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AMERICAN MORNING

George W. Bush: The Road Ahead; Possible Terror Threat in Boston

Aired January 20, 2005 - 08:00   ET

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


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.
George W. Bush on the verge of a new beginning. Preparing now to set out upon a second term as president of the United States. Taking the oath to lead the nation for a second term on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the steps of the United States Capitol in Washington, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

HEMMER: Day is breaking in Washington, D.C.

And good morning, everyone, from Washington.

Welcome to our special coverage of the inauguration.

Good to have you along with us today.

Good morning, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, Bill.

Good morning, everybody.

It is a chilly winter day here. There are some clouds in the sky. Temperatures hovering around 30 degrees, but I still have to tell you, it is a really pretty day here in the nation's capital as they get the preparations ready to get the inauguration underway. Lots going on this morning.

HEMMER: There certainly is. And we are in, really, center location here, right near the area where President Bush will raise his hand and take the oath of office at noon. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who we have not seen in public since he began cancer treatment back in October, will swear in the president. Then after the ceremony, the president following the traditional parade route down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

They expect about 100,000 to watch under extremely tight security. And certainly CNN is spread out throughout the entire town to bring you special coverage. Judy Woodruff, Anderson Cooper, Bob Franken, Suzanne Malveaux, Kelly Wallace all with us today -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Also joining us as our guest this morning, former presidential adviser David Gergen, Senator Chuck Hagel, staff writer for the "Washington Post," Sally Quinn, and presidential historian Alan Lichtman.

HEMMER: A major theme of the president's inaugural address today will be the importance of spreading democracy. The White House released a picture of President Bush rehearsing his speech yesterday, along with a few excerpts, including this one: "America has need of idealism and courage because we have essential work at home, the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty."

O'BRIEN: President Bush will begin his inauguration day with a prayer service in just about an hour from now.

Judy Woodruff is live for us from St. John's Church in Washington, D.C. -- hey, Judy, good morning.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

From a few blocks down from the Capitol, I'm actually in front of St. John's Church, which is right across Lafayette Park. I'm sorry, we're having some heavy equipment moving between us and the church. This, Soledad, is the church of presidents. It is an Episcopal church. It's the church that every president since James Madison has used. And it is traditional for the president, and especially this president, a president for whom faith is so important, to attend a church service here on the morning of the inauguration.

So the president will arrive here at about 8:55, to be very precise. As you know, the schedule today is right down to the second. He'll arrive here. The church service will begin. He and the first lady, members of their family -- we've just seen other friends of theirs being dropped off by the coach. In fact, you see one behind me dropping off friends of theirs who are staying in Washington. They'll spend an hour at the service then they'll head back to the White House for a little more than half an hour and then go to the Capitol for the preliminaries leading up to the inauguration -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, Judy, it seems like the word this morning is preparation, as we see some of the preps in place behind you. The same thing is happening here behind us. You can hear the audio check going on. They're preparing the stage and doing all the things that need to be done before the president steps in to start the inauguration.

Judy Woodruff for us this morning.

Judy, thanks -- Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, as President Bush takes the oath of office for a second time today, some historians are asking this question -- will he face what they call the second term curse?

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

HEMMER (voice-over): In life, there are few second acts. But if you're a president, you could get a second term. BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let us shape the hope of this day into the noblest chapter in our history.

HEMMER: However, history has shown second terms sometimes mean second best.

CLINTON: I'm very mindful of history's difficulties and I'm going to try to beat them.

HEMMER: Bill Clinton's second term achievements were overshadowed by his involvement with Monica Lewinsky.

CLINTON: Indeed, I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate.

HEMMER: Ronald Reagan's second term brought the Iran-Contra scandal.

RONALD REAGAN: A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true. But the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.

HEMMER: And Richard Nixon resigned in his second term to avoid impeachment after Watergate.

RICHARD NIXON: I'm not a crook.

ALAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Second terms often end in train wrecks for the president because they've been in office too long. They've been inside this bubble where they lose touch with the American people and are surrounded by yes men who put no brakes upon their tendencies.

HEMMER: Another curse of the second term presidency is trying to serve the public too many leftovers from the first term.

MARTHA JOYNT KUMAR, TOWSON UNIVERSITY: Knowing you're a lame duck, what you want to prevent is becoming a dead duck. That's when you focus on what you see as your accomplishments and what you see as your legacy.

REAGAN: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

HEMMER: For President Reagan, it was winning the cold war. And for President Clinton, it was trying to forge Middle East peace. This president hopes to beat the odds.

BUSH: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.

HEMMER: Whether he succeeds remains to be seen.

LICHTMAN: It's going to be a very daunting task to break the second term curse and really make extraordinary breakthroughs in domestic policy. But the graveyards are littered with the bodies of folks who've underestimated George W. Bush.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HEMMER: So, then, what should President Bush expect and what should we expect of him in the next four years?

One man who knows this town all too well, and the White House in addition to that, David Gergen, advising five American presidents.

He's my guest now here on Capitol Hill.

Nice to see you in person, David.

DAVID GERGEN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Good to see you, sir.

HEMMER: What about the second term curse? Is there any way to avoid what we have seen repeated if you go back over each second term presidency going back about 25 years now?

GERGEN: Actually, the second term curse, Bill, goes all the way back to the beginning of the republic. George Washington had a pretty lousy second term; Thomas Jefferson, the next person to have two terms. You know, historians like not to write about the second term because it was so unproductive.

So I think the way to avoid it is to do what the president has started down the road toward, and that is to change the tone. And there are a lot of indications here in his recent interviews that he does want to change the tone. And I think that will help. Whether he will also be willing to change his policies and meet the other side halfway is a bigger question, a harder question. You know, in his interview with John King of CNN a couple of days ago, the president made it pretty clear that he still sees the world in black and white. It's us versus them. That did not suggest a change in policy.

HEMMER: Well, here is the suggestion that we're picking up. We did a Gallup survey a few days ago. It is quite clear that Americans are divided on whether or not they believe this president is a uniter. It goes right along the line there, 49 to 49.

How does he overcome that, especially when you reflect -- when we were sitting here four years ago, everything out of Austin, Texas said this is a man who wanted to reach across the aisle and bring Washington together?

GERGEN: Well, there is a San Andreas fault now in our politics. And it's going to be very hard to bring it together. The remarkable thing is that since the reelection of George W. Bush, there has been so little healing. We have not seen the country come together. And if anything, in the Condi Rice hearings, while she got a, you know, overwhelmingly a vote of confidence, the questioning was very sharp. You know, they're -- the Democrats are not -- the Democrats have to change the tone, too, and they're not prepared to give him any slack.

So I think that the indications are right now today will be a day of celebration. People will come together. But the real test is going to come in the next few weeks.

HEMMER: And the issue with Condoleezza Rice and those hearings, it became the most contentious when the topic of Iraq came to the forefront.

GERGEN: Right.

HEMMER: How much is Iraq a stumbling point for this second term?

GERGEN: Well, ordinarily, presidents like to finish first terms, you know, with things wrapped up and then they move on to the next big items. And here, this is going to -- Iraq and the deficits are going to shadow his second term. And he has to deal with both in the next few months. And what we don't know is, you know, why the grade is incomplete on the George Bush presidency. We already know he's going to be a significant president. Just by being elected to a second term he becomes -- only two other Republicans in the last hundred years have served two second terms and they both became big presidents. One was Eisenhower and the other was Reagan.

So he's going to be significant. What we don't yet know is whether he's going to be considered a success, a political success.

HEMMER: Do you expect big things from this speech today, less than four hours away from behind us here?

GERGEN: I think it's going to be a flowing, smooth speech. Whether it'll be a memorable address, well, we'll have to wait and see. It's not, the odds are against a memorable address. This will be the 55th and only about a half dozen are remembered. But, you know, the -- here's what we have to keep remembering. This fellow keeps defying the odds. You know, he keeps, you know, there's the curse of the second term just like the Red Sox being in the curse of the Bambino, you know? He's one of the few guys who could actually come out here and say he's got a chance of breaking it.

HEMMER: Every 86 years?

GERGEN: Well, it can be every 86 years. Let's see.

HEMMER: Good to see you, David.

Stay warm.

GERGEN: OK.

Take care.

HEMMER: We'll be with you throughout the day here.

GERGEN: OK.

HEMMER: David Gergen on Capitol Hill.

GERGEN: Thank you.

HEMMER: Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We've been talking about just what a pretty day it is here, even though it's a little bit cold.

Time to check back in on the weather.

And Chad Myers is at the CNN Center for us with the latest forecast here and elsewhere -- hey, Chad, good morning.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

O'BRIEN: We'll check back in with Chad, of course, all morning.

Time to check in with Heidi Collins for a look at some of the other stories that are making news this morning.

Hey, Heidi, good morning again.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

And good morning, everybody.

Some more news out of Washington, in fact. A possible delay in the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state. Sources telling CNN some Senate Democrats may try to prolong the process. Aides say California Senator Barbara Boxer and West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd are planning to deliver long speeches that could extend today's debate and force the vote to be pushed back until next week. Yesterday, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supported Rice's nomination with a 16-2 vote.

Ukrainian President Elect Viktor Yushchenko is scheduled to be in inaugurated this Sunday. The decision came just hours ago, after the Ukrainian Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Yushchenko's rival, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, for another election.

A missing Florida boy is believed to be in danger, abducted by a known sex offender. Twelve-year-old Adam Kirkirt was last seen Tuesday in Marion County. Sheriffs' officials say he may be traveling with a 42-year-old man in a white four door Chevy Lumina. A search is now underway.

And you may want to ask for coffee or soda the next time you board a flight. The Environmental Protection Agency says one out of every six planes tested in recent months flunked random bacteria tests on drinking water. The Air Transport Association says it has concerns about how the tests were carried out. We'll be following that one for you.

For now, though, back to Bill and Soledad.

O'BRIEN: OK, in a word...

COLLINS: Yummy. O'BRIEN: I don't know that even the coffee would be a good choice. I think...

COLLINS: Yes, no.

O'BRIEN: ... anything in a bottle, right?

COLLINS: Stop at Dunkin' or Starbucks before you get on board.

O'BRIEN: Yes, pretty much.

All right, Heidi, thanks.

HEMMER: An anonymous tipster telling authorities about an alleged dirty bomb plot. Should one major U.S. city be worried? Back to that story in a moment -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Also, a Iraq at the front of the war on terror. But is there a huge threat somewhere else that no one's talking about? We'll talk about it just ahead.

HEMMER: Also, the vice president, Dick Cheney, played a major role in the president's first term. Will that change in the next one? A live report as we continue our special coverage from our nation's capital today, the swearing in ceremony less than four hours away.

Back in a moment, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Welcome back to Washington.

We come to you live as our special coverage continues again today.

Security extremely tight in the nation's capital for this inauguration, the first inauguration since the events of 9/11. That is not, however, the only concern today.

And a CNN "Security Watch" this morning, there's a possible terror threat prompting a heightened alert in the City of Boston.

CNN's homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is following that this morning here in D.C. -- Jeanne, good morning.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.

Law enforcement in Massachusetts has been told to be on the lookout for four Chinese nationals. An anonymous tipster told law enforcement that the four had come across the border with Mexico, accompanied by two Iraqis and were heading for New York and Boston. Sources say the tipster described the four as chemists who would be picking up a dangerous material. None are on any previously existing government watch lists.

Massachusetts has put law enforcement on a heightened state of alert. But Governor Mitt Romney is urging the public to go about its normal business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: I would note that the nature of the threat that's been provided is an uncorroborated, unsubstantiated threat. The source is anonymous, but it is specific in that it mentions a location where individuals were dropped off. The location is New York. And it identifies also a location where a threat might directed, and the location is Boston.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Romney left inaugural festivities in Washington to return to Massachusetts to show citizens it is safe. Officials at the state and federal level say tips about terrorists coming across the border are common and they stress that this information of unknown credibility has not been corroborated.

But they want to find the four Chinese nationals, if possible, to question them -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jeanne, one of the main stories, too, on this inauguration day, too, is the security here in Washington. I mentioned earlier the first inauguration since the events of 9/11 three and a half years ago. You live here.

What makes the security measures they're taking now so unique to Washington -- Jeanne?

MESERVE: It's a virtual lockdown of downtown Washington. There are about 100 square blocks of the city that have been cordoned off. Schools are closed. Many businesses are closed. Banks are closed. This city is shut for business, effectively, today.

There are about 6,000 law enforcement officers involved, thousands more military at the ready to assist. An example of how tight the restrictions are, four years ago, there were air space restrictions really only over the Mall area of Washington, D.C. This year, it's a huge area that spans virtually the entire Baltimore- Washington area -- Bill.

HEMMER: Wow.

If you're in the area, give yourself plenty of time, too.

MESERVE: Absolutely.

HEMMER: That's about the best advice we can offer today.

Thanks, Jeanne.

All the regular routes are not regular today.

Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Today's presidential inauguration may be the most heavily guarded public event ever in our nation's capital.

This morning, we're on "Terror's Trail" right here in Washington, D.C.

Just how will the Bush administration counter the terrorist threat in its second term?

Steve Coll is an associate editor for the "Washington Post."

He's also the author of "Ghost Wars."

He joins us from Sante Fe, New Mexico, where he's attending a terrorism conference.

Hey, Steve, nice to see you, as always.

Thanks for talking with us.

I have to imagine at conferences like the one you're attending, and others, you talk about some groups that maybe the general public has not heard about or are not part of our national lexicon, if you will.

Give me a sense of the groups that are out there that we know nothing about that really are poised to attack the U.S.

STEVE COLL, "THE WASHINGTON POST," AUTHOR, "GHOST WARS": Well, al Qaeda has evolved since September 11 from a unitary organization into a kind of movement that draws on a lot of obscure Sunni Islamist insurgency groups around the world, from Indonesia and southern Thailand, all the way across to North Africa. And so a lot of these groups are adopting new names. Many of them spring up spontaneously. And some of them aren't even groups, they're just spontaneously forming cells of individuals who are radicalized by bin Laden's message and decide to act with a group of guys that they happen to know and are motivated to go attack local targets.

That's the new pattern of al Qaeda -- regional actors, obscure groups and a lot of changing names and changing shapes.

O'BRIEN: You say they're motivated or radicalized by the message of Osama bin Laden.

But are they getting any sort of tacit support from al Qaeda or are these just getting sort of moral support?

COLL: Well, a lot of it's incitement and ideology. There's not a lot of evidence of direct operational control from al Qaeda fugitive leaders like bin Laden. There may be a few cases where al Qaeda leaders are able to operate. But mostly the operations are local and people draw their resources from the Web, from local sources and from local insurgency groups that may be fighting national causes, fighting local governments, engaged in separatist struggles. And they sort of insert themselves or infect these local struggles and try to internationalize them or make them part of a global Jihadi campaign. O'BRIEN: Here are some of the numbers that we hear. Seventy- five percent of the al Qaeda leadership has been taken out. First, is that number accurate in your mind? And, secondly, how do you possibly know?

COLL: Well, I think that number has always been a little bit difficult to evaluate. The Bush administration hasn't really made clear what exactly the baseline is that referring to.

I think as an indicator of progress against the al Qaeda organization that carried out the September 11 attacks, it's probably in the right order of magnitude in the sense that that organization has been badly disrupted and destroyed. Its leadership is either dead or in jail or in hiding and a lot of its infrastructure no longer exists.

But the challenge for the second term is that that organization has now morphed into a movement, as we were talking about earlier, that draws on a diverse array of radical groups. And out of those groups, such as out of Chechnya, can come individual cells targeting the United States, inspired by bin Laden's idea of mass casualty attacks that are just as dangerous as the old unitary organization of al Qaeda used to be.

O'BRIEN: Steve Coll, associate editor for the "Washington Post."

Nice to see you, Steve.

Thanks for chatting with us.

COLL: OK, Soledad.

Thanks a lot.

Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad.

Republicans control both houses of Congress, on the House and Senate side. But we are told not to expect a free ride for this president in his second term. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is our guest here on Capitol Hill as AMERICAN MORNING continues on the road in Washington for today, inauguration day 2005.

Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And welcome back.

You're looking at a shot, a beautiful shot of the Washington Monument this morning.

Boy, with the sun rising lighting everything just perfectly it sort of doesn't show just how chilly it is here in Washington, D.C.

Of course, we've been showing you shots, as well, of the Capitol, which is where we are right now and preparations for the inauguration. Not only have we got lots of preps up here, as all the camera crews get ready for covering the event. Below us and behind us, certainly lots of set up, as well.

We're going to show you some pictures of that. Here you go. This is the first President Bush, arriving with Barbara Bush, as well. They are, of course, going to make their way this morning out of the White House. And they have their first thing on their agenda, attending mass, attending a service at the St. John's, as we heard from Judy Woodruff, who's standing by at that location for us this morning. We'll check in with her in a little bit.

Of course, it is a big group who have to all come together. And as we've been talking about all morning, security, logistics, all coming together seamlessly, thus far, at least.

Welcome back, everybody, as we continue our special coverage this morning of AMERICAN MORNING.

Time to go right to Jack.

He's got the Question of the Day -- hey, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How are you doing, Soledad?

The president has laid out a very ambitious agenda for his second term -- Social Security reform, tax reform, tort reform. He wants to bring down the deficit. He's got Iraq to deal with. There are a lot of items on the president's plate.

We thought we'd try and find out what you thought would be the most important part of President Bush's second term agenda.

That's the question this morning.

L. in Durham, North Carolina writes: "Bringing America's soldiers home, repairing America's international relationships, bringing down the federal deficit."

Joann in Illinois weighs in with: "Health care needs to be addressed. Just how many families don't have any insurance? With our ranking in the world for health care, this issue is a disgrace."

Julie in the Cayman Islands: "The economy, stupid."

Ed in Niagara Falls -- I wonder if she -- who does she mean, stupid? You wrote this to me, Julie. What are you trying to say here?

Ed in Niagara Falls writes: "I think G.W.'s agenda should include English 101, brush up on his metaphors, use the constitution instead of the bible as a guide."

And Mike in Cape May, New Jersey: "The most important thing to do is put a man on Mars before the decade is out."

That's a joke, I think.

Back to you.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

O'BRIEN: All right, Jack, thanks.

Well, Dick Cheney may have been the most influential vice president in U.S. history. But is that going to change in the second Bush term?

A look at that is just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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