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Obama's War and Peace Speech; Health Care Deal; Americans Detained; Facing Foreclosures; Winter Storms; Obama's High Wire Act
Aired December 10, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight the reluctant warrior, President Obama gets his Nobel Peace Prize but argues the necessity of war.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism; it is a recognition of history.
ROBERTS: Did President Obama make the case?
And from Main Street USA to jihad, a big terror bust in Pakistan. This time it is radical Americans accused of planning holy war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These young men may have had very serious intent and as you way, they do seem to be part of a rising tide in the United States.
ROBERTS: A scary sign of things to come?
Also, once condemned, nuclear power now getting a serious second look. Even environmentalists say it could be the answer. America's best hope for cheap, clean energy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me say clearly President Obama and I are committed to restarting the nuclear industry in the United States.
ROBERTS: The whole world is going nuclear, why not the United States?
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN TONIGHT live from New York. Here now John Roberts.
ROBERTS: Good evening and thanks for being with us. A humble Barack Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway today. He is the first sitting U.S. president to receive that honor in 90 years. It comes at a very awkward time and not without controversy. Barely a year in office President Obama presides over two wars and has just announced a major escalation of the campaign in Afghanistan. Suzanne Malveaux reports on how this wartime president made the case for peace through strength.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize careful to show humility.
OBAMA: I am at the beginning and not the end of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize, Schweitzer (ph) and King, Marshall (ph) and Mandela, my accomplishments are slight.
MALVEAUX: Responding to the critics both at home and abroad.
OBAMA: I cannot argue with those who find these men and women, some known, some obscure to all but those they help, to be far more deserving of this honor than I.
MALVEAUX: He is a reluctant wartime president being recognized for peace.
OBAMA: But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the commander in chief of the military of the nation in the midst of two wars.
MALVEAUX: But President Obama made no apologies for ordering 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan just days ago. Accepting his Nobel Peace Prize he said war is sometimes justified.
OBAMA: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies; negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism; it is a recognition of history.
MALVEAUX: With that, President Obama warned that the world must respond to the threat of a nuclear armed North Korea and Iran and address global warming. It was a day of protest, street theater and pageantry. Earlier in the day the Obamas visited Norway's king and queen, along with the prime minister and his wife. They signed the Nobel book.
Later anti-war demonstrators and Obama supporters mixed during a torchlight parade. Before attending an elegant banquet and behind bulletproof glass the president and first lady emerged from their hotel balcony acknowledging the waiting crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (INAUDIBLE)
MALVEAUX (on camera): President Obama said that he wrote inside the Nobel book, thanking the committee for giving a voice to the voiceless. He also said when Martin Luther King won his peace prize it galvanized the world and made him more of an effective leader back at home. It is certainly a hope that President Obama has for himself.
Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Oslo, Norway.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS: And here with now is Mark Halperin. He's "TIME" magazine's senior political analyst -- sir, your impressions of the speech.
MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, TIME: I think one of the big goals that Barack Obama has to have now is to make foreign policy less divisive, more bipartisan than his domestic policy has become. I mean from a domestic point of view he did a lot on that. I think from an international point of view he needs to show people a little bit more of what he stands for and I think today he went further than the other major foreign policy speeches he's given in laying out an Obama doctrine.
ROBERTS: In terms of this idea defensive war, did he go too far for some people in his own party?
HALPERIN: You know...
ROBERTS: Because there are as many Republicans who say they like this speech as there are Democrats.
HALPERIN: Look, I think there is never going to be that much distance between Barack Obama and his own party, his own followers on foreign policy. There is so much shared perth (ph). He doesn't need to pander to Republicans, but I think he needs to do a better job, which he did today, in showing where that common ground exists. He believes a lot of what these people believe. He wasn't pandering. I think that's good for him, it's good for the country and it's good for the world.
ROBERTS: All right, Mark Halperin, thanks. And Mark is going to be back later on in the show, by the way, along with former White House adviser David Gergen for more analysis of the president's Peace Prize lecture, so stay with us for that.
The big health care deal in the Senate seems to be holding up. There were real questions whether liberal Democrats would back a plan that does not include a public option. Surprisingly many liberals are open to the possibility. Dana Bash takes a look at what's shaping up to be a possible winning formula on health care reform.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this summer.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: There's no way I can pass a bill in the House of representatives without a public option.
BASH: Yet now that Senate Democrats have a tentative deal to drop a public option she is softening her stance.
(on camera): You have said there is quote "no way I can pass a bill in the House of representatives without a public option." Is that still the case?
PELOSI: We in the House believe that the public option is the best way to hold the insurance companies honest, to keep them honest and also to increase competition. Is there a better way, put it on the table. As soon as we see something in writing from the Senate we'll be able to make a judgment.
BASH: Pelosi opened the door to a health care bill with no public option as long as it meets certain standards like affordable health coverage and competition for insurance companies. But perhaps more surprising than Pelosi's positive statements the reaction from some of the most liberal lawmakers in her caucus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are certainly not closing the door.
BASH: You are open to it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: None of us care about what it is called as long as people have the type of coverage that they deserve.
BASH (voice-over): These members of the powerful progressive caucus had vowed to block health care without a public option. Now...
(on camera): You know the reality and the reality is that the votes are such that you're going to have to live without a public option (INAUDIBLE)?
REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: That's what it appears to be and while I won't like it, I'm not going to make that -- make me kill the program and kill the improvements that are in it.
BASH (voice-over): They especially like the Senate idea of allowing people 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Medicare, if we are going to greatly expand Medicare, that is a public option.
BASH: But to be sure not all liberals will stomach compromise.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Look, we need a public option for the purpose of choice, competition and access. That's why we need it.
BASH: Now many of the House liberals that we talked to today, they say they are in a wait-and-see mode. They're waiting to see the details of the Senate Democrats' tentative agreement. And that's not going to happen until the Congressional Budget Office finishes its analysis.
Still, there is a growing sense in talking to Democrats across the philosophical divide on this issue that they just want to get something to the president as soon as they can. They want to overcome their differences and, in fact, John, the House speaker actually suggested she does think that could happen still by the year's end.
ROBERTS: And Dana, how are Republicans feeling about this?
BASH: Republicans? You know, look, the bottom line is they are doing whatever they can to make their voices heard. There is a fight going on, on the floor of the Senate right now about whether or not they are obstructing and holding up debate on amendments as the Senate moves forward, but the hard, cold reality that Republicans know and you talk to them they realize this, that there is such a huge Democratic majority in both the Senate and the House that this fight really is among Democrats. And maybe the one or two -- at this point maybe one Republican that may be involved in this health care bill.
ROBERTS: All right Dana Bash for us on Capitol Hill tonight -- Dana, thanks so much.
BASH: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Coming up, is the nuclear option making a comeback? Even the green crowd is now saying nuclear power is the cheapest, cleanest way to power America.
And five American Muslims busted in Pakistan. Officials say they were there to wage jihad and planning a big attack. Was this a terror plot hatched in our own back yard?
ROBERTS: Five American men are in custody in Pakistan tonight. The FBI in Washington today confirmed those arrests. Pakistani police say the five were plotting to carry out terror attacks. Arwa Damon was in the Pakistani town of Sarghoda (ph) earlier today where the arrests were made. She talked to a relative of one of the men detained and joins me now from Pakistan's capital of Islamabad -- Arwa.
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, the circumstances surrounding these arrests have most certainly been confusing and the information very conflicting. So we traveled to the area where the arrests took place to try to piece it all together.
DAMON (voice-over): The city of Sarghoda (ph) has become known as a strong hold of radical Islamist groups. And now police here say they have thwarted a major terror plot. This is the rumor Wednesday, they arrested five men who'd vanished from their homes in the U.S. at the end of last month. Sarghoda (ph) Police Chief Usman Anwar (ph) says a few minutes later and they would have been gone. Anwar (ph) tells us they found maps highlighting known terror hideouts and an e- mail account the men used to contact their militant handlers.
USMAN ANWAR, POLICE CHIEF: They were given specific (ph) (INAUDIBLE) specific instruction I would say and (INAUDIBLE) prohibited.
DAMON: Now the five as well as the father of one of them are behind bars. Two are of Pakistani descent, one Egyptian, one Eritrean (ph) and Ethiopian. Pakistani officials say all are Americans.
(on camera): Behind these doors is where the six are being held. Interrogated by both Pakistani officials and according to the Pakistanis by the FBI as well.
(voice-over): None has yet been charged but Police Chief Anwar claims they could have posed a serious threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were mercenaries. They were there for Jihad. They could have done anything. They had U.S. passports. They could have access to many, many points (INAUDIBLE) person could not have access to.
DAMON: Also in Sarghoda (ph) we meet the mother of one of the men. She doesn't want to appear on camera for religious reasons. She says "she came to Pakistan two months ago to look for a wife for her son. Then he disappeared from their home."
SUBRIA FAROUK, MOTHER: And Monday he don't even come back. Monday the whole day he didn't come back. He didn't pick up the phone. Next day again the other (INAUDIBLE) told that all are missing. Then I told that now it is a serious thing.
DAMON: The fact that the raid took place in the city of Sarghoda (ph) is especially disturbing to Pakistani and other officials. That is because it is in the province of Punjab (ph) and Punjab (ph) is home to Pakistan's military and political leadership. Destabilizing Punjab (ph) would destabilize the country -- John.
ROBERTS: Arwa Damon reporting tonight from Islamabad in Pakistan -- Arwa, thanks.
And coming up, the president's foreclosure prevention plan. You'll be amazed at how few Americans have benefited from it.
And howling winds and frigid temperatures as a winter storm moves across the country. Where will it hit next? Those stories straight ahead.
ROBERTS: There is some good news on the foreclosure front today. For the month of November foreclosure filings dropped by eight percent. Although there are signs of improvement in the overall numbers, the overall numbers, rather, are still staggering. Foreclosures are up nearly 20 percent from last year. But as Ines Ferre reports now only a small number of struggling homeowners are getting the long-term help that they need.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Troubled Asset Relief Program may have helped prevented banks from collapsing, but a new report says the plan's broader goals are yet to be met. Job losses are sky high and consumers are not feeling much of a trickle down effect.
ELIZABETH WARREN, CHAIR, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT PANEL: Credit for consumers and small businesses remains scarce. The foreclosure crisis continues unabated and Treasury's mitigation programs have not achieved the scope, the scale or the permanence necessary to stabilize the housing market.
FERRE: More than two million families have lost their homes to foreclosure since the start of this crisis. Another 13 million foreclosures are expected over the next five years. Foreclosure lawyer Tanya Dwyer says TARP hasn't been very effective in helping home owners.
TANYA DWYER, FORECLOSURE ATTORNEY: Now we all know the rules and we know what the banks are required to do, in theory it should be easier, but in fact, I spend many hours on the phone with lenders trying to get them to acknowledge what rules they should be playing by.
FERRE: This Thursday before the Congressional Oversight Panel Treasury Secretary Geithner said nearly three-quarters of a million Americans were benefiting from modification programs.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: We had a huge stake in trying to make sure this program reaches as many eligible homeowners as possible and benefit in real economic terms from this program and we -- we're not there yet, but I think we're going to be able to make substantial progress.
FERRE: The $700 billion (ph) TARP program has received heavy public criticism since its inception during the waning days of the Bush administration. This week President Obama reported a $200 billion surplus in TARP funds created in part by paybacks from bailed out banks and said that money could be used to help create jobs.
FERRE: And today Secretary Geithner defended his decision to extend the TARP program until the fall of next year saying the recovery is still facing significant head winds, and it is important to keep it going in case the situation gets worse -- John.
ROBERTS: So Ines, what is the answer to get people more help that they need here?
FERRE: Well, I mean if you ask Geithner he said today that basically to take care of unemployment, I mean to really get more jobs going and that way people get salaries and to -- and that way they can pay their mortgages.
ROBERTS: But that's going to take a long time. It's -- you know if you have a jobs creation program it could be six months, a year or longer before somebody gets a job.
FERRE: Exactly. And if you ask homeowners or people who are trying to help homeowners stay in their homes, they'll say to get this system to work better, to make it easier for people.
ROBERTS: Ines Ferre thanks so much for that.
Frigid temperatures and bitter winds are hammering the country tonight as people try to dig out from the deadly winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow over much of the Midwest. Chad Meyers is manning the CNN Weather Center tonight and he joins us. Hi Chad.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi John, man, Buffalo, New York my old hometown getting hammered tonight with snow, especially the south towns -- this is the cold air coming across the Great Lakes. Lake Erie (ph) here, Silver Creek Camburg (ph) back to Fredonia (ph) getting it all -- just all snow day today. It is the cold air coming across the Great Lakes.
The low tonight in Chicago will be 11. Look at some of these numbers here from Watertown (ph) area, Beaver Falls, at 18 inches, West Seneca (ph), 14 inches of snow there and all the New York at 13.5. And it is snowing all across that Niagara frontier. It's going to sink down into Catarrh (ph) and Chickamauga (ph) counties here in the next couple of hours.
What is going on tonight? There is a football game in this. Now this is Cleveland, so they are not seeing as much lake-effect snow as you are seeing in Buffalo. But I wouldn't want to be in these upper decks right here. Right now the wind chill at the stadium is three degrees below zero. So could you imagine sitting up here with that wind blowing at 40 miles per hour.
Here are some pictures now, we'll take you first of all to Buffalo because this is where it was the worst today and I'll back you up into yesterday. This -- whiteout conditions -- you can barely see the cars there. Now I hope this is a bridge, otherwise this guy is just pushing a bunch of snow in his garage. I didn't quite get that picture, but I hope that just keeps right on going there, John.
Snow continued (INAUDIBLE) for today, about a foot of snow. And it even made it up to Chickamauga (ph), West Seneca (ph), into Lancaster. The seas were angry that day, my friend, look at that. That is Lake Erie. That is not like the Pacific Ocean. All those winds coming across from Toledo, just blowing right across and into the Buffalo area.
I'm going to turn your attention now to pictures that don't look very different -- all the way out to Omaha, Nebraska, another place that I lived for 13 years. I don't know. This is just take advantage of where Chad used to live kind of day. Winter weather here, wind chill factors at 14 to 18 degrees below zero, about a foot of snow and six to eight-foot drifts all across from Omaha through Madison (ph), Wisconsin, and even into Chitaqua County (ph) and Cattaraugus County (ph) of New York. That big low pressure center just spinning all the way through parts of the Midwest there today and I remember trying to live in that weather and I had to change a tire on a Volkswagen one time, tried to put those lug studs in when the wind chill is 40 degrees below zero, John. It wasn't any fun.
And just on the western horizon, the next storm is coming onshore; it is right now raining at San Luis Obispo (ph), also back into Paso Robles (ph). The rain is coming in and that's OK down here. You're going to push that stuff up about 5,000 feet, three feet of snow around Lake Tahoe, that is perfect if you can get there to ski in it, just don't try to drive through that. The passes are going to be a mess this week.
ROBERTS: Snow is always good in ski country, Chad...
MYERS: I know. Can you believe that Whistler (ph), I know your home country -- Whistler (ph) getting the Olympics this year. They had 18 feet of snow in November.
ROBERTS: That's amazing...
ROBERTS: Typically, typically in an El Nino year they don't get that much. They get most of their snow in La Nina (ph) and you know we learned a lot about your history, Chad. I'll share with you that I...
ROBERTS: I broke my leg at Whistler (ph) in 2002.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Mountain.
ROBERTS: Chad Myers tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good stuff. All right.
ROBERTS: Chad, thanks so much.
MYERS: All right, you bet.
ROBERTS: Coming up, reducing the American reliance on fossil fuels. Is it time to re-embrace nuclear power? We'll have a special report. And a war president accepts a peace prize. Did President Obama convince critics that he is worthy of the honor?
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN TONIGHT live from New York. Here again, John Roberts.
ROBERTS: President Obama today agreeing that his Nobel Peace Prize may have come a bit too early and with the country fighting wars on two fronts it was a bit of a high-wire act today, arguing for war while at the same time promoting peace. Joining me now in Washington is Candy Crowley, our senior CNN political correspondent, also Mark Halperin, "TIME" magazine senior political analyst is here and we may also be joined by David Gergen.
(INAUDIBLE) David was supposed to be here, but lost in transition here somewhere. Doug Brinkley (ph) told me today -- I was chatting with him -- he was around -- that he thought that this was the most important speech of President Obama's term in office so far, Mark. What do you think?
HALPERIN: I think he can make a case for that. You know he did his big speech previously in Cairo, that was considered his major foreign policy speech. But today I thought he did a better job of annunciating both for an American audience and an international audience what he believes as part of the tradition of what American presidents have believe, very effectively and again in a way that has got people in all quarters of American life I think pleased with what he said and what he projected.
ROBERTS: What do you think was the important message here, Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the important message, at least the one he wanted to get across both domestically and internationally is that there are wars that are quote "morally justified." This pleases the U.S. audience at home, particularly the conservatives who felt that he has been far too apologetic, that he's been weak in the face of a tough world and it's also sort of a -- somebody called it earlier -- kind of a sister soldier moment over in Europe going fine, I know you like me, but guess what?
I mean sometimes -- we're not going to get rid of conflict in our life times. Sometimes there are these wars that are justified. Obviously, he did talk about peace. He did talk about all of these establishments, the U.N. and elsewhere that have mechanisms for peace. But this really was a message that a lot of people could climb onboard here and sort of as Mark said allaying out of look, here is what my foreign policy is about.
ROBERTS: We're pleased to announce that David Gergen has in fact joined us. David, it's great to see you. Just...
ROBERTS: The speech and its impact here -- even Newt Gingrich liked the speech. Has the president found some new respect among Republicans and could that go some distance to helping him with his agenda or is this just one speech that they like?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It may marshal some forces behind him for foreign policy purposes because it was such a muscular speech. One in which, you know the Republicans had felt that for some time he's been going around the world sort of semi- apologetically about America and this he stood up proudly for America's record.
He made it very clear to Europeans and Norwegians, you know you might be living under domination of another ruler had it not been for the Americans coming in here in the war and then after the war, so I think conservatives really rallied to that. But I must tell you, John, I thought from his point of view this was not about -- although of course he enjoys talking about the issues of the day -- I thought he wanted to give a more transcendent speech, one that would live in the history books as a philosophical statement of who he is and what he believes and it sort of this (INAUDIBLE) struggle with what a moral man does in an immoral society and in that sense I thought it was his -- sort of his loftiest, but in some ways his most important testament of what his personal beliefs are about his conduct as commander in chief.
ROBERTS: Mark, Walter Mead from the Counsel of Foreign Relations said it didn't sound unlike some -- the text that we would expect President Bush to talk about. He said, quote, "he is asserting America's sovereign right to unilateral action in self-defense while expressing the hope that this right would not need to be exercised."
If President Bush had said these things, the world would be filled with violent denunciations. When Obama says them people purr and that is fine by me. So he can say very much the same things as President Bush said in some of his speeches. I mean he said peace sometimes requires sacrifice, which is basically saying freedom is not free and people applaud him. Why?
MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, TIME: First of all, he is more popular in some quarters in some quarters in America and some quarters overseas. I think that the important thing for Barack Obama as I suggested before is to put himself in the context of presidents who come before him, including George Bush. Republicans have talked about an apology tour and some of his past foreign trips.
I think it is less about apologizing for some conservatives than it is about denying at least simplicity America has a special role in the world. Today most of all I think he said historically we have a special role in the world and projecting forward we are still going to have a special role. George Bush people assume that is what he thinks. I think today Barack Obama reminded some people and maybe convinced some people that he is part of that tradition.
ROBERTS: Candy Crowley, do you think that this could help President Obama get some support among NATO countries for the war in Afghanistan? Norway today kicked in $110 million for the effort there in helping train Afghan military and police. I heard Tom Friedman with Wolf Blitzer today, and Tom said, "Hey, we love the fact that you love our president, but show me the money. Show me the money." Do you think the money will be forthcoming?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll see. I mean, I think the combination of this speech and the speech on Afghanistan last week, you see what the president sort of overall policy is towards Afghanistan and towards war in general. And that is, yes, I am all about reaching out to Iran and North Korea, showing them there is a pathway into the community of nations.
But, by the way, if people don't kind of comply with what international rules are, we need to step up as an international community and we need to impose sanctions. So it is part -- it is the other half of his foreign policy, yes. I want to bring everybody onboard. I want this to be collaborative, but you know what it takes more than the U.S. to be collaborative and we saw a little bit about that in the speech last week and more about it this week. You all have to step up to the plate.
ROBERTS: Right and in terms of what is next for the president, David. The Dalai Lama said that the award he said, quote, "I think the Nobel Peace Prize gives him more encouragement and also gives him more moral personal responsibility." So what can he do with that award? How can he leverage it to his advantage in policy?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it may help a little bit on Afghanistan although the Europeans and others have contradicted 700,000 troops they haven't sent a heck of a lot of combat troops in this new contingent. But, where I do think it may make a difference, John, is next week in Copenhagen. I do think the president will go into Copenhagen with enhanced authority, enhanced standing.
You know just inevitably, there is an aura that comes with the Nobel Peace Prize. Whether we like it or not, no matter how political we think it is, I do think it has an aura about it and it will enhance there. If he can get things moving there and be seen as someone who is a leader and building something out of Copenhagen, that in turn will enhance his authority on other international issues that are just over the horizon, like Iran where he is going to have to be looking for sanctions.
ROBERTS: And Mark, what about domestic priority? You know this is all sort of seen in the perspective of international relations and I'm sure that there are many people in the United States that are very happy, pleased, proud that the president got the Nobel Peace Prize, but it doesn't put food on the table, doesn't give them a job. Doesn't help them out from that standpoint so does this assist him at all in domestic priorities or does he have to put that aside and say, "OK, now I've got to focus on what's going at home"?
HALPERIN: Largely that. I think the way it can help him domestically is he needs to find a way to build the bridge back if not the Republicans in Washington, Republicans and independents around the country to be invested in his presidency. His popularity has fallen somewhat. He doesn't need, as I said before, to pander to the country, but he needs to show he is a commander in chief. He's someone with a mission and has set of focus and priorities. This is the way to prove it on an important part of the job and then to shift the job and say, "OK, you liked what I said here, give me at least a hearing on these other issues."
ROBERTS: All right, Mark Halperin, Candy Crowley, and David Gergen, good to see you all tonight. Thanks so much for coming in. Still ahead, 30 years after three-mile island, are Americans still afraid of nuclear power? We'll talk to two leading experts about why the United States lags behind the world on using this energy source.
And President Obama says successful small businesses can create green jobs and bolster the economy, but federal regulators could be putting stumbling blocks in the way. That story is coming up next.
ROBERTS: The Environmental Protection Agency has declared carbon dioxide emissions as a threat to public health. The EPA is taking the first steps to imposing new emissions rules on U.S. companies, but business group say new regulations could make it harder for companies to pull out of the recession. Lisa Sylvester has the story of one Chicago area manufacturer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Quality float works has been around since 1915. Making metal float balls used on flagpoles, weather vanes, plumbing and industrial devices. Over the years, company executives have been working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, recycling used oil, reducing their EQs (ph) and buying more fuel efficient equipment.
Still the company's Vice President, Jason Speer is worried about new environmental regulations that could be in the making. This week the Environmental Protection Agency declared greenhouse gases a danger to public health, paving the way to regulating carbon dioxide emissions. Issuing its finding, the EPA said, quote, "Science overwhelmingly shows greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels due to human activity." But Speer says if the EPA imposes new regulations, it could cripple his company.
JASON SPEER, QUALITY FLOAT WORKS: Manufacturing is an energy intensive business, and you know, every little penny counts right now and this environment, you know, we are trying to compete internationally. With some of these regulations, it hinders our ability to compete globally.
SYLVESTER: Many in the business community lead by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers oppose agency regulation under the Clean Air Act.
KEITH MCCOY, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS: The Clean Air Act is not designed for this type of action so you're really taking a square peg and hammering it into a round hole. If they'll do it, it will be done probably with great pain to manufacturing.
SYLVESTER: McCoy says with unemployment already at 10 percent. Added regulation could slow the country's economic recovery, but Tufts University Professor, Gilbert Metcalf disagrees saying outside of the gas and oil industry, job losses shouldn't be too severe. PROF. GILBERT METCALF, TUFTS UNIVERSITY: I think the job loss is very much overblown. If we start with a kind of modest policies that are embodied in either the House or the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER (On-camera): Going green could add new jobs, according to research by few charitable trusts, there are already 770,000 green jobs and green jobs are growing at a rate three times faster than traditional jobs. The National Association of Manufactures says it's not that they are opposed to any new regulation, but they prefer to see Congress pass any new environmental rules. President Obama has said that is his preference as well.
Congressional lawmakers are so focused on healthcare, climate change legislation really has been slow in coming, John.
ROBERTS: Let's go back to the small company that makes these floats, is there any way that they could meet at least some new regulation maybe begin the process? Could this be done in a sliding scale?
SYLVESTER: You know, this is something -- the concept of environmental regulation is something they are open to, and they have been sort of on the forefront of this recycling their oil and the like, as I mentioned in the piece. But what they are concerned of is that there -- will see this massive regulation all at once so they won't be able to keep up with it and that's going to increase their cost considerably and that might put them out of business.
But you know incremental approach, that is why they would like to see Congress handle this and not have just some blanket regulation handed down by the EPA. If it's Congress, there will be hearings and thought, and this community will be able to have some input and then maybe we'll be able to see incremental steps as opposed to all at once, John.
ROBERTS: Maybe, of course, if the Congress handles it, it will be years before it can -- Lisa Sylvester. Thanks so much.
In a nod to the uproar over Wall Street pay ads that would make creases in these top Goldman Sachs executives will not receive cash bonuses this year, but don't feel sorry for them just yet. Thirty executives will instead have their bonuses worth about $10.5 million a piece paid in stock. The stock can't be sold for five years and could be clawed back if executives take reckless risks or otherwise misbehave. Those restrictions, however, will not apply to some 31,000 other employees at the bank. They could walk away with an average of $700,000 a piece for helping Goldman reap high profits this year. Nice work if you can get it.
Coming up, nuclear power is clean, efficient and generates electricity in many countries around the world so why is it so underused here? We'll have that story coming up next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROBERTS: Most electricity in this country is generated by burning fossil fuels, either coal or oil. At the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, negotiators are looking for a way for countries to reduce their carbon footprint, but as Kitty Pilgrim now reports one clean energy production source is rarely even mentioned in this country.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The United States is falling behind the rest of the world in what some see as the cleanest energy option available, nuclear power. One hundred four nuclear power reactors provide 20 percent of electricity in the United States. In Vermont, nearly 81 percent of electric energy is generated by nuclear power plants, Connecticut 49 percent, South Carolina 51 percent, New Jersey 51 percent, New Hampshire 46 percent and New York 29 percent.
But other countries far outpace the U.S. in terms of building new nuclear power plants. China has 19 under construction, India six, Russia nine, South Korea six, and Japan an aggressive builder, now has 53 power plants providing 1/3 of the nation's electricity. Just a few weeks ago, Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, addressing an American nuclear society meeting put his support behind nuclear energy.
SEC. STEVEN CHU, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY: So let me say clearly, President Obama and I are committed to restarting the nuclear power industry in the United States.
PILGRIM: U.S. nuclear power went through a big buildup in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and left a legacy of unpaid bonds and incidents such as Three-Mile Island to turn many against the nuclear option. Former Vice President, Al Gore says cost was the main problem.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: What really led to the stop and almost a stop in nuclear power was the cost. It's been going up 15 percent a year for 30 years, a $400 million reactor is now $4 billion reactor.
PILGRIM: The Conservative Heritage Foundation, which supports nuclear power says it simply costs the government too much money to support nuclear energy.
JACK SPENCER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: What, unfortunately, I see happening with Secretary of Energy Chu is he is creating the same sort of institutions, creating the same dependencies between industry and government that may give us a handful of reactors in the near term, but won't yield the cost effective long-term economic viability that nuclear energy really needs.
PILGRIM: Natural Resources Defense Council and environmental industry group says other power is cheaper and in the long run better for emissions control.
CHRIS PANE, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: In the 10 years it takes to build a nuclear plant and get it online and operating, you could have taken that $8 billion or $10 billion that it costs to build a nuclear plant and actually started to immediately abate carbon emissions by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy and co-generation.
PILGRIM (on-camera): The real debate over nuclear power going forward will be political. Critics suggest it could end up with taxpayers essentially subsidizing the industry if the plants do not become competitive with other sources of energy. John --
ROBERTS: Kitty Pilgrim tonight. Thanks, Kitty.
Many experts including environmentalists are now suggesting that building more nuclear power plants in this country could in fact be beneficial. Joining me to talk about this, Margo Thorning. She is the Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for the American Council on Capitol Formation, and Fred Krupp. He is the President of the Environmental Defense Fund.
Thanks both for joining us. But let me ask you first of all, nuclear power and environmental groups helped almost kill it back in the 1970s and early '80s. They called it evil. They demonstrated against it. Many of those same groups who were demonstrating against it are now supporting a return of nuclear power. If they hadn't tried to kill it 30 years ago, where might we be today in terms of energy self-sufficiency.
FRED KRUPP, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND: Well, John, I don't know if that is true that environmental groups were behind the lack of outage from nuclear power plants. I think the accidents in Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island gave rise to real fears that nuclear power could be risky. I think now that we have the problem of global warming to deal with, there is an open mind that hey this is a low-carbon source, but we still need assurances that it can be done safely and assurances as to what should be done with the waste.
ROBERTS: Margo Thorning, what do you think if we had it kept going with nuclear through the '80s and '90s, would we be a lot further ahead today in energy self-sufficiency than we are now?
MARGO THORNING, AMERICAN COUNCIL OF CAPITOL FORMATION: Probably so because nuclear power can, as many countries are investing, can provide very real increase and no-carbon source of energy. Remember that the U.S. can't grow without energy. Each 1 percent of GDP takes 0.2 percent increase in energy so I think it is very good that the administration is pushing forward to try to get more nuclear plants on the books.
ROBERTS: What do you think? Is it just too expensive now as Former Vice President Gore was saying? Costs have been going up 15 percent a year for 30 years.
THORNING: I don't think that is quite accurate. I don't think it's any more -- it is slightly more expensive than coal and natural gas plants, but it's less expensive than renewal energy. Because renewable energy has wind and solar has to be backed up with conventional fossil or nuclear because the sun only shines 12 hours a day and the wind doesn't flow. So when you add in the need to back up renewable energy with conventional energy, I think nuclear stacks up pretty well.
ROBERTS: Let's turn to Copenhagen because, Fred Krupp, you actually met with the president yesterday before he headed off to Oslo about all of these. Is the jury still out on whether there is a human component to global warming?
KRUPP: I think the real question, John, is are we going to join the world in getting into the new energy economy? I happen to think, even if East Anglia University didn't exist, there would still be -- our understanding of climate science would still be the same as it is now. But think about it, when the world turns to clean energy economy and when the U.S. passes a declining cap on carbon emissions, we'll get more nuclear power if that turns out to be cheap.
And if doesn't, if it's a market-based program, we'll get solar and wind, what else will we'll get? We'll get cleaner air. We will get less dependence on Mideast oil. We will get innovation in our economy and more jobs, and that's if the worst predictions about climate change are wrong. But if those predictions are right, we'll also be solving one of the biggest challenges to humanity.
ROBERTS: Margo Thorning, do you have any argument with that?
THORNING: Well, I think, Fred overlooks the fact that China and India have only agreed to slow their growth of emissions. They haven't agreed to reduced emissions and they are not likely to do so. So even if the U.S. passed a Waxman-Markey or Kerry-Boxer bill and achieved the targets, by the end of the century, there will be virtually no reduction in global grown house gas emission.
So what we need is a global solution, not one that places very sharp near-term emissions reduction targets on the U.S. It simply will -- it will hurt U.S. job growth. We did a study with the National Energy Modeling system that showed that U.S. loses jobs overall. Even though you count on picking up new green jobs, we lose jobs overall under the Waxman-Markey bill and we slow GDP growth. That's not the kind of solution to climate change we ought to be looking for.
ROBERTS: And what kind of effect, Margo, do you think that the Copenhagen conference will have on that calculation?
THORNING: I think it could actually end up hurting U.S. households if we come back with a political agreement from Copenhagen to reduce U.S. emissions say 17 percent of 2005 levels. By 2020, we will certainly slow investment, slow job growth, we will divert companies to making end of tail pipe solutions to try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It won't encourage the kind of investment we're going to need for a long-term weaning ourselves off of fossil fuel.
ROBERTS: Fred, what you say to that?
KRUPP: I've read Margo's studies and I understand those are the conclusions she has reached, but the independent people that have looked at this, the Congressional Budget Office, the MIT, ETA, all of those independent analysts have found that there's really no effect. The economy will grow at about 3 percent for a year. The same as it has since World War II.
So the real question is, are we going to let China and India move ahead in this race for the clean energy economy or are we going to jump into the game? The real question is do we want to be buying these technologies from overseas? Or do we want to be selling them and benefiting from having all these jobs created at home. I don't know why, John, Margo is so pessimistic.
We're the country that put a man on the moon and brought them back safely. We invented the computers and the internet. Surely, Margo we can do this. We've got the talent and the ingenuity to deliver clean energy economy and the products that the world wants at reasonable prices.
ROBERTS: What do you say to that argument that if the United States doesn't do it, and I heard Tom Friedman talking about that earlier today with Wolf Blitzer on the "Situation Room." China is all set, willing, and excited about kicking out butt in this particular area.
THORNING: Well, China, is going to be tough to compete against for things like wind power. They're already supplying most of the new wind fields in West Texas. So I think we need to focus on what's good for the U.S., substituting more expensive energy, which renewable energy is, for cheaper energy is not going to help us get out of this economic slump or increase job growth.
So I think we need to focus on new technology, we need energy conservation, we need renewables, but by imposing mandatory near-term targets, we are inevitably going to slow growth. Fred is wrong about CBOs. CBO testified on October 16th that the Waxman-Markey bill, one of the major bill has been looked at will slow growth between 0.5 percent and over 1 percent a year. A host of other studies show the same thing.
ROBERTS: Here's the question I have. So much energy, Fred, is spent fighting these issues. If people were to come together, meet halfway at the very least, could we get a lot more done than we're getting done now.
KRUPP: You know, John, that's a great point, and that's why in the last few weeks, I've been so encourage. In fact today, Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican from South Carolina, Senator Joe Lieberman, the Independent from Connecticut and John Kerry jointly put out a blueprint for calls for more drilling off our coast, more nuclear power to help with energy independence and this declining cap on carbon that will be the catalyst to create more American jobs. A lot of these jobs can be outsourced. You know on solar panels, just yesterday, NRG commissioned the largest field of solar panels ever in this country, all those panels made here in the USA.
ROBERTS: Margo, is there a middle ground? Can the two sides meet somewhere and begin to walk forward?
THORNING: I would think so, but I think instead of looking at a cap and trade system, which was, you know have been widely discussed in Congress. There are people interested in imposing a tax on carbon emissions instead of a cap and trade system. If we were to adopt a mandatory carbon emission reduction program, most economists think a simple tax that could ratchet it up slowly would send the kind of signals that households and producers need. So I think the Lindsay Graham plan, which came out today, the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman plan requires a 17 percent reduction of 2005 levels by 2020. It's virtually the same thing. The positive thing about their initiative is it does focus on U.S. oil and gas development, nuclear power and trying to help U.S. manufacturing.
ROBERTS: All right, Margo Thorning and Fred Krupp, good to see you. Thanks for stopping by tonight.
KRUPP: Thank you, John.
ROBERTS: Of course, we'll keep watching all the developments of the Copenhagen Summit until next week.
Coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown. Hi, Campbell.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, John, we got a lot to talk about tonight, President Obama as you know accepting the Nobel Peace Prize just days after sending 30,000 more troops into combat. Did his speech lay out his own war doctrine? We'll get into that.
Plus new details on the Americans arrested in Pakistan, were they plotting to kill U.S. soldiers? What makes them wanted to declare holy war on their own nation. That as well and also tonight, John, our intriguing person is Reverend Franklin Graham. Of course, his legendary father, Evangelist Billy Graham has prayed with presidents. We're going to talk to him about the man now residing in the White House, Barack Obama. John --
ROBERTS: Does he still have the motorcycle?
BROWN: The motorcycle?
ROBERTS: He has a Harley a few years ago.
BROWN: I didn't know that. I feel like I'm going to let people down. I didn't ask him about his Harley days.
ROBERTS: All right, Campbell, see you at the top of the hour. It's 2 minutes away now.
BROWN: All right, bye, John.
ROBERTS: And we'll be right back.
ROBERTS: Thanks for being with us this evening. Please join us again tomorrow night and I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning 6 a.m. Eastern on American Morning. Up next, Campbell Brown.