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AMERICAN MORNING

Gore to Meet with Obama and Biden; Three Dead in F-18 Crash; $15 Billion Test Drive for Detroit's Big Three; Stopping Cyber-Attacks in the Obama Administration; Political Left Betrayed by Obama?

Aired December 9, 2008 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Obama's transition office says the meeting will focus on energy related issues and how environmental policies can spur job creation. That is not stopping speculation that Gore could join the president-elect's cabinet or the administration in some capacity.
Our Elaine Quijano is tracking things from Chicago for us this morning. So what's the inside scuttlebutt, Elaine? Is Al Gore going to be a part of this administration in some way?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it remains to be seen. But I can tell you Democratic officials here in Chicago, John, are saying that the president-elect is not looking to tap Al Gore for any kind of job whether cabinet level or otherwise inside the Obama administration. Transition officials are essentially saying this is a meeting to focus on energy issues and climate change issues.

That, of course, is no surprise. Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, of course, last year for his efforts to raise awareness of global warming. And his documentary on the subject, "An Inconvenient Truth," won two Oscars. However, it is a fact that the president-elect has yet to name his picks for energy secretary as well as EPA administrator. And a close friend of Al Gore's told our John King something interesting saying, "The Gore trip is for more than just a chat. He wouldn't burn that much carbon flying to Chicago just to talk" -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, we all know about this idea of green economy. All of the candidates talked about it. His new book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" Tom Friedman from the "New York Times" talks about this idea that green power doesn't just generate electricity. It generates national power and boosts the economy. So what about this plan that Barack Obama, the incoming president has, using green jobs to fix the economy?

QUIJANO: Well, that's exactly right and he essentially shares that idea. We heard over the weekend the president-elect unveiling a little bit more detail on how he plans to deliver those promised 2.5 million new jobs to help boost the ailing economy. He says, look, doing things like modernizing schools, upgrading federal buildings to install green technology, things like energy efficient light bulbs, doing away with old outdated heating systems, for instance, is a really good way the president-elect believes to not only save taxpayer money, but also help get Americans back to work -- John. ROBERTS: Yes. It's expensive but may pay off in the long run.

Elaine Quijano for us from Chicago this morning. Elaine, thanks.

And Senator Hillary Clinton making her first visit to the State Department since being named as Barack Obama's choice to take over there. Zain Verjee, our State Department correspondent, will have the latest on all of that coming up at the half hour here.

So how does the country think that Barack Obama is handling the transition to power? Here's the very latest poll numbers to ponder for you.

Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed approve of the job that the president-elect is doing with 42 days until the inauguration. That's better than his predecessors. President Bush got a 65 percent approval rating in 2001, and President Clinton with a 62 percent rating back in 1992 -- Kiran.

CHETRY: A San Diego neighborhood is trying to deal with the shock of a sudden tragedy as the search continues this morning for a fourth victim after a fighter jet crashes into homes. The pilot ejected safely, but the F-18 exploded on impact destroying two homes.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is live on the scene for us this morning. Just such a tragedy for this neighborhood, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Kiran. One of those homes that was destroyed fortunately was vacant. The other was where that family was living inside. It was just behind me, just over where you see some of the lights and debris behind me. This morning when the sun comes up, the search teams are going to get back to work trying to account for that other young child that's still missing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't breathe this stuff. It's an F-18 that will kill you.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): All this started with a young Marine on a routine training mission, practicing landings on an aircraft carrier. But as the pilot headed back to base, something went wrong with his plane. He radioed for help and officials ordered an emergency landing at Miramar Air Station.

As the pilot crossed over this neighborhood, the plane failed. And Marine officials say he tried to aim it at a deserted canyon.

CAPT. STEPHEN PAAP, U.S. MARINE CORPS: He did whatever he could to try to prevent the actual crash, but he had to eject. And then once the pilot ejects, the plane kind of just takes its course.

LAWRENCE: Neighbors heard the engine screeching and looked up.

JOHN JAMES, LIVES 3 DOORS FROM CRASH: I think I saw the pilot eject. I heard some funny noises and then I heard the jet (ph) and explode. LAWRENCE: The massive impact ignited a fireball and destroyed two homes. One was empty. The other is where a grandmother, mother and two children lived. Three of them were found dead within hours of the crash. Some residents say an accident like this is just a matter of time.

JOHN JAMES, LIVES 3 DOORS FROM CRASH: They always have training missions and sooner or later the equipment is going to fail. You know, this isn't the first and it's not going to be the last.

LAWRENCE (on camera): In addition to the two homes that were leveled, pieces of the jet broke off and hit three others as well. Burning debris scorched the surface of two of those homes.

MAURICE LUQUE, SAN DIEGO FIRE RESCUE: And a third had a big metal piece of jet part fly into the garage and cause a big slice.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): But in those homes, no one was hurt. And with a high school nearby, investigators say this could have been much worse.

LUQUE: Theoretically, it's going to wipe out, you know, over half a dozen homes, depending on how it landed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Now we know that the pilot quickly detected a problem and he asked for help. We don't know whether he was still over the water or he had already crossed over onto over land when he first detected that something was wrong. We also are trying to figure out how long this problem lasted. Was it 20 seconds, 30 seconds? Was it a minute? And what was going on specifically with his plane at the point where he decided to eject?

CHETRY: Yes. Still a lot of questions this morning. Chris Lawrence for us. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Negotiations going late into the night on a potential new deal for the U.S. auto industry. The White House and Democratic leaders are said to be close to terms on a $15 billion deal that includes some strict government oversight by a so-called car czar.

Our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, has been looking into the details, and she's here to share some with us and whether or not this is the beginning or the end of the handout.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: It's clearly the beginning. You know, originally the automakers asked for $34 billion. Congress scaled it back to 15. But just moments ago on our air here, Bob Lutz, General Motors vice chairman, told our own John Roberts that the tab could be higher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB LUTZ, GMA VICE CHRMN., GLOBAL PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: I don't think anybody in Congress or the president-elect assumes that this is all the money that is going to be required to bridge this liquidity crisis that the American automobile industry is facing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIS: So as you can see, this tab is going to keep growing most likely.

Let's talk about the car czar. We've been talking about this role that would be responsible for really putting the pieces back together in a car industry.

Actually, think of it as a trustee in a bankruptcy. This person would have lots and lots of power. They would negotiate with the unions. They would negotiate with all the players. They would try to get the business in line and we actually have a name this morning on somebody who is likely to take this role. It is Kenneth Feinberg, an attorney who oversaw the September 11th victim's fund. He's considered a pretty tough negotiator.

You know, the families at first did not like him at all but came to respect him.

ROBERTS: Is he a businessman?

WILLIS: He is an attorney and he's also formerly a politico, once worked for Edward Kennedy.

ROBERTS: All right. OK.

WILLIS: So, he has lots of experience. He worked 33 months pro bono doing that.

ROBERTS: Yes.

WILLIS: So, I mean, either that's a language the automakers don't understand. But --

ROBERTS: He's going to work again in the September 11th fund, but you got to wonder if you need somebody who's a captain of industry or a turn-around specialist or something like that.

WILLIS: Well, that's a big thing in business is that you are a person who understands how to turn around businesses, and it's a specific art. You actually have a name you like in this.

ROBERTS: Well, not necessarily that I like but you know, somebody like -- you know, Mitt Romney has got a proven track record of turning around companies, turning around the Salt Lake Olympics. He's very tough on the auto industry.

WILLIS: Right.

ROBERTS: Maybe he's somebody that could sit. I don't know. I'm not the one appointing. But I love the way you say my name. It's like my good friend, Richard Liebman (ph), Roberts.

WILLIS: I'm going to practice it. I'm going -- John Roberts. ROBERTS: Thanks, Gerri.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

CHETRY: Well, Main Street fights back. A sit-in in a Chicago factory attracts some big time supporters and becomes a rallying cry for American workers. They're saying, hey, if you could bail out everyone else and the big banks, why can't we get what's owed to us, at eight minutes after the hour.

ROBERTS: From "The Nanny" to the Senate. Fran Drescher says she is eyeing Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Is she serious? Next making that voice heard on Capitol Hill?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." The Obama administration will likely face more cyber-attacks than any other administration before it. Online thieves at the Pentagon, the State Department and NASA tried to steal government secrets every single day. Our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is taking a closer look at the threat for us this morning and she's here now -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, a bipartisan panel says the nation is losing the battle in cyberspace and must act quickly to gain the upper hand.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE (voice-over): On a par with global jihad and weapons of mass destruction is the threat from cyber-attack, according to a high powered commission. The panel says the cyber theft of business and military information is jeopardizing the U.S. economy and national security.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: Imagine if agents of a foreign power were caught stealing files, paper files out of the Pentagon, the amount of outrage that would engender across this country. It would be on the front page of all the newspapers. And yet, that is exactly what is occurring today in the virtual world.

MESERVE: The commission says every tool of U.S. power must be put to use to win this war.

REP. JAMES LANGEVIN (D), RHODE ISLAND: We're talking about diplomatic intelligence, military, economic assets of national power including law enforcement. And there will have to be a strong international component.

MESERVE: The commission's blueprint for action includes a cyber czar in the White House reporting directly to the president and coordinating cyber security efforts all across the government. Regulation of privately held critical infrastructure to better ensure its cyber security. A robust military presence in cyberspace to deter attackers, and a rewrite of existing laws to make it easier to prosecute cyber crimes.

JIM LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The risk of doing nothing is we'll wake up someday and find out that critical services have been damaged or disrupted. The risk is that we will wake up three years from now or five years from now and discover that we have lost the battle in cyberspace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: President-elect Obama has promised to make cyber security a priority. And his transition's point man on the subject is a member of the commission. So unlike so many other Washington reports, parts of this one may get implemented.

John, Kiran, back to you.

CHETRY: Jeanne Meserve for us. Thanks.

Well, hundreds of passengers on around the world cruise are now being evacuated from their ship due to the growing threat of pirates. The MS Columbus will disembark before reaching the waters off Somalia, and the 246 passengers and crew will be flown to Dubai. Instead, the ship will then sail through the pirate-infested waters with a skeleton crew picking up the passengers and the rest of the crew on the other side.

Quite a sign of the times. An unfortunate sign.

Well, it's a case of who snubbed who between Wasilla's most famous hockey mom and the queen of daytime talk. Sarah Palin and Oprah Winfrey, one of them is talking. We'll tell you who.

Also from sitcom star to senator, is "The Nanny" ready to make the switch from Flushing, Queens to the halls of power?

It's 14 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Seventeen and a half minutes after the hour. And time to fast forward to see what will be making headlines later on today.

The former CEOs of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac head to Capitol Hill this morning. At 10:00 a.m. Eastern, the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the collapse of the two mortgage giants.

At 11:45 Eastern this morning, the national battle over same-sex marriage comes to a head in Iowa. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments today over whether Iowa's ban on gay unions is unconstitutional.

At 1:00 p.m. Eastern, President-elect Barack Obama and his vice presidential running mate, Joe Biden, will sit down in Chicago with former Vice President Al Gore. Both sides say they plan to talk about environmental policy and job creation, but there is plenty of buzz that Gore could join Obama's cabinet, maybe not as a secretary, maybe in some other capacity.

And Sarah Palin, this morning denying claims that she snubbed Oprah Winfrey. The queen of talk, a vocal supporter of Barack Obama, said once the election was over there was an invitation on the table for Palin to appear on her program. But a Palin spokesman says there's been so many requests that they had to turn Oprah down.

And that's what we're following this morning. Who turns down Oprah?

CHETRY: I guess she does. Thanks, John.

Well for years as "The Nanny," she was the most recognizable voice on television. But now, actress and comedienne Fran Drescher is throwing her hat in the ring for Hillary Clinton's open Senate seat.

Alina Cho is following the story for us this morning. Perhaps it's not as absurd as it sound.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is not a joke, Kiran.

CHETRY: Right. At first I thought it was until you read a little bit more.

CHO: You're not alone. Good morning. Good morning, everybody.

Move over Caroline Kennedy. "The Nanny" wants to be the senator. Now this is the role that made Fran Drescher famous in the 1990s. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE NANNY")

FRAN DRESCHER, ACTRESS AND COMEDIENNE: You know me, always a bridal consultant never a bride. Right, Danny?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can I say?

DRESCHER: Well, how about here's a ring. Pick a pattern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: The voice, so was the laugh. But the 51-year-old star of the TV show "The Nanny" is also a public advocate. Did you know that Drescher is actually a diplomacy envoy for the U.S. State Department. She recently traveled to Eastern Europe and her focus is women's health issues. That's because she's a cancer survivor.

Her spokesman actually released a statement to CNN saying, "Fran Drescher, actress, women's health advocate and public diplomacy envoy for the U.S. State department announced that she is throwing her hat into the ring of contenders for the Senate seat being vacated by secretary of state designate Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Now, CNN has reached out to the man who will ultimately make the decision on who will replace Clinton. That would be New York Governor David Paterson. So far, Paterson has not gotten back to us for a comment, neither has Hillary Clinton's office. But certainly, there are no shortage of names on the so-called short list.

Caroline Kennedy has been inquiring about the job as we've been reporting. Other big name, New York's attorney general, Andrew Cuomo. Now, if, and this is a big if, Drescher were to get the job, she wouldn't be the first Hollywood type to move into politics not by a long shot. Remember Fred Grandy, Kiran?

CHETRY: Gopher.

CHO: That's right. "Gopher," from "The Love Boat." He was a U.S. congressman from Iowa. Sonny Bono, of course, was a U.S. senator. There's Jesse "The Body" Ventura, professional wrestler turned Minnesota governor. And perhaps the most famous is Ronald Reagan.

Now, Drescher clearly believes that she is qualified for the job. She also told "New York" magazine, "I'm an authentic and honest person and I think Capitol Hill needs more of that."

CHETRY: Hear, hear. You said the most famous. How about Arnold Schwarzenegger?

CHO: Arnold --

CHETRY: From "The Terminator."

CHO: That's right.

CHETRY: I mean, what an iconic movie role...

CHO: That was one.

CHETRY: ... to a very effective governor. So maybe "The Nanny" and the laugh and everything can parlay to the Senate.

CHO: You never know. It could happen. Stranger things have happened in politics. It certainly will be interesting, you know.

Governor Paterson has until January 20th to make a decision, so we'll all be watching.

CHETRY: And he is -- he's not one to shy away from just saying what he thinks. So call us, governor. It will be interesting to see what he thinks about "The Nanny."

CHO: I know. We're all interested to know.

CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

And by the way, we want to let -- we want to let all the Fran Drescher fans out there know that she will actually be our guest this Thursday right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: I can't wait.

CHETRY: Maybe we'll find out some more news from the governor's office by then.

Alina, thanks.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: Can hardly wait to hear that laugh in person. And don't forget our good friend "Cooter" from "The Dukes of Hazard," right? He was in Congress for a while.

CHETRY: We could go on and on.

CHO: We could go on and on.

ROBERTS: We could go on and on.

More than a month into Barack Obama's transition and many in his political base are saying how about one for us? Why the left is worried about the president-elect's tilt to the center.

Plus, what do you wear when you're becoming the leader of the free world. We'll take a look at the Obama's inauguration wardrobe ahead.

It's 22 minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." They helped elect him to the White House by pouring millions into his campaign. But now a growing number of liberals are angry with President-elect Obama saying he's leaving them out in the cold especially on some significant cabinet appointments as well as policy priorities.

Tim Carpenter is national director of the Progressive Democrats of America. Thanks for being with us this morning, Tim.

TIM CARPENTER, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATS OF AMERICA: Good morning. Thank you (ph) for the opportunity.

CHETRY: Well, you know, former -- today, former Vice President Al Gore is going to be meeting with Obama to talk energy, also climate issues. But Democratic officials say Obama is not looking at Gore right now for a cabinet level post or perhaps any position in the administration, and that Gore isn't interested in it. Is that something that liberals and progressives would like to see, Gore with an active role in this administration?

CARPENTER: Well, sure. I think he'd be a wonderful appointment for secretary of energy. But I think those days are behind Al Gore now. I think he's now an international ombudsperson to really work on these issues and it's certainly rising above a cabinet position.

Our hope that the closing days, weeks here with Barack's final appointments, we see some real progressive -- authentic progressive voices that will be appointed to the cabinet. We know that Al Gore won't be one of those, but there's many possible candidates whether it be the secretary of interior.

We would hope maybe that the Barack Obama transition team would look at Raul Grijalva, Congress member out of Tucson, who knows the issues of the earth and environment, worked very hard in Congress, attending (ph) the occupation, a single pair advocate. He's somebody we would like to see nominated or secretary of agriculture, maybe Jim Hightower. There are certainly plenty of good candidates out there.

CHETRY: You know, it's interesting, this net groups and groups like that raised so much money for Barack Obama. Is there a feeling that he sort of owes them in a way to at least represent some of their positions and issues that they hold dear?

CARPENTER: Well, I think some of our friends on the blogs are a little over the top, may we say. I think it's important to maybe keep our powder dry a little bit.

We're definitely a (INAUDIBLE) three. We're hopeful that as we said in these remaining days that Barack Obama administration will make some real appointment. It's important that the blogs keep the heat on just as we are through Progressive Democrats of America to remind the contribution that progressive community made to the election of Barack Obama and we would like to see. We're not, you know, unrealistic at this point in time.

He ran a centrist campaign. He's appointing those. Cabinet members are going to help him to fulfill what he needs to get done and then hopefully move in a much more progressive direction. And our role is one through the bloggers and through the work of progressive Democrats to ensure Barack Obama that there's grassroots support so that when he does assume the presidency and whoever he surrounds himself with, that millions of Americans are ready to get out of Iraq. That millions of Americans are ready to repeal the patriot act. Millions of Americans are ready for single pair.

So that's the work we need to do. But I think on some cases, the blogs need to keep their powder a little bit dry right now.

CHETRY: Chris Bowers from Openleft.com wrote, "Why isn't there a single member of Obama's cabinet who will be advising him from the left?" And in a message to liberal critics, Obama's deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, wrote, "This is not the time for the left wing of our party to draw conclusions about the cabinet and White House appointments that President-elect Obama is making. After all, he was elected to be the president of all people not just those on the left."

Does that feel like you're being hung out to dry a little bit?

CARPENTER: No. I don't think we're about to dry thinking those two extremes you just painted. We're kind of in the middle right now. I think Chris is doing a good job through Open Left to keep him honest. We're trying to do the same thing. But at this point in time, we're not done appointing the cabinet yet.

Let's give Barack Obama the benefit of doubt and hope whether it'd be secretary of energy or secretary of interior, secretary of agriculture, that he will get us one authentic progressive voice. And Chris is doing a good job to keep that heat on. But by no means it's a time to throw Barack Obama under the bus. He hasn't even assumed the presidency yet.

CHETRY: Right.

CARPENTER: We had no real illusions that he was going make a number of appointments early on in regards to progressive, but we're not done yet. And we keep coming back to kind of a teaching moment we refer to. When FDR was first elected, we need to remember when he met with the progressive community and they asked him to move in a certain direction, he challenged the progressive community to go out. That he agreed with them but that he challenged us to go out and really bring those issues to the forefront and I think Barack is doing the same thing.

CHETRY: And what do you define as the difference between progressive or liberal?

CARPENTER: Well, it's, you know, we don't probably have enough time on the show. It's the nuance. But progressive tends to be those of us that are working for real change. Working at the root cause to bring about real change, change that will affect this country in a meaningful way. Change that we're talking about is redirecting military spending to meet human needs, to really cut the military budget in this economic crisis to put it to work to make sure that the 47 million Americans this morning that are waking up without health insurance have real health insurance.

When we say progressive, we want to work to let people know that government is our friend and that government can work for us. We want to see a bailout that benefits Main Street not just Wall Street. So when we say progressive, we're working at the grassroots level to make sure that our government's accountable and working for all of us. Not just the special interests and not just those inside the beltway.

CHETRY: I got you. Well, you're taking a wait and see attitude. Some others, as you said, are keeping up the pressure a little bit more.

Tim Carpenter, the national director of the Progressive Democrats of America, thanks for joining us this morning.

CARPENTER: Thanks so much for the opportunity.

ROBERTS: Coming up now at 30 minutes after the hour and here are this morning's top stories.

Hundreds of buildings torched, dozens of people hurt after three days of nationwide riots in Greece. Protesters hit the streets after police shot and killed a teenager there. Schools are closed today for his funeral. The sit-in continues this morning in Chicago after factory workers took over their former place of business. Yesterday's talks broke down without a deal. They're going to try again today. Two hundred laid off workers have taken turns occupying the factory since last week when it abruptly shot down and fired them. They say Bank of America, which took bailout money, cut off the factory's financing and left them without severance packages.

Senator Hillary Clinton made her first trip to the State Department since being tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to be his secretary of state. Clinton met with the Obama transition team and also had dinner with the current secretary of state Condoleeza Rice. And who better to get details on the meeting than our own state department correspondent Zain Verjee.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: I wasn't invited.

ROBERTS: Yes but I know you work your sources inside the building. And you know exactly what went on. So what happened?

VERJEE: Well, Hillary Clinton is really just diving into the transition, as we know. She had dinner with Secretary Rice, one on one. They met at Rice's apartment in Washington, D.C. and, you know, John, Rice makes a mean fried chicken but on the menu last night America's crises and how to handle them. No one knows yet exactly what was discussed but probably the importance of having the trust of the president, Senator Clinton, John, was also at the State Department the first time too. Meeting her transition team and getting fully briefed. John.

ROBERTS: It would be nice to know too if Secretary of State played piano for the incoming secretary. She's very good at that, is she not?

VERJEE: She is. She's an amazing professionally trained piano player. She loves playing Brahms. And you know , what Secretary Rice has done is to really want to make this a smooth transition.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean other than giving her piano lessons what else is the state department doing to help out Senator Clinton?

VERJEE: Well, they want to make it as painless as possible so that when Senator Clinton takes over she doesn't miss a single beat. The state department has given her team office space, support staff to help with any questions they may have so they can find answers and deliver them, things like transition papers. They got a briefing book. They've also instructed ambassadors around the world to write a status report of their countries so that she's completely up to speed along with her team.

I mean, one of the major priorities is really going to have to fill out some of those key positions at the state department and people I talked over at state say there's a bit of nervousness John in the corridors. People are worried about who she may bring. And so, you know, it remains to be seen. And many say that she really got to work hard too at building the trust of the professional foreign service officers.

ROBERTS: We'll see. You ever tried that fried chicken, Zain?

VERJEE: No but I love fried chicken.

ROBERTS: Still have a little more than a month to try?

VERJEE: I don't know maybe after a month, I'll get to try some of that fried chicken.

ROBERTS: Zain Verjee for us this morning. Zain, thanks so much.

VERJEE: You're welcome.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN, ANCHOR: It's not easy to get right but when you do it's delicious.

Well when it comes to formal affairs it doesn't get any bigger than this. In 42 days when Barack Obama takes office, political junkies won't be the only ones watching. Of course, the entire fashion world is going to be looking to see what the first family is going to be wearing at the inauguration and our Lola Ogunnaike has been getting a preview of both what Barack Obama, the president-elect will be wearing and of course, his wife the incoming first lady. So let's start with Barack Obama. Isn't a tux just a tux? No offense to the guys out there.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: You know, a tux is just a tux. But this is a special tux because it's an American-made tux. It's from a company called Hart Schaffner Marx. That's been around for well over 100 years and it's based right out of Chicago. So he's going with a home town team and it's also very union friendly. It's one of the first companies to have a relationship with a union that dates back to 1911.

CHETRY: So these are the things, these are the considerations that have to be made, right? It has to be a politically correct tux.

OGUNNAIKE: Fashion is political, especially this season. And if you think that's an accident it's not. He's been wearing their suits since the summer time to all of his major events. So he's probably likely to go with these guys.

CHETRY: Going with the bow tie and not the straight tie?

OGUNNAIKE: Bow tie and he's going with the one button on the suit. Very simple. Very classic. If they indeed do dress him the suit will cost probably a little less than $1,000 which is also reasonable considering it's the biggest day of his life and he could have blown thousands. But he decided to do something that is really moderate.

CHETRY: I got you. All right. Michelle Obama? She, of course, has the harder decision to make, if you will, because there's designers all over the place who want to dress the first lady. So what are her options? OGUNNAIKE: They are clamoring to work with her. And since it looks like Barack is going - I'm sorry Obama, excuse, I don't know him that well. Obama is going with a Chicago based brand. She may go with a Chicago base brand too. One of her favorite designers is a this woman named Maria Pinto. She dressed her in the purple dress with the shift, the evening that he secured the nomination. She also dressed her in the green dress that she wore the night of her Democratic National Convention speech. So she's been a favorite so far. But again designers are clamoring to work with her. "Women's Wear Daily" invited a number of designers to submit sketches for dresses.

CHETRY: Let's check a few of them out.

OGUNNAIKE: I think they are gorgeous.

Isaac Mizrahi submitted his sketch. Michael Kors. Oscar de la Renta, Betsey Johnson and they really took time and it's clear that this is something they are taking very seriously. With the red one, that's the Monique Lhuillier which is gorgeous. This purple one is an Isaac Mizrahi number. And so, it's clear - this woman is probably going be one of the most viewed woman in the world.

The Betsey Johnson one is a little aggressive. I don't think she'll go with the red, white and blue dress. I think she might stay away from that.

ROBERTS: That red one with the draping -

CHETRY: Yes. Gorgeous.

ROBERTS: I mean I know nothing about fashion. I just know that that looks nice.

OGUNNAIKE: What do you think? You like the Monique Lhuillier in the red?

CHETRY: Yes.

ROBERTS: I thought that was really pretty.

OGUNNAIKE: I like the Michael Kors one with the tight belt and the little shoulder moment. I think that could be cute as well. So we'll see.

ROBERTS: It just shows how easy it is for guys though. As you said, you can wear the same suit that he's worn all year. You know the single button thing with a tie or bow tie. Look at me. I'm wearing a tie today. Can you believe it?

CHETRY: No, no but you can get really -

OGUNNAIKE: Tie or no tie.

CHETRY: He has these gorgeous cufflinks on. Monogrammed.

ROBERTS: I think these came from a viewer. CHETRY: Did they open?

ROBERTS: I needed some cuff links today.

CHETRY: And there's a picture of me in there. So cute.

OGUNNAIKE: That's great. A little and call it a day.

ROBERTS: This showed up on my desk with no note or anything. I think they came from a viewer. So thanks very much. I needed cufflinks today.

CHETRY: They're gorgeous.

OGUNNAIKE: The small touches, the subtle touches for a man. And you are a fashion icon yourself, John Roberts.

CHETRY: He is.

OGUNNAIKE: So why don't you call Obama.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Lola. On to more important things.

Barack Obama says he can create jobs and fix America's infrastructure all at the same time. So exactly what is that going to take? Our Chris Lawrence has got the answer in today's "Memo to the President."

And Bayer in search of the next pandemic. Dr. Sanjay Gupta went deep into the African jungle for the latest installment for our "Planet in Peril" series. He is here with a preview. 37 minutes after the hour now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Crumbling roads, decaying bridges, electrical grids and water systems horribly out of date. America's infrastructure has been neglected for decades. In our ongoing look at issues facing the incoming Obama administration, our Chris Lawrence has today's "Memo to the President."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mr. President, you've seen the state of American infrastructure. 12 percent of bridges structurally deficient. Only a third of our roads in good condition. And cities like Atlanta replacing pipes that were installed in the 1800s.

ROBERT HUNTER, ATLANTA WATERSHED MANAGEMENT: We had some trucks falling through streets because of the water leaks. Erosion underneath.

LAWRENCE: The city is halfway through rebuilding its water system but can't finish the project if credit markets don't loosen up soon.

HUNTER: It's not just the city of Atlanta. That's every where across the United States right now.

LAWRENCE: You're proposing an infrastructure bank to finance the biggest investment since Eisenhower was in office. But you've also told governors the clock is ticking.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: If a state doesn't act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities they will lose the money.

LAWRENCE: Some experts will tell you though that quick fix leads to problems down the road.

PROF. REGGIE DESROCHES, GEORGIA TECH: Often times you have to go back in and patch things up every two years. We need to be able to build infrastructure so that it lasts for the long term.

LAWRENCE: Professor Reggie Desroches says the main goal of any project should be to fix a problem, not put somebody to work. He says in some cases engineers should use more expensive materials. They cost more now but will last longer and save money over the long run. He's speaking to Congress this week but says it's a tough sell.

DESROCHES: People aren't thinking about what happened in four years. Because they'll probably be out of office in 10 years.

LAWRENCE: You'll face projects that have been grid locked for years like New Orleans canal locks. There's still no completion date in sight for its repair. Even though Congress authorized it in 1956.

LAWRENCE (on-camera): Repairing the nation's infrastructure will take decades and multiple presidents. Your administration may be judged not on what gets finished, but what gets started over the next four years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Chris Lawrence with today's "Memo to the President." And we want to hear from you. Send us your "Memo to the President." Go to cnn.com/am. And click on the I-report link to give the president-elect some ideas, your concerns or just a piece of your mind.

CHETRY: So how far will you drive to get a job. How about all over New York? We're meeting an industrious cabbie with an MBA. First though, Rob Marciano tracking the very cold weather across the country. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: Hey there smart cabbie. Wearing that Yankee cap. Way to go. '09 is going to be a better year. I can promise you that.

Check out this storm from the Canadian border all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Snow to tornadoes. It's got it all. We'll talk about it when "the most news in the morning" comes right back. It's 41 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: A look at his morning from the city of brotherly love, over the Delaware Rive, cold out there. Not quite George Washington cold but cold enough. Right now cloudy 29 degrees. Later on today it's going to get up to a high of 50 but it will still be cloudy.

And now, for your meteorological pleasure as chosen by "People" magazine, the world's sexiest weatherman, Rob Marciano joins us this morning. You know as Mike Myers ought to say, Rob, you're sexy, man!

MARCIANO: Well, this is getting uncomfortable, John. Kiran, where are you when I need you?

ROBERTS: Go ahead, sexy man. Give it to us.

MARCIANO: All right. I want to get through some tornado warnings for you on our transition no doubt. Hopefully this tornado is not hitting you guys. Radar indicated. And it's encountering a couple of parishes, Bienville, Bossier, De Soto, Red River and Webster parishes. This thing is moving along at about 50 miles per hour. Pretty weak signature on the radar scope. Probably not hitting the ground but that warning is out for the next half-hour. Tornado watch out until noon Eastern time for much of the Texas region.

Look at all the rain that's falling in parts of Indiana. And the snow just to the northwest of Chicago. This is a pretty good snowstorm six to 12 inches possible, from Milwaukee back to Green Bay and even back through Mason City and getting over towards the lower end of Michigan as well. 36 in Kansas City. 59 degrees. Look at the big difference in temperatures. You're near freezing in New York right now. and even some snow flurries around city but a big warm up expected today. 50 degrees for a high temperature, 53 degrees in D.C. So Chicago east on the warm side of this storm. Every where west on the cold side. And in some spots could see up to 12 inches of the white stuff. In Denver, we'll see a few inches of snow as well. John.

ROBERTS: As they would say, in my dear departed dad's home town of (Telakutri), Scotland. That was dead sexy, Rob.

MARCIANO: Good Mike Myers right there, pal.

ROBERTS: Thanks. See you soon.

MARCIANO: See you.

ROBERTS: I'm busting his chops.

CHETRY: I was going to say, if Rob takes off the tie it's all over. So keep it on Rob.

ROBERTS: I can't imagine. All that sexiness in one room.

CHETRY: Exactly. Don't know what to do with yourself. Makes you want to adopt a dog. Seriously because after a bad day do you ever go home and you think to yourself, your dog knows how you feel. Well you may be right, scientists in Britain have found that dogs as well as horses and other species have a much complex range of emotion than previously thought. They sometimes can express resentful behavior when let's say a partner receives a greater reward for performing an identical task. They can stage strikes or they can ignore what they view as inferior compensation. These are monkeys but they say that dogs can do this as well and that they show their emotions maybe licking their mouths, yawning, scratching. That's how they show that they are not really thrilled about a situation. So, sometimes, it's very interesting to know that yes your dog can feel your pain. How about it? It's 47 minutes after the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice-over): if you want a job with the Obama campaign, get ready to be an open book. Your credit report. Your e-mail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a small price to pay.

ROBERTS: But what happens to all your personal information after the hiring process?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is very sensitive information that's being collected.

ROBERTS: You're watching "the most news in the morning."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: We have some pictures that we want to show you, just unbelievable pictures of a yacht fire. It looks like two yachts, now both burning. This is in Weehawken, New Jersey. This is at a marina there in the area. Weehawken located right along the western shore of the Hudson River. And that's where we're seeing the incredible black smoke and the flames. We have two different shots courtesy of WABC. It looks like our chopper shot there is going down, but the other one you can just see the flames now. This is a tough situation because obviously we have seen it spread from one to another, and not sure if a third boat as we see close in proximity to the two yachts can catch fire.

We see in the bottom part of the screen that someone is attempting to put some water on that fire, the yacht fire to get it out. So we will continue to monitor this. As soon as we get some more information about what could have caused it. Hopefully at this early hour perhaps there was no one on either one of those two yachts but we will of course keep you abreast with the situation as we find out more on that yacht fire in Weehawken, New Jersey this morning.

Meantime, on the trail of the potentially deadly viruses lurking in the jungles of Central Africa. Viruses that if left unchecked could become the next major pandemic. This is the second installment of CNN's award winning series "Plant in Peril," with a sneak preview, we are "Paging Dr. Gupta" along with Anderson Cooper. Let's check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): In Central Africa, monkey pox continues to kill. Dr. Wolf takes Sanjay and me on a long journey from Cameroon to the Democratic Republic of Congo where 20 people have just died from a monkey pox outbreak. We fly to a remote town called Loja where in a walled compound, we find Coy, alone in a small hut.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Now we are standing out here and she is inside there. Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the first thing you need to do is to isolate the patient.

COOPER: (Neville Kisalu) is a local scientist working with dr. Wolf's team.

GUPTA: Are we at risk? How contagious is this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just looking at the patient, you have no worries but when you have contact, direct contact with the patient, at that time you are in danger.

COOPER: Coy is the latest victim, and all of these people are slowly recovering and are still quarantined in this make shift clinic. Painful sores cover their bodies and they say they feel tired all the time.

GUPTA: If she hadn't made it to you, to this place, what would happen to her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some patients recover or they die.

COOPER: Coy probably got monkey pox through contact from bush meat which she says she handled over the past few weeks. Or she came in contact with an infected person. It's exact origins are still unknown.

COOPER: How can it be in this day and age that we don't know something as simple as where this virus comes from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well believe it or not our knowledge viruses in general is very minimal. By studying these kinds of places where we see these outbreaks, of exotic disease like monkey pox, we may also be able to find viruses which may end up being the next major pandemic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: I've never seen a case of monkey pox before Kiran. So it's pretty remarkable as a physician to just see that. But this is part of what we are seeing out there. These viruses sort of swapping back and forth between animals and humans. Typically innocuous, typically not a problem at all, but every now and then one sort of catches fire, Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, and you mentioned in the profile, the woman that you profiled may have contracted this monkey pox through eating bush meat and you shadowed that some of these bush meat hunters, what did you find?

GUPTA: Well, you know, bush meat. I have never seen bush meat hunters before or bush meat being eaten so it's all pretty new and novel, but this idea that you know if you think about where most infections come from, most infectious agents they do come from the animal population and make a jump at some point. So our goal is to try and find these interphases between animals and humans. Where is this jump? Where is the swapping sort of happening back and forth. That's one of the things that we saw firsthand. But also the thing that really was striking was an infection there is an infection anywhere in the world, with global travel, with the rate of people traveling back and forth. You know these sorts of things that are happening in these remote jungles or remote forests can be anywhere in the world now. so I think that was really striking in the sense of how we are all interconnected.

CHETRY: Yes, absolutely. All right. Sanjay, good stuff. The second installment of CNN's award-winning series "Planet in Peril, battlelines." It debuts this Thursday 9:00 p.m. Eastern time right here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY (voice-over): You want to work for Obama, reveal everything. Your e-mails, your credit report and even those Facebook photos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have nothing to hide.

CHETRY: But where will it all end up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who will have access to it? How is it going to be used? Do they have a policy in place to destroy the records?

CHETRY: Plus, desperate cabbie with an MBA and a resume posted in the cab. Hire me, I'll take you anywhere. You are watching "the most news in the morning."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Well, we all know just how tough the economic is, and just how difficult the job market is. More than half a million jobs lost in the last month alone but what about for people who are coming out of college? Do they have a hope of finding a job? Well, this next fellow we are going to talk to out here in the streets of New York City, James Williamson, just completed his MBA at the La Salle University in Philadelphia, and you haven't been able to find a job as an MBA so you are driving a cab here?

JAMES WILLIAMSON: Yes, just temporarily until the economy gets better.

ROBERTS: Well tell me a little bit about you. You graduated back in May -

WILLIAMSON: Yes.

ROBERTS: Right, and you went through a lot of job interviews, what were you looking for, what was the job market like?

WILLIAMSON; The job market was tough. I was basically looking for something in my field, marketing. You know, and my undergraduate was electronics, and I was trying to do maybe technical sales, or something where I could use both degrees and it got to a point when I will just take anything customer service, and I couldn't even get that. So you know anything right now. I took my MBA off the resume a couple of times.

ROBERTS: So technical jobs, marketing jobs, nothing was panning out?

WILLIAMSON: Nothing. You know.

ROBERTS: So what made you decide to get your license here and start driving the streets of New York.

WILLIAMSON: Well, I thought if I have this license I would always have guaranteed work. You know, if I get laid off or something later on, I could always get up at 4:00 a.m. and drive. At this point, you meet difference people. It's a fun job.

ROBERTS: The cab (inaudible) about $108 a day minus gas. So how much money are you taking home every day?

WILLIAMSON: Anywhere from about $130 to $180 on a good day, and sometimes $200 on a Saturday if it's good. It's like being in the right place at the right time.

ROBERTS: it may not be MBA money, but it's something?

WILLIAMSON: Right now, yes.

ROBERTS: Here's something really unique that we got to tell you about. Not only James out here trying to make some money, trying to keep himself afloat but he's also trying to get a job. And here's how he's doing it. Look inside the cab here. He has got posted on the back of the front seat here his resume. So it's there for anybody who gets into the cab to see. And here is what it says, objective, to begin a career path in the area of market research or technical sales that will allow me to enhance both my technical and analytical skills while experiencing situations related to the material covered in my undergraduate and graduate coursework. Has anybody bitten on this yet? Anybody who gets in your cab will see this although New Yorkers tend to be above you -

WILLIAMSON: I have gotten a few positive responses, and a couple tips on how to improve the resume, and I've got a few business cards, and no job offers yet. And some people don't even notice it. And some people don't think it's me, and they will say somebody posted a resume in the cab and I say, that's me. Oh, I see.

ROBERTS: Somebody's trashing up your cab here. The rest - what's that all about. So are you working on any particular areas in the city. You know, you are up here in Columbus circle, in the western part of midtown, but do you work in the financial district, places where there might be having more of a call for an MBA student?

WILLIAMSON: Well, I pick anybody but basically I try to stay midtown, downtown, upper west side. A lot of times in the morning, people from the upper west side may go downtown, that's always a good ferry than the FDR and so I like to go anywhere or (inaudible) downtown in the morning and up town in the afternoon.

ROBERTS: So what does it say about the job market that an MBA student who had a 3.2 grade point average, coming out of your MBA program, you're a 3.5 and you can't find a job in the city.

WILLIAMSON: I mean I knew New York was a tough place to move to, but I always love New York. I told myself I want to make it here. I want to live here. and so I said I'm going to do it. I will try my best and just keep going, you know, no matter what happens. Just keep going.

ROBERTS: There's some old saying, I remember that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But would you be willing to move outside of the city if you can't find a job here?

WILLIAMSON: If it was a good offer I would. I love New York so much. It would have to be a great offer to leave the city. I just love the energy here. The vibe here is great.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, one thing that we find because we talk to a lot of cab drivers in Washington, D.C. where a lot of foreign students working on their PhD. They really had their (INAUDIBLE) on politics, big political city. This is a big financial city. I'm sure you talked to a lot of people who are dealing with finance.

What's your sense in the economy here in New York, where it might be headed again in the near term? And how long it might be before you can get a job, based on your educational skills?

WILLIAMSON: I feel the economy will bounce back. When I got my MBA, I looked at it as a long-term investment. And I figure that, you know, the stock market's going to go up and down. You're going to have to (INAUDIBLE) fluxuations in the market. So, I figure that in a couple right now, my MBA will be worth than it is now. And I know that it'll bounce back and it'll retain its value. I'll definitely get a return on investment, for sure.

ROBERTS: The economy will come back at some point.

James Williamson, it's great to meet you, my friend.

WILLIAMSON: You too, sir.

ROBERTS: I hope to run into you, in your cab someday.

WILLIAMSON: Yes, sir. ROBERTS: Good luck finding a job.

WILLIAMSON: The fare is on me if you come on.

ROBERTS: Oh, well no, I can't do that. But, thank you. Look forward to seeing you out there -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, good luck to him for sure.

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