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Dow Plummets; President Obama's Stimulus Appeal

Aired February 10, 2009 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody.

The Obama administration's latest bank bailout landed on Wall Street with a thud today.

Bullet point number one: stocks down big. The Dow plummeted 382 points by the close, its worst number since November. That dive started when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner unveiled his plan for rescuing the nation's banks, something the public doesn't have much of an appetite for these days.

And bullet point two tonight: The Senate approves President Obama's stimulus plan. The president says it is a good start. But there are still big differences to hammer out between this version and what the House approved. The president is calling for a final bill on his desk Monday.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The situation we face could not be more serious; I don't have to tell you that. We've inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression.

And economists across the spectrum have warned, if we don't act immediately, then millions more jobs will disappear; the national unemployment rates will approach double digits.


BROWN: And bullet point number three: the face of fear.

During today's town hall meeting in Fort Myers, Florida, the president got an up-close view of the realities of the recession. One woman begs for help while her family fights to hang on. It got her a kiss from the president and a lot more, too. We will tell you all about that.

And bullet point number four tonight: the charm offensive. We have a rare behind-the-scenes look inside the Obama White House. See what is in store for people who get the invitation everybody in Washington wants, a chance to rub elbows and get some friendly persuasion from the new president.

Now, bailout nation, take two. As his treasury secretary rolled out new policies designed to put some teeth and private investment money into the Wall Street bailout. President Obama made it clear that doing nothing would be fatal to the economy.


OBAMA: This is a responsibility that we did not ask for, but it is a responsibility we will accept, for the sake of our future and our children's.

And being here in Fort Myers with all of you, I am more confident than ever that we can set aside our differences, that if we commit ourselves to the work ahead and come together, then I guarantee you, we can meet the great test of our times.


BROWN: Our Tom Foreman is here tonight to look at what make Tim Geithner's version of the bailout so different -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Campbell, a key problem that has confounded all efforts to fix the economy is that credit has remained tight.

If you are an individual or business, getting a loan is still very tough, because no bank wants to get stuck if you can't repay it. So, Treasury Secretary Geithner has a four-point plan to beat that problem down. We're calling it Geithner's bailout bank.

And let's look at part one over here. He wants to give the very biggest banks, those with more than $100 billion in assets, a stress test. He wants to talk over their books, know that they will not fold if the recession deepens, and that they're solid enough to justify more government investment in them, if it comes to that.

In short, he wants to say which players he can depend on when this process is done, as the recovery plan goes forward.

Let's look at part two now. He wants a combination private- public fund to deal with all those bad home loans which are still poisoning the recovery. Banks are afraid if they have too many of these bad loans in their portfolio, it could wipe them out. So, Geithner wants to establish a market for buying and selling those loans, essentially guaranteeing some kind of value for them.

Part three of the plan he unveiled today, Geithner, working with Federal Reserve, wants a trillion-dollar initiative, a lending program, to pump money out there for small businesses, student loans, consumer loans, auto loans. This is big stuff, yes. He says, you betcha.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The path our country has pursued to date was too limited in support. It came late, came with too little broad trust and confidence and too little direct support to the businesses and consumers and households that are most affected by the crisis, people who were careful and responsible in their actions, but were damaged by the judgments of those who did not. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: And the fourth part of Geithner's plan, he wants to launch a comprehensive housing program to stop prices from falling, make mortgages as affordable as possible, and protect the single largest investment many families will ever make. That's what it all looks like and he says he will have details on how that will work in just a few weeks -- Campbell.

BROWN: So, Tom, how much more money are we talking about here?

FOREMAN: Ah, that's the tricky part here, because Geithner says he wants to start with the money that we have already committed, do what he can with that.

But he readily admits it could take a lot more money for a long time to make all of this work. And nobody really knows how much that will be -- Campbell.

BROWN: Tom Foreman for us tonight with all the details.

Tom, thanks.

I want to bring in right now our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, who is in Chicago, also down in Washington, senior political analyst Gloria Borger, who is with us as well.

And, Gloria, the plan that was laid out today, it is so complex. And you believe that -- that politics actually played a big role in that. Tell us why they decided to do it this way.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think politics did play a very big role in it, because the administration, Campbell, just didn't want to go back to taxpayers and say, give us more money. Give us more money.

So, they decided to come up with this public-private partnership using the existing authority that they have. And it's very complex. And as a result of those complexities, they haven't really come up with the details yet of just how to get things done. And that's what left everyone kind of scratching their heads around here.

BROWN: And let me go to Ali on this.

So, is that why the markets tanked? What happened? Why such a negative response to this from Wall Street today?


Is Ali there?

Go ahead.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, we saw a big loss on the Dow and all the major markets, in fact, more than 4 percent. And that was because we had had such a buildup to what we were going to expect from Timothy Geithner. We even heard President Obama say last night that he is not going to steal his thunder, which gave the market the impression that there would be some thunder coming from the treasury secretary. And there wasn't.

As one of my colleagues described it, we were expecting a blueprint. And what we got was a sketch on a napkin. What we were expecting to see is what the government would do with remaining $350 billion of TARP, the bailout money, how it would be given to banks in a way that it would reach individuals, that credit would flow, loans would be forthcoming for individuals and small businesses.

What they gave us was a general outline, and investors ran for the hills. Now, again, I am entirely not worried about that, Campbell, because what I -- I worry when the market tanks on no particular reason.

This was an expectation buildup and a P.R. flub by the treasury secretary. It was reminiscent of those days in September and October when we would hear from President Bush and Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke. They would say things and the markets would tank because they were lacking specifics. That's exactly what the problem is.

I think the minute that President Obama and Timothy Geithner are able to provide specifics about what they are going to do with the $350 billion, you will see the market coming back.

The other issue, Campbell, is that there's a lot of talk that we're going to need a lot more than the remaining half of that TARP, $700 billion; we're going to need more than the remaining $350 billion.


VELSHI: That has got markets a little spooked.


VELSHI: But, ultimately, we're at a point on the markets that we were at in November. And some people are saying, well, that's terrible. We're as low as we were in November.

The way I see it, we are way worse off than we were in November in terms of economic indicators and the number of jobs lost and things like that. So, the fact that our market is only where it was in November indicates that a bottom might be forming on this market, lower than you and I have talked about in the past. But that's what it indicates to me. I wouldn't be too alarmed about this drop in the markets today.

BROWN: OK, Ali, let me go back to Gloria on this.

The president pleaded today for patience and said, these problems took a long time to create. They are going to take a long time to fix.

BORGER: Yes. BROWN: So, politically, how much time does he really have here?

BORGER: Well, it depends, as Ali was saying, depends on what continues to happen in the markets.

But, OK, don't forget, this is a new president with a 76 percent popularity rating. All the polls show the American public says, we have got patience.

But they do want to see something working. And, last night, the president said at his press conference, how are you folks going to know that this is working? You're going to see more jobs start to come back into the market. You are going to start to see the credit crisis ease a little bit.

So, people are going to be looking for some changes. It's just they understand it's not going to happen tomorrow.

BROWN: All right, Gloria Borger for us tonight from Washington, Ali Velshi from Chicago, thanks, guys, as always. Appreciate it.

Coming up next: "Cutting Through The Bull." Wells Fargo goes on the offensive after a big trip to Las Vegas goes public.

Also, this from President Obama:


OBAMA: we're going to do everything we can to help you, but there are a lot of people like you. And we're going to do everything we can, all right? But the -- I will have my staff talk to you after this -- after the town hall, all right?


BROWN: One woman's personal plea to the president, very emotional plea, and what he was able to do to help her.

And we have been showing how frighteningly easy it is for someone to get ahold of your most personal medical information online. Tonight, we're going to walk you through what you can and what frankly you should be doing about it.


BROWN: Now "Cutting Through The Bull."

And, tonight, Wells Fargo gets the chutzpah award for its P.R. counterattack. You may have heard about the bank's swanky Las Vegas trip that it had planned for its employees last weekend at two high- end casino resorts.

Now, keep in mind Wells Fargo took $25 billion in bailout money from taxpayers. It was only after the Associated Press broke the news that the annual getaway was still on, economic crisis be damned, that Wells Fargo, under public and government pressure, decided to cancel. So, lesson learned? Not quite. This Sunday, Wells Fargo took out full-page newspaper ads -- here it is -- in "The New York Times" and in "The Washington Post," by our calculation, spending at least $200,000.

In the ads, Wells Fargo's CEO announced, all of its big employee events for the year have now been canceled, and he then blamed the media for it, and said that our one-sided reporting on this subject makes every employee-recognition event sound like a boondoggle, and that, ultimately, our misleading reports have hurt Wells Fargo employees, who deserve a pat on the back, and they have also hurt the tourism industry, since they aren't taking these trips anymore, to which the reply can only be, give me a break.

This is really very simple. Taxpayers lent you $25 billion because of a national financial emergency. We don't think, in the current environment, you should be throwing lavish thank-you parties, period.

If you're really doing so well, how about thanking Americans instead by giving back our bailout money? In your ad, you say you hope Americans will understand when a company tries to do the right thing by honoring its employees.

If you are really trying to do the right thing, then why did you scrap your Las Vegas getaway only after it became public and only after you got criticized for it?

And do you really think the best use of your money right now is to buy full-page newspaper ads trashing the media, disguising the ads as thank-you notes to your employees?

You want to thank your workers, try e-mail. Put the letter on your Web site instead. It won't cost you a dime -- all of this coming from the very CEO who has already warned of possible job cuts this year after the Wells Fargo takeover of Wachovia. Well, those people -- will those people, rather, get a thank-you note from you to go with their pink slip?

Now, we invited the Wells Fargo CEO to come on tonight, and he declined.

Now we want to go back to the president's urgent message to Congress: Act now to fix this country's money mess. His message couldn't be clearer.


OBAMA: So, we cannot afford to wait. We can't wait and see and hope for the best. I believe in hope, but I also believe in action.

Well, you sound like you have got good communication skills.


BROWN: Coming up next, what would you spend $1 billion on? We are going to ask two men who are hoping to get their hands on the money and what they will do with it.

The president says he wants to hear ideas about how to fix our economy. One of our I-Reporters isn't wasting his chance to weigh in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shouldn't the plan be perfect? For as dire and as important and as necessary as you're making it seem, this stimulus plan should be perfect. If it -- if it needs to be changed, let's keep working on it until it is perfect. Change is what you promised us in your campaign speeches, OK? Another stimulus bill that accomplishes nothing is not change.



BROWN: The numbers we have been hearing about President Obama's stimulus plan don't even begin to tell the whole story. For that, you have got to hear from real people who are struggling every day just to keep their heads above water. And the president heard one of those stories first-hand today.

Listen to this.


HENRIETTA HUGHES, RESIDENT OF FLORIDA: I first want to say I respect you, and I'm so grateful for you.

OBAMA: Thank you.

HUGHES: I have been praying for you.

OBAMA: I believe in prayer, so I appreciate that.

HUGHES: I have an urgent need, unemployment and homelessness, a very small vehicle for my family and I to live in. We need urgent. And the housing authority has two years' waiting lists, and we need something more than the vehicle and the parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help.

OBAMA: Well, I -- listen. What's your name? What's your name?

HUGHES: It's Henrietta Hughes.

OBAMA: OK, Ms. Hughes, well, we're going to do everything we can to help you, but there are a lot of people like you. And we're going to do everything we can, all right? But the -- I will have my staff talk to you after this -- after the town hall, all right?


BROWN: Now, the good news tonight, a Fort Myers newspaper is reporting the woman has been offered a home to stay in for now. But what about the millions of other Americans who are struggling tonight? Joining me to talk about their stories and what they're trying how to do about it is Mayor Michael Coleman, a Democrat from Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Virg Bernero, a Democrat also, from Lansing, Michigan.

Welcome to both of you.

And I should let people know you are here to talk about I guess the money meltdown that is really happening in hometowns and that you have probably a better sense for than any of us.

And, Mayor Bernero, let me start with you.

You said that the stimulus, in your view, is a shot in the arm, when what your city needs, what Lansing, Michigan, really needs is a blood transfusion. I mean, what do you mean by that? You think this is too small to really do much good?

VIRG BERNERO (D), MAYOR OF LANSING, MICHIGAN: It's not that it is too small in the dollar amount. We need this help. And it is vital right now.

And it is going to be -- it will be helpful. I feel for the woman that you had on. We have people like that. We're trying to keep them in their homes. We're trying to help people keep food on the table.

But this stimulus is going to be a short-term solution. And I think Americans understand that and Lansingites understand that. We are a GM town. We make cars. It's what we do. And if we are going to be able to sell those cars and have good jobs in the future, then we have got to have fair trade. It is this free trade that has sold the American worker really out. And we have lost a lot because of that.

I have heard from carpenters. I have heard from furniture makers, from steel workers all across this country. Places like Lansing that made something -- and we are not giving up on the car industry, but there are a lot of industries, a lot of manufacturing in this country that needs help. And we need fair trade. It is going to take fair trade to turn this around.

BROWN: Well, let me ask you about that, because we talked to you a couple months ago, when you were pushing for the auto industry bailout. That happened. What has the effect been on Lansing? Was it a good investment?

BERNERO: It absolutely was. And the auto industry is trying to make this transition. Obviously, the economy hasn't turned around.

I mean, we made the Cadillac CTS, the Motor Trend car of the year last year. We have great, productive people in Lansing and around this country who are ready to go to work. But they need that opportunity. And, unfortunately, with this unlevel playing field that has been created, that is still lingering. So, we are ready. We're ready for a strategic partnership with the federal government. It was admirable, Campbell, but these congressmen went through this budget, this stimulus, line by line. And there was so much debate and discussion about it.

I challenge Congress, these senators who are so concerned about waste in the budget, to go line by line through the trade agreements that have sold out American workers, that have put the American workers at a disadvantage all these years, that have helped decimate industry in this country. Go line by line through the trade agreements and treat the American worker with fairness and dignity, instead of breaking them down like a Third World peasant.

BROWN: All right, let me bring Mayor Coleman into this.

And, Mayor Coleman, talk specifics with me. What have you had to cut back on as this economy has gotten worse, that you're really feeling, that people in your town are really feeling?

MICHAEL COLEMAN (D), MAYOR OF COLUMBUS, OHIO: Well, we are in a national crises, we're in a state crises, and we're in a crises in the city of Columbus.

We feel it and we feel it in a big way. We are an income tax city. And jobs are important to us. And we have had to cut our police class. We just adopted our budget yesterday. And we have had to cut our police class because we don't have the resources to continue that class. And I have asked our division of police...

BROWN: You mean -- just to clarify, you just mean new police officers who had just graduated, you weren't able to hire essentially and put them to work, right?

COLEMAN: Yes, who are going to graduate, and three days before they were going to graduate, we had to give them layoff notices before they became official police officers. And it was a terrible thing.

Now, we have asked our police officers to step up to help sacrifice some of their salary to get this police class through. But I have to tell you, we are feeling it in the city of Columbus. And we need Congress to act, and to act right now.

BROWN: So, will the stimulus, for example, give you money to rehire those police officers, to make up for some of these cutbacks that you have had to deal with?

COLEMAN: Well, maybe. There is the COPS program, the Byrne grant.

And my hope is that, when Congress -- with the Senate and the House working together, they can lift this provision that says you have -- cities have to give a match for the monies that come to cities for police and fire, because right now there is no match.

And if we have to depend upon a match, we will not have new police, a new police class or police officers this year. BROWN: Mayor...

COLEMAN: So, this will be helpful to us, certainly.

BROWN: Mayor Bernero, give me your sense. When you hear the debates going on in Washington, do you think they get it? Do you think President Obama and Congress understand the scope of the problem? Are they moving quickly enough for you?

BERNERO: Look, President Obama certainly gets the urgent need to act now. And that is real. Just like Mayor Coleman said, our people are hurting. There's no question about that. We need help now.

Unless we address the longer-term issue -- the American people, the American workers are skeptical for a reason. Because they have been thrown under the bus by Congress over the years through these trade agreements, with this unholy alliance between Washington and Wall Street. They get theirs, and the American worker gets thrown under the bus time and time again.

They have seen their share of the pie shrink. Working people in this country are hurting. So, we need this stimulus package now. This is a needed shot in the arm. But unless we get long-term change, unless we get change in the trade policy, we're going to be back in this same position a year or -- or less from now, because we have got to make something.

We have got to let the best -- the best stimulus is a stimulating job. People in this country are productive people. People in Lansing, they do great work.

BROWN: Right.

BERNERO: But they need to be manufacturing. They need to be making something.

BROWN: Right.

BERNERO: And we have got to support our industries, like these countries support their industries. It is an unlevel playing field that has been created.

BROWN: All right.

BERNERO: And this stimulus package alone doesn't fix that.

BROWN: Mayors Michael Coleman and Virg Bernero, we're out of time. I appreciate you guys coming on, though. Thanks so much.

COLEMAN: Thank you, Campbell.

BERNERO: Thanks so much, Campbell.

BROWN: Coming up: a dramatic example of the ripple effects of this economic meltdown, a husband and wife in Phoenix keeping their heads above water, despite both losing their jobs. This is a struggle -- a story of struggle, but also of hope.

And then later in our "Political Daily Briefing," first lady Obama gets up close and personal with some future voters.


BROWN: In last night's news conference, President Obama brought up the word -- or brought up, in his words, the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs.

Nearly 600,000 Americans lost their jobs in January alone. Well, last week, we launched a project to focus on this cascading ripple effect of unemployment. And our first stop was in suburban Washington, D.C.

Tonight, we visit the Phoenix area, where national correspondent Gary Tuchman met a married couple that is confronting this challenge head on.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, the booming Sunbelt is no longer booming.

We spent the day in suburban Phoenix with a very nice couple, Linda and Chris Metzger. And they're about to undergo one of the most amazing experiences in life. They're about to have a baby. But it comes amid something that happened in October over a seven-day span that has led them on quite a detour.


LINDA METZGER, LOST JOB: yes, I think I'm supposed to fit this in the corner.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Linda and Chris Metzger are about to have their first baby. They're thrilled. And though they're dealing with something they never anticipated, they have not lost their confidence.

(on camera): And don't drop her.

L. METZGER: I won't drop her. I promise not to drop her.


TUCHMAN: I mean, you can in two months.

(voice-over): Linda and Chris felt like they were living a fairy tale live. Linda got a six-figure job as an assistant vice president at Lehman Brothers in New York. Then, in 2007, as Lehman started failing, she lost her job.

L. METZGER: I was so overwhelmed and so shocked, I just immediately burst into tears.

TUCHMAN: Linda was the main breadwinner, so they decided to start a new life in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, Arizona. They bought this four-bedroom house for under $300,000. And Linda got a similar job that paid almost as much as what she did in New York. Chris got a sales job that kicked in around $50,000. Linda got pregnant. Life was very good.

And then her Arizona bosses told her, her job was eliminated.

L. METZGER: The exact thing I said to my boss was, "I just went through this."

TUCHMAN: And then, exactly one week later:

CHRIS METZGER, LOST JOB: I walked upstairs and I gave her a hug and I said, "I lost my job today."

L. METZGER: And I immediately fell to the floor and just started crying.

TUCHMAN: They had some savings, but also two student loans, two car payments, a $2,100 mortgage, a $1,000 monthly COBRA insurance payment, and, of course, a baby on the way.

L. METZGER: For the first time since we have been in this house, our mortgage is going to be a few weeks late.

TUCHMAN: They've made dramatic changes to their lifestyle. They are only making purchases they consider essential. They may get rid of one of their two cars. The Metzgers now realize they're one of many cogs in an economic maelstrom.

(on camera): Linda and Chris Metzger feel badly they can no longer afford many of the stores and restaurants they used to enjoy. Notably their feelings are painfully mutual.

(voice-over): This is the store where the Metzgers bought much of their furniture and were planning to buy more. The fact they and so many other families in the same predicament have stopped shopping there has led to the store announcing it is about to shut its doors.

And then there was the Metzgers favorite bistro. Good customers like the Metzgers stopped eating there. It's now an empty space. And next to the bistro, a store called Storables, just announcing it, too, is going out of business.

And on the other side of the restaurant, the Little Blue Choo Choo toy store, recently closing its one other store and fighting the good fight to keep this one open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just going to keep going and try and survive as much as we can.

TUCHMAN: As for the Metzgers, they're now a bit more hopeful. Chris has a new sales job. Linda is trying to close the roughly $100,000 a year gap by starting a home genealogy business. At seven months pregnant, it's hard to look for a job.

CHRIS METZGER, LOST JOB: I'm scared. I'm nervous. But again, I'm looking around and it's everywhere.

TUCHMAN: It's the economic ripple effect, now consuming so many in its path.


BROWN: And Gary, I got to ask you because I know they have to be worried about the added expense of having a baby right now.

TUCHMAN: No question about it, and I'm afraid. I didn't make matters better when I said the wrong thing at the wrong time. It's expensive having kids.

They actually knew that. But what they have and what most Americans have who are in these straits, and there lots of Americans in these straits, is loving family.

They have family here in the Phoenix area. They have family in New York City. And what is family for other than to help you. They haven't asked their family for help yet, but they know the family is there if they need them.

BROWN: Gary Tuchman with us tonight from Phoenix. Gary, thanks so much.

Still ahead, imagine this, your private medical records out there on the Internet for everybody to see. Well, scary thought. It may well be happening right now. Coming up, we're going to tell you how to protect your vital information.

And in our "Political Daily Briefing," First Lady Michelle Obama gets a lot of love from some of her new neighbors. They had some great questions too. Wait till you see this.

And at the top of the hour, Larry King talks to the crew of the US Airways Flight 1549 about the miracle on the Hudson. "LARRY KING LIVE" right after NO BIAS, NO BULL.



EMILY GREEN, EDWARD H. BRYAN ELEMENTARY: Dear President Obama, do you know a lot of kids would have voted for you if they could? Our school had a mock election and you won by a lot. I wonder if it's just because kids like who their parents vote for, or because kids actually listen to the issues. I don't know what it is, but you seem to have a special touch with kids all over America. From Emily Green.


BROWN: Observations from 10-year-old Emily, who attends Edward H. Bryan Elementary school in Cresskill, New Jersey. Thanks, Emily.

And children all over the country have been sharing their thoughts with the new president. To send us your letter, look for the iReport link on our Web site,

Time now for the "PDB," "Political Daily Briefing." And Randi Kaye has the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. We have not heard much from her since inauguration and now she says the Obama administration willing to sit down with the Iranian president.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what she's saying. You know, this was a really big issue during the campaign. In fact, it's the first step in a process that has drawn President Obama some heat including from Hillary Clinton herself during the campaign. But now that she's on team Obama, Hillary Clinton told reporters that the Obama administration would be willing to engage in talks with Iran, but with some conditions. Take a listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We still persist in our view that Iran should not obtain nuclear weapons. That it would be a very unfortunate course for them to pursue. And we hope that there will be opportunities in the future for us to develop a -- a better understanding of one another.


KAYE: Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has also expressed an interest in opening up a dialogue, welcoming talks with the U.S. during a speech today marking the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

BROWN: And then, Randi, on a far lighter note, I understand the first lady had a little fun with some kids in Washington today.

KAYE: She sure did. As you know, she's been making the rounds around town. First Lady Michelle Obama paid a visit to a nonprofit organization in downtown Washington today, Mary's Center, which offers access to health-related services to multicultural families.

While at the center, Mrs. Obama spent time reading to a group of young children, and you never know what kids are going to say. Many of them were excited to see the first lady. But there was one, who wasn't exactly shy about asking why President Obama hasn't made the trip.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't live with you?

OBAMA: No, he does live with me. He just went there for today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's wrong with him? He doesn't live with you? OBAMA: He lives with me. He does. Really. He does. He just went on a trip today. But I'll tell him you asked about him.


KAYE: Does he live with you? You got to love that. The first lady also met with a group of teenagers who are part of an after school program sponsored by the center.

How cute were they?

BROWN: So adorable. I've been looking at that video all day.

So on the other side of town, a very famous country music singer also in Washington. Tell us about that.

KAYE: Yes, Dolly Parton, none other than the queen of country herself. Dolly Parton in the nation's capital to promote the 75th anniversary of Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Now, as you can imagine, it's hard to be in the nation's political hub these days and not get drawn into talking just a little shop. Well, Dolly Parton said people ask her all the time if she should run for president. Take a listen.


DOLLY PARTON, COUNTRY SINGER: Somebody said to me, well, you know what, you just got such a big mouth and you just know how to talk to people. Did you ever think about running for president? I said, I think we've had enough boobs in the White House. But hopefully, Obama ain't going to be one of them.


KAYE: She said that. Yes, she really went there. And there are a million jokes, of course, that we could put in here but let's just say that Dolly Parton seems abreast of the issues in Washington.

BROWN: Oh, cool it, Randi. Randi.

KAYE: I didn't write that.

BROWN: How long did you work on that?

KAYE: I didn't write it.

BROWN: Oh, OK, blame it on somebody else.

KAYE: One very creative producer.

BROWN: Randi Kaye for us tonight. Randi, thanks.

When we come back, some incredible pictures from the Bush fires in Australia. Despite the flames, almost unimaginable amount of damage. We found an incredible picture we want you to see. Plus, the hottest ticket in Washington. How President Obama is using invitations to the White House to charm his rivals and maybe change some minds.


BROWN: So would you like handcuffs with that order? Coming up, the bizarre phone call that landed one fast food customer right in the middle of our "Bull's-Eye."

First, though, Joe Johns has tonight's "Briefing" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Campbell, we're following a developing story on Israel where it's too close to call after early exit polls show Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni narrowly ahead of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the race to lead the Israeli government. During her campaign, Livni highlighted her role in the recent crackdown on Hamas in Gaza. Tonight, Netanyahu is telling supporters that when all the votes are counted he may have enough conservative support to lead the government.

More than a thousand people attended a memorial service for Caylee Anthony today in Orlando, Florida. The 2-year-old girl's remains were found in December six months after she disappeared. Her mother is charged with first degree murder. Jail officials say Casey Anthony met with her attorney during the service and did not ask to watch it on TV.

Another big blow for the U.S. auto industry. General Motors is cutting 10,000 jobs worldwide. About 3,000 of those layoffs will occur in the U.S. All of GM's remaining salaried workers in the U.S. will have to take a pay cut. GM and Chrysler have until next week to show the government how they plan to stay viable in exchange for a taxpayer bailout.

The death toll from devastating bush fires in southeastern Australia could reach 200. Firefighters say many people simply waited too long before trying to escape. More than 20 wildfires continued to burn. Some have been set on purpose.

One thousand homes may have been lost along with nearly a million acres of countryside. One fortunate bit of news, you can see a firefighter tending to a koala who escaped the flames, but only after scorching its feet. It was given water and turned over to animal care workers.

It's quite a picture.

BROWN: I was going to say, that is quite a picture there. Joe Johns for us tonight. Joe, thanks.

"LARRY KING LIVE" moments away now. Tonight, America's newest heroes. The crew of US Airways Flight 1549 sit down with Larry.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Are you surprised everyone lived?


KING: Nobody drowned? Nobody (INAUDIBLE)

SULLENBERGER: Having this crew I'm not surprised. I'm grateful. I'm grateful. I could not rest until I knew that everyone was accounted for and everyone was safe.


BROWN: Don't miss the breathtaking inside story behind the miracle on the Hudson. That's right after NO BIAS, NO BULL.

So many of you were enraged after we told you how easy it is for someone to get access to your most private health information. Well tonight, what you can do to stop it as another part of our world goes online. You're going to want to stick around for this information when we come back.


BROWN: We've been hearing from lots of you about a story we first reported last week. Our investigation into the security of your medical insurance records.

None of us could believe how easy it is for complete strangers to access your most private information until we saw it for ourselves. And it has -- it all has to do with your medical records now being computerized. And that's a key part of President Obama's stimulus plan. Listen to what he said about it today.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to health care, it's a disaster. So what we did in this plan -- in the House bill that passed -- one of the things that we do is we say, we are going to computerize our health care system. Institute health I.T., that creates jobs right now for people to convert from a paper system to a computer system. But it also pays a long term dividend by making the health care system more efficient.


BROWN: Efficient, yes. But your privacy may also be at risk. And our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is back to tell you what you can do to protect yourself.

And Elizabeth, what's the fine print here?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is some fine print that we all need to pay attention to, Campbell. But first, I want to show you what happened on your show last week, when I tried to gain access to somebody else's health information.


BROWN: Elizabeth Cohen has been hard at work at her computer.

COHEN (voice-over): An unusual challenge, go online and get Gary Tuchman's health insurance records.

BROWN: We're going to come back and see what you found.

COHEN (on camera): I will accept the challenge.

(voice-over): In minutes, guess what I found?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But you know that's my children's pediatrician.

COHEN (on camera): I do know. I do know because I got them all right here, Gary. I got all your insurance claims for the past 18 months for you and your entire family. And all you gave me was your date of birth and your Social Security number. That was it.

(voice-over): Getting Gary's health insurance claims was shockingly easy. I could see it all. A list of every doctor's appointment he and his wife and children have had for the past year and a half. He couldn't believe it and neither could many of you.

Here are some e-mails we received. "Could you please tell me what Web site I need to access, or the process to secure, protect my health insurance claim history? Help, what is the Web site she referenced?"

Medical records will be online, it's just a matter of time.


BROWN: So, Elizabeth, walk us through it. I mean, what should we do to protect our information as best we can?

COHEN: Campbell, the first thing you have to do is think who has information about me that I would not want the world to know about. So sit down and make a list.

For example, your doctor may have your medical records online. A pharmacy, an insurance company, a hospital, all of those -- all of those, to some degree or another are starting to put things online.

Secondly, if you -- when you find out that they do have information about you online, go and log on and create an account for yourself using a safe user name and password.

And thirdly, answer those security questions. You know, your mother's maiden name, your pet from childhood. Set up some of those security questions so that nobody else can access your information.

Campbell, I want to add that we got in touch with Gary's insurance company. And they said that their site is compliant with federal privacy rules called HIPAA rules, but they said there always is room for improvement -- Campbell.

BROWN: And Elizabeth, we should be clear about one thing. And there are real advantages to making medical records electronic also, right?

COHEN: Oh, absolutely. I once did a story with a gentleman who had a CAT scan. And the doctor called him and said your CAT scan looks fine. You don't have any problems. Well, because these records were online, the patient went on and read his own CAT scan report. He wasn't fine.

They found a spot on his thyroid. He had thyroid cancer and his doctor completely missed it. The patient caught it only because his records were online. And that hospital that that gentleman uses, they have a much more secure site than the insurance company that we've been talking about.

BROWN: All right. Elizabeth Cohen for us tonight. Good stuff. Elizabeth, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BROWN: Coming up, an invitation to the White House always the hottest ticket in Washington. But things are a bit little different in the Obama White House. We're going to have a rare inside look at the ins and outs of getting on the guest list.


BROWN: In eight long years in the White House, President and Mrs. Bush hosted just six state dinners. By comparison, the Obamas are looking like real party people, cocktail nights, Super Bowl soirees and we're only three weeks in.

The new social scene at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is one part fun, two parts political strategy. So tonight, we go behind the scenes with CNN entertainment correspondent Lola Oguinnake, who got an exclusive peek with new White House social secretary Desiree Rogers. And Lola is joining me here in New York.

We've also got senior White House correspondent Ed Henry standing by for us in Washington as well to talk about the politics of all this as well.

But Lola, let me start with you because the president and the first lady, they've hosted, if this number is right, 14 events at the White House. What did Desiree Rogers tell you about how they're sort of trying to change the tone, the vibe there? It's going to be very different from the Bushes, right?

LOLA OGUNNAIKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. She made it clear to me that they want to make the White House more accessible, a lot more casual and just a lot warmer, she said. And she also said that they're reaching across the party aisle.

They had a Super Bowl party the other evening and they invited a number of Republicans. And speaking of accessibility, she actually took me on a tour of the White House and actually took me to where they had their Super Bowl party. So let's take a look.


DESIREE ROGERS, WHITE HOUSE SOCIAL SECRETARY: We've done a number of events across party lines very early on. People seem to be pleasantly surprised by that. We did a Super Bowl party, where we not only had people on both sides of the aisle. We had veterans that attended that event. We had young children.

This is where everyone was sitting.

OGUNNAIKE: What a great place to watch the Super Bowl.

ROGERS: We have another big television there, so we have people back and forth all in this area.

OGUNNAIKE: Did you see the tackle?

ROGERS: Right. You know, kind of informal.


ROGERS: It was a great game.

OGUNNAIKE: Really. It was a good game.

ROGERS: And, you know, some people wore their Steelers and their Cardinals shirts and so it's just was a wonderful evening. I think people just kind of forgot what their surroundings were and enjoyed themselves.

People have their expectations of what they think they're going to be like before they get here. To be able to sit down with the president and watch the game, I mean, come on, it doesn't get much better than that.


OGUNNAIKE: No, it doesn't get much better than that. Campbell. And I think that they're banking on this accessibility to Obama actually working in their favor.

And let's face it, a lot of business gets done after 5:00 in Washington. I think they're very aware of that, and I think a lot of business is pretty calculated.

BROWN: To say the least, on that note, let me bring Ed Henry into this. And they've been pretty upfront with you about how calculated it is, right?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, you know, as Lola pointed out, there were Republicans there. One of them was Senator Arlen Specter, the moderate Republican from Pennsylvania. He's at the Super Bowl party. And then about a week later, he casts one of three pivotal votes in favor of the president's stimulus plan. So you can see some results, perhaps.

Now, the Super Bowl party clearly was not the only reason why he voted for the bill. He believes that it's going to create jobs. He believes it's going to help the economy. He's also from a state in Pennsylvania that voted for Barack Obama and so he's got to be careful about voting against the president.

But this opens the door. My colleague, Suzanne Malveaux, got a lot of details from that Super Bowl party. They were serving hot dogs. It was very down home. Some congressmen brought their kids even.

One of the stories floating around, in fact, there's some dangers here for the president, I should say, that at one point one of the kids went up to the president and said where's the bathroom? And the president said I haven't been here very long. You're going to have to ask somebody who actually works here.

So, you know, there's some fun here. But you know, there's a little danger for the president sometimes too, Campbell.

BROWN: And I know, Ed, you're also hearing that they're going to be holding these bipartisan cocktail parties on a regular basis, right?

HENRY: Yes, you know, in fact, tonight, in fact, just behind me, since it's wrapped up but there are about 40 or so of the so-called blue dog Democrats. They're conservative Democrats, about a dozen of them you remember a couple weeks back voted against the president on the stimulus plan. He hosted them here tonight to chat with them.

White House aides though are stressing is it's not just about trying to get one vote like the stimulus. It's about trying to build a long term relationship. As we heard the president say at a news conference here in the East Room last night, that you can't just work these lawmakers on one specific issue. You have to try to work them long term.

The president is going to be in office for at least four years. He's going to need their votes on a whole series of things. This White House believes they learned a lesson from President Bush who didn't work the Congress enough especially on this personal level. So you're going to see them use that social calendar to try to grease the legislative wheels as well, Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Ed Henry for us tonight. Ed, thanks very much, and to Lola as well for that inside peek. Fascinating stuff.

When we come back, a burger with no lemonade. And that is an emergency? One guy thought it was. He thought it was 911 worthy. Coming up, the call he probably regrets.


BROWN: We have some breaking news we want to tell you about right now. We are getting reports that a tornado has touched down in Oklahoma just outside of Ardmore, Oklahoma. And Chad Myers is joining us now from the severe weather center with more.

Chad, what do we know?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right, Campbell. Just a few minutes ago, Lone Grove, Ardmore and Springer, tornado on the ground. Weather service and officials on the ground saying a large and violent tornado moved over Lone Grove just north of Ardmore and then toward Springer and Gene Autry. There are more storms as well.

Earlier we had tornadoes near Oklahoma City and there are also storms west of Dallas Fort Worth. These storms will spin all night long, Campbell. There will probably be more tornadoes on the ground.

Now they're more dangerous because it's in the dark. They're harder to see. They're harder to spot, and the warnings are shorter than if it's in the daylight and they're easier to see.

BROWN: All right. Chad Myers with the very latest on that. Stay with CNN throughout the night. We will have updates for you as information comes in.

That's it for us. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.