Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Secretary Gates Expected to Stay on Under Obama; New Fed Lending Plan; Preemptive Pardons: Bush Officials May Need Protection

Aired November 26, 2008 - 08:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We've hit the top of the hour, here are this morning's top stories. Former First Lady Barbara Bush expected to be released from a Houston hospital later today. She was admitted last night after complaining of, quote, "a little bit of pain." A family spokesperson said the 83-year-old Mrs. Bush went to the hospital as a precaution. All tests have come back negative.
Right now a dangerous situation unfolding as we speak in Southern California. Firefighters now urging thousands of residents who live along the scorched hills of Santa Barbara to evacuate. Heavy rains are saturating the burned hillsides, increasing the risk of flooding and destructive mud slides. Forecasters say up to 4 inches of rain could fall by tomorrow.

Historic progress in the war against cancer. For the first time on record, the number of deaths and new cases regarding the most common cancers are down, for both men and women. Doctors attribute the declines to progress in research and treatment.

And right now, President-elect Barack Obama, mounting a full- court press to build confidence in the U.S. economy. In a little less than three hours, he will hold his third news conference in as many days. And while he focuses intensely on the financial crisis, he's also working to solidify a national security team with at least some bipartisanship.

Sources tell CNN, current Defense Secretary Robert Gates will stay on for at least the first year of the incoming administration. Big news in a time of war, but it also raises concerns.

Here's CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Joe, Carol, for many people at the Pentagon, Robert Gates was seen as sunshine after the rain following Donald Rumsfeld, but the apparent decision to keep him on is stirring up some new storm clouds.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): The appeal of Robert Gates is obvious. He's probably the most admired member of the Bush cabinet, winning plaudits for his pragmatic approach and willingness to hold people accountable. So the argument goes, keeping Gates during a time of two wars ensures continuity, demonstrates bipartisanship, and conveys that President-elect Obama has the confidence in his own leadership to keep a talented Bush holdover. But the flipside of keeping Gates includes potential policy conflicts over things like funding missile defense and the speed of an Iraq pullout. And Gates' lame-duck status could make it harder to hire qualified deputies, which in turn delays much-needed change, which after all is what Barack Obama ran on.

DOV ZACKHEIM, FORMER PENTAGON COMPTROLLER: If we don't have good civilian personnel alongside our good military personnel, we're not going to reform. It can't happen. You need the people to make it work.

MCINTYRE: And right now, one big problem is that the system for buying new weapons is broken. From the bungled Air Force tanker deal, new presidential helicopters, to the Navy's latest high-tech ships, almost every acquisition program is plagued by cost overruns and poor performance.

LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: For example, between 2001 and 2008, the weapons development programs increased by $400 billion because nobody was paying attention. People went to jail because the acquisition process wasn't managed with the tankers.


MCINTYRE: As a short-timer, Gates had the luxury of concentrating on just the most important problem, ending the war in Iraq. Now, that he's expected to stay on, he will have to help President Obama with a much wider range of problems, with billions and billions of dollars at stake -- Joe, Carol.

JOHNS: Robert Gates will be the first Republican in the new Democratic White House. Is Barack Obama taking a political risk by putting President Bush's defense secretary in his cabinet? CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is following that.

Suzanne, so, what is the reasoning behind Gates sticking around?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Barack Obama is very practical and very pragmatic. And one of the things they wanted to do was really make sure that this was the chain of command that would be consistent. That was the main message.

Also, it allows Barack Obama to focus on the economy. So, you have a very strong team here in Gates. Also expected retired General Jim Jones as the national security adviser and Senator Hillary Clinton, very likely as the secretary of state, a powerhouse team, allows him to really focus on other things, mostly the economic crisis.

JOHNS: Speaking of that, we have this economic advisory board, I guess, that's going to be named today. I've heard the name of Paul Volcker thrown out there.

MALVEAUX: 81 years old, Paul Volcker, and he is advising -- he's been advising Barack Obama for weeks throughout the campaign. This is somebody that he has leaned on. He's going to be chairing this board. And it's going to be about a dozen members or so. They'll meet once a month. It's not surprising because Barack Obama has done this before. Taken academics, CEOs, people who really powerhouses in their fields, bring them together and seek their advice. So, that's what he's going to be doing with this group.

JOHNS: You bet. Thanks so much, Suzanne.

And you can see that news conference live today. A little more than two and a half hours from now on CNN and

COSTELLO: New urgent concerns about Pakistan. According to this morning's "Wall Street Journal," al-Qaeda is now focusing its efforts to destabilize the nuclear-armed nation. A senior U.S. commander telling the newspaper, the terror group has changed its strategy because of an increase in the number of militants along the Pakistani border. And the nation's possession of atomic weapons.

And happening this morning in Iraq, lawmakers would vote on a pact that would allow U.S. troops to stay in the country for three more years. The deal is meant to replace the United Nations mandate allowing American troops to legally remain in Iraq until the end of the year.

JOHNS: The government announces new help for consumers. A massive $800 billion program to jump-start lending in this down economy. What that means for your money?

And he defied gravity. Soaring over Colorado's Royal Gorge with just 800 pounds of horsepower on his back. Coming up, we'll talk to the real-life rocket man. It is six minutes past the hour.


COSTELLO: So, get ready for another bail-out, this one $800 billion. And supposedly it's going to help the little guy.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is all about the little guy. You know, Carol, with all the hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars that have actually been spent on this financial crisis, it has still been very, very difficult for the average consumer to get a loan. So yesterday, finally, the federal government said you know what, this is for you, the consumer, and also the small businessperson.

So, $800 billion, $200 billion of that is being injected into financial institutions in order that they can free up money for consumers, small businesses, as you see loans for cars, studying, as well as credit cards.

Also, part of this package, $600 billion for mortgages, and that is very, very important. They're going to be buying mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae. This frees up money for banks to make new mortgages and this is for people who are creditworthy.

Carol, people who just haven't been able to get a loan but really deserve a loan, should get a loan during normal times. Trying to bring some normalcy into the business.

COSTELLO: But the difficult part for them will be in getting those people with good credit to actually spend money, because nobody wants to spend money right now.

CHERNOFF: Right. But what started happening as early as yesterday, when this all happened, mortgage rates began to decline. Lots of people started refinancing. If you can refinance your mortgage, get a lower rate, that's going to free up some money. And then you can spend some of it and help the economy.

COSTELLO: I'm going to add up the total bailout figure, because we're in, what, the trillions of dollars now.

CHERNOFF: Multiple of trillions, yes.

COSTELLO: Thanks, Allan.

JOHNS: It's a campaign ad for Sarah Palin. Years ahead of its time, so what's the point of this new commercial?

And pushing for pardons. President Bush is said to be considering preemptive protection for those who could become targets of prosecution in a new Democratic administration. Legal analyst Sunny Hostin looks at who could be on that list. It's 10 past the hour.


JOHNS: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." President Bush will issue two pardons today to Thanksgiving turkeys. Meantime, fellow Republicans are pushing the president to grant preemptive pardons to former Bush administration officials who could be investigated by a Democratic administration.

Joining us to talk about it, Sunny Hostin, AMERICAN MORNING legal analyst.

So, people hear the word "preemptive pardon," and they think that's crazy, but the truth is something like this could happen.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not so crazy, actually. And it is possible and it's been done before. The president has the power to pardon any criminal offense and that power can be exercised at any time. After crimes committed, before legal proceedings begin, while the legal proceedings are pending or even after a conviction.

And I have to say Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon before his indictment is probably one of the best known examples of this sort of preemptive pardon. And when Ford pardoned Nixon, he pardoned him for all offenses against the United States, which he has committed or may have committed or taken part in between the date of his inauguration and his resignation. And so, that is how broad a preemptive pardon certainly can be.

JOHNS: OK, let's talk people here. If -- just if he were to issue a preemptive pardon, who might be on the list?

HOSTIN: You know, it's interesting. I mean, some people are talking about this blanket preemptive pardon for people involved in implementing Bush's policies during his war on terror. I don't think that's going to happen. We're not going to see this big blanket pardon because that would truly be unprecedented.

But there are people that would be on that list if it happens. And I think they're being considered. One name being sort of bandied about is former director of the CIA under George Tenet under, whom waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques were used against terror suspects. He also lend his personal authority to intelligence reports regarding weapons of mass destruction. So, we know that name is being bandied about.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

JOHNS: Really?

HOSTIN: That name as well. Let's face it. He wrote legal opinions to provide CIA authorization to torture terror suspects. He's suspected of falsely testifying before Congress regarding that U.S. attorney hiring scandal. So certainly that's a name that is just coming up.

One name that I thought was interesting was Donald Rumsfeld.


HOSTIN: We know he's the former defense secretary under whom abuses at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo occurred. He approved controversial interrogation techniques, and his name is also sort of one of those names that keeps on coming up.

JOHNS: Boy, that's fascinating stuff. Thank you so much, Sunny.

HOSTIN: Thank you. Thank you.

JOHNS: You bet -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Black comedy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to talk about chicken and watermelon in the White House?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not about chicken and watermelon. I don't like chicken.


COSTELLO: Taking political pot shots at the president-elect. Black comedians on why they are happy to make Barack Obama the butt of their jokes.

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just completely minding it for laughs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd like you to run for president.





COSTELLO: You know, for years black comics have joked about the idea of a black president, but now that it's actually happened, is Barack Obama off-limits? Apparently not.

Lola Ogunnaike caught up with some comedians sounding off and making fun of the president-elect.


PAUL MOONEY, COMEDIAN: Obama is a politician. We make fun of politicians. He looks like Malcolm X. He talks like Martin Luther King. Oprah loves him, what more do you want, America?

UNIDENTIFIED COMEDIAN: Barack, what are you doing? When you said hope and change, we thought you were talking about the country, not about your wardrobe!

D.L. HUGHLEY, HOST, "D.L. HUGHLEY BREAKS THE NEWS": I think he's funny. It's got to be funny, if there are going to be products in the White House they've never seen before.


HUGHLEY: There's got to be a (INAUDIBLE) in there.


HUGHLEY: It's got to be that. There's got to be a wave cap. Got to be at least a tube of Sulfur 8, got to be something.

OGUNNAIKE: If you had to guess, do you think black comedians will be devoting a majority of their sketches to Barack Obama being president, or do you think it's something that they'll shy away from because it's just too tricky?

SALAMISHAH TILLET, PROF. UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: American political comedy has been very racially segregated, and now comedians, black, white of color, are going to have to sort of step up their game and now reflect and match the views of the American voting public. Now you have what we would consider sort of a buppie (ph) president, right? Black urban professional president, and so the jokes about barbecues on the lawns are only going to go so far.

OGUNNAIKE: You don't necessarily want to traffic in the stereotypes, though, do you? I mean, do you want to talk about chicken and watermelon in the White House?

MOONEY: It's not about chicken and watermelon. I don't like chicken. If chickens could talk, they would say I hate black people. So, you make jokes about everything. Nobody's safe about it. If it's funny, it's funny.

White people, get in the back where you belong! Obama is the president!

OGUNNAIKE: But, where do you draw the line when it comes to the Obama jokes? Because some people --

MOONEY: There is no line. He's the president. This is America. We can talk about our presidents. I'm not in some other country where they would put me in a dungeon.

HUGHLEY: Barack and Michelle were able to go on their first date since the election. I got to say, they must be really in love, because when I take my wife out to dinner, it's not a date, it's an apology.

OGUNNAIKE: Can a comedian go too far?

HUGHLEY: Sure. Comedians can go too far. You got to be one to take the risk. But it's not up to you to define what that line is.

OGUNNAIKE: Do you feel a responsibility as a black comedian to either skewer him or not skewer him because you all share the same --

MOONEY: I'm a comedian. I'm going to make fun of everybody.


MOONEY: I'll be making fun of you when I leave here.


COSTELLO: And I bet he actually did!

OGUNNAIKE: And he actually did, unfortunately.

COSTELLO: Well, you know what? Paul was saying, though, the joke about the chicken? I can't imagine that coming out of a white comedian's mouth? Won't that be dangerous for them?

OGUNNAIKE: It will be a little bit more difficult for the white comedians to traffic in the stereotypes. You're absolutely right about that. But you know what? If it's funny, it's funny. And it's not the job of the comedian to decide what is funny. The audience will let him know what's funny, him or her.

COSTELLO: Him or her, exactly.


COSTELLO: Thank you very much, Lola Ogunnaike.

JOHNS: Strange claim.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost everything we're discussing here sounds off the wall. But that doesn't mean it's not true.


JOHNS: Close encounters of the fourth kind. People who insist they've been abducted by aliens. And a man who's made it mission to listen and believe.

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


COSTELLO: It's all but a done deal. President Bush's defense secretary, Robert Gates, expected to stay on the job for at least the first year of the Obama administration. Joining us now to talk about that and other transition developments, from Washington -- Bay Buchanan, CNN political contributor and a Republican strategist, and Mo Elleithee, former senior spokesman for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Welcome to you both. Hello? I hope they can hear me. So, I'm assuming you can because I can't hear you guys.

So, Mo, I'm going to start with you. Will the Democrats go along with the President-elect and support Robert Gates?

MO ELLEITHEE, FMR. CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, I think so. I think Democrats definitely stand with the President-elect in wanting to make sure that we've got a smooth transition, that we provide continuity at the Defense Department. I think the President-elect is going to set the tone. He's going to set the agenda. He's going to set the policy. But someone like Secretary Gates, who is widely credited by both sides of the aisle, being a non-ideologue, I think, can help execute that policy.

COSTELLO: But, still, anti-war liberals aren't so happy about this, are they?

ELLEITHEE: Well, look, I think anyone that was against the war got what they wanted when they elected Barack Obama president. The President-elect has made it very clear that his agenda is to end this war and he's going to put the best team in place to do that.

COSTELLO: So, Bay, will this satisfy Republicans? Is this a sign of real bipartisanship on Barack Obama's part?

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's no question Republicans are delighted. And I think all Americans should be thrilled. The President-elect has enormous number of challenges and, clearly, his focus has to be the economy.

So, why not keep somebody as solid as he is in the defense, watching over those many wars that we have out there and concerns around the world, somebody he can trust to get the information to him. He will not be taken by surprise. Gates is the right guy at the right time. And I think Obama did make just a very solid decision by keeping him on. It's in the best interests of this nation.

COSTELLO: Wow, this was very bipartisan. And what a beautiful thing. Let's switch ears now and talk about John McCain. He held his first press conference and he talked about visiting Afghanistan and Iraq. Let's listen to a bit of what he had to say.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's time for us to sit down together and address the enormous challenges that we face. I think that, frankly, that Senator Obama has nominated some people to his economic team that we can work with, that are well respected.


COSTELLO: And there it is again, talk of bipartisanship. Bay, the first thing I want to point out, though, is John McCain looks so tired. Do you think that this -- well, the presidential campaign took a lot out of him?

BUCHANAN: There's no question it did. And I must say, I was enormously impressed in the last couple weeks of the election. You know, even though the numbers were against him, John McCain worked his head off, traveling as fast and as far as he could. He never gave up. He used, I think, spent a lot of his physical energy in those last couple of months. So, I just hope he regains it.

COSTELLO: I hope so, too.

Mo, I did want to ask you this. I mean, is there a chance that Senator McCain can carve out a role for himself in national defense? I mean, is that really possible?

ELLEITHEE: Well, look, Senator McCain has always had a significant role in the United States Senate. I mean, he has always been one of the more esteemed members of the Senate. And I think he'll be able to transition back into that. I think if he stands by what he said and actually goes back and wants to work with the President-elect and the new administration, I think, he can -- he can be a very strong voice...

COSTELLO: Yes. But you say the word "if," "if he wants to work." So, Bay, is it possible for John McCain, who has an opposite view on the war than Barack Obama, is it possible for him to really carve out a role and have a real voice in what happens? Let's say in Afghanistan.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think there's -- when it comes defense, when it comes to, you know, foreign policy, John McCain is -- this is his strength. He is very, very strong. He is not going to vary. He's not going to compromise what he believes is in the best interests of the country. So, I don't see him likely to agree with Obama in the long run.

In the short run, though, I think Barack Obama will be focusing on the economy, and I think he will let Iraq play itself out here. We are coming out. Everybody agrees we're coming out. And he'll let that timetable be what it is rather than try to alter things. I think it's what's going to happen there, in which case, John McCain will be working with him.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about Hillary Clinton for just a second, Mo, because if Hillary Clinton takes the secretary of state job, this will be, what, the third time a woman has been in this position. Is there something with secretary of state that attracts high-powered women? I mean, what is it?

ELLEITHEE: Well, I tell you, if Senator Clinton becomes the next secretary of state, I think she's going to leave a pretty strong mark on that job. I think -- you know, she is a person who can represent this country well, who can represent the president well. I think she'd be a terrific choice if he picks her and she accepts it.

COSTELLO: Mo Elleithee, Bay Buchanan, we have to leave it there. Thanks. Thanks to you both for getting up early, the day before Thanksgiving. See you later.


JOHNS: Carol, it's 28 minutes after the hour. Here are this morning's top stories. Former First Lady Barbara Bush expected to be released from a Houston hospital later today. She was admitted last night after complaining of, quote, "a little bit of pain." A family spokesperson says Mrs. Bush, who is 83, went to the hospital as a precaution. All tests so far have come back negative.

More Americans are expected to rely on food stamps than ever before. That's according to a Washington research group. It estimates the economic forecast, if they come true, more than 30 million Americans will be using food subsidy programs. Experts attribute this to the jump in unemployment and food prices.

This morning, Florida's law preventing gays and lesbians from adopting children is in limbo. Yesterday, a Miami-Dade Circuit judge said there was no legal or scientific reason for sexual orientation to prohibit someone from adopting. The assistant attorney general said the state will appeal.

We're all this week bringing you a special series "In Search of Aliens." Today, we're talking to a man who says he's made contact, and he says he's been abducted by aliens more than once. Space correspondent Miles O'Brien is here. Got so carried away during the political panel. We started talking about some of the props you have here for show and tell.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We'll talk about that in a minute. I tell you one thing. I'd like to have that music with me wherever I go.

JOHNS: I know.

O'BRIEN: All right. Joe, let's talk about this. "Close encounters of the fourth kind" now. That's when a human is abducted by an alien. Now before you scoff and tune out -- Carol, you need to know this. We're not talking about crazy people here. The majority of people who say this has happened to them do not have any symptoms of mental illness. They are ordinary people who swear they've endured a most extraordinary encounter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like the drawings.

O'BRIEN: You never know what surprise you might find when you open a drawer in this Manhattan studio. Artist Budd Hopkins is the keeper of some images that will expand, blow, or maybe even close your mind. There's a photo album devoted to odd, mysterious scars. Almost like a hole punch.

BUDD HOPKINS, UFO ABDUCTION RESEARCHER: Yes, it looks like a biopsy.

O'BRIEN: Boy, if these walls could talk. There are stacks of drawings of little aliens called grays, you know, big head, tiny mouths, almond eyes. These aren't Bud's work, they come from his rather unusual assortment of friends. Is that the same person?

HOPKINS: Oh, no.

O'BRIEN: Different?

HOPKINS: Different people. Now, the important thing about this all these are really old. This is before this face was on every T- shirt.

O'BRIEN: Budd has become the father confessor for hundreds of people who are convinced they have been abducted by aliens.

HOPKINS: It sounds totally off the wall, and I'm the first one to say, almost everything that we're discussing here sounds off the wall. But that doesn't mean it's not true.

O'BRIEN: Ladies and gentlemen, tray table up, seat belts buckled, this will be a wild ride. Do you have any idea how common these encounters are?

HOPKINS: Well, my guess is that they're very common, simply because I just keep running into so many cases. O'BRIEN: In 1964, Budd saw a UFO. And then in '76, wrote an article in New York's "Village Voice" about an alleged alien encounter in New Jersey. His phone hasn't stopped ringing since.

HOPKINS: The massive evidence gets heavier and heavier and heavier. And that's not a pleasant thought, you know, to me. Mind you, I'm looking into something that I don't really like and that I don't really want to hear about, but I'm working with people who have suffered.

O'BRIEN: People like Mark --

MARK, BELIEVES HE HAS BEEN ABDUCTED: It's a little bit confusing to me.

O'BRIEN: -- who believes he's been abducted several times in his life. He came to Budd to fill in the blanks, the missing time. Which happens to be the title of Budd's first book. He uses hypnosis. Here's a tape of his first session with Mark.

MARK: There's something small and white and it's glowing. It's glowing completely that I can't make out the figure. I'm really scared. Then it starts to climb up on the bed to reach for me.

O'BRIEN: So, what do you think it was?

MARK: Well, I spent many years trying to guess, trying to -- trying to, you know, logically, rationally explain it and I can't think of anything other than an encounter with beings of some sort, that aren't human.

O'BRIEN: Do you have any idea what they wanted?


O'BRIEN:: Did you get a sense that they were threatening you?

MARK: It's very clinical. They don't have really empathy or sympathy. On top of us, like, I WAS going into the wild and tracking a lion or a wild beast, you know, tagging it, looking it over, and then letting it go. We don't really have a true connection to this animal. We don't really care about it, we're just examining it. That's what I get from this. There's no malice involved.

O'BRIEN: Believe it or not, it gets we weirder, or as Mark puts it --

MARK: I'm just going to put this whole thing into Wackiville.

O'BRIEN: OK. Let's go to Wackiville.

MARK: All right. Let's see how we do there.

O'BRIEN:: In Wackiville, the grays take Mark on to an exam room in his spacecraft and hand him a fetus.

Do you have any idea what they wanted when they gave you the fetus?

MARK: No. But that's part of my original thought process is that eventually those hybrids, as we call them, are going to operate the planet. It's a pretty frightening picture, but if you look at it, like, logically, it makes all the sense in the world.

O'BRIEN: Hybrids? Hey, Budd, are you there? That's kind of off the wall.

HOPKINS: The whole thing is off the wall.


O'BRIEN: All right, we did talk to a psychiatrist who has studied this issue. He says there's a lot of less off-the-wall psychological explanations. One that is mentioned quite frequently is sleep paralysis. Now it happens when you are nodding off or waking up and your body is sleeping, paralyze but your mind is conscious. You often experience hallucinations. But Budd makes a key point, on this whole thing. Most of the abductees he talked to, he's talked to 700 now, weren't sleeping when they had their close encounter of the fourth kind.

So, you decide.

JOHNS: So I see you brought in some of these pictures. And they're also remarkably similar. You know, a lot of the faces, the shape of the heads and all that. These are different people?

O'BRIEN: Yes, different people, different times. Many of these very old, 25 years, plus, before this image was more in the popular realm. And look at the commonality here. It's fascinating. This one in particular, notice how gray, that gray color? This artist, I'm told by Budd, took great pains to try to match the complexion. So, when they say gray, they mean gray.

JOHNS: Now, you --

COSTELLO: I am still wondering where Mark got the fetus, or where the alien got the fetus.

O'BRIEN: Open your mind, Carol. Open your mind. It's hard. Have another cup of coffee.

COSTELLO: No. I know. I'm just listening to -- I may have some Red Bull, maybe it will help.

O'BRIEN: That might do it, yes!

JOHNS: But the people you've interviewed. The people that have said they've been abducted, you've interviewed a lot of people, you know when you hear somebody who has got a hole in their story.


JOHNS: Did this strike you as -- O'BRIEN: You know, these people, you -- walking down the street, they're like us. These are normal people, who have had an extraordinary event. Now, is that something from outer space or inner space, I'm not qualified to judge fully. But I'm not going to close my mind to that option. Put it that way.

COSTELLO: That's why you're our space correspondent. Tell us about the i-Reports.

O'BRIEN: Yes. We solicited i-Reports and there are a lot of good ones out there. Let's take a look at them. We had gotten quite a few as you can imagine. Take a listen to Cheryl from Indiana describe here experience with a UFO.


CHERYL, IREPORTER: I never looking to my left and then seeing stars and I remember panning to my right and right there is blocked- out stars, it's black. I can't see the stars anymore. And I'm looking, and it's in the shape of this triangle. And it's huge! It creeped me out, because I felt like as I was watching it, it was watching me.


O'BRIEN: There you have it.

All right, we also received this picture from Kathy. Check this out. She was driving from California to Oregon, when she noticed something strange in the picture she took. Take a look at it. See those little white dots here. Kathy says she doesn't know what it. She didn't see it when she took the picture. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. If I were to after an alternative explanation to UFOs, you could say glare off the windshield, if she was shooting through the glass, but the sky.

COSTELLO: How about the glint of the tools that those guys lost in space?

O'BRIEN: Maybe it's the tool bag! It could be the tool bag. You know, they're tracking it. You can see it.


JOHNS: The skeptical inquirer herself.

O'BRIEN: I think we've balanced it out very well.

JOHNS: Coming up tomorrow, we'll meet a woman who spent three decades searching the solar system, waiting for word from aliens. The real-life character played by Jodie Foster in the movie "Contact." She just got a big boost from a billionaire investor. Hey it might be a little safer than stocks. And this lady is so convinced they're out there, she's got the bubbly on hand.

And have you seen something funny in the sky? Are you convinced that aliens exist, or do you think it's just science fiction? We want to know. Send us your pictures and video at Just click on the i-Report link. It is 38 past the hour.

COSTELLO: Giving thanks for Sarah Palin?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for the grace and dignity you showed even when some tried to sneer and destroy you.


COSTELLO: The new ad that could be the start of a big push for Palin in 2012.

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


COSTELLO: Sarah Palin may have stepped off the national stage, but she's far from forgotten. In fact, Palin's former running mate, John McCain, is still singing her praises.


MCCAIN: I think she's -- she did a great job of energizing our base. I'm very proud of her. It's one of the great pleasures I've had, to get to know her and her family. And I think she has a very bright future in the leadership position in the Republican Party.


COSTELLO: Not only that, just in time for Thanksgiving, there's a series of TV ads thanking the Alaska governor for the way she handled herself during the campaign.

CNN's Ted Rowlands has that part of the story.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe and Carol, there are a total of four of these ads at a cost of just about $100,000 that are scheduled to be aired over the long Thanksgiving day holiday. The people behind the ads claim that all they want to do is thank Sarah Palin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Sarah Palin, as Americans sit down to their thanksgiving dinners of turkey, or moose, a grateful nation wishes to say thanks.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): The television ads are very basic. One by one, people thank Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for the way she ran her vice presidential campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drill, baby, drill! ROWLANDS: The ads were produced using volunteers. Organizers say dozens of people showed up last week to a northern California studio to take part in the filming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thank you for fighting for everyday working family.

ROWLANDS: Howard Kaloogian appears in the ad. He's the chairman of California-based Our Country Deserves Better, a political action committee behind the project.

HOWARD KALOOGIAN, CHAIRMAN, OUR COUNTRY DESERVES BETTER: I'd like to see Sarah Palin's ideas and the conservative values she represented remain in politics.

ROWLANDS: But Kaloogian says this isn't about a push for Palin in 2012 or any other grand plan, he says, it does however have a lot to do with how his group thinks Palin was treated by the media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for the grace and dignity you showed even when some tried to smear and destroy you.

ROWLANDS: To some the whole thing might seem a bit odd.

KALOOGIAN: I'm kind of surprised that people don't think that the attacks on her are what's strange. It's a shame, really, that the attacking mode has become such the norm in politics, that expressing gratitude and thanks is considered the oddity.

ROWLANDS: Kaloogian shouldn't be too surprised. His group created extremely controversial ads bashing Barack Obama during the campaign, including this one --

ANNOUNCER: A top official of the terrorist group Hamas endorsed Obama's campaign. Who can forget the hateful sermons from Obama's pastor of over 20 years?

ROWLANDS: Palin's office sent us a statement about the ad thanking her, saying "she appreciates the show of support, but she has been focused on putting together the next state budget and a long- range energy plan for Alaska." The group behind the ads insists what you see is what you get. Palin struck a chord with them, so they wanted to publicly thank her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sarah Palin!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were those ingredients again for the moose chili?


ROWLANDS: The ads started running on Tuesday. They are running locally up in Alaska, and on a few national networks, including CNN -- Joe, Carol.

JOHNS: He shoots through the sky with a jet pack, and you might be asking, why? That's exactly what we will be asking when rocket man lands here on AMERICAN MORNING to explain himself.



JOHNS: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's rocket man. We've all been captivated by the video of Rocket man Eric Scott flying 1,500 feet across a canyon in Colorado using a jet pack. Now, for more on how he carried out that death-defying stunt, Eric Scott joins me.

How are you doing, Eric?


JOHNS: Wow, we looked at all the video. We found it absolutely fascinating. And I guess the first question for you was, you're going to be on the show, why don't you just jump on that thing and fly right on up here to New York?

SCOTT: Well, yes, but I'd have to refuel about 300 times probably.

JOHNS: Oh, OK. So, what kind of fuel do you use?

SCOTT: This is peroxide.

JOHNS: Peroxide?

SCOTT: Peroxide is similar to - yes, the stuff people put in their hair, but that's about three percent. This is actually 90 percent. And you get about six seconds of flight time a gallon out of it.

JOHNS: Wow. OK, so, a lot of people don't know, but you flew across the gorge. That, of course, is the Royal Gorge, about 1,500 feet wide. How long did it take you to get across and how much peroxide did you have left?

SCOTT: Well, it took me less than 30 seconds. The actual time was 21 seconds. And so that would have left me about that much fuel in each one of the tanks, in those two outside tanks you're looking at there.

JOHNS: So, are you not able to, like, just get on it and fly around for us this morning? I hear it's a problem with the temperature.

SCOTT: Yes, it's really cold. This thing generates superheated steam, but when it's cold out, that actual steam is real dense. So when I land, I get engulfed in a churning cloud of dense steam and you can't see.

JOHNS: That would not be good, especially if you have to know where you're going. You ever run into any planes up there or anything, have you? SCOTT: A few close calls but I always see them coming.

JOHNS: So, when you went across the Gorge, you didn't wear a parachute. That sounds a little bit risky to me.

SCOTT: Well, you know, these things weren't made for a parachute. You have a specific amount of power, so if I would have put a parachute on, I basically would have been looking at more weight, which would have caused me to take off slower and not achieved the speed I needed to get to get across there as fast as I needed to. So and if you're wearing a parachute, you're expecting to use it. So, I don't expect that.

JOHNS: You don't expect that. This is a daredevil stunt if ever I've seen one. I guess the next question for you is, what are you planning next? Are you going to do something else like this?

SCOTT: Oh, yes. We've definitely got some more tricks up our sleeve. But we're going to wait and, you know, you can't do them all at once. You got to drag it out and keep the people wanting more. You know, we're at the gorge every year. You might see us, you know, bringing something out - out there again. But, yes. It's going to be a surprise either way, so, you guys stay tuned and we'll keep you posted for sure.

JOHNS: So you think you could get some more high-density peroxide, perhaps, you'll be able to fly up here to New York one day, be in the Macy's day parade?

SCOTT: Well, we're actually working Jet Pack International is actually developing a turbine pack that will fly between ten minutes to an hour. The first one will be right around ten minutes and we'll get this thing up flying and we'll get this thing flying close to an hour.

We can sell these to the public. People can go out and fly around the mountains with their buddies in the canyon or whatever. Now if you have one of these, one guy in a jet pack is a show but if you have two guys, you definitely got a sport. So good things to look forward to.

JOHNS: Yes. You give new meaning to the words "air hockey." Thanks so much, Eric Scott. And we'll see you again soon.

SCOTT: All right. Thanks, guys.

COSTELLO: Not only that, who cares about ethanol. He uses peroxide! This guy's got the answer.

Big business news coming in to CNN, it's all about the number of Americans without a job. We'll get the latest from Allan Chernoff. That's just ahead.


COSTELLO: And just in to CNN, a full slate of new economic numbers. Allan Chernoff joins us now.

And I'm almost afraid to hear them. Closing my eyes. I'm getting ready. I'm holding on.

CHERNOFF: OK, Carol, let's put it this way. The latest numbers, at least on jobless claims, not as bad as the prior week.


CHERNOFF: That's the positive side. The news, 529,000 new jobless claims during the latest week. And that is better than the prior week, by 14,000, but still not good at all. Any number over 500,000, very bad. That tells us the unemployment rate is most certainly going to be going up, probably well over seven percent. Right now it's at 6.5 percent.

Let's move on. Since people are having trouble with jobs, they are not spending as much. As a result, personal spending during the latest month, down by one percent. That is a very, very big decline. That's hurting retailers all over. It is hurting the economy. And corporations also pulling back on spending, and we see that in the durable goods number out. The latest month out, down 6.2 percent, a huge decline. Obviously, a big decline in auto production, durable goods, it's very much tied to autos.

COSTELLO: The only kind of good thing about this, you know when people get up at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday to go shopping, they don't need to do that, because the bargains are already in the stores.

CHERNOFF: The bargains, the good news here is there will be spectacular bargains and the retailers are not holding back. Right away, everything is going to be on sale big time. If you got money, you will have good deals.

JOHNS: Big-screen TV.

COSTELLO: It's 55 minutes past the hour.

JOHNS: Overstuffed.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You probably heard of turducken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the tur, this is the duck, and this is the end.


JOHNS: Forget about breadcrumbs. Jeanne Moos looks at some turkey stuffed with six birds and a pig. Give thanks to the bizarre.

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



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

Two turkeys will get a presidential pardon today. It's a Thanksgiving tradition. The stuffing of legends. Those lucky birds won't find themselves stuffed on a table tomorrow. But as Jeanne Moos tells us, others are being overstuffed.


MOOS: Snooty turkeys getting the red carpet treatment, staying at the luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington. Being someone else's meal was the last thing on their minds. Room service, these two get presidential pardons. But pardon us. We're interested in how many others birds we can stuff in a turkey. You've probably heard of turducken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the "tur," this is the "duck," and this is the "en."

MOOS: Deboned chicken and duck stuffed in a turkey.


MOOS: But bone up on this, the latest dish looks more like an eye chart. Even the experts at Lobell's, one of New York's coolest butcher shops never heard of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turgooduccochiqua.

MOOS: However you say it, it surfaced on the photo exchange Web site Flickr, reporting to be a quail inside a cornish hen, inside a duck, inside a chicken, inside a turkey, inside a goose, with bacon between layers. Hence the unpronounceable word -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turgooduccochiqua.

MOOS: Turkey goose, duck, cornish hen, chicken, quail.

It's got six birds and a pig.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a partridge in a pear tree.

MOOS: Thanksgiving myths are actual delicacy. It provoked comments like ooh and monstrosity. The caption said it was cooked 12 hours and that the turkey was inside the goose but in the photo -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The head looks like a turkey to me.

MOOS: Then we have a goose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's something wrong somewhere.

MOOS: This is starting to feel like a wild goose in a turkey chase. The Lobell butchers also noted you can't debone a quail. It has too many tiny bones, so it wouldn't make sense to stuff one of them inside. So, it's amazing how much fits. The British series "River Cottage" did what it called a ten-bird roast, nine birds inside a turkey.

ANNOUNCER: It's like trying to close an overstuffed holiday suitcase.

MOOS: The moral of the story, if it doesn't roll off your tongue -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turgooduccochiqua.

MOOS: Maybe you shouldn't put it in your mouth. You know, I got something else we should be putting in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stuffing. Exactly.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


JOHNS: Thanks so much for joining us on this AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: They're disgusting.

Here's CNN NEWSROOM with Fredricka Whitfield.