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American Morning

Blagojevich Scandal Causing Distraction to the Obama Team; Iraqi Reporter's Unfriendly Fire at Bush; Obama to Meet with Security Team; Obama's Afghanistan Problem

Aired December 15, 2008 - 07:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: We're just coming up on 7:00 here in New York. We'll look at the top stories this morning. Air Force One is currently airborne, bringing President Bush back to Washington from a surprise trip to Afghanistan. Mr. Bush met with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Kharzi, also spoke to U.S. forces in the war-torn nation. The president's five-hour stop followed another surprise destination, which was Iraq.
So will he step aside voluntarily or will he be forced to resign? Illinois Republicans are calling for a special election to fill Barack Obama's empty Senate seat. The state's attorney general says that Governor Rod Blagojevich could step aside some time today, but a spokesman for Blagojevich says he's not aware of any such plan. The state's legislature is meeting later this afternoon and could push for impeachment.

Our Drew Griffin is live for us. He's going to be joining us from Chicago in just a moment.

Meantime, President-elect Barack Obama will hold the first meeting of his national security team today in Chicago including Vice President-elect Joe Biden, his pick for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton and continuing Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Obama is also expected to tap physicist, Steven Chu, as his energy secretary at a 5:00 p.m. Eastern news conference.

We're returning to our top story this morning. President Bush visiting Iraq and Afghanistan likely for the last time as president. But it's this moment that took place during his press conference with Iraq's prime minister that will undoubtedly be remembered. Take a look.

Iraqi reporter who threw his shoes at the president is now in custody, according to an Iraqi official and our own Michael Ware. And while shoe throwing is considered a grave insult in the Arab world, President Bush shrugged off the incident.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me talk about the guy throwing the shoe. It is one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and have people not gesturing with all five fingers. It's a way for people to draw, you know, attention. That's what happens in free societies where people try to draw attention to themselves.


CHETRY: Joining us now live at the very latest, CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

So he was certainly downplaying it although he had some pretty fast reflexes there because he could have really gotten hit in the face with that shoe he had ducked and then the second as well. But what do we know about this Iraqi journalist this morning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, the man is identified, in fact, as a journalist for an Iraqi-owned television station in Cairo, said to be in custody still, undergoing questioning. The bottom line here, Kiran, is while the president downplayed it, obviously, the Secret Service has less than a zero tolerance policy for anybody, anybody throwing anything at any president of the United States.

This was a physical act against the president, thank goodness, no direct threat but, of course, the man will be questioned in custody and it remains to be seen when and if the Iraqis release him -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes, so we do understand that he is still in custody being questioned. According to Michael Ware also, because the Iraqis are saying that he could have been targeting their own prime minister. When you saw the second shoe go it was, you know, it almost hit both of them. So I guess that's still up for questioning about what's going on with him in Iraq.

Meanwhile, what did he hope to accomplish and what was accomplished besides, of course, this high-profile incident that took place that really sucked a lot of the air out of the room, if you will.

STARR: It did suck the air out of the room. But in fact, this, of course, was President Bush's farewell visit to the troops in both the wars that have been conducted during his presidency. Neither war going the way the president anticipated.

In Iraq, of course, and for years, we heard no timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals. Well, now, of course, there is a timetable. U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011 under the terms of an agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad. And then the president moved on to Afghanistan. We saw that yesterday.

Afghanistan better than it was, but there are still insurgent safe havens in Afghanistan and the Taliban do control many areas. The U.S. trying to send more troops there -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Barbara Starr for us this morning. Thanks.

Carol? COSTELLO: No one is throwing any shoes in Chicago, at least not yet. But the state's GOP lawmakers are pushing hard for a special election by the voters to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat. The state's attorney general says Governor Rod Blagojevich could step aside today, but a Blagojevich aide is denying that.

Illinois' legislature meets this afternoon and could push for impeachment. Our Drew Griffin is live in Chicago for us this morning. So, what should we expect today?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think we'll expect a lot of fireworks, a lot of news coming out of Springfield, Carol. But as far as Governor Blagojevich, when you're covering this kind of stories you try to find somebody who's close to the governor. This guy is so toxic, I haven't been able to find anybody close to the governor.

His press secretary says resigning today? No way, it's not going to happen.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): It may be a cold day in Chicago, but the governor is feeling the heat.

PAT QUINN, ILLINOIS LT. GOVERNOR: I hope the governor does resign. I think that's best for the people of Illinois as well as for himself and his family.

GRIFFIN: The Illinois legislature meets today to talk about stripping him of power or outright impeachment.

LISA MADIGAN, ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is absolutely obvious that he is incapable of governing and the best thing to do is to move aside.

GRIFFIN: At the same time, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is trying to get the state Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich unfit for office, but will Blagojevich give them a chance?

MADIGAN: We have heard that there is a possibility that tomorrow he will make an announcement that he will step aside.

GRIFFIN: His office denies it and there are signs he's preparing for a fight. He spent nearly eight hours Sunday talking to a high- priced Chicago attorney known for helping big shots in a bind, but gave little hint as to his next move on the way out.

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: There'll be an appropriate time to talk about this. But let me just wish everybody happy holidays and things will work out just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rumor is you intend to resign. Is that true or false?

BLAGOJEVICH: I just think you should all have a great holiday season.

GRIFFIN: One issue could be money. The governor accused of trying to sell a Senate seat is said to be in a tough spot financially. One option could allow him to step aside but keep his salary.

MADIGAN: I have heard as well that that is one of his main concerns is his financial circumstances right now.


GRIFFIN: In fact, Carol, his past attorney dumped him because he couldn't pay his legal bills. Now he's got this new attorney, I'm not sure how he's going to pay that. But again, a lot of the attention on Springfield where they're talking about impeachment, special elections and that Supreme Court motion asking the governor to be declared unfit -- Carol.

COSTELLO: We'll keep an eye on what's happening out of Chicago today. Drew Griffin live there this morning.

Illinois Republicans are taking their push for a special election to the airwaves. But a new ad from the Republican National Committee is going further, linking President-elect Obama to Blagojevich.


BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Right now, my main focus is to make sure that we elect Rod Blagojevich as governor? We --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you working hard for Rod?

OBAMA: You betcha.


OBAMA: That's exactly right.


COSTELLO: The ad ends with a line, questions remain on screen. But Senator John McCain has come out against the ad saying it is divisive.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this but on the economy, stimulus package, reforms that are necessary. And so I don't know all the details of the relationship between President-elect Obama's campaign or his people and the governor of Illinois, but I have some confidence that all the information will come out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: John McCain also had an interesting answer Sunday to a question about Sarah Palin. When asked if he'd support his former running mate in a 2012 White House run, he could not promise he would. Instead, McCain said there are other great young governors and when pressed about it, McCain said my corpse is still warm, you know?

CHETRY: Well, Sarah Palin's Wasilla church was first to hold service in a middle school Sunday. Firefighters are investigating a fire in the church, believing arson is to blame. Palin was not in Wasilla this weekend. The governor's office says she was working on Alaska's budget in Juneau.

Utah rescuers are calling off a search at the snowboard ski resort. An avalanche buried a woman in her 20s in several feet of snow for nearly an hour. She died later at the hospital. Authorities initially feared that other skiers may have been caught in that same avalanche.

And a blast of icy wintry weather brought upstate New York to an absolute standstill this weekend. More than 100,000 homes still without power as tree branches snapped pulling down power lines. The American Red Cross kept 14 shelters open last night to give people somewhere warm to sleep.

And it was -- I was coming back from Pennsylvania along this stretch of 80 and literally, I mean, the trees were just bent over from the ice on top of them. And, you when trees fall and hit the power lines, that's what happens. But it was cold.

COSTELLO: I know. And here it's eerily warm this morning.

CHETRY: Exactly.

COSTELLO: It's 50 degrees outside.

Hey, guess what? The first dog -- the first dog is planning for a busy farewell Christmas tour at the White House. It's the return of Barneycam. We'll catch up with Barney in America's most famous home.

It's nine minutes past.

CHETRY: Price wars.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, discouraged by the lack of cost control that we've got. We are going to have to get a grip.


CHETRY: High-tech toys blowing up the budget. Weapons on the hit list and how they may never see battle.

You're watching the "Most News in the Morning."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHETRY: We're talking football believe it or not just now.

COSTELLO: It's true.

CHETRY: Carol was talking about how much she hates those Baltimore Ravens because she's from Cleveland.

COSTELLO: I do. Exactly.

CHETRY: Actually, it's in your genes. You're required to hate the Ravens.

COSTELLO: I know it's the most terrible.

CHETRY: Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, guys. I'm a Bears fan, I can't even get in this conversation.

COSTELLO: Oh, that's bad.

ROMANS: I know. Listen, I'm talking about credit cards, day of reckoning maybe this week for the credit card industry. Thursday is a big day when the fed, its mother regulators are going to vote on maybe a thousand pages of new rules governing the credit card industry.

Have you heard of this thing called universal default? So you -- you're late on a payment for your utility bill and then suddenly your three credit cards, you've got 25 percent or 29 percent interest rate.

COSTELLO: That happened to me once.

ROMANS: Well, they want -- and the consumer advocates and the government are considering ending this. Some other things that they're talking about having easy to read tables. Can you read the terms and conditions (ph)? I can't read that. I'm a financial reporter and I cannot read those.

COSTELLO: They changed the terms. Like who cares about reading them? They just change them.

ROMANS: They can change them suddenly. They can jack up your interest rates suddenly. Now, there are some new rules that are under consideration. This could happen that could -- I want to say happen Thursday -- ban retroactive rate hikes. So they raised your interest rate and then your current balances all are at this new interest rate. They would ban that. They would allow reasonable time for payments and then make the credit terms understandable and then the so-called universal default. This is I think so fascinating.

You miss a payment on one credit card then suddenly all your credit cards go up to, you know, 20 percent or 29 percent or however high it can go. They had 65,000 different comments in the comment period from the government from May to today. And I'm telling you --

CHETRY: Be careful what you ask for. ROMANS: Right.

CHETRY: Who wants to see that?

ROMANS: Right. A lot of people were really angry about having interest rates that went from nine percent to 29 percent if they missed one payment or if they didn't even miss a payment and suddenly their interest rates were going up.

COSTELLO: And you know something else is the credit card companies got some of the bailout money, too.

ROMANS: Well, here's --

COSTELLO: Shouldn't we get something for that?

ROMANS: This is a tough time. I mean, they're going to lose -- they're going to lose a lot of money in fees if these new rules go into place. And I guess on their, you know, in their defense, it isn't our money. It's their money. I mean, we're borrowing the money.

If you miss a payment, you're still -- you can still have your interest. Don't think that this is going to help you if you miss payments. If you miss payments, your interest rates are still going to go up and you're still going to get late fees.

CHETRY: The other thing, too, is, like you said, I mean, if you pay it off in full every month, if you can do that, then you don't have to worry about it. You have to read the terms and conditions.

COSTELLO: I do that now because they did that universal thing to me.

ROMANS: That's unbelievable.

COSTELLO: They did it to me.

ROMANS: And then sometimes you don't even know what happened. Wait, what just happened here? You know, you don't even know what happened.

COSTELLO: And then they won't let you cancel your card.

CHETRY: (INAUDIBLE) Carol was half of those comments.


CHETRY: Thanks, Christine.

Christmas time at the Bush White House can only mean one thing for Miss Beasley. Barney, he's the star. You know, he's the first dog and he's back with a big edition of Barneycam. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You better wake up, fellow. There's a lot of work to do around here. We're sprinting to the finish, not napping to the finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barney, this is really amazing. It's a ten.

MICHAEL PHELPS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Hey, Barney, I'm glad the decorations are finally coming together and you're using my favorite color, gold.

BUSH: To have the whole family together like this.


BARBARA BUSH, FIRST DAUGHTER: In fact, Willard, I think these are the memories --


CHETRY: Well, there you go. That was also Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps.

COSTELLO: Why did Michael Phelps jump in?


CHETRY: Right. I don't know. He's a perfect (INAUDIBLE) on the gold (INAUDIBLE) decorations, I guess.

I wonder whether Barney has any regrets though as he gets ready to head home to his new digs in Dallas because he really seemed to enjoy the White House. Everywhere you went there to do an interview, you can always see him running through the hallways.

COSTELLO: He seemed happy, too. Because, you know, remember that time he bit someone?

CHETRY: Hey, check this out. Yes, he did. He bit a --

COSTELLO: A Reuters reporter.

CHETRY: Yes. There he is.

Actually, you know, that poor reporter is actually been on antibiotics every day after that. This might not be one of them. Not long ago, this was taken when they were going for a walk on the White House lawn and Barney nipped a Reuters reporter, sent him right to the White House doctor. So that can get you up a call (ph) on Old Barney. I don't know if that makes up for all the decorations you put up, poor guy.

COSTELLO: Might get a size 10 shoe thrown at him, you know.

CHETRY: He ducked. And while the verdict is still out on what dog the Obama family will choose, the Bidens beat them to the punch. They already have their new pooch. The vice president elect's wife, Jill, said that Joe Biden could get a dog if the Democrats won the White House. And so they now have a 3-month-old German Shepherd puppy.

COSTELLO: I know. We wish we could show you a picture of it, but CNN was not able to get one. But it's cute.

CHETRY: Trust us.

COSTELLO: It's a room of heavy hitters. The president-elect is assembling his national security team for the first time today, sharing the table with Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

It's 17 minutes past the hour.

CHETRY: Also surviving a layoff. What you need to know if you've lost your job or you think that a layoff could be coming. We have some important advice for you in our special series.

It's 18 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." That was a live look at the White House. It's going to be an unseasonably warm day today in Washington, New York and up and down the East Coast.

Well, for the first time today, the president-elect will be meeting with his national security team. This includes Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, and our Brianna Keilar is live in Chicago with more on what they want to do with this meet as they decide what they're going to tackle and what their priorities are as it relates to national security.

Hi, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kiran. Yes. This is the first meeting since that team was announced. It is part of a series of national security meetings and an Obama aide tells me it's all about making sure this administration is ready to hit the ground running on January 20th. Because after all, this is an administration that from day one will be dealing with two wars in progress, a recent terrorist attack in India as well as the nuclear threat from North Korea.

The list really goes on and on, but the tough thing here for this incoming administration is to get out from underneath the shadow of this Blagojevich scandal here in Chicago. And it's basically going to be pretty impossible. That's because there's still some unanswered questions about communications between Obama's staff and the governor's staff.

President-elect Obama said on Thursday that he would be getting information, basically an internal investigation about these conversations. He'd be putting it out in the next few days.

Well, it's been a few days. We're still waiting for that information. We don't know when we're going to get it. And it's not that these communications were necessarily inappropriate. There's no allegations of wrong doing. Quite honestly, it would be usual or acceptable conversation, expected conversations, but there's still this unanswered question and it's very hard for this incoming administration to get out from underneath that scandal at this point, Kiran.

CHETRY: Even if there's any indication as to why, I mean perhaps there were concerns about the investigation. Perhaps they're, you know, they're being asked not to say anything. Can they at least talk more about that?

KEILAR: Well, definitely they're going to be questions. And you're going to be hearing -- and this is later today -- there's going to be a press conference on energy and the environment. We're going to be hearing, what we're expecting is for President-elect Obama to make it official that his pick for the energy department is Nobel Prize winner Dr. Steven Chu. That his pick for his climate czar is Carol Browner, two picks that actually were reported by CNN last week.

He's going to be talking about his vision for the energy and the environment, but you're going to see that a lot of the questions coming from reporters will no doubt be about Governor Rod Blagojevich. We're going to see just how much President-elect Obama can say. There's so many different reasons coming from experts who would be in the know about how you would handle a situation like this. So many different reasons about maybe why you wouldn't come forth with information right away but those are all questions that will be asked today, Kiran.

CHETRY: Right. Taking him off message unfortunately for the Obama team as they do want to highlight their energy policy and their energy team.

Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

Also just ahead, we're going to be joined by "Time" magazine columnist, Joe Klein. He's going to be talking about Obama's security team meeting. That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING -- Carol.

COSTELLO: And also this morning, Kiran, some of the Pentagon's most expensive pet projects are now in jeopardy as the president-elect comes under pressure to cut the department's budget. So what could get the ax? It's our "Memo to the President."


CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most Politics in the Morning." President-elect Obama meets with his national security team today and you can bet that Afghanistan is going to be near the top of the list of countries that they're deeply concerned about.

Joining me now is Joe Klein, "Time" magazine columnist, the author of the book "Politics lost" from RFK to W." And he also just returned from a week-long trip to Afghanistan and its warnings, I guess, for the incoming administration about the situation there. But today is the day that there's just going to be this private meeting with his national security team. President-elect Obama and Joe Biden, the vice president, as well as soon to be secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates.

So you have all these great minds in the room. Some of them with different opinions about what the priorities should be and where they should focus especially as it relates to Afghanistan. So how is that going to go?

JOE KLEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME": Well, you know, this is a really important process that they're starting now because there are some big egos here, and they're going to have work out how to work together because they very much want to get, hit the ground running on January 20th when Obama's inaugurated.

You know, we've heard about all the financial plans that are going to take place. You know, the big stimulus package. But the situation in Afghanistan especially right now demands immediate action from the president.

I was there last week and the situation is deteriorating. And a very strong message has to be sent both to the government of Afghanistan and the government of Pakistan that the policies of the Bush administration, which essentially to pump in a lot of aid with no strings attached are over now. That we're going to attach strings, we're going to want them to do specific things in order to make the situation safer for the American troops coming in.

CHETRY: It's very interesting. You talk about Afghanistan's "aimless absurdity," and you say of Barack Obama, "Before he sends another U.S. soldier off to die or be maimed in Afghanistan, Obama needs to deliver the blunt message to the leaders," -- this is what you're just saying -- "that he will no longer tolerate their complicity in the deaths of Americans an our allies."

How can he not tolerate it, I guess? I'm asking because if it could be stopped, clearly the Bush administration would also want to prevent that as well, right?

KLEIN: But the Bush administration hasn't been paying attention to Afghanistan. Its attention was diverted to Iraq, and they allowed a situation to get really out of control in Afghanistan. They assumed that Hamid Karzai, who dresses very well and says all the right things and was democratically elected, was going to be a good leader. But he has been an entirely corrupt leader.

He has strong ties to the drug trade. And the drug trade, 90 percent of the world's heroin, comes out of Afghanistan. A lot of that money is also going to the Taliban, to our enemies. And Karzai has been complicit in that. It has to stop.

CHETRY: The other fascinating part about, as you talk about what's going on with Pakistan and Afghanistan is, they couldn't win. The Soviets couldn't win with more than 100,000 troops. We have 30,000 troops there. What is the goal for President Barack Obama to bring more troops, U.S. troops into Afghanistan?

KLEIN: Well, that's a good question. I just read a book about the Alexander the Great getting clobbered in Afghanistan...


KLEIN: ... 20,000 years ago.

CHETRY: Not a good track record.

KLEIN: I mean, this is nothing new and it's been very hard for occupying powers to win there. This intrusion now by NATO and western forces is the most benign in Afghanistan's history, trying to build schools, help the people, but still it's an incredibly difficult thing if you have a government that the people don't trust and people are beginning in Afghanistan - are beginning to lose faith in the Afghan government.

CHETRY: And that's a problem obviously. Meantime one of the other things that you will know a lot about, Senator Hillary Clinton preparing for her new role as secretary of state, trying to erase some of this campaign debt. And President Bill Clinton is also going to be attending a fund-raiser to try to pay down this debt.

Is this unusual? There's so much unusual about the entire thing, but she's trying to do this quickly because once she's secretary of state, she can't?

KLEIN: Right, you know, she's been having some trouble doing that. You know, she went very much into debt during this campaign, I think probably she would say that she let it go on about a month longer than it needed to go on. The good news is that I'm hearing from sources close to Clinton is that she just loving her new job. She's just loving the prospect of being secretary of state. She's got some debt though.

CHETRY: Right. And 36 days and counting right?

KLEIN: Right.

CHETRY: To help erase it. Joe Klein, always great to talk to you. Thanks so much.


CHETRY: Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: 31 minutes past the hour. Here are this morning's top stories. The Iraqi reporter who threw two shoes at President Bush is being held for questioning. An Iraqi official says the reporter is being interrogated to determine whether anyone paid him to throw shoes at President Bush. In the meantime, many Arabs across the Middle East are hailing the shoe thrower as a hero. And a suspect has been arrested in the Oregon bank bombing that killed two officers and critically injured a police chief. The arrest was made about 20 miles south of where the explosion occurred but the identity of the suspect has not yet been revealed.

And you dent have to be on firm ground to go online anymore. Yes. Tomorrow Delta Airlines begins offering wireless internet service on about half of its shuttle flights between Washington and New York and between New York and Boston. The price for the service begins at about $9.

And this morning, the growing shift of presidential power under way and a two-front budget busting war and a collapsing economy, President-elect Barack Obama has promised to scour the federal budget line by line to cut wasteful spending, and that has some at the Pentagon fearing that their pricey projects may be scaled back or even eliminated. CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has today's "Memo to the President."


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, you promised to go through the federal budget line by line.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We can't sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness. We simply can't afford it.

MCINTYRE: Take the Air Force's super stealthy F-22. It maybe super cruising right into the crosshairs of Pentagon budget slashers and it's looking like a big fat target with a sticker price of more than $150 million a copy. It's the most expensive fighter jet ever and it's yet to be used in combat.

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I am concerned that it is such an expensive system.

MCINTYRE: The F-22 tops a long list of high-priced, high-tech weaponry whose cost has ballooned beyond the Pentagon's ability to pay. A GAO report earlier this year, listed 95 programs over budget by $295 billion. Everything from the new presidential helicopter, $5 billion over budget to the Navy's new coastal combat ship, 100 percent over budget.

MULLEN: And I'm obviously discouraged by the lack of cost control that we've got in so many of our programs. And we are going to have to get a grip on that.

MCINTYRE: One program in jeopardy is the Army's futuristic line of computer linked tanks and combat vehicles. Price tag $200 billion. Army leaders were hoping for a more sympathetic new defense secretary but are now stuck with Robert Gates who is unconvinced the so-called future combat system is enough bang for the buck.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It will be difficult to sustain support for these kinds of weapons programs in the future. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: With two wars, the need to replace worn out equipment and the duty to care for battle weary and wounded troops current Pentagon spending levels are unsustainable but killing a program isn't easy. Take the F-22, ending production would affect 1,000 suppliers in 44 states and cost thousands of jobs. Try getting Congress to approve that, Mr. President.

COSTELLO: Thanks to Jamie McIntyre. Now that President-elect Barack Obama has named Hillary Clinton as his choice for secretary of state, what will it mean for Middle East peace? That's tomorrow's "Memo to the President."

And we want to hear from you. Send us your "Memo to the President." Go to and click on the i-report link to give the President-elect a piece of your mind.

CHETRY: Well, a survival guide to layoffs. What you should do if you lose your job. Our Gerri Willis will be along with some common sense tips on securing your future in tough times.

And we all like to save money when we shop, but for some, that's easier said than done. We'll give you some insight as to what kind of shopper you are.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. Gerri Willis is here this morning to kick off our special series, "Layoffs, a survival guide." It's a look at how to make it through tough times. And this morning she has some advice on what to do if you think you're about to lose your job. Gerri has been online this morning answering some questions. And you got a lot of people asking about what they should do, or you know what are some of the steps because it's such an emotionally difficult time, not to mentioned financially that sometimes you don't know where to start.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Yes. We're getting a lot of questions from people who have been unemployed. And of course, that's what everybody is talking about this weekend, right? The big numbers and how frightening they are. So let's get right to them.

Jackson in Kansas asks - "I would like to get a part time job but haven't worked in three years. What shall I tell a prospective employer about the gap in my work history. I hesitate to say I'm disabled due to the questions they may asked or that they'll think I'm undependable."

Well, I got it tell you, Jackson, honesty is the best policy here. You might as well tell them everything about your background including your disability. And if you do have gaps in your work experience, one good thing to do is to fill it with work for charity. So stuff that you do, freebie, gratis for charity, you can actually use that as a way of filling in the gaps of your resume, but tell them about your disability. They're going to find out anyway.

The next question comes from Big Rob in North Carolina who asked - Gerri, I have been unemployed for seven months. All of my savings and credit cards are maxed out. I have bill collectors calling all times of the day. Unemployment is helping me with the mortgage and utilities. With everything I'm behind on what can I do to stay above water?"

Well, Big Rob, that's a tough situation. I got to tell you. But do you know that these folks who are calling you, trying to get you to pay your bills, guess what? They're doing something illegal. According to the FTC, that's Federal Trade Commission, people you owe money to cannot call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. without your expressed approval. Go to the FTC web site,, complain they're doing something illegal. They're not allowed to do that. And secondarily, you've got a long road ahead of you. The best thing do right now is to get some professional advice. I suggest going to the National Foundation of Credit Counselors. They can help you take all your debt, put it into one pot and figure out a way to pay it off. Obviously at some point, you're going to have to get some unemployment because your unemployment benefits aren't going to cover it and they won't last forever. is a great web site to go to.

And finally we have one more question from Owen. He says, he asks "Hi Gerri. I hope you can send me some details about how to find a job during tough economic times." Well, I got to tell you, this is a big question of the day right now. And obviously, people out there, they're unemployed for longer periods of time right now. Ten weeks as opposed to eight weeks this time last year. Number one, you have to get out to your network, you have talk to people you know who are employed and might know of jobs out there for you. Don't be embarrassed at this point in the economy because it is such a tough economy. They need to step back a little bit and get a job maybe you're overqualified for. The reality here is that this poor economy is going to continue for a long period of time. You want to get some sort of employment so you can get some sort of money coming in the door and then worry a little later about upgrading that job and maybe getting something that pays a little more.

CHETRY: All right. Some good tips, Gerri. And you're right it is a tough situation.

WILLIS: It is.

CHETRY: Thanks a lot.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

CHETRY: Gerri is blogging throughout our show. You can send her questions to She'll be back online in just a few minutes trying to answer more questions for you.

Also tomorrow in the second part of her series, Gerri has a checklist for surviving the day you're laid off.

COSTELLO: And with shopping just about on everyone's mind, those who do have a job that is. You might be interested to hear exactly what kind of shopper you are. Are you neurotic? Are you psychotic? Plus we'll give you some tips on how to save no matter how you shop.

And superstar Jennifer Aniston sat down with "GQ" magazine for a revealing interview. But as you will soon see it likely wasn't what she said that caught so much attention.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN, METEOROLOGIST: I smell pictures. Stick around for that. 50 degrees, it's balmy in New York. 48 in Boston. Meanwhile, if you're waking up in Chicago, it's 9. 2 in Kansas City and that does not include the wind chill. Weather is coming up when the most news in the morning comes right back. It's 42 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: About 15 minutes until the top of the hour. Our Rob Marciano is tracking weather for us around the country. We're getting a bit of a reprieve from the extreme weather, at least here on the east coast.

MARCIANO: Yes. It's like being on a Florida vacation for you guys.

CHETRY: Is that why you don't have a jacket on today because it's going to be nice and balmy today?

MARCIANO: Yes, I'm doing it in sympathy of you - yes, it's even nice in Atlanta. The winter coat actually have it at hand because you go just a couple of hundred of miles to the west and we're talking about the coldest air of the season so far. In some cases, the coldest there that they've seen in several years and more storms coming to the west coast.

Let's start there. Some i-reports coming at you. Some interesting weather over the weekend in places that don't typically see snow. This is from Portland, Oregon, actually Tualatin, southwest of Portland. Thanks Lisa Blanco for sending this in. It doesn't only look good. The kids are having fun for sure. But you know that part of the country, they have these big evergreen trees, that have shallow roots and she's wondering with the wind blowing, will they stick around?

All right. North Dakota blizzard, Michael Vogel, sent this in. Some video, all right. It's about eight inches of snow falling there and people are actually being fined if they drive around. So hopefully he didn't get fined here, but cops at least are telling people to stay at home. Wind chills there, 43 to 44 below zero and he says, you know, it's cool. But it's not that bad. All right. Definitely (inaudible) there.

Check it out right now in Louisville, it's 42, was 50. Temps dropping rapidly behind these fronts. Temps in St. Louis in the teens. And we could see some icing in this part of the world. Meanwhile you factor in that wind chill, Kiran, and we're talking minus 12 right now in Chicago and feels like minus 17 in Milwaukee. So enjoy your summer-like day in the Big Apple.

CHETRY: Hey, I just caught a chill looking at that stuff. By the way, it's bad enough to be driving in that weather, don't be videotaping as well.

MARCIANO: Well, you know, i-reports, if you're going to do it, do it safely. We appreciate it.

CHETRY: There's no way to drive in a blizzard and tape record it safely. I don't know. That's just me.

MARCIANO: Maybe if you're from North Dakota you possess those skills.

CHETRY: All right. I certainly don't. I can't drive safely without a camcorder. Rob, thank you.

MARCIANO: See you soon.

COSTELLO: They crack me up. Yes, drive safely while you're shooting video in a blizzard. Top videos right now on Most popular, outrage on the streets of Brooklyn, protestors march against hate after two fatal attacks against Latino immigrants. Last week, an Ecuadorian man was hit with a bottle and then beaten with a bat. And a few weeks ago another Ecuadorian immigrant was fatally beaten by a gang of teenagers.

Also, President Bush dodging flying shoes on his visit to Baghdad. An Iraqi journalist hurling those shoes yelling "it is farewell, kiss you dog." President Bush said it was nothing to worry about.

And all right. Rob Marciano was right. Here are the pictures. Check out "GQ" magazine, Jennifer Aniston baring it all, wearing nothing but a tie. She also revealed she can only laugh when she hears Angelina Jolie talk about her affair -

CHETRY: Oh, there it is.

COSTELLO: Oh my god.

CHETRY: Wearing a tie instead of men.


COSTELLO: Those are the most popular videos right now on She has to stop talking about Brad Pitt and Angelina.

CHETRY: I know. Here's what she said in the article, she was joking, I guess, and she said something about whether or not they hang out, and she said we all go away to the Hamptons together on the weekend, that would be hysterical, I've got Zahara on my hip and Knox. I mean, stop talking about it -

COSTELLO: You know, don't even joke about it. It should be so over. She should say no comment every time. All right.

CHETRY: That's our advice.

COSTELLO: I'm sure she'll take it. If she does admire us so much.

A new medical report about the sex lives of people who take antidepressants. See what happens when people stop taking the drugs.

And taking over Dick Cheney's job. Joe Biden getting ready to give up some power. You're watching the most news in the morning.


COSETLLO: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. You may be among the millions checking your wallets to see what's - why are you laughing at that?

CHETRY: I'm sorry. I didn't know you're coming out so soon.

COSTELLO: She's eating.

CHETRY: I'm so sorry

COSTELLO: Monday morning. You know, how much you spend and how you spend your money says a lot about what kind of shopper you are. Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us from Atlanta. So how do researchers categorize shopping personalities? This is rich.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is definitely rich. How you shop might say a lot about your mental state. That's according to an economists who is also an expert in consumer psychology. And what this gentleman has done is that he come up with three personality profiles of shoppers. And he says, look, there's the normal shopper, the normal shopper goes out. They don't - spends less than what he earns. He saves for the future. He does prudent planning.

But then there's also the neurotic shopper. And the neurotic shopper might spend excessive amounts of time shopping, looking for that perfect, perfect gift. Returns things a lot, but doesn't overspend. Still spends within his or her means, and then there is the dreaded compulsive shopper. That means, spending money that you don't have. You go in buying binges and then you're so embarrassed that you hide those purchases from the ones that you love.

Now, I have to tell you, when I saw these three categories I thought you know, I'm pretty much a one. That's a good thing but I do have flashes of number two. I can be a perfectionist shopper. Ladies, I'm curious. What kind of shoppers do you think you are?

CHETRY: We took it. I took the test that you guys asked me to. I'm a one as well. but you know sometimes when you're having a bad day and you buy a new pair of shoes, it does make you feel better. I hope that's not neurotic. COSTELLO: Who's going to admit they're a psychotic shopper?

CHETRY: Carol, what did you say?

COSTELLO: I'm normal. I am normal. Anyway, speaking about shoppers who do have a problem, that would be none of us, but is there kind of an intervention program available for people who have that problem?

COHEN: Yes, there are. There's actually, I have to say, a category 4 shopper has real problems. They do lots of compulsive buying. They get into huge financial trouble and there is a group called spender menders. Yes, it's a support group. Kind of like an AA for shoppers, and they help each other stop shopping. And I think the occasional, oh, I buy a pair of shoes and it makes me feel good that you mentioned, Kiran, you don't have to worry. I think experts would say that that is perfectly fine. It's when you spend way more than you make and you get into financial trouble. That's when you really need to seek help.

CHETRY: I hear you.

COSTELLO: I think during these economic times that may be the best medicine for the shoppers with a problem.

CHETRY: Very true.

COHEN: Right.

COSTELLO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks. It is 53 minutes past the hour.


CHETRY (voice-over): Size 10 insults.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... like a boxer. The way he shoots it out of the way and the thing whizzed past his head.

CHETRY: World reaction, live from Baghdad.

And lost your job? Watch this. 50 jobs in 50 states. Is one for you?

Plus, a survivor's guide for the unemployed. You're watching the most news in the morning.


COSTELLO: Current Vice President Dick Cheney has gotten quite a rap over the years for his deep involvement in White House decision- making. So what will Joe Biden's role be as vice president? My next guest says Americans expect something radically different. Carol Lee is the White House reporter for politico and she joins me now live from Chicago. Good morning.


COSTELLO: So Joe Biden says he's going to shrink the role of vice president. What does he mean by that?

LEE: Well, you know, Vice-president elect Biden has a different view of the vice presidency than current Vice President Dick Cheney. And so where Dick Cheney would be involved at all levels, and making policy decisions, you know, you're going to see Vice President-elect Joe Biden take on more of an adviser role to President-elect Barack Obama.

And in that sense, you know, he's not going to sit in on the Senate caucus meetings, democrat caucus meetings, in the way that Dick Cheney did. He's not going have an office just steps from the House floor, in the way that Dick Cheney did, which was something that was totally unprecedented.

COSTELLO: Private -

LEE: Right, I mean, the way that Biden's people that are with him describe it as he's going to try to restore the office to its historical role and you know he talked about that during the campaign and -

COSTELLO: Well, let's talk about that a second. In your article for politico, you quote an unnamed Obama transition team official as saying Biden's goal of restoring the office to its traditional role is something he and Obama agreed on before the Delaware senator was named to the democratic ticket.

LEE: Right.

COSTELLO: Why did the two go to such lengths to have this agreement before Joe Biden was named?

LEE: Well, I think that they have just - it's a very different style, and you know, the thing that to be reminded here is that so much of the vice president's office depends on how much the president wants - how much authority the president wants to give it.

And you know Barack Obama has not shown any signs of empowering that office in the way that it has been empowered in the last eight year, and if you look at sort of the evolution of, as Vice President- elect Joe Biden since he joined the democratic ticket, he's really seemed to have adapt to this no drama style that the Obama team has.

And I think that, you know, obviously before he agreed to be on the ticket they needed to have this discussion, because the vice president's office in the last eight years has been such a point of discussion, given the authority that Dick Cheney and the amount of authority that President Bush accorded -

COSTELLO: Absolutely. But you know I'm beginning to feel a little sorry about Joe Biden because you know, the biggest news to come out about him lately was he got a new puppy. I mean Hillary Clinton is secretary of state. He has foreign policy credentials. Joe Biden does, but it seems he'll be on the sidelines. I mean what exactly will his role be? I mean, when you look upon him as a power figure.

LEE: Well, and I think one thing to keep in mind is that when you talk to people who are close to Joe Biden, they say that he's fine with this. I mean, this is the sort of, what he signed up for, and that he's OK in being, in having this role, as it's being defined for him now.

And so I think that you're going to see him be more visible in the coming weeks. He's doing his first television interview in a week, and so - and I think what you're not going see is the sort of, Dick Cheney became known for the undisclosed locations. I don't think that's not the vice president you're going see when Joe Biden takes office.

COSTELLO: Joe Biden will go out there and be visible in the community.

LEE: Yes.

COSTELLO: Carol Lee from Politico.

Thank you for joining us this morning. Kiran.