing and arithmetic -- he's pledging to fix the nation's public schools, but will economic woes push that to the side?

And a warning to Obama from the Taliban about American troops on the front lines in Afghanistan.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look at the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press.

In Bangladesh, members of a rural theater group paint their faces for an anniversary rally.

In Congo, 300 women turned out to demonstrate against war-related violence in their country.

In California, a firefighter sprays water on a burning house. Wildfires have caused thousands of evacuations and burned more than 100 homes near Santa Barbara.

And, in New York City, a 72-foot Christmas tree is raised into position at Rockefeller Plaza -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures worth 1,000 words.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: What does it mean that fewer Americans see this country as divided than following the previous two presidential elections?

Louis in L.A. writes: "It means that we have a new opportunity to move beyond the divisive politics of this last election. We still have a long way to go, but the potential is there. We should not have to wait for another 9/11 to unite the country. The time is now."

Sandi in Chicago: "I think it is because, for the most part, Americans now have hope. Despite all the bad news on the economy, I believe in the new president-elect, not that I expect a turnaround within the first 100 days, but I do think, within his first term, we will be on the road to saying, yes, we are better off than we were in 2008."

Paul in Columbia, South Carolina: "Give it time. Election euphoria always replaced by disappointment."

Hugh in Florida writes: "I don't know what fewer Americans you're talking about. Down here in the South, we're more divided than ever, especially in respect to Obama's economic and defense visions for our country."

Joanne in New Jersey writes: "I think the country is less divided after the election because conservatives are much more gracious than liberals. If Obama had lost, the split would be wide and deep."

And Chuck in Arkansas writes: "In the past, the Republicans have been able to falsely convince Americans our country is divided racially and ideologically. Now we are realizing that we are divided economically, and that there are far more poor and those who are just getting by, no matter what color of their skin is, than those who are rich."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at, and look for yours, among hundreds of others.

I used to work in Rockefeller Center. And the worst traffic jams of the year are when they put that Christmas tree up.


CAFFERTY: But it's nice.

BLITZER: Well, get ready for the inauguration here in Washington, Jack.


BLITZER: You can only imagine what is going to happen then.

CAFFERTY: It will be unreal.

BLITZER: Yes, it will be amazing. All right.

CAFFERTY: I won't be down that week.

BLITZER: Thank you.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: a secret meeting between one-time rivals and now growing and growing buzz. Could Hillary Clinton wind up being Barack Obama's secretary of state? We will tell what you we know.

Also, Obama's education challenge, not just finding schools for his daughters, but tackling America's underfunded, failing education system.

Plus, a notorious Taliban leader now speaking out publicly about Barack Obama's victory and issuing a warning to the president-elect.