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American Morning

White House Holiday; Word From the Boss

Aired November 30, 2005 - 08:33   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: When the president's speaks an hour from now, he'll talk about Iraqi troops and who they are being trained in fight. But will he use the word insurgents? The word led to some very interesting moments at the Pentagon news conference on Tuesday.
CNN's Jamie McIntyre was there.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you needed a lesson in civilian control of the military, Donald Rumsfeld gave it at Tuesday's Pentagon press briefing, when he suddenly pronounced the term "insurgent" expression non grata.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: We frequently call them insurgents. I'm a little reluctant to for some reason.

MCINTYRE: You see, even if you're a battled harden four-star Marine, when the boss bans a phrase you're supposed to salute smartly and use a synonym, unless of course you can't think of one.

GEN. PETE PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I have to use the word "insurgent" because I can't think of a better word right now.

RUMSFELD: Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government. How's that?

PACE: What sector is that?

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld beef with "insurgent" is that he thinks it's too good for terrorists who brutally murder innocents.

PACE: I thought about it, and over the weekend I thought to myself, you know, that gives them a greater legitimacy than they seem to merit.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines insurgent as "one that revolts against civil authority," or "a member of a political party who rebels against its leadership. But despite Rumsfeld's public admonition, when it came time for Pace to return to the subject of insurgents, he again found himself tongue-tied.

PACE: It would be -- the -- insurgents -- are -- sorry, sir! I'm not trainable today. I'm not trainable today!

MCINTYRE: Still, the role of the Joint Chiefs chairman is to tell his civilian superiors what he thinks, not just what they want to hear. As General Pace showed, he has the brass to do that.

PACE: It's absolute responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted to intervene, to stop it.

RUMSFELD: I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it. It's to report it.

PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, they have an obligation to try to stop it.

MCINTYRE: As any defense secretary knows, sometimes the military has the last word.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


M. O'BRIEN: Interesting semantic discussion. You know, a few months ago. You remember this, Secretary Rumsfeld got rid of the term war on terror, and he wanted to use term, although it really hasn't struck, and you'll see why, global struggle against violent extremism. The GSAV, I guess, for short, or something. His boss, President Bush, however, overruled him on that one, which is why we're back to the war on terror.

S. O'BRIEN: All semantics. At the end of the day, I think for the American people is, when are the troops coming home?

M. O'BRIEN: That's the big question.

S. O'BRIEN: The president's going to get that hopefully or some insight on that today when he addresses the nation at 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time.


S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, the gang of Sesame Street will bring a little fun to New Orleans. And guess what? We're talking to Elmo. He's one of the Muppets helping the kids down there. We've got that story.

M. O'BRIEN: And next -- first, are we going to some have hard questions for Elmo? We'll go easy on Elmo today. Don't want to upset the campers at home.

And first lady Laura Bush will give us a live tour of the White House. It's all decked out for the holidays. And we'll give you that in just a little bit.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: The CNN orchestra taking it uptown today. That tree you just saw a moment ago. That is a Christmas tree! Not a holiday tree and all that sort of nonsense down on Capitol Hill about what to name the tree. A rose is a rose or a tree is a tree by any other name, a Christmas tree. White House correspondent Dana Bash is going to give us a tour right. She's with the first lady. She's had a busy morning. Dana is doing double duty, covering some hard news and now giving us a little fun tour.

So take it away, Dana, and Mrs. Bush, good to have you with us.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Miles. And, Mrs. Bush, thank you very much for joining us.


BASH: Miles is talking about Christmas trees and roses, and we've got both here.

BUSH: That's it. That's it, exactly. We have the trees this year, are covered with real flowers, real fresh flowers or preserved flowers. It fits way up at the top. But here in the East Room, the trees are covered with this hot, bright pink rose. I think it really looks so beautiful.

BASH: And the theme is all things...

BUSH: All things bright and beautiful. And we really used fresh ingredients everywhere. We thought it would be fun this year to use all real things, all fresh things, so the centerpieces have the collars of pears and the tulips. The wreaths in the windows and the garlands are all fresh boxwood. And I think they're so pretty.

BASH: And you -- people don't maybe realize, but you sneak away quietly in the summers to national parks, so you like to hike and also be outdoors.

BUSH: That's right.

BASH: How much did that play into this?

BUSH: Well, to some extent tenth, it really did. I wanted this just to be a simpler year for the decorations, and I think it is. And I think really what it shows is how elegant the White House is. The White House is so beautiful, and we have so many really beautiful things to use already, like our beautiful koresh (ph) that was given to the White House in 1967, Italian, beautiful Italian figures.

BASH: And we have the Christmas cards?

BUSH: And the Christmas cards.

BASH: Which we have every year. Now you send out...

BUSH: We send out a lot of Christmas cards.

BASH: Anybody drop off the list this year?

BUSH: I don't how many we sent out this year, but we do send it to as many as 200 countries, other countries. It goes to other heads of state, obviously, and other people that we know there.

And this year, it was done by Jamie Wyatt, the very renowned American artist who's father is Andrew Wyatt.


BUSH: That's right, he did the south portico of the White House, and of course we have Barney, and Beasley, and Kitty is running out of the corner of the picture right there.

BASH: Now you -- this table will be filled with food.

BUSH: This table will be filled with food this morning.

BASH: For the 26 parties that you're going to have?

BUSH: That's right.

BASH: And your new chef is going to...

BUSH: Chris Cummerford, our new White House chef will be actually making her new press debut today a little bit later when we invite the press to come in and have the big reception, have all the foods that we'll be serving later during the holiday season. She's been terrific. She fixed a beautiful dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla. And I'm so proud of her.

BASH: We look forward to tasting her food, for sure.

BUSH: That's right, she's great.

BASH: Mrs. Bush, I want to ask you, of course your husband is giving a speech in about an hour...

BUSH: That's right.

BASH: ... about Iraq.

BUSH: Uh-huh.

BASH: In talking to him, you have these moments in private that nobody really gets to have a window into, how does he feel about the fact that support for the war is so low, and even the way he has handled the war is so low?

BUSH: Well, obviously, he thinks that what he has to do or make the decisions that are the best for our country, and they're difficult.

BASH: Does he feel that it's been a tough time and a tough year?

BASH: But what he has...

BUSH: Sure, it's been a tough time. It's very tough when you have 160,000 people deployed around the world, of our troops. But on the other hand, it's very encouraging when you think that Iraq this month is going to have an election for their leaders, for the next four years, that they ratified a Constitution earlier this fall. It really is amazing how far they've come. I actually am very encouraged. I think that things are going to do very well in Iraq, that they're going to be able to build the kind of democracy that they want, and that as their troops are trained and ready to stand up, and ours will slowly get to step down. But I also want to say it's very, very important for us to be there. It's very important for us to be there to support the people in Iraq as they build their country.

BASH: And there are a lot of reasons why it has been a tough year, particularly the last six months for the president.

BUSH: Well, we've had the hurricanes.

BASH: Exactly.

BUSH: You know, it's been really tough around the world. Pakistan has suffered a huge earthquake, and I want to encourage Americans as they think about their holiday giving to also remember the people in Pakistan.

BASH: But here in the White House particularly, just for example, the president, as you know, nominated Harriet Miers, somebody you know and some people think you had something to do with that. How do you feel about what ended up happening to her nomination?

BUSH: Well, I was highly disappointed because I adore Harriet Miers.

BASH: Were you disappointed in your party?

BUSH: But on the other hand, I think that Sam Alito will make a really wonderful Supreme Court justice, and so I'm looking forward to his confirmation this January.

BASH: Sam Alito's not a woman. You made it very clear you wanted a woman. Is the president in the doghouse?

BUSH: Next time we'll get that, I hope.

BASH: OK. All right. Well, as we said, you do have a female chef, the first female chef here.

BUSH: That's right.

BASH: And we look forward to tasting that food.

BUSH: You'll see what's she's fixing.

BASH: And then, what, 44,000 people who come through the White House will get a chance to see these beautiful decorations?

BUSH: That's right. We're going to have over 44,000 people, tourists come through. And they all get this lovely little brochure about the decoration done by Donna Green, an American children's book illustrator. So I hope people come through.

BASH: Thank you very much.

BUSH: Thanks so much.

BASH: Thank you very much for hosting us here. We appreciate it. Thank you -- Miles.

BUSH: Happy holidays.

BASH: Thank you. And, Miles, back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Dana Bash proving she has great range and versatility this morning, from hard news to the tour.

S. O'BRIEN: And what a nice way to do the trees with roses. That's kind of a good idea.

M. O'BRIEN: That's pretty, yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, Elmo in New Orleans. He's there to me the kids, help them cope with their problems. We're going to talk to Elmo live when AMERICAN MORNING returns in just a moment.


M. O'BRIEN: OK, I guess you can call this McDonald's 101, grilling burgers for college credits, you know...


S. O'BRIEN: That sounds great.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: I could do it. Flip a burger.

M. O'BRIEN: Really. And how do I sign up?

SERWER: Right, we have a crack team of experts who can do that.

Todd, Todd helps us out. Thank you, Todd for this.

A couple food and drink stories for you. First of all, we're talking about McDonald's. You know, it started out in 1961 that the company named its training program Hamburger University. There it is! Hamburger University! It's really their training center at Oakbrook, Illinois. And I've been there and it is actually is pretty serious stuff, 75,000 people go through it.

M. O'BRIEN: It is kind of cheesy, though, isn't?

SERWER: A little cheesburgery.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, kind of cheesy.

SERWER: OK. You do learn how to do fries, but you do also learn how to run a franchise, a $2 million a year store is what a lot of the McDonald's are. So there's a lot of stuff to it. Now the company is looking to ramp up its coursework so that the classes can be accredited, so that you could transfer the courses -- excuse me, the coursework, to another college or university.

S. O'BRIEN: Like in food services.

SERWER: Like in food services.

M. O'BRIEN: So if you wanted to transfer to Tofu University or something like that, you could move it over.

S. O'BRIEN: Many major universities have food services departments and you can even get a graduate degree.

SERWER: Yes, thank you, Soledad. I was going to say that. Miles, shape up here.

S. O'BRIEN: You big jerk.

SERWER: And, you know, the other thing, they might have to work on the name of the degree, because they're still offering the bachelor of hamburgerology, which is hard to say, too.

OK, let's talk about drink. We did the food. Now we're talking about wine. Have you heard about this? It's the newest turned in wine and how it is served and how it is sold. We're talking about six-ounce clear plastic screw-top bottles that come in four-packs. Sort of like, you know, instead of buying a six-pack of beer, you buy a four-pack of wine in little six-ounce bottles. These things are really taking off. It costs about $8 for your little four-pack.

M. O'BRIEN: These are things you see on the planes, right?

SERWER: Yes, they're kind of like the things you seen on a plane, and I guess it would be good for a picnic, Miles, if you wanted to go out and have a little picnic with someone.

S. O'BRIEN: Or if there's only a couple of people, then you kind of waste the whole bottle if you're not...

SERWER: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it would be great. You know, we have four hours now, one for each hour! It would be great.

SERWER: Oh, I see. And that's also, Carol, me, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: No,, we'll get four of them.

S. O'BRIEN: Four of us!

SERWER: Oh! I thought you were going to share?

S. O'BRIEN: We can work on it.

SERWER: OK. That's all I got for you.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, good.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, that was plenty.

SERWER: That was a lot.

S. O'BRIEN: More than enough.

SERWER: You're sated.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Stick around for this. This is going to be great. Elmo and his friends from Sesame -- I know, we love Elmo. Anybody with kids loves Elmo. And some of his friends from "Sesame Street" are taking their show on the road. They're bringing holiday cheer to some of the littlest hurricane victims.

And Elmo joins us this morning from New Orleans. There he is, along with Alan Murauka He, of course -- he is a "Sesame Street" cast member. Come on, he runs Mr. Hooper's store, if you don't know him. And also, he's got two young friends who are chit-chatting with Elmo. Let's get right to them.

Hey, Elmo, can you hear me? Let's start with you. Yep, you can -- I can tell...


S. O'BRIEN: Hey, listen...


SERWER: This is going to be your toughest interview.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, man. Elmo! Elmo! I bet the kids are so happy to see you. Am I right?

ELMO: Yes, they are. And Elmo's so happy to see them, too. Kiss, kiss!

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, man! Alan, nice to have you, too. Will you introduce us to your little friends?

ALAN MORAUKA, "SESAME STREET": Sure. This is Takia (ph) and this is Tyne (ph). And he's four and she's five. And they're here with us this morning.

ELMO: And Takia, it's her birthday today.

MORAUKA: It's Takia's birthday today. S. O'BRIEN: Wow, Takia. Happy birthday.


S. O'BRIEN: There's a lot of love.

MORAUKA: Oh, and Tyne gets one, too.

ELMO: Yes, that's why we're here. Because we're going to give a whole lot of love to all of our friends here.

MORAUKA: That's right.

ELMO: Am I right, Mr. Alan?

MORAUKA: That's right, that's right.

S. O'BRIEN: Tell me what you're doing, guys.

MORAUKA: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting invited some cast members from two of its PBS shows, "Sesame Street" and "Between the Lions," to come on down and do some outreach programming to -- at some of the schools and shelters that have children who are directly affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.

And so we are basically here doing some shows today. We're going to sing some songs, play some games and basically have some fun with kids and try to bring a little bit of fun and a little bit of joy back in their lives.

S. O'BRIEN: I love it! Hey, Takia, it's your fourth birthday. Can she hear me?

MORAUKA: It's your fourth -- can you hear her? It's her fourth birthday.

S. O'BRIEN: She's like, lady, I don't want to talk to you, I want to talk to Elmo!

MORAUKA: She wants to talk to Elmo.


M. O'BRIEN: Ask Elmo to ask the question.

S. O'BRIEN: OK. Elmo, will you ask your young friends there how important it's been and how much they've appreciated having you guys come back? Because I know you've been there before.

ELMO: Do you love to Elmo and Alan here to so say hello to you?


ELMO: Do you like us being here.

MORAUKA: Is it a good birthday present? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ELMO: There you go! They like us!

S. O'BRIEN: Alan, you guys -- you have done shows on "Sesame Street" on the hurricanes and obviously...

MORAUKA: We actually had an entire week, yes. I'm sorry. Yes, we had an entire week of shows a few years ago that we did that -- where by Big Bird's nest was blown away by a hurricane and it showed how the community helped rebuild it and...

ELMO: I'll be right back!

MORAUKA: OK. And it was really -- where did he go?

SERWER: Was that bathroom break?

ELMO: I'm back! I'm back!

MORAUKA: And it happened to be so -- you know, so timely.

S. O'BRIEN: Elmo, I've had senators do that to me on TV.


S. O'BRIEN: I understand. I understand. You know...

ELMO: I wanted to say hello to somebody.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, you did? Don't let our interview get in the way of your chitchatting, Elmo. It must be so important, though, to give that message you can rebuild and that there's hope around the country...

MORAUKA: Absolutely.

S. O'BRIEN: Especially for little kids. I mean, it's got to be so tough for these guys.

MORAUKA: Absolutely. And we're privileged to be here. And as you can see, they're having a great time, as well. Because, you know, Elmo to a 6-year-old is like Brad Pitt. It's like having Brad Pitt on. So he's a rock star here.

M. O'BRIEN: Alan, I think we know the answer to this. Just watching these two girls with Elmo. But, you know, these kids have had a really rough go these past three months. And -- is it a tougher audience as a result of these kids -- a little slower to smile?

MORAUKA: You know, it's both. We have kids who are just completely in love and invested from the very get-go and there are sometimes when we have to -- that they're a little bit drawn and it takes pretty much the entire time for us to get them involved again. But I tell you, nobody can do it like a puppet! So...

S. O'BRIEN: Nobody can do it like a...

MORAUKA: They can draw them out.

SERWER: They're wearing him out.

S. O'BRIEN: Nobody can do it like Elmo. Gosh, there's a lot of kissing going on. Alan, you got to get in on some of that kissing. I'm seeing a lot of love.

MORAUKA: I know. I need some love.

M. O'BRIEN: Elmo, kiss Alan, will you?

S. O'BRIEN: Give some kisses for Alan.

M. O'BRIEN: Give us a kiss to Alan. There you go! All right, now it's all good.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, Elmo and Alan from "Sesame Street." A lot of love there this morning and that is great to see. And some young friends as well. Thanks, you guys. We sure appreciate it.

M. O'BRIEN: Happy birthday!

MORAUKA: Thank you very much.

ELMO: Thank you! Bye-bye!

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh.

M. O'BRIEN: That was way too much fun.

S. O'BRIEN: A lot of kissing on Elmo.

M. O'BRIEN: So you -- all of those hard-hitting questions you had for Elmo, you didn't to it.

S. O'BRIEN: I know. Look at the research and the notes, the prep.

SERWER: We didn't talk to him about Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: And he runs off! Nothing, nothing like that. No, that's a lot of love there. That's great.

M. O'BRIEN: We are less than an hour here from the president's big speech on Iraq. We're going to bring that to you live and we have lots of coverage in advance and after it.

Plus, exactly -- do Mr. Bush's critics, what do they want to hear today? We'll ask a Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee about that, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.