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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Obama at Pentagon; House Nears Vote on Economic Rescue; Governor Blagojevich's Request; Interview With Jimmy Carter

Aired January 28, 2009 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Obama gets an earful from the military brass about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This hour, the commander in chief is over at the Pentagon. He's working on new marching orders for the troops.

We're about to hear from President Obama. Stand by for that.

Plus, a perilous moment for the U.S. economy. Right now, the House of Representatives is nearing a vote on a massive recovery package. And the president warns, there isn't a moment to spare.

And Jimmy Carter says Dick Cheney got it wrong. In my interview with the former president, he rejects a direct comparison between the economic problems on his watch and the economic crisis unfolding now.

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

Right now, President Obama's over at the Pentagon, and he plans to shift U.S. forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. Those plans front and center. He's getting ready to speak.

We'll hear what he has to say at the Pentagon. Stand by for that.

America's wars are less prominent on the political radar perhaps right now, now that the economy is in such a mess. But the president of the United States knows that when it comes to the fate of U.S. troops, he has a campaign promise, at least several of them, to keep.

Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence. He's working the story for us.

What's going on right now, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, right now, the president is inside the secure briefing room with the Joint Chiefs and Admiral Michael Mullen, the head of the Joint Chiefs. This was his opportunity to fulfill one of his campaign promises, which was to put the decision-makers in the same room with him and allow them to express their viewpoints freely with no filter.

We expect that both Iraq and Afghanistan will both come up in this conversation, as well as some general business of the military -- how the deployments are wearing on some of the troops, some of the deployments, the equipment, things like that could all come up. This will be a free-ranging discussion. Nothing specific like the one he had last week that only focused on Iraq. We know that there are plans being made to add to the troop levels in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates talked about that yesterday when speaking with Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY; Should the president make the decision to -- the final decision to deploy additional brigades to Afghanistan, we could have two of these brigades there probably by late spring, and potentially a third by mid-summer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: We expect the president to be wrapping up in the next 30 minutes or so. And military analysts say beyond the nuts and bolts of this, coming to their turf is a sign of respect to some of the military leaders here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I'm sure that's what he wants to convey as well.

Now, they will let television cameras into that secure briefing room -- it's called The Tank -- when, as he's wrapping up the session, we'll hear from the president at that point? Is that right, Chris?

LAWRENCE: That's right. We expect there to be a big photo-op, a big preplanned opportunity for him to walk the line with about 100 enlisted members, and then make some brief remarks.

BLITZER: And will that be live or will we get videotape of that?

LAWRENCE: Videotape, Wolf.

BLITZER: Videotape that we'll be able to show our viewers afterward.

All right. We'll stand by for that.

Chris Lawrence is over at the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill right now, the debate continues, and it is a fierce debate, over the president's plan to jump-start the U.S. economy. The House of Representatives nearing a vote on that massive $825 billion recovery package supported by the president and the Democratic leadership. Critics though asking some very, very tough questions about where all that money is going.

Let's go to our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

All right. First of all, Dana, what time do we expect this vote, this roll call on the floor of the House?

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We expect it, Wolf, between 6:00 and 7:00 Eastern Time. But as you know, times can be a little fluid here on Capitol Hill when it comes to voting.

But you know, this is an enormous economic bill, $500 billion-plus in spending, nearly $300 billion in tax cuts. And it is very much expected to pass the House, but, you know, that vigorous debate and division over the details, that's just getting started.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Barack Obama will be victorious in the first major test of his plan to heal the ailing economy.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We are passing historic legislation that honors the promises our new president made from the steps of the Capitol, promises to make the future better for our children and our grandchildren.

BASH: But the president's promise to end polarizing partisanship in Washington, not yet. Not even close.

REP. JOHN CULBERSON (R), TEXAS: This 647-page bill represents one of the worst abuses of power I think that we've probably ever seen.

BASH: Moderate Republicans like Mark Kirk, from an Illinois district Mr. Obama won big, can't support an $825 billion bill he calls a social grab bag of excess spending.

REP. MARK KIRK (R), ILLINOIS: The president remains very popular. I like him, but up on Capitol Hill, details matter. And some of these details don't pass muster.

BASH: Details like $355 million for education on sexually transmitted diseases; $650 million for digital TV coupons; and $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Democrats who wrote the bill insist those projects do have economic benefits.

REP. DAVID OBEY (D), APPROPRIATIONS CHAIRMAN: People ask, well, what does funding for the arts have anything to do with jobs? It's very simple. People in the arts field are losing their jobs just like anybody else.

REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: I'm trying to work my way through this 647-page monster here.

BASH: But even some conservative Democrats like Jim Cooper call this economic plan a nightmare filled with pork barrel projects and blames his own Democratic leaders.

COOPER: And here we are in the first week of the most exciting new presidency in a half-century, and the old bulls are back trying to conduct business as usual.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, the House speaker insists that that congressman is "simply wrong," and she said that this bill will "guarantee to create jobs and transform the nation's infrastructure."

And Wolf, the reality is that the Obama administration is emphasizing over and over again that this vote that will take place in just a couple of hours in the House is just the first step, and it will likely change, especially the debate over some of these controversial aspects of the stimulus plan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point, Dana. All right. We'll stay in close touch with you as they get closer and closer to that roll call on the House floor.

Stand by.

By the way, here's a little more of a break down of what's in the House version of the economic rescue package being voted on in the next couple hours.

The Congressional Budget Office says more than $200 billion would go to tax cuts. More than $240 billion would be spent directly by the federal government. And the biggest chunk of the money, more than $350 billion, would go to federal agencies or local governments that could spend the money as they choose.

Most of those funds would go to the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. A total of more than $90 billion. By contrast, the Defense Department would get just under $5 billion, and the Department of Homeland Security, a little more than $1 billion.

Again, that's what's in the House version. Final language after it goes through the Senate, and a joint House/Senate conference committee likely to be pretty different. We'll watch what's going on.

In the meantime, let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He has "The Cafferty File."

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Politico calls it "The love affair that wasn't meant to be." They're talking about President Obama and congressional Republicans. Republicans are still whining about being shut out of the crafting of the stimulus bill, much as they shut out Democrats from the crafting of legislation when they controlled Congress.

The president has been trying to smooth things over behind closed doors. He even said late yesterday that he'd be willing to make some changes in order to address some Republican concerns. For one thing, he instructed Democrats to remove the hundreds of millions of dollars for contraception that was part of the stimulus package, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi depended just the day before. I don't know why that makes me giggle, but it does.

The GOP has been careful not to criticize the new president because everybody's in love with him at the moment. Perhaps they know where to draw the line. But it doesn't mean they can't complain about Nancy Pelosi. And they are, and they do.

This is not the first time Madame Speaker has been the subject of criticism. And not just from Republicans either. Some in her own party are less than thrilled with her performance as well. There is a quality about Nancy Pelosi that, in the humble opinion of this reporter, for want of a better word, is just plain annoying.

Here's the question: Would President Obama's life be easier without Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House?

Go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty.

All right. Thank you.

Remember, we're waiting for the president of the United States. He's meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff over at the Pentagon right now in that secure area, that briefing room known as The Tank. He's going to be speaking to reporters. Our cameras are inside.

Stand by. We're going to hear what he's saying. This is his first visit over to the Pentagon since taking office.

Another president of the United States, this one a former president, Jimmy Carter, he took a lot of hits for the way he handled the economy back when he was in office. Now he's telling President Obama to learn from his mistakes. Carter's advice, that's coming up. My brand new interview with Jimmy Carter.

Plus, Iran's president sends a harsh new message to President Obama demanding an apology from the United States.

And later, a mini White House, complete with an Oval Office, it can be yours if you have a few million dollars to spend.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Take a look at these pictures over here. This certainly looks like the White House that we're familiar with. Guess what? It's not.

This one on the right, it is the White House. You see the snow outside. The live picture coming in from the White House.

So what is this building and why does somebody want to sell it for millions of dollars right now?

Stand by. We've got information you need to know.

There's been a significant development in the case of the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, and the impeachment trial that's going on in Springfield, Illinois, right now.

Let's go out to Springfield. Our correspondent Susan Roesgen is standing by.

What has just been announced, Susan? SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if you can believe this, the state Senate president, John Cullerton, just announced to the whole group that Governor Rod Blagojevich now says he wants to speak to the state Senate. After saying he would not come here, and talking to all the national television shows, he now says that he wants to come here and give what he calls a closing argument to the state Senate.

Now, John Cullerton, the Senate president, said because he wants to do that and he does not want to be cross-examined by the other senators, he's given the prosecutor in this case, David Ellis -- the prosecutor 30 minutes to come back with a recommendation as to whether or not the governor should be allowed to speak, and then the full state Senate here will vote on it.

Incredible turn of events here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up in the next hour.

Susan, thanks very much.

Susan Roesgen is watching all of this unfold, the impeachment trial of Rod Blagojevich in Springfield, Illinois.

There are very few people in the world who completely understand the enormous pressure President Obama is facing right now. But I sat down with one of them, and he's offering the president of the United States some words of advice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. He has a brand new book entitled "We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work."

Congratulations, Mr. President, on writing this book.

JIMMY CARTER, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll talk about it shortly, but let's talk about some of the major issues facing the country right now. Nothing apparently more important than the economy.

CARTER: Right.

BLITZER: It's pretty bad right now. The president of the United States has suggested it's the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. A lot of people believe that.

And I mentioned that point to the former vice president, Dick Cheney, when I recently interviewed him in an exit interview, and he said, not so fast. Listen to what he said.

CARTER: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think certainly if you look at some earlier periods in our history -- I remember back in the late '70s, we had a high rate of inflation, stagflation, in effect, and high rate of unemployment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You were president in the late '70s. He's referring to the bad economic situation then.

Was it that bad then as it is right now?

CARTER: No, not at all. There was not a crisis. That was a very bad international situation because Iraq invaded Iran, and the world lost all the oil that had been coming out of both those countries.

So inflation was rampant, and it was bad, but it wasn't a crisis like this, with very high unemployment and the prospects in the future very bad. And also, with the banks failing and major corporations going under, and an untold numbers of unemployed. And I think by the end of this year, we'll probably see the unemployment rate go up...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Because I remember interest rates were really high at the end of your term, too.

CARTER: They were. They were.

BLITZER: And inflation was a real serious concern.

CARTER: It was. It was that way all over the world, as a matter of fact. Inflation was very high.

But it was not a good economic situation then. But I remember as a child, the adverse affects of the Great Depression, and that was terrible. The unemployment rate got up to 25 percent or more. In Georgia, it was 35 percent. But now, this is the worst, by far, since the Great Depression.

BLITZER: You think much worse than what you experienced in the late '70s?

CARTER: Oh, yes.

BLITZER: So what advice do you have for the new president as far as the economy is concerned? Knowing the experience you had in the '70s, what do you think he needs to do first and foremost right now?

CARTER: Well, I think the first thing, generically speaking, is to tell the Americans the truth as best he understands it. You don't mislead us in any way. Let us all share in the sacrifices that have to be made. Let us get prepared maybe for an even higher unemployment rate by the end of this year, and stick to his guns as what he comes up with as the best approach to a stimulus package. Don't let the Republicans deter him. Don't back down too much. Stick with it and take advantage of the fact that the American people have turned to the Democrats to bring us out of this mess.

BLITZER: He's got a significant majority in both houses of Congress.

Is there anything you did that you want him to avoid doing? Any advice in terms of mistakes you may have made?

CARTER: Well, don't let two nations go to war and cut off all their oil supplies for the whole world.

BLITZER: But it wasn't as if the United States could have stopped that.

CARTER: I know that. I know. But that was something -- that was the main thing that happened.

But there was 20 percent inflation rate in Japan, all over Europe, and so forth, back in those days. And it was primarily because there was a tremendous drop in the supply of oil, and oil prices went high. In fact, oil prices went higher in real terms. That is real solid dollars, even than it did this past year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. We're only just getting started with the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. We spoke extensively. Much more of the interview coming up today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including on what's going on in the Middle East right now, especially Iran as well.

Stand by. More of the interview coming up. I think you'll be interested to hear what he has to say.

We're also awaiting President Obama. He's getting ready to speak to reporters over at the Pentagon. His first time at the Pentagon meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Lots of issues on the agenda.

Stand by. We'll have coverage of the president of the United States meeting with the military brass.

Also, some top Democrats, they're pretty angry right now at Rush Limbaugh and his remark, that he hopes President Obama fails -- fails if he wants to enact socialism programs here in the United States. Wait until your hear what some of these Democrats are doing about that and more.

And Al Gore is finding Washington a warmer place for his warning cry about global warming.

Stay with us. Lots happening today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK) BLITZER: By the way, in my interview today with the former president, Jimmy Carter, I asked him to respond to this statement from Ahmadinejad that the United States should apologize to Iran for 60 years of crimes and all of that.

Listen to what Jimmy Carter told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARTER: There's no question that the president of Iran is the most irresponsible blabbermouth in the world. You know, you can't put any credence in what he says. But I'm sure they don't consider that I attacked Iran when they captured American hostages and held them for more than a year. I mean, that wasn't an attack by America.

BLITZER: I assume you'd like to see them apologize to you for what they did to the United States.

CARTER: No, I'm not looking for that. But you know, after the revolutionary government took over in Iran, then I immediately established diplomatic relations with them to keep open avenues of conversation and communication.

All right. The former president of the United States speaking with me earlier.

And there's no doubt that you're going to want to hear more of this interview coming up. He also has some specific advice as a parent who raised a little girl in the White House for President Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama. You're going to want to hear more of this interview with Jimmy Carter. A lot more coming up on the Middle East as well.

Remember, we're also standing by to go to the Pentagon. President Obama is meeting with the Joint Chiefs right now. We'll hear what he is saying, we'll bring you his remarks as soon as we get them.

Stand by for that.

It's a crisis affecting you, and at the center of President Obama's first major test, fixing the economy. Wait until you hear the president's sense of urgency and call for immediate action.

And one Republican says this plan isn't about fixing the economy but "it's about turning the U.S. into France." What does that mean? And why are Republicans so critical of President Obama's plan?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, President Obama's fix for the economy. A critical vote in Congress happening in the next couple of hours. Many Republicans aren't on board. Also coming up, one-on-one with Jimmy Carter. The former president talks candidly about his time in office and offers some parenting advice to the current occupant of the White House.

And your mail. It may not necessarily be coming six days a week anymore. Just what's going on over at the post office?

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

President Obama says the nation is at a perilous moment right now when it comes to the economy. He's warning, and I'm quoting, "We don't have a moment to spare."

Listen to his sense of urgency today after he met with some top business CEOs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Just the other day, seven of our largest corporations announced they were making major job cuts. Some of the business leaders in this room have had to do the same. And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can turn our economy around. But each of us, as they've indicated, are going to have to do our share.

Part of what led our economy to this perilous moment was a sense of irresponsibility that prevailed in Wall Street and in Washington. And that's why I called for a new era of responsibility in my inaugural address last week.

same.

And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can turn our economy around.

But each of us, as they have indicated, are going to have to do our share. Part of what led our economy to this perilous moment was a sense of irresponsibility that prevails in Wall Street and in Washington. And that's why I called for a new era of responsibility in my inaugural address last week; an era where each of us chips in so that we can climb our way out of this crisis. Executives and factory floor workers; educators and engineers; health care professionals and elected officials.

As we discussed in our meeting a few minutes ago, corporate America will have to accept its own responsibilities to its workers and the American public. But these executives also understand that without wise leadership in Washington, even the best run businesses can't do as well as they might. They understand that what makes and idea sound is not whether it's Democrat or Republican, but whether it makes good economic sense for their workers and companies. And they understand that when it comes to rebuilding our economy, we don't have a moment to spare.

The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat -- they can't afford inaction or delay. The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that their job will be next on the cutting blocks, they need help now.

They are looking to Washington for action, bold and swift. And that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment plan into law in the next few weeks.

Now most of the money that we're investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job creation, generating or saving three to four million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector. Because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country.

But even as this plan puts Americans back to work, it will also make the critical investments in alternative energy, in safer roads, better health care and modern schools that will lay the foundation for long- term growth and prosperity.

And we'll invest in broadband and emerging technologies, like the ones imagined and introduced to the world by people like Sam and so many of the CEOs here today, because that's how America will retain and regain its competitive edge in the 21st century.

OBAMA: I know that there are some who are skeptical of the size and scale of this recovery plan, and I understand that skepticism, given some of the things that have happened in this town in the past.

That's why this recovery plan will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my administration accountable. Instead of just throwing money at our problems, we'll try something new in Washington: We will invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, on the Internet, and will be informed by independent experts whenever possible.

And we will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency and unnecessary spending in our government.

And every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new Web site called recovery.gov, because I firmly believe what Justice Louis Brandeis once said, that sunlight is the best disinfectant. And I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back the trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make.

In the end, the answer to our economic troubles rests less in my hands, or in the hands of our legislators, than it does with America's workers and the businesses that employ them. They are the ones whose efforts and ideas will determine our economic destiny, just as they always have.

For in the end, it's businesses, large and small, that generate the jobs, provide the salaries, and serve as the foundation on which the American people's lives and dreams depend.

All we can do, those of us here in Washington, is to help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive and our economy can grow.

And that is exactly what the recovery plan I have proposed is intended to do, and that's exactly what I intend to achieve soon.

Thank you very much for being here.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president speaking over at the White House earlier today.

Remember, we're getting ready to hear from him once again. He's right now meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff over at the Pentagon. Once he starts to speaking to reporters, we will bring you his remarks. That's coming up.

One House Republican says, by the way, the way that the president's economic plan -- and I'm quoting now -- "is a Trojan horse that liberals are using to ultimately turn America into France."

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us right now.

Why are so many Republicans, at least in the House, right now, Bill, balking at the president's economic recovery plan?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Republicans are going back to basics. And they believe this plan is basically wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): With the departure of President Bush, Republicans have a new rallying cry: back to basics. Basic to Republicans is smaller government. They believe they lost in '06 and '08 because they became a me-too party. And the Democrats can play that game better.

REP. ZACH WAMP (R), TENNESSEE: Republicans blew it on spending. But now Democrats are, like, they're on steroids with spending.

SCHNEIDER: President Obama is making a strong pitch for Republican support, because we're all in this crisis together. OBAMA: What I think unifies this group is recognition that we are experiencing an unprecedented, perhaps, economic crisis that has to be dealt with, and dealt with rapidly.

SCHNEIDER: Most Republicans are balking.

WAMP: We're going to vote no.

SCHNEIDER: They appreciate the president's efforts to reach out to them, but say they don't see that spirit of bipartisanship in Democratic leadership of Congress.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: As grateful as we are for the president's spirit, as I told him personally, House Democrats have completely ignored the president's call for bipartisan cooperation.

SCHNEIDER: They argue the Democratic bill is wrong in principle...

PENCE: The bill that House Democrats will bring -- bring to the floor tomorrow will literally be a catch-all of traditional pet programs and more government.

SCHNEIDER: ... and it won't work.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: ... that the best economic stimulus there is, is a job, and this bill is short on the stimulus that is needed to create that.

SCHNEIDER: Republicans do have an alternative plan.

REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: If you allow American families to keep more of their hard-earned money, if you allow businesses the opportunity to create jobs, provide incentives to create jobs, and you decrease spending at the federal level, in fact, what you will do is grow the economy.

SCHNEIDER: But the Republicans don't have the votes to pass their own plan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Now, some Democrats can say Republicans are irrelevant, so they're being irresponsible. But Republicans are not irrelevant.

Sure, President Obama doesn't need Republican votes, but he still wants them. He doesn't want his recovery plan to be seen as a partisan plan. Meanwhile, Republicans don't want to be seen as complicit in a policy that violates their basic principles -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stakes have been set over there.

All right, Bill, thank you very much.

Remember, Barack Obama getting ready, the president of the United States, to speak at the Pentagon. We're about to go there as soon as we see him. Stand by for that. Also, now that the Democrats are running the show, the former Vice President Al Gore's warning about climate change, it's being heard in Washington today -- the former vice president sounding the alarm on Capitol Hill. We will tell you what he is saying.

Plus, they're getting ready to move out of the White House. But it's not the one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We will tell you what's going on with this building that looks like the White House.

And, later, James Carville explains why President Obama is turning up the charm on Republicans, even when he doesn't really have to.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A passionate Al Gore back in Washington talking about global warming.

Let's go to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's watching this dramatic hearing that occurred today.

Jill, what -- what happened?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, climate change is back on the political radar, but the question now is, can the U.S. afford efforts to control it?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Washington, D.C., flash-frozen by an ice storm, but it didn't stop a high-profile Senate hearing on climate change.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: A little snow in Washington does nothing to diminish the reality of the crisis that we face.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi. How are you all?

DOUGHERTY: The star witness, Al Gore, a former vice president, Nobel laureate, Oscar winner, global warming guru, sounding the alarm.

GORE: We have arrived at a moment of decision. Our home, Earth, is in danger. What is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, of course, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings.

DOUGHERTY: Gore wants to U.S. to take the lead on efforts to agree on a new international climate treaty this December in Copenhagen. After eight years of the Bush administration, which downplayed the threat of global warming and pulled out of the Kyoto climate change treaty, Gore finally has a receptive audience.

OBAMA: ... and energy-independent...

DOUGHERTY: President Obama making climate change a top priority, arguing, efforts to combat it will save energy and create jobs.

(APPLAUSE)

DOUGHERTY: And one week on the job, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton naming a high-level envoy to spearhead U.S. efforts.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Under President Obama, America will take the lead in addressing this challenge, both by making commitments of our own and engaging other nations to do to same.

DOUGHERTY: But some critics say the biggest threat isn't global warming; it's the meltdown in the U.S. economy.

DAVID KREUTZER, SENIOR POLICY ANALYST IN ENERGY ECONOMICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: His solutions will impose huge costs on the economy, and they won't have an impact on the environment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: Gore claims the U.S. can do both, that passing the president's stimulus economic plan is a first step toward a cleaner environment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jill, thank you.

Let's check in with Abbi Tatton right now. She has an update on what the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is doing online, or at least some friends.

What are they doing?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is supporters of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

If you're a supporter of Hillary Clinton, there's now a place to go online, a new organization called NoLimits.org. Since Hillary Clinton headed to the State Department, her Web sites have been scaled back. HillPAC is now just a message of thanks. HillaryClinton.com is now reduced just to a contribute button.

But just announced by her former senior adviser, Ann Lewis, NoLimits.org, a new organization that promises to be an online community for supporters of Hillary Clinton's campaign.

At the moment, it's just a collection of blog posts, with plenty of references to breaking the glass ceiling, but the site and the e-mail today promises that it will become a new nonpartisan organization -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Everybody is thing new Web sites.

All right, thanks very much.

Here in Washington, the Obama family certainly settling into their brand-new home, but there's another White House in Atlanta where another family is getting ready to move out.

Let's go to CNN's Brooke Baldwin -- Brooke.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this may look like 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but there is one major difference. This version is for sale, a victim of the housing crisis under the last White House administration.

(voice-over): The White House, it's a place presidential candidates dream of calling home.

(on camera): Thanks for having us.

(voice-over): Fred Milani is no politician, but he does have a penchant for presidential politics.

In Atlanta, back in 2002, this Iranian-born real estate developer was in the market to build. And his wife had one request.

FRED MILANI, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER: All she wants, the house with the (INAUDIBLE) Five minutes later, we decided to build the White House.

BALDWIN: Milani's Georgia home encompasses 16,500 square feet, exactly one-third of its Washington counterpart. Here, he, too, has a West Wing with his very own Oval Office.

(on camera): Why would you want an Oval Office in your home?

MILANI: If you build the White House, you want to have an Oval Office.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Complete with the presidential seal on the ceiling.

(on camera): So, this is?

MILANI: Lincoln Bedroom.

BALDWIN (voice-over): In this room, the Bill of Rights and the Emancipation Proclamation hang on the wall.

MILANI: A lot of people come here, they want to stay in this room.

BALDWIN (on camera): Why is that?

MILANI: I guess Bill Clinton was charging $50,000 a night.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: How about you?

MILANI: It's free.

(LAUGHTER) BALDWIN (voice-over): But it's Milani's landscaping that doesn't exactly get his neighbors' vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's -- it's gaudy and it's disrespectful to the White House. And I have to look at it every day.

BALDWIN: Nevertheless, Milani, like thousands of Americans, has fallen victim to the housing market crash. Twice, he says, he has avoided foreclosure.

MILANI: The economy doing bad. Really, everybody in the construction, they suffer it. And I'm one of them.

BALDWIN: As a result, this White House is for sale. The presidential price tag? Nine-point-eight million dollars.

(on camera): So, what's next, the Taj Mahal?

MILANI: No.

(LAUGHTER)

MILANI: I just wanted to build maybe Congress. Always, I am in this building business.

BALDWIN (on camera): There are no buyers yet, but Milani says some are interested from as far away as Dubai. And for all the former presidential candidates, this may not be 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but it's pretty close -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Pretty -- that's pretty amazing.

All right, Brooke, thank you very much for that.

Many new presidents enjoy a bit of a honeymoon, but, certainly, there are some Democrats. But are Democrats in danger of an all-out fawning over President Obama? Wait until you hear the incredibly high praise he's being given right now.

And we will have more of my interview with the former President Jimmy Carter. What was it like meeting with all those former presidents in the Oval Office? And has President Obama asked -- asked -- his help with anything?

And stand by. We're awaiting President Obama. He's over at the Pentagon right now meeting with the top military brass. He's about to speak to reporters. We will have his live -- his remarks for you. That's coming up and a lot more -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More of my interview with Jimmy Carter -- coming up, the former president takes us inside that private meeting he had with President Obama. Only Rosalynn Carter, his wife, and David Axelrod, the president's -- one of the president's top advisers, present. We're going to take you inside that meeting with Jimmy Carter. That's coming up. Stand by for the.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now.

Joining us, the Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney, and Republican strategist and former assistant to President Bush Ron Christie.

Ron, welcome.

Good to have both of you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Al Gore, is he going to be a complement or a thorn to this new administration?

KAREN FINNEY, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know, he is uniquely the most, I think, public-private figure that we have both here in the United States and around the world. I think he's going to do both, which is kind of what he has been doing.

And that is, you know, today, on the Hill, he was talking about the importance of the economic stimulus package, those elements that would make those investments in creating green jobs and energy efficiency. But, if you noticed, he also laid out the three steps that he thinks the United States needs to take leading into the Copenhagen talks in December.

So, I think you are going to see him continue to both push inside and out, and push the American people, frankly.

BLITZER: What do you think, Ron? Is he going to help the president, or could he undermine him, if he wants the president to go further than he's willing to go?

RON CHRISTIE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I agree with Karen. I think he's going to do both. I think he's going to be the crusader in chief, if you will, for global climate change.

I think the former vice president is very encouraged by the $400 million that is in the stimulus package to do global climate change research. But, at the same time, if he doesn't think that the administration's going far enough, I think he's going to push them and say, you're not going to far off.

The former vice president has star power around the world. And I think he could be a potential embarrassment to the Obama administration, if the former vice president gets out ahead of this current administration.

BLITZER: You know, I read this line in Dee Dee Myers -- in "Vanity Fair." The former Clinton White House press secretary...

FINNEY: Yes. BLITZER: ... you worked with her closely. You obviously know Dee Dee. All of us do.

"Barack Obama," she writes, "is the most famous living person in the history of the world."

(LAUGHTER)

FINNEY: You know, I think she's actually right. But let's remember that technology certainly plays a big role in that. People are digging and Twittering, and Facebooking, and MySpace-ing, join watching on television, and listening on the radio. So, he probably -- he is a global figure, no doubt.

I think, though, one of the things that he has done, just as he did when he came to the Senate and he had a lot of star power, is I think he's been very responsible about that. I mean, it's not always the best thing to be most well-known person. And how you manage that is really important.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Ron, are Democrats in some danger of swooning too much about the new president?

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: Swooning too much? They have already swooned too much.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: Look, there's a member of Congress, Jose Serrano from New York State, he has already introduced a constitutional amendment to repeal the 22nd Amendment, which sets the limits for the presidency. He wants more Obama, and we haven't even seen anything yet.

FINNEY: Well...

CHRISTIE: I think the Democrats in Congress need to be very careful, very measured. They were elected by their constituents to do the job of the American people, not just to be a rubber-stamp for the new administration.

BLITZER: I suspect that amendment would have a -- a tough time getting -- getting approved.

(LAUGHTER)

FINNEY: It might be.

No, look, I think that the Democrats in Congress are very clear about who they work for. But people are very exciting by Barack Obama. I mean, he really has a global appeal to this sort of under-35 generation that sees itself as more of a multicultural, less partisan generation. And I think that appeals to people both here in the United States and around the world. BLITZER: We will leave it on that note.

Guys, thanks very much.

Karen and Ron, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM.

Top Democrats are rushing to President Obama's defense against Rush Limbaugh -- their new plan to use the conservative radio talk show host's words against him.

And we're standing by for a House vote on the presidents' economic fix-it plan. We're looking at how the money might affect your job, your -- your child's school, and a lot more.

And yet another way people are profiting off of the Obamas -- we're going to meet look-alikes of the daughters, Sasha and Malia. What is going on here? Why are people doing this?

We will tell you -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker": President Obama's choice for attorney general is one step closer to getting the job. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-2 today to send Eric Holder's nomination to the full Senate.

Holder got a key endorsement from the committee's top Republican, Arlen Specter, yesterday. Until then, Specter had been a critic of Holder's nomination. The full Senate vote and swearing-in could come as early as tomorrow. Stand by for that.

National Democrats are launching a new petition against -- drive against the conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. It's a response to Limbaugh's controversial recent remark that he hopes President Obama -- quote -- "fails" if certain policies are enacted. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is urging people to sign the petition to -- quote -- "tell Rush what you think of his attacks."

The group says, in these very tough times -- quote -- "every American needs President Obama to succeed."

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, would President Obama's life be easier without Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House?

John in Illinois says, "You betcha."

Sara writes: "Man, are you going to get creamed. A lot of people will think this is because you are turned off by 'uppity women.' But I am one of those 'uppity women,' and I agree with you. She is annoying. And I don't know exactly why, but I do think she is an impediment to the president's agenda."

Paul in Austin, Texas: "I don't think so. Remember, he does not want just yes-people on his team. And, whether he likes it or not, she is part of his team."

Gary in California: "That would depend entirely on who might be there if she wasn't. That old saying better the devil you know than the devil you don't comes to mind. Pelosi is politically astute enough to recognize how popular President Obama is right now and how silly she would look trying to undercut him. She will play ball."

Sandra in Texas: "Absolutely not. Pelosi is the only Democrat I see that has any backbone whatsoever. I remember when she was minority leader in the House and the Republicans booed her on the House floor. They gave her no respect and no voice. I personally think we would be better off today if we had a President Pelosi than a President Obama. He is the one that is starting to annoy me, with all this kissy-facing of the Republicans."

Paul in South Carolina: "Nancy Pelosi should stay. For this senior citizen, she is great for checking my reaction time. The moment she comes on TV, I see how fast I can change the channel."

Mary in Atlanta writes, "All our lives would be easier."

And Jim in Oakland, California: "Nancy annoys you? That's great. You are a lot more fun when you are really annoyed."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Look for yours there, among hundreds of others.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: As the nation's economy bleeds jobs, President Obama says there's no time to waste, and he's pushing for his recovery plan. But with a vote looming, coming up very, very soon, House Republicans find a lot not to like in the bill.

Awkward moments -- former President Jimmy Carter tells what happened behind the scenes at that pre-inaugural lunch with the other commanders in chief. My one-on-one interview with Jimmy Carter, that's coming up this hour.

And letter-carriers may not fear rain or snow, but the postmaster general warns that massive deficits may mean cutbacks in mail delivery.

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