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Republicans Have Struggled in Obama's First 100 Days; Chrysler Could Declare Bankruptcy Today; WHO Warns of Imminent Pandemic; President Obama Evaluates First 100 Days

Aired April 30, 2009 - 07:58   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I guess the Democrats will control the House, the executive. And with Franken, they will have a filibuster proof in the Senate. They haven't had that much power since the beginning of Jimmy Carter's presidency and, man! That went great. That was a juggernaut of progress! I wonder what country is going to take us hostage?

Specter made his announcement yesterday and so it is with great pleasure that I announce the ceremonial changing of the party designation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

Right now, Democrats have visions of a 60-vote, supermajority in the Senate. Arlen Specter, a long time Republican now switching sides, and Al Franken poised to become the 60th Senate Democrat if Minnesota's highest court holds up his victory.

Still, the president insists that he won't be steamrolling anyone any time soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am under no illusions that, suddenly, I'm going to have a rubber-stamp Senate. I've got Democrats who don't agree with me on everything, and that is how it should be.

Congress is a coequal branch of government. Every senator who is there, whether I agree with them or disagree with them, I think truly believes that they are doing their absolute best to represent their constituencies.

And we've got regional differences, and we've got some parts of the country that are affected differently by certain policies. And those have to be respected, and there is going to have to be compromise and give and take on all of these issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Still, most experts agree that the president is sitting pretty right now. He is popular, and his party appears to be growing even more powerful.

So, what is a Republican to do these days? Our Carol Costello taking a look at the latest setback for the minority party.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, most analysts say the Republican Party is adrift and the first 100 days of the Obama presidency hasn't helped, it's hurt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): The first 100 days have been pretty darn good for President Barack Obama and pretty darn bad for Republicans. The GOP has seen its party move from a minority party to an opposition party. As Democrats like to advertise, it's become the party of no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are the party of Dr. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We only have 41 people in the Senate.

COSTELLO: Analysts say that that is all Republicans could really do.

With Senator Arlen Specter switching from "R" to "D," Republicans can't outvote or even filibuster the Democrats. They could only oppose by saying no.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Are things great for Republicans right now? No. American politics goes in cycles. This is a nay year for Republicans, but history suggests that you don't stay long in the nay year and that we will come back.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It doesn't matter.

COSTELLO: The Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh agrees, asserting everyone is drunk on Obama-ism right now.

LIMBAUGH: It's amazing to watch this! You would think if you want to drive by media and even listen to a bunch of so-called Republicans today, that there is no more Republican Party!

COSTELLO: There is still a Republican Party, and it has tried to be relevant in these first 100 days.

January 28th, House Republicans unite to vote no on the president's stimulus package.

February 28th, Rush Limbaugh energizes the conservative base by making a wish.

LIMBAUGH: I want Barack Obama to fail!

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Stuff happens.

COSTELLO: March 19th, Dick Cheney reappears on TV talk shows to criticize Obama's policies.

March 26th, Republicans offer up a budget of their own.

And on April 15th, conservative "tea parties" protest Democratic tax policy.

But none of this seems to have resonated. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, only 31 percent approve of how congressional Republicans have conducted themselves, and that's a 13- point drop since February.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Ayers, the Republican pollster, told me that means the Republicans have to move forward, move beyond Ronald Reagan, move beyond Rush Limbaugh and become what the party really is. It's a party right of center, not a right party -- John, Kiran.

ROBERTS: All right. And we're crossing the top of the hour now.

Thanks very much for being with us on this Thursday, April the 30th. I'm John Roberts.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kiran Chetry.

It's one minute after the hour.

And we're going to check what's on the agenda this morning. Stories we're going to be breaking down for you in the next fifteen minutes.

There's a bankruptcy filing by Chrysler that could be a done deal. Published reports are saying that talks to the government and Chrysler's lenders have broken off. And that the automaker is expected to file for Chapter 11 protection today.

Right now, more people are becoming ill with the swine flu. The latest six new confirmed cases now in Spain. That brings a worldwide count to 154. Here in the U.S., the virus which is also known as the H1N1 virus has been confirmed in 10 states, forcing entire school districts in Texas and Alabama to shut down.

Executive optimism. President Obama says they're off to a good start, but much more needs to be done to roll back the recession. The president addressed the economy and other critical issues facing the country in a prime-time news conference. It marks his 100th day in office, and we're bringing you highlights of it throughout the hour.

And now to breaking news out of Detroit. Chrysler facing a major speed bump on the road to recovery. "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" quoting sources this morning saying that lenders broke off talks with the Treasury Department on forgiving nearly $7 billion in Chrysler's debt. CNN is working to confirm that right now. The automaker could file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection as early as today.

But a deal with the union is still keeping Chrysler on life support this morning, and Christine Romans is following all of this for us.

It's really coming down to the wire right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It really is. And here's what we know. We know that Chrysler is on the verge of bankruptcy. We know that a lot of people close to the situation are expecting a bankruptcy filing today. We know that the administration has said this company will survive. But will it survive after it moves through bankruptcy? That is the question here.

The problem seems to be the credit -- the creditors of this, the bondholders of this company. We know that some of the major creditors have agreed to take less than they are owed in return for allowing this company to restructure. But it appears through various news reports that some other creditors, hedge funds and the like, do not want to take some 68 percent less than they are owed.

Perhaps thinking that in a bankruptcy situation, they would get more or even in the liquidation of this company, they might be able to get more. We also know that the union has already agreed on its own concessions. This is what the union -- UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has said about the concessions that they have agreed to.

"This has been a challenging time filled with anxiety and uncertainty for our membership. Our members have responded by accepting an agreement that is painful for our active and retired workers, but which helps preserve U.S. manufacturing jobs and gives Chrysler a chance to survive."

Now you'll recall that the United States government, this administration said for Chrysler to survive there were three things that had to be met. It had to do a deal with FIAT, it had to get concessions from its unions, and from its bondholders, its creditors. The creditors part of this -- this is not done yet. But we know that FIAT has been along the way with all of these negotiations. And there are those who are saying they expect a FIAT deal to be done with Chrysler, with or without a bankruptcy filing, some time today.

CHETRY: All right. So we have parties saying that Chrysler will survive. Chrysler will survive. How?

ROMANS: It won't survive the way it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago. 39,000 employees in this company. Sixty percent less than even a decade ago.

But the difference here. What they are fighting for now is to avoid the liquidation of this company. Imagine, the wholesale liquidation and destruction of Chrysler. This administration has said that it's going to try to avoid that. If they can get the bankruptcy filing today, if they can try to get the creditors on board then more money comes to Chrysler so that it can try to survive here in the near term.

ROBERTS: Still pretty stunning as they're dealing with bankruptcy.

ROMANS: It really is. And look, this is changing minute-by- minute. I'll be honest with you. A lot of the different parties are still negotiating. This is brinksmanship -- real brinksmanship happening right now.

ROBERTS: You're on top of it all for us this morning. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: Sure.

ROBERTS: The president also weighing in on the Chrysler situation.

Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux joins us now.

What did the president have to say about it?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of frustration, really, at this point. The auto task force as Christine had mentioned, they've been involved in these negotiations.

Over the last 48 hours, we've actually heard the president say different things. If you listen to his language carefully, he was a lot more optimistic saying that he was hopeful, perhaps a deal would be done. We heard last night, however, that they're just talking about resolving this thing quickly.

I mean, he says that he wants to get the government involved in big ticket items here when you talk about health care, the economy, that type of thing. This is something that they do not want to be involved in in the long term.

I want you to take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I don't want to run auto companies. I don't want to run banks. I've got two wars I've got to run already. I've got more than enough to do. So the sooner we can get out of that business, the better off we're going to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: It's just not -- they don't want to be involved in this. I mean, obviously, they want to make sure that they are solvent, but this is not something that he signed up for.

This is something that was presented to them. They decided, OK, we have to in order for the economy to survive to get involved, but they're hoping that this wraps up quickly at least within weeks or so.

ROBERTS: You know, if you're the president, you're the CEO of the government. You don't want to be CEO of everything else, too.

MALVEAUX: Right.

ROBERTS: Very different kind of press conference we've seen in the past last night.

MALVEAUX: Yes.

ROBERTS: It was pretty interesting.

MALVEAUX: We talked about that, because, really, under President Bush, there was a sense of, you know, he was the gut guy, you know? He used his gut to make his decisions, and like it or not, this was something that, you know, he was going to lead the government, lead the people in this way.

There was a moment in the press conference when he was asked to reflect, President Obama. And he really seemed to relish in it. I want you to listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF ZELENY, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most about serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?

OBAMA: Now let me write this down.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I've got...

ZELENY: Surprised, troubled...

OBAMA: I've got -- what was the first one?

ZELENY: Surprised.

OBAMA: Surprised.

ZELENY: Troubled.

OBAMA: Troubled.

ZELENY: Enchanted.

OBAMA: Enchanted, nice.

(LAUGHTER)

ZELENY: And humbled. OBAMA: I am surprised compared to where I started, when we first announced for this race, by the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time.

Troubled? I'd say less troubled, but, you know, sobered by the fact that change in Washington comes slow. That there is still a certain quotient of political posturing and bickering that takes place even when we're in the middle of really big crises.

Enchanted? When I -- when I meet our servicemen and -women, enchanted is probably not the word I would use.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: But I am so profoundly impressed and grateful to them for what they do.

Humbled by the fact that the presidency is extraordinarily powerful, but we are just part of a much broader tapestry of American life, and there are a lot of different power centers. And so I can't just press a button and suddenly have the bankers do exactly what I want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And, you know, that's -- it's one of those moments, where as a journalist, you love it, because he's off his talking points. That's what you want to see. You want to see the president just being thoughtful and reflecting, and that was really a moment that we saw there.

And I know, you and I talked about before where under President Bush, he was asked about mistakes and kind of thought President Bush off of his game.

You want to see the president thinking and not so much kind of that can way that we often see with the speeches and sometimes the teleprompter that he uses.

CHETRY: Yes. Teleprompter at the beginning, and then all of the questions were, you know, just off the cuff -- answered off the cuff. But President Bush moment was very interesting because he was -- he just was silent.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Well, he's silent for a second, and then he said, I can't think of any mistakes I've made, and then moved on.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: And then moved on.

ROBERTS: Yes.

MALVEAUX: Yes. Well, you know -- I mean, you get the sense that he really does want to talk about how he's making his decisions, why he makes the decisions he does and get off -- get off the teleprompter.

ROBERTS: It was very interesting to see.

Suzanne, thanks so much for that.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

CHETRY: Well, there's some new developments and no nonsense warning in the mysterious swine flu outbreak. Spreading now from person-to-person at an alarming rate for health officials. So now the World Health Organization raising its threat assessment to five on a scale as high as six, calling it a pandemic imminent at this point.

This morning, the virus also known as H1N1 is reported in at least 10 states. Uncertainty about this flu impacting thousands of school children. More than 100 schools right now are closed, and that includes all of the public schools in Fort Worth, Texas and in the Madison County School District in Alabama.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now from Mexico City this morning. This was ground zero of where they believe this virus started.

And so put this into perspective when you hear from the World Health Organization saying that, you know, humanity is at risk.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there's all sorts of different levels when it comes to this pandemic scaling. It is -- it is sort of frightening to hear words like that, but what it means more specifically is that there is sustained human-to-human transmission. You know, the virus, it can spread from one human to the next, and that's in at least two countries in one region of the world. That means those two countries, as you know, Kiran, the United States and Mexico.

If you look at pandemic preparedness plans, though, and really drill down on the language, more than that, what this means is sort of a call to action to everyone, at the country level all the way down to the individual level, reminding people that this is the time for the highest surveillance of all, to diagnose people as early as possible to get them treated and to practice the best infection control, which is probably going to be the name of the game in the end.

I think it's worth pointing out when you're talking about this sort of pandemic overall, what they're really talking about is scope -- the widespread infection, how widespread could they become. They're talking less about severity.

I think that's a really important point because, as you know, Kiran, here in Mexico, there have been deaths associated with the H1N1 or swine flu. Where you are, in the United States, there's been one death, but, for the most part, it's been mild illnesses. So could this be a lot of infections, a lot of mild illnesses around the world or be more severe than that? We just don't know right now. CHETRY: Yes. And what do we know about whether it gets up to level 6 looking forward? I mean, you know, they're giving various assessments of how fast they think it's going to spread. It seems that every time we look at the wires, we get another update, another country, another county.

GUPTA: Right, right. Well, so, with the level five, it means that there are two countries in one region of the world. For level six, it means you have to have one more country in a different region of the world.

I think that's going to happen. We're going to -- we're going to have evidence of human-to-human transmission that is sustained in some other country that's not in the Americas and then we're going to be at level six. That's the way that works.

But, again, I think it's -- there's still a lot of countries that may not be affected at all by that. So keep that in perspective. But, you know, that is sort of how a pandemic develops. But we didn't have a real pandemic preparedness plan before avian flu. So this whole thing is really over the last five years.

And, again, it's this idea that we have better anti-virals. We have hospitals that can take care of these patients. We have plans to prevent. We put all these things together. We can really stand the tide here, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay for us this morning. And, by the way, you're Twittering all morning from Mexico City. A lot of questions people are still asking about the swine flu and Dr. Gupta will be able to answer them for you. So you can join the conversation, Twitter.com/AMFIX.

ROBERTS: One hundred days and beyond, how well has the president done? And as the "National Review" puts it, what fresh hell awaits in the next 100 days? Well, the sharpest political minds will talk about that.

And how President Obama's popularity could wind up hurting him politically?

It's 13 minutes after the hour.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": President Barack Obama took an hour of TV time to address the American people. However, the Fox Network didn't air it. They aired their regular program, "Lie to Me," which I believe would be the name of the Republican response.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. As we kick off President Obama's next 100 days, the president says he's proud of what his administration has accomplished so far, but there's much more to do. So what's ahead? And can he really succeed without Republicans on his side?

Joining us now from New Orleans is James Carville, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor. And here in New York, Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins.

So the president said last night we're off to a good start. Ed, do you agree?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure. I think he's off to a good start. And no one is saying this is a lightweight guy. Everybody is saying this is a very confident man. I may totally disagree with his domestic policy, but that doesn't mean it's not a good one and that doesn't mean he can't get votes to move it forward.

ROBERTS: All right. James, obviously, you believe that he's off to a good start. So let's take it to the next level here. "The New Republics" got an interesting article out today in which it said -- in an interesting headline it says, "For the Next 100 Days, What Fresh Hell Awaits?"

What potential pitfalls do you think there are down the line here as we head into the second 100 days, James?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, we're starting out with this -- with this flu thing, which could be, you know, really bad. Hopefully, it will be a really -- rather mild version of it as Dr. Gupta was saying.

I mean, who knows. The economy is still not doing very well. The GDP numbers were horrible. And a lot of economists saying there were some good numbers on the line there, but who knows. And, you know, it's a dangerous world out there. If I knew what's coming up in the next 100 days, I probably wouldn't be sitting here in New Orleans. I would be somewhere else. But all I know, I think "The New Republic" is right -- fresh hell is on the way.

ROBERTS: Right.

And, Ed, what do you -- do you see any potholes out there?

ROLLINS: Well, the potholes, obviously. I mean, they've completed a budget blueprint. They now have to go build the details. Sort of like the architect has given you the preliminary drawings, now you got to start the construction project, lay the foundation and start making it come within the cost of the resources that you have. It's hard sledding. There's a big legislative agenda here.

Plus, you've got the complication of two wars. You've got the complication of, you know, of uprisings in Pakistan and more murders going on daily in Iraq, where we are hopefully going to get out of there (INAUDIBLE). ROBERTS: He keeps mentioning health care as a way to really kind of reduce the deficits and help to bolster, you know, the overall position of the government in terms of its financial status.

James, do you see a full-court press on health care coming down the pike, and what form do you think it will take?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, that's where the money is. I mean, it's -- you know, it's always a sudden thing. You know, that's why you rob banks because that's where the money is.

If they're trying to, you know, contract this deficit, you know, real money spent on health care in this country, I imagine they're looking at every way to try to get some efficiencies in the system as a way to save money because -- and it's going to continue to grow and grow. So, I suspect there's going to be a pretty big push there. I mean, there's going to have to be.

ROBERTS: Yes. Ed, if they get the 60-vote super majority in the Senate, do you see that they might be able to really kind of ram through his version of health care? Will the Republicans have any way to try to tamper that?

ROLLINS: The fight is not among Republicans anymore. The fight is going to be among Democrats. We still have a trillion dollar shortfall on his plans over the next decade. There's a lot of conservative Democrats who basically aren't 100 percent satisfied with the plans that are out there.

So, there's going to be some real pushing and shoving there.

ROBERTS: Yes.

ROLLINS: The problem, until you get about 90 senators who will vote for you on any given day, it's always a battle. Sixty is a lot easier to deal with than 40, but at the end of the day, he still -- he still got a coalition out of his own group. There maybe some Republicans if they're brought into the tent to help, but at the end of the day, I'm not sure.

ROBERTS: There was that question that the president was asked last night by Jeff Zeleny -- what's surprised you, what's troubled you, what's enchanted you, what's surprised you -- however it was asked. Here's part of what the president said in response to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I can't just press a button and, suddenly, have the bankers do exactly what I want. Or, you know, turn on a switch and, suddenly, you know, Congress falls in line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That was in response to the "What's humbled you?" part. And, James, you know, as we said, he's got the 60-vote supermajority that he may have, but, at the same time, Speaker Pelosi and Senate leader Reid have got their own agendas.

Do you think now that they can get legislation through that they want, that this Democratic Congress may become a problem for the president?

CARVILLE: Well, sure. And not only do they have their own agenda, they have the agendas of the members which is a pretty diverse group. And I think he moved into the White House and you have, you know, his huge plan and all of people were working for -- in this instance, a public that really has a lot of confidence in him.

But the reality of the system is, is that the president's power sometimes is limited and he's got to get people go along. And I think much to this president's credit, he recognizes that and he knows that he's got to work really hard on that, and it's not -- nothing ever comes easy in Washington, no matter who the president is or what he is trying to accomplish. And I think he's found that out.

ROBERTS: Well, we're off and running in the next 1,360 days. So, we'll see how it goes.

James Carville, Ed Rollins, always good to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning.

CARVILLE: Thank you.

ROLLINS: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Kiran?

CHETRY: So after 100 days in the White House, the president remains very popular. How that popularity could become a political liability in the next 100 days.

It's 20 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning.

One of the big challenges facing President Obama over the next 100 days will be turning his popularity into political leverage. Some say that the honeymoon could be nearing an end if he doesn't start delivering on some key campaign promises.

Alina Cho now with the potential pitfalls of being popular.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Kiran. Good morning.

You know, people want to know, is my life any better? They're going to start asking that question.

Good morning, everybody.

You know, "The Wall Street Journal" is actually out with a poll that says the president himself is more popular than his policies. Now that's great when you're new, but after 100 days, Mr. Obama isn't so new anymore, and eventually, being popular could be problematic. If he's not able to push his agenda.

So how do you turn popularity into action?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (voice-over): He's courtside on basketball games, on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and lately he is all about the dog. If a president's first 100 days are about style, the next 100 will be about substance says Larry Sabato, author of the new book, "The Year of Obama."

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Over time, reality will impinge upon style. After all, the economy is still in terrible shape. Unemployment is rising. Lots of other economic indicators are still in the dumpster.

CHO: Sabato says eventually Americans will start asking the same question Ronald Reagan did during his presidential campaign.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

CHO: So how does President Obama turn popularity into action? Some say follow Reagan's playbook. He was popular even when his policies weren't, says body language expert T.J. Walker.

T.J. WALKER, AUTHOR, "SECRET OF FOOLPROOF PRESENTATIONS": Barack Obama is using the same skills for the same means. He is getting Republicans and conservatives who might normally oppose him automatically to at least respect him.

CHO: Presidential historian Doug Brinkley says the president can also had luck. Most recently, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican turned Democrat.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, RICE UNIVERSITY: Having a 60 filibuster-proof majority, very powerful tool for Barack Obama. He is now entering what Lyndon Johnson had, an ability to just put programs through.

CHO: The question is what kinds of programs?

BRINKLEY: You start feeling, you know what? Maybe this is a revolutionary moment in America. Maybe I am supposed to do the big change, not little incremental changes, and he is hovering on that right now.

CHO: One potential weakness, Brinkley says, the president hates conflict, and Brinkley says in order to be effective, you have to be tough.

BRINKLEY: Eventually, if things get bad, it's going to be a weakness in his armor, because the flood from the Republicans against him could overwhelm him at some point if he doesn't show a little more strength of character. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: And then there are those who criticize the president for being overexposed.

All of those interviews, on the cover of "People." He's seemingly everywhere. One analyst said presidents ought to remember what parents already know. Parents and presidents are not supposed to be pals with their children or with their constituents. There's got to be some distance there, he says. That encourages respect for the office and for the person.

And Kiran, Larry Sabato says Reagan as an actor knew he had to step off the stage, if you will, from time to time. He knew the American public needed a break from him as much as he needed a break from work.

Others argue Obama is doing exactly what he should be doing. He is being transparent after what some call eight years of an administration that was not transparent.

So, it depends on where you stand on the issue.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly.

All right. Alina, thanks so much.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: John?

ROBERTS: The swine flu threat raised again. Brand-new outbreaks reported. Entire school districts are closed here at home. We'll talk to an infectious disease expert to find out just how serious the situation is.

And she is the mom-in-chief, and she's marking her first 100 days in the White House, too.

See how the first lady's image changed over that time. And what it did for her approval ratings.

It's coming up on 27 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Coming up on the half hour. Checking our top stories now.

Breaking news out of Detroit this morning, where talks between Chrysler's lenders and the Treasury Department have reportedly broken down. That could mean a bankruptcy announcement from Chrysler later on today.

And Mexican police have arrested the suspected founder and leader of a brutal gang of drug traffickers know as the Zetas. The leader, who was a former police officer, was taken into custody at a home just across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

CHETRY: First, though, the swine flu outbreak. And this morning, more people are sick and there are more concerns after the World Health Organization raised its alert level to five. That's the second highest warning level. It also means a worldwide pandemic is imminent. Global health officials are also urging all countries to take action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MARGARET CHAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans. Countries should remain on high alert for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia. It really is all of humanity that is under threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: Dr. Michael Osterholm is the director for the Centers of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and the school of public health and he joins me from Minneapolis this morning.

Good morning, doctor. Thanks for being with us.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTERS OF INFECTION DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY: Good morning to you.

CHETRY: So we just heard from the World Health Organization director there saying that all of humanity is under threat from this possible pandemic. So for people watching at home now and wondering are we in greater danger of getting this disease, what do you say to them?

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, we've been through a period of the past seven days where it appears that we've gone from a Mexican outbreak to one now that the World Health Organization surely threatens the world.

I think for many of us, we saw all along early in the week that with the spread that was occurring in countries around the world that this could happen. I think the important message here is that while we keep hearing it is imminent, it may be imminent.

I think that word may is very important. We still don't know yet what this virus is still going to do.

CHETRY: And you know it's interesting. Because you talked about this worldwide potential for a pandemic. At the same time, it's these countries that are responsible for protecting their citizens and it's these smaller municipalities that are responsible for protecting their people. And there have been calls now to close the border with Mexico to help stop the spread of the virus.

Texas Governor Rick Perry saying it's an option. Last night that we heard from President Obama who said it was not necessary, that it would be really like closing the barn door after the horses are out. So should the federal government reconsider that stance of closing off the borders until we get a handle on this?

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, I approach this issue as a public health professional. My job is to contain it, if possible. If you can't contain it, try to mitigate it where it's at. And I applaud this administration for letting the science directly where we're going, not the politics.

Closing borders right now, would not only not contain the virus but it would actually be counterproductive. For in this country, we have many products that come from Mexico that are critical to our everyday lives. The things that connect you to mechanical ventilators and hospitals are in short supply today. They are mostly made in Mexico. I can go through a laundry list of issues. If we close the borders I can guarantee there will be tremendous collateral damage in this country.

So I think that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I think what the administration is absolutely right and we got to avoid the politics in this situation.

CHETRY: Officials are also closing schools, canceling sporting events in areas that have been hit by swine flu. How much do those measures help?

OSTERHOLM: In that case, that is what we call mitigation as opposed to containment. I mean, it's here, it's already leaked out of Mexico. It's around the world. What we want to do is when it gets to a location, whether it's New York or Minneapolis or anywhere else, we want to try to slow the spread down as much as we can.

And those kinds of things are actually very productive. And so therefore, we support aggressive actions at the local and federal level to try to slow down the spread. But let's just forget about the idea that we're going to contain it.

CHETRY: All right. And then quickly, it seems to be impacting some of the healthiest members of our society. Do you have any theories as to why that is happening?

OSTERHOLM: You know, it's really early and as you heard from Dr. Besser earlier in your show this morning, we still have a lot of questions we have to answer. We don't know what this virus will do over time. It may be that this will remain mild, fizzle, go away, it may be around for a while and get more severe. We don't know but the world has to know that we have to be concerned. No panic, no complacency but we got to be very concerned.

CHETRY: All right. Dr. Michael Osterholm, thank you this morning.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you very much.

CHETRY: We also have Dr. Gupta. He is on twitter again taking your questions about swine flu and how to protect yourself. You can join the conversation on twitter.com/amfix.

ROBERTS: By the way, a little programming note here. The Centers for Disease Control will be holding a press conference at 11:30 Eastern time this morning. We will, of course, carry that for you here on CNN and CNN.com/live.

Some key economic reports are out this morning including those all important weekly jobless numbers. We are breaking them down for you and tell you what they suggests about the health of the economy. Christine Romans will be here in just a minute or so. 34 minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Just in to CNN this morning. The latest numbers on jobless claims as well as personal income and spending that came out just moments ago. And our Christine Romans is "Minding your Business" with all that. Good morning.

ROMANS: It's still tracking Chrysler and whether there could possibly be a bankruptcy filing there, and also ExxonMobil, earnings a lot going on in the business world. Good morning, everybody.

I know, there's a lot happening in the economy, I'm afraid.

And let's talk first about jobless claims. It fell a little bit from the previous week so slightly fewer people lining up for the first time for unemployment benefits but cold comfort really, because you still have a record number of people continuing to collect unemployment benefits. And that is something that is expected to continue.

There are a lot of folks who are losing their job and it's taking longer to get a job. So those numbers are consistent with what we have seen. Now, also from the Bureau of economic analysis, we just got a personal income and spending numbers and no surprise really there as well that people, your incomes went down about 0.3 of a percent in the month and your spending went down about 0.2 of a percent.

If you're not bringing it in, it makes it harder to spend it if you can't put it on the credit cards or get money out of your house to do so.

ROBERTS: And even those who have it are spending less, right?

ROMANS: Even those who have, even those who can spend it are spending a little bit less because they are a bit more frugal and prudent. And what we've been trying to figure out, given the stability in this economy are people starting to spend a little bit of money. We might want to see that before those glimmers of hope turn into something more.

And we're just kind of waiting for that to...

CHETRY: And possibly getting laid off, they probably will not spend big ticket items.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

ROMANS: That's right. If you've just been laid off you certainly aren't going to spend on the big ticket things. Also, those Exxon Mobil earnings, you know, very big number if you look at a $4.6 billion they made. But that's down more than half more than a year ago.

You see the oil prices because of demand weakening and also still working the Chrysler story. Folks, people still expecting there could be a Chrysler bankruptcy filing some time today. It's the deadline. There's a lot of kind of maneuvering going on behind the scenes. So we'll keep you posted on what is happening with Chrysler or what it means for your credit or for job or your pension.

ROBERTS: Good to have you on the case.

ROMANS: Sure.

CHETRY: Thanks. Well, the government now says that more than 13 million Americans are out of work and when industries pull out of town, entire communities can face financial disaster. Some families though are determined to cope. Our personal finance editor Gerri Willis has today's report on our ongoing series "Money & Main Street."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH MURDOCK, UNEMPLOYED: My job search goes up to about three pages (ph) already.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR (voice-over): Like most parents, Vickie and Keith Murdock worry about providing for their family. Keith is unemployed, on his second layoff in eight years.

K. MURDOCK: Everybody you talk to, well, we we're not hiring, you know. We ain't got nothing open right now.

WILLIS: Vickie and Keith met at a textile mill nearly 20 years ago in tiny Spruce Pine, North Carolina, but Keith was laid off when the mill closed in 2001, and Vickie lost another job in 2006 when furniture maker Ethan Allen closed its plant here. Their situation is not unusual in this area.

(on camera): Looks like lentils maybe...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Salad dressing..

WILLIS: Oranges, canned fruits.

(voice-over): Workers at Shepherd's Staff (ph) food pantry say they are seeing three times as many clients as they did just last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, I would say we're barely keeping up.

WILLIS: The community has lost more than 2,000 jobs in the last six years. Major industries, textile, mining, furniture have left the area. But residents are hoping new businesses will help. A growing crafts and tourism industry is adding jobs.

And the town is hoping to attract retirees looking for second homes. Vickie and Keith both did the right thing. Keith went back to school and retrained for a job as an auto body mechanic. Vickie retrained, too. She'll graduate as a certified medical assistant in May. But retraining doesn't necessarily guarantee long-term employment.

K. MURDOCK: I heard of a place coming in in Bernsen (ph). And I got a job with them, and I loved it and then here just recently, I've got laid off from it in January.

WILLIS: In the meantime, Keith and Vickie keep their spirits up.

VICKIE MURDOCK, UNEMPLOYED: When we get to worrying, how are we going to pay for this, it's like the Lord makes a way.

WILLIS: They're hopeful that they'll find new jobs soon and keep their family afloat.

Gerri Willis, CNN, Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Tough times out there. Your questions about swine flu getting real answers. Our Dr. Gupta is on twitter this morning, live from the epicenter in Mexico City. We'll be talking to him coming up next. Forty-one and a half minutes now after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Just in to CNN right now, some remarks from Vice President Joe Biden. He appeared on another morning show today saying that he'd be hesitant to fly in a plane or take the subway right now because of the swine flu outbreak. He made them earlier on NBC's "Today" show. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would tell members of my family -- and I have -- I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not that it's going to Mexico, it's you're in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me.

I would not be, at this point, if I -- if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway. So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft or closed container, or closed car or closed classroom, it's a different thing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So the question was would you fly to Mexico...

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: But he seemed to broaden it out to say I wouldn't fly anywhere and be careful about taking the subway and things like that.

CHETRY: That's right.

ROBERTS: It seems to be a little off of the administration's talking points.

CHETRY: That's right. Our Jeanne Meserve noted as well that they have been paying enormous attention to really what they are saying, because they -- and as we heard from the president, there is a fine line between caution and panic.

And so, we'll see how these comments play. But he seemed to be saying that he wouldn't go in an airplane. He wouldn't go the subway.

ROBERTS: He wouldn't go anywhere in an airplane, he said. We'll keep watching this and see if there is a clarification coming down the line here.

And seeing what the swine flu outbreak leaving a lot of people with more questions than answers, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is turning to twitter this morning and digging into his mailbag for some questions on the swine flu virus.

And Sanjay, let me, first of all, before we actually get into these questions, ask you what Vice President Biden said there about not going anywhere in a confined space, does that sound a little like overkill?

GUPTA: Yes, I think that's a little different than the message we're hearing from just about everyone else from the Infectious Disease Societies to the administration, other parts of the administration, I should say.

There have been, you know, there are specific protocols in this sort of thing. If you are around someone who has a known infection, you know, you want to try and keep your distance. That what this whole isolation is about, wash your hands so you're not picking up the virus, inanimate objects. But there has been no specific sort of recommendations that people not fly in airplanes or things like that. So, it was a little different, certainly, than what I've been hearing.

ROBERTS: Right. We got a question in here: "My wife is 11 weeks pregnant. In light of the swine flu epidemic, what precautions should we be taking at this point?"

GUPTA: That's a great question. And you know, there's a couple of things that we know. We know women who are pregnant are at greater risk for flu complications from seasonal flu, for example, which is why pregnant women are recommended they get their flu shot. They're sort of at the top of the list of people who should get their flu shot. The problem is, as we know, there's no swine flu shot right now.

So, there's no option, really, in terms of a vaccine like that for your wife. What the infectious disease societies such as the CDC will recommend is that if you get sick or if you're around people who have either confirmed swine flu or suspected swine flu, talk to your doctor, obviously, but they are probably going to recommend that you take anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu. You are at increased risk from the flu and from flu-like complications. So, Tamiflu is something you may want to talk to your doctor about.

ROBERTS: Yes, what about Tamiflu while you're pregnant?

GUPTA: There's certain medications you can't do, and Tamiflu is one of the ones that has a relatively how incidence of birth problems or birth defect.

ROBERTS: OK. We got another question here. This one comes from curious1966, who wants to know if 30,000 people die each year from the traditional flue, the seasonal flu, why should we be so concerned about this newest type of flu?

GUPTA: Well, that's a great question. and there is just a couple of things. One is that this is a virus that the world has never seen before. What happens is we live our lives just simply being here or anywhere, you start to build up a certain amount of immunity in your body.

You get the flu shot that adds a little bit more immunity and when there's something that's brand-new is introduced, we just don't have an immunity to it and we don't know how our bodies are going to behave, whether they are going to have a vigorous reaction to it, no reaction at all or could it overwhelm our bodies.

That is sort of the big concern here. And also just how this is behaving, you know. Obviously, we're talking about a static point in time which is right now. What we really want to know what is this going to look like a few months from now and maybe even several months from now. Traditionally speaking, John, over the summer months, the transmission of a virus like this is likely to go down. Viruses just don't spread well in the summer but we got to be extra vigilant come fall and winter, John.

ROBERTS: Dr. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning, from Mexico City. Doc, it's always great to catch up with you and get you take on all these stuff. Appreciate it.

GUPTA: Thanks, John.

CHETRY: Well, how first lady Michelle Obama's image has changed after 100 days in the White House. She is now even more popular than her husband. It's the evolution of mom-in-chief. It's 49 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: And we've been following the story all morning for you. And now we get confirmation. Chrysler, according to the White House, in a statement made just moments ago, will file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today.

The Treasury Department tried to work out a deal with Chrysler's creditors, and the talks fell apart last night. So, now Chrysler will be entering bankruptcy here. It's the first of the Big Three to go that route. Will others follow? We'll keep watching this story and tell you what it all means -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, she just marked her first 100 days in the White House well. And now the first lady has a whopping 72 percent approval rating, even eclipsing her husband, the president. How did she do it? Visiting military families, meeting with foreign dignitaries, also serving as mommy-in-chief as she called herself.

Robin Givhan covers Michelle Obama and the first family for "The Washington Post." And she joins me now with more. Good to see you this morning.

ROBIN GIVHAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Nice to be here.

CHETRY: It's just funny to look back, I mean, and remember on the campaign trail, Michelle Obama was sort of called by some a controversial figure.

GIVHAN: Right.

CHETRY: Her approval rating was around 40 percent, and now, as we said, she is more popular than her husband. How did that evolution happen?

GIVHAN: Well, I think some of it is almost a natural evolution, as people get to know her more, feel a little bit more comfortable with her, get more comfortable with the idea of her as first lady.

But I think she's been very smart in the kinds of things that she has done, which have been things that have really had her reaching out to the underdog. When she's gone around to these government agencies and talked to people who are sort of the unsung workers in federal government. She's talked to young girls from different schools and what she really has tried to champion, education and encouraging them to be self-confident and that smart and cool.

CHETRY: Right.

GIVHAN: So, I think that appeals to a lot of people as well.

CHETRY: In some ways, did she have to change herself to fit into this mold that collectively people think of when they think of the first lady?

GIVHAN: I don't know if it's so much changing herself as it is trying to find those aspects that are already there, that sort of work and fit nicely in with the image that people have of the first lady. I mean, it's such an incredibly narrow definition that we have and in the past when we've seen first ladies really try to go far afield from that, Hillary Clinton, main example...

CHETRY: Right.

GIVHAN: We see how the public reacts. But I think Michelle Obama also benefits from the fact that there is now a tradition of first ladies being more activists.

CHETRY: And do you think she is going to get more and involved in a wider range of substantive issues and take up more controversial causes as she gets more settled into her role?

GIVHAN: I don't know that she necessarily would go for more controversial causes because nothing that she's done so far indicates that that is something that she would be interested in doing. But I do think that she will do more substantive things. I feel like this has been sort of laying the groundwork and getting to know Washington and getting -- allowing Washington to get to know her.

CHETRY: Also as the first African-American first family. They are really in a special position to serve the role models to African Americans as well. Do you think that their success, their lifestyle is resonating with African Americans differently than with Caucasian?

GIVHAN: I do think there is a greater sense of enthusiasm among a lot of African Americans who feel that, at long last, that sort of hidden demographic, that is the middle class happy family is finally getting a little bit -- getting its dues, getting a chance to be in the spotlight.

So, often whether it's popular culture or news, we see the dysfunction or we see the, you know, million dollar athlete but we don't see just the average normal regular family going about its day. And while the Obamas certainly aren't necessarily normal, they do represent that sensibility.

CHETRY: Robin Givhan, a staff writer for "The Washington Post." Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

GIVHAN: My pleasure.

CHETRY: It's 56 minutes now after the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we need to do as Republicans is convince Americans that freedom can work in all areas of their life for every American, whether it's education or health care...

JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": What the hell does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... every American, whether it's education or health care or creating jobs." RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: What the hell does that mean?

STEWART: Sanchez! Nice! Nice work, Sanchez!

Wow, saying that feels weird. You know what, in honor, Mr. Sanchez, of saying what every one at home was thinking, "The Daily Show" will now officially retire the videotape of you getting tasered that we've had so much fun with over the years. We'll never ever, ever show it again, except perhaps this one last time.

SANCHEZ: Do it. Ay! Ay! Ay! Oh!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: One for the road.

CHETRY: Goodness gracious. We still have the tape.

ROBERTS: That's great. Yes.

CHETRY: We can play it whenever we want to.

ROBERTS: Hey, we were talking about the statement that Joe Biden gave to "Today" show, you know, during the interview when he said, he was asked if he would recommend a family member fly to Mexico given the present circumstances. And he says, I wouldn't go anywhere in a confined space, including aircraft. Also said, wouldn't ride the subway. And we thought, did that go a little further than White House talking points?

They came out with a response. They said that it's completely consistent. It's the same advice that the administration's giving all Americans. They should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico. If they're sick, they should avoid airplanes, other confined public spaces such as subways.

Looked like there was a little less nuance in what he said there, but that's what the White House is saying this morning.

CHETRY: All right. So, yes, they're continuing to say it's the basics. Keep your hands washed, cover your mouth, stay home if you're sick. And in some cases, as we see, entire school districts are shutting down out of an abundance of caution.

ROBERTS: Yes. That's going to wrap it up for us. Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING. We will see you back here again, bright and early tomorrow.

CHETRY: That's right. It'll be Friday then. Meanwhile, right now, here's CNN NEWSROOM with Heidi Collins.

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