Return to Transcripts main page
Obama Awarded Nobel Peace Prize; NASA Successfully Crashes into Moon; Gay Rights Advocates Say Obama Falls Short; National Unemployment Up; Why the Dollar is so Weak; Limbaugh Leads Vaccine Backlash; Examining Earmarks
Aired October 9, 2009 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, welcome again. It's 7:00 here in New York on this Friday, October 9th, I'm Kiran Chetry.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey good morning too. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for being with us. Breaking news this morning. An announcement that made some jaws drop around the world. There was even a noticeable gasp in the room where they announced it.
President Obama awarded the 2009 Nobel peace prize. Now, why the surprise, you say? It's because his name was never even mentioned as a possible contender. In fact, the President was woken up by his press secretary today who told him, "Mr. President, you won the Nobel prize." even he wasn't expecting it.
We're going to be going to the White House throughout the morning for reaction. Our experts weighing in on what this means for America and around the world. But obviously a very impressive morning there at the White House.
CHETRY: Right now a rocket is heading toward the moon. And we're just about 30 minutes away from impact. NASA is going to give the lunar surface a new crater in hopes of loosening up some signs of water. Jason Carroll talked to a man who's been there about the mission which just now minutes away.
ROBERTS: Plus, unemployment nearly in double digits and the dollar not having a good month either. Democrats in the senate say they have reached the deal to extend unemployment benefits for the millions people out of work right now. But the big question is, where are the jobs? Answers from our panel of economic experts still ahead.
We begin the hour though with the surprising news from Oslo, Norway, just about two hours ago. President Barack Obama is the newest Nobel peace laureate. Here's the announcement from the head of the Nobel committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THORBJORN JAGLAND, CHAIRMAN, NORWEGIAN NOBEL COMMITTEE: The Norwegian Nobel committee has decided that the Nobel peace prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: We should mention that you didn't hear the gasp in the room there because he was actually saying it in English after he had said it earlier in his native language. That's when you heard the gasp.
We're covering the story from several angles. Dan Lothian's at the White House this morning. We'll gauge GOP reaction with CNN political analyst Ed Rollins and get overseas reaction from our Paula Newton who is in London today.
CHETRY: We start with Dan Lothian live on the White House lawn right now. Tell us how this whole thing unfolded. How did the president find out he indeed won the Nobel Peace Prize this morning?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, we just got some information from a senior administration official who pointed out that it was Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, who called the president this morning shortly before 6:00 a.m. and then broke the news to him that he had won the Nobel Peace prize.
And according to the senior administration official, the president was, quote, "humbled to be selected by the committee." But clearly the White House was caught off guard by this announcement. In fact, another administration official saying that we were, quote, "quite surprised by the announcement."
The big question now is what will this mean politically for this president? One of two things perhaps could happen.
One, that he really could get some clout coming out of this. We've seen some setbacks, some stumbles for this administration recently. The president went all the way to Denmark, in fact, and came back empty-handed when it came to trying to get the Olympics to come to Chicago.
There have been other hurdles for health care reform and also the current battle as to what this administration will do going forward in Afghanistan. So perhaps this could give him clout.
But at least one Republican who worked in the Bush administration pointed out to me this morning that this really could backfire. This could sort of hand Republicans some fuel for the fire to criticize this president.
So it will be interesting to see what this award will mean for the president in terms of politically here in Washington.
ROBERTS: What do you think it will mean on an international basis, Dan? We hear from the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, who says it should prompt the president to start working toward ending injustice in the world. Will this give him a little more clout in terms of trying to negotiate some agreements with some pretty thorny individuals?
LOTHIAN: Well, perhaps it could, but certainly this administration will point out that this was always at the sort of forefront of the president's agenda in terms of looking to the global community in a different way than past administrations. And, in fact, this could be one of the reasons why the president, in fact, did win this award.
Time and time again, what this administration will point out, is that, you know, things have changed. The way that the world community used to view the United States as sort of the bully and not willing to sit down and talk to the global community, that has changed.
They'll send you polling numbers that shows that, you know, the world community now looks at the United States in a much different way.
And so, you know, perhaps this could give the president not only clout here at home but clout on the global stage - John.
ROBERTS: Dan Lothian for us at the White House this morning. Dan, thanks so much.
Joining us on the telephone right now is Ed Rollins, Republican strategist and CNN senior political analyst. Ed, as Dan told us, the White House was taken by surprise by this. Even they didn't expect it. What are you thinking this morning?
ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm astonished. Historically someone wins the Nobel Peace prize after they've accomplished something. I think this is maybe a consolation prize for not getting the Olympics.
But I think at the end of the day, you know, I'm not in any way, shape or form disparaging the president. I just think it's more political than it is really for any substance that he's done at this point in time.
CHETRY: It's also interesting that the reaction's coming in, as John said, Ahmadinejad saying this is an opportunity for him to end injustice. According to the AFP wire service, the Taliban is condemning the decision, saying that the president is, quote, "not taken a single step toward peace in Afghanistan."
So we're hearing from all sides this morning as reaction is pouring in.
ROLLINS: I just think, you know, I mean, I think the obviously made a great accomplishment winning the presidency. He's in his infancy in his presidency. And historically this has been something after a leader, a world leader, someone has accomplished something.
And I think this may be way too preliminary, you know. At the end of four years, maybe he has accomplished something and deserves this.
I think it has diminished the award itself, and I think to a certain extent -- you know, once again, I'm not trying to be anti the president. I just think the media and everyone else will raise the question why. And that's not necessarily beneficial to him or anybody else.
ROBERTS: But looking at it, Ed, from an international perspective, after eight years of President Bush and the type of relations that he had with leaders around the world, is the world correct or incorrect in looking at President Obama's first nine months in office as being such a sea change from the previous administration that it's worth rewarding?
ROLLINS: I think certainly you have to give him an A for trying. But at the end of the day, what has he accomplished? Who on the world stage are his allies at this point in time? He's reached out to a bunch of people who have been very anti-American historically. And I have not necessarily seen any progress.
But our ongoing allies, he does have a better relationship with the French and the British and Germans or the people who have traditionally been our strong supporters.
And I think to a certain extent, you know, I'll give him an A for trying, but I think at the end of the day, usually you get measured for something like this by your accomplishments. And right now they're not there.
ROBERTS: Ed Rollins for us this morning. Ed, thanks so much for checking in.
CHETRY: There's also reaction pouring in from overseas as well. Our Paula Newton is tracking that for us from our London bureau, this morning. What was the reaction there? Hi, Paula.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's funny, you guys -- sorry, good morning. You guys were talking about gasps. They were choking on their morning tea here in London.
I can tell you three London newspapers already starting with polls out, "Does Barack Obama deserve the Nobel Peace prize?" "The Times" here calling it absurd and really political and partisan in its intent.
Checking the Italian and the French newspapers, a little bit more favorable there, saying that, look, this is an incredible gift for Obama as he endeavors to really try and really be on new footing for the United States diplomatically here and Europe.
A very controversial decision, though. I can tell you, it took everyone off guard.
NEWTON: The interesting thing is how does it play out in terms of some of the big international challenges as we know? Right now he's considering either a surge or possibly adding more troops in Afghanistan. Karzai's Afghan president, said it was, quote, "appropriate."
And then you have the Taliban weighing in according to the wire services saying he's done nothing toward peace in Afghanistan.
How does it affect, I guess, the current situation that's going on right now as it relates to the war?
NEWTON: You know, you guys have been making the point, really fighting war on two fronts right now. It really puts a huge burden on Barack Obama at this point to really prove what he is made of.
Many people have said it, nine months in office. The newspapers are chiming in here and saying, look, give us something to believe in. It's as if, you know, the Nobel peacemakers, some here say, were putting the cart before the horse.
This is an extraordinary burden now on Barack Obama to really live up to this in terms of his policies going forward. And I think as many Europeans think this is favorable in a sense and certainly welcomed the president when he has been here before.
From what I can gather from the commentary here in Europe, many say look, this is incredibly premature.
I think what's hurt the Nobel committee as well is that people are calling it political and partisan. And at that point people are asking what legitimacy does this prize have going forward?
For Barack Obama this morning, I know they said it was humbling, but also great expectations that will be attached to this prize going forward.
NEWTON: Paula Newton for us this morning, thank you.
ROBERTS: Of course, a lot of this, too, is based on perspective. For example, we got an e-mail from Rose in Panama City who writes "Yea, President Obama. He totally deserves this. He's made major strides for this country for different races in America.
"We have hoped that if you're a person of color you can have the same opportunity as a white person. We love the fact he's reaching out to other cultures and countries.
"We acknowledge he's the one who ended the long war in Iraq. He acknowledges America has not always been right, unlike in the past. We were sometimes starting fights and conflicts just because we are the USA, and we can." So varying perspectives on this.
Just in our senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry talked to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel just a moment ago. And I take it that Rahm was a little surprised by this as well.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. He said if anyone in the White House had any sort of heads up that the president was going to win this, the chief of staff was not informed. This was a complete surprise.
Dan Lothian reported a moment ago, Robert Gibbs very early this morning, the press secretary, woke up the president and told him about this.
What's striking to me is just one week ago today, as you know, I was talking to -- I was live in Copenhagen where the president swooped in for a few hours, had that dramatic Olympic bid and lost, obviously. It was a dramatic defeat. A lot of people then saying maybe he's losing some standing on the international stage.
Well, one week later Rahm Emanuel just told me over the telephone, and he stressed that he was joking, but he said, quote, "It's clear Oslo beats Copenhagen any day of the week."
So you get the immediate reaction from the White House chief of staff, the president's top aide, saying, look, one week later, maybe a measure of vindication for this president on the international stage.
But I'm also getting the clear sense very early on from not only people inside the White House but advisers outside that they realize that they've got to be very humbled here.
And as Paula Newton was saying and Dan Lothian was noting a few moments ago, it's still very, very early in Barack Obama's presidency. Quite an honor, but it does not create one job in the U.S. economy. It does not provide one Republican vote for health care reform.
Let's remember, he still has some vast challenges on the domestic front let alone on the international stage. He certainly brought the Israelis and Palestinians together in New York a couple of weeks back. Many, though, criticized it as a photo op.
The hard work of diplomacy and trying to forge peace deals still remains. And one adviser to the president told me earlier this morning that, look, this is a great honor, but the hard work is yet to be done, and they realize that.
And so if there's any statement from the president today, and they're weighing right now whether or not he'll come on camera and talk about it, he is going to try to be very humble and point out that he understands this is still very, very early in his presidency -- John?
CHETRY: And the interesting thing you point out is that there is so much going on. The front pages before this was announced in the newspapers today were all about Afghanistan. Has there been a decision? Is he leaning towards less troops versus more troops? What's going on? And there were a lot of huge, pressing issues that are happening.
Will this knock all of that off the table today and moving forward at least the next couple of days as people debate the merits whether or not our president should have gotten the Nobel Peace prize?
HENRY: I think very clearly in the short term this is going to be very sweet for the president. But I don't imagine it will knock Afghanistan or some story like that off the front pages for very long.
In fact, this afternoon the president's going back into the White House situation room for his fourth strategy session with top aides, his national security team, to figure out what happens next in Afghanistan. And just as you can see, conservatives maybe try to take this -- sort of Ed Rollins was referring to -- and say look, he wins these honors on the international stage, but what is he going to get done back home?
You can also see liberals in the president's own party, someone like Senator Russ Feingold saying, on one hand he's winning the peace prize, but I just heard Russ Feingold on "The Situation Room" yesterday saying why is he going to escalate the war further and potentially sending 40,000 more troops after sending 21,000 in March?
So there's great pressure on this president. So again, this may be sweet vindication in the short term, but it does not erase the massive, massive challenges he has both on the domestic and international fronts -- John and Kiran.
ROBERTS: You know, in fact, on that particularly topic, one person who sent us an opinion this morning said it's the perfect sort of, you know, blocking maneuver by the international community, how do you raise the number of troops in Afghanistan if you've just been given the Nobel Peace prize?
ROBERTS: Ed Henry at the White House this morning, thanks, Ed.
By the way, we want to hear from you. You can either logon to our blog at www.CNN.com/amfix or give us a call at 1-877-my-am-fix and leave us an audible on the telephone.
CHETRY: It's 12 1/2 minutes past the hour.
We're following some other stories for you this morning, including a breaking story out of northwest Pakistan. An explosion in Peshawar at a market packed with people. At least 41 were killed, about 100 other people being treated for injuries this morning.
Officials say explosives were packed in a vehicle and set off by a timer. Islamabad is responding saying it has, quote, "no other option but to attack the terror strongholds along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border."
ROBERTS: Republicans turning up the heat on Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel, one of the most powerful members of Congress, the chairman of the committee that writes our tax laws.
The Ethics panel voted unanimously to expand its investigation into Rangel's alleged failure to report hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of assets, including money that he's made on a vacation home that he rents in the Dominican Republic.
Rangel has said he's victim of a smear campaign.
Well, Randy Newman said it, "short people got nobody." Well, he may have been on to something because there is a new study out of the U.K. saying that tall men are more likely to have attractive partners and they have more children. Sort of like survival of the tallest.
Well, the heights in the study range from 5'1" to 6'5". I know this is unscientific, but I know plenty of short guys who have nice, attractive kids as well.
ROBERTS: Yes. Tom Cruise, for example.
The moon, it's the latest target of the United States. They're going to crash a rocket into the moon in just about 16 minutes. And we'll capture it live for you. And we'll tell you what it's all about coming right up.
It's 14 minutes after the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back. Sixteen minutes past the hour right now. And the countdown is on. It's an extremely rare event in space.
There is a rocket right now heading toward the moon to blow up a small chunk of it. It's aiming for the dark and the mysterious South Pole that has not seen sunlight in perhaps billions of years.
ROBERTS: Yes. Scientists hope that the blast is going to reveal any ice or water underneath the moon's surface and maybe uncover a new real estate opportunity? Our Jason Carroll joins us with more on what NASA is expecting.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, expensive real estate. A $79 million mission. So it's really costing a lot but not without controversy.
Now speaking to one former astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, who said, you know, this is not where we should be going. This is not what we should be doing right now. However, if all goes well, the impact should happen just a few minutes from now at 7:30. Obviously, a big day for NASA. And depending on what they find, it could lead to another giant step toward space exploration.
CARROLL (voice-over): Not since man landed on the moon has there been such interest in earth's closest celestial neighbor. Just ask the man in charge of this morning's lunar mission.
DANIEL ANDREWS, NASA LCROSS PROJECT MANAGER: It's going to be very exciting. The team's worked really hard for a long time on this clever, innovative mission. And all systems are green. We're looking good going in.
CARROLL: NASA's goal, search for more evidence of water. Why? It's one of the building blocks of life as we know it, and NASA says it's essential if a moon base is ever to become a reality. A recent mission found trace amounts on the surface, but is there more? Computer animation showing how today's mission is expected to find out.
A booster rocket traveling approximately 6,000 miles per hour slams into the surface, sending up a plume of debris six miles high. Then a satellite analyzes the plume for signs of water. Then the satellite crashes creating a second plume to be analyzed by telescopes. Watching closely, one man who has literally been there before.
BUZZ ALDRIN, APOLLO 11 ASTRONAUT: People to be interested in space for whatever reason, I think, is very, very healthy because that exhibits the curiosity of the human species.
CARROLL: Buzz Aldrin left his footprint on the moon's surface 40 years ago during the "Apollo 11" mission, the first man lunar landing. He would rather see experiments focused on long-term space travel instead of exploring our closest neighbor.
ALDRIN: In my opinion of 40 years of seeing the growing space program and its ups and downs, it is not the place where we should go back to.
CARROLL: Planetary scientists like David Paige disagree.
DAVID PAIGE, PROFESSOR OF PLANETARY SCIENCE, UCLA: If we do find ice there and a large abundance of it, I think that we'll be much closer to this notion of inhabiting the moon someday.
CARROLL: The mission's manager says the lunar experiment could bring man closer to long-term space flight.
ANDREWS: Learning to live off the land somewhere other than earth is critical to us going anywhere off of earth.
CARROLL: Well, data from this morning's mission should come into scientists almost instantly, but the mission's manager, Daniel Andrews, tells me it could take weeks to analyze it. So in other words, it could be a while before we know if there is more water there on the moon.
But you know what's exciting about this, amateur astronomers can get involved because if you have a telescope at home, 10 to 12 inches or so, you should be -- depending upon if you're in the right position -- you know what? Your mind.
CHETRY: No, I'm just saying, who has a 10 to 12-inch telescope sitting at home? Jason does, right?
CARROLL: My mom used to have one. I had one as a kid. You know, some people out there might. Not all.
CHETRY: I have bird-watching binoculars. Will that help in any way, shape or form?
CHETRY: No. No.
ROBERTS: Let's check in with Rob Marciano. He likes all this. How big is yours, Rob?
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Moving along.
CARROLL: Thank you.
MARCIANO: I don't know where you -- I don't know why you're giggling. I don't why you're laughing. This is serious, serious business.
CARROLL: Thank you.
MARCIANO: If you have a backyard telescope that big, God bless you.
All right. Listen. This is an animation that Jason showed you in his package. This is a launch that happened back in June. So this thing has been kind of motoring around the earth and the moon, kind of doing their system checks and making sure everything is a go and picking up speed so it can make that impact so it makes a pretty good pop there.
And this is a little sight of what's going on on the moon. You know, we've been there several times. Internationally, we've been there several times. Every one of these little flags, red flags, that's where human artifacts have been placed. And anytime you see a little man, well, that's a little bit more substantial.
I also want to point out that we're monitoring NASA TV. I'll just keep that up there in case they happen to say anything or do anything interesting to us. All right.
This is the south pole of the moon. So you're basically looking at one of the colder spots here. And the Cabeus crater is right through here. That's their impact zone. There have been a couple other spots that we've sent probes to, the lunar prospector, that was a U.S. probe sent back in 1998. And then the moon impact probe, that's an Indian probe. That was sent back in 2008. And they both found some form of hydrogen in one way, shape or form.
And the key here is here where it's so cold, you can see it's kind of shadowed there. Temperatures there are 100 degrees Kelvin. Out in space we measure things in Kelvin because it gets so cold, the equivalent of 100 degrees Kelvin is 280 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. So that's enough to keep ice in place for billions of years.
So they're hoping, obviously, that if there is that much ice there, they can maybe, you know, probe it, harvest it and live on the moon there. And that would be certainly very cool.
All right, guys. That's the latest from here. Back to you in New York. CHETRY: I just love NASA, though. Seriously, they get -- they spend $79 million to build it. And then they get to blow it up.
CARROLL: Love it.
ROBERTS: But that's cheap compared to other space programs.
ROBERTS: I mean, this is a very, very inexpensive experiment.
CARROLL: And they were on budget. They were on budget.
ROBERTS: Good stuff. Rob, thanks so much.
By the way, we're at the museum in Washington this morning as well, where NASA is holding a big watch party. They've got a big screen there at the museum and a lot of people will be gathering around to watch all of this.
CHETRY: Wow. Do they have 10 to 12-inch telescopes there at the museum?
ROBERTS: I don't think they do, but they look like they've got a pretty big screen. I don't know exactly how big it is in terms of inches but it's a large one.
And our Brianna Keilar is there this morning for us. We're also talking unemployment evaluation of the dollar and health care. Stay with us when that comes up.
It's now 23 minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Democrats in the Senate say they have reached a deal to extend unemployment benefits another 14 weeks for the millions of people who are out of work across the country. Right now, unemployment dangerously close to 10 percent.
So where are the jobs? We're "Minding Your Business" this morning. Let's bring in Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. managing editor for the "Financial Times" and a brand new mom for the third time. Congratulations, by the way.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, U.S. MANAGING EDITOR, "FINANCIAL TIMES": Thank you.
ROBERTS: And Diane Brady, who's the senior editor for "BusinessWeek" magazine. So, where do you think unemployment is going to go next month when we get the numbers? And how high do you think it will go, and what about this idea of a second stimulus?
DIANE BRADY, SENIOR EDITOR, "BUSINESSWEEK": I've actually talked to people who think it may go as high as 12.8 percent which is out of whack...
BRADY: ... with what people say. But I think essentially there's no question it's going to continue to rise probably more slightly, more people we talked to. But I think what's troubling for a lot of people is the pockets. Young people, unemployment is 18 percent plus. And we're losing jobs in areas like education as more people are going back to school.
ROBERTS: Chrystia, do you think it will go that high, almost 13 percent?
FREELAND: I'm not in the job of crystal balling, but I agree with Diane that where I think we're going to see a lot of the real political focus is in the areas where the unemployment is the most intense. And I think this is going to set up a huge debate for the White House which is already starting to rage over.
FREELAND: Are we able to spend more money now? Because we're starting to have these conflicting issues coming up.
ROBERTS: So what do you think about a second stimulus in terms of a tax cut or something like that?
FREELAND: Well, I think where the White House is right now is they don't want to do it because I think that there are worries at the moment of deficits and of the need to start to get spending in control outweigh the concerns about unemployment. And unemployment, as the president has said recently, is a lagging indicator. So you can have the economy start to recover, unemployment still grow, but the trend is your friend.
ROBERTS: What are the effects that we've been seeing over the last six months of all of the spending that this country has been doing and all the money that we've been printing, too, is that the dollar has been on a pretty steady decline for the last six months? Bumped up a little bit yesterday when Ben Bernanke from the fed said that once the economy recovers, it's going to tighten that monetary policy. There can be some good things that happen when a currency declines, but also a lot of bad things as well.
BRADY: I think people are mostly worried at this point about the dollar. I think there's three things they watch. They certainly watch jobs. They watch earnings, and they watch the dollar. And I think that's one thing that may dissuade them from, frankly, printing more money.
They can't raise taxes. They know that there's a risk at this point. More stimulus could really put pressure on the dollar, and we can't afford that.
ROBERTS: Ron Paul worries that when we're printing all this money, the big risk is going to be inflation that's just going to hit us over the head just as we're trying to recover.
FREELAND: Well, that's the problem. And that, I think, is the big argument against a second stimulus. The focus now, I think in the White House among the economic policy people is starting to be not only on the recovery but post-recovery where you have to start pulling in spending.
ROBERTS: Right. Now, we should mention, too, that the two of you were born in Canada where the dollar was low for a number of years which actually helped to resurrect the Canadian economy.
But there's a big concern, though, that, you know, the U.S. dollar is the reserve currency around the world. Oil is traded in dollars. There's noise being made by a lot of oil-producing nations that, hey, the dollar's time has come and gone. They want to knock it off the (INAUDIBLE) countries. Like Brazil and China would love to see that happen, buy oil in other currencies, a bucket of currencies. What happens to the dollar if that happens?
FREELAND: Well, I think longer term the dollar won't be the world's reserve currency eternally. And the question is when that happens. But what's been really interesting for me this week, John, in the international dollar debate is it's people outside America who are the most worried about the weak dollar. And actually particularly in Asia, we're sort of seeing a race between the Asian currencies to not appreciate too much against the dollar because they're worried about exports.
ROBERTS: Right. You know, I read one analysis that says, OK, so maybe the dollar might not have been the world's reserve currency. Seventy years from now, this whole debate has maybe changed that to 40 years from now. Do you think we're still a long way off?
BRADY: I think 40 years sounds very far out. You've already had China certainly having a lot of rhetoric about wanting to be less dependent on the dollar, and you're seeing all of these people going into gold. And I think the euros. And there's a lot of interest basically in not being so dependent on our fortunes when they look at how we're behaving.
ROBERTS: All right. Diane Brady, Chrystia Freeland, great to see you this morning.
BRADY: Thank you.
FREELAND: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Again, congratulations on the new little one. And it's good to have you back.
FREELAND: It's great to be back.
CHETRY: All right. Well, we're just one minute away now from getting to figure out what is going on with this lunar explosion that's about to happen. NASA's mission that's set to take place in just about 45 seconds.
And this is when they're going to be on a collision course to test whether or not there's water on the moon. So we'll bring you that in a second.
But meanwhile, our top stories, out of nowhere, President Obama winning the 2009 Nobel peace prize this morning. His name was never even mentioned as a possible contender. Even the White House didn't expect it. The White House saying that he was humbled when they woke him up to tell him this morning.
It comes as the President considers a new strategy to win in Afghanistan. We'll be going back to the White House throughout the morning for reaction. And our experts are weighing in on what that means on the world stage.
ROBERTS: And the other big breaking story this morning, on a collision course with the moon, a two-ton NASA centaur rocket is just moments away from impact, traveling at twice the speed of a bullet. Scientists are hoping that the blast that it makes and a second smaller strike will send signs of water into the air that they'll be able to measure.
The implications of that could be earth shattering, so to speak. Shatter the moon. We'll get shattering results. We're also going to have a live update from the space agency. 10:00 a.m. Eastern. By the way, it was supposed to happen about ten seconds ago, but NASA is running about five minutes late.
So we'll keep watching that. Our Brianna Keilar surrounded by stargazers who are hosting a moon-viewing party at the Newseum in Washington right now. What's the atmosphere like there as we watch a place with no atmosphere, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Everyone here is basically geeking out. That's what's going on right now. There's a lot of people from NASA here, John and Kiran, but there's also just a lot of people from around town.
I happened to run into my neighbor. So people have come here to the Newseum, because, as you can see, this amazing view behind me, this is a 40-foot-high-definition screen, and this is actually a view that is coming from that very spacecraft that is up there by the moon. So this is really an amazing view that you can get.
I know there's a lot of amateur astronomers who are out there looking probably from their backyards at this. But this is why people are here, because it's an unsurpassed view of the cabeus crater on the South Pole of the moon. And so they get really a front-row, amazing seat to what's going to happen here.
And everyone here, as you can tell, is being pretty quiet, just waiting and anticipating as they listen to the flight director here go through the process, John and Kiran.
CHETRY: All right. So if they're running five minutes late, I guess we're just about, what, three minutes and 30 seconds away from this happening.
ROBERTS: Yeah. That's a live picture just being taken by the trailing spacecraft. I guess they're going to, if they haven't done already, they'll release this old shell of a centaur rocket. The centaur rockets have been used since the late 1950s, early 1960s to haul anything and everything up into space from satellites to probes like the Viking landers, the explorers that have gone off.
CHETRY: Right. And they did something interesting, the people who designed this mission. Because this otherwise would have been just space junk, the rocket's 2.2-ton second stage. And that's what they're going to turn into this projectile to hit the moon.
So it's very interesting, Brianna, as John was saying, I'm marveling at $79 million just to explode it into the moon. And he's saying hey, that's cheap for a NASA mission.
KEILAR: Yeah, no, and certainly, you know, I think this experience for a lot of the people here, you would say, is priceless. I was talking with one NASA official, and he said it's not every day you hit the moon. I mean, this is an amazing event that whether people are professionals with NASA or whether they are just, you know, people with an intense interest in space are here to see. And also NASA is hoping that this will rejuvenate some of that interest in space as well, guys.
ROBERTS: Sounding like it's one minute there. Again, we're watching live pictures from the trailing spacecraft that's watching that rocket go into the moon. Jason, there are a lot of vehicles that have crashed into the moon. Some intentional, some because it's cheaper than bringing them back home. One was crashed into the moon to try to trigger the seismographs that were left there by "Apollo" astronauts so many years ago. But this really is the first-of-its- kind experiment.
CARROLL: It is. And there's been a lot of controversy about why spend this amount of money to go to the moon to do this type of experiment? And it's because if you're talking about the future of space exploration, the water is crucial. And if they can find enough water there to help them in the future, the implications are incredible.
ROBERTS: Yeah. Let's listen here to the NASA feed. They're very close now. I think that was the centaur that crashed in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: NIR-2 to OPR-10. Over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: N-I-R 2 to O-P-R 10.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, confirmed. November.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready. Command flight send, November IR-2 to OPR-10. Command send.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight alert confirmed receipt of command.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy payload.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shipping spacecraft impact.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The very last seconds as the shepherding spacecraft trajectory as it approaches the lunar surface. We are seeing very small craters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We confirm a thermal signature of the crater from our cameras. Over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy science.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just received...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight shepherding spacecraft impact. Stations report L.O.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ground stations at Goldstone just reported. The shepherding spacecraft has hit the surface of the moon, and this marks the end of the lcross flight mission.
ROBERTS: All right. So there is -- they said that's L.O.S., which is loss of signal. I guess the camera that we saw initially was on the centaur rocket. And then we saw the trailing spacecraft which was the sensing satellite going into the plume that was set off by the first one that came in, trying to measure whether or not there is water on the moon.
All sorts of telemetry will becoming in from that trailing spacecraft. They'll be analyzing the particulate matter that came up with that first crash to see if there's any water.
CARROLL: And that's how they'll be able to tell immediately if this mission has been successful or not, based on the amount of data that comes in. How much comes in? How quickly it comes in? They're going to have a pretty early indication of whether or not this mission was successful for them or not.
CHETRY: All right. So right now -- so the first one hit. And now the second one is doing the measuring. That one is then going to eventually also hit.
ROBERTS: It already just did.
CHETRY: So when will they know that this information starts coming back?
CARROLL: They should be receiving information right now. Now, in terms of looking at that information and determining what they're seeing, the analysis, that could take a while. A couple weeks according to what the manager of this particular mission told me yesterday. But you saw from the applause there that at least it appears as if it went off successfully.
ROBERTS: Yeah. Crashing into the moon, I guess, is a big scientific deal, but it's a lot easier to crash into the moon than it is to land on the moon. Let's bring in Brianna Keilar who's at the Newseum. And what was the reaction from the folks there like when this experiment came off successfully?
KEILAR There were really those two moments. The first one where the initial image went blank, and there was a -- sort of a hushed "ah" here and then some light clapping. And then when we heard that this mission had been successful, John, people just burst out into applause.
They were very excited about this. They are watching every moment of it. And it's really just an unbelievable view on this 40- foot high-definition screen. So really one of the best views, a front-row seat, to this lunar crash today.
ROBERTS: You know, the moon, Brianna, has kind of been the poor cousin when it comes to space exploration recently. All of our efforts have been focused on the international space station, The Hubble Telescope, probes that have gone to Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. Nobody's really cared too much about the moon. Could this potentially rekindle interest in the moon, moon exploration, maybe even setting up some sort of a base there?
KEILAR: Well, yeah. And there's so much discussion. I mean, the reason we're paying so much attention to it, and maybe it won't be that step-child as it has been because as NASA pursues its goal exploring the solar system, the whole point of this mission is to see if maybe there aren't some water resources on Mars so that it can serve as a resource as they try to move forward with that mission as maybe astronauts are on the moon.
Maybe there aren't resources for them on the moon. So yeah, no, I think so. And I think also that even though it hasn't gotten a lot of attention, I think, you know, this is something that for just even amateur observers, John, they have an intense interest in the moon. For them, back when they got really interested in space and space exploration, this was it. This was really the beginning. And so I think that this sort of, you know, it's sort of a throwback in a way as well.
CHETRY: Very, very neat. BRIANNA Keilar at one of the watch parties at the Newseum in Washington, thanks. And Jason, this is the other interesting thing, we're talking about the second one, the lcross as they called it that has smashed in a few moments later, it has five cameras, four sensors and they say they should be able to know in an hour whether or not there was ice below the surface. And then they're going to be getting other inguinal factoids (ph) along the way. That's fascinating.
CARROLL: And here's what's important about that. Because a lot of people have been asking what is the big deal with this? The thing about this is when it comes to space travel, water is heavy. So if you don't have to bring so much of it with you, if you can in some way get it from where you're going, so to speak, it sets you that further ahead. And if they can find traces of water there, you know, water can then be translated into fuel. It can be translated into breathable air. That's why it's important to be able to find traces of water there.
ROBERTS: Very, very small traces of water. I think it was either a liter or a gallon in 40,
CARROLL: A very trace amounts. Exactly.
ROBERTS: All right. Jason Carroll for us this morning. So there it is the news that NASA has successfully obliterated two spacecraft in their experiment crashing into the moon to see if, indeed, there is water there.
President Obama given the Nobel Peace Prize today, but there are some folks who're saying why he's got some work to do on some other topics, one of them the don't ask, don't tell policy in the military. Has President Obama broken a promise on that front? We'll ask that question coming up. 19 minutes now at the top of the hour.
CHETRY: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Forty- three minutes past the hour. If you're just joining us, President Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, less than nine months into his presidency. And it was entirely unexpected.
It's even for a president in the White House. And it's sparking some debate around the world right now. A lot of people are questioning, has he done enough to earn this honor? We'll have more reaction from the White House and around the world.
ROBERTS: As the candidate, President Obama promised to fight for gay rights in Washington, but so far, many in the community say the president is letting them down. Gay columnist, Dan Savage, recently wrote an article for "The Advocate" asking when it comes to gay rights, is President Obama, "a one-night stand?" Our Randi Kaye is looking at the President's record for us this morning.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to fight for gay rights. So why nearly a year since the election?
Our so many gays and lesbians growing impatient with the President they overwhelmingly supported and helped elect?
Barack Obama has called himself a "consistent and fierce advocate of the gay community." Has his presidency lived up to that?
RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER CLINTON ADVISER ON SAME-SEX ISSUES: Not in these last 11 months. Not yet, at least.
KAYE: Keeping them honest, here are just some of the promises the President made. Promise number one, to end don't ask, don't tell. Which bans anyone openly gay from serving in the military. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that we should end don't ask, don't tell.
I have stated repeatedly that don't ask, don't tell makes no sense. I believe don't ask, don't tell doesn't contribute to our national security.
SOCARIDES: The government is actively discriminating against us just because who we are, and this is happening on his watch.
KAYE: Promise number two, the repeal of the defense of marriage act. A federal law that defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. The president says he supports civil unions, not same- sex marriage.
SOCARIDES: President Obama has said that he wants the law changed. But he's taken no action towards doing that.
KAYE: Promise number three: a hate crimes bill that would make violent attacks on members of the gay community, because of their sexuality, a federal crime. Just today, the House approved the measure, but the Senate has yet to.
It's taking too long for people like Pam Spaulding, a lesbian who writes a political blog. While Pam and others realize the president also is dealing with Afghanistan, the economy and health care, she says she's seen too many speeches...
OBAMA: Our gay brothers and sisters still taunted, still attacked...
KAYE: ... and too little action.
PAMELA SPAULDING, BLOGGER, PAMSHOUSEBLEND.COM: There are just a long list of progressive issues that needed to be acted upon, and where we fell in line was disappointing. I mean, it was almost as if we were put back into the closet and told to wait.
KAYE: Pam is especially disappointed in the president's failure so far to keep promise number four, to pass the employment nondiscrimination act which would prohibit hiring and firing on the basis of sexual orientation.
KAYE (on camera): In June the president did celebrate Gay Pride at the White House and he just appointed an openly gay US ambassador to New Zealand, but critics call these "peripheral moves." As a candidate, the president promised them fierce action.
Still, the White House says the president is intent on making progress on the issues, but even supporters in the gay community say the president has made a lot of promises and still no action.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: And coming up at 8:30 Eastern, we're going to be talking more about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Aubrey Sarvis with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is going to join us. And back here again on AMERICAN MORNING, Lt. Dan Choi. You may remember his story. He's facing discharge from the Army National Guard for openly admitting that he is gay.
It's 47 minutes now after the hour.
CHETRY: Fifty minutes past the hour right now. A look at New York City this morning, a look at the Hudson River where it is cloudy right now, 61 degrees. A little bit later, some showers, running up (ph) to a high only of 68 today.
And welcome back to the most news in the morning. It's flu season. Airports across the country may start checking passengers for swine flu symptoms when they arrive. Reports say that people who seem sick could be delayed at customs and officials say that the best advice is if you are sick, stay home.
Everywhere you turn, you're hearing warnings about the H1N1 virus or swine flu, and there's a hard push from Washington to get you and your family vaccinated. But as Jeanne Meserve tells us, that push isn't without a backlash.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John and Kiran, the government message about H1N1 vaccine is running into some serious static.
MESERVE, (voice-over): Radio host Rush Limbaugh has a new pet peeve: the H1N1 flu vaccine.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: And now you've got Kathleen Sebelius saying you must take the pig flu vaccine. You must take it.
Screw you, Miss Sebelius! I am not going to take it precisely because you're now telling me I must.
MESERVE: The Health and Human Services Secretary says Limbaugh is mistaken.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The vaccination campaign is voluntary. No one in the government is saying anybody must do X, Y, or Z.
MESERVE: But the vaccine hard sale has begun. Sebelius staged a one-woman media blitz this week, appearing on the morning talk shows. Public service announcements are being rolled out. The flu.gov Web site is being heavily promoted, all with the goal of persuading members of the public that they should get the H1N1 vaccine. SEBELIUS: This is made exactly the same way the seasonal flu vaccine is being made, year in and year out. A hundred million people a year get seasonal flu shots. We've got years of track records of safety. So this is safe, it's effective.
MESERVE: Some Americans are persuaded.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have any concern about the safety of the seasonal influenza vaccine.
MESERVE: But others are skeptical.
Do you plan on having him vaccinated?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
MESERVE: A poll indicates 38 percent of parents do not plan to get their children vaccinated against H1N1 and, perhaps even more striking, another poll shows 27 percent of health care workers will not get vaccinated. Another 35 percent are unsure.
MESERVE (on camera): The consequence, says Sebelius, a lot of people will get sick, some very seriously. She does point out, however, that more people are planning to get the H1N1 vaccine than usually get the seasonal flu vaccine.
John and Kiran, back to you.
ROBERTS: Jeanne Meserve for us this morning. Jeanne, thanks so much.
President Obama honored with the Nobel Peace Prize just nine months into office. We'll give you the details, coming up.
Fifty-two and a half minutes after the hour.
ROBERTS: There's the residence of the latest Nobel Peace Laureate. President Barack Obama honored by the Nobel Committee today with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sixty degrees and partly cloudy there in Washington right now. Later on today, it's going to be a beautiful day. Yes, the sun will be shining on the president, and the rest of Washington, for that matter. It's going to be 83 degrees.
Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. Earmarks. We heard that word a lot in the presidential campaign last year. While they're perfectly legal, critics see them as conflicts for members of congress and a troubling way to get deals done.
Our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash takes a closer look at the intersection of taxpayer money and politics. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A promotional video for Infinia Corporation, developing a solar- powered engine to produce hot water and electricity for troops in the field. Infinia is headquartered in Washington State. Washington Senator, Democrat Patty Murray, got a $3 million earmark to fund Infinia's project. It turns out Infinia executives have given more than $10,000 in campaign contributions to Murray in the last two years.
BASH (on camera): People looking at this might say, "Quid pro quo?"
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Absolutely not. I work hard for my state, for everyone who comes to me. We work hard to make sure that the appropriations requests we ask for create jobs and are good for the people in - in our community.
BASH (voice-over): But the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense says it's a problem.
RYAN ALEXANDER, PRESIDENT, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: And when we see big contracts, big earmarks going to private companies that have also happened to have made large campaign contributions, it raises real questions in the mind of the public.
BASH: Ryan Alexander's group looked at senators on the powerful committee in charge of defense spending and compiled a lengthy list linking hundreds of millions of dollars in pet projects to campaign contributions.
Republican Richard Shelby topped that list. For example, $3.2 million for Radiance Technologies in his state of Alabama to develop new sensors for unmanned aerial vehicles. That company's employees donated $38,500 in campaign cash to Shelby since 2007. The senator refused an on-camera interview, and when CNN caught up with him in a Capitol hallway, he said this.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I don't even know who I get earmarks for, and I don't know who gives me money.
BASH: But Shelby's spokesman did give us a statement saying he does know and defends it, saying he secures appropriations based on merit, not contributions, and provides a full justification for his request on his senate Web site. Shelby's office also said his projects contribute to national security.
That's what Maine Republican Susan Collins said when we asked about $10 million she got for Maine's General Dynamics to make lightweight machine guns and grenade launchers. She says the Pentagon needs them.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: My motivation is to help fill the gaps, the gaps in weapons and equipment that our troops need. BASH: Collins got nearly $60,000 in campaign contributions from General Dynamics' employees. No quid pro quo, she insists, and no apologies.
COLLINS: The workers and executives who have contributed to my campaign have done so because they feel that I represent the State of Maine well. They have never, ever implied any kind of condition.
BASH (on camera): A spokesman for General Dynamics tells us they give campaign contributions to Senator Collins because she's a "strong backer of national defense". I also spoke with a top executive at Infinia in Washington State who's contributed the maximum amount to Senator Murray's campaign. He says he only does it because of her "commitment to green jobs, not because of an earmark.
Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.