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TSA Predicts Record Number Of Travelers Over Thanksgiving; FAA Announces New Air Traffic Control Hiring Pipeline; Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter Dies At 96; Biden Pardons Turkeys Liberty And Bell. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 20, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Americans across the country are hitting the road this week to gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving. And more travel means crowded airports and traffic on the highways. How busy and how bad will traveling be this holiday season? Well, let's ask the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Thank you so much for being here, sir. You said this morning that officials are anticipating that this holiday season will be one of the busiest on record. What are you anticipating when it comes to what people are going to be doing on the road and in the skies?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, that's right. So many of us are looking forward to Thanksgiving means being with with family, it means being with those we love. And that means moving around and getting to where those loved ones are.

We are expecting about 2.5 million passengers a day. We think the airline travel peak will be on Wednesday. And, of course, a lot of people on America's roads as well. As always our biggest focus is safety. We're asking drivers to allow extra time and be extra cautious because often you're going to a relative's house, maybe down the road, you don't know that well.

And then on the aviation side, we're going to make sure that we build on the progress that's been made in the last year and a half. Now so far this year, we've already seen some record breaking volume in terms of some of those summer holidays.

And so far the system has held up quite well cancelations this year actually below what they were before the pandemic. We're pressing the airlines and watching closely to see if they can keep that record up.

BASH: You talked about airlines. There is, I know you know, a shortage of thousands of air traffic controllers. On Friday, the FAA announced a new hiring pipeline to try to address that, but are there even enough people raising their hands to join in that effort?

[12:35:07] BUTTIGIEG: So we do have a lot of people, thousands and thousands who apply to become air traffic controllers, but not everybody who applies actually gets the job, for very good reasons. It is a very, very rigorous process.

Part of what our new FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker has done in very swift response to some of the findings that came back from an independent review is to find more ways to get more people qualified while maintaining that high standard.

That includes partnerships with universities and other facilities that are in a position to contribute to and augment that training mission along with our excellent academy in Oklahoma City. And, of course, we're also looking for the budget, for the funding to do that additional hiring.

One of many, many things that's riding on this process going on with Congress is making sure that we have the funding to hire the controllers that we need and to get them the modern equipment that they need to handle this volume. Because our expectation is that that record breaking demand that we're seeing for more and more passengers, more and more flights, it's only going to grow in the years to come.

BASH: And as we enter this holiday season, Mr. Secretary, people are kind of opening up their piggy banks, turning them over to see how much how much is there. So let's talk about the economy. President Biden, he's been trying to sell the American public on an economy, that's good.

There are some data points that prove it, gas prices are down, inflation cooled last month. But I want you to listen to what the President said about this last week.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I acknowledge there's a disconnect between the numbers and how people feel about their place in the world right now. We can deal with the second part, as well.


BASH: You are not only a member of the President's Cabinet, you've been out there selling infrastructure projects and trying to close that gap that he talked about. How do you continue to do that when it seems to be widening the gap between the numbers, the data and how people appear to feel?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, a big part of our job, a big part of my job is to explain the good news in terms of the physical improvements that are coming to roads and bridges and tunnels and airports and ports around the country, and in terms of things we're seeing with the big picture economically.

Inflation coming back down, gas prices, as you mentioned, coming back down. I would add to that airfares becoming much more reasonable lately. And unemployment that I don't think he's stayed this low for this long in my lifetime. But that doesn't mean you can go around saying, you know, everything's perfect, and we recognize that.

Americans have had a rough few years, especially when you think about COVID and what that did to our society and effects that we are still working through. You think about some of the political polarization that's going on. We're not out there saying that all of the work is done.

We're out there pointing to the good work that we're doing. And what we found is Americans, even when they feel that we've got a long way to go for things to be really the way we want them to this country agree with the steps that President Biden is leading in terms of how to deal with it.

Lowering the cost delivering, lowering the cost of living that, is lowering the cost of prescription drugs, getting insulin down to 35 bucks for seniors. The focus on -- in my world on things like airline passenger prediction --

BASH: Right.

BUTTIGIEG: -- as well as all that physical infrastructure. We're doing the right things. We got a lot more work to do.

BASH: Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, thank you so much. Have a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.


BASH: Appreciate it.

BUTTIGIEG: Thanks very much.

BASH: Tributes are pouring in for former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. I'm going to discuss the impact that she had on America, was someone who covered her since she was first lady of Georgia.


ROSALYNN CARTER, FORMER FIRST LADY: I loved it. I liked it all and Jimmy did too. Any -- and all of the time that he was present with all of the criticisms. He thought he was doing the right thing and the best thing for our country, and we enjoyed it.




BASH: Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter died Sunday at her home in Plains Georgia at the age of 96. Nicknamed the Steel Magnolia by the press, Rosalynn Carter is remembered as a trusted adviser during her husband's presidency and a staunch advocate for mental health caregiving and equality. She is also credited with helping shift the role of the first lady to a formally recognized federal position, a move that helped revolutionize the position.


CARTER: I think the role of women has changed. And as the role of women has changed, the role of the first lady has changed. And I don't think we'll ever go back to have a first lady who just entertains and pours tea.


BASH: In his statement, President Carter remembered his wife of 77 years as, quote, "My equal partner in everything I ever accomplished. She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me".

Joining me now to discuss Rosalynn Carter's life and legacy is Judy Woodruff, Senior Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, our former colleague here at CNN, but also you covered the Carters since they were in Georgia.


BASH: Yes.

WOODRUFF: You can say the year. I covered his second campaign for governor in 1970. So she had had a little experience by then with him out on the campaign trail.


And it was not the easiest thing for her. She was naturally shy, soft spoken, but she developed a knack for it and she would go anywhere, speak to any group to talk about what her husband would do as governor, what policies he would institute and she carried that ability, that passion, that talent all the way, of course, to the White House several years later.

BASH: And you said that she was different when she got to the White House. She was more embracing of that role.

WOODRUFF: She was more embracing. She realized once she got there, that this was a place where she could make a difference. She could have influence. You didn't naturally -- people didn't recognize it at the time. I think, in fact, it's been greatly under appreciated. And you touched in the reporting you just did, Dana.

But she realized that as first lady, she could move mountains, if you will. She certainly did that around mental health. She pushed the president around women's rights. He went on to nominate many women to positions in the federal government. She was involved in the Camp David, a Middle East --

BASH: She was? WOODRUFF: -- discussions. Not in the meetings, but in a way where she was listening, taking notes.

BASH: That's fascinating. I didn't know that.

WOODRUFF: You know, being the one who was judging how people were reacting to one another. And she would give him little hints about what, you know, you might try this, you might try that. And then she broke barriers. She was the first, first lady to to take on a major diplomatic mission, the first year he was in the White House.

BASH: Which was?

WOODRUFF: That was a trip to Latin America, Central America, South America visit. I think seven countries. She prepared like crazy. She had this just enormous work ethic. She learned to speak a little bit of Spanish. People -- she went there, Dana, on this trip with people expecting very little of her thinking, oh, this is a joke.

The first lady is going to be representing the president. But she had done her homework. She ended up developing a rapport with several of these leaders. She listened carefully. They complimented her afterwards, and she took their messages whether they were positive or negative back to her husband.

BASH: Let's talk about one of the things you mentioned, Judy, which is her work on mental health and trying to destigmatize mental health when she was in the White House and beyond. You had a conversation with her in 1993 when you were here at CNN.


WOODRUFF: Your area of special interest for what many years now? 20 -- 15, 20 years?

CARTER: 20 years. More than 20, yes. Since Jimmy was governor.

WOODRUFF: Has been in the area of mental health. What do you think about the way they have addressed mental health care needs in this country?

CARTER: There's some good things for which I'm thankful. But I still have to say that I had hoped for a little bit more. I had hoped to eliminate the discrimination and to treat mental illness on a par with physical illnesses.


BASH: I mean, I don't think we can under overstate, I should say, understood how incredibly revolutionary that was.


BASH: To say that in -- well, they were talking about in the 90s, but to have to be pushing that in the 1970s equate mental and physical health. WOODRUFF: Exactly. I mean, that was at a time when it was still very much a taboo. I mean, it still is today for some people, but it's, in so many ways, it's come out of the closet. People are now much more comfortable talking about the fact that they have a mental or an emotional illness.

She raised that flag very early when her husband was campaigning for governor of Georgia, a woman at a factory gate. Said I'm a single mother, I have a child with mental illness. What will your husband do? And she said words to the effect, I don't know, but I'm going to find out. I'm going to talk to my husband. And sure enough, she made that one of her main focuses as first lady in Georgia.

BASH: And real quick, caregiving.

WOODRUFF: And caregiving was something that grew out of her interest in mental health. She recognized the importance of the need for people to take care, people who can't take care of themselves both because of mental, emotional, physical disabilities, intellectual developmental disabilities.

She came to that, Dana, with a passion. She started the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, which to this day, is one of the -- in the forefront of working on recognizing the role of caregivers, working to increase their pay. It's shamefully low across America, and something that Rosalynn Carter every time I spoke with her in recent years, she brought that up.

BASH: I'm so grateful that you came on again. It's great to have you back here on Inside Politics, the OG of Inside Politics.

WOODRUFF: It's great to be back.

BASH: And to share these remarkable memories of a really -- a woman who lived a tremendous life, 96 years, and had a really amazing partnership. 77 years.

WOODRUFF: She deserved all this attention and much more. Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Good to see you, Judy. And we'll be right back.




BIDEN: This is the 76th anniversary of this event. And I want you to know I wasn't there in the first one. I was too young to make it up. Even though Liberty and Bell are from Minnesota, they're named for the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. These birds have a new appreciation for the word, let freedom ring.



BASH: We just told you at the beginning of the show that he tries to use humor to talk about his age, particularly on his birthday. That was President Biden more importantly, talking about Liberty and Bell, two very lucky turkeys who were just pardoned on the White House lawn. They're big ones, more than 42 pounds each. Here's the moment they were officially spared.


BIDEN: I hereby pardon, Liberty and Bell. We can all give thanks to the gift that is our nation. Let's remember, we are the United States of America. And there's nothing, nothing, nothing -- I mean sincerely, nothing beyond our capacity when we work together.


BASH: Important message heading into this Thanksgiving holiday.

Thank you so much for joining Inside Politics today. CNN News Central starts after a quick break.