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Democrats to Push for Auto Industry Bailout; Congressman Leads GOP Attacks on Obama; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Announces Plans to Make Loans Affordable; Comeback for John Edwards; President Bush on War and Regrets; Republican Party Regroups to Discuss Party's Future

Aired November 12, 2008 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up now on the top of the hour. And here are this morning's top stories. John McCain breaking his silence on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." McCain saying he will not run again. He also defended his former running mate saying he could not be happier with Sarah Palin and joked about life after the loss.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": It's been a week since the election. How are you doing?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I've been sleeping like a baby. Sleep two hours, wake up and cry.


ROBERTS: He is a funny guy.

President-elect Obama has picked two more D.C. veterans for key transition posts. Obama has hired former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn to head his Pentagon transition team. Nunn, of course, a former chairman of the Senate Arms Services Committee. Also, former Clinton Secretary of State Warren Christopher will handle the State Department handover.

And John Edwards back in the public eye. The former presidential candidate spoke to students at Indiana University. He didn't have to dodge questions about cheating on his wife, Elizabeth, because all of them were submitted on paper before his speech and he picked and chose. He did comment on the election saying Barack Obama's victory shows what's right with America.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, General Motors says it's on the verge of going bankrupt. And right now, there's a major push by Democrats to use taxpayer money to save all three American auto giants. We're finding out that a big three bailout was one of the major issues discussed between President Bush and President-elect Obama earlier this week, and that Obama made it a top priority during his first meeting with his economic team last week.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I've made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis and succeed in producing fuel efficient cars.


CHETRY: Meantime, analysts say that the industry is heading off a cliff. Ford Blue (ph) threw more than $7 billion in the past three months. GM stock hit its lowest level since the middle of World War II. So are you ready to get into the car business or is the cost too big to let them die?

Here's CNN's Brianna Keilar.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One week after big wins on Election Day, Democrats are flexing their muscles, issuing an ultimatum to President Bush. Include struggling automakers in the $700 billion bailout plan approved last month or we will.

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said failure of a major American automobile manufacturer would have a devastating impact on our economy. She's making plans for a so-called lame-duck session of Congress next week to tackle the issue.

Democratic Congressman Sander Levin's congressional district is in Michigan, just north of Detroit where the big three automakers are based.

REP. SANDER LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: There's an urgency here and it can't wait for an Obama administration. The president-elect has said that the auto industry is the backbone of manufacturing in this country, and we have to make sure that that backbone isn't splintered in the next couple of months before there's a new administration.

KEILAR: The $700 billion bailout was originally intended for financial institutions. Privately, President Bush has expressed skepticism about taxpayer money for automakers on the heels of a string of government bailouts for other industries. A Senate Republican leadership aide says chipping off some of the bailout package for automakers would encourage other industries to grab for a piece of the pie, putting it this way.

Automakers today, airlines tomorrow. Where do you stop?

(on camera): Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised Senate Democrats will also push for aid during next week's lame-duck session, and he pointed out President Bush and Republicans can still block their efforts. This is, after all, still a Congress where Senate Democrats have a slim 51-49 majority. That's not enough to overcome Republican objections if they choose to block legislation.

Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


CHETRY: And so, what if the U.S. auto industry was left to die? Here's an "AM Extra" look at just how it would affect all of us. If the big three were to go down, they would take three million jobs with them in 2009 alone. Now that's almost three times as many job losses as this year's so far and we're already at a 14-year high for that.

Now between state and local governments, GM, Ford and Chrysler pay a hefty chunk in taxes. Without them the government would lose more than $60 billion in tax revenue next year. Some analysts also predict a crippling domino effect with an auto industry collapse affecting other industries and making Americans poorer by $151 billion next year alone.

ROBERTS: Meanwhile, John McCain is reemerging for the first time since Election Day and talking to Jay Leno. Sarah Palin has been giving interviews and firing back again (ph) shots from McCain's side. But since Election Day, the senator has not talked about his running mate or his campaign's bickering until now.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'm so proud of her and I'm very grateful that she agreed to run with me. She inspired people. She still does. And, look, I couldn't be happier with Sarah Palin, and she's going back to be a great governor and I think she will play a big role in the future of this country.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Did she ever get off message at one point?

MCCAIN: Did you expect mavericks to stay on message? I'm sure that from time -- but she was, look, we did a lot of things together, a lot of these rallies. The people were very excited and inspired by her and that's what really mattered.


ROBERTS: And don't forget you can see Sarah Palin sitting down one on one with our Wolf Blitzer. That's tonight on "THE SITUATION ROOM" at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

CHETRY: Well, it's only been a week but the honeymoon is apparently over for President-elect Obama. Republicans are already piling on saying an Obama White House could mean bad things for America.

AMERICAN MORNING's Jim Acosta joins us now live from Washington with more. The honeymoon can't possibly be over already, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought the campaign was over a week ago, Kiran. Perhaps I'm wrong about this.

Is it possible to attack a president before he's even the president? For some on the right, the answer is, of course.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many are very nervous about Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will we wait until he makes a mistake.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Some conservatives aren't even waiting for Barack Obama to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Commenting on Obama's economic agenda, Republican Congressman Paul Broun told a rotary club in his Georgia district, "In my opinion, we've elected a Marxist to be president of the United States."

CNN's calls to three of Broun's congressional offices for a comment were not answered.

Meanwhile, some of the same pundits Hillary Clinton referred to as the vast right-wing conspiracy are at it again, whether it's Rush Limbaugh...

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This is an Obama recession might turn into a depression. He hasn't done anything yet, but his ideas are killing the economy.

ACOSTA: ... or Ann Coulter on the radio.

ANN COULTER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Sounds like there's going to be a lot more Waco raids. Elian Gonzalez snatchings. I don't know. I don't know.

ACOSTA: Or FOX News host Sean Hannity who has an election countdown to 2012 already featured on his Web site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should I have any confidence that the radical Barack Obama isn't emerging very quickly?

ACOSTA: Liberals are enjoying every minute of it.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's going to be very hard to reinvent the image of President Obama. This country is on his side. And the Republicans I think are making a mistake by trying to undermine him before he gets started.

ACOSTA: According to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll, the public has a much more favorable view of the Democratic Party, 62 percent versus 38 percent for the GOP.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.


ACOSTA: That may explain why the Republican National Committee has just launched what it describes as a grassroots Web site. It's called Republicanforareason.




ROSEN: What the Republicans are going to have to do is find a reason to get people to want change. Because the next time we talk about change, it's going to mean change from Democrats to Republicans not the other way around.


ACOSTA: The Obama transition team brushes off these attacks and points to the Republicans in the White House who are showing plenty of bipartisanship as they prepare to hand over power -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Bipartisanship. We'll see if that sticks.

ACOSTA: We'll see.

CHETRY: As the weeks continue. Jim Acosta good to see you this morning. Thanks.

ACOSTA: Good to see you.

ROBERTS: A new plan to help homeowners who are running out of time, focusing on $5 trillion in home loans and critics say it's just a drop in the bucket.

Also, war and regrets. President Bush opening up in his first interview since Election Day. What the commander in chief wishes he could take back.

And John Edwards on the campaign trail speaking to students in Indiana and taking questions. Did the affair come up?

It's eight and a half minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Can someone explain that to me?

CHETRY: I don't know. It jarred all of us when we heard it.

ROBERTS: No idea what that was all about.

A new effort to help people facing foreclosures, stay in their houses. The mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced plans to make loans more manageable. The latest numbers show that there have been more than 828,000 completed foreclosures this year, but October's numbers are near a 2008 low.

Christine Romans here "Minding Your Business" this morning. Good morning, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wow, 828,000 foreclosures this year. That number is pretty staggering. It's one of the reasons why yesterday we told you that Citibank was doing more to push, to try to modify some loans. We told you that Fannie and Freddie were doing more to try to streamline mortgage modifications to people who could benefit from it.

This is what the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan looks like. This is what they're trying to do to help people streamline their mortgage modification process. You have to be in the house, live in the house. You have to be at least 90 days late on your loan. You need to prove that you have a hardship. Here's how it works.

Payments will be adjusted to about 38 percent of your income. That's a little reminder for everyone out there, I think, people who got bigger houses than they can afford over the past few years. If the government and people like Citibank and JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are trying to modify loans so that, you know, what you're paying every month for your house is about 38 percent of your income, maybe we all should take a quick look to make sure that we're back to basics on that.

ROBERTS: Is that the rule of thumb at the top level?

ROMANS: That is the top level, right, 38 percent. And what they're going to do is they're going to lower your interest rate if they can to about three percent and then they'll going to bump it up.

Now, this isn't going to help everybody and that's one of the big criticisms. All of these plans come too late and they're not going to help everyone, especially people whose mortgages have been sliced and diced and sold off in securities. And that's what got us in this mess in the first place.

Now a new report from, this is a company that sells real estate information. Fascinating third quarter snapshot of just how ugly these home prices have become.

One out of three homes that were sold in the past year were sold for a loss. People lost money on the sale. One in seven homes in this country are negative equity, meaning people owe more on the mortgage than it's worth.

Look at some of these home price tumble for the third quarter. Stockton, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami. These are places where we saw just race up red hot. But look, I found a bunch of places around the country where your home price is either holding value or moving up. Places like Des Moines; Knoxville, Tennessee; Pueblo, Colorado; Dallas, Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City; Little Rock. There are quite a few places that they're holding in on value there.

Also, the research firm points out that over the past five years most of the major markets are still up over the past five years. So, if you bought four or five years ago you're still all right in most places in the country.

CHETRY: But you're in trouble if you took a home equity loan on what --

ROMANS: If you raided your house for all the money, yes, yes. For everybody who --

CHETRY: I didn't do that.

ROBERTS: I thought you did.

CHETRY: No, I didn't. I didn't. I threw all those offers away in the garbage.

ROMANS: And you got a lot of offers, I bet, didn't you?

CHETRY: Yes, of course. I sort of feel like there was something wrong with me because I didn't have a home equity loan.

ROMANS: You know, if you didn't raid your house for the money, if you live in the home and you're going to live in the home, if you still have your job, you know, millions of Americans are going to be OK. But gosh, you know, millions other -- millions more are looking at these finances and saying this is impossible math.

ROBERTS: Right. Thanks, Christine.

Fourteen, almost 15 minutes now after the hour.

CHETRY: One on one with President Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've had a lot of reasons to be, you know, proud, I guess is the right word.


CHETRY: The outgoing president looks back on his proudest moments in office and the ones he wishes he could take back.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said.


CHETRY: You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


CHETRY: President Bush talking about war and regrets and what he's proud of. In a rare exclusive interview with CNN's Heidi Collins, the president spoke candidly yesterday about slips of the tongue, things that maybe he'd like to take back. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said.


BUSH: Like dead or alive, bring them on. You know, it's -- and by the way, my wife reminded me that, hey, as president of the United States you better be careful of what you say. I mean I was trying to convey a message. I probably could have conveyed it more artfully.

You know, being on this ship reminds me of when I went to the USS Abraham Lincoln and they had a sign that said "mission accomplished." I regret that, you know, that sign was there. It was a sign aimed at the sailors on that ship; however, it conveyed a broader knowledge. To some it said, well, Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over when I didn't think that but nevertheless it conveyed the wrong message. So there are things I've regretted.


CHETRY: President Bush is facing some dismal approval ratings in his days in office as they wind down. So what does he think about the polls? Well, he's going to talk about that in our next hour.

Also, you can watch all of Heidi Collins interview with President Bush on "CNN NEWSROOM" next at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

ROBERTS: Well, John Edwards is trying to make a comeback three months after he admitted to cheating on his cancer-stricken wife. The former presidential candidate will be in San Francisco tonight.

Last night, he spoke to students at Indiana University. Did the affair come up?

Carol Costello joins us now live from Washington. Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, let's start with that question.

Did the affair come up? Well, in a word, no. But it had to be uncomfortable for John Edwards to speak publicly for the first time since fessing up to cheating on his wife, Elizabeth.

Imagine what he lost, his reputation. And you know, at one time pundits thought Obama might appoint him attorney general. Well, not any more. But it is comeback time for Edwards and last night he spoke at Indiana University, no cameras allowed.

We did manage to get a shot of him walking in. He told students Election 2008 proved Americans wanted something different. He told the crowd the heated primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made Obama a better candidate and helped him beat John McCain. Students were allowed to pre-submit questions and if they wondered about how Edwards felt after this painful moment, you're going to see either they did not ask or he chose not to answer them.


JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: In 2006, I told Elizabeth about the mistake, asked her for her forgiveness, asked God for his forgiveness. And we have kept this within our family since that time. All of my family knows about this.


COSTELLO: Can he recover from that, recover his reputation? Of course, that remains the big unknown but he is trying.

One more thing, this speech had been scheduled before word of Edwards affair became public. Indiana University struggled with allowing him to speak but decided Edwards could impart useful information about the election to student. And Edwards agreed to take a $15,000 pay cut. He made only 35,000 instead of 50k, and that was more affordable for the university than other speakers with that much political know how.

And you mentioned it before, John, Edwards also set to make another appearance in San Francisco on Wednesday. He'll debate former Bush strategist Karl Rove at the American Bankers Association. That's according to the "San Francisco Chronicle" and it was reported over the weekend.

ROBERTS: $35,000 for a single speech. I don't see anybody who could complain about that.

Carol, thanks so much.

COSTELLO: Certainly not chump change.

ROBERTS: Certainly not me. I never complain. Thanks, Carol.

Twenty-two minutes now after the hour.

The dream come true. Brand new polls show us how African- Americans think the historic election will affect race relations in the country.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." Republican governors are getting together today in Miami and boy, do they have a lot to talk about.

Sarah Palin is going to speak at the two-day conference and her role in the party's future will likely be a key topic of conversation. So let's get into it now.

David Frum, conservative and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute joins me now. David, during the campaign you were pretty harsh when it came to the topic of Governor Sarah Palin. It looks like she could make a play for 2012. Do you feel any differently about her now? I mean, could you potentially support her run for president?

DAVID FRUM, SR. FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, the Republican campaign for 2012 has already started. We're probably a week into it. Your viewers will be delighted to hear there's not going to be a second interval without American politics.

She is about to face the great challenge of her governorship, and we're going to see what she's really made of. In her first two years as governor, she became the most popular governor in America because she's the governor of America's biggest oil-producing state at a time when the price of oil tripled. Well, the price of oil has now dropped by two-thirds and we'll see what she's made of.

Can she sustain the kind of popularity she had in Alaska with oil back down from 145 to $60 a barrel unless what kind of governor will she be in adversity? We don't know the answer to those questions. A lot will depend on them.

Does she run for reelection again in 2012? Does she get reelected, sorry, 2010, I beg your pardon, that she get reelected? Or does she go for the national stage avoiding reelection?

ROBERTS: I mean, she could also try to go for the Senate, right, if they kick out Ted Stevens?

FRUM: She could do that. And that would be a sign of not being able or willing to grapple with the difficulties in the state. She needs some decision --

ROBERTS: She's probably better positioned as a governor too. Wouldn't you think?

FRUM: Well, except you're far away. The problem, she made a lot of decisions as governor based on very high oil prices. And how those decisions will work out once oil prices come down, that's a big question mark.

ROBERTS: In terms of this bigger question of rebuilding the Republican Party, who do the GOP leaders reach out to? I mean, where is the base now? It definitely seems to have been completely -- well, not completely, but it has been significantly eroded.

FRUM: Well, look, the base is fine. The base delivered 46 percent of the vote in a terrible year. That's a great turnout by the base. The problem is 46 percent is a little less than the 50 percent you need. So, we have to extend beyond the base. That's our great problem as we're very comfortable with this base.

Republicans are used to be the party of the college graduate, for example. Well, Obama beat us among college graduates by 10 points. So we need to find some way of reaching out to Americans who used to be Republicans to get back over that 50 percent line. That's going to take some changes on environmental issues. It's going to take some extra changes on social issues and new economic policy. We have a lot of thinking to do.

ROBERTS: Now, you did an analysis in the publication "The Week" just recently saying, "We still have some Republican strength and the big reason for hope is the Republican super majority among white Americans, McCain got 55 percent of that vote." But then Democratic strategist Bob Shrum did a counter piece to that saying your demographics are all wrong. He pointed out that Obama "increased the Democratic share of the white vote by seven percent in Ohio, 15 percent in Virginia, 17 percent in North Carolina, and an astounding 22 percent in Indiana where he actually carried white working-class voters. And at the same time, Hispanic support for Republicans collapsed."

Shrum also pointed out that younger white voters, really the future of the country here, for that particular demographic, went for Obama as well. So how do you figure out your demographics here in terms of going --

FRUM: Well, I think Bob simply who is a frequent sparring of mine simply misread that piece. My point was not that 46 percent of the vote offers hope. Obviously, if you come in a strong second in presidential politics, you're a loser. So that's not a basis for hope. It's a basis for building.

You have to start with what you have and then recognize that you have problems. One of my biggest themes has been that Republicans have been losing the young and losing the educated, and we have to make changes. At the same time, we need to understand what we have.

I mean as with any troubled enterprise, whether it's the Republican Party or General Motors, I mean the fact that the Buick brand is shrinking doesn't mean there are no more Buick buyers, and that you can afford to completely disregard the existing buyers. You have to consider your existing view of buyers when you try to figure out how we get more Buick buyers.

ROBERTS: Give me a real short answer here. How long is it going to take to rebuild the Republican Party?

FRUM: I hope we can do it in one presidential cycle if we're prepared to learn and to change quickly. But if we dig in defeat, Democrats in the '80s took three cycles to get their acts together.

ROBERTS: All right. David Frum for us this morning.

David, it's always good to see you. Thanks for dropping by.

FRUM: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Take care.

CHETRY: Twenty-nine minutes after the hour. Breaking this morning, Iran says it test fired a new generation high speed surface to surface missile. The government says that the test took place near the Iraq border. Last week, Iran warned American forces that choppers were flying too close to its airspace.

Well, some good news for your pocketbook. Gas prices down again, 56 days in a row now. AAA says the average price for regular is down to $2.20 a gallon. That's a dollar drop in just a month.

Your child could already have the arteries of a 45-year-old. That's the warning in a new study on obese children. Doctors say ultrasounds found that some kids as young as 10 were already suffering problems that greatly increase the risk of heart disease. Parents shouldn't treat extra weight as "baby fat" that will eventually burn off.

And there's some new information this morning on just how significant Obama's historic election could be. Jason Carroll has been looking at some brand new poll numbers and he joins us this morning. Hi there, good to see you.


A lot of encouraging information coming out of some of these polls. For the first time a majority of African-Americans they now see a possible end to the country's racial problems. That's a big change from just about a few months ago before the election. In the CNN opinion research poll African-Americans were asked if they though race relations would always be an issue. As recently as January, 52 percent said yes but post-election just 44 percent said yes.

And here's a look at the reason why. 96 percent of African- Americans say the election will improve race relations. Half went as far to say they see it as the start of a new-era. But look at some of the other numbers in some of these polls. A quarter of whites say the election will either bring no real change or could make matters even worse. With just about four percent of blacks think that. So a lot of optimism out there in the African-American community.

Here's a look at one more poll that helps explain a little more about the reasons why. We asked people if they thought they'd see a black president in their lifetime. Blacks overwhelmingly said no. 71 percent thought they would never see it. While 60 percent of whites thought it was always possible. So whites a little bit more optimistic before the election and you could say that African- Americans much more optimistic now that Obama has been elected.

CHETRY: Very interesting how, especially how dramatic how things will improve. There's hope for the future.

CARROLL: And who was more optimistic before the election, right?

CHETRY: Right. Very interesting. Jason Carroll, thanks.

Well, seven years after 9/11 even the U.S. still has not caught Osama Bin Laden. Most agree catching him is still the mission for President-elect Obama. Continuing our series now, "Memo to the President," Justice correspondent Kelli Arena explains that intelligence on Bin Laden is so limited we don't even know if he's dead or alive. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What happened? Mr. President, Osama Bin Laden's trail has run cold. U.S. officials say they haven't had a solid lead since late 2001.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I talked to a dozen CIA guys that have been on the hunt for him. And half of them told me they assume he was dead, the other half say the assume he's alive but the key word here is assume. They don't know.

ARENA: They also assume that Osama Bin Laden is hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan, an area that's isolated, mountainous and difficult to navigate. U.S. predator drones have been firing a lot of hell fire missiles but drones can't replace on the ground intelligence.

ROBERT GRENIER, FMR. CIA PAKISTAN STATION CHIEF: One individual who may have access to the families and the clans in a particular valley, if he goes to the valley next door and starts asking questions he's going to probably end up dead pretty quickly.

ARENA: Cultivating informants is dicey. So what about using force? Most experts agree deploying troops in Pakistan is a no go. Those hell fire missiles have killed several Al Qaeda leaders but innocent civilians as well and that's a big political problem. Dalton Fury was the commander of the special forces near Tora Bora, Afghanistan in 2001.

DALTON FURY, FMR. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMANDER: It doesn't matter if you have Al Qaeda number three or one of the senior Taliban leaders. They're going to put on national television the people that you killed. So that's the strategic risk you take every time you launch that.

ARENA: What about Pakistan's military. Can they get him?

GRENIER: They won't do it. They've got much more important fish to fry.

ARENA: Terrorism experts say the U.S. does too. But catching Bin Laden remains symbolically important.


ARENA: Unfortunately, each strategy to catch Bin Laden relies on the terrorists making a mistake to reveal his location which is not the greatest position for a super power to be in. Kiran.

CHETRY: There's also talks that Obama wants to put more troops in Afghanistan. How would that play into the search for Bin Laden?

ARENA: Well, I'm not going to say that won't help. But a lot of the experts are skeptical. They say that really what has to happen is, it has to happen on the Pakistan side. That's where they believe he is on that side of the border. Relations with the Pakistani military have been sketchy. Pakistani intelligence has been sketchy. All of those challenges still remain even if you have a troop build up in Afghanistan.

CHETRY: All right. Kelli Arena for us this morning. Thanks.

Also tomorrow's memo to the president, handling China. Obama's challenge to keep China as a trading partner that the U.S. needs while getting them to make reforms that the U.S. wants.

ROBERTS: Well no one likes waiting for an airplane to take off. But how long is too long for you to sit in a plane on the runway. The federal task force official guidelines are in. After thinking about it for almost a year, well guess what? They still don't know.


ROBERTS: 37 minutes after the hour. And time to fast forward now to see what will be making headlines later on today. Gay right supporters awaiting a key ruling from a Connecticut superior court which could allow same sex marriage in the state. That comes up at 9:15 Eastern. State representative (Beth Byrne) and her partner hope to make history today with the first same sex marriage in their town of West Hart.

At 10:00 Eastern, House lawmakers led by financial services chairman Barney Frank will launch a hearing to put pressure on mortgage firms and banks. They want to see more help for those trying to stay in their homes, hoping to stem the tide of foreclosures across the country. Just 30 minutes later at 10:30 Eastern, we're going to hear from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. He's expected to give an update on the $700 billion bailout package. And at 11:00 a.m. over the Bronx, the Yankees. They're moving a piece of history as the pinstripe players get ready to move to the new Yankee Stadium next year. The Babe Ruth monument will be plucked from its spot at the old stadium and that's what we're following this morning. Kiran.

CHETRY: John, thanks. Well, we all heard the horror stories or sometimes lived them of getting stuck on airplanes for hours waiting to take off. Well, a federal task force has been meeting for almost a year. And if passengers are looking for some concrete solutions, they're going to be waiting for that as well. Our Alina Cho is here with the latest. I just what to say why am I not surprised.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well you know they are pouring over passenger comments, thousands of them. You know they got them on the website. They are also looking at this taskforce recommendation. So Kiran, you know, they are calling it the Task Tarmac taskforce and they will be voting today on these recommendations to help ease the pain on the tarmac.

Now we're talking about those long wait times of course. But part of the problem and this is what Kiran alluded to is the recommendations at least for now are non-binding. And the task force can't seem to agree on what constitutes a long delay. Is it one hour? Is it two hours? Is it ten hours? Now there is a reason for that. But first remember that Valentine's day massacre? That's what it was called back in February of last year. Some 100,000 Jet Blue passengers stuck on the tarmac in some cases for more than 10 hours. No water, no usable bathrooms on some of the flights. Airline passengers everywhere were outraged. I know I was. So that task force was formed. The AP now has obtained a draft of the report that will be released today and there are four recommendations. Listen to this.

One, airlines should update passengers who are delayed every 15 minutes even if there's no information. A secure room should be provide for passengers from diverted overseas flights so they don't have to go through security again when they reboard. When practical the airline should provide refreshments and entertainment in case of a tarmac delay. And the last one, airlines should make "every reasonable effort to keep airplane rest rooms usable." That was a big problem. Remember that?

Now, nothing about the exact length of this tarmac delays. Now why can't the task force agree on the definition of a long delay? Well, we spoke to the transportation department about this. That's because a one hour delay in Indianapolis we're told to and from airport is far different than a one hour delay at JFK, a domestic and international hub. Operations at Kennedy as you might expect, much more complex.

So let's say the rule is one hour on the tarmac and you taxi back. Well, if it's one hour and two minutes the D.O.T. says wouldn't you rather wait that extra two minutes. That's why you can't do they say a one size fits all rule. It is much more complicated and that's why the recommendations for now are non-binding. They are going to go to the Transportation Secretary. A final report is expected in the next couple of weeks. And I'm told Kiran that the new rules will be in place by the summer.

CHETRY: But they are not really rules because they are non- binding.

CHO: Well eventually the final report will come out. It just has to go through the Transportation Secretary first. Again, they are looking not just at this report but thousands and thousands of comments from everyone from airline passengers to the CEO of airlines. They got a lot of information to pour through. We'll see what they come up with. They say they're going to have some additional recommendations to ease the pain during the holiday season and those should be out on Tuesday. And so we're anxiously awaiting for that.

CHETRY: The other thing I do remember was that it was last Thanksgiving when they had a ton more people on staff, a ton more TSA people and it actually went relatively smoothly even though they were predicting big problems.

CHO: It did and I think the passengers believe that things have gotten incrementally better. The problem is those wait times on the tarmac. And sometimes, you know, you can be on the tarmac for like four hours, five hours and nothing is done about it. That's a big problem. So they are really looking very closely at that. Those recommendations will come out. Hopefully a final report in the next few weeks.

CHETRY: All right. Alina, thanks so much.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: 42 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS (voice-over): Meet the parents.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SEN. BARACK OBAMA: There's nothing that makes me rest more now that I have to work than to know that my kids are being loved and cared for by someone who is teaching them values and discipline and giving them a little extra candy every now and then.

ROBERTS: Michelle Obama's mom, the first grandmother may soon give a new meaning to the phrase a trip to grandma's. You're watching "the most news in the morning."



ROBERTS: 45 minutes after the hour here. Beautiful shot this morning from the 79th street Causeway looking out over Biscayne Bay in Miami where it's currently mostly sunny and 76 degrees and will be mostly sunny with a high of 82 a little bit later on. Our Jacqui Jeras down in the CNN weather center in Atlanta. She is monitoring all of the weather and looks like an old Steve (inaudible) might be appropriate here. We could have some flooding down in Texas there.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, a lot of it. By the way, you just made everybody in Minnesota and Wisconsin cranky this morning.

ROBERTS: Believe me. New York as well.

JERAS: Yes, I know.

ROBERTS: Those republican governors down there in Miami. They got some great weather ahead of them today.

JERAS: They do although maybe a shower. But, a 30 percent chance today in the Miami area. But 100 percent chance for you across southeastern parts of Texas, also into Louisiana. Look at these strong thunderstorms rolling through there. They are dumping down an inch an hour in some of these heavier storms. So some flash flooding can be expected. Ponding on the roadways. A rough go of it along I- 10. This is going to be moving to Baton Rouge and over towards New Orleans, probably in about two hours from now.

There are flash flood watches and some warnings in effect including the Houston area. We're looking at those smaller rivers and streams starting to rise a little bit. So expect some delays there in Houston as well as Dallas and Chicago, Atlanta, Memphis and Seattle. We'll see low clouds and some rain and Minneapolis will have some light snow showers and yes you're seeing that right now. So look at that sunshine in Miami. Hopefully you'll enjoy it just a little bit.

A lot of sunshine too behind our system here. Going to be clearing out across much of the plain states as we head into the afternoon hours for today. In the meantime those showers and thunderstorms from the Gulf Coast stretch all the way up into the Great Lakes. High pressure dominating you across parts of the east today. It is seen relatively mild but we got those strong winds pulling in. so you will see a little bit of rough surf, John, along Florida's Atlantic beaches.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, you can't have everything down there. You get the sunshine so you got to take the rough surf. Jacqui Jeras, thanks. Good to see you. It's now 47 minutes after the hour.



CHETRY (voice-over): Image abroad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's young, handsome and even tanned.

CHETRY: Why some Europeans aren't laughing at an off color joke about President-elect Barack Obama. You're watching "the most news in the morning."


CHETRY: President-elect Barack Obama's kids are as much a buzz in Washington as the new president-elect himself. Kate Bolduan reports.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Obama checked out two of the most prestigious private schools in Washington while on her trip to visit the White House. Leading many to wonder what schools will the first daughters attend after the big move? Chelsea Clinton attended the private school Sidwell friends but President Carter made a point of sending his daughter Amy to D.C. public school. The issue has sparked debate. Some including journalists and D.C. public school parents Stephanie Mincemer are pushing for public. Mincemer even posted a letter online pleading with the first family to stand by public school education.

STEPHANIE: I think it really says we're all in this together. It's one thing to say I'm in favor of school reform, but I don't really want to be part of that with my own family.

BOLDUAN: The whole school question has returned D.C. public schools to the national spotlight. Mayor Adrian Fenty, an Obama supporter, has made it his big issue. Improving a system that's received a failing report card for decades. Plagued by under performance and poor student achievement. Obama even talked about it during the final presidential debate.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The D.C. school system is in terrible shape, and it has been for a very long time.

BOLDUAN: And public school may be out of the question anyway. Both fifth grader Malia and second grader Sasha now attend a private school in Chicago. And along with concerns over privacy and security, some say private schools, where many children of politicians and the famous attend, is the best option.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll understand the whole idea of the celebrity and the media and the Secret Service in a way that most other schools wouldn't.


CHETRY: Well that was Kate Bolduan reporting. It's 51 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS (voice-over): The Obamas are coming, but who's going to keep the first daughters in line? First grandma.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Teaching them values and discipline and giving them a little extra candy every now and then.

ROBERTS: Mother-in-law to a president, what White House grandma will do?

Plus, how music to your ears can help your heart. We're "Paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta." You're watching the most news in the morning.




JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": So, we're certainly following Barack Obama's every transportation move. What would be the least fortunate way to describe that?

JEANNIE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The President-elect has to watch every word as we watch his every move, from dropping off his kids at school to being followed to the airport, O.J. style.

STEWART: What? What! Can't a black man drive an SUV on the - O.J. Simpson has ruined SUV travel for black people! Yes.


ROBERTS: Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" last night.

A CNN exclusive interview with President Bush aboard the "USS Intrepid." In his first interview since the election, he also offered praise for Barack Obama.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: My choice didn't win. I was for John McCain. I felt he battled hard. But I meant what I said after the election. That the election of Barack Obama is an historic moment for our country. There are a lot of people in America who did not believe they would ever see this day. And it is good for our country that people have hope in the system and feel vested in the future. And so President-elect Obama has a great opportunity, and I really do wish him all the best. I mean, I am just as American as he is American. And it is good for our country that the president succeeds.


ROBERTS: You can watch all of Heidi Collins interview with President Bush on CNN NEWSROOM coming up next at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

And there was certainly euphoria in Europe when America elected its first black president. Now the good vibes are giving away to a little bit of insensitivity. Some of it splashed across the front page. AMERICAN MORNING's Carol Costello is live for us in Washington. What are they saying now, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, John, some of these stuff are insensitive and some of it is just plain ugly.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Remember the love for Barack Obama in Germany? It was a thing to behold. In Kenya, couples are naming their babies Barack and Michelle. But those heartwarming images don't tell the whole story. Some European leaders seem confused about how to talk about America's first black president. Italy's prime minister for one.

SILVIO BESLUSCONI, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): He's young, handsome and even tanned.

COSTELLO: Berlusconi was quick to say it was a joke, but France's first lady, Carla Bruni, who was born in Italy, found it offensive, adding "I am pleased to have become French." Still, international relations experts say Berlusconi's comment might have been insensitive, but not necessarily racist. After all, Berlusconi's comment is not so very different about what Joe Biden once said about his new boss during the primary.

VICE PRESIDENT ELECT JOE Biden: I mean, you got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. COSTELLO: But other things are harder to brush off. A Polish lawmaker, Archer Gorski, called Obama's victory, the end of civilization of white men. Take a look at this front-page story from a newspaper in Germany. This was its June headline. Translation Uncle Barack's Cabin. Editors called it satirical, though some didn't get the joke. Also, according to the French press, a German lawmaker issued a press release concerned about Obama's popularity in Germany. He said "Obama fever resembles an African tropical disease." We should point out that lawmaker belongs to a German neo-Nazi party, a fringe party, the majority of Germans despise.

ANNETTE HEUSER, BERTESMANN FOUNDATION: In Germany we have still unfortunately those very right-wing party, NPD, but they are representing absolutely tiny minority view and they are not representing how Germany and the German citizens define democracy in today's world.


COSTELLO: Now, keep in mind, in Germany and in Poland, the politicians talking about trash about the President-elect Obama were widely condemned. The majority of Europeans are truly excited about an Obama presidency. In fact, when Italy's Prime Minister Berlusconi's suntanned remark hit "The New York Times," Italians blogged about how angry they were. One man telling the "Time," I'm an Italian. Today I am ashamed if you want to make a change, we give Berlusconi, you give to us Obama. Please, please, he added.

ROBERTS: Don't' know if that would go over well here. France's First Lady Carla Bruni grew up Italian, had some pretty harsh words to say about Berlusconi saying that she is glad that she is French now as opposed to Italian.

COSTELLO: I know. She pulled no punches. She's actually using those remarks in France, John, to kind of like talk about diversity and how important diversity is to the French.

ROBERTS: Is she angling for a visit to the White House there as well?

COSTELLO: She can't wait to meet Michelle Obama. She's made that very clear in public comments.

ROBERTS: All right. Carol Costello this morning. Carol, good to see you. Thanks.