Return to Transcripts main page


Economy Tops Obama's Agenda; Obama Visits the Press Corps; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Given a Rock Star Welcome; Women's Group Asking for Bigger Role in Obama Administration; Obama to Get a Smartphone; Pentagon Pick Criticized; Big Profits for Makers of Inexpensive Food; Photographer Provides Rare Look into Inauguration; N.Y. Governor to Announce Clinton's Senate Replacement

Aired January 23, 2009 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news, the Feds give the green light for the first embryonic stem cell trials on humans, offering new hope that the paralyzed might walk again, as science and politics collide.

Plus, from McNuggets to the original dollar menu.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty cheap. You can get a lot of food for five bucks here.

ROBERTS: Companies thriving in today's economy because you still got to eat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard out here when there is a recession.



ROBERTS: Yes, cheap is the new chic.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I don't know, though. Every time I go to McDonald's I end up spending 20 bucks.

ROBERTS: It is funny how quickly it adds up, particularly in New York City. A Big Mac is like $4.50. No dollar menu here.


ROBERTS: Hey, welcome to the program. Thanks for being with us on this Friday. It's the 23rd of January. John Roberts together with Kiran Chetry. Good to have you with us today.

CHETRY: And we spoke to Governor Paterson of New York when we were down in D.C. for the inauguration, and it was a political mystery. Well, today it's solved.

There are reports this morning that New York Governor David Paterson will pick upstate Congressman Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat. Paterson is scheduled to make his announcement at noon Eastern.

Gillibrand is a relative unknown to most New Yorkers but has close ties to Secretary of State Clinton. She worked on her 2000 campaign for Senate and today's announcement comes a little less than 24 hours after Caroline Kennedy, who once widely considered to be the front-runner, abruptly ended her bid for the Senate seat.

A new view of the miracle on the Hudson this morning. You have to see these pictures. It's a new pictures capturing the dramatic moments right after the US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing a week ago. If it weren't for the water, it would have looked like it was exactly where it was supposed to be.

You can see the doors swing open and then quickly those inflatable rafts pop out. And the first few passengers -- it happened so quickly -- filed right out there, seeming to be really cool, as if they were practicing, almost a drill. All 155 people did make it out alive, and kudos not only to the pilot but to many of the other vessels that were in the water and the captains of those boats that got out there so quickly in that frigid water. They were out there in minutes to rescue those people.

Breaking overnight, a milestone in science, something sure to spark a new moral debate in Washington and around the rest of the country as well. The Food and Drug Administration approving the first use of embryonic stem cells in human.

A biotech company in California was granted permission by the government to perform tests on ten patients with severe spinal cord injuries. The company says it will use stem cells that have already been approved for research. This is under the Bush administration. President Obama has promised to relax restrictions on embryonic stem- cell research, but the Feds say the timing of this decision was actually just a coincidence.

ROBERTS: This is all very, very, very cutting-edge stuff because they're going to try to do it by the summertime. They're going to try to repair spinal-cord injuries. Geron Corporation, as you said, these were stem cells existing lines that were, you know, approved under the Bush administration's order...

CHETRY: Approved under the Bush administration.

ROBERTS: ... although they didn't use federal funding to develop this research.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: So it will be --

CHETRY: And the reason this is also so cutting-edge, the debate aside, is that they have not been able to prove yet with science that embryonic stem cells can help in this way, and they say that we're years behind figuring that out. So this will be the first step and they're going to monitor these patients for any sign of change, any sign of feeling to see whether or not it makes a difference. ROBERTS: You know, back in the late '90s a couple of years I was a medical correspondent. I did some reporting on a group out of the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Charles Vacanti and his brothers, who are all into tissue engineering, and they isolated neural stem cells. They severed spinal cords of rats and planted neural stem cells in the rats and some of the rats walked again.

Now, going from rats to humans though is a huge leap, so what works in the rat doesn't necessarily work in the human but at least the research appeared then in rats to be promising. So let's see what happens.

CHETRY: All right. Again, the politics is really not the main part of this because they said it was coincidence that the FDA approved it. It's not federally funded.

ROBERTS: Yes. It had nothing to do with the Obama administration coming in.

CHETRY: All right.

ROBERTS: Just already in the pipeline.

CHETRY: Yes. We'll have more on this throughout the morning talking to Elizabeth Cohen, our medical correspondent, about what this could mean for the future of people with spinal cord injuries.

ROBERTS: Very exciting stuff this morning. Turning to our other top story today, four days in and President Obama wasting no time confronting an economy in crisis.

This morning, meetings with congressional leaders to push his economic recovery plan and his future top moneyman Timothy Geithner right now, the Senate planning to vote on his confirmation as treasury secretary on Monday. And in a move to show the administration is all over the financial crisis, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed the president will now receive a daily briefing on the economy, just like his intelligence briefing.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As the country is in the midst of an economic crisis and an economic emergency, and he felt it was important that each day he receive the most up-to-date information as it relates to the economy.


ROBERTS: Suzanne Malveaux is live at the White House for us this morning. And Suzanne, take us behind the scenes here. The president truly putting a spotlight on the economy, really wanting to look like he is on the job and all over it in these first few days of the administration.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, President Obama really wants to make sure that things are done differently here at the White House. So they did announce that this new economic daily briefing that he's going to be having, essentially taking a look at the jobs numbers, unemployment, really the health of the economy, what can they do to fix it, very much like that national security briefing. It's all about showing that he is on top of things, that he is engaged in this. So we're going to see Barack Obama, the president, with the House and Senate leadership, a bipartisan meeting to talk about this huge economic stimulus package.

He's also going to be sitting down as well to discuss the budget, as you know, a big, big item. The budget and the deficit, of course. He's going to be sitting down with his treasury secretary, Tim Geithner. They're going to be going all over those numbers as well. But he's got a tough sell in Congress when it comes to this economic plan, the stimulus package, trying to push this through in the next couple of weeks. But obviously with these meetings, he is trying to at least demonstrate to the American people that he is at least serious about taking a look at this in the first couple of days, John.

ROBERTS: The new president also making an unexpected visit to the press briefing room yesterday to visit the people who were sort of herded into that little room like cattle. What was that like?

MALVEAUX: Pandemonium, John.


MALVEAUX: It was pandemonium. One of our photographers, Bert (ph), was in the middle of it. He actually shot these pictures that you're looking at, but it was really fascinating because it was a total shock, a surprise of the afternoon. He came down. He was very relaxed, very calm. Just wanted to introduce himself to folks.

He made his way through lots and lots of photographers and reporters who were all kind of clamoring, just a little, you know, chitchat with them. He went back to the break room, saw the snack machine, said, "You guys need to be eating better." He kind of lamented with the photographers, said, you know, I always feel sorry for you guys. You know, you're on your knees, you're working hard, you know, loading all this gear.

No sympathy for us, John, but it was a lot of fun. I saw him earlier in the upper press office, where he was going to congratulate Robert Gibbs on his first day, his briefing, and he went just bouncing in. And one of the aides didn't see him coming in and said oh, you know, Gibbs is on a conference call, and the president joked and he said, "I'm the president. I can do whatever I want." And everybody started laughing.

And so, he went in there, congratulated Gibbs on his first faceoff with us yesterday, and then bounced right back. He was heading towards the Oval Office. So, you know, he's trying to get to know folks a little bit more in a casual way.

ROBERTS: And he said what everybody says when they go to that press briefing room to say, wow, it's a lot smaller than it looks on television. I was also impressed to see he didn't have his Secret Service agent with him either. He just waded into the crowd all by himself.

MALVEAUX: Yes. They were actually aside. They were posted at the doors. They kind of stepped back and basically let him have the room, to hold court, if you will.

I know you and I covered the last couple administrations, and President Clinton used to love to talk to us and off the record on background.


MALVEAUX: There would be some people who were almost kind of tired of it, and then we didn't see so much of President Bush. So I think President Obama's trying to feel his way a little bit here and establish a relationship.

ROBERTS: All right, Suzanne Malveaux for us at the White House. Well, we'll see how many times the president does stop by the briefing room because yesterday he made it clear that his stop to see the press corps was simply a social visit. He was not there to answer questions like what about his deputy defense secretary, William J. Lynn III. Let's listen to that exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how do you reconcile Mr. Lynn?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, see, hold on a second, guys. I came down here to -- I came down here to visit. I didn't come down here --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strict lobbying rules, sir.

OBAMA: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry, guys. We'll --

OBAMA: This is what happens. I can't end up visiting you guys and shaking hands if I'm going to get grilled every time I come down here.


ROBERTS: Now the reporter was referring to the appointment of William J. Lynn III, his deputy secretary of defense, and how it appears to contradict the president's new restrictions on lobbyists working in his administration. You see, Lynn was a registered lobbyist for Raytheon, a large Pentagon contractor, from 2003 to 2008.

CHETRY: Well, the new focus on diplomacy front and center as Hillary Clinton takes over at the State Department. Clinton's new staff gave her a rock star welcome and she certainly worked the crowd like it was one of her old political rallies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I want you to give me the best advice you can. I want you to understand, there is nothing that I welcome more than a good debate, and the kind of dialogue that will make us better.


CHETRY: CNN's Jill Dougherty was at that welcoming ceremony. She joins us live from Washington. Take us behind the cameras. What was it like when Clinton took center stage?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You said rock star, and Kiran, really, it did feel that way. There were a thousand crammed into that big formal entrance hall and she did work the crowd, you know, and she's saying things that they really want to hear. Because after all, there is that feeling in the State Department, a certain demoralization really that they feel sometimes they're described as people who wear pinstriped suits but a lot of the people who work in the State Department especially abroad are in places that are really difficult and they are risking their lives. In fact, she mentioned that. That's really what they want to hear.

They also want to hear that some of the power, some of the responsibilities that they had for civilian reconstruction, et cetera, that had been taken over by the Defense Department under the Bush administration. Hillary Clinton says that she is going to be taking that back, that those are traditional areas that the State Department does and they should be back again under the responsibility.

The message really is smart power is what they're talking about, and Clinton was saying, "And you're the smart people who are going to carry that out."

CHETRY: And Jill, it's interesting. You know, much has been made about the huge financial and economic challenges facing this Obama administration. Is it -- is it sort of safe to say that Hillary Clinton is going to be running the foreign policy part of this administration?

DOUGHERTY: Well, not totally, of course, because the president is one who makes the decisions about foreign policy ultimately, but he makes those decisions based on the information that he gets from the people who are in charge. And you've got a lot of heavy hitters putting into that equation, starting with the vice president, Vice President Biden, has a long experience in that area. The national security adviser, James Jones, the defense secretary, Robert Gates, all three of those. And don't forget about the envoys that were named yesterday, George Mitchell, very experienced and Holbrooke, Richard Holbrooke, going back many years.

So what's going to be very interesting, we'll be watching how all of them, plus Hillary Clinton put their stamp on where the United States should move with foreign policy.

CHETRY: Jill Dougherty for us this morning, thanks. ROBERTS: This morning, President Obama is plugged in. See what could be the president's super secret and super expensive smart phone. We'll show you.

It's 11 minutes after the hour.

Women helped put him here. But now that the dust has settled, are some women souring on Obama?


AMY SISKIND, THE NEW AGENDA: We had high hopes for President- elect Obama going in to this, and it's been very discouraging.


ROBERTS: Taking heat over his male cabinet position, and why some say his actions speak louder than words. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most Politics in the Morning. It's 14 minutes after the hour.

You know, they weren't with him in the voting booth, but now women's groups say that President Obama needs to do more to keep them on board. They want jobs and not only in his administration.

Christine Romans joins us now with more on this. Good morning, good to see you this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Nice to see you. Good morning.

That's right. You know, 56 percent of women voted for Obama in this election, overwhelming support. Even more women voted for him than they did for John Kerry four years ago and as the economy gets worse, some are asking, what are you going to do for us?


ROMANS (voice-over): He is a president surrounded by women.

OBAMA: How good-looking is my wife?

ROMANS: The Harvard-educated wife, two young daughters. His mother-in-law lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On the campaign trail, he evokes the hard work of the woman who raised him and promised equal pay for women.

OBAMA: I think about my grandmother and what she could have done if she had been treated equally.

ROMANS: He named Hillary Clinton his secretary of state. Janet Napolitano to head Homeland Security. So far, six Cabinet-level positions to women. So why are women's organizations like NOW and The New Agenda disappointed?

AMY SISKIND, THE NEW AGENDA: We had high hopes for President- elect Obama going in to this, and it's been very discouraging.

ROMANS: Just six out of 21 Cabinet positions, they say, is not enough. Women are 52 percent of the population and 54 percent of voters, and 56 percent of women voted for this president.

SISKIND: Clearly not getting the respect or the amount of power that the women in this country deserve, and it just shows you that Obama does not take this constituency very seriously.

ROMANS: Unfair, says author Naomi Wolfe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I personally feel strongly that it's more important to have the right policies than a certain number for gender.

ROMANS: But there's also a nagging concern that men will be favored in the 3.7 million jobs Obama wants to create, jobs building bridges and roads, alternative energy, and health care technology, fields dominated by men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What he could certainly do is make sure that his policy advisers invest as much in hospitals and schools and the kinds of sectors where women dominate.

ROMANS: A message the president's team has heard, loud and clear. Recently estimating Obama's stimulus will save or create about 1.5 million jobs for women over the next two years.


ROMANS: And that's still less than half, though, of the overall jobs that they want to create. Most agree it will be a challenge for this administration to create jobs for women. There will be that heavy emphasis on construction jobs but the fields, the industry is simply about three percent female. Engineering and technology also largely dominated by men, so indeed a lot of people are saying the focus on health care, the kinds of jobs and health care that are dominated by women and also education, that's where they can try to get jobs for women and also any kind of retail jobs surrounding the infrastructure build out so it will be a challenge.

CHETRY: All right, for sure. Thanks, Christine.

ROBERTS: Well, this morning, Barack Obama's addiction lives on. We'll show you what could be the president's new high-tech toy, the highly secure personal device that comes with a very hefty price tag.

Seventeen minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Good morning, Mr. Phelps. This morning, America's high tech president has a new high-tech and super secure device. Gone is the BlackBerry but the president not having to kick his addiction, instead he's cut a deal that's allowing him to stay plugged in with a one-of-a-kind smart phone. CNN's Brian Todd has got a look for you.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Kiran. Now it looks like at least some of the security concerns surrounding the president carrying a portable device have been addressed, and it looks like Mr. Obama is getting an upgrade.


TODD (voice-over): It's official. The new president won't have to kick his tech habit.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has a BlackBerry through a compromise that allows him to stay in touch with senior staff and a small group of personal friends.

TODD: A group that White House officials indicate will be very limited. Published reports say the president's new device could be the Sectera Edge made by General Dynamics. It's not available to the public, and the company says the $3,300 portable has to be approved by the National Security Agency before government officials can use it. Why?

A General Dynamics official took us through the capabilities of this personal digital assistant or PDA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an unclassified PDA that can go out to a Web site like or checklight (ph) and then with one push of a button you switch over to a classified PDA, which would allow you to access secret e-mail or secret Web sites.

TODD: Phone calls are made by pressing that telephone button. But hit the button for the red background and it's a top secret phone call. We e-mailed the NSA asking whether it approved the Sectera Edge for Mr. Obama's use. The agency referred us to the White House which wouldn't say which device the president has. But Press Secretary Robert Gibbs did talk about why the president feels he should have a portable device?

GIBBS: He believes it's a way of keeping in touch with folks, a way of doing it outside of getting stuck in a bubble.


TODD: Now the concerns about security and warnings that we've gotten that no device is hack proof, the General Dynamics official says the NSA wouldn't approve a device that is easily hacked.

John and Kiran, back to you.

ROBERTS: Boy, what a difference a few years makes. Remember the highest level of encryption for telecommunications in the White House going back not that long. I guess in the Clinton administration, it was the STU-3 phone. It's about this big. It was wide, had a bunch of buttons on it.

CHETRY: Certainly you couldn't put it in your pocket. ROBERTS: Yes. Going secure now. Now it's like right there in the palm of your hand. Pretty amazing.

CHETRY: Exactly. Good for him because, you know, he was -- that was one thing he was really, really holding on to. He wanted --

ROBERTS: He's a plugged-in president. No question.

CHETRY: Yes, he is.

Well, this morning, questions surrounding the president's pick for the Pentagon's second in command. We'll tell you why some are saying that Obama is already breaking his own rules.

And a bright spot amid the economic gloom, a look at the companies that are surging as America seeks out cheaper food and products.

It's 23 1/2 minutes after the hour.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Below the water of Florida's Indian River Lagoon, there's an unseen community in dire straits. The oyster beds that serve as both home to marine life and protective breakwater for the shoreline have been dying.

ROB BRUMBAUGH, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY: We've lost about 85 percent of the oyster reefs worldwide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While overfishing and pollution are threats around the world, here there's a man made wave of disaster.

ANN BIRCH, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY: Boat waves create enough turbulence in the water to dislodge the shells from their reef. Once oysters become exposed above the water, all the time, they die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ann Birch may be the oyster's pearl. Since 2005 she's rallied thousands of volunteer to help restore the reef with these 18 inch mesh mats studded with shells. When placed over rake (ph) piles of lifeless shells like a quilt, they help form new oyster beds.

BIRCH: These provide the perfect place for an oyster larvae to attach. Once they attach, this is their home for the rest of their life. Within 18 months, these mats have been totally covered with live oysters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since 2007, at least 19 reefs have been restored with a blanket of new life.

BIRCH: You see the little oyster spitting its water out. They are excellent water filters, so they really help clean the water.

GRIFFIN: Birch hopes others heed the mollusk's mayday.

BIRCH: A lowly gray oyster is a pretty cool critter.



ROBERTS: Coming up now on 28 minutes after the hour, and here is a look at President Obama's to-do list for the day. The economy still issue number one.

Obama and Vice President Biden are spending most of their day dealing with the financial crisis starting with a morning meeting with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to talk about that $800 billion stimulus plan. The president will meet with his National Security Council before lunch the day after he signed an executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and then back to the financial crisis, something new that's being added at the president's request.

He already gets a presidential daily briefing which is about all the threats that are facing America around the world. Now he's also going to get an economic daily briefing, followed by a budget meeting and the president meets with his treasury secretary nominee, Timothy Geithner. And that's what's going on this morning on the president's desk.

CHETRY: All right. Thanks, John. Well, you know, this morning, there are some tough questions about whether President Obama is violating one of his own executive orders to crackdown on the influence of lobbyists and change the way that business as usual is done in Washington. The president has tapped William Lynn to be deputy defense secretary, even though Lynn's most recently been a lobbyist for a major defense contractor.

So let's bring in our political panel. Pamela Gentry, BET political analyst here in New York. Hi there, Pamela. And also CNN contributor Stephen Hayes, a senior writer at "The Weekly Standard" in Washington. Stephen, good to see you as well.



CHETRY: Pamela, let me start with you. William Lynn, so a lobbyist with Raytheon. Raytheon, a defense contractor that secured billions -- rather a company that secured billions in defense contracts, building missiles supplying them to the Army, et cetera. So how does the administration square that with Mr. Obama's promise of "a clean break" from business as usual?

GENTRY: Well, the difference is he's coming in as a lobbyist so he's already been on the outside and now he's coming in and he's going to be working for the administration, and the administration would be calling the shots. And he has relationships that exist, of course, in the outside contracting world. But the big difference here is that he's not coming in to the administration and then leaving to lobby, which is usually lobbying back to the administration, which is what he's trying to cut off.

So usually those two or three years that someone comes into an administration, develops all of the contacts on the inside of the government and then leaves and takes those contacts with them, this is almost kind of in the reverse, so there's no added bonus for this gentleman, because he's already out there in the lobbying world. Now he's coming in. He'll probably be taking a huge pay cut, too.

CHETRY: Well, Stephen, in response to question on this pick, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, quote, "Even the toughest rules require reasonable exceptions." Is that fair? Is this more just of a perception problem?

HAYES: No, I think it's a real problem. Barack Obama, I think, was elected in no small part because he ran against Washington and vowed to change Washington, and, in particular, focused on eliminating the lobbyists' agenda, saying several times that the lobbyists weren't going to run his White House, that they weren't going to have a place in his administration, and at one time even mocking Hillary Clinton for suggesting that lobbyists are people, too.

This is a problem. I mean, we're not talking about waivers. We're talking about exceptions to these rules. I think this just demonstrates the difficulty of governing versus the difficulty or the relative ease of campaigning.

CHETRY: All right. Well, President Obama was asked about this by a reporter when he dropped by the press briefing room yesterday. He said that he just dropped by to say hello, introduced himself to members of the media. So, here's how he responded.


OBAMA: I came down here to visit. I didn't come down here --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a very strict lobbying rules, but Mr. Lynn was a lobbyist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry guys. We'll come see you again soon.

OBAMA: This is what happens if -- I can't end up visiting you guys and just shaking hands if I'm going to get grilled every time I come down here.


CHETRY: So, he sounded a little bit testy in that exchange. He's somebody who promised transparency in government, and should he be a little bit more open to taking questions from reporters in that atmosphere?

GENTRY: Well, that was a very unusual move to come down to the press office. But if you come to the press office, you're going to get questioned. And so the reality is, don't come there if you don't want to get grilled. So, I think that was an unreasonable expectation for that, even for that visit.

CHETRY: And you know, the other thing, Stephen, is that media has been accused of sort of having this love fest for Barack Obama. What are we looking at ahead at the relationship and the back and forth with the media and the new president?

HAYES: Well, I thought that was actually pretty impressive -- Jonathan Martin of "Politico" to ask him the question, and when Barack Obama tried to deflect it, to follow up. I thought that was pretty impressive and aggressive reporting.

The thing is I think this has happened before. If you look back in the campaign, there was a similarly testy exchange at a diner in Pennsylvania, where Barack Obama said, "Look, I just want to eat my waffle. Stop asking me these questions." He's going to get to the point where he reacts better to that, especially when he's on camera or this is going to become a problem, I think, really quickly.

CHETRY: All right. Well, I want to thank both of you for being with us this morning -- Pamela Gentry as well as Stephen Hayes. Thanks.

ROBERTS: This morning, a revealing look at the historic inauguration, some behind-the-scenes images of the first family like you have never seen them before. We've got them for you. It's 32-1/2 minutes now after the hour.

No layoffs here. What makes some companies thrive in a recession?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In tough economic times, you know, people do turn to the familiar.


ROBERTS: From Crock-Pots to Jell-O.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're seeing a return, in a certain sense, to comfort foods. Casseroles are huge.


ROBERTS: Who's making more money now? You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wake up Ronald for breakfast at McDonald's. Better try something else, Birdie.

BIRDIE, MCDONALD'S MASCOT: This ought to do it. You don't know what you're missing. Hotcakes and sausage.

RONALD MCDONALD, MCDONALD'S MASCOT: And milk and juice, too?

BIRDIE: Can't get off the ground without breakfast. Ronald!

RONALD: Breakfast at McDonald's really can help you get off the ground.


ROBERTS: Blast from the past with that vintage McDonald's commercial. It's one of the few companies that's managing to keep its head above water during these tough economic times. Two financial powerhouses -- Microsoft and Google are joining a long list of companies hit hard by the financial crisis with layoffs and reductions in profits.

But which companies still find themselves in the black in these tough economic times? Our Alina Cho has been looking into this one for us and she joins us.

Good morning.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. The bottom line is any time people can trade down right now, they are trading down, John. Good morning. Good morning, everybody.

You know, you've read the headlines. Worst recession in decades, the Dow tanking and every day we hear about more companies laying off workers. So it may surprise you, there are some companies that are not only thriving, they're practically minting money.


CHO (voice-over): Wal-Mart, Campbell Soup, McDonald's. The Dow may be down, but these household names are up, way up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty cheap. You can get a lot of food for five bucks here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard out here. We're in a recession. Everybody's hoping it gets better, but who knows?

CHO: With unemployment up, spending is down, and everyone these days is looking for a deal. And that means Wal-Mart and McDonald's, often the butt of jokes, have the last laugh. They're the only two companies in the Dow whose share prices rose in 2008. In the third quarter, McDonald's profits were up 11 percent.

DANA TELSEY, CHIEF RESEARCH OFFICER, TELLSEY ADVISORY GROUP: The companies that are doing well in this environment are companies whose brand names are well-recognized, who offer good value for the money.

CHO: Take Campbell Soup.

ANTHONY SANZIO, CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY: In tough economic times, you know, people do turn to the familiar.

CHO: Like chicken noodle and tomato. Sales of condensed soup are up 14 percent.

SANZIO: We're seeing a return, in a certain sense, to comfort foods. Casseroles are huge. The number one search term on our Web site right now is crock pot.

CHO: Campbell is using the downturn in the economy as a marketing opportunity, taking a cue from McDonald's, calling its soup selection "the original dollar menu." And it's not just soup. Spam is surging and so is Kraft Food's Mac and Cheese, Jell-O and Kool-Aid. Frugal chic.

TELSEY: Part of what drives consumers spending is the "feel good" factor. And if everyone's friends and neighbors don't have the same level of dollars to spend this year as they did last year, it doesn't make anyone feel good to be that different from someone else.

CHO: And the outlook is good. Analysts say comfort companies should do well in 2009 because bargain shopping is not just in, it may be here to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As with everybody, we're waiting for those big sales and checking out the clearance racks and taking our time.


CHO: Ain't that the truth, you know. In fact, one analyst said it's the worst of times for restaurants, but the best of times for McDonald's. The company sales have actually increased for 55 straight months.

Take Campbell, all you have to do is look at the stock. And take a look at this -- the company's shares are down by about 8 percent over last year. But if you compare it to the Dow, it is outperforming the Dow, which is down around 30 percent. Nobody has to talk a lot about the Dow tanking because we all know that. But, you know, a spokesman for Campbell said, John, that we've weathered 28 recessions, we'll probably weather 29.

ROBERTS: Yes, there are some companies that are doing very well. And you know, I'm of Scottish heritage, so I love a bargain. Costco is my favorite place.

CHO: You know what? You're not alone.

ROBERTS: Alina, thanks very much. Good to see you this morning.

CHO: You bet.


CHETRY: All right. Well, this morning, a remarkable look at Obama's inauguration day. We're going to speak to the photographer who took the behind-the-scenes photo essay. And also the bigger they are, the harder it is for them to dance? No, we're talking about the first all-male dance team in the majors. And our John Zarrella finds out exactly what it takes to become a manatee. It's 40 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Coming up on 43 minutes after the hour. You know, there are so many memorable images of President Obama's inauguration, but if you think you've seen everything you haven't. "Time" magazine photographer Callie Shell-Aurora took some remarkable behind-the- scenes images of the new president and his family, and they're now in the new issue of "Time." And we asked her to tell us some of the stories behind her pictures.


CALLIE SHELL-AURORA, TIME MAGAZINE PHOTOGRAPHER: The inauguration day is a very special day, and it's not just a special day for the President, the First Lady, coming in, but it's a special day for the whole country especially this one. I have to say this was the most personal one, because I'd actually been with the person from beginning to end of starting this campaign.

I don't, you know, so you know, I just think it's an amazing process. I know the staff. There are many of them there that have worked there since Kennedy or near that time, and I know that when I left the White House, you know, the one thing they had said was someday it would be really wonderful to serve a black president.

You go through a practice. You know, he was adjusting his lapel pin, you know, to make sure it looked OK, and not to make sure he looked OK, but you know, it's this -- OK, I've got this pin, make sure that looks good, and make sure I carry it off right, make sure I don't block the cameras with my hand and I just think Michelle the whole time, it was so obvious all day long that she was looking at him with pride.

You know, they're very lucky to have these two children that understand the importance of what their father's doing means to their generation. Sasha is the skipper and a dancer and a run-arounder, so I think, you know, -- she had taken her shoes off and, you know, they just sat down in the chair and fixed the shoe, but I think having the girls there, I think it means a lot to the kids.

They are these real people that they really did have this -- Michelle and Barack Obama have this amazing relationship as a couple, as best friends, their support for each other is amazing. And they are just like every other parent. They are trying to balance work and balance their family, that the only way with thousand people around you, you know, to go out and make a speech or go through the day is you just kind of, you know, close your eyes and pretend like a thousand people aren't around you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: It's an interesting shot of him in the Capitol building with his eyes closed like that. An extraordinary day and an amazing inside look.

CHETRY: Wonderful that, of course, they'll have these memories forever in their family because they were documented like that. But it's really those candid moments that stick in your memory, and with little John Kennedy underneath the desk, and those were the types of images that you sort of remember forever.

ROBERTS: Even the transition of power in America is such a time- honored and extraordinary tradition. To them, an inside look like that is really, really kind of novel.

It's 45-1/2 minutes after the hour. We'll be right back.

Baseball cheerleader tryouts. No, not the slim, pretty women. Big, not so pretty guys.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you do to keep the bulk up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of cheeseburgers.


ROBERTS: So what's it going to take for our John Zarrella to get pick? Lose the credible T-shirt? Go with the flow?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all freestyle here.


ROBERTS: You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



HOMER SIMPSON, "THE SIMPSONS": Me in the majors?


SIMPSON: Wait a minute. Capital City has a mascot, the greatest mascot there is, the Capital City Goofball.

UNIDENTIFIED CARTOON CHARACTER: Yes, but he's getting on in years and he needs someone to fill in for a couple of innings a night. It could be a big opportunity for you.

SIMPSON: I'll say.

UNIDENTIFIED CARTOON CHARACTER: Why don't you talk it over with your family?

SIMPSON: Because they might say no.


ROBERTS: Homer Simpson is a mascot in the classic clip from "The Simpsons." In Florida, they're getting ready for baseball spring training. Yes, it's coming around to that already. And while teams look for ways to get an edge on the field, our John Zarrella sizes up the heavy competition for the very first all-male dance team in the Majors.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 100 young women use every move they have auditioning to be one of the coveted Florida Marlins Mermaids. They dance at the baseball team's home games, while hard to believe, this day, their tryout wasn't the biggest attraction. Meet the Manatee Wannabes. Last season the baseball team decided hey it's only fair, if you've got toned athletic women dancing, why not a bunch of rotund men?

It's an uncharted waters last year. We did not know what the crowd reaction was going to be, and it was amazing.

ZARRELLA: So amazing the guys will get more than free food this year. They'll also get paid 40 bucks a game. Most of the last season's squad came to the audition, Tiny, Bulldozer, Mr. Mantastic.

ZARRELLA: Have you been working on that -- the stomach and everything else -- all the offseason?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I've been training. I got to keep it maintained.

ZARRELLA: Newcomers, too. Perhaps just a few hotdogs away from stardom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was always my dream to make it to the Major leagues, and I guess this is as close to being in the Majors as I'll probably get.

ZARRELLA: With the emphasis on personality, anybody can make this team, even me, with a little practice.

(on camera): One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. I might need a few tips. Let's check with last year's Mermaids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, stick out your belly.


ZARRELLA (voice over): And eating habits?

(on camera): What do you do to keep the bulk up? A lot of cheeseburgers? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I go to my grandmother's house and eat sweet potato pie.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): And now it's time.

(on camera): Got to gyro.


ZARRELLA: A lot of competition.


ZARRELLA: It's all freestyle here, huh?

(voice-over): At the end of the day, everyone made the team, except me. I broke a basic rule. If you can see your feet, you can't compete.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


ROBERTS: It's good that John is just a little too light on his feet to be one of the Manatees.

CHETRY: Wow. He didn't clap to the beat either, but hey, you know, let's not be too harsh on him.

ROBERTS: It was his first time. That's a try out. You're a little bit nervous, you know. You're feeling like you're not as rotund as the other guys, a little bit of a disadvantage.

CHETRY: And the other thing -- it must be really tough for them to keep it up, because they move so fast that they must burn a lot of calories. And the pressure is on to eat so that they could keep their girth.

ROBERTS: Could you?

CHETRY: Well, you have to write something on your stomach first.

ROBERTS: I got you. You got to grow the stomach first. Big Buddha belly, that's what I need. It's 52 minutes after the hour.

The love. The hate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They think that this represents the sort of stealing of the nation.


ROBERTS: The threats.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A very, very tense environment for the Secret Service.


ROBERTS: New concerns for the president's safety.

Plus, on board Air Force One with Obama. Who flew him?


OBAMA: I got to say you're on essential task.


ROBERTS: Who fed him?






ROBERTS: Your first look inside. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. The new White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, under pressure during his first press conference, facing some tough questions from the White House press corps.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the original concern about the oath- taking originate with the White House counsel or with the president?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: My understanding is the White House counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he have to persuade the president that it was the right thing to do?

GIBBS: No, because it was done again out of an abundance of caution.


ROBERTS: Abundance of caution. That's the first of three stories that had things buzzing inside the Beltway this week. For a look at the full trio, we turn now to "The Washington Post's" Dana Milbank.

Dana, it's good to see you this morning. You wrote of the White House press briefing yesterday. And there hasn't been that much excitement over a Gibbs since the Bee Gees were at the top of the charts.

DANA MILBANK, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, remember the Bee Gees sang "How Deep is Your Love." For Robert Gibbs, it was very deep yesterday. There were 150 people crammed into that tiny White House press briefing room, where you and I used to toil. By contrast, President Bush had only 75 people there for his last press conference in that room.

But, you know, Gibbs had some sort of opening day jitters. You mentioned that abundance of caution. He unfortunately said that very same phrase seven times. He was also asked at one point about the president's BlackBerry and said he had to check with the counsel's office before responding. But let's give the guy a break, only three days on the job. It's so early that they still have the TV in the White House press briefing room tuned to Fox News.

ROBERTS: Are they going to change that, do you think?

MILBANK: I'm sure CNN is coming.

ROBERTS: Hey, Slate's John Dickerson observed of the press briefing and said, "Afterward a colleague joked to me, 'About midway through, I thought I was going to fall asleep.' Too bad Obama had frozen the salaries of his top staffers. In earlier times, that kind of praise for a press secretary would have gotten him a raise."

MILBANK: Yes. Gibbs will be just fine. He knows how to say nothing very deliberately. He'll be just fine.

ROBERTS: All right. A couple of other big things that happened during the week. Of course, that little thing -- was it on Tuesday noon -- on Tuesday, oh, the inauguration! And a lot of celebrities in town for that, including Oprah. What was the reaction to Oprah in Washington, other than Joe Biden's unfortunate slip of the tongue?

MILBANK: Well, I think that, you know, Obama's one thing, but the really big news is when Oprah comes to town. You know, they say that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, but this week, it really was Hollywood, and on her very own show she had Demi Moore there, Bono was there, Ashton Kutcher, and the -- I mean, the only B-list guy in the entire show was this guy named Joe Biden, and I'm not sure what movies he's roled in.

ROBERTS: The Reverend Jeremiah Wright was also there. He spoke at a service at Howard University over the weekend. What was that like?

MILBANK: Well, you know, it's sort of coming back to haunt Obama, and he was on fire, as usual, very much praising and celebrating Obama's victory, also getting back at the news media. He said ABC, NBC, and yes, CNN are "haters" and then he went on to contrast Michelle Obama with Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's slave mistress. But one prominent visitor who missed this particular sermon, Barack Obama, was at a church nearby.

ROBERTS: Yes, he's still trying to figure out what parish to call his own there in Washington as well.

The third big story of the week -- Timothy Geithner's confirmation hearing. Let's listen to a little bit of that where he apologized for making mistakes on his taxes.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY NOMINEE: These were careless mistakes. They were avoidable mistakes but they were unintentional. I should have been more careful. I take full responsibility for them.


ROBERTS: As Jimmy Buffett saying mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Rather extraordinary brief -- rather extraordinary hearing, though. And you wrote about it. Why was it so remarkable?

MILBANK: Well, you know, the word mistake came up, I counted through the transcript, 41 times. An error came up another 11 times. And that is no accident. The whole idea is Geithner is going to be confirmed as treasury secretary. He already got through that committee yesterday, but they don't want to make it look like they're being easy on tax cheats.

So the idea is one of Washington's ritual flagellations. Just beat up on the guy for a while. The most damaging that came up, John, was that this guy, the future secretary of the secretary, did use TurboTax to do his income tax.

ROBERTS: All right. Hopefully, he's not going to use that for the rest of the nation. Dana Milbank for us this morning. Dana, it's always good to see you. Thanks for stopping by.

MILBANK: Thanks, John.