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AMERICAN MORNING

Israel Halts Attacks; Europe on Alert for Possible Terror Attacks; Obama Warns Trillion-Dollar Deficit Could Last Several Years; Obama Team Approaches Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General Position

Aired January 7, 2009 - 08:00   ET

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


REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: The Soviet system came down because they overextended themselves in Afghanistan. They bankrupted that country. And actually Osama Bin Laden said, I'm going to bankrupt the Soviets, and they'll have to leave, and they did. We're doing the same thing. But we're too extended. We could cut -- balance the budget, cut spending, and let the people go back to work, go to savings and let the market operates.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: So Dr. Paul, you obviously know a lot about economics. You know a lot about finance. But noted and Nobel- prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has said we need to have a stimulus package. It needs to be a big stimulus package, and we need to have it quickly.

PAUL: Well, yes, he comes from a different view. But I doubt if he ever read Austrian economics. I don't even know if he knows who Mises is and Hayek and Rothbard, the people who talk about free market. He's not a free-market person.

As a matter of fact, we haven't had free-market policies in this country for a long, long time. Because once you have a Federal Reserve system -- they are the central economic planners. They manipulate the economy by artificially lowering interest rates.

So the economists you hear from in our universities and from Washington, D.C. are all interventionists. They are liberals. They are Keynesians. So if they're still winning the Nobel Prize for economics, then we are in serious trouble. But fortunately for us, there are a lot more people in this country who are waking up to the fact that the culprit is really the Federal Reserve, the monetary system and the spendthrift Congress that we have and government. And once that's realized and we have enough people, it will change, because we can't continue to do what we're doing now, something has to give.

ROBERTS: Yes, there's no question that this idea of running multiyear trillion-dollar deficits is more than just a little shocking.

PAUL: Right.

ROBERTS: Congressman Ron Paul, it's always good to talk to you. Thanks for coming in this morning. We'll see you again soon.

PAUL: Thank you very much. KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, coming up on two minutes after the hour. Following breaks news, Israel has temporarily stopped its attacks in Gaza to allow much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza. CNN's Christian Amanpour has the latest for us on this as they're calling it the humanitarian corridor trying to allow some of the supplies, including fuel, to get in.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. It's really the bombing pause that is causing the big difference today. And it's been going on now for the last hour or so. It's a three-hour bombing pause according to the Israeli military, in various different sectors of Gaza, to allow people to go and stock up on supplies -- humanitarian supplies and fuel.

There's been a lot of conflicting information coming out from the government and the military over this. At first they said it would be a daily pause, but now they are saying it's going to be every two days. So, let's wait to see how this goes on.

But it's clearly in response to the deep distress of the civilians and the citizens in Gaza have been under with cuts in electricity, lack of water, fuel, food, and not being able to actually go to distribution centers. Remember, Gaza is a strip of land that it is about 80 percent dependent on hand-outs. So, this is being severely impacted during this now 12-day military operation.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Also hearing the Israeli cabinet meeting this morning to consider a U.S.-backed cease-fire -- have any decisions been made that you know on that front?

AMANPOUR: Well, the security cabinet meeting has just ended in the last half hour or so. And they have said that a statement has been issued from Prime Minister Olmert's office saying that they are considering positively what they are calling the Egyptian-French proposals on this cease-fire plan.

They are in touch with the Egyptians and, of course, the U.S. has been heavily involved in this. Basically centering on stopping what Israel calls the terrorist facility, and facilitating war activities in Gaza, which basically means closing down and monitoring any ability to smuggle weapons or cash from Egypt and the routes and the tunnels into Gaza. So, that's the center of this proposal and Israel saying it's considering it positively.

CHETRY: All right, Christian Amanpour for us this morning. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Another troubling development. Europe on alert for possible terror attacks as the Mid-East conflict fuels anger thousands of miles away. CNN's Paula Newton is live in London this morning. She joins us.

Just how dire is the threat there, Paula? PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Well, European officials here are bracing for what they could say could be a surge in anti-Semitic attacks. Now there have been sporadic incidents throughout Europe, John, and the most serious attackers tried to ram a burning car into the gates of a synagogue in Toulouse, France. Now certainly this alarm many authorities.

British Intelligence authorities here on the ground tell us that John, they are concerned not just about attacks that would go on the buildings or Jewish landmarks and places of interest, but Jews themselves. And that's why, John, I've seen personally the police out in full force with surveillance on the protests and on the protesters themselves. They're trying to gain as much intelligence as they can about these attacks before they happen.

You know, John, a lot of this is motivated and we've seen it time and again with those graphic images coming out of Gaza, the heartbreaking carnage is motivating some of these attacks, and that is what certainly authorities here are most concerned about. Certainly Jewish centers here have reported an increase in things like death threats and vandalism. But certainly authorities across this continent now doing what they can on the surveillance end, John, to make sure that they can stop these attacks before they happen.

ROBERTS: All right, Paula Newton on the security watch for us from London this morning. Paula, thanks so much for that.

CHETRY: New this morning, President-elect Barack Obama says the country could face a trillion dollar deficit for years to come. And that's why he's urging Congress to pass an economic stimulus package within two weeks of his taking office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even if we did nothing, that we have close to a trillion dollar deficit, even if were on the current path that we're on, and we know that we can't do then implement a set of fiscal measures that deal with the medium and long term so that we have a sustainable path of economic growth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Meantime, Barack Obama continues to assemble his team. "The New York Times" is reporting that Obama has chosen Nancy Killeffer as his chief performance office. It's a new position design to help reform the federal government. She was assistant Treasury secretary in the Clinton White House.

And the President's Club will meet for lunch today at the White House. The historic gathering includes President Bush, President- elect Obama and three former presidents -- Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

ROBERTS: Well, President-elect Barack Obama may be looking to Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, for two important positions in his new administration, chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is under consideration for the post of U.S. Surgeon General. And the president-elect is also said to be considering former Time Warner Chairman and CEO Dick Parsons to replace Bill Richardson as the Commerce secretary.

A key Democrat breaking with her colleagues. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein says she supports Roland Burris in his controversial bid to assume Barack Obama's Senate seat from Illinois. She also went on to say that in her view it is merely a question of law.

And despite his father's shout-out that made big news, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush says, no, he will not be running for the U.S. Senate in 2010. The younger Bush said the time is not right for him to return to public life.

Well, the switch to digital television hitting a snag. The government running short on coupons and cash. Why some people may have to pay more to keep their free TV.

And Oprah Winfrey at war again with her weight. A look at how the talk show queen is fighting her latest battle of the bulge. It's coming up on eight minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Breaking news in the Middle East. Israel temporarily halting its attacks on Gaza for three hours to allow for humanitarian aid to get to the region. But we still haven't heard much on the crisis from President-elect Barack Obama. Joining us live to talk about Obama's Mid-East policy is senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Candy, good to see you this morning. Now, Obama did break his silence yesterday a little bit. He didn't give many specifics, but he said that after January 20th, he's going to have plenty to say about the issue. And he said before there can only be one president at a time. But how important is it for him to weigh in on what's going on in the Middle East?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the moment, policy-wise, he's perfectly correct. Should he be so inclined to say something different than President Bush has been saying, it obviously changes things on the ground.

In the Middle East, people can wait out George Bush. Israel might push forward if they sense that perhaps Barack Obama would be less supportive of Israel than George Bush, which there's no indication he will be.

Nonetheless, what people say, particularly an incoming president, can have an effect on the ground. He doesn't want to have that.

But politically, I have to tell you, this is also pretty good for Barack Obama. There is a way to go certainly in terms of an ongoing war between now and when Barack Obama's inaugurated. He may not have to deal with the urgency of this particular move into Gaza by Israel. They may be out by then. They may have a cease-fire by then.

And then (OFF-MIKE) urgency so that they can sort of sit back a little bit. He has promised to hit the ground running, but he also has this huge economic problem. And I think that's where Hillary Clinton, the incoming secretary of state, may come to play. Someone whose pro-Israeli credentials are not in question as Barack Obama's sometimes were during the campaign, I suspect. But while he centers on the economy, he may dispatch her and have her kind of take the lead role in the Middle East under, of course, his direction.

CHETRY: And you mentioned something just a couple of moments ago about concerns or questions as to whether or not Barack Obama would be as supportive or as pro-Israel as the current administration has been.

Now, you were with him in Sderot, right? This is one of those border towns where rocket fire -- they take rocket fire. The families live in fear. He said that if these were my daughters and rockets were raining down on them, I wouldn't be able to live like this either. So, did you observe anything about him there that could give us a clue?

CROWLEY: Well, I think it was interesting, because first of all, this was the place, Israel, where he spent most of the time on what was pretty much a whirlwind trip through the Middle East and then into Europe.

So, very clearly in the political sense, given that this was during an election year and part of an effort to kind of burnish up his foreign policy credentials, it was interesting to me that he spent so much time in Israel, that he did make that statement in Sderot, which is one of the reasons that Israel is now in the Gaza is to stop those incoming missiles.

And he did not spend as much time -- although he went into Palestinian territory, did talk to Palestinian leaders, he did not spend as much time over there.

I questioned him about that, and he said, well, there will be plenty of time. But he spent most of the campaign trying to reassure people and voters that he was very pro-Israeli and a strong supporter, which doesn't mean that he, you know, supports them to the extent that he does not support the Palestinian quest for a separate state.

So, nonetheless, this is -- this is something he's clearly going to have to grapple with, as every president has. And what we do know that he's signal is that he's going to be -- or his administration is going to be -- more involved in that process, hitting the ground running, again, as he said, than the current administration is.

CHETRY: Candy Crowley for us in Washington. Thanks.

ROBERTS: And at 14 minutes after the hour, just in to CNN. According to the Associated Press, reports from French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Israel and the Palestinians have tentatively, at the very least, accepted the terms of a cease-fire agreement brokered by France and Egypt. We have been hearing for the last couple of days that French President Sarkozy as well as former Prime Minister from Britain, Tony Blair, have been actively trying to work on a cease-fire agreement that could bring the two sides together for a pause in the hostilities, which are now in their 12th day.

Of course, one of the big sticking points, the central issue in any cease-fire agreement, is what to do about those tunnels that we've been describing this morning that cross between Gaza and Egypt -- tunnels that are used to supply arms to Hamas fighters, as well as everyday consumer goods to many of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in Gaza.

No confirmation of this yet, but attributing to a report from the Associated Press, French President Nicolas Sarkozy says Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed to the terms of a cease-fire and have accepted those terms.

Our Christiane Amanpour is in Jerusalem. She's working her sources. We'll get her up just as soon as we can. We'll take a short break. We'll be right back in the "Most News in the Morning"

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, another sign of the economic times, computer systems, where laid-off workers file electronically for unemployment benefits, have been crashing in places like New York, North Carolina and Ohio. Officials say they were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new jobless claims. Some 4.5 million Americans are currently collecting unemployment benefits. That is a 26-year high.

Also new prices at iTunes. Apple announcing downloaded music will now cost either 69 cents, 99 cents or $1.29. It will allow record companies actually to set those prices and songs will be made available without copy protection, making it much easier to transfer music to other PCs, iPods and phones.

ROBERTS: A government program designed to help people switch to digital television is out of money this morning. More than $1 billion had been set aside to help people buy converter boxes that would let old TVs, the ones with antennas or even those old rabbit ears, to pick up the new digital signals. Without the box, people who don't have cable or satellite could have no TV at all in about a month's time.

Our personal finance editor Gerri Willis has been looking into all of this.

We're talking about coupons that people can ask for to help them buy these converter boxes so they can continue with their favorite programs. How did they run out of money?

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: I know. This is not a big surprise. We knew it was coming, right? And guess what? You may not be able to get one of these coupons before the conversion on February 17th. And I have to tell you, it looks like a good, old- fashioned government snafu, a mistake, an error. I was on the telephone yesterday talking to folks in Ed Markey's office who oversees handing the money out to the Commerce Department for these coupons. The department just didn't ask for the money until December 24th, when Congress was on break.

So, they didn't get the cash. Ergo, some 70 million people, well, not all of 70 million, some 45 million people, have already asked for coupons, gotten them. That leaves 25 million who could be without television.

Now, you may think, that's not a tragedy, being without television, right? Well, remember, people rely on TV for weather information, emergency information, and the people most likely to have those old-fashioned TV sets are the poor, the elderly, possibly racial minorities. This is a big problem out there in a lot of communities. And big changes need to happen.

ROBERTS: So, it's not like this suddenly happened. I've been seeing these commercials running these public service announcements for the past year. How did it sneak up and take them by surprise?

WILLIS: Somebody is just not watching the ball. I mean, that's what it sounds like to me. I spoke to Gene Kimmelman at "Consumer Reports." And he said this is just a big oversight, that the government needs to get on the case, do something about it, because folks are going to be out of luck here.

Now I have to tell you, the Commerce Department put out a press release last night saying we are working with groups like the AARP and others to help people get what they need, but it's going to be a while coming. You may have to wait until after February 17th to get the coupon, and even then you may not have enough money to pay for the converter box.

One more point I want to make, guess how much money the government's making off this?

ROBERTS: How much?

WILLIS: $20 billion off of the conversion. And it looks like they could come up with $1.34 billion to pay for our converter boxes.

ROBERTS: OK. They're making all of this money, and they forgot to --

WILLIS: Outrageous, right?

ROBERTS: Your tax dollars at work.

WILLIS: That's right.

ROBERTS: Way to go. Thanks, Gerri, for uncovering that for us.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Kiran? CHETRY: Well, inside Hamas. A close look at the militant's military operation from a man who's had extraordinary access to Hamas leaders.

And we've been "Paging Dr. Gupta" for years, now the president- elect has come calling. We'll now tell how our resident brain surgeon could be serving the Obama administration. It's 21-1/2 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Uncle Sam may want you. Chief medical correspondent here at CNN and resident neurosurgeon said he's been approached by the Obama administration about serving as U.S. Surgeon General. Jason Carroll is following the story and joins us live.

I know, just looking through the papers --

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's been a cover boy in all these things.

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: Right. He's on every paper today.

CARROLL: "U.S.A. Today," "Washington Post," you know, not a big surprise to some people within the industry. The transition team is impressed with Sanjay's experience in government, his communication abilities, and his medical skills.

According to sources, Sanjay went to Chicago to meet with the president-elect last November. Dr. Gupta, as many people know, is CNN's chief medical correspondent. In 2003, he not only reported from Iraq and Kuwait, he ended up putting his medical skills to good use.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I was in Iraq covering the military's "Devil Docs" medical team. In moments, I would go from reporter to neurosurgeon.

(on camera): They don't have neurosurgeons on this particular medical unit, at least this far forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: That's a brief excerpt from a report that Sanjay gave when he was embedded as a correspondent with the U.S. Navy's medical unit. He worked alongside them, performing several brain surgeries while he was there. When he's not busy in the field, he's fulfilling his medical duties in hospitals. Dr. Gupta is a staff and faculty member of the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. He regularly performs surgery there. And at Grady Memorial Hospital where he's associate chief of Neurosurgery. Obama's transition team also liked Sanjay's past government experience. In 1997, he was a White House fellow, and a special adviser to then First Lady Hillary Clinton. The surgeon general serves as the country's chief health educator, informing Americans how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury.

CNN released a statement saying, since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the Surgeon General position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health care policy or any matters involving the new administration.

Of course, we wish him the best of luck. The question is going to be, will this new administration give him the funding to do what he wants to do, will he be able to find his voice as a public health advocate. We'll see.

CHETRY: Right. And we've seen it here. I mean, with his "Fit Nation." He definitely practices what he preaches.

CARROLL: Absolutely.

CHETRY: And a wonderful guy. If he goes, good luck. We'll miss him so much.

CARROLL: Yes, we will miss him here.

CHETRY: So much, but what a great opportunity.

CARROLL: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Jason, thanks.

ROBERTS: It's 26 minutes after the hour. And here are this morning's top stories. New concerns today over the staggering level of the government's deficit. President-elect Barack Obama warning it could hit a record high of a trillion dollars, and stay there for several years. Making the U.S. potentially unattractive to investors. Obama's promising to cut government spending to help grow the economy.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is estimating that military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost almost $136 billion in 2009. The cost is for the fiscal year that began October the 1st and presumes that operations will continue at their current pace.

It's back to the drawing board for California Democrats after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed an $18 billion budget. Democrats called it a, quote, "major down payment toward the state's budget gap." Schwarzenegger said the package did not go far enough to address the state's projected $42 billion deficit.

Mississippi now has the nation's highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country, displacing Texas and New Mexico for the title, according to a new report released yesterday. The state's rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006. The lowest teen birth rates are in New England. Three states there have teen birth rates at just half the national average.

Well, breaking news now from the Middle East. According to the Associated Press, Israel has accepted a U.S.-backed cease-fire plan with some conditions. The Palestinian authority reportedly has signed on to it. No word yet from Hamas, though. Christian Amanpour has the latest from Jerusalem.

The Israeli cabinet was meeting all morning on this. What are you hearing there on the ground, and what about this intersection of Israel, the Palestinian authority and then Hamas as well?

AMANPOUR: Well, from the Israeli cabinet, in fact, from the prime minister's office, we have heard that he is welcoming and looking positively at the peace proposals that have been put down by Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak and France President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was in Egypt, then here in Israel, then back to Egypt.

The United States also has been working very heavily on the cease-fire proposal, which centers around stopping the smuggling routes of weapons and arms into Gaza from Egypt.

So, again, we're being told by the prime minister's office here that they're still working on it. It still needs to have a real mechanism for a sustainable end to these hostilities and for an internationally monitored arms embargo is what the prime minister is saying. Arms embargo against Hamas in Gaza. So that's what they're saying. But they are saying they welcome it, they're viewing it positively.

Now the Palestinian authority also would be doing the same, because they want to end this. And they want to get monitors to make sure that there's no more weapons and cash coming in to Gaza, particularly, since they're not in charge at the moment. But the question is, getting the Palestinian authority and Hamas together to make this -- to make this acceptable on all sides. But it is the working plan, and it appears to be moving in the right direction.

Back to you, John.

ROBERTS: Well, that's a very good sign. Christian Amanpour for us from Jerusalem with the latest on that. Christian, thanks.

CHETRY: Well, our next guest has spent a lot of time with Hamas and Hamas leaders. Had unprecedented access to them. Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for "Atlantic Monthly." He also wrote the book "Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror," and joins us from Washington this morning.

Jeffrey, thanks for being with us.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, AUTHOR, "PRISONERS": Thank you.

CHETRY: So when you hear about the cease-fire situation, Hamas has not signed on to this. Hamas is the one that has been launching the rockets and has vowed to fight until Israel is destroyed. So, what impact, if any, will this cease-fire agreement or reported, you know, pending agreement between Israel and the Palestinian authority have?

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, it's always safe to be pessimistic about these things. That's the default position. And I would say that, yes, you know, we're going to have a cease-fire sometime in the coming days. That's inevitable.

The question is, when does this start again? You're right, Hamas has not change its fundamental position that Israel should be destroyed. There's nothing - no sign Hamas has ever given to suggest that it's interested in shifting off that position. And it believes in the armed struggle. So, this is a - I would tend to think of this right now, potentially, as a pause in the conflict.

CHETRY: You know, we see these heartbreaking pictures of civilians impacted by this. There's a new study by the intelligence and terrorism information center, presenting new evidence of Hamas basically operating military infrastructure in civilian population centers. This group does have ties to Israeli's military establishment, but they say that they have the video to prove that things like rockets are being launched from schools, from mosques and that Hamas operates within these civilian areas knowing that when Israel fights back, there is going to be civilian casualties.

How do you continue that? Where does Israel - where do they go when international outcry really is against them when we see these type of pictures?

GOLDBERG: Well, you know, you've just captured entirely the dilemma faced by not only Israel but it's a dilemma faced by western powers in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. You have two different systems, cultural systems, if you will, or in some - I would go so far as to call it moral systems fighting each other. In Gaza - and I've seen the - and I've seen this for myself over and over again.

I've spent a lot of time in Gaza over the past years. Yes, there's no compunction on the part of Hamas to locate rocket launchers and suicide bomb teams, things like that. Not only in densely- populated areas, because most of Gaza is fairly densely populated, but literally inside mosques. And I once saw rockets being launched from a school yard, launched into Israel from a schoolyard in Gaza.

CHETRY: And that just seems like a losing battle, Jeffrey, for Israel. They know this as well. I mean, the Hamas leader that was killed recently, Nizar Rayyan, I know you were able to spend time with him as well. He sent his son on a suicide mission. He was also warned time and again to leave the home where he was with his wives and many of his children knowing that Israel was going to attack and he stayed.

GOLDBERG: Well, he stayed because I don't think it was ideology steadfastness that forced him to stay. He stayed because he knows that in the past Israel has not attacked Hamas military leaders when they were in their apartments or houses surrounded by their children. Israel, as you could tell from this operation - and this has real moral consequences for Israel, obviously. Israel has decided to change the rules of the game a little bit when they dropped the bomb on Rayyan's house and killed some of his family with him. I think, you know, this is the cycle that you see in the Middle East, that each war, each outbreak of war in this continuing war becomes more and more extreme, more and more innocent people die, the tactics become harsher. And that's where we're going.

I think, yes, there's pressure on Israel, obviously, not to attack when you have the rockets located with - near children, for instance. But, you know, the question also has to be asked of Hamas, why are you doing this? Why are you intentionally hiding your military equipment and your operations behind women and children? It's also a question that needs to be asked.

CHETRY: And, you're right, we see it time and time again. It's heartbreaking, and the answers certainly don't come easily. Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent with "Atlantic Monthly," thank you.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Well, you can take the president out of Hawaii, but can you take Hawaii out of the president? A close family friend tells us why our next commander in chief will always have some aloha state in him even in the White House.

And Oprah Winfrey going public with her very personal struggle of her weight. Hear how Oprah is fighting back and slimming down. It's 34 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Oprah Winfrey is getting back on the weight loss wagon after a public fall and she's using her talk show to discuss her latest struggle. Alina Cho is here with the story. She's very candid and she always has been public about how tough it's been for her through the years to maintain her weight.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes and it's brave of her to do it. Really, she's struggling with so many other Americans are struggling with, Kiran. Good morning. Good morning, everybody. You know, you may recall about a month ago Oprah very publicly admitted in "O" magazine that she had tipped the scales at 200 pounds, the dreaded 2-0-0 she calls it.

Now in her most candid comments yet, Oprah's speaking out on her own show saying all the fame and money and attention in the world and none of it matters if you can't control your weight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: Please welcome Tina Turner.

CHO: Oprah said she hit bottom a year ago when she had to go onstage with Tina Turner and Cher.

WINFREY: I was embarrassed. And I wanted to be any place other than there. I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to do it!

CHO: And so she says she tried to keep it a secret.

WINFREY: Here I am, one of the most visible people in the world, trying not to be seen.

CHO: She says photo shoots for her magazine became embarrassing with stylists trying to help her conceal the weight. But after months of hiding it, Oprah's put it all out there, posing next to a smaller version of herself, and once again, opening up about a very painful and personal subject.

WINFREY: I am mad at myself. I am embarrassed. I can't believe I'm still talking about weight!

CHO: It's been a public struggle for decades. Remember this? That was 20 years ago. Skinny, size 10 Calvin Kleins pulling 67 pounds of fat in a wagon. Just four years later, the pounds were back on. And Oprah tipped the scales at more than 230 pounds. She eventually got down to 160 pounds, but says she started feeling sick.

WINFREY: The moment I heard that I had a thyroid problem, I don't know even know how you fight this. I felt completely defeated. And I thought, OK, that's it. I give. I give.

CHO: Then it got worse. Oprah says she was put on medication that literally sucked the life out of her.

DR. MEHMET OZ, OPRAH'S MEDICAL ADVISER: Her obesity became an excuse, that she could hide behind. Oprah took it one step deeper, she hid behind her hormones.

CHO: It got so bad her longtime trainer asked if she was depressed.

WINFREY: What? Me? Depressed? I can't be depressed. I know what depression is. I'm not depressed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Oprah says that conversation with her trainer and longtime friend, Bob Greene, was a turning point. She says that 2009 will be the year that hope wins, not the year that fat wins. That it's about finding balance and about putting yourself back on your own priority list and Oprah, by the way, says she doesn't want to be thin anymore, Kiran, she wants to be healthy, strong and fit.

I have to tell you, we all love Oprah. She looks fantastic, but you know she doesn't feel good about herself. She said she was disappointed she was talking the talk but wasn't walking the walk. And, you know, she feels like she let herself down and a lot of other people down. And, you know, we wish her the very best.

CHETRY: She said I don't have a lot of vices, but food was my drug, potato chips was my drug of choice.

CHO: The blue chips, she ate a bag and it turned into another bag the next day and that was not a good thing for her.

CHETRY: Now, she's back to five miles of running every day. So good for her.

CHO: An inspiration.

CHETRY: Thanks, Alina.

ROBERTS: Eat well and exercise, and the rest will take care of itself.

Just for men, how to dress for success, in these tough economic times. Our resident recessionista has got some important tips for you.

20 minutes now to the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Hair, manicures, nice clothes, not just the concerns of women. In these tough economic times, men are being forced to up their game in order to find or keep a job.

Here's our resident recessionista, Lola Ogunnaike with some easy tips for you to stand out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your clothing is a voice before your mouth opened.

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: So in these tough economic times, it's so important for men to bring their game face, isn't?

ROBERT VERDI, LIFESTYLE EXPERT: It is a 100 percent important. I think for guys have to actually look their best in order to get the interview, let alone the job. You will never get a second chance to make a first impression and if you look like you're not taking care of yourself and you unkempt, and your fingernails are dirty, and your hair is uncut, you have a five o'clock shadow and your shirt is not ironed, you're not making a very good first impression. And I think recruiters are really taking a note of that.

Part of dressing up is about feeling attractive. You know, it's all about seduction at some level. You're seducing somebody either into your bedroom or to hire you.

ERIC JENNINGS, V.P. OF SAKS FIFTH AVENUE: I think it's finally catching on when you're wearing clothes that actually fit you, it's more handsome, you look smarter.

OGUNNAIKE: So what are in these boxes?

JENNINGS: This is underwear, and it's got spandex in it. It's like a boxer cut. It will slim down your -- this region. OGUNNAIKE: This region. Your booty, if you got a little booty, you put this on? I could wear these.

JENNINGS: There's a little bit of spandex to give you that slimming effect.

OGUNNAIKE: So, these are like Spanx for men?

JENNINGS: One can say, yes.

OGUINNAKE: Cool. These are really cute, actually, I could wear these around the house.

JENNINGS: Cut.

HOWARD KREITZMAN, V.P. OF BLOOMINGDALES: A lot of men are trying our more premium items. We, men, get bags under our eyes, too. I think there are many, many people that realize that these are the times that they need to look their best and these things certainly can help.

JENNINGS: It's all types of men. It's not just heterosexual or homosexuals or metrosexuals or uber-sexuals. It really crosses all barriers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: You know, and here I thought that the metrosexual is dead and that people are after the real men again.

OGUNNAIKE: No, the metrosexual is alive and well. You got to compete in this job market and you got to put your best face forward, John.

ROBERTS: So what other tip, besides wearing real tight, tighty- whities, if you will, what other tips do you have?

OGUINNAIKE: Spanks for men.

ROBERTS: Those are extensive, too. I've seen those.

OGUINNAIKE: Oh, yes. Those aren't cheap underwear.

ROBERTS: They aren't your typical Fruit of the Loom.

OGUINNAIKE: Oh no, you don't. You don't get them at your local CVS at all. You have to go to a department store to get those types of underwears. But other tips, you got to make sure your belt always matches your shoes. Brown belt, brown shoes. Black belt, black shoes. Look at you, one for one, make sure your collar fits. Look at you, two for two. If the collar is too loose, then you look like a bobble head. No one has time for that.

Now let's see your nails. Three for three. Make sure your nails are clipped and clean. Dirty nails are a no-no. ROBERTS: Oh, yes you don't want that. They're actually, they are a little - I'm showing a little tiny bit of white here and it's actually a little longer than I would like to keep them.

OGUNNAIKE: And your fragrance, make sure it's subtle. You don't want your cologne walking into the room before you are. Let's see if we are four for four. Four for four, ding, ding, ding! You win this morning, John Roberts.

But you are not a metrosexual per se, you are just a man who cares about his appearance and you do it very well.

ROBERTS: Well put it this way, if I don't care about my appearance, there are several people that I will hear from.

OGUNNAIKE: Hundreds and thousands of people.

ROBERTS: Immediately, yes.

OGUNNAIKE: Tie or no tie, John? Tie today but maybe not tomorrow.

ROBERTS: You know, it's kind of looking like the tie is here to stay.

OGUNNAIKE: All right. No-tie Fridays, how about that?

ROBERTS: Maybe we can make a bit of a compromise.

OGUNNAIKE: OK.

ROBERTS: Lola, thanks so much.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Kiran.

CHETRY: one other tip shine your shoes because you never know when Richard Simmons is going to show up, grab your foot and start kissing it. That's when the men's spanks come in handy too.

OGUINNAIKE: That's a good one, Kiran. I like that.

CHETRY: All right. Well CNN NEWSROOM is just minutes away. Heidi Collins at the CNN Center with a look at what's ahead. Good morning, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well I don't know how to follow all of that.

CHETRY: ... in Atlanta and we can't get you there.

COLLINS: Exactly.

Here's a check of what we're working on in the NEWSROOM in just a few minutes from now though. Bombardment break, Israel races a three- hour window for humanitarian shipments into Gaza. But what are the chances for a lasting cease-fire?

And Roland Burris fights for a senate seat, round two today, he meets the majority leader.

And get this, a six-year-old boy misses the bus to school. So, he takes the car all by himself. Of course! We get started at the top of the hour, right here on CNN. Kiran.

CHETRY: Wow. All right.

Well, how could anyone misplace $26 billion? We're asking the government about the lost taxpayer fund. That's right, it's your money, you deserve to know where it went. It's 48 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Ominous music for you this morning and there's a reason for that as well. If you're trying to get from here to there and you live in the northeast, going to be a bit of a problem today.

Rob Marciano is tracking the extreme weather from the weather center in Atlanta. What do we got, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, be it driving or flying, it's going to be a bit of a problem. We've got a slow moving, messy situation that's encompassing pretty much everywhere east of the Mississippi and we got another storm that is heading into the Pacific northwest. We'll run down some delays for you. The same ones that have been popping all morning long. About an hour at Philly, same at La Guardia, and as we go on through time and as the winds pick up and the precip continues to come down, we'll see those get worse.

Precip for the most part right now is in the form of a cold rain up the i-95 corridor. You go just north and west of the big cities, we begin to see an ice storm. Ice storm warnings for the next hour or two, western Jersey or eastern P.A. Two to four inches across the Hudson Valley in through the Berkshires and the Catskills, getting six to 12 up across parts of northern New York and upstate New York and northern New Hampshire and Vermont.

34 in Boston right now. They've been prepping for snow. WCVB affiliate up that way, giving us this video. The good news for Boston, it will start to snow, but then turns to rain, but before it does that, we'll look at - we'll look at a little bit of a slick spots.

But not drastically cold behind this front, John. 28 degrees in Chicago right now. It will be 31 for a high today. 42, D.C. and 64 degrees in Dallas. So get through the next few hours and you guys will be all right.

ROBERTS: All right. But give yourself a little bit of extra time if you're heading out to the airports this morning. Rob, thanks so much.

MARCIANO: All right.

CHETRY: Well with just 14 days left in the Bush administration, Congress is getting in its last licks, so to speak, this time over taxpayer dollars being wasted by the billions. There's a new report out critical of the Bush administration for not keeping your money from going to the wrong places. CNN's Joe Johns is on the money trail.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, it's a report from the last congress, and it's a final kick in the pants for the Bush administration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): A report prepared by the democratic staff of the House committee on oversight, says that since 2001, the Bush administration has failed to implement more than 13,800 recommendations made by inspectors general, the watchdogs of various federal agencies, costing taxpayers almost $26 billion.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), COLUMBUS: When you have thousands of recommendations that can add up to billions of dollars, seems to me they ought to be taken seriously.

JOHNS (on-camera): Keeping them honest, what it means is that the government never went after billions of dollars of your money, that somebody else got. Somebody who probably wasn't supposed to get it.

JOHNS (voice-over): The report says that $2 billion could have been saved just by cutting off social security disability benefit payments to people who were able to work. Then there's the $837 million in overpayments that the Pentagon handed out for military telecom contracts. And don't forget Hurricane Katrina. The report cites $16 million in questionable costs for a single base camp.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know $16 million here, $100 million here, $300 million there, pretty soon you've got billions and billions of dollars that we could be saving.

JOHNS: The White House attacked the report as a hyperpartisan hatchet job, telling CNN, "Literally in the last minutes of the 110th Congress, it appears the partisan Democratic staff has dumped out an incomplete report," whose facts the White House says aren't exactly factual.

A top Republican on the House Oversight Committee said that while the report looked to him like one more attempt to pile on George W. Bush, it still raises serious accountability questions.

REP. DARREL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: It's a parting shot. It's popular to kick somebody on the way out the door. But I'm going to take it along with Chairman Towns and that there are 13,000 issues that we're going to follow.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: Not entirely by accident, Senator Claire McCaskill, a former state auditor, is calling on the incoming Obama administration to beef up resources for inspectors general. John and Kiran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice-over): Rejected by the senate.

ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS SENATE APPOINTEE: I am now the junior senator from the state of Illinois!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spectacle. The circus rolling in to town.

ROBERTS: Jeanne Moos takes you inside the Burris circus. You're watching the most news in the morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL FERRELL AS U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: So, I'm leaving the White House to go tear Dallas a new party hole, but don't worry, the Tiger Woods' guy is taking over. He seems to know a lot of stuff. But here's the thing I'm really excited about. After Ferosima (ph) gets sworn in, I'm a free man. That means I can curse, fart, flip people off, and get pirated cable again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: That was Will Ferrell, doing an unforgettable, unique impersonation of President Bush. Well, now he's taking that act to Broadway, a show called "You're welcome, America, a final night with George W. Bush" follows Bush's life from college days through the presidency. We asked Ferrell if he ever got nervous impersonating the president. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FERRELL: I did it first, in fact, I think my phone was tapped for about a month. And then I realized it's just a bad connection. So, no, I'm, you know -- ignorance is bliss. So, I just kind of dive into it and hope I won't get audited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, the show premieres next month. HBO has also picked it up to air live on a yet-to-be-determined date.

ROBERTS: Well, Roland Burris is not giving up. He is going back to the Senate today, trying to convince leaders that he should be allowed to fill the Illinois senate vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Even though he is being denied so far, he is getting plenty of attention. Jeanne Moos now with the most news in the morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Instead of being sworn in as a senator -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please raise your right hand -

MOOS: Roland Burris was raising his right hand to hold on for dear life.

VOICE OF BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can see it's just quite a mess here.

BRIAN WILSON, FOX NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was chaotic. It was crazy. And, in fact, one cameraman slipped and fell.

MOOS: His colleagues helped pick him up. Burris himself almost went down at one point. There's a name for what Burris got caught up in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another chaotic scrum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a scrum is what we call it inside the media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go that way now!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This direction.

MOOS: Named after a rugby scrum, says CNN producer Paul Corson.

PAUL CORSON, CNN PRODUCER: All the teams scrum the ball to try to regain custody of it.

MOOS: Only in this case, Burris was the ball, the press wanted custody of.

CORSON: He frankly looked a little bit frightened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it is sort of a frightening thing.

MOOS: It began as Burris arrived at the senate entrance, continued inside on CNN.

COLLINS: And we are showing you these pictures via broadband.

MOOS: A kind of grainy footage usually reserved for war zones. Actually the thing that showed up best was the ornate capitol floor.

COLLINS: I'm trying to make out who we're seeing there. Can't quite tell.

MOOS: Visibility wasn't so hot outside either. Time to wipe that lens. Roland Burris has expressed no doubt whatsoever about his status.

BURRIS: I'm a United States senator. MOOS: A what?

BURRIS: I am now the junior senator from the state of Illinois!

MOOS: Who says?

BURRIS: I am the general junior according to every law book in the nation.

MOOS: OK, besides the law books, does this have anyone else's blessing?

BURRIS: What the Lord has ordained.

MOOS: If you say so.

BURRIS: I am the senator.

MOOS: Not even many senators are worthy of this big a scrum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spectacle. The circus rolling into town.

MOOS: He finally rolled out, in the safety of a van. You know the mausoleum Burris has built himself in a Chicago cemetery, the one where there's still room left to add more accomplishments. Well, he may not be able to write senator yet, but he could one day rest in peace, having survived a senate scrum.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Well, you know, you might question why somebody would want the job to begin with, but he may have good legal standing. We'll find out.

CHETRY: And we'll see how it goes, and some democrats say it's a good thing and others say he should probably just politely decline it.

ROBERTS: We'll see. It's one of the many stories befalling Washington.

CHETRY: Exactly.

All right. Well, thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We've go to go, but we'll see you back here tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Right now, here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.

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