Return to Transcripts main page


Obama and Clinton; Helping the Homeowner; Wildfires out of Control; Identify Theft Scandal; Federal Contractors Must use E- Verify; Bailout Outrage

Aired November 14, 2008 - 19:00   ET


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. Tonight, Senator Hillary Clinton does not rule out the possibility of joining the Obama administration. We'll have the very latest on the rising speculation that she will serve in the Obama cabinet.
Also, a massive tax and identity theft scandal involving more than 1,000 suspected illegal aliens, people all over the country could be affected.

And the final countdown for the launch of the space shuttle "Endeavour." We'll have live coverage of the blast-off that's expected within the hour, all that, all the day's news, much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Friday, November 14th. Live from New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody. Senator Clinton today refused to speculate on reports that she might serve in the Obama administration. Now, CNN has learned that President-elect Obama has asked Clinton if she's interested in becoming secretary of state.

A large number of former Clinton administration officials are already working for the president-elect. By one estimate, about 60 percent of those officials have links to former Clinton administration. Candy Crowley reports from Chicago.

Candy, what is the very latest on Senator Clinton's talks with the president-elect?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the very latest is that they were serious talks, which we might have expected given that you wouldn't expect Hilliary Clinton to come to Chicago and not talk about something serious, and a serious job within the administration. And the job they talked about was secretary of state.

Multiple Democratic sources say that Barack Obama wanted to know whether Hillary Clinton would accept the secretary of state job were it to be offered. So, as far as we know, there was no official offer, but there was a kind of feeling out, if you will, as to whether she would be open to that sort of thing.

So, as for Hillary Clinton, as you know, over recent days, she's been kind of leaving some wiggle room in the statements of hers, not categorically saying, I'm not going to be anything other than the senator from New York. So, certainly over the past week the rumors of Hillary Clinton as a possible secretary of state have ratcheted up quite a bit here where it now seems that she may be the favorite, still in the running. But again, no deal done; just the news from multiple sources that he has asked her if she would accept the job were it to be offered, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Candy, President-elect Obama is also scheduled to meet with Senator John McCain.

CROWLEY: Right. He's going to do that Monday. There may be less to this than meets the eye. This may be more about a symbolic meeting to show bipartisanship, to show that he is reaching out to all his rivals. As you may know, Barack Obama loved the book "Team of Rivals" about Abraham Lincoln on how he brought in all his former political foes into his cabinet.

But I think this is less about that as far as the signals I'm getting than about just a show of bipartisanship. The other thing that sort of argues against maybe a major cabinet position for John McCain is the fact that this meeting was set up by Lindsey Graham (ph), Senator Lindsey Graham (ph) who, in fact, is a close friend of Rahm Emanuel, who is the chief of staff for Obama, so the two of them kind of cooked this up, so -- and are expected to be in that meeting so it doesn't sound to me like that kind of eyeball-to-eyeball meeting that we're told went on with Hillary Clinton.

PILGRIM: Well that makes sense, Candy, when you connect the dots like that. Thanks very much, Candy Crowley.

Ceremonies of a very different kind in Washington this weekend, leaders from the world's 20 richest countries, the so-called G-20, they are attending a summit meeting to discuss the global financial crisis. Now, presidents and prime ministers arrived in Washington appropriately enough in the fog. And their meeting comes as governments around the world struggle to prevent a severe global recession.

Well, President Bush tonight is trying to rebut criticism that there is no oversight of the government's huge financial bailout. This criticism escalated after Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson abruptly shifted the focus of the bailout away from toxic securities. Well, the president today nominated a federal prosecutor in New York, Neil Barosky (ph) to be special inspector general of the program.

And members of Congress today expressed fury at the Treasury Department's management of the bailout. Congressmen blasted the Treasury official who's overseeing the program, Neel Kashkari, and they accused him of fear mongering.


DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Saying credit markets were largely frozen, denying financial institutions, businesses, consumers access to vital funding and credit, financial institutions were under extreme pressure; investor confidence in our system was dangerously low. Hello? Are we in a different universe here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We purchased equity. The equity...

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: You purchased a debt instrument.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's tier one capital, congressman.

ISSA: You know, we can go ring around the rosy here, but you're here today because Congress is feeling that you played a bait and switch game, and you're not convincing anyone that you haven't.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: You're on TV. You're the man. I don't know how much we're paying you, but you're our employee. And tell those people what you are doing. They hear about the bailouts on Wall Street. They hear that their tax dollars are being paid to AIG and these people going on these junkets and all that. They hear all of that. But they feel like it's ring around the rosy. They hear a lot of nice talk, but they're still being put out of their houses.


PILGRIM: Now the Treasury Department's bailout of Wall Street will cost taxpayers almost $1 trillion. That's $700 billion, plus another $150 billion in pork. And in addition, the Federal Reserve has loaned financial institutions as much as $2 trillion.

Well one government agency tonight is pushing a plan to help homeowners with bailout money. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation wants to directly help homeowners who are facing foreclosure. Louise Schiavone reports.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): FDIC Chief Sheila Bair (ph) is ready to take on the troubled mortgage sector with a plan to relieve as many as two million homeowners in peril of losing their homes. Financing would come from the $700 billion bailout; the first time consumers would get direct help from the fund.

ROBERT MANNING, ROCHESTER INST. OF TECHNOLOGY: The problem is, is that it's helped Wall Street, not main street. Sheila Bair (ph) is looking at each individual homeowner. How do we keep them in their home? And if we're going to keep them in their home, there's a maximum amount they can afford on their mortgage.

SCHIAVONE: As envisioned by the FDIC, 2.2 million troubled mortgage holders would get help. The plan would cost roughly $24 billion to come from the bailout fund. The federal government would absorb 50 percent of the cost of a homeowner defaults on a modified loan. It's a good idea, say lawmakers who complain that since the bailout passed, more people have lost jobs, businesses and homes and banks are still paying dividends.

ISSA: It was disingenuous in the way that the administration came to us with a crisis because the money has not in any way, shape or form been used as it was asked for.

SCHIAVONE: Treasury officials advise the bailout should not be confused with a stimulus plan.

NEEL KASHKARI, INTERIM ASST. TREASURY SECY.: We are trying to use these resources to stabilize the system for every American, but we also have real economic challenges that we all need to work through.

SCHIAVONE: As for where Treasury stands on the latest proposal, the FDIC tells CNN quote, "We've had positive discussions with Treasury about the proposal."


SCHIAVONE: Kitty, insiders say those talks continue, but behind the scenes, there are turf wars and policy battles, and it's possible that action on the FDIC's mortgage rescue plan may have to wait for the Obama administration -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: You know, Louise, there's been very little help for homeowners to date and that kind of time will be very, very tough for homeowners to hang on. We may see thousands more lose their homes in that period of time.

SCHIAVONE: That's exactly right. The clock is ticking with every week, with every month that goes by, there are more and more homeowners in peril. And then coming around the corner, this coming spring, there's going to be another reset on these jumbo loans. We are going to go through it all over again, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Louise Schiavone.

Well, there's new pressure on Capitol Hill tonight for a bailout of the big three automakers. Now, Senate Democrats want a vote next week to provide emergency loans to Detroit, but the White House tonight said that the car makers should only receive help from an existing $25 billion program.

Weak consumer spending contributed to another sharp sell off on Wall Street today. The Dow industrials ended the day nearly 340 points lower at just below 8500. The Dow lost five percent on the week.

Massive wildfires tonight raging out of control in Santa Barbara County, California; officials have declared a state of emergency. Ted Rowlands is in Santa Barbara where the fire has destroyed more than 100 homes, left 13 people injured. Ted, what's the latest on that?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, as bad as the weather was overnight and this morning, it is fantastic today in terms of fighting this fire, and a lot of progress was made. That said, this fire is still technically out of control, and there's no containment levels being offered at this point. As you mentioned over 100 homes, now they're saying between 100 and 200 homes were lost because of this fire and it was an amazing firestorm last night, fueled by winds up to 70 miles per hour. People who were enjoying the evening were literally given just a few moments to go through their homes, get what they could and get out. Firefighters, police were going up and down streets with bull horns giving people the "get out notice now", get out, get out. And for the most part everybody heeded that advice because this is fire country.

There's a lot of brush in this area. This of course is home to a lot of mega-mansions. That brings with it a lot of brush, a lot of trees and a lot of fuel in dry conditions which is exactly what they were looking at last night. Luckily, those people got out. There were no deaths, a lot of speculation that there would have been.

But the residents seemed to heed this advice. There were some injuries; a couple of people were burned severely. They're being treated in a southern California burn unit of a hospital tonight. But firefighters say the silver lining in all of this devastating story is that they were able to protect life, and as much as they lost a lot of these homes, they say that they were also able to save a lot of homes. And a lot of folks that have been through a lot of fires say they have seen nothing like that firefight for those few hours overnight because of those unbelievable winds -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Ted Rowlands. Thanks Ted.

Still to come, the space shuttle "Endeavour" is just minutes away from launching. We're standing by to bring you live coverage on that.

Also, rising outrage over the way AIG is spending government bailout money. Now you will not believe what AIG is doing now.

Also, troubling new evidence of the links between identity theft and our illegal immigration crisis, we'll have a special report on that.


PILGRIM: Authorities in Colorado tonight say they have uncovered massive identity theft and a tax fraud scheme. More than 1,000 illegal aliens are accused of using fake ID's to obtain tax refunds, and local prosecutors say the IRS has done nothing to stop it. Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 1,300 illegal aliens near Greeley, Colorado, have been using either stolen or phony Social Security numbers to receive at least $2.5 million in tax refunds, according to local law enforcement officials.

CHIEF JERRY GARNER, GREELEY POLICE DEPT.: These folks that are here illegally are victimizing American citizens by stealing their identity. Very, very often they are victimizing American citizens who are Latino.

WIAN: Police say all of the cases are linked to one tax preparer, who helped the illegal aliens file the returns. Officials believe the scheme worked this way. Illegal aliens used fake or stolen Social Security numbers to obtain a job. Taxes were withheld from their paychecks, often at improperly low rates by claiming children who either didn't exist or lived outside the United States.

Officials believe Amalia's Translation and Tax Service in Greeley would then obtain illegal taxpayer ID number and file a return claiming child tax credits. Illegal aliens would receive refunds, averaging $2,000. Officials note the tax preparer has not been charged with a crime, but local police believe the IRS knew it was happening, saying the illegal aliens have been doing it right under their noses.

SHERIFF JOHN COOKE, WELD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: They're using identities of American citizens and the IRS is allowing it to happen. They know the Social Security numbers are stolen. They don't do anything about it. They don't -- they -- all they care about is getting these people into the tax code system.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My duty is to help them file their taxes. Regardless, you know, if they're here illegally or not or if they're using a fake Social.

WIAN: So far, police have made 15 arrests and have issued 31 arrest warrants on state charges of identity theft or criminal impersonation. They expect to make more apprehensions in the next several weeks.

KEN BUCK, WELD COUNTY DISTRICT ATTY.: To add 1,300 cases to that caseload, in essence adding 50 percent to our caseload just goes to show what type of burden we have on the local system as a result of the federal government not doing its job in the illegal immigration area.

WIAN: The IRS declined to comment on the case.


WIAN: A local district attorney says there are identity theft victims linked to the scheme all over the United States, yet the tax preparer and local Latino advocates claim they're being racially profiled by law enforcement authorities -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Casey, that's unbelievable. And the tax preparer is not even admitting any guilt or remorse?

WIAN: No, absolutely not. She said she was following the IRS guidelines that the IRS just wanted to get these people onto the tax rolls and obviously these people found a significant loophole where the IRS is not talking to the Department of Homeland Security, other law enforcement authorities. They've been able to get away with this for at least two years, probably a lot longer than that, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Unbelievable. Thanks very much. Casey Wian.

Well, news today that the Dallas Texas Independent School District provided foreign job applicants with phony Social Security numbers so they could be hired. Now, the "Dallas Morning News" obtained an internal school district report, and the report said the district was told back in 2004 that the policy was illegal, and the report also said the practice wasn't stopped until this past summer.

The newspaper said most of those hired were brought in to teach bilingual classes. The Dallas School District did not return our phone calls asking for comment.

The government's program to stop employers from hiring illegal workers will soon become mandatory for federal contractors. E-Verify, it's the federal database that businesses use to check if people are eligible to work in this country. It's one of the government's few success stories in the fight to stop the hiring of illegal aliens. Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows employers to verify the employment eligibility of their workers. It's free to employers who sign up. Currently, more than 92,000 employers use the system which checks employment authorization against more than 500 million Social Security and Department of Homeland Security databases.

As of January the 15th of next year, it will be mandatory for almost all contractors and subcontractors doing business with the federal government. Those with contracts for less than $100,000 will be exempted from the requirement. It's an exemption that puzzles advocates of immigration enforcement.

JESSICA VAUGHN, CTR. FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: I'm hard-pressed to think of any good reason why any federal contractors would be excused from having to use E-Verify. E-Verify works just as well for smaller contractors as it does for larger contractors.

TUCKER: Ninety-nine point six percent of all employees checked through the system experience no problems. Fewer than a half a percent indicate a problem which is typically cleared up due to a misspelled name or a mistyped Social Security number.

Groups like the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have challenged E-Verify's accuracy. There have also been lawsuits challenging state laws mandating the use of E-Verify by employers, by those groups. Their argument -- the states can't require it because the federal government doesn't require it.

KRIS KOBACH, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: This decision by the federal government undercuts those organizations that are saying that the mandatory use of E-Verify is contrary to federal law. This undercuts that argument completely. Now the federal government itself is requiring all private entities that contract with the federal government to use it.

TUCKER: The rule change also goes one step further. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Under the new rules, contractors and subcontractors will not only have to check the status of their new hires, but employees already on the payroll. It's typical in these cases that existing employees are grandfathered in under state laws and that only checks on new hires are required, Kitty, so this goes a little bit further than what we're used to seeing.

PILGRIM: Bill, quick question. Why is the exemption under $100,000? That makes no sense to me.

TUCKER: That made no sense to me either. And I called up the Department of Homeland Security and said why and they said we're trying to strike a balance. And I said but your literature says it's free, it's free, and it's simple to use, so I don't understand why you don't require it for everybody and honestly they didn't have a very credible or good sounding answer, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Well let's hope they work on a good one. All right, thanks very much. Bill Tucker.

Well E-Verify has already been proven a success among private companies. Many have been voluntarily using E-Verify for more than a decade. Arizona has the largest number of businesses using E-Verify. That's followed by California, Georgia, Colorado and Texas. It's worth repeating. The Department of Homeland Security says 99.6 percent of qualified employees are cleared immediately by E-Verify.

Coming up just minutes from now, the space shuttle "Endeavour" is about to liftoff from launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We'll have live coverage of that.

Also, if AIG junkets at luxury resorts and English hunting clubs weren't enough to make you angry, wait until you hear the latest use of your tax dollars by the management of AIG. We'll have a special report on that. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: AIG executives have done it again. Now, after reports of executive junkets at posh resorts and English hunting clubs, the company promised to rein in expenses. Well AIG is being kept alive by more than $150 billion of taxpayer money, and now the company is planning to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to top employees. Ines Ferre has our report.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days after Americans watched the bailout for AIG go up to $152 billion AIG says it plans to pay out more than $500 million to about five percent of its global workforce, ranging from mid managers to senior executives. AIG says the pay is money employees earned over the years, but decided to defer receiving. The company says the compensation will be paid out in the first quarter of 2009, quote "to remove the incentive for employees to leave in order to get at their money." Some lawmakers are outraged at this compensation when taxpayers are on the hook for the company's failure.

CUMMINGS: My point is simply that this is a horrible time to be doing that when we have people literally losing their jobs. Keep in mind that AIG is in existence purely because of the government's intervention, and so they would not be in existence, let alone have jobs, let alone be able to get the compensation if it were not for the taxpayers and the taxpayers are tired.

FERRE: The timing raises more questions over the management of the firm and how the rescue money will be used.

PROF. PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: They don't seem to be taking the running of their insurance company very seriously or how they use the taxpayers' money that has been loaned to them. It would be better just to take over the entire company.

FERRE: Morici and others say paying out this compensation now doesn't even guarantee employees will stay with AIG. The company says it's vital to try to keep employees because if they leave, the value of AIG will be worthless.


FERRE: And this incident only raises the sensitivity about the bailout that AIG's receiving. Some lawmakers are saying this is yet another reason why there should be more scrutiny over AIG -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Now I understand Harry Reid had a statement about this today. What was he saying?

FERRE: That's right. Well he basically said, look, the taxpayer is now an equity owner of AIG, and it's understandable that they would want to keep their personnel, but at the same time, the Treasury should be asking is this compensation really appropriate during these circumstances?

PILGRIM: Yes. I think a little oversight would be advisable. Thanks very much. Ines Ferre.

Well, three of the country's biggest cities are asking for a share of the federal government's trillion dollar Wall Street bailout. The mayors of Atlanta, Philadelphia and Phoenix say their cities need help with pension costs, infrastructure, investments and cash flow problems.

Mayor Michael Nutter (ph) of Philadelphia says cities should be helped also, along with the country's financial institutions. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the bailout is not intended to help state or local governments.

Coming up, Senator Clinton tonight considers the possibility of serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration. Three top political analysts will give us their assessment of that.

Also, Obama mania sweeps Washington more than two months before the inauguration day. We'll have a live report on that.

Also, the space shuttle "Endeavour" will blast off in the next few minutes. We'll bring you the launch live as soon as it happens. Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion -- an Independent view. Here again, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: More than a million people are expected to attend President-elect Obama's inauguration in Washington on January 20, only a quarter of a million will be allowed to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Now, tickets are in short supply, they are only available through members of Congress. Brian Todd reports from Washington.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Webb's office, this is Logan.

BRIAN TODD, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They light up every few seconds, almost every call an impassioned request for inauguration tickets.

JACOB TERRELL, AIDE TO SEN JAMES WEBB: Everybody's telling us about their 85-year-old grandmother who -- she -- they never thought she would live to see this day and they're real excited and they've got to have these tickets.

TODD: To say the office of Virginia Senator James Webb is inundated is putting it mildly.

TERRELL: Our waiting list is near 26,000.

TODD: The only way you can legitimately get tickets to Barack Obama's swearing-in is to call your senator or congressman.

JESSICA SMITH, AIDE TO SEN JAMES WEBB: Twenty-nine thousand people have contacted our office and most of them are requesting four, 10, 20 tickets each. So, we're talking, you know, tens of thousands.

TODD (on camera): And how many allotted tickets do you expect to get?

SMITH: It's unclear. We should find out next week. We think probably in the low couple of hundred.

TODD (on camera): Senator Webb has asked the congressional committee in charge of inauguration tickets for more since his state borders Washington and he expects more requests than most states. But, there are 240,000 tickets total available for the swearing-in ceremony, and the committee tells us each senator's office will get the same allotment, period. This is the kind of crush this city is bracing for as it prepares for an inauguration crowd that could break records. You're talking up to a million-and-a-half people converging on the capital. Can the city handle it? D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says normally 4,000 officers make up her force and other law enforcement agencies here, but they're bringing in 4,000 more from other cities. They have to protect the audience, dignitaries, protestors, move human and vehicle traffic.

CHIEF CATHY LANIER WASHINGTON, D.C. POLICE: We can't be so focused on any one element that we ignore another element and that, fortunately for us in D.C., we have so many large events here, we're pretty good at kind of juggling all the balls.


TODD: Now, Chief Lanier says if this wasn't D.C., this would be incredibly difficult, because they've gotten so used to moving dignitaries around here every day and working with the other law enforcement agencies here, like the Secret Service, the Capitol Hill Police and the Park Police, they've become very good at this. Still, Lanier says this event is not like anything else here, not the Fourth of July or any other event that's come to this town. And because Barack Obama's swearing-in is so historic it brings even more stress to law enforcement -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: It will be stressful but spectacular, Brian, absolutely spectacular. Thanks so much, Brian Todd.

Joining me now for more on the day's political news, four of the best political analysts in the country. We're joined by Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Robert Zimmerman; "New York Daily News" columnist and CNN contributor, Errol Louis and Errol is also the host of the morning show on WWRL Radio in New York City; Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the "New York Daily News," CNN contributor Michael Goodwin; and we're also joined by James Taranto, editor of

And thank you all for being here. I think the absolute must discuss for tonight is Obama and Hillary. And Robert, we're hearing all sorts of things. What's your take?



Look, obviously, a meeting took place, as we all know, yesterday, Thursday, and there's an old rule about these -- about this process. Those who know don't talk and those who talk don't know. So, there's a lot of, obviously, they're clearly having a very serious dialogue, and I'm not a spokesperson for either one of them, but, of course, if the speculation is true and she's interested and he's interested in her in the role of secretary of state, she'd be extraordinary.

And I think two things to look at quickly. One is she certainly is -- speaks of his strength as a leader that he can have around him individuals of strength and very much follow that mode of -- the Lincoln mode of strong leadership around him, like Rahm Emanuel, his chief of staff, like Joe Biden for vice president. And she also brings international credibility to his message and he can focus on the domestic agenda in the first term.

PILGRIM: I guess the operative question is would it appeal to her? Here's what she had to say to the press, today.


SEN HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect's incoming administration, and I'm going to respect his process and any inquiries should be directed to his transition team.


PILGRIM: OK, so that's a predictable - Michael, you're snorkeling over there. What are her odds of taking it, of liking it? What do you think?

MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Well look, I think just back to one thing Robert said about strong people surrounding him. I mean, obviously, that's somewhat true for her, but it's also the advantage is he gets her out of the country, he kind of puts her on a plane and says keep going, keep moving, don't land.

Look, it's a very important job. I mean, the State Department is the first among equals in the cabinet and it's certainly the most important pick for him in that capacity. I think it is appealing to both of them in some ways, there are also some obvious drawbacks, so I think that's for them to negotiate. I think, frankly, she is a better choice than some of the others we've heard.

PILGRIM: Well, we've also heard that Obama was meeting with Richardson today, and so, you know, obviously, a lot of discussion about that. What does it do to her political aspirations if she takes it - Errol.

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Well, I interpret it in part as meaning that maybe she's not interested in another run at president. If you are assuming that your administration will be in there for eight years, well, she'd be, what, 69, 70 years old by the time it came around again. I would think of her as wanting to do what she's always done, which is wanting to be at the center of world affairs.

And in this case, she could do it in a singular kind of way. Instead of being one of 100, you know, and extraordinary woman but to be the only secretary of state, to really go around and deal with heads of state, it's like being a deputy president in a lot of ways, very prestigious. I could see it appealing to her very much.

PILGRIM: James, thoughts on this?

JAMES TARANTO, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Well, Mrs. Clinton pretty much can't run for president until 2016 anyway, because it's unlikely she will take on President Obama in 2012 and it's unlikely he will not seek re-election. So, this may actually be the most sensible course for her, assuming that he's interested in giving her the job, and if she wants a high profile position. I would also note, Michael mentioned it would get her out of the country. It would also put her in the line of succession.

PILGRIM: That's exactly right. All right...

ZIMMERMAN: Also remember, you know regard - you know, there are people like Senator John Kerry who's a very strong contender and very respected for that position and we have a number of great choices. Obviously, she stands out, but that's also with John Kerry, too, also a candidate worth looking at.

PILGRIM: I'm sure...

TARANTO: I'm think Kerry would be an awful choice. I think our friend Zimmerman is -- has better diplomatic skills than John Kerry.

ZIMMERMAN: That's because you've not seen him in action and his leadership in uniting the Senate to hold the Iraqi government accountable was a major breakthrough. And he introduced a program to fight terrorism which he took heat for, but now even the Bush administration thinks was the right strategy. So, I think John Kerry deserves a lot of credit and respect. Could end up chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but clearly, he's going to play a significant role, but Hillary Clinton has a unique position, here.

PILGRIM: Well, I do -- and I do respect your diplomatic (INAUDIBLE), too. We will be back with more of our panel in just a moment.

Also still ahead, the space shuttle "Endeavour" preparing for liftoff just a few minutes from now. We're live from Cape Canaveral, stay with us.


PILGRIM: We are back with Robert Zimmerman, Errol Louis, Michael Goodwin, and James Taranto. President-elect Obama is taking job applications at this point. Apparently there's a very extensive 63- question questionnaire about whether a person has a FaceBook, keeps a diary, has ever sent embarrassing text messages. Let me just bring up one question -- what we found on this, which is really intriguing.

"Do you or any of your members of your immediate family own a gun, and if so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe by how and whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage."

Kind of a weird question and there are so many questions. James, thoughts on this job application questionnaire?

TARANTO: Well, in part, the incoming administration is just trying to be prudent. There's a whole section in this questionnaire, for example, on domestic employees, on nannies and gardeners and that sort of thing. Have you ever employed them, did you pay their taxes, were they in the country illegally? And this is, obviously, trying to prevent the kind of thing that happened to Kimball Wood and Zoe Barrett and Linda Chavez in previous administrations.

But some of this stuff gets really invasive. One of them asks you to list any e-mail or text message you've ever sent that might possibly be embarrassing. I mean, you know, if that's really a disqualification, it disqualifies just about everyone. Of course, there's no right to a top level appointment in the administration, so this is perfectly constitutional, but it does kind of make you wonder if they really believe in the right to privacy.

PILGRIM: Errol, do you think it's invasive or prudent?

LOUIS: Oh, It's absolutely invasive and it's paranoid, too. I mean, they list all of these scenarios, I mean, even like some of the ones that you describe. I mean, clearly, they're thinking about something that's probably a case involving a local official in which the discharge of a weapon or not properly registering it resulted in a negative headline. Now, let's keep in mind, this is a campaign that was -- got extraordinarily good press, was very secretive. You never -- no drama Obama they called it, you know. I guess they're trying to extend that. I don't know, though, if you can reasonably expect 8,000 senior members of a federal administration to really adhere to that.

ZIMMERMAN: The issue that James raises are there any of these issues particularly disqualifying? The objective is going to be for the transition team to evaluate this questionnaire and see if what exactly is a disqualifying factor? I think the questions are perfectly legitimate to ask, and I think especially in this -- in the new age of our technology, there are lots of areas where people have to show better discretion and better judgment. The issue is whether any of these issues will be, in fact, disqualifiers.

TARANTO: One other interesting point. There's no question on the questionnaire about drug use. So, apparently you can work for the Obama administration even if you've never used drugs.

PILGRIM: I think you really looked at this questionnaire quite carefully, James.

ZIMMERMAN: There are laws about that, James.

PILGRIM: All right, let me move on to something more interesting and perhaps more important and that's the big bailout, the financial bailout. The Treasury inspector general says the bailout program is a mess, there's no proper oversight. Michael, what do you think?

GOODWIN: Yeah, I mean, I thought Hank Paulson's actions this week, it's like a slow motion time bomb. When he said I'm not going to do the thing that I said I had to have the money to do originally, and that I've known for some time I wasn't going to do it, I mean, I couldn't believe it myself and I think a lot of members of Congress are saying, wait a minute, why did we rush this thing through? I mean, if Paulson, Bernanke, Bush, they all sold it as the silver bullet and now it's not going to happen at all, this idea of buying the bad assets. So clearly, I think that they're -- it's kind of an ad hoc flying by the seat of their pants idea and now comes GM, which I think is a much more complicated situation.

PILGRIM: About to be taken up on Monday, $25 billion rescue package of emergency loans. What's your thought on that?

GOODWIN: I mean, I don't think the car makers have made a good case for why they should be bailed out in this environment. I mean, clearly, they're in trouble, the question is, giving them money going to get them out of trouble or is it just going to sustain something that's not viable anymore?

ZIMMERMAN: In fact, the head of GM's response was virtually arrogant and offensive in terms of his response to the whole issue of the bailout and his insistence about keeping his position despite the way they're conducting their business.

But you know, one of the issues that was so striking this week was the fact that Congress really dropped the ball in terms of their oversight role, in terms of their congressional authority. I got to give a lot of credit to Lou Dobbs for calling it.

PILGRIM: You know, Lou has called this all the way along and we do have to give him credit for that. I'm sorry we don't have time. Errol Louis, James Taranto, Robert Zimmerman, Michael Goodwin, thank you all for being here.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown, NO BIAS, NO BULL.

Campbell, what are you working on?

CAMPBELL BROWN, NO BIAS, NO BULL: Hey there, Kitty. We've got a lot of breaking news tonight. The space shuttle launch supposed to happen in a few minutes, we're keeping an eye on that.

And the news that President-elect Obama has discussed the secretary of state position with Hillary Clinton.

Also asked former house Republican leader Tom Delay about it. He's one of my guests, tonight.

Plus, a NO BIAS, NO BULL look at an important Supreme Court case that, frankly, you won't believe. Find out what free speech has to do with mummies. Really? We'll explain -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: I cannot wait for that. Thanks very much, Campbell Brown.

Just ahead, the space shuttle "Endeavour" prepares for liftoff. We'll go to -- live to Cape Canaveral with CNN's Miles O'Brien and astronaut, Janice Voss, for the launch. That's just a few minutes from now. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: The space shuttle "Endeavour" tonight is just minutes away from liftoff, and the seven-member crew is read you I to begin the 15-day home improvement mission to the International Space Station. Now, onboard they have thousands of pounds of equipment which will allow NASA to remodel the space station and also expand the living quarters. CNN chief technology correspondent, Miles O'Brien joins me now from Cape Canaveral. He is joined also with -- by astronaut Janice Voss - Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, it's a beautiful night here at the Kennedy Space center. We weren't very optimistic about the weather just a short time ago, but as the day has gone on, it's only improved and we are now inside seven minutes to the launch of the space shuttle "Endeavour." Of course, a lot can happen between now and then and a lot does happen.

But, as it stands right now, the weather is not going to be an issue tonight. We do have a million parts to be worried about, but we'll be watching that very closely as we now approach the six-minute mark on the launch of the space shuttle "Endeavour." Seven-person crew on way to the International Space Station. Extreme home makeover in space, if you will.

PILGRIM: Tell us a little bit about that, Miles.

O'BRIEN: P: utting in some key pieces. Yeah, it's -- well, here's what they're going to do. They're going to -- they want -- the crew right now is three people, they're going to double it to six people. So, what do you need to do? Well, first thing you need do? First thing, add a bathroom. So, they're bringing one up.

And what about crew quarters? They're going to bring one up that's well insulated for sound, has some Velcro to put up pictures of your loved ones, speakers for your iPod. And they have a very fancy water purification system, which will allow all liquids, all waste liquids on the space station, fill in the blank there, perspiration to urine, to be distilled purified and then recaptured, about 90 percent of it, into drinking water.

Now Kitty, I have some of it, right here. This is the real deal. This is what they'll be drinking on orbit. This is the product and I'm going to take a sip. A little bit like iodine, which they put in there for the potential of germs being caused, but other than that, just don't think about when it comes from, I guess, is the thing to do.

Let me bring in the astronaut who's going to help us take "Endeavour" to orbit tonight. Janice Voss, five-time flier on the space shuttle.

Janice, we're out in at the, let's see -- it looks like inside five minutes. 4:40. You've been through it five times.


O'BRIEN: What, just quickly before we go to break, give us a sense what's going onboard right now?

VOSS: The pilot is starting up auxiliaries that will run the hydraulic services, so, he's going through all those checks to make sure orbiter is ready to go for launch.

O'BRIEN: And are you nervous at this point?

VOSS: You're too busy to be nervous.

O'BRIEN: Too busy to be nervous. All right, Kitty. It looks good for now. We will be here, and we will, I don't know, she might be too busy to be nervous. I'd get nervous.

PILGRIM: Yeah, I would certainly be nervous. Although I have to say, she's done 18 million miles, she's done 779 earth orbits, she's been an astronaut since 1991 and has four NASA space flight medals, maybe she doesn't get nervous, but I think we would.

Just ahead, we'll go back to Cape Canaveral for the exciting liftoff of the space shuttle "Endeavour," just a few minutes from now. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: We're back with CNN's Miles O'Brien and astronaut Janice Voss, as the space shuttle "Endeavour" prepares to liftoff.

Miles, how close are we to launch, now?

O'BRIEN: About 90 seconds away. Actually, right on the money, one minute 90 seconds away, Kitty, and we're with Janet Voss, who's - you know, we're three miles away from the launch pad and in a moment, first of all, it's going to be like a false dawn, here, and then secondly, our bones are going to be rattling and fillings are about to come out. Janice has been on the inside of this. It's actually quiet on the inside?

VOSS: Very quiet on the inside, yes, because you have a helmet on that insulating you from the sound of the vehicle, so you can hear the calm going on, and you're very tightly strapped into your seat, a five-point harness, so that keeps you from shaking too much.

O'BRIEN: Yeah, all right, well, we're inside one minute now. Inside the crew, is there a lot of stuff to be doing right now or is it just sort of waiting at this point? You've gone through your check lists?

VOSS: At this point, at least I was leafing through my head, what's next? What do you have to be going for? I had knee board and I was running through on the knee board, reading through, what's my next step? What's the next thing? You always thinking one, two steps ahead, to be ready.

O'BRIEN: Pretty soon you've done a 16-day mission, If you do it that way.

VOSS: That's right.

O'BRIEN: Let's listen as they begin the auto sequence, which actually -- moving control to the orbiter, now, is essentially what this is doing, right?

VOSS: That's exactly right.

O'BRIEN: All right.


O'BRIEN: Just a moment. Let's listen to them and let's listen to the launch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Main engine start.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one -- booster ignition, and liftoff of space shuttle "Endeavour," preparing our home in space for a larger international family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston now controlling.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, roll, "Endeavour."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commander Chris Ferguson confirming "Endeavour" is rolling on course for a rendezvous with the International Space Station, 1,000 miles-an-hour, altitude one mile, (INAUDIBLE) range distance, 6.5 miles from Kennedy Space Center, already. (INAUDIBLE) 72 percent of the rate of thrust as the shuttle goes through the realm of maximum aerodynamic pressure. Altitude five miles, down range eight miles from Kennedy Space Center. Should be 1,500 miles-an-hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Endeavour," go and throttle up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All systems remain go.

O'BRIEN: Anybody who remembers "Challenger" remembers that's when that accident occurred. This is a key point when the engines actually thrust to in excess of 100 percent. I'm not sure how that works, but 104 percent, or so...

VOSS: Hundred and nine, eventually.

O'BRIEN: Yeah, 109, so that's like the maximum pressure on the shuttle as it goes up, in that timeframe, right?

VOSS: Right, that's how we throttling down. They call it "throttle bucket," if you look at the thrust profile it goes down like this, to take the heavy load, drop them down just a little bit.

O'BRIEN: As we go up, we're watching very closely as we reach the point where those twin solid rocket boosters will come off, be jettisoned, they go back into the sea, and, boy, it was just bright as day, here. Wasn't it? I felt like I needed my sunglasses on. What are you feeling onboard the shuttle at this time?

VOSS: Well, if we're just about at two minutes? Yeah. So, the thrust is starting to tail off on the SRB (ph) and you can see there is the separation, and you can feel that sudden drop of 2.5gs down to just a little bit more than one time your normal weight and everything gets very smooth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) confirms a clean separation of...

O'BRIEN: It's almost like a lazy thing, with tremendous speeds. This is the moment you breathe a sigh of relief onboard, right?

VOSS: Absolutely, because the solids are gone.

O'BRIEN: They're loud, they're rumbly, there's a lot of vibration. All of a sudden you go to a much smoother ride.

VOSS: And then can't be turned off, so the main engines can be controlled, but the solids, once they light, they burn until they're done.

O'BRIEN: Now, what we do have also, as well, we should be seeing shortly, pictures onboard. There you see those twin solid rocket boosters, almost looks like a couple of cigarettes that have been tossed off a vehicle on the road or something as they make their way down. They come down by parachute and are fished out of the water and re-used, repacked. And there you see what looks like a planet or a star and that's the space shuttle "Endeavour" on its way.

VOSS: That's right. On a night like this you can see it for a long says. We can still see it out there behind us. Just gorgeous. If you're lucky, and it's not cloudy, which today it's crystal clear, beautiful day for a launch, we can see it all the way to the horizon. That would be really amazing.

O'BRIEN: At this point, the crew is starting to get the sensation of additional g-forces, more pressure on them, and that's steadily builds up.

VOSS: Right, the shuttle -- the thrust from the engines is constant. So, as the vehicle gets lighter, the acceleration increases. So, when the solid rocket (INAUDIBLE) dropped, they went down just a little bit more than one time our normal weight, but as we lose weight and burn up propellant, we actually get up to three times our normal weight and then only the shuttle's only designed for three times its normal weight, so we actually throttle the engines back again and hold at 3gs for about 30 seconds.

O'BRIEN: Now, in the prost "Columbia" era, there's a lot of concern about debris, of course. Did you, in the course of your missions, did you ever notice anythings falling on the...

VOSS: You really can't see it, because it's all behind you, or at the belly, you can't see the belly inside the shuttle, but question have some concern they had changed the rules from the EPA with Freon and they changed the way they sprayed the foam on and we had a lot of what they call popcorning with foam popping off, and so we were taking a lot of very careful pictures of the tank once question got to orbit. Then you can see it, after you separate.

O'BRIEN: All right, Janice Voss, thank you very. They just said negative, but so far this has been a flawless launch of the space shuttle "Endeavour," still on their way up now, four minutes in. Another four minutes or so on that main engine and we'll keep you posted, we'll let you know when that main engine goes off and they're safe and sound in orbit. Thanks, Kitty.

PILGRIM: All right, thank you very much, Miles O'Brian, Janice Voss. Our special coverage of the shuttle "Endeavour's" mission to the International Space Station continues now with Campbell Brown - Campbell.