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THE SITUATION ROOM
McCain Opens Up About Palin; Current Defense Secretary Expected to Stay
Aired November 25, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a new move to put billions of dollars in consumers' hands. That sounds like good news. The Bush administration adds to the bailout, though. It's a big bill. But is president-elect Obama satisfied? Hear him at length on what the economy needs right now, in his opinion.
Plus, no change of command at the Pentagon -- with Robert Gates now expected to stay on, some insiders are warning, it is a bad idea. Brand new developments to report this hour -- Ed Henry standing by at the White House with that -- or in Chicago, I should say.
And John McCain opens up about his future and Sarah Palin's as well. Is he offering any new hints about reported tensions with his former running mate? The best political team is standing by for you always.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Miles O'Brien. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we begin with breaking news.
Let's go to Ed Henry in Chicago right away with news on the Obama Cabinet. And this is a big one -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Miles.
Several sources close to president-elect Barack Obama's transition here in Chicago now tell CNN that current Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to stay on for at least the first year of the incoming Obama administration -- one of the sources calling it -- quote -- "all but a done deal." This reporting coming into me as well as my colleagues Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon and Gloria Borger in Washington.
We are hearing that basically that the decision has been made, that Barack Obama wanted, as you know, to have at least one or more Republicans in his Cabinet. Robert Gates is somebody who has served in several Republican administrations, the first Bush administration as CIA director, now on as defense secretary
And there is also a feeling within the Obama camp that they want some continuity, with two wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to the international financial crisis. And there's going to be a high-powered national security team. We are hearing the rollout could be as early as next week, with secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton, the current senator, as well as we are hearing on track right now is retired Marine General Jim Jones to be named the national security adviser inside the White House, a lot of high- powered people in this national security team -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: All right, Ed Henry, we're going to hear more on a little bit later in the program. Thank you very much. Stay nearby for us.
It is a full-court press right now, the Obama transition team and the Bush administration struggling to build confidence in the U.S. economy. The treasury secretary today unveiling an $800 billion add- on to the bailout, 800 more billion. It is a new attempt to push banks finally to loosen credit and give consumers the loans they desperately need. We hope it doesn't go to big executive salaries.
President-elect Obama, meantime, named more members of his economic team and promised help is on the way. He has spoken out about the economy for two straight days now. He's going to do it again tomorrow.
First, let's listen to the president-elect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The economic crisis we face demands that we invest immediately in a series of measures that will help save or create 2.5 million jobs and put tax cuts in the pockets of the hard- pressed middle class. Many of those new jobs will come in areas such as energy independence, technology, and health care modernization that will strengthen our economy over the long term.
But if we are going to make the investments we need, we also have to be willing to shed the spending that we don't need. In these challenging times, when we're facing both rising deficits and a shrinking economy, budget reform is not an option. It's a necessity.
We can't sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of politicians, lobbyists, or interest groups. We simply can't afford it.
This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That's why I will ask my team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges.
We are going to go through our federal budget -- as I promised during the campaign, page by page, line by line -- eliminating those programs we don't need and insisting that those that we do need operate in a sensible, cost-effective way.
Let me just give you one example of what I'm talking about. There's a report today that, from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the $2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies. Now, if this is true -- and this was just a report this morning -- but if it's true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste that I intend to end as president.
We're also going to focus on one of the biggest long-run challenges that our budget faces, namely the rising cost of health care in both the public and private sectors. This is not just a challenge, but also an opportunity to improve the health care that Americans rely on and to bring down the costs that taxpayers, businesses and families have to pay.
Now, that's what the Office of Management and Budget will do in my administration: It will not only help design a budget and manage its implementation, but it's also going to make sure that our government -- your government -- is more efficient and more effective at serving the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: New evidence that the Obama team and the Bush administration are trying to work together during this time of economic crisis, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson meeting today with the man nominated to replace him, Timothy Geithner. You see the picture today.
Paulson today defended his response to the crisis, even as he had to announce yet another costly bailout, a fresh attempt to help strapped consumers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY PAULSON, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The only way you can say it didn't work is if you magically thought you could just -- naively thought that there could be a piece of legislation and there would be a single action, and that a hundred -- one or twice-in-a-hundred-year historic situation would -- would immediately be resolved. That's not the kind of situation we're dealing with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Let's get to the bottom line of the latest version of the bailout unveiled by Hank Paulson today.
We bring in our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi. Ali, spell it out. Awful lot of zeroes in there.
ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: An awful lot of zeroes.
This is $800 billion. You correctly stated it is $800 billion on top of the $700 billion bailout package. Let's divide it up and tell you what is going to happen to it.
The first $200 billion, that is $20 billion out of the old bailout program and another $180 billion from the Fed, $200 billion. Now, what was supposed to happen with the first bailout, money was supposed to go to financial institutions. It was going to trickle down and make it easier for you to get a loan. That kind of didn't happen.
So now the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are going to give this $200 billion to banks. They're going to be buying up consumer loans with it, student loans, maybe car loans, credit card loans, things like that, government those banks more money to be able to loan to people to get that credit moving. Those are the kind things they're going to hit.
These are not about mortgages. This is cars, student loans, credit lines, things like that. This is what the first $200 billion is about. But, as I mentioned, this is $800 billion, and there's another $600 billion. Do you want to see what that is about?
O'BRIEN: My head is just spinning right now.
VELSHI: Yes, I know. It's hard to keep track up. But I have been doing the math on this all day. Let's take a look at this.
The second $600 billion has more to do with mortgages, but there's still no assistance to anybody who is in a struggling mortgage. There's no new assistance there. But this $600 billion is going to be given to institutions like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae.
And what is going to is, they are going to -- this is going to allow them to have some more money that they can then use to pass on to other people. This will be of assistance to people who are buying homes, not those who already have troubled mortgages. But if you are stuck in a troubled mortgage and maybe you are trying to sell your home, the idea that more people will have access to money may mean that somebody who wanted to buy your home now can qualify.
So, indirectly, it may help troubled homeowners, but that together adds up to $600 billion. It's all -- $800 billion -- it's the government buying up various kinds of credit and loans from banks and giving those banks more money to let this go to individuals. It is the closest we have gotten to money flowing right to the consumer, Miles.
O'BRIEN: Ali Velshi, thank you very much.
You have got to wonder, Jack Cafferty, where is all this money coming from?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Except they're probably going to give some of it to Laura Bush.
CAFFERTY: AP confirmed today that the first lady has agreed or she's meeting with publishers and is planning to write a memoir.
An executive involved in the meetings with the first lady told the AP Mrs. Bush plans to write what he called a positive book with a minimum of criticism. If it happens, she will be the next in a long line of former first ladies to become authors. Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush's mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, have all been published.
Books by first ladies have done well and have actually had more dependable appeal than those by their former president husbands. Laura Bush is certainly more likable than her husband, if you believe the polls -- even if you don't believe the polls.
CAFFERTY: President George W. Bush has recently expressed an interest in writing a book, as well -- he said with a straight face.
But publishers have apparently told him, not so fast. Don't call us. We will call you. Considering the fact that 76 percent of those polled in a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey earlier this month disapprove of how President Bush is handling his job, the reluctance on the part of publishers to not exactly rush doesn't come as a huge surprise.
Here is the question, though, because it could happen: Would you rather read a book by Laura Bush or by George W. Bush? Or you could read "It's Getting Ugly Out There." Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
O'BRIEN: Of course, in the previous Bush administration, it was the dog that wrote the book.
CAFFERTY: Well, Barbara wrote a book.
O'BRIEN: Well, I thought there was a dog.
O'BRIEN: Didn't Millie the dog get involved in book writing, I think? I don't know.
CAFFERTY: Oh, Millie, right?
O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. Wasn't there a whole...
CAFFERTY: Yes, probably.
O'BRIEN: That is a good compromise move. All right.
Thank you, Jack. We will see you in a bit.
O'BRIEN: With a battled economy, Barack Obama says he will be ready for the crisis on day one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: We don't intend to stumble into the next administration. We are going to hit the ground running. We're going to have clear plans of action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: More of Obama's news conference explains how he is straddling this transition time.
Plus, Jeremiah Wright, remember that name? He has a message for Obama. In an interview, Obama's controversial former pastor says -- and we're quoting him now -- "I am coming after you," referring to Obama.
And it is among the most dazzling symbols of American democracy, but it was partly built through a shameful piece of the American past. We look back at slaves working at and helping to build the White House.
O'BRIEN: As we mentioned, Barack Obama will hold another news conference tomorrow. It will be his third in as many days.
Moments ago, you heard what he had to say today, announcing more additions to his economic team. But Obama took reporter questions as well. The first one was about who is really in charge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There is only one president at a time. That president is George W. Bush, and he will be president until I'm sworn in on January 20th.
Given the extraordinary circumstances that we find ourselves in, however, I think it is very important for the American people to understand that we are putting together a first-class team and for them to have clarity that we don't intend to stumble into the next administration.
We are going to hit the ground running. We're going to have clear plans of action. We intend to have the kind of economic recovery plan that is going to put 2. 5 million people into jobs. We are going to make sure that we start focusing on energy, on health care, on revamping our education system so that it's competitive in the 21st century, and, as I'm talking about today, that we are not going back to business as usual when it comes to our budget.
I mean, one of the concerns that people may have is, you've got this large stimulus package that the new president is proposing and members of Congress are talking about. Is this going to be more of the same when it comes to Washington spending?
And the answer -- I want to be very clear -- is no.
We are going to have to jump-start the economy. And there's consensus that that requires a bold plan to make the investments in the future. But we have to make sure that those investments are wise; we have to make sure that we're not wasting money in every area.
If there is -- if we're talking about health care, we want to put money into health care modernization that can help us save money over the long term. We don't want to continue programs that aren't working and making people healthier.
The same is true for education. The same is true in the Defense Department. The same is true in social spending.
So the fact that Rob and Peter are here today indicates the seriousness with which we're taking this. And I think it's important, given the uncertainty in the markets and given the very legitimate anxiety that the American people are feeling, that they know that their new president has a plan and is going to act swiftly and boldly.
OK. Peter -- where's Peter? I didn't recognize you because you don't have the floppy hat that you had during the campaign.
QUESTION: I actually do.
OBAMA: There it is. Man, that's what I'm talking about.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. Given the election results, what sort of mandate do you have from the voters, do you believe? And does a large Democratic majority in Congress present an opportunity to pass your agenda or is there a danger in this environment of overreach?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, we had, I think, a decisive win because of the extraordinary desire for change on the part of the American people.
And so I don't think that there's any question that we have a mandate to move the country in a new direction and not continue the same, old practices that have gotten us into the fix that we're in.
But I won 53 percent of the vote. That means 46 percent or 47 percent of the country voted for John McCain.
And it's important, as I said on election night, that we enter into the new administration with a sense of humility and a recognition that wisdom is not the monopoly of any one party.
In order for us to be effective, given the scope and the scale of the challenges that we face, Republicans and Democrats are going to have to work together.
And I think what the American people want more than anything is just commonsense, smart government. They don't want ideology; they don't want bickering; they don't want sniping. They want action, and they want effectiveness. And that's what Peter and Rob are going to help us provide.
When it comes to our budget, I think people don't want to continue a budget -- an argument about big government or small government. They want smart government and effective government.
And so what we're going to do is to work as closely as we can with the Republican Party. My chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has already met with both caucuses. We want their input; we want their ideas.
One of the things I'm very pleased about is I think that we're already seeing bipartisan accolades for the budget team that I'm putting together, because they recognize these are serious guys who are going to be honest about the budget challenges that we face.
That's the kind of approach that I want. That's what I think the American people are looking for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Tomorrow, president-elect Obama will make another economic announcement. You can watch exactly what he says tomorrow right here on CNN, of course, live.
John McCain holds his first news conference since Election Day -- what he says about Obama's Cabinet choices, his own political future, and why he really chose Sarah Palin.
Plus, Obama promises to reach out to Americans through the Internet, but he won't be the first. Some of the cool tools other world leaders are already using. I wonder if he will Twitter?
And, later, they are multibillionaires, but they are taking government money meant for poor farmers -- how they are pocketing your tax dollars ahead.
O'BRIEN: President-elect Barack Obama had great success using the Internet to campaign and raise money. How will he take that to the White House?
Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is looking into how other countries use the Web to govern.
Abbi, in many respects, other leaders are ahead of us in this game.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Miles, in the United Kingdom, if Brits wants to find their prime minister online, there are more and more ways to do so. They can look for Gordon Brown on YouTube. There he is answering questions.
But you will also see him on the follow channel he has on Twitter, on sites like Flickr as well. And if you don't like what he is saying, well, you can create an online petition to complain about it. There is a section of the Downing Street Web site where you can do just that. And, around the globe, there are more and more of these online initiatives from governments. Looking at South Korea, a Web site called EPeople lets you offer suggestions to any aspect of the government, and the relevant agency must respond to you.
In Estonia, where they have already gone online voting, there's a Web site where you can offer your suggestions for new legislation. The government will look at that.
Here in the United States, president-elect Obama has yet to take office, but his team is already looking at this area of online governance, as you can see from what they have been doing so far. That radio address, presidential radio address, they added video, put it on YouTube.
And look at the transition Web site right now, as we speak, change.gov. You will see that people are being invited to make suggestions about health care right there online. There is a pretty lively discussion going on, Miles, that gives you the suggestion that these people welcome the opportunity to have this, to have this place online to make their suggestions.
O'BRIEN: Does Barack Obama have a Facebook page? I think he probably does, right?
TATTON: I think he probably does. Got a couple of million people on it as well.
O'BRIEN: I would like to see him Twitter it. That would be kind of cool.
All right, Abbi Tatton, thank you very much.
Breaking news this hour: It looks like Robert Gates will stay on as defense secretary, but not everyone thinks that is a good idea for president-elect Obama to keep him in that job.
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright suggests he's going to give Obama a hard time once again. Should the president-elect confront his former pastor yet again? The best political team on television is standing by for that.
And Obama's -- the Obamas, I should say, will be the first African-American first family in a White House built partly by black slaves. I guess that is the definition of irony -- the shameful history ahead.
O'BRIEN: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: sources telling CNN Robert Gates is expected to stay on as secretary of defense. What are the downsides of that? We will examine the pros and cons. Don't count him out. John McCain talks about his future plans and explains why he chose Sarah Palin.
And millionaires getting richer at payer expense. This will make your blood boil -- how money from a program set up to help poor farmers is ending up in the hands of millionaires.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Miles O'Brien. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
O'BRIEN: Let's get right to breaking news.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to stay on the job for at least the first year of Barack Obama's administration.
Our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, has the story.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (AUDIO GAP) Robert Gates is obvious. He is probably the most admired member of the Bush Cabinet, winning plaudits for his pragmatic approach and willingness to hold people accountable.
So, the argument goes, keeping Gates during a time of two wars ensures continuity, demonstrates bipartisanship, and conveys that president-elect Obama has the confidence in his own leadership to keep a talented Bush holdover.
But the flip side of keeping Gates includes potential policy conflicts over things like funding missile defense and the speed of an Iraq pullout. And Gates' lame-duck status could make it harder to hire qualified deputies, which, in turn, delays much-needed change, which, after all, is what Barack Obama ran on.
DOV ZACKHEIM, FORMER PENTAGON COMPTROLLER: If we don't have good civilian personnel alongside our good military personnel, we're not going to reform. It can't happen. You need the people to make it work.
MCINTYRE: And right now, one big problem is that the system for buying new weapons is broken. From the bungled Air Force tanker deal, new presidential helicopters, to the Navy's latest high tech ships, almost every acquisition program is plagued by cost overruns and poor performance.
LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: For example, between 2001 and 2008, the weapons development programs increased by $400 billion because nobody was paying attention. People went to jail because the acquisition process wasn't managed with the tankers.
MCINTYRE: As a short-timer, Gates had the luxury of focusing on just his most immediate problem -- ending the war in Iraq. But now, as he's going to have to help President-Elect Barack Obama with a much wider range of problems. Take that tanker deal, Miles. That's something that Secretary Gates had punted to the next administration. Now he is the next administration.
O'BRIEN: So he -- he kicked the punt and he'll be receiving it, as well. That's quite a trick.
O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
Senator John McCain today held his first news conference since the election. The Arizona Republican looked back on the presidential campaign and he's looking ahead.
Let's turn now to CNN's Mary Snow. And McCain is planning on sticking around. None of those fading away speeches in this case, right?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. He is there for the long run, Miles.
SNOW: And this is three weeks to the day after he lost the presidential election. Senator McCain is setting his sights on 2010.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I intend to run again. We will make a formal announcement at the appropriate time.
SNOW (voice-over): John McCain was talking about running for re- election as senator from Arizona when his term expires in two years. As for making a third bid for the White House...
MCCAIN: And I do not envision a scenario that -- that would entail that.
SNOW: McCain says the GOP's lack of fiscal discipline was one reason why he and Congressional Republicans took a beating on election day.
MCCAIN: I think if you asked our rank and file Republicans and Independents, that we spending get completely out of control, that we just basically became a party that had no fiscal discipline.
SNOW: McCain also defended his running mate, saying Sarah Palin's conservative principles were the main reason he chose her.
MCCAIN: And I think she has a very bright future in a leadership position in the Republican Party.
SNOW: McCain says he's ready to work the incoming president.
MCCAIN: It's time for us to work together. It's time for us to sit down together and address the enormous challenges that we face. SNOW: And McCain says that some of President-Elect Obama's nominations for his economic team are people...
MCCAIN: That we can work with, that are well-respected and they -- I approve of many of them.
SNOW: But don't expect the old warrior to disappear.
MCCAIN: That does not mean we won't have differences.
SNOW: This is McCain's first news conference since election day. He told reporters he is committed to passing immigration reform -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: All right. We'll see how that all plays out. Thank you very much, Mary.
It gives whole new meaning to term "gentleman farmer." A new report shows a lot of multi-millionaires are collecting federal subsidies for farms they may not even work or live on.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick is looking into this. She's seated right beside Mary. This is a lovely scene here around the table. But this is a very serious story.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is. And, you know, Miles, it's really hard to imagine some of the people who are actually receiving these subsidies working the land themselves, especially those who live full-time in big cities like Manhattan or Chicago, where farmland is a little bit scarce.
FEYERICK (voice-over): What do mega millionaires David Rockefeller, Edgar Brothman and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen have in common besides all being rich? They get farm subsidies -- money intended to help small, hardworking farmers.
OBAMA: If it's true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste that I intend to end as president.
FEYERICK: Investigators like Lisa Shames, from the Government Accountability Office, discovered nearly $50 million in crop subsidies paid to people not eligible to receive them, including some living outside the United States.
LISA SHAMES, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: We found that USDA has made potentially $49 million of improper payments to 2,700 individuals whose income exceeded $2.5 million.
FEYERICK: The improper payouts, starting in 2002 until last year, according to investigators, range from a few thousand to upwards of $300,000.
KEN COOK, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP: This really is clearly an abuse. There's no justification for this.
FEYERICK: Ken Cook is with the Environmental Working Group, a liberal non-profit lobbying to get subsidies to small, independent farmers.
COOK: There's no reason why we should also be spending money on very wealthy individuals who are making money in the stock market, making money by owning a sports team, making money by investments or what have you. Good for them. This is America. You should do well if you can. But there's no reason the government should, on top of that, give you additional money in the form of crop subsidies.
FEYERICK: Congressional investigators say Agriculture officials need to cross check incomes with the IRS to make sure those getting farm payments actually need them.
FEYERICK: Now, the USDA sent a statement saying it does not access to those IRS tax records. And get ready -- the number of subsidies for wealthy farmers is expected to jump in coming years -- Miles.
O'BRIEN: I just don't get why they don't have access to the records. That seems to be something that needs to be changed.
FEYERICK: That could change under Obama.
FEYERICK: He's going to look at it closely.
O'BRIEN: All right. Deb Feyerick, thank you very much.
He haunted the Obama campaign and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is threatening to do the same to the presidency. What should the president-elect do about it, if anything?
Plus, Mr. Obama reportedly meeting next week with the nation's governors. The best political team on television looks at the potential pitfalls.
O'BRIEN: The growing government bailout -- another $800 billion announced today. That's another $800 billion. How closely is Barack Obama involved in all of this?
Here to talk about that and more, CNN's senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our political contributors, "Weekly Standard" senior writer, Stephen Hayes; and Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post" -- all of them part of the best political team on television.
Gloria, let's begin with you. Every day, it -- it seems like we go back and forth on this story as to how these two entities are working together -- the incoming team and the outgoing team. What's your take on it right now?
Are they actually -- we saw a picture today of Paulson with his would-be successor. Are they really working together?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, change was the buzzword in this election. Now I think it's continuity, given the economic crisis. And Geithner is kind of someone who has worked with Paulson. He's -- don't forget, he's still head of the New York Fed. And he's been involved in all of these issues. And he continues to be involved in those issues in his job as head of the New York Fed. And he will continue to be as Treasury secretary.
So, you know, in a way, he was -- he was an obvious choice for Obama, because he's the link between those worlds. So you've got to assume that everything that Paulson did today was run by Geithner in his capacity at the New York Fed.
O'BRIEN: All right. But I guess, Steven, as we move along in this and you extend this argument out, you could say that Geithner is partly responsible for some of the missteps, as well. Is that going to be a problem?
STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, I think that's probably a fair statement. You know what, if you look back, some of the news reports from the past couple of days -- and one word you keep hearing about and from Obama advisers is opportunity.
I think, actually, this -- we've reached a point in this crisis and in all of these different crises where Barack Obama actually gets some political cover from George W. Bush. By working with the Bush team, I think it's unlikely, at this point, that Obama is going to be blamed for the situation that we're in. But by working with the Bush team, I think, going forward, he can say, look, this was bipartisan. We were working together. I was working with Republicans. You know, this is not something -- this expansion of government that we're seeing was not something that I dreamt up on my own.
O'BRIEN: So, Dana, would you guess right now that there's going to be a longer, more robust honeymoon this go around because of all these factors?
DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, it's hard to imagine a honeymoon of any circumstance given how awfully things are going right now. Obama has, I think, done a quite effective job of saying that look, I'm not going to be the guy to be blamed here. You know, for every time he says there's only one president, if we had a nickel for each of those, we presidency would have solved the financial crisis by now.
So he is trying with that to buy himself time. But, you know, when January 20th, you know, that's going to be an awfully quick honeymoon there. People are expecting immediate and extraordinary improvement from him and that's just not possible.
BORGER: You know, Obama's problem is, is that most people have already discounted the current president. And so he can say that there's only one president at a time, but people are looking to him...
O'BRIEN: Yes, and maybe...
BORGER: ...as opposed to Bush.
O'BRIEN: Maybe the one president is him.
O'BRIEN: All right, let's...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
O'BRIEN: Let's move on. Let's talk about Jeremiah Wright. He has the potential to be Obama's Billy Carter, I guess, or something.
O'BRIEN: Let's -- you know, let's -- I want to roll a couple of sound bites from Jeremiah Wright, former pastor to Barack Obama. And then let's just talk about it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JEREMIAH WRIGHT, SEN. OBAMA'S FORMER PASTOR: I've already told Senator Obama at the time, I will work hard. I'll do everything humanly possible to get you elected on November the 4th.
MARK THOMPSON, RADIO HOST: Correct.
WRIGHT: But on November the 5th, I'm coming after you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
WRIGHT: And it was like a mixed bag of being proud of him and being -- and being blessed to have lived to see something my parents would have never have believed was going to happen, while at the same time having been put up as the whipping boy by the media to be the weapon of mass destruction to destroy his candidacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: All right. Stephen, if you're Barack Obama, do you just ignore this at this point? I mean there's so many bigger, more important issues, it really amounts to a sideshow, doesn't it?
HAYES: I think that's -- I think that's exactly right. I mean Reverend Wright is clearly an odious and vile man. Barack Obama gains nothing at all by engaging him. And I actually think that if Reverend Wright follows through on his promises here and makes -- tries to make himself a big thorn in Obama's side, that actually helps Barack Obama in this case.
O'BRIEN: How? How so?
BORGER: It's good for Obama.
Well, because. Because Reverend Wright is unpopular. Barack Obama had to spend a great deal of time distancing himself from Reverend Wright. And the more he can do that, the better it will be...
O'BRIEN: Oh, so...
BORGER: ...for him.
O'BRIEN: So I get it. I see what you're saying.
O'BRIEN: Wright actually provides the distance.
O'BRIEN: All right, Dana, do you go along with that?
MILBANK: Oh, absolutely. I mean I thought they might, you know, release him from the dungeon they were keeping him in at the first available opportunity here.
MILBANK: I love that he's, you know, says that he was the media's whipping boy. I mean he's the one who booked out the National Press Club and gave this...
MILBANK: ...rant that gave all the material to us.
O'BRIEN: So maybe it's all orchestrated. That's a little bit Machiavellian.
BORGER: Oh, that's a little (INAUDIBLE).
O'BRIEN: But you never know. You never know in this racket.
All right, the governors are going to meet in Philadelphia. Obama is going to be there. To be a fly on the wall on this one. Are they all just going to go around and pass a hat? Are they all going to kind of suck up to the president-elect? Take us through that, Gloria.
BORGER: All of the above.
O'BRIEN: What do you think the conversations will be like? BORGER: All of the above.
BORGER: I think he's probably had private conversations with all of them. But, look, don't forget, the governors are on the front line of this economic crisis. They're -- they've got problems with their own budgets. They have to decide whether they raise taxes in their own states. They're looking to the federal government for some kind of help here now that the government has bailed out Wall Street, trying to out Main Street, etc. etc.
So, you know, I think what he's trying to do is to show, look, we're on the same page as the governors. I feel their pain.
MILBANK: All right. You know, these governors are going to be the new welfare queens right now. And they...
MILBANK: I mean there's a tremendous amount of money needed and they say it's their turn. And I'd be...
MILBANK: ...quite surprised if they didn't get a nice chunk of that stimulus package that Obama is starting to...
HAYES: Well, we're giving -- you know...
MILBANK: ...talk about.
HAYES: You know, we're giving it to everybody else.
Why shouldn't the governors have some?
I mean they can get in line and say, look, my state. Yes, we mismanaged a while, we overspent for a while...
O'BRIEN: All right...
HAYES: ...but, you know, so did Citigroup.
O'BRIEN: All right, let's...
BORGER: But governors...
O'BRIEN: We've got to leave it. We've got to leave it there, guys. We're out of time. We've got to ring the bell.
The best political team on television right there -- Gloria Borger, Dana Milbank, Stephen Hayes. Thank you all.
Built by slaves -- now about to become home to America's first African-American first family -- the amazing, ironic history of the White House.
Plus, the Thanksgiving dinner that has some crying, shall we say, foul. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes the "Moost Unusual" look.
O'BRIEN: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show at the top of the hour -- Lou, what you got?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Miles, thank you.
Tonight, President-Elect Obama trying to fill the vacuum of economic leadership in this country. But the president-elect is offering no specifics of his plans.
Also, the Bush administration saying it will spend another $800 billion to deal with our economic crisis. Does Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have any idea about how to fix this problem? Does he know what the problem is? I'll be joined by three of the country's top economic thinkers.
And new demands for tough conditions on any bailout of Detroit. We'll have a special report on whether the carmakers will stop selling out American workers by outsourcing production and exporting jobs to cheap overseas labor markets.
We'll tell you why one Russian political analyst says now our economic could lead to the breakup of the United States. Please join us for that at the top of the hour, and a great deal more, all of the day's news, from an Independent perspective -- Miles, back to you.
O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, Lou. We'll be watching.
For the first time, an African-American family will live in the White House -- a house built partly by black slaves.
CNN's Susan Roesgen has been looking into this -- Susan, what have you learned?
SUSAN ROESGEN, GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Miles, I think they teach this in school -- at least not when I was in school. A lot that we had to learn by digging through the archives of the Washington Historical Society, the White House Historical Society, the National Archives.
We know, of course, that Barack Obama himself is not a descendent of slaves. But there is slavery now in his family. There are black hands in the White House.
ROESGEN (voice-over): Our national symbol of democracy and freedom. But behind the proud history of the White House are the black hands of hundreds of slaves. In the White House. Behind the proud history of the White House are the black hands of hundreds of slaves. DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It was the slaves that did a lot of building of the White House. They also worked there, did the service jobs, were the people that would tend the horses or clean the dishes, prepare the meals. And so this is a bit of a turnaround. The apple cart has been turned over here, when you have the Obamas, the first African-American couple now actually management. And you're having, in some cases, white Americans serving them.
ROESGEN: That's the history the future first family inherits. And the Obamas' own history is one of slavery, too.
Michelle Obama learned just this year that her great-great- grandfather worked on a rice plantation in South Carolina. She says finding that part of her past uncovered both shame and pride -- what she calls the tangled history of this country.
BRINKLEY: No, I think Michel should celebrate the fact that the -- that her ancestors had to come through the ordeal of slavery and have succeeded to the point where now she's in the White House. I mean, Barack Obama is in charge -- her husband, her children are sleeping in the room of presidents. And it's a very great and hopeful sign.
ROESGEN: It's hard to know what the Obamas were thinking as they toured the White House after the election. Twelve American presidents owned slaves and eight presidents owned slaves while they were in office.
For instance, Andrew Jackson called slaves "unfortunate creatures," but he owned more than 160.
And Zachary Taylor said owning slaves was a constitutional right worth going to war to keep.
This year, November 4th was a new beginning.
OBAMA: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, tonight is your answer.
ROESGEN: And here's something else, Miles, that you might not know. The first memoir of life in the White House was actually written by a slave who was owned by President James Madison.
O'BRIEN: Wow! That's an interesting little nugget of history.
All right. Susan Roesgen. Thank you very much.
Jack Cafferty is back with us --Jack, what do you have?
CAFFERTY: The Associated Press reporting that Laura Bush is in talks with publishers to possibly write a memoir. So the question is: Would you rather read a book written by Laura Bush or by President George W. Bush?
Maureen writes: "I wouldn't read a book by either one. If it wasn't for Laura Bush, George Bush wouldn't have been elected. We wouldn't have had the past eight abysmal years. She helped to legitimize him and I can't stand her."
Kathie in Kennesaw, Georgia: "So my choice between a snoozer and a loser. I'll take your book, Jack. Can I get a free copy?"
CAFFERTY: Pete in Florida: "Quit fishing for new Bush jokes and insults, Jack, and get back to real news."
Marc writes: "I'd rather read a book by Malia or Sasha Obama."
Billy in Las Vegas, Nevada: "If George Bush writes a book, he ought to paraphrase your title and name it, "I Made It Ugly Out There."
Elizabeth writes: "Well, if Laura Bush wasn't bright enough not to marry George Bush, I'd be hard-pressed to pay $15.99 to buy her book."
Dennis writes: "I'd rather read Dr. Seuss."
And D. in Reno, Nevada says: "I'll hold out until Barney writes a tell-all on both of them."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, too bad. Go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours among hundreds of others. I'm going to take the rest of the week off and have a little Thanksgiving with my daughters.
O'BRIEN: Yes. Have a great Thanksgiving.
CAFFERTY: See you Monday. Thank you.
O'BRIEN: All right. Yes. All right, take care, Jack.
It's part of the Thanksgiving tradition -- Jeanne Moos looks at how one lucky bird escapes while so many others do not.
O'BRIEN: Let's go to the "Political Ticker," shall we?
It's not quite the new Florida. But in Minnesota, the U.S. Senate recount is getting more challenging by the day. The number of disputed ballots now approaching 3,000. Do they have chads? I don't think so.
About half are being challenged by Republican incumbent Norm Coleman's camp, the other half by Democrat Al Franken's camp. Unofficial results had Coleman leading Franken by all of 215 votes. This recount could continue into next month.
And remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com -- is that it -- CNN.com/politics, I think. The Ticker is the number one political news blog on the Web.
Tomorrow, President Bush will pardon a couple of turkeys. It's an annual Thanksgiving tradition, of course. Those lucky birds won't find themselves stuffed on the table on Thursday. But others are actually being overstuffed.
Jeanne Moos with that.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Snooty turkeys getting the red carpet treatment, staying at the luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington. Being someone else's meal was the last thing on their minds.
(on camera): Room service.
(voice-over): These two get presidential pardons. But pardon us, we're interested in how many other birds you can stuff in a turkey. You've probably heard of turducken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the tur. This is the duck. And this is the in.
MOOS: Deboned chicken and ducks stuffed in a turkey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stick it here.
MOOS: But bone up on this -- the latest dish looks more like an eye chart. Even the experts at Lobels, one of New York's coolest butcher shops, never heard of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turgooduccochiqua.
MOOS: However you say it, it surfaced on the photo exchange Web site Flickr, purporting to be a quail inside a Cornish hen inside a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey inside a goose -- with bacon between layers, hence the unpronounceable word...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turgooduccochiqua.
MOOS: Turkey, goose, duck, Cornish hen, chicken, quail.
(on camera): It's got six birds and a pig. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a partridge in a pear tree.
MOOS (voice-over): Thanksgiving myth or actual delicacy, It provoked comments like "ewwww" and "monstrosity." The caption said it was cooked 12 hours and that the turkey was inside the goose. But in the photo...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That looks like a turkey to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That looks like a turkey to me, also.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a turkey.
MOOS (on camera): Then we have a hoax.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We -- I was wrong somewhere.
MOOS (voice-over): This is starting to feel like a wild goose in a turkey chase.
The Lobel butchers also noted you can't debone a quail. It has too many tiny bones, so it wouldn't make sense to stuff one of them inside, though it's amazing how much fits. The British series, "River Cottage," did what it called a 10 bird roast -- nine birds inside a turkey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like trying to close an overstuffed holiday suitcase.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: The moral of the story -- if it doesn't roll off your tongue...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turgooduccochiqua.
MOOS: ...maybe you shouldn't put it in your mouth.
(on camera): You know, I've got something else we should be putting in there.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
O'BRIEN: Don't eat that one. Don't eat that one. I lost my appetite on that one.
But anyway, we want you to check out our political pod cast. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at CNN.com/situationroom.
I'm Miles O'Brien in THE SITUATION ROOM today for Wolf Blitzer. Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.