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AMERICAN MORNING

President Obama Takes Full Responsibility for the Daschle Mess; Obama Defends Stimulus Plan; President Obama Expected to Announce New Rules for Corporate Executives Pay on Firms That Took Bailout Money; Woman Recruiting Female Suicide Bombers Arrested; Washington Taking Action to Push Opening of Bailout Books

Aired February 4, 2009 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: We have new details on President Obama's plan to crack down on corporate excess. CNN confirming that the new rules will put a cap of a half million dollars on corporate salaries at companies that take federal bailout money. When you skipped home with $20 million last year, that's some hit. Also, any additional pay for senior executives will come in the form of restricted stock that they cannot cash until banks pay back the taxpayers with interest.

Also breaking this morning, one of the biggest names in electronics says it is slashing several thousand jobs, 15,000, in fact, worldwide over the next year. Panasonic predicting a loss of around $4 billion. The economic fallout being felt around the world this morning.

And the auto industry also continuing its freefall in the new year, unfortunately, of some bad news this morning. Auto sales in the U.S. plummeting to a 27-year low last month. GM had its worst January since the Kennedy administration as it tries to convince Washington that its business is still viable.

And 16 days into the Obama administration and the president who promised tough new standards for public officials taking a lot of heat after two major nominees had to back out within hours of each other, both over tax trouble. Nancy Killefer withdrew her bid to become the government's first chief performance officer. She would have been responsible for scrubbing the budget. And former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle also pulled out of the running for health and human services secretary, as well as health czar.

Last night in a special Oval Office sit-down with Anderson Cooper, the president took full responsibility for the Daschle situation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You've let one of the most important domestic issues, which is health care, get caught up in what looks to many Americans like politics as usual.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think what happened was that Tom made an assessment that, having made a mistake on his taxes, that he took responsibility for, and indicated was a mistake, made the assessment that he was going to be too much of a distraction in trying to lead what is going to be a very heavy lift, trying to deliver health care, and --

COOPER: Do you feel you messed up in letting it get this far?

OBAMA: Yes, I think I made a mistake and I told Tom that. I take responsibility for the appointees.

COOPER: What is your mistake, letting it get this far, you should have pulled it earlier?

OBAMA: Well, I think my mistake is not in selecting Tom originally because I think nobody was better equipped to deal both with the substance and policy of health care. He understands it as well as anybody but also the politics, which is going to be required to actually get it done. But I think that, look, ultimately, I campaigned on changing Washington, and bottom-up politics, and I don't want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes.

COOPER: Do you feel you've lost some of that moral high ground which you set for yourself on day one with the other people (ph)?

OBAMA: You know, I think this was a mistake. I think I screwed up and, you know, I take responsibility for it, and we're going to make sure we fix it so it doesn't happen again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joins us live from the North Lawn. So that took up a lot of time yesterday as Barack Obama was speaking to the various networks including CNN. But we also this morning have some breaking news about the executive pay caps, meaning these companies that took bailout money are not going to be able to pay their CEOs millions anymore. What have you learned?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Kiran. President Obama as well as his treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, are taking on the fat cats. At least that is part of their message today. Within hours here at the White House, they're going to roll out these new rules, these restrictions for CEOs in terms of their salaries.

Now, these are the companies that are getting federal dollars, our taxpayer dollars, really in the tune of billions of dollars. These are the people who are actually receiving lots and lots of money.

Well, the Obama administration says they have to be held accountable, that it has to be transparent. All of this, as you know, is part of an effort to show that the Obama administration is different than the Bush administration. They're going to follow those dollars, all of those dollars that were handed over to the banks in terms of investments, and that there is a message here, that this is not going to be businesses as usual. Now, Kiran, you obviously, if you play that sound and this is something that comes at the same time when the president really had his first rough patch, if you will, off message, knocked off message by the nominee, Tom Daschle, for health and human services, when he withdrew his nomination after he acknowledged he had not paid some taxes. What we are seeing from the president is a new approach here, extraordinarily different than the last administration, and that is taking responsibility. I want you to take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here on television saying I screwed up, and that's part of the error of responsibility is not ever making mistakes, it's owning up to them and trying to make sure you don't repeat them.

This is a self-induced injury that I'm angry about. I think I messed up. I screwed up. Did I screw up in this situation? Absolutely, and I'm willing to take my lumps. You know, that's part of -- part of the job here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Kiran, listen, all five interviews very consistent there. This is something that he talked about on the campaign, that he would be a new kind of leader, somebody who would take responsibility if, in fact, he screwed up. He admitted that in a series of interviews.

One thing that he didn't back away from, however, were the exceptions that he made for some of those lobbyists, a few lobbyists that are in his administration. He felt that that was a unique situation, but he said he still believes that his administration has the highest ethical standards and what we have learned, Kiran, is that, obviously, it is difficult to reach those standards.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly. Very interesting as we saw in that montage. A lot of people noting that it was different when President Bush was asked about a mistake that he had made in his time in office. About halfway through, he was stumped.

MALVEAUX: He couldn't come up with anything. And we hear two weeks into the administration, President Obama essentially saying I'm the one who's going to take the fall for this. I'm going to take my lumps. This is my responsibility, talking about this process. Obviously a flawed process when it comes to the vetting procedures here. They're going to take another look at that but he, in the meantime is saying look, I'm the one who's going to be held responsible. A dramatic departure from what we've seen for the last eight years, Kiran.

CHETRY: Right. And in the end in some of his exit interviews, President Bush did acknowledge some mistakes but yes, not 12 days in for sure.

Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much. John?

ROBERTS: It certainly not often that you hear "I screwed up" as a talking point. Remarkable.

A new tax break has made its way into the $900 billion stimulus plan in the Senate. It's all about getting you back into a brand new car and getting the auto industry back from the brink. People making up to $125,000 and couples with incomes as high as $250 million are eligible for this program.

Now, here's how it will work. They would be allowed to deduct the cost of automobile sales tax and the interest on car loans very much like the current mortgage interest deduction. The overall bill still faces tough opposition in the Senate. The president still defending that bill though saying we should be taking a look at the big picture.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The stimulus plan for you, what is nonnegotiable with Republicans?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The unemployment insurance, health care for people who have lost their jobs, you know, providing some relief to the states on those fronts, and providing families relief, that's very important.

Infrastructure investments that lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth I think is critical. So for example, when we say we're going to weatherize two million homes, that's not just making work. First of all, you can employ people weatherizing those homes. We are also then saving families, individual families on their energy bills, but the third thing is it's making this country less dependent on foreign oil.

So the same is true for health I.T., the same is true when it comes to education. We want to train thousands of teachers in math and science and invest in science and technology research. All those things will make us more competitive over the long-term. What I do think is negotiable is some programs that I think are good -- good policy but may not really stimulate the economy right now.

COOPER: But how do they even get into the bill in the first place?

OBAMA: Well, Anderson, you know, there are 535 members of Congress who have their own opinions.

COOPER: Do you think some of the House Democrats went too far?

OBAMA: You know, I think that if you look at -- first of all, I think in fairness to the House Democrats, and this hasn't been talked about enough, if you tally up all the programs that have been criticized on "AC 360" or anywhere else, that amounts to less than one percent of the total package, so they actually were remarkably disciplined, considering the size of this package. They left out, at my request, all earmarks so there aren't private pet projects and, by the way, many of the critics of the current package can't say that about any of the budgets they passed over the previous six or eight years.

COOPER: But this is what American people are hearing about, whether rightly or wrongly, and I mean, did the Republicans beat you on selling this, on selling the message? Did you lose the message?

OBAMA: Well, I don't think we've lost the message. That's why I'm here with you. Everybody's going to be watching me talk to you today. But I think that the American people understand something has to be done. They want to make sure that we're serious about it and that we're not using this to promote politics as usual and that's what I'm insisting on.

You asked earlier, do I lose sleep. Look, the only measure of my success as president, when people look back five years from now, or nine years from now, is going to be did I get this economy fixed? I have no interest in promoting a package that doesn't work, because I'm not going to be judged on whether or not I got a pet project here or there. I'm going to be judged on have we pulled ourselves out of a recession.

I think that the members of Congress understand that as well. I don't question the sincerity of some Republican critics who may think that they can do better on this and I'm happy to negotiate with them. If they've got better ideas I'm happy to do it.

What I won't do is in some cases some of the criticism has suggested that the better approach would be to do exactly what we did over the last eight years that got us into this problem in the first place. There's going to be some differences ideologically or in terms of, you know, recipes for how to fix the economy and you know, those differences we can live with. But I think I still think we can arrive at a package that works for the American people.

COOPER: Five years or nine years, which are you hoping for right now based on what you've seen so far?

OBAMA: You know, listen, you want to be president when times are tough, because you know, I didn't do all this just to occupy this fancy office. I came here to change things.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: He cleverly didn't say you don't want to be seen like you're running for your second term two and a half weeks out.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly. It's interesting though because Anderson was asking him, did the Republicans get ahead of you on this? I mean, there's about 75 percent of people according to the new Gallup poll who agree that some stimulus needs to happen but only about 38 percent of people said they'd support it in its current form so --

ROBERTS: And that's down from a majority of people who did according to Gallup polling.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: But yes, he's got a tough fight ahead of him here and he always got to maintain the high ground. Don't let your opponent -- define you. That's the word, define, yes.

It's (INAUDIBLE) goggles (ph) to places like Las Vegas that have many people demanding more accountability in corporate America. Right now, it's unclear where firms are spending most of the bailout money and Washington may soon demand banks open up the books. A closer look at where your money went and where it's going. That's just ahead.

And a shocking arrest in Iraq, a woman wanted for recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers. How she did it and why her recruits were considered the perfect weapon. Michael Ware rings in on that for us.

It's 12 minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: A live look at the White House this morning at 14 minutes after the hour. We have some breaking news.

President Obama is expected to announce new rules for corporate executives today and we're getting some more information about how that would work.

ROBERTS: Well, some of those corporate executives still taking home multimillion-dollar salaries and bonuses despite the fact that their company's roles in the economic meltdown meant that they took billions of dollars from taxpayers in America. Mr. Obama talked about the need for more transparency last night in his Oval Office chat with Anderson Cooper.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've now learned that, you know, people are still getting huge bonuses, despite the fact that they're getting taxpayer money, at which I think infuriates the public. So we also have to set in place some rules of the road.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Well, there you have it right now. Christine Romans and Suzanne Malveaux join us.

So how would this work and you talked about it being remarkable that you have the federal government making rules about private industry that some would argue they're not really private anymore, are they?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. American people are really clamoring for this. This has been a big PR, just debacle at some of these big banks of some of the things that have happened, you know, sponsorships and the parties and the jets and all of this stuff. You know, this is something that people want, and President Obama really kind of laying down the law here.

$500,000 would be the top salary for someone at a bank or any other company taking exceptional compensation or exceptional money from the United States government, and then any other kinds of rewards would be restrictive stock and it couldn't be cashed out until after the U.S. government was paid back.

I mean, people, there's really broad support for this and there's a big feeling that the Obama administration is going to have to come out and get more money for the banks, do more of a financial rescue and maybe this is all part of selling it to the American people saying look, we can be tough and we're going to make sure that no fat cat on Wall Street is going to walk away with your taxpayer money. But headline on Forbes.com, CEO pay curves could extend the crisis. You know, there are those folks out there who say why would top talent take a job at a distressed industry that the government is trying to save if there's no financial reward for it in the end?

ROBERTS: Right.

ROMANS: That's the view from Wall Street.

ROBERTS: Let's bring in our Suzanne Malveaux. She's at the White House this morning.

Suzanne, you know, in your note, you talked about this idea of exceptional assistance. Do we know what level of assistance that is in terms of a dollar figure yet? And what about this larger idea, too, that the president seems to be losing ground in support with Americans for this particular stimulus plan? Is this whole program designed to get back some of the momentum for that bill?

MALVEAUX: You know, it's certainly is designed to bring some confidence back into the fold here for the American people. One thing, we don't have that figure on just how big that is when you talk about "exceptional assistance" here. But the one thing about this provision that's interesting is that this is, it's $500,000, that cap for CEO compensation for only those really sick banks, those big financial institutions that received a lot of money.

For those that are healthier or smaller don't get as much money, they can waive that cap, and they can waive those stock restrictions. And one of the reasons why is the government is grappling with this problem here. On the one hand, how do you bring in some of the financial institutions that are perhaps healthier than some of the others, who might actually need some government assistance but say you know what? There's too many decision-making that's happening in the federal government here. They're deciding who gets what and how much they get paid. No, thank you to this program, we're going to walk away here.

Those are the kinds of companies that the government wants to participate in the program that could become healthier and create these jobs, so it's really a delicate balancing act here, John. ROBERTS: So it would seem.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House for this morning. Suzanne, thanks so much.

President Obama will lay down the new rules for corporate executives today at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. You can see it live here on CNN, or you can find it on CNN.com.

CHETRY: Still ahead, changing the way we fight terror and also the way we talk about it. Why the president says words matter in the battle to win hearts and minds.

Also, he's on magazines, he's in newspapers, everywhere online, all over your TV. Are you starting to feel like President Obama is everywhere you look? Well, You're not alone.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's 21 minutes now after the hour. Some of the deadliest attacks in Iraq have been triggered by female suicide bombers. Many have been recruited by one woman known as the mother of believers. She was arrested before last week's provincial elections. Iraqi authorities showed a tape in which she described her recruitment methods.

Now, CNN cannot verify which interrogation technique if any was used to get her confession. Authorities do say her arrest could be a major blow to terrorists in Iraq who see women as the perfect weapon in a place where culture forbids a man to frisk a woman.

Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware joins us now in the studio this morning. Just how bad a problem, how serious a problem were female suicide bombers becoming, and what kind of a dent might this arrest if any, put in it?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: Well, we still in the last couple of years the use of female suicide bombers went from eight attacks in a year to over 30 or to 30. So that's quite a rise but in the broader scheme it's still mostly male suicide bombers.

Now, as it's so often been said by the troops, we're in the midst of a battle on the front line, the most dangerous weapon on the battlefield is a man prepared to die because he can come in, he doesn't have to worry about how he gets home. More so even with a female suicide bomber. Because of the cultural restrictions, they're wearing the abiyah (ph), men can't touch them, they pat them down. So the insurgents or the Islamic extremists have been using that as their advantage.

But there's one thing to stress here, John, this is not al-Qaeda. This is a group called Ansar al-Sunna, an extremist Iraqi group that did not exist until the American invasion. ROBERTS: You know, in terms of the, you know, the security procedures here, just prior to the elections, didn't they use some female security officers to try to pat down the women? Did that have any effect?

WARE: Absolutely. I mean, you know, there were a lot of things that went into the security envelope that secured these elections. But one of the things obviously is, you know, searching women as they come in. And to do that, they use female security officers but they're simply not enough. So we saw that they're actually recruiting teachers and public servants, female teachers in public service, to lend a hand. I mean, it's quite an issue.

ROBERTS: Now, let's go back to this woman who, as we said, talking about herself as being the mother of all believers. She said apparently in her confession that she preyed on vulnerable women, troubled souls in particular. She says, "She was able to persuade women to become suicide bombers, broken women, especially those who were raped." And there's some idea too that she was involved in a plot that she would have these women raped...

WARE: Yes.

ROBERTS: ... and then have them refer to her for counseling?

WARE: You know, I mean, that's impossible to verify but it certainly fits within a cultural framework. I mean, what we've seen in the past is that the female suicide bombers are often the surviving relatives of men who have died in battle or been suicide bombers themselves, so they're trying to avenge the death of their loved one. But we also see as we see across the Middle East, women who say have been raped or have been caught having an affair, or just a romance can be shunned by their families. They're disgraced, so what else is there for them?

So there's a suggestion from this woman that in a few instances, she witnessed the rape, would intervene, pull the woman aside, say what choice do you have now and then hand them back. It's a brutal, brutal business, John.

ROBERTS: The woman gets victimized twice.

WARE: Absolutely, and she becomes a lethal weapon.

ROBERTS: Michael, good to see you this morning. Thanks for that.

Kiran?

CHETRY: Wow. Unbelievable.

Well, re-branding the war on terror. President Obama saying that words matter in the struggle against extremists. A look at his new effort to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world.

And the economic stimulus plan, it comes to a head on Capitol Hill. Tom Daschle withdrawing his nomination, stealing the headlines from the president. It's got our i-Reporters talking. We're going to check in with some of them at 25 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." President Obama expected to announce some tough rules from bankers on Wall Street today, limit on executive pay on firms that took bailout money. There are plenty of corporate executives out there who appear to still not get it, but now Washington may finally be ready to take action.

Jim Acosta joins us live from our D.C. newsroom this morning. So we're talking about capping the compensation, right? The pay of the honchos of these big companies who took billions in taxpayer money?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kiran. The issue is, is that a new day has arrived. The government has a stake in many of these banks out there and some of the banks weren't really coming to the table and recognizing that there's this new reality, but critics on Capitol Hill say that is happening. Every day, bailout critics say, there's another reason to ask where all of this money is going. The truth is the government is just starting to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The motion is adopted.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Ever since the bailout was passed, it's been a mess. Banks buying private jets spending billions of dollars on bonuses and so on.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES CMTE. CHAIRMAN: They have to avoid being stupid.

ACOSTA: The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank, says the party is over. The government is finally gearing up to follow the money.

FRANK: As I've said to a couple of the bankers, here's this problem, people really hate you, and they're starting to hate us because we're hanging out with you and you have to help us deal with that.

ACOSTA: There are signs the banks may be listening. Wells Fargo, which got $25 billion in bailout money, says it's pulling the plug on its upcoming annual conference in Las Vegas, an outing the company had planned to hold at the ritzy Wynn Hotel and Casino later this month.

In previous years, "The Associated Press" says attendees were treated to performances by Cher and Jay Leno. But a Wells Fargo spokesperson defends the event saying its bailout money is being used to help its customers. In light of the current environment, the statement reads, "We have now decided to cancel this event." Craig Holman with Public Citizen says now is the time to open the books on the bailout.

CRAIG HOLMAN, PUBLIC CITIZEN: We need to know exactly how they're spending that money, and on top of it we should be applying conditions as to where that money can be spent.

NEIL BAROFSKY, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL ON FEDERAL BAILOUT PACKAGE: I fully intend to keep you fully and promptly apprised of significant findings and concerns.

ACOSTA: The special inspector general overseeing the bailout is preparing to send notices to banks demanding they document where the money has gone. How far will the government go? A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department says we have subpoena power. The banking industry says it has nothing to hide.

STEVE BARTLETT, FINANCIAL SERVICES ROUNDTABLE: The treasury is going to ask us to review it monthly. We welcome that and we would like for that to happen.

ACOSTA: That's going to happen?

BARTLETT: That is going to happen and should happen because we've got a good story to tell.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: In the face of mounting criticism, some of the big bailout recipients are starting to offer a peek at what they've done with the money saying much of it has gone to new lending. The Treasury Department says don't expect to see their findings on the bailout money until the spring. And Kiran, I have to tell you, that Wells Fargo has already paid a dividend back to the Treasury Department of some $371 million. We are starting to see a return on the investment. They say they're also lending some of that bailout money, but the problem is at this point, Kiran, we cannot independently verify what the banks have done with this money because I talked to several agencies of the federal government yesterday. We just don't know. Nobody has really tracked where that money has gone inside the federal government.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And it's territory we haven't been in before, walking that fine line. I mean, private institutions at the same time they're being propped up by the government. And so -

ACOSTA: That's right.

CHETRY: Where does the government get to step in when they think things are getting a little bit out of control. Very interesting for sure. Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It is 30 minutes past the hour.

And here are this morning's top stories. The man who ran President Obama's presidential campaign doesn't have an office in the west wing at the White House but he does have a seven-figure book deal. Mr. Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, will write "The Audacity to Win, the inside story and lessons of Barack Obama's historic victory." Viking plans to publish it next fall.

Michael Phelps may have apologized but now local law enforcement my not let him get away with just saying sorry. The Olympic gold medalist could face criminal charges in South Carolina as part of the fallout from that photo showing him apparently taking a hit from a bong. The incident happened during a party at the University of South Carolina.

European countries are pressuring President Obama to drop a "buy American" clause included in the $900 billion stimulus plan. The EU ambassador to Washington even hinted that it could lead to a trade war and potentially plunge the world into depression. The buy-American clause allows only U.S.-made iron steel and manufactured goods to be used in public works projects funded by the stimulus bill when non- partisan study said the "buy American" provision could actually cost the U.S. tens of thousands of jobs if other countries retaliate.

In an interview yesterday President Obama seemed to indicate that he might be rethinking the language that part of the bill.

He sat down for a conversation with our Anderson Cooper in the Oval Office, talked about everything from saving jobs to what keeps him up at night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You've let one of the most important domestic issues which is health care get caught up in what looks to many Americans as like politics as usual.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: Well I think what happened was that Tom made an assessment that, having made a mistake on his taxes, that he took responsibility for, and indicated was a mistake, made the assessment that he was going to be too much of a distraction in trying to lead what is going to be a very heavy lift, trying to deliver health care, and -

COOPER: Do you feel you messed up in letting it get this far?

OBAMA: Yes, I think I made a mistake and I told Tom that. I take responsibility for the appointees.

COOPER: What is your mistake, letting it get this far, you should have pulled it earlier?

OBAMA: Well I think my mistake is not in selecting Tom originally because I think nobody was better equipped to deal both with the substance and policy of health care. He understands it as well as anybody but also the politics, which is going to be required to actually get it done. But I think that, look, ultimately, I campaigned on changing Washington, and bottom-up politics.

And I don't want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes.

COOPER: Do you feel you've lost some of that moral high ground which you set for yourself on day one with (inaudible)?

OBAMA: I think this was a mistake. I think I screwed up and I take responsibility for it, and we're going to make sure we fix it so it doesn't happen again.

COOPER: Let's talk about the economy and the stimulus. Every day you get an economic briefing along with intelligence briefing. Which to you is more sobering, the economic news you get or the national intelligence?

OBAMA: Well, look, the national security briefing is always sobering because my most important job is obviously keeping the American people safe, and we have to remain vigilant. The threats are still out there, but I will tell you, in terms of what is alarming right now is how fast the economy has been deteriorating. I think even two or three months ago, most economists would not have predicted us being in as bad of a situation as we are in right now.

COOPER: It keeps a lot of Americans right now up at night. Does it keep you up at night?

OBAMA: It keeps me up at night literally, because we've got a range of different problems, and there's no silver bullet. We're just going to have to work our way through the problem. So number one, we've got to have a recovery package that puts people back to work, and ensures that states that are dealing with rising unemployment can deal with unemployment insurance, can provide health care for people who have lost their jobs. So that's one set of problems. Then you've got a banking system that has undergone close to a meltdown, and we've got to figure out how do we intelligently get credit flowing again so that small businesses and large businesses can hire people and keep their doors open and sell their products.

And you know, part of the problem, unfortunately, is that the first round of TARP, I think, drew a lot of scorn. We learned, we've now learned that people are still getting huge bonuses, despite the fact that they're getting taxpayer money, which I think infuriates the public. So we also have to set in place some rules of the road, and tomorrow I'm going to be talking about executive compensation and changes we're going to be making there.

Even after we get that done, we still have to get a financial regulatory system in place that assures this crisis never happens again. And we've got to do this in the context of a world economy that is declining, because in some ways, the Europeans are actually doing at least as badly as we are. You've even seen China, which has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last two decades, starting to decline.

So trying to do all of those things on parallel tracks at a time when people are scared and legitimately so, I think is going to be a big challenge. I think we're up to the challenge, but it's going to take some time, and I think the American people recognize it. COOPER: On executive compensation, Paul Krugman suggested in "The Times" on Sunday that your tough talk may be just for show. What can you really do?

OBAMA: Well, I think, you know, we'll talk about it tomorrow but we're going to be laying down some very clear conditions in terms of where -

COOPER: Do you support Senator McCaskill's idea of capping?

OBAMA: Again, I don't want to completely preempt my announcement here.

COOPER: You could here.

OBAMA: I think there are mechanisms in place to make sure that institutions that are taking taxpayer money are not using that money for excessive executive compensation, and I think that when you see the announcement that we make, people will say this is a reasonable approach.

It's not a government takeover. Private enterprise will still be taking place but people will be accountable and responsible, and that's what we have to restore in the financial system in general.

COOPER: I've noticed you don't use the term "war on terror." I think I read an article that you've only used it once since inauguration. Is that conscious? Is there something about that term that you find objectionable or not useful?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think it is very important for us to recognize that we have a battle or a war against some terrorist organizations but that those organizations are representative of a broader Arab community, Muslim community.

I think we have to - you know, words matter in this situation because one of the ways we're going to win this struggle is through the battle of hearts and minds.

COOPER: That's not a term you're going to be using much in the future?

OBAMA: What I want to do is make sure that I'm constantly talking about Al Qaeda and other affiliated organizations, because we, I believe, can win over moderate Muslims to recognize that that kind of destruction and annihilism ultimately leads to a dead end. And that we should be working together to make sure that everybody's got a better life.

COOPER: Final question, just quickly, what's the latest on the dog search?

OBAMA: We're going to get it in the spring. I think the theory was the girls might be less inclined to do the walking whenever it's cold outside.

COOPER: Portuguese waterdog? You don't know yet?

OBAMA: We're still experimenting.

COOPER: The coolest thing about your new car?

OBAMA: You know, I thought it was the phones until I realized I didn't know which button to press. That was a little embarrassing.

COOPER: Have you had a cigarette since you've been to the White House.

OBAMA: You know, I haven't had one on these grounds. You know, sometimes it's hard, but you know, I'm sticking to it.

COOPER: You said "on these grounds." I'll let you pass on that. And final question, you read a lot about Abraham Lincoln, what is the greatest thing you've learn from your studies of Lincoln that you bring into office right now?

OBAMA: You know, when I think about Abraham Lincoln, when I'm struck by the fact that he constantly learned on the job. He got better. He wasn't defensive. He wasn't arrogant about his tasks. He was very systematic in saying I'm going to master the job and I understand it's going to take some time but in his case obviously the civil war was the central issue.

And he spent a lot of time learning about military matters even though that wasn't his area of experience. Right now I'm learning an awful lot about the economy. I'm not a trained economist but I'm spending a lot of time thinking about that so that I can make the very best decisions possible for the American people.

COOPER: Mr. President, thank you very much.

OBAMA: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Learning a lot about the art of negotiation as well.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly. Exactly. He wanted to be an architect, look how far life's path changed.

ROBERTS: Now he's twisting arms in the Congress and Senate trying to get some people on board. So what are you thinking, he did have a cigarette but he didn't have it on these grounds?

CHETRY: I don't know, because anywhere he's going he's being followed by the press corps, right. Photographed at all times. It would just have to be in that car.

ROBERTS: It wasn't a no.

CHETRY: I know.

ROBERTS: Nothing worse than smoking in your car, ew. CHETRY: Yes, it's got to be bad.

ROBERTS: Let's hope not.

CHETRY: Well, he's above the fold, they're talking about the president in almost every paper, and we just saw him, he's all over, even before the Super Bowl. Are you seeing President Obama everywhere? It's 40 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

ROBERTS: (inaudible) where you see the little boxes of people. Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

Across the airwaves and print, anywhere and everywhere you go there's President Obama but while pushing his agenda and assuring Americans that he's on top of things, are we reaching an Obama overload?

Carol Costello is live for us in Washington this morning. Carol, I can just hear the critics now saying, all do you guys do is talk about President Obama, and now you're saying we're talking about him too much.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I hear that all the time, too. In fact, I just heard it last night from someone at dinner. You know, it is truly admirable that President Obama wants to be transparent by talking directly to voters as much as he can but some argue he's becoming so long transparent, he's in danger of becoming invisible.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: I Barack Hussein Obama.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Ever since Barack Obama took the oath.

OBAMA: I will lay the foundation for long-term growth.

COSTELLO: He has become, shall we say ubiquitous. There he is Sunday, interrupting your Super Bowl party. There he is Tuesday with Anderson Cooper, Brian Williams, Chris Wallace, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric.

I think he wants to make sure he has hit the entire universe of potential listeners and viewers. I don't think he wants to leave any rock unturned to this effort.

But some like the "Wall Street Journal's" Peggy Noonan are now saying Obama-mania is reaching the saturation point and is in danger of demystifying and robbing the presidency of its power. Well some say she's overreaching, they can see her point.

There is a danger for President's speaking too much and too off- the-cuff. It can diminish the authority from which we speak.

COSTELLO: Perhaps "US" magazine is an early sign, its cover shows Michelle Obama and the kids. Where's the president? Look closely and you can see his arm, but the rest of him has been cropped out in favor of an allegedly chubby Jessica Simpson and her dreadful mom jeans. That slight aside others say the president's star still shines brightly, a good thing, since his stimulus plan has lost its lustre.

MARK MCKINNON, MEDIA CONSULTANT "PUBLIC STRATEGIES:" This could be the most important bill of this presidency so's got to use the capital he's got. He's an effective communicator. I think it's really a smart strategy to get out and hit all the media hard right now, especially when many republicans like John McCain are saying they will vote.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No.

COSTELLO: On what they say is not a stimulus plan but a spending plan. Defective republicans spin since many Americans believe liberal democrats are guilty of padding Obama'2 stimulus plan. What for>

And until President Obama can persuade them otherwise, expect him to continue to hog the spotlight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And you know, John (Avalon), one of the analysts I spoke with says the president must convinced Americans especially centrists that his plan really is the stimulus plan that will get the economy rolling and not the spending plan that will sink the country deeper into debt. If he doesn't, he says Obama will reach a saturation point in about six months.

If he can't show Americans he can actually fix something, Americans will turn away no matter how many interviews the present does. John.

ROBERTS: That's the problem with the presidency, the honeymoon doesn't last very long.

COSTELLO: No, no. You got to. I mean it's great to talk but you got to walk the walk, too.

ROBERTS: Exactly. Carol, thanks so much for that. Good to see you this morning.

CHETRY: Still to come, we got the latest breaking news on Obama's plans for paying executives from bailed out companies. Suzanne Malveaux is live from the White House working on her sources and she's going to join us to talk more about what the president has in store at the top of the hour. Meanwhile, it's 47 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: Well as President Obama tries to stay on message and talk about his stimulus plan, the withdrawal of Tom Daschle from the president's cabinet nominee certainly isn't helping and it's got you, our i-reporters talking. We've actually been flooded with submissions. Here's what you're saying submissions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes you wonder what that 60-page-long, over-the-hill, vetting application was about. I mean, are these, you know, people are declaring the right information or the vetting team choosing to ignore it. This is unbelievable.

DAVID J. WHITE, CNN IREPORTER: Can you believe what Tom Daschle - Tom Daschle, I can't believe you did this.

First of all, it's difficult to fathom how you could possibly expect to get a free pass on failing, to acknowledge these tax errors. When you sat on the committee that wrote the tax laws. There are no mitigating circumstances whatsoever for that level of behavior.

KAYWOOD HOPKIND, CNN ireporter In over eight years of George Bush, did we ever hear him say, I screwed up, I messed up? No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, we did hear it sort of in the closing - but I remember John Dickerson asked him at that famous 2004 press conference, you know, an you tell us what your biggest mistake was, and he said let me think about it for a little while and I'll get back to you.

CHETRY: Right, there is silence and -

ROBERTS: Nothing comes to mind.

CHETRY: Exactly but I know he did later on, talked about a number of things but that was after the eight years.

ROBERTS: It's extraordinary though to see a president just 15 days out say, yep, I crewed up. So we're close from.

A $1 trillion, more money than you can spend in an thousand lifetimes. The government planning to do it in just two years. Numbers that will blow your mind as we try to put it all in perspective. It's 51 and a half minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: 54 minutes after the hour.

Welcome back to the most news in the morning. If you're concerned about your heart, maybe you've had a CT scan to check it out. But that could expose you to 600 times the radiation of an average chest x-ray. So is it worth it? We're paging Dr. Sanjay Gupta who's had the scan and check his own heart. I got to say, you're brave man. You do all these age testing things, genetic testing. Now, you've had the spiral CT of your heart. What's it all about?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's probably not worth it for the average person, not even as a screening test. I did it because I wanted to show our viewers what this test was all about.

We talked about this so much, John, I want to be very clear on what the appropriate screening test are for most people out there. Cholesterol checks, age 35 and older; EKG, 40 and older. Stress test mainly if you have a cardiac history and you're 40 and older. So that's basically what people should be getting. But there's some new information about how much radiation this particular CT scan exposes you to.

600 x-rays is a lot. It's probably not going to give - be a health problem if it's just done at one time and it's very similar to the amount of radiation that you'd be getting in a stress test. So, that's a little bit of context. Here's what the test is all about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice-over): You may wonder what condition your heart is in. I did. And for the first time ever, I got a chance to see my own beating heart. Truth is, I'm pretty healthy, but a strong family history of heart disease makes me worry.

So, my doctors told me to have two types of testing done. First up, drawing blood. Looking for all sorts of things, like genetic markers that might put me at a especially high risk for heart disease. Also markers of inflammation, my C-Reactive Protein. Too high a number and your risk of heart disease skyrockets and finally cholesterol and any other fat that might be accumulating in my arteries.

GUPTA (on-camera): So most people get their blood work done as you say, I did.

But another step might actually be to get my heart looked at, actually looking at the blood vessels that go to my heart. The question is, do I have some disease right now, and the more important question is, is there something that can be done about it.

I decided to have this done because of my own family history. Let's see what we find.

GUPTA (voice-over): What I'm about to undergo is called a CT angiogram, using this sophisticated x-ray machine that takes ten pictures between each heartbeat. The test itself doesn't take very long, just about ten minutes. But all these x-rays are used to check out different things in my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're looking for, is there any calcification in the arteries. So far there's no calcium.

GUPTA: And the health of the arteries. This is what the CT angiogram does so well. It provides a 3D image of the heart without having to use any invasive measure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: It's pretty amazing images there, John, it's wild to see your own heart in three dimensions like that. But again, as you pointed out I think accurately this is probably not a helpful screening tool. This may be a good test for example, someone shows up in the emergency room with chest pain and it's question, is this heartburn or is it something that's going on with their heart itself, and it may be a good tool in that situation. Because it is quick. It is noninvasive and probably not a screening tool, John.

ROBERTS: As I said, Sanjay, you're a brave man. You want the answers to things that some people don't want to know about.

Hey speaking of that, I got a question for you. A few weeks ago we got the news that President Obama was interested in making you his surgeon general. I mean, quite an honor to have even that level of interest. We haven't heard a lot since then. What's going on?

GUPTA: Well, first of all, thanks for asking. You know, it is very flattering obviously to be considered for this post and it's something that I think, you know, there's a great deal to be done with that particular position. It is a process, John, as I think we've seen a lot of that lately. There's a long process involved with that sort of thing and, you know, you never know how thing's are going but I'm flattered to even be considered for this.

And I promise, you know, And I would miss this witty banter that you and I have. I have to tell you that, if I left. So we'll see. I promise to keep you posted on that.

ROBERTS: All right. Definitely. Yes, I mean, it would be a tremendous honor and a great opportunity for you, but we would miss you too much here at CNN so -

GUPTA: I appreciate you saying that. Thanks, John.

ROBERTS: Personally hoping, you won't take it, but I'm sure you will if it's offered. All right. Sanjay, thanks so much.

Two minutes now to the top of the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice-over): Take a bailout and take a pay cut.

OBAMA: People will be accountable and responsible.

ROBERTS: President Obama announcing a crackdown on corporate greed today.

Plus, more than a mere bag of shells.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trillion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A trillion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A trillion dollars.

More money than you can spend in a thousand lifetimes. A reality check on what the recession is really costing us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big number, no matter how you slice it.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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