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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Takes Questions; Pelosi Trip Cost; Helping Homeless Veterans

Aired February 20, 2009 - 14:00   ET

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


ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Quick follow-up. The first week in office, the president signed the executive order to close down the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. This is a very serious issue the American people want to know about, where are these detainees going to go. And my understanding is the attorney general is not bringing any media. It's completely closed to the press. How does that square with the president's vows that we've talked about on transparency. When the American people are wondering how is this policy going to be implemented? The chief law enforcement officer is basically operating in secrecy.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think the chief law enforcement officer is operating in secrecy, whatsoever.

HENRY: But there's not even allowing camera crews.

GIBBS: Well, I think what this administration is working to do, per the executive order, is to come up with a plan that ensures our security, and does so in a way that meets the test of our values, in protecting the men and women that keep this country free and safe. I don't think you have to do all of that through a photo-op. I think this is a working trip, that this is a very serious number of decisions lay in front of this government. And it's important for, whether it's the counsel here, the attorney general, or any other member of this administration, working to find some of those very tough solutions to be able to do so, not as a photo-op, but as something that is -

HENRY: It doesn't have to be a photo-op, if he doesn't want it to be a photo-op. If he wants it to be substantive, why not let the American people in on these deliberations?

GIBBS: We are letting the American people in on these deliberations. That's why there's a review process that's ongoing. I think the attorney general feels comfortable that he can make those decisions without cable -- Chip?

QUESTION: Quick follow-up on Ed's question on the trip to Guantanamo. Can you just give us any sort of time line for the decision about Guantanamo? You have Greg Craig there now. Eric Holder going down there next week. Is there any timeline you have for the decision?

GIBBS: I thought the -- I'll go back and check the executive order. I thought the whole process was 180 days. But I will go back and -- QUESTION: So, then on the 180th day, an announcement will be made?

GIBBS: No, no, no. I assume when they get done and have made those decisions, I think obviously we're in probably the 20-some-odd day. So, I don't expect -- I certainly don't have any announcements today. But as we obviously get closer and make those determinations, we'll have them for you.

QUESTION: OK. And we interviewed Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, after his meeting. We were talking about the report, the ready-to-go report that the U.S. Conference of Mayors had put out. Mayor Newsom said, "What came out of the U.S. Conference of Mayors was easily mocked. Not all of it, but just enough that it put the whole stimulus in peril, for a moment, at least.

I noticed in the stimulus package it says the money cannot be spent on things like golf courses, casinos, even parks. I'm wondering, how did the president receive that U.S. Conference of Mayors report? Did that play any role in his threat to the mayors today, that if they don't spend the taxpayers' money wisely, he will call them out publicly?

GIBBS: I honestly don't know what his reaction was when he saw the initial report. I know he's met with the mayors on several occasions.

But you know, Jake, he'll have the very same message for the governors on Monday. He has the same message for, as you saw in the remarks, for the agencies that have to implement these spending programs. And that is, that these -- if you're seeking to simply fund a personal agenda at the expense of creating jobs and using taxpayer money to do it, the president will call that out and stop it. That's true for agencies and members of this administration. That's true for governors. That's true for mayors. That's true for anybody that might take part in any amount of this funding.

The president throughout this process has talked about the need for strict accountability to ensure that the precious resources that the American people have entrusted in this government are spent completely above board and wisely. So I don't think you should look at the message that he delivered today as a one-time message. We'll have more announcements on this next week. And we'll have more dialogue like this next week, whether it's governors or whether it's people within this administration, that are entrusted to handle this money.

QUESTION: On the foreclosure plan. Aside from Rush Limbaugh and that cable rant on the floor of the exchange, there really does appear to be some anger out there, from people who just don't believe the president when he said that only people who acted responsibly are going to be helped here. How can you assure people that you're going to only reward only homeowners who acted responsibly?

GIBBS: Let's go through this. Because I do think this is very important. And I've watched Mr. Santelli on cable the past 24 hours or so. I'm not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives, or in what house he lives. But the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgage, stay in their job, pay their bills, to send their kids to school, and to hope that they don't get sick, or that somebody they care for gets sick and sends them into bankruptcy.

I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader, that it was good for Main Street. I think the verdict is in on that.

Here's what this plan will do. For the very first time this plan helps those who have acted responsibly, played by the rules, and made their mortgage payments. This will help people who aren't in trouble yet, keep from getting in trouble. You can't stay in this program unless you continue to make mortgage payments. That's important for Mr. Santelli, and millions of Americans to understand.

Here's what this plan won't do. It won't help somebody trying to flip a house. It won't bail out an investor looking to make a quick buck. It won't help speculators that were betting on a risky market. And it is not going to help a lender who knowingly made a bad loan, and it is not going to help, as the president said in Phoenix, it is not going to help somebody who has long ago known they were in a house they couldn't afford. That's why the president was very clear in saying, this was not going to stop every person's home from being foreclosed.

But Mr. Santelli has argued, I think quite wrongly, that this plan won't help everyone. This plan will help by the money that's invested in Freddie and Fannie, will drive down mortgage rates for millions of Americans. The president in his speech was very clear in saying that every American with a mortgage payment should call their lender and see if they can refinance right now. This plan helps people that have been playing by the rules, but can't get refinancing, get that refinancing so their home doesn't become foreclosed on.

And Mr. Santelli might also note that if you live in a home that's near one that's been foreclosed, your home value has likely dropped about nine percent, which for the average home is about $20,000. Now, every day when I come out here, I spend a little time reading, studying on the issues, asking people who are smarter than I am questions about those issue issues. I would encourage him to read the president's plan. And understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows. I would be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I'd be happy to buy him a cup of coffee. Decaf.

(LAUGHTER)

Chuck.

QUESTION: To sort of follow up on the criticism that he had -

GIBBS: Let me do this, too. This is a copy of the president's Home Affordability Plan. It's available on the White House website. And I would encourage him, download it, hit print, and begin to read it.

QUESTION: The criticism that's coming on the housing plan, is similar to the criticism that came on bank bailout, both before you came into office and then in phase two, which is, there are people who were irresponsible who will be helped. Period. It's going -- that is a fact. That is going to be -- people are going to use that to say this is not fair. So what do you - how do, you know, how -how do you justify that? I mean how do you rectify --

GIBBS: Look, there will be people that made bad decisions, that in some ways will get help. This plan, though, I think it's important for the American people to understand, was designed to help those that have been responsible. As the president has said, if your neighbor's house is on fire, or if several houses are on fire, you don't debate it, you get a hose and try to put the fire out. That's what's most important.

This plan will stop the spread of those foreclosures, because it addresses those that are -- that potentially could be in trouble, but aren't there yet, get the help they need so that the foreclosure sign doesn't go up on their front yard. But I also think it's tremendously important that for people who rant on cable television to be responsible and understand what it is they're talking about. I feel assured that Mr. Santelli doesn't know what he's talking about.

QUESTION: On going to Jennifer's question on the markets. The markets are the ultimate confidence indicator, in many ways, right? You have said before, you're not going to pay attention to the day-to- day movements in the market. However, we might hit a 12-year low by the end of today. What is it -- you know, is it the president's responsibility to help create some confidence in the markets?

GIBBS: Oh, absolutely. I don't think that -- I think the president would agree with that wholeheartedly. But again, I think --

QUESTION: So, this is not -the markets are saying they don't have confidence.

GIBBS: Again, I think -- obviously I'm not on Wall Street. But I think it is very safe to assume that what is being priced into the day-to-day fluctuations of the market is not just what happens, or is announced at the White House or on the road by the White House. You know, again, without going through it, I think you can look at economic news built up over the past weekend, that we've seen and read about globally in Europe, Eastern Europe, in particular, that the economy is deteriorating, in some places more rapidly than might have first been imagined.

QUESTION: Is he considering pulling some triggers here in the government --

GIBBS: I think the president -

QUESTION: Even an artificial boost?

GIBBS: Well, I use this example the other day on the plane. It's helpful -- I want to go back and try to more fully answer the question, but understand that, you know, the day that the TARP funding passed, the market went up 1,000 points, right? I don't think we'd all together look back and think that was the greatest thing we ever did for financial stability. Right?

So I think when you -- but leaving aside that example, I do think that the -- this administration is working, whether it's in foreclosures, stability, recovery, to do that. I think without, again, divining what it is the market is doing and or why it is making those decisions, I think that -- we have to do more, and the president understands that. I think he'll begin to talk more about that -- he did some today, he'll do some tomorrow. And certainly next week leading into the address, to discuss the number of things that we have that are challenges that we face. Again, you know, it would be nice to be able to just deal with one, get a recovery plan passed and work on that. But there are probably three or four parallel tracks that have to be followed up simultaneously, which is challenging -- Jonathan.

QUESTION: Next week the budget comes out. It's coming out in mid -what looks like it will probably be the longest recession since World War II. How has the economic crisis impacted the president's ability to do some of the things that he promised to do on the campaign trail? And can you say right now that there will be no tax increases in 2010?

GIBBS: Well, let me do this. Let me -- we'll have more to say on the budget soon. I'm not going to get ahead of what the president will say on Tuesday, or what the -- is ultimately contained in the budget that will be released on Thursday.

I will say this, and I think this is apparent in any number of things, that the president strongly believes that as we have spent money in the short term to -- for the recovery plan, that we have an unsustainable path, long term, in our budgets. Some of the actions that we are going to take that are out there are some honesty in budgeting, that give people a fuller picture of what's going on. Putting the -- some of the worst spending back on budget. Putting some disaster spending back on budget. And understanding that what that will show you on Thursday is a deficit far bigger and far redder than what might have first been imagined.

Because for many years, we've used tricks and gimmicks to mask the size of our irresponsibility, but I think what you'll hear from the president on Tuesday is a discussion about the decisions that we are going to have to make collectively to get ourselves back on a path toward some sustainable fiscal track.

QUESTION: I asked you last night, you didn't have an answer, what does the president want to get out of this fiscal responsibility?

GIBBS: I've got a little bit on that on the week ahead. Let me wait on that one.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Back on the bank nationalization question. It sounds to me, by your answer that you weren't quite ruling it out, you were saying the president strongly prefers not to do it, is that correct?

GIBBS: Let me be clear. The president believes a privately held banking system regulated by the government is what this country should have.

QUESTION: Does that mean he will not nationalize banks?

GIBBS: It's hard for me to be clearer than where I just was.

QUESTION: OK. And also, does the president agree with a statement by Attorney General Holder, the other day, that on things racial, we are essentially a nation of cowards?

GIBBS: I have not talked to the president about that. I think what the attorney general discussed was -- or talked about was that -- for many years in this country, all races have struggled with discussions about race. I would point you to the president's speech on the topic during the campaign, his thoughts on that matter.

QUESTION: Robert, are you saying you couldn't be clearer than that. You could say he would never nationalize the banks? That would be clearer. Can you say that?

GIBBS: I think I was very clear about the system that this country has, and will continue to have.

QUESTION: Robert?

GIBBS: Yes.

QUESTION: Back to the auto talks. The president didn't attend the session today, as I understand it.

GIBBS: He did not.

QUESTION: Will he be attending future sessions? What's the road map for the next auto task force meeting? Will they meet a couple of times a week?

GIBBS: Let me check on the long-term schedule. I do anticipate at some point the president obviously will join in on those discussions. And obviously, in going through these plans, and ultimately what's decided on how the industry has to be restructured.

QUESTION: Is the task force encouraging Detroit to very strongly consider mergers of any kind? Are they giving that kind of advice?

GIBBS: I will try to get as best a readout as I can. Like I said, I was not in that meeting -- Yes, Major.

QUESTION: U.N. officials acknowledged yesterday that they believe Iran has developed enough enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon. What is the administration's reaction to that? And what are the implications for this as the president puts together this plan of engaging Iran?

GIBBS: Well, Major, I think that the report represents another lost opportunity for Iran, as it continues to renege on its international obligations. Absent compliance, the international community cannot have confidence that this program is exclusively of a peaceful nature. It does underscore the urgency with which the international community must work together to address these enrichment activities. The review of our policy continues. But --

QUESTION: Has it slowed down or changed its trajectory in any way?

GIBBS: I don't believe it does. I think that this White House understands that working with our allies, that this is an urgent problem that has to be addressed, and that we can't delay addressing it.

QUESTION: On autos, the president said yesterday in Ottawa, that the auto companies will have to go through "significant restructuring", those were his two words. Is there any way that can be achieved based on what the task force has seen so far, absent bankruptcy?

GIBBS: Well, again, let me get a readout from what they've seen, and what they discussed today.

QUESTION: I see. Will there ever be a time in the administration when stock markets will be a barometer for the president's economic stimulus package?

(LAUGHTER)

GIBBS: Depends.

(LAUGHTER)

GIBBS: Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Robert?

GIBBS: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Robert, you all had promised that the president would make a speech in a Muslim nation within the first 100 days. Are you going to keep that promise? And on a more parochial and local issue, will the president's limousines bear the "Taxation Without Representation" license plates that Bill Clinton once did and the George Bush's did not?

GIBBS: I confess I don't have the slightest idea what the license plates on the limousine say now. But I can certainly check on that.

In terms of the speech, we're moving forward with that. And -- but for any number of reasons, I just can't get into those details right now.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you still intend --

GIBBS: We're moving forward with that, yes.

QUESTION: Robert, looking ahead to the budget, and also to Tuesday 's address, how much will the president use each of these two occasions to lay out very specific agendas for some of his initiatives going forward? Particularly energy and health care? You were criticized in rolling out the bank bailout plan, that it lacked specifics. Will we hear, you know, a comprehensive proposal on these budgets?

GIBBS: I think you've covered Congress long enough to know that it's hard to lay out a budget and not be fairly detailed and comprehensive. I think people will definitely know that the president is taking swift action to invest in renewable energy, and ensure that we reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and that we're taking steps to make health care more affordable for millions of Americans, while providing those that don't have health insurance with access.

QUESTION: Are those negotiations going on, on the Hill with Senator Kennedy to try to come to agreement on some kind of universal access plan. How much has the president been involved in these discussions? And is he willing to defer such a big piece of his agenda to negotiations that are ongoing outside of the White House?

GIBBS: Well, I don't know the degree to which we've been involved. I think it's a safe bet that anything that goes -- anything dealing with health care's going to go through Senator Kennedy, Senator Kennedy's committee. I think it has to be talked about with many of the stakeholders that are listed in that article. I don't think that we believe that those representing doctors and patients and hospitals and insurance companies and legislators all discussing a path forward on affordable health care is a bad thing. I think just the opposite. We think that's -- it's a good step in the right direction. It's going to take some time. And we're glad that they've started -- Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) gas taxes versus miles driven taxes?

GIBBS: Sure.

QUESTION: Secretary LaHood told A.P. in an interview that he thinks we should look at this going to miles driven taxes. But someone, a spokeswoman over at the department said, no, that it is not and will not be an administration policy. Which is it? And has the president weighed in on this?

GIBBS: I don't believe the president has, I can weigh in on it and say that it is not, and will not be a policy of the Obama administration.

QUESTION: Was Secretary LaHood speaking out of turn here?

GIBBS: I would direct you to Secretary LaHood on that.

QUESTION: (OFF MIC)

GIBBS: Yes, well, call him back.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: What about the kind of rants, what is your response to the kind of rants that there have been against stimulus package, does the kind of cable debate, cable broadcast debate over the plan, does that -- is that damaging to the president's case for the stimulus? Or does it help Americans to have an open debate like that?

GIBBS: I don't doubt that an open debate is something that's obviously important. The president used to use this story, I forget who he quoted, that people are entitled to their own opinion, not just their own facts. You know, sometimes -- I don't think anybody can sit in front of some of the TV and listen for an hour and not hear somebody that's making a case that just -- I've got to assume they know just isn't true.

I think that -- but I think that kind of debate - that sort of debate is helpful. Look, the impact of it all, I think I said this last week, that if I hadn't worked on the campaign, but simply watched the cable news scorekeeping of the campaign, we lost virtually every day of the race. I mean, how many days did we cover through our trip to Europe , through election day, that the Obama campaign was out- quicked or outsmarted, and we covered ads that were seen by the dozen or so people currently watching that program, but not by the rest of America. You know, like I said, if I just watched cable TV, I long would have crawled into a hole and given up this whole prospect of changing the country.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Robert, each time the president talks about the economy, he talks both about the challenges that we face, and then usually has a sort of optimistic line about how we'll get through this. Can you talk about how he's calibrating that message as he prepares his speech on Tuesday?

GIBBS: Well, I think, you know, President Clinton talked about this. I think the -- and the president certainly has said this for quite some time, that he believes it is very important to be honest with the American people about the struggles and the challenges that we face. We've seen political endeavors in the past that have -- that have not been upfront with the American people, and where they were, and the progress, or the lack of progress that was being made. And that this president believes it's important that we do that in a forthright and honest way.

The president, as you said, also talks about the fact that he understands that if we take and meet those challenges head-on, that brighter days are ahead. You know, he said several times last week that he was an eternal optimist. I think he understands that it's important for him to be confident and hopeful in the path that we're taking. But honest about the many challenges that we face. And that's what he's working on doing --Yes.

QUESTION: Yes, on Iran. Is the U.S. trying to convince the Iranian government to change its attitude toward Israel and not to continue it's threats to destroy Israel? GIBBS: Absolutely. I think the president on any number of occasions has said that, not just with Iran, but with other groups, that they have to stop threatening Israel and the Israeli people.

QUESTION: On the IAEA report, does it preclude the possibility of Iran using a dirty bomb? Does Iran have that capability now?

GIBBS: I have not read the full report on that and what that might be.

Miss Sweet.

QUESTION: Robert, thank you.

A few days ago when you were asked about President Obama's reaction to the -- Senator Burris' controversy, he said, I have to say, I neglected to speak with him. As thing have gotten slated, since then, today Governor Quinn has asked him for him to step down. By chance, do you have a read of what President Obama thinks should be done in this case?

GIBBS: I haven't talked to him specifically about all of this. What I also said, you know, was during that day, which was -- that Senator Burris -- first of all, the people of Illinois have been through a very trying time, with the governor. The appointment of Senator Burris was, and his taking the Senate seat, was based largely on the representations that he'd made, factual representations that he'd made to the people of Illinois, through interviews and through his testimony to the impeachment committee.

We know that, and has been reported extensively, that there seem to be -- some of those stories seem to at variance with what's happened. That the president is supportive of an investigation that would get some full story out and I think it might be important for Senator Burris to take some time this weekend to either correct what has been said, and certainly think of what lays in his future -- April?

QUESTION: Robert, so going back to this --

GIBBS: I ask him to take a look at what has been said and for him to come up with an explanation that satisfies --

QUESTION: Is there an explanation that can satisfy? It's gone from one extreme to the other.

GIBBS: That's a question to ask Senator Burris, not Robert Gibbs.

QUESTION: Wait a minute. Hello, Robert. But you said he needs to --

GIBBS: Hello, April. I answered your question. Go ahead. I'm in a good mood today, so fire away.

QUESTION: Anyway, you said he needs to take time this weekend. This White House is coming through your mouth, basically saying that this man has changed the facts -- you said he had a variance. So he needs to...

GIBBS: Again, I'm not saying that, April. I think it's been covered in Lynn's paper, which I read. It's been covered in the "Tribune." It's been covered in the Associated Press. It's been covered in a number of places that the testimony that he gave seems to be at variance with what's happened.

QUESTION: So did he lie?

GIBBS: That's a question for Mr. Burris. Curt (ph)?

QUESTION: Just following up on an earlier question, Robert. Thank you. President Clinton's comments today, was President Obama unhappy that the president seemed to imply that he was too downbeat and that he said he ought to be talking about being hopeful and completely convinced we're going to come through this?

GIBBS: I think the premise of that question was that the president balances the challenges that we face with the understanding that we're going to get through tough times as we always have in this country. I haven't talked to the president specifically about his reaction to President Clinton's interview, but I think he understands, as I said, that it's important to be straightforward with the American people about those challenges, to underscore the path that we're taking, as being one that he feels will get us on a path towards sustained long-term economic growth and to give people confidence that those steps are being taken.

QUESTION: Next week is shaping up to be a take-your-medicine kind of week, pretty tough week. It's going to be fairly...

GIBBS: I haven't seen anything other than that in a few weeks that I've already been here. It hasn't been -- I mean, just to address that for a second, Kirk. Look, whether it is unemployment or unemployment claims or layoffs or Afghanistan or energy independence, I think there are a number of things that we have, for a long time, the president believes, that we as a country have neglected and that are important to begin to work on. Not every one of those decisions is going to be easy. And he understands he wasn't elected to make easy decisions. But he also understands, as he spoke about in the inaugural and I think you'll hear him speak about next week, that we all have a special responsibility to do what we can to put this country back on the right track and to see it through, back to prosperous and better days.

Let me go quickly through my week ahead. The president has no public events on Saturday. We will endeavor to get you the radio address at a reasonable hour tonight. The economy? Have you seen the ratings, specifically about the recovery plan. On Sunday the president and the first lady will welcome the National Governors Association to the White House for the annual governors dinner. I believe Earth, Wind & Fire. You just wanted me to say that on camera, didn't you.

QUESTION: Can you sing a little?

GIBBS: No, no, no. I get a tip jar right here. Don't tempt me. On Monday morning, the president, the vice president will meet with Democratic and Republican governors from across the country. During the meeting, all the governors have been invited. Later that morning, and into the afternoon, as Jonathan talked about, the president will -- the president and vice president will host a fiscal responsibility summit at the White House, and lead a frank discussion on how we can address the long-term fiscal problems facing this country. About 130 people are invited, including Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress. The chairs and ranking members of key committees and a wide range of community leaders and stakeholders from business, academia, financial and the labor sectors.

QUESTION: Can we get a list?

GIBBS: Let me see where that is. The vice president will open the summit with remarks. Two presentations will follow on the nation's fiscal condition, one by economist and former adviser to Senator John McCain Mark Zandi and Robert Greenstine (ph), the executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. OMB Director Peter Orzag will introduce the president who will conclude with some remarks.

After these presentations, participants will break out into smaller discussion groups to tackle specific fiscal challenges facing our country, including tax and revenue, health care, Social Security procurement and the budget process. Each breakout group will be moderated by a senior administration official.

The larger group will then reconvene and report to the president on their initial work. The summit is a first step in the process of beginning to lay out how we can bring down the deficit and put our country back on a sound financial footing. It opens a week that will be focused on the attention of many fiscal issues. And as you well know, on Tuesday the president will address a joint session of Congress, on Thursday, provide an overview of the fiscal year 2010 budget. That will be released. And there tentatively is scheduled, though I don't have a location yet, domestic travel on Friday. So hopefully we'll be back at a decent hour. I'm sorry? Wednesday, I don't have anything specific, which means we'll be in Washington. All right? No travel on -- that's right, the Gershwin awards and Stevie Wonder. No, no, no. Thanks, guys.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Robert Gibbs talking stimulus money, Roland Burris and also Nancy Pelosi. That was one of our top stories today as our Drew Griffin investigated. Nancy Pelosi's trip to Europe, the speaker of the House actually leading a Democratic delegation to Italy and guess what, paid for by taxpayer dollars. It's raised a lot of questions about these hard economic times. And if indeed the speaker of the House should be taking members of her delegation on trips like that, junkets like that. We asked Pelosi to join us today to talk about it. Her office said that her travel schedule wouldn't permit it. We also asked the White House to comment, but folks there referred us back to Congress. However, that's why we always count on Ed Henry, because Robert Gibbs looked directly at him. He asked a direct question. Ed, what did you get?

HENRY: I think it was clear that Robert Gibbs did not want to be criticizing Speaker Pelosi or other members of Congress, frankly was pointing out he did, that the president as a senator did take some of these congressional delegation trips. Obviously left unsaid was the fact that when then Senator Obama took those trips, that was long before the current fiscal crisis. So while the president has been criticizing business leaders and others for not spending money wisely, specifically taxpayer money in the wake of these bailouts, I think the White House clearly, based on Robert Gibbs' response, is reluctant right now to criticize members of Congress about that.

I thought as you mentioned, that on Senator Burris, it was very clear that Robert Gibbs was coming sort of this close to calling for him to resign, but did stop short of that. But said clearly that Senator Burris should spend this weekend thinking about how he may correct the record, figure out how he can square his various testimonies about the Blagojevich case. That was very interesting.

And then the Santelli case, the analyst in Chicago who was sort of ranting against the president's housing plan yesterday, Robert Gibbs first time really that I've noticed in this first month and we're reaching the first month anniversary now today for the president being in office, first time that I've seen Robert Gibbs really get personal there, in going after that Wall Street analyst in saying he ought to read the president's housing plan. He should print it out. He should come to the White House, even have a cup of coffee with Robert Gibbs. Though Gibbs added as he traditionally does with a joke, he should have some decaf coffee. It was interesting, because that is how Robert Gibbs operates, his style, to try to bring a little humor in. But there was clearly a lot of tension in what he was saying there, a little bit of anger beneath the surface. This White House very angry, not just about what Santelli, the analyst was saying, but what others have been saying in criticizing the president's housing plan. They're a little bit on the defensive about that right now.

PHILLIPS: Ed Henry live from the White House. Ed, thanks so much.

Next Tuesday President Obama will give his first speech to Congress. We built our primetime programming around that theme. The presidential address is scheduled for 9:00 Eastern. That's followed by Anderson Cooper and the best political team on television. Then at midnight a special edition of "Larry King Live."

Issue number one times three, the presidential task force on the auto industry is holding its first meeting three days after GM and Chrysler handed in their business plans for the long road ahead. Those include $20 plus billion in additional taxpayer bail outs. Meanwhile the stimulus has started. That bridge you're looking at in Missouri is the first reported project funded by the $787 billion recovery package that President Obama signed on Tuesday. And in California today, this hour, in fact, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a balanced budget. It cuts spending by $15 billion and raises taxes by $13 billion. Passing it made the stimulus look easy. On Wall Street, the worries are piling up and translating into a big sell-off. The Dow started the day at a six-year low. Now the blue chip average has hit an 11-year low. Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with the latest. Hey Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra. The good news is that the Dow is now only at six-year lows. Yeah, we did hit that 11 1/2-year low, which is just a breathtaking fall when you consider that the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its all-time high, above 14,100 in October of 2007, so just a monumental fall. But we have since come back. There you see what's happened. Basically if you put -- if you've done what we've been encouraged to do all these years, put your money in stocks and save, you basically have come out short after a decade. That translates into about a $10 trillion loss for the Wilshire 5000 over that time. That's the broadest gauge of all publicly traded stocks. Dow's comes back, it was off 200 points at its low, right now down 52 points. You could make the statement the Dow is trying to rally here. Kyra?

PHILLIPS: All right. Susan Lisovicz there live at the New York Stock Exchange. Thanks so much, Susan.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, men and women, black and white, rich and poor, all victims of domestic abuse. We're putting our spotlight on a rapidly growing crisis giving you real answers and real help. We're pushing that story forward.

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PHILLIPS: From the mean streets to the west wing, America's mayors, 85 of them anyway, getting a helping hand and a watchful eye from President Obama. The president rallied the city leaders around his economic recovery plans, but warned them that every penny counts.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is required in return, what I will need from all of you is unprecedented responsibility and accountability on all of our parts. The American people are watching. They need this plan to work. They expect to see the money that they've earned, that they've worked so hard to earn, spent in its intended purposes without waste, without inefficiency, without fraud.

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PHILLIPS: Well, the mayors say that they are more than ready to put the stimulus to work.

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MAYOR JIM SCHMITT, GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN: We are going to do these projects. These have been in the works since early August, September. What the president's stimulus package does, it allows us to move these projects up. So that we can start the jobs now, instead of three, four, five years. They're engineered, they're ready to go. They just lack funding. So this is a great opportunity to jump-start a lot of local economies.

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PHILLIPS: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said that Senator Roland Burris has a cloud over his head and it's time for him to quit. Quinn says that it was a gigantic mistake for Burris to accept the Senate appointment from disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich. The Senate ethics committee is now investigating Burris who revealed that Blagojevich's brother had contacted him about raising money. Burris failed to reveal those conversations to state law makers during Blagojevich's impeachment hearing. But he says he did not contribute a single dollar to Blagojevich.

Nancy Pelosi's trip to Europe is also on the radar this week. The speaker of the House has led a Democratic delegation to Italy. Guess what, you paid the freight. Our Drew Griffin has been watching and trying to keep track.

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DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So what's the cost of her Italian trip to the taxpayers back home? We won't know yet. Congress gives its traveling members several weeks to file their expenses, to tell us what hotels they stayed in, to tell us who took their spouses or staff. But the government-owned Boeing executive jet doesn't fly cheap, about $10,000 an hour, according to the Air Force. Twenty hours flying between Washington and Italy adds up to about $200,000.

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PHILLIPS: We asked Nancy Pelosi to join us today talk to talk about this. Her office says that her travel schedule just wouldn't permit it.

Do you know someone who suffers domestic abuse? Are you a victim yourself? More and more people are answering yes these days and we want to help. And yes, there is help out there.

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PHILLIPS: It's a chilling photo involving a story that's getting tons of buzz and reflecting a growing crisis. But we're not going to show it to you. And I'll tell you why in just a moment. LA police are trying to find out who leaked a picture that apparently shows singer Rihanna bruised and battered after an alleged attack by her boyfriend, the singer Chris Brown. It showed up on a celebrity website and you can choose to see the photo at any time. We're just choosing not to show it to you. And here's why.

The face on that photo is one of millions of battered faces. Men and women, all races, all classes, all victims. We can't show you all their faces, but we can push this story forward and try to help you heal the scars. Let's get past the headlines and straight to the heart of domestic abuse. At the bottom of the screen we're showing numbers for the National Domestic Violence Hotline where you can report abuse or get help. Also here to help, our guest, Sheryl Cates, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline which has taken millions of calls. Good to see you, Cheryl.

SHERYL CATES, NATL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE: Thank you for having us.

PHILLIPS: And I understand that since you started this hotline, you've received about two million calls. And those numbers have actually tripled, is that right, since you began this hotline? Correct me if I'm wrong. And then tell me, I see, it's the number of calls per year have nearly tripled since the hotline started.

CATES: That's correct.

PHILLIPS: Are people feeling more empowered to call? Or is abuse against women on the rise?

CATES: I think it's both. I think that there is violence that's on the rise and I also believe that people are feeling more comfortable about calling. They want to see a solution before something deadly happens.

PHILLIPS: And so if I were to call that number, take me through the process. What happens?

CATES: When you call, a live voice will answer the line. And they're going to ask you, it's a National Domestic Violence Hotline, can I help you. And then they're going to take you through a series of process in terms of tell us more about what's happened. How can we help? They're going to be a good listening and supportive ear. They're going to talk about options and opportunities. They're going to talk about a safety plan to make sure that you're safe and secure. And if you're choosing to stay with your partner, what does that mean for you and how can we help you be safe in your home at all times, as safe as you can be when domestic violence is present.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about that for a minute because when we talk about that safety net, you and I know very well that these restraining orders most of the time don't even work. Many of these men stalk women and continue to beat them time and time again. They go to jail. They get out of jail. I mean, it's like a never-ending process. Many of these women end up dead.

CATES: That's correct. That is true and it's unfortunate. But I also believe that those protective orders and orders of protections across the country are necessary. Because for some, it does matter that the law has said you're not to come within 200 feet or you're not to come within a certain amount of length of her. It does help them to have a boundary around her. Now, it is just paper. Obviously a knife, a gun, any of those kinds of weapons that are used can continue to kill, even with this piece of paper. But it does help feel like there is more protection. People around her, in terms of schools, or even if it's a man, if they're using a protective order, it does give those people who at work more protection, potentially at school for their children more protection and for this person in the neighborhood.

PHILLIPS: What's the percentage of men that call in? Obviously it's not just women calling in about abuse, but men, too.

CATES: We have four percent of men who call who say they are victims.

PHILLIPS: Wow. Now, how do we empower women today? Instead of talking about men trying to get in the mindset of men and why they do this, or women and why they do it to men, how can we empower women by our conversation today that maybe struggling with the same think Rihanna has been struggling with and millions of other women struggle with it?

CATES: I think empowerment comes from understanding about having a good relationship, a healthy relationship and what does that look like and what can they do when arming them with what do you do when a bad situation begins to happen. I believe in the situation with Rihanna and Chris, that while this may be the first time a violent situation happened physically, I think that there has been probably verbal abuse in this relationship before this time period. So there are indicators and precursors to violence. I think knowing what those are can help women feel empowered and say at any point, this feels uncomfortable. This feels like I'm being harmed or that I'm not being supported. Those types of things, they can lead them to believe that, you know, this relationship isn't good for me and I would like to get some help. Or I want to tell a friend about what's happening or to call the 1-800-799-safe and just say this is what's happening in my relationship, and I would like to know what to do.

PHILLIPS: Sheryl Cates, appreciate your time, your effort of course and all your advice. Thank you so much Sheryl.

CATES: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: And I want to reiterate that number once again, the domestic violence hotline number. It's 1-800-799-safe, also, 1-800- 787-3224.

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PHILLIPS: A startling statistic. One in three homeless adults in America is a veteran. And today we introduce you to a man who is tackling that problem head on. He's our first CNN hero of 2009. As you'll see, he brings new meaning to the military mantra, leave no man behind.

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RAY FOSTER, CNN HERO: I actually joined the army right out of high school. I became introduced to alcohol once I was out. It was just simply drinking and drugging. And I would then stay in the streets. I was looking for a safe haven. The places that I was introduced to were no better than on the street. It was humiliating. That's when the commitment in my heart was born. How can I turn my back and walk away and leave you right here? I can't. Nationwide veterans are neglected, homeless, unacceptable.

What branch of service?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Army.

FOSTER: Army? So was I. We are (INAUDIBLE) brothers in arms, so no man left behind. My name is Roy Foster. And my mission is to help and empower homeless veterans. If you're going to work for sobriety, you've got to change. (INAUDIBLE) house provides services for veterans only, a safe, clean place to live, all the meals. To have services, the camaraderie is that internal glue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I got back from Iraq, it was difficult for me until I met Mr. Foster who helped me.

FOSTER: You tell him, one of his brothers in arms came out looking for him and let him know, we will be back. They are the best and they deserve it. What I do, I love. I love it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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PHILLIPS: That does it for us. Have a great weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday. Rick Sanchez takes it from here.