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THE SITUATION ROOM
Bill Clinton Donor Secrets Out; "Red Flags" on Obama Nominee; Military Prepares for Inauguration; Kennedy's Powwow Lunch; Greater Than the Great Depression
Aired December 18, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, former President Bill Clinton doing something he's resisted doing for a decade or so -- revealing the identity of hundreds of thousands of donors to his foundation, including many Middle Eastern governments. We have the details.
Do they reveal a potential conflict of interest for his wife should she become secretary of State?
Also, signs of what could grow into an ugly confrontation battle for the man Barack Obama wants to be his attorney general.
Why do some Senate Republicans have issues with Eric Holder?
And the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush now supposedly pleading directly to his country's prime minister for mercy. Details of what he's apparently saying about the incident right now.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
One of the best kept secrets in Washington is finally being revealed. Former President Bill Clinton releasing the names of more than 200,000 donors to his charitable foundation, detailing gifts ranging from just a few dollars to as much as $25 million from foreign governments.
CNN's Dana Bash has been going through all of this for us -- the Clinton Foundation releasing all this information today -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, 2,900 pages of donors were on the Web site -- so much and so much interest that it actually crashed all day as were trying to go into it.
But we did learn that Bill Clinton scored tens of millions for his foundation from big moguls like Bill Gates and famous Hollywood friends like Barbara Streisand.
But it is the massive amounts raised from foreign governments and business executives abroad that are getting the most attention. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BASH (voice-over): As a former president, Bill Clinton broke a decade of secrecy who gave to his foundation to quell concern about conflicts with his wife as secretary of State. Yet many of the tens of millions in donations came from foreign governments Hillary Clinton would deal with as the nation's chief diplomat.
In the Middle East, at least $10 million from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia; between $1 million and $5 million from Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Brunei.
Big ticket donations also came from foreign business executives with keen interest in U.S. policies abroad. For example, Indian businessman Amar Singh, who reportedly lobbied Hillary Clinton for help with nuclear technology, donated between $1 million and $5 million to her husband's foundation -- a revelation that could prove dicey for Clinton as tensions grow between India and Pakistan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Middle East and India are all going to be flashpoints that the next secretary of State is going to have to deal with early in the administration. So this is -- this is not helpful in that regard.
BASH: While a good deal of the donations went to finance the Clinton Presidential Library, Clinton associates emphasize that much of the money donated was for fighting global AIDS and poverty and most of the more than 200,000 donors gave $250 or less.
The former president told CNN earlier this month he hopes transparency proves there's nothing to hide.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Say who the donors are and let people know that there's no connection to the decisions made by America's national security team, including the secretary of State.
BASH: Still, his foundation got at least $10,000 from Blackwater, a controversial company that protects diplomats in Iraq. As secretary of State, his wife would have to decide whether to renew Blackwater's contract.
BASH: Now, earlier this month, Bill Clinton's foundation and the Obama transition signed a carefully negotiated memorandum of understanding. And it laid out the role that he should have should Hillary Clinton actually become secretary of State. You see it on the wall behind me. It was actually circulated to senators on the Foreign Relations Committee today. Of course, that committee will hold confirmation hearings for Hillary Clinton.
We obtained a copy of it. Now, in it, Wolf, Bill Clinton agrees to limit his role in leading and raising money for the foundation. Also, he promises to contact the State Department or, if need be, the White House counsel's office before making any personal speeches or contracts for consulting issues.
BLITZER: Now, legally, he didn't have to do any of this.
BLITZER: But he did it because he wants his wife to be secretary of State...
BASH: He was pulling...
BLITZER: ...potentially there could be a conflict.
But the other living former presidents, as far as I know, Jimmy Carter and George Herbert Walker Bush, they haven't released the names of their -- their contributors to their libraries and their other foundations or whatever.
BASH: Right. It is absolutely an important point that it is not the law, because it is private. And this is completely political, that Bill Clinton is doing this. In fact, you remember, there was a big fight when Hillary Clinton was running for president over whether or not he would release them. They refused all along. Up until this point, you know, he wouldn't do it.
It is noteworthy and it certainly has been pointed out to me by Clinton associates today that there are reports that George H.W. Bush got about a million dollars from the government in Saudi Arabia for -- for his library. So it is not necessarily unusual, but, obviously, this is an incredibly politically and dicey and touchy issue for former presidents.
BLITZER: Yes, I would guess that not just Saudi Arabia, a lot of other countries in the Gulf and the Middle East provided funds for the first President Bush's library in Texas, as well.
BASH: You'd be guessing (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: I wonder if they're going to be under -- feeling any pressure to release the names of all of their donors. They don't have to, but we'll see if they will.
BASH: Not unless somebody gets nominated for something in the future. We'll see.
BLITZER: Yes. That's probably right.
Dana, thanks very much.
BASH: Thank you.
BLITZER: President-Elect Obama's cabinet nominations haven't met strong opposition -- at least until now. But some Senate Republicans are digging for documents about Eric Holder, who's set to become the next attorney general. And that's foreshadowing some possibility of a confirmation battle.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us -- Brian, what's going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Eric Holder's supporters say his track record at the Justice Department is his strength. But anyone who has been on the front lines of America's law enforcement wars for that long will have some episodes to answer for. And the Republicans are teeing up a few of them.
TODD (voice-over): He seemed a natural fit for attorney general with his experience at the very top levels of law enforcement in the government. But Eric Holder now looks like the one Obama cabinet pick Senate Republicans want to pick a fight over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Red flags about Mr. Holder's judgment and independence include his role in securing pardons or clemency for an unrepentant billionaire fugitive tax cheat like Mark Rich.
TODD: Eight Republicans on the Judiciary Committee sent letters to current attorney general and to the Clinton Library pressing for documents on Holder. They want details on Holder's involvement in President Clinton's controversial last minute pardon of financier Mark Rich. Rich's ex-wife had been a big Clinton donor.
Critics charge Holder, as deputy attorney general then, didn't push back hard enough on the pardon. The Obama transition team said Holder was not available to speak with us.
But right after the pardon, Holder admitted...
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: In hindsight, I wish that I had done some things differently with regard to the Mark Rich matters.
TODD: Holder's defenders say Clinton would have issued that pardon regardless of what Holder might have said. But critics have other issues on their agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, Holder has a lot to answer for here not only when it comes to pardons, but also about the Elian raid.
TODD: Holder was Janet Reno's deputy in 2000 when federal agents burst into a Miami house to seize Elian Gonzales so he could be returned to his father and move back to Cuba. Critics charge excessive use of force.
Holder said at the time...
HOLDER: And we had information that there were weapons in the house.
TODD: But senators may also bring up Holder's dealings with political punching bag Rod Blagojevich. A Republican. Senate staffer tells CNN they want to know why Holder omitted information in a questionnaire about an approach the Illinois governor made to him four years ago to vet a questionable casino deal. (END VIDEOTAPE)
TODD: Holder was in private practice at that time. A transition aide tells us the only thing Holder left out of that questionnaire was information about a press conference he had with Blagojevich. The aide says that was an inadvertent omission that will be corrected with senators.
It's worth noting, also, Holder ended up never being hired by Blagojevich for that investigation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So when it boils down, what will be the major sticking point, if there really is a major sticking point, before the committee?
TODD: Well, Republicans seemingly want to paint Holder as someone who will not be independent of the president. They're going to hit hard on the Mark Rich pardon on that front. And they say he's too close to Barack Obama, having served on his vice presidential search team.
Now, a transition aide says Holder can counter that by saying that during the Clinton years, he actually supported expanding Ken Starr's investigation into the Lewinsky matter. And they also say he has prosecuted plenty of Democrats, as well as Republicans.
BLITZER: And he's going to have at least 58 Democrats in the U.S. Senate, as opposed to 41 or 42 Republicans, which will bode well for him during this confirmation process.
TODD: Absolutely. Overall, not expected to really hinder his nomination.
BLITZER: Right. Obviously.
All right. Thanks very much, Brian, for that.
Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The White House continues to drag its feet on a bailout for the automobile industry in the wake of failed attempts to get help from the Congress.
The impasse in Congress came when the United Auto Workers Union refused to agree to wage cuts, you recall.
This morning, President Bush said he still has not decided what to do, but his press secretary later said that he's considering an orderly bankruptcy -- whatever that is.
Of course, the point of the automakers begging for a bailout was to prevent bankruptcy and the collapse of the industry.
Chrysler announced plans to shut all 30 of its manufacturing plants for at least one month, effective tomorrow. Their finance division says it may have to stop making loans to dealers.
Ford had previously announced their own plans to close 10 factories in order to cut back on first quarter production in 2090.
In the meantime, "The Wall Street Journal" reported this morning that G.M. and Chrysler are rethinking the possibility of a merger, although sources told CNN that's not the case.
Here's the question: Is it already too late to save the auto industry in its present form?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and you can post a comment on my blog. I wonder why the White House is poking along here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: BLITZER: Well, they want to do it right.
CAFFERTY: I guess. Yes.
BLITZER: OK, Jack.
A massive military operation getting ready right here in Washington, D.C. . More than 11,000 U.S. troops -- equal to two combat brigades -- will descend on the nation's capital. Some are ceremonial, but most have a job that's much, much more serious. We're going live to the Pentagon.
It's like an episode of "Cops," but in reverse -- real life New Yorkers turning their cameras on police and catching them in action. Wait until you see some of these videos.
And you've heard what the president has to say about the shoe throwing incident in Baghdad. And now you're going to be hearing what that shoe thrower himself is apparently saying -- and it may not be what you think.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The United States military is preparing for a massive operation -- the largest of its kind in at least four years. That would be Barack Obama's inauguration on January 20th, with plans for high ceremony and high security.
Let's go to the Pentagon.
Our correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working the story for us.
So what does the United States military plan for -- Barbara?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, like the U.S. military always does, they have plans for everything -- for every contingency. And they're beginning to undertake some of the final rehearsals for the big day. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right front.
STARR (voice-over): The Army's Fife and Drum Corps is just one of the military's ceremonial units getting ready across the nation's capital for a moment in American history -- the inauguration of Barack Obama.
MASTER SGT. JOSHUA DUKES, ARMY FIFE AND DRUM CORPS: We've got one -- one reason to be out there. And that's to march and to bring the president down the street.
STARR: As construction continues on Capitol Hill on the inaugural platform, the military is assembling more than 11,000 troops. Five thousand will be on ceremonial duty. All told, that's the equivalent of more than two combat brigades in Iraq. The preparations are as meticulous as war. Planners rolled out this 40 foot wide map to plot every move that day.
TOM GROPPEL, ARMED FORCES INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: We are very concerned about just being able to get to work and get a 15,000 person parade in town, 240 horses in town, numerous floats in town.
STARR: More than 2,000 police will be on hand for the capacity crowd of more than two million people expected on the National Mall. The Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI will all have a massive security presence. Behind the scenes, the U.S. military will also be on high alert.
GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, in an event of this kind of national and international significance, everyone in this building wants to make sure we are doing all we can to ensure that it is as safe and secure as possible.
STARR: And what will the military do, Wolf?
There will be thousands of National Guard troops on duty here in Washington; emergency medical teams; military, chemical and biological warfare units; and, of course, there will be fighter jets patrolling the skies over Washington. This will be a day of ceremony, but also a day to stand guard.
BLITZER: Yes. We would expect nothing less.
Thanks very much.
Barbara is at the Pentagon.
And just one day after publicly stating her interest, Caroline Kennedy is now taking new action toward trying to secure an appointment to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat and explaining what she can bring to the job.
Let's go to Mary Snow.
She's in New York working the story.
What is Caroline Kennedy doing on this day -- Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Caroline Kennedy has been touring the state today. It took her to New York City. She's been meeting with leaders. She's pointed out it's not a campaign, but many consider it the non-campaign campaign.
SNOW (voice-over): A crush of cameras greeted Caroline Kennedy in Harlem. This stop, a pow-wow with the Reverend Al Sharpton at Sylvia's -- a famous New York soul food restaurant that's hosted many a politician, including the Clintons and President-Elect Barack Obama. It comes one day after Kennedy has visited three cities in Upstate New York. She's famous for avoiding reporters, but fielded a few questions in Harlem, such as why she wants to be a senator.
CAROLINE KENNEDY, DAUGHTER OF JOHN F. KENNEDY: You know, I come as a mother, as a lawyer, as an author, as an education advocate and, you know, from a family that really has spent generations in public service. And I feel this commitment. This is a time when nobody can afford to sit out. And I hope that I have something to offer.
SNOW: Kennedy has been drawing both attention and criticism. Some Democrats question her qualifications and experience compared to about a dozen other contenders. She was asked what she'll need to learn.
KENNEDY: I have, you know, quite a bit to learn, but I feel like I bring, you know, a lot with me, as well.
SNOW: Kennedy and Sharpton made a point of saying they respect Governor David Patterson's process of appointing a replacement for Hillary Clinton -- assuming she become secretary of State. But Sharpton praised Kennedy and so has New York mayor, Mike Bloomberg -- although he refused to say on ABC's "The View" whether he backs her personally, even though one of his aides is pushing hard to get Kennedy chosen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: No. I should stay out of this race. It's up to Governor Paterson. He's lucky to have a number of different candidates. I was asked about Caroline Kennedy. She's very competent. She's done a lot for New York City.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Critics say all the attention on her could backfire. Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf, who once worked for Bill Clinton, does not think she should be chosen.
HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There are a lot of Democrats who aren't happy about this. Frankly, why go outside the home team when there's a lot of good players here?
SNOW: Now, Kennedy was asked about her political philosophy. She said she's a Kennedy Democrat, a Clinton Democrat and named Senator Charles Schumer and Barack Obama as leaders whose values she shares -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens.
First, Hillary Clinton has to be confirm by the U.S. Senate. And then we'll know who would succeed her. And it's all up in the hands of one guy, as Mary said, the governor, David Paterson.
The last time a New York governor had to fill a vacant seat was back in 1968, when Caroline Kennedy's uncle, Robert Kennedy, was assassinated. Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller took three months to appoint someone to fill the remainder of Kennedy's term. His choice, GOP Congressman Charles Goodel -- Goodell, that is -- of Upstate New York. But last -- but two years later, Goodell lost his bid for a full Senate term to Conservative Party candidate James Buckley.
President Bush describes the moment he decided that he decided the government need to take action fast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After a month of, you know, every weekend where they were calling and saying we've got to do this for AIG or this for Fannie and Freddie, he came in and said the financial markets are completely frozen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But did he get it right?
That, plus why he says he feels an obligation right now to Barack Obama.
Plus, it looks like a home video of a truck full. But this is a major drug operation. And wait until you hear where this is taking place -- the exclusive video you can't see anywhere else.
And a shark tank right next to a resort swimming pool. What could go wrong? Guess what? A lot -- and it wasn't pretty.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's the latest.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, again, Wolf. Well, more unrest today in Greece. Riot police and angry demonstrators clashed in the streets of central Athens today. The protesters broke off from a rally and began throwing red paint, rocks and firebombs at police. Police responded with tear gas and flash grenades. The rioting is the latest to erupt in the wake of a police shooting of a teenager earlier in the month.
And federal money in this country -- the regulators have given the go-ahead to a crackdown on controversial credit card practices. And it includes a number of protections for consumers. The new rule prohibits banks from practices such as double cycle billing, prematurely raising rates on pre-existing balances and applying payments in ways that maximize interest penalties. It has been approved by some federal oversight bodies. The regulation is expected to take effect by July of 2010.
And if your organization or facility has the right stuff, NASA might just sell you a shuttle. The space agency is floating the idea with museums, schools and other institutions. It sent a letter out to gauge interest and to find out the ability to house either Atlantis Discovery or Endeavour. All three spacecraft will be retired in 2010, but it won't be cheap. NASA's sales price -- $42 million each.
And a freak accident at Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. According to TMZ.com, a shark in the resort's aquarium somehow crossed over from its tank and onto a water slide nearby. Well, it managed to slide down into the pool. Well, the good thing -- no one was actually in the pool at the time, so no one was actually in danger. But the story turned tragic for the shark, Wolf. It died in the pool after swimming, of course, in that chlorinated water -- something it's not used to and it apparently can't tolerate.
All right. It could have been worse.
WHITFIELD: It was a scary moment.
BLITZER: If there would have been kids in that pool...
BLITZER: Then yes, that would have been bad.
All right, Fred.
BLITZER: Two big trucks, a ramp and an ingenious amount of smugglers -- the exclusive video you won't be seeing anywhere else. You're going to find out about the high security area these guys were trying to get around.
And Michelle Obama getting a ton of attention -- but could missteps be blown out of proportion?
Donna Brazile and Tucker Eskew, they're standing by live. We'll discuss.
And a police officer caught on tape throwing a man off a bicycle, leading to all sorts of legal problems -- and he's not alone. Police -- the new stars of the Internet. We'll tell you what's going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, he says it clearly and often -- depression. And he says he didn't want it to be the product of his presidency. President Bush's remarks today shedding new light on the reasons behind his administration's landmark economic bailout. Stand by.
It was installed to keep them out, but drug smugglers have been getting through the border fence between Mexico and the U.S. anyway. We're going to show you how they're doing it.
And it was the shoe toss heard around the world. It was also seen. Now the man who threw his footwear at President Bush apparently -- reportedly -- appealing for mercy.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Bush is defending the historic government intervention in the U.S. economy, saying the country was facing -- and I'm quoting now -- "something greater than the Great Depression."
CNN's Christine Romans is looking at the story for us.
So what else is the president saying -- Christine?
That's pretty amazing.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, for a sitting president to say something like that about the economy, Wolf.
He's also saying he moved hard -- he moved and moved hard, he said, to prevent something truly terrible. And he revealed harrowing days this fall with the Fed chief and the Treasury secretary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: He came in and said the financial markets are completely frozen. And if we don't do something about it, it is conceivable we will see a depression greater than the Great Depression.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: And then he said it again -- greater than the Great Depression. And he said he didn't want to be the president when it started and he didn't want to hand it to the next president.
But wait. Just one year and one day ago, he was only grudgingly admitting that there was anything wrong at all in the econom
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There's definitely some storm clouds and concerns. But the underpinning is good. And we'll work our way through this period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: Think of that in just 366 days from storm clouds to the prospect of something greater than the great depression, Wolf.
BLITZER: Amazing. But ever really facing something greater than the great depression? Because those of us who have read the history books remember the shanty towns, the 125 percent unemployment, something worse than that?
ROMANS: Economists I spoke with today said no, a severe recession definitely, a depression, maybe. Harvard economist Ken Rogoff said the doomsday scenario today would be more like 12 to 13 percent unemployment. That's no where near the 25 percent unemployment of the 1930s. There are stabilizers like unemployment insurance and other things that would prevent anything like the great depression and certainly something greater than the great depression he said is very, very unlikely.
BLITZER: Most agree what we're facing right now is the worst economic crisis since the great depression, right?
ROMANS: That's absolutely right.
BLITZER: Christine Romans, thank you.
Let's get more now on what the president said. We'll turn to our political contributor, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican strategist Tucker Eskew advisor to the McCain Palin campaign. I'm going to play another clip of what the president said today, Donna, and all of us will discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I was in the Roosevelt room, and Chairman Bernanke and Secretary Paulson, after a month of, you know, every weekend where they were calling and said we've got to do this for AIG or this for Fannie and Freddie came in and said the financial markets are completely frozen. And if we don't do something about it, it is conceivable we will see a depression greater than the great depression. And I analyzed that and decided I didn't want to be the president during a depression greater than the great depression or the beginning of a depression greater than the great depression so we moved and moved hard. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And then he went on to say this Donna, I feel an obligation to my successor. I thought about what it would be like for me to become president during this period. I have, I believe, that good policy is not to dump him a major catastrophe on his first day in office. So he clearly feels a sense of responsibility to the president-elect.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, at this point, the president-elect needs to have all of the ideas on the table and what he needs from the outgoing president is some help and support on the stimulus package. We know that President-Elect Obama is looking at a very broad stimulus package and what he needs right now is the president to say you know what, buddy, before I leave office I'm going to work the phone and make sure you have the support on the Republican side.
BLITZER: His immediate need, the president of the United States, is to do something about two of the three big automakers.
TUCKER ESKEW, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Big problems. The president that currently sits in that job though remembers the words he spoke in 2000, Wolf, his acceptance speech as president said I will confront problems and not hand them off to others. He took that charge very seriously. He's also thinking about his place in history. He wants to do everything he can with the powers of the presidency. I see this office still having consequence in its final days even in his weakened state. That consequence is controversial. He'll be challenged on this, including from fellow Republicans.
BLITZER: What you're saying Donna is in this final month that President Bush has in office, there's stuff that he should be doing right now that presumably would make Barack Obama's life on day one a little bit easier?
BRAZILE: Absolutely, Wolf. We've known for months now that the country's been in some recession. We've seen unemployment rising. We've seen the number of people filing bankruptcy, foreclosures, the number of children going into poverty. I don't know why they had their heads in the sand for so long. But he has 32 days and some of us are counting to try to get it right so that President-Elect Obama will not inherit all the mess.
BLITZER: Were you as stunned as I was to hear the president say that he was told by these top economic advisors we're facing something along the lines of the great depression?
ESKEW: It helps explain to Republicans how we have a bailout package and it has been named that of $700 billion, a figure of just incredible enormity. To Donna's point, let's not forget they are working very closely in this transition. I've had Democrats tell me they've never seen such a degree of cooperation. It's actually making the transition team for the Democrats a little work harder than they might have had to otherwise. BLITZER: I saw you quoted today in "USA Today" on Michelle Obama, she's got an enormous challenge ahead of her, as well, the incoming first lady.
BRAZILE: Most Americans are inspired by Barack Obama but many of us are also inspired by Michelle Obama. She is in the words of Maya Angelo, a phenomenal woman, a success story, of course. She is the daughter, great, great granddaughter of former slaves. She's a remarkable woman. She's a mother and she will open the White House to military families to women from all backgrounds. I am looking forward to the first lady as well as the first black president, as well.
BLITZER: It's going to be an enormous amount of pressure on her. If she makes a mistake, or whatever, the whole world will be watching.
ESKEW: I hope the world will cut her some break. She follows on the heels of a wonderful first lady. She does have a high mark to hit. But she has a great deal of potential to hit it and even exceed it in some ways I'm sure.
BRAZILE: I want to say that all our first ladies have been truly remarkable women and Michelle also be a remarkable first lady.
BLITZER: We've been blessed with excellent first ladies. Go ahead.
ESKEW: Some have done better at avoiding the policy thickets while still wading into policy sometimes. Laura Bush has done that on about your marks women's rights internationally and education.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much.
BRAZILE: Human rights, she has been good on human rights.
BLITZER: She certainly has.
If you've heard about "The Da Vinci Code," you're going to want to see this. The hidden drawings unveiled by new technology behind a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. You don't want to miss this one coming up.
But first, police officers busy solving crimes are winding up on the internet instead, unwilling stars on the tube. Is it getting in the way?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Drug smugglers have found some ingenious new ways to get themselves across the border and it's all caught on video. Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has the exclusive pictures -- Jeanne? JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Bush administration has completed 500 miles of border fence. It is proud of it. But exclusive new video obtained by CNN shows how resourceful drug smugglers are finding a way around it.
MESERVE (voice-over): Video from the cell phone of an alleged Mexican drug dealer tells the story. A truck drives up a Gerri rigged ramp over another truck and over part of the new border fence into the United States. The fence is meant to keep vehicles and people out of the country. But the border patrol is seeing this technique used more and more by people trying to circumvent it. This video from border patrol cameras near Douglas, Arizona captured another incident last May.
Two vehicles come over the fence from Mexico. When occupants realize law enforcement is in the area, they bee lined back to the fence. You see them throwing bales of drugs back across the border to Mexico. The flashes are automatic weapons fire to keep law enforcement at bay. Though the smugglers set one of the vehicles on fire to hide evidence, the patrol seized marijuana.
Other smugglers smuggle drugs in ultralight motorized gliders. This one crashed killing the pilot. Another landed safely with bales of marijuana strapped to the undercarriage. Longtime critics of the fence aren't surprised.
ALI NOORANI, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION FORUM: These pictures are a perfect example of everything that is wrong with the border fence. It is expensive. It is ineffective. And it does not keep us any safer.
MESERVE: But government officials say smugglers are endlessly resourceful even risking their lives in semi submersibles to get drugs into the U.S. The secretary of homeland security argues that the fence at the very least slows law breakers down giving the border patrol time to respond.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Any police chief no matter how good doesn't eliminate all crime in their city. But if they can reduce the crime 50, 75 percent that, its a magnificent accomplishment. That's what we're doing here.
MESERVE: It costs an estimated $3 million to build a mile of fence and with 670 miles planned, that's a total cost of more than 2 billion. Whether or not the investment is worth it depends on which side of the ideological fence are you on. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thank you.
Busted on the internet. We're not talking about criminals. We're talking about cops who are increasingly becoming YouTube celebrities whether they like it or not. Let's go straight to CNN's Deborah Feyerick. She is working the story for us. We're talking maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of folks watching this out on there on the web.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Imagine if there had been video cell phones at the time of the Rodney King beating by police in Los Angeles. Not only would there be one video seen around the world, chances are there would have been dozens from multiple angles, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're supposed to enforce the law, not break the law.
FEYERICK (voice-over): In a world where cameras seem to be everywhere -- and video can be watched again and again and again, police officers are becoming instant YouTube entries of sorts. Instead of pop stars, they're cop stars for better or worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no parking anytime. But you went into the bank to use the ATM machine.
FEYERICK: This video was seen almost 70,000,000 times. The officer who parked at a hydrant near a fire viewed nearly 372,000 times. The bike video is poised to hit the 2 million mark. The officer in that incident recently pleading not guilty to assault. Enter search words, police breaking the law, dozens of video pop up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a reaction to the unfair system here in New York City.
FEYERICK: Self-styled police vigilante Jimmy Justice has shot several gotcha cop videos. The New York City's police commissioner says officers know by now it's a way of life.
CHIEF RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPT.: Everybody seems to have a cell phone. At least half can take pictures. Police officers are aware of that. Does it alter behavior or change behavior? Probably. Overall, it's a good thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the internet, I'm going to break the camera over your face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They already did that last week. They already busted my camera last week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's they?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking pictures.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you learned your lesson then.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not against the law or nothing. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not against the law but I'd prefer you didn't.
KATHY O'REILLY, LYCOS.COM: Any type of video content that's controversial, that's humorous, that's horrific, anything you're not necessarily going to see on mainstream TV, that becomes hugely popular, it becomes very, very viral.
FEYERICK: Now, of course, taping becomes a problem if it interferes in an officer's ability to do his job. On the whole, police commissioner Kelly says it's a good thing because some videos have helped solve crimes and the NYPD has a hotline where people can send videos. Maybe that traffic cop you saw who parked at the hydrant during a fire will think twice.
BLITZER: I think Ray Kelly makes a good point. All right. Thanks very much, Deb, for that.
He's the artist who designed "Time" magazine's eye-catching cover of its person of the year. That would be the President-Elect Barack Obama. Shepard Fairey's posters of Obama became an iconic symbol of the Democrat's campaign and in our just in time segment, he's talking about how he drew inspiration. Take and a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHEPARD FAIREY, ARTIST: The original hope poster. Symbols are very powerful and once this image was out there, it made people feel moral comfortable and confident about being vocal about their support for Obama. I think that did have a profound effect. Exactly how much I can't say. I have always made art about people empowering themselves and saying that you don't have to have corporate backing or fund or be somebody that you know, should be powerful in society to do something that makes a difference. And you know, here we go. That's a perfect example of something that was created very humbly having made a powerful journey. It may be the defining image of my career, of my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It may be. All right.
It seems like everyone has something to say about that shoe- throwing incident. Now apparently the shoe thrower himself is chiming in on the toss seen around the world.
And a secret drawing hidden for centuries behind a masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci has now been revealed.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: He caused a worldwide sensation. Now the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush in Baghdad is apparently making an urgent appeal. CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is in Baghdad following the latest developments -- Jill?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush the other day is now reportedly asking for leniency from the prime minister. A spokesman for Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki tells CNN that the journalist sent a hand-written letter to the prime minister asking for leniency and described what he did as "the great ugly act that I perpetrated." He is also asking for the fatherly compassion of the prime minister.
The journalist's brother is rejecting that. He doubts that any such letter was sent. He said that if his brother had wanted to apologize, he wouldn't have thrown the shoes in the first place. Now the prime minister's spokesman says that since the case is open, it is too early to be talking about any pardon, and that the family and the colleagues of the journalist are now planning a demonstration in his support for Friday here in Baghdad -- Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Jill, thank you.
The Louvre is making a fascinating discovery reminiscent of the Da Vinci Code. Our internet reporter Abbi Tatton is looking at this story. It's amazing. What's going on?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, it is 500 years since Leonardo Da Vinci painted this painting here, the virgin and child with St. Anne but until now nobody looked on the back. They found three mysterious sketches about the size of your hand barely visible to the naked eye. We will put them up and enhance them for you so you can see. With infrared cameras you can see what we are talking about. Bring in the camera here. This is the first one here. And if you can make it out the Louvre is saying that it is a horse's head, and you can make out his nose there. They are saying that the mouth is open, but I can't see that one myself. This is one that is easier to see. This is a skull or at least half a skull. You can see an eye socket, and a jaw at the bottom, and the third one, the smallest sketch of all and maybe the most mysterious and this one the Louvre is saying an image of baby Jesus.
The museum is saying today in a release today that a curator happened to be examining the back of the pictures and came across these, and made the discovery and now a panel of experts is looking into this to figure out whether these are sketches from Da Vinci himself.
BLITZER: Any secret messages in these sketches?
TATTON: Well, fans of the Da Vinci Vode would like to hear that, but the Louvre is pointing out if you look at the sketches on the back and look at his other works, there are resemblances, so probably safer to say he was practice org warming up a little bit.
BLITZER: Safe to say. Thanks Abbi very much.
Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Is it already too late to save the auto industry in the present form?
Dave in Ohio says: "No, it is not too late yet, but it will be if Bush persists in this managed bankruptcy madness. Do these ideologues bent on breaking the unions not understand that nobody, repeat nobody will buy a car from a company in bankruptcy no matter how managed it may be?"
Tom in Maine writes: "I hope so, because we want the auto industry to be what we have been demanding for 30 years, one that's environmentally, strategically and socially responsible. That is not what we have right now. We have a monster dreamed up by big oil and created in the lab of the lobbyists."
Ron in San Diego: "I don't think it is too late, however, there should be good visibility as to how they are going the make change, and there should be tight government control over how they proceed. I think that the current CEOs and CFOs need to step down before any government assistance is handed out."
Anthony in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey: "Yes, it is a good thing. The industry failed to be proactive and failed to adjust to the times. It saw profit over doing the right thing and now that the ship is sunk they want help, I don't think. So the auto industry needs to start from the beginning with new people and new ideas."
And Ralph in Washington writes, "This is why the president is probably delaying, the Katrina syndrome where he passes the buck, ignores the problem or blames others for his failure. How would you like to be in the history books as the one who destroyed General Motors? It is completely irresponsible behavior and typical of George W. Bush."
Finally: "It will be too late," from Kathy, "By the time that the president makes any kind of decision. If Hank Paulson can be given a blank check for the old company why can't the carmakers have $15 billion? The answer is in the attempt to break the unions to keep people in wages that they can stay in their homes and the benefits that the companies are eliminating. If these companies fail, it will take the economy over the edge it is teetering on right now."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/Caffertyfile and look for yours among hundreds of others -- Wolf?
BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Jack. Thank you.
Investigators want to know how could one man supposedly pull off a $50 billion scam? They are taking a closer look now at Bernard Madoff's family and friends.
Plus, new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about Barack Obama's cabinet picks. He is just about done filling all of the posts. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Condoleezza Rice has a warning for president-elect Barack Obama. Let's go to State Department correspondent Zain Verjee -- Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that terrorism is at the top of the national security list.
VERJEE: Four weeks until the Obama administration takes control of national security, and Condoleezza Rice warns of a double threat, terrorism, and public complacency.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We as a country have become a bit allured to the threat of terrorism and 9/11 has faded in the memory, and we can't allow that to happen.
VERJEE: So you want to warn Americans --
RICE: Well, I don't want Americans to feel the way they did on September 12th, but there needs to be enough support from the political system as a whole and from Americans as a whole to recognize that this is not a battle that we have yet won. We have done a great deal of damage to al Qaeda, but al Qaeda is still an organization that is dangerous.
VERJEE: Do you worry with the economy the way it is, that the focus is on the economy and that could distract from the more serious security threats that may be flying under the radar now?
RICE: Oh, I know that the security team for President-Elect Obama will be absolutely focused on what they need to do on the security side. It takes vigilance, and yet, I know that every day that the terrorists only have to be right once and we have to be right 100 percent of the time and it is not a fair fight.
VERJEE: Secretary Rice says there are terrorists still plotting every single day to attack the U.S. -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Thank you, Zain.
We will check in with Lou. He's got a show coming up in one hour. Are we becoming overly complacent on the whole issue of terrorism, Lou?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I don't know that anyone is complacent, but it has receded into the backdrop of the economy crisis, Wolf, that has captured everyone's interest and cost literally millions of our fellow Americans their jobs. Its importance is critical to stave off, but we leave here after more than seven years after September 11th and the borders are wide open and only five percent of the cargo entering the country is inspected. We have a host of issues confronting the nation that we have not begun to honestly address in public debate and dialogues. And, yes, among them, terrorism, but the damage we are doing to ourselves is rising to levels approaching that of the goals and aims of radical Islamist terrorists around the world.
BLITZER: Lou is going to have more on this story coming up in an hour. See you then, Lou. Thank you.
DOBBS: You got a deal.