Return to Transcripts main page

American Morning

Tracking Obama's Promises; J. Crew's Stock Soars After Obama family Donning; Bush Daughters Send Open Letter to Obama Girls; Caroline Kennedy Bows Out

Aired January 22, 2009 - 06:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, Barack Obama making a clean break from the Bush administration, planning to order Gitmo closed today.

Plus, why he took the oath of office...

JOHN G. ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

CHETRY: ... all over again.

JUSTICE ROBERTS: Congratulations again.

OBAMA: Thank you, sir.

CHETRY: And Caroline Kennedy out of the running. New York still waiting for a senator, with Wall Street in shambles, on this AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: And welcome. A lot going on today. Welcome back.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. I was actually trying to get to stay for another couple of days just to soak it all in, but they said...

CHETRY: It was wonderful. We'll never forget --

ROBERTS: ... get your butt back to New York. You've got a job to do, pal.

CHETRY: We'll never forget it, though. It was wonderful experience, for sure.

ROBERTS: It really was. I mean, regardless of your political stripes, or, you know, whether you're a Democrat, an independent or a Republican, that moment in history was extraordinary. And what an amazing front row seat we had to witness it all, too. I showed people pictures of where we were and the vantage point that we had up there on the camera riser.

CHETRY: It was amazing.

ROBERTS: Stunning, we were 100 feet away. It was amazing.

CHETRY: I know. I put one of them up on my Facebook. I only have like 10 friends, but they all got to see it as well.

ROBERTS: If those are the only type of pictures you put up on Facebook you should be relatively OK.

CHETRY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: We begin this morning with breaking news.

Caroline Kennedy dropping her bid to fill Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat. In a statement released overnight Kennedy says, she told New York Governor David Paterson she was withdrawing for "personal reasons." Caroline Kennedy was considered the front-runner to replace Hillary Clinton but recent polls suggested that her support was slipping.

President Obama wasting now time tackling some of his campaign promises. Today he's expected to issue three executive orders. The first demanding the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay be closed within a year. The second order will formally ban the use of torture on terror suspects. And the third order will mandate a systematic review of detention policies and procedures. More details on the new president's orders coming up for you in just a moment.

Newly minted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins her first full day at the office. She's expected to address the State Department staff this morning, along with the president. Hillary Clinton was sworn in yesterday with former President Bill Clinton standing at her side. Earlier the full Senate overwhelmingly approved Clinton's nomination by a vote of 94-2.

CHETRY: And it brings us back to our breaking news this morning. Hillary Clinton's vacant New York Senate seat will not be filled by a Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy taking herself out of the running to replace Clinton, citing personal reasons in a statement overnight, it came hours after conflicting reports about whether or not she was actually pulling out because of concerns about her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy. Kennedy is battling brain cancer and suffered a seizure on inauguration day.

CNN's Mary Snow has been covering Caroline Kennedy's bid for the Senate since it started last month. And Mary joins us to give us more information about exactly what's going on.

Hi, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there. Good morning.

I can tell you there was massive confusion last night here in New York. Kennedy's withdrawal seemed to throw Governor Paterson's office into a tailspin. There were conflicting reports about whether she was in or out. Shortly after midnight a Kennedy spokesman released a single sentence, stating, "I informed Governor Paterson today, that for personal reasons, I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate."

Exactly what led Kennedy to her decision is unclear. "The New York Times" cites the health of her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, who is diagnosed with brain cancer. He suffered a seizure Tuesday, while attending the inauguration. But the "New York Post" reports a different reason. Saying Kennedy withdrew after it became clear she would not be Governor Paterson's choice to replace Senator Hillary Clinton.

Now, as for the governor, himself, his office refused any comment and really appeared to be caught off guard last night by Kennedy's announcement. Paterson has the sole authority to name a replacement for Senator Clinton. He was planning to announce his choice by this weekend.

Kennedy had been widely viewed as the favorite but recent polls showed her popularity waned. And Paterson talked about pluses and minuses for her, and that includes her awkward rollout. The fiercely private Kennedy had a tough time with the New York press after expressing her interest in the Senate seat.

Of course, the guessing game begins anew of who will be name. New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is in the running. Paterson just said publically for the first time, the other day, that Cuomo is under consideration.

But Paterson has talked in recent days about the fact that Senator Clinton, leaving the Senate, would mean one less female senator, that it seems perhaps boosting the chances for some of the other women being considered, that includes Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand and Randi Weingarten, the head of the United Federation of Teachers

So, it's unclear right now.

CHETRY: He talked to us on AMERICAN MORNING, down in D.C. a couple of days ago, and he also not only pointed out the fact that it would leave the Senate with one less woman and there's only 17 if you count Hillary Clinton, but he also went on to say, upstate New York doesn't have any representation and there's no Latinos represented as well. He has a lot to consider.

SNOW: He does. Recent days a number of New York Democrats I've spoken with said they honestly did not know which way he was going to go with this decision. That they really couldn't say for sure who it would be.

CHETRY: Mary Snow, thank you.

SNOW: Sure.

CHETRY: Well, in just a few minutes we'll also be talking with "New York Post" reporter Frederick Dicker who broke the story, yesterday, about Caroline Kennedy.

ROBERTS: This morning, history is being written as President Obama moves quickly to break from some of the Bush administration policies. He is expected to sign an executive order demanding the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay be closed within a year. And this morning, for a second day, he's going to meet with his top economic advisers.

Today's early starts comes after last night's redo. The president took the advice of constitutional attorneys and retook the oath that Chief Justice Roberts kind of flubbed the first time around. Just 12 people were in the room for the second go around. There's no video just audio and pictures. But this time they got the first part of the oath correct.


JUSTICE ROBERTS: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear.

OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear.

J. ROBERTS: That I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.

OBAMA: That I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.


ROBERTS: This morning though, the private oath, raising some eyebrows, because it came on the same day Mr. Obama announced a new era of openness. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live at the White House working the story.

I guess some people are saying, OK, you had one camera in there, still camera, you had an audio recording, no television pool. Where is the transparency here?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really is ironic, John, when you think about it. White House Counsel Gregg Craig said it wasn't necessary, legally, to do the do-over, but they thought it was important. And then, you had a day where you saw the president come out and talk about there be new transparency in the federal government. And then the White House press office decides to restrict access to this very important moment, not allowing a television camera, CNN, and other networks have filed a formal complaint about this. And it does raise the question, just how different is this administration going to be?


OBAMA: Don't want to be late.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): He's now President Barack Obama. When he enters, everyone stands.

OBAMA: Please, be seated. Still getting used to that whole thing.

MALVEAUX: On his first full day on the job, his message was simple.

OBAMA: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

MALVEAUX: The party is definitely over. Mr. Obama delivered a tough love to his senior staff, a mandatory pay freeze for those making more than $100,000. A ban on accepting gifts from lobbyists, and a rule forbidding administration officials from working on government issues they once lobbied for.

OBAMA: These steps are aimed at forming rules of the road for my administration and all those who serve in it.

MALVEAUX: Obama pledged he'd be more transparent.

OBAMA: Any time the American people want to know something I, or a former president wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the attorney general and the White House counsel.

MALVEAUX: Obama also made it clear his priorities overseas will be engaging in the Middle East conflict. He pledged his commitment and a round of calls to the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

Mr. Obama also gathered his top military brass to the White House to issue a new mission, to withdraw U.S. troops out of Iraq in 16 months. The president also met with his key economic advisers to promote his $825 billion economic stimulus package that he believes will create millions of jobs.


MALVEAUX: And, John, he's going to hold another meeting with his economic team closed to the press again today. He is also going to be issuing some very important executive orders. Obviously, one of them to close Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the other to ban torture, and a third to look at all of those detention policies, John.

ROBERTS: So far, Suzanne, what's the relationship between the White House and the media, the White House press corps?

MALVEAUX: Well, it's only day two here of formally, or day three, I should say, but we are looking for access here. We're looking for something that's different and more transparent. We may get a briefing today. They're still kind of up and running with the computers and the phones trying to get everything in order, logistically, at the White House. So, we'll see how this works.

ROBERTS: And the doors to the press office open at this point?

MALVEAUX: Not yet. We're still getting a rhythm here to see just when that happens, how early that happens.

ROBERTS: Shades of 1993. We'll see if that changes. Suzanne, thanks so much. Good to see you this morning.


CHETRY: Well, the new administration going full throttle this morning now that senior White House staffers and their deputies have been sworn in. Things did get a little awkward yesterday, right before Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath. Mr. Biden took a dig at Chief Justice John Roberts and President Obama didn't seem to be amused. Check it out.


OBAMA: Joe, you want to administer the oath?


OBAMA: For the senior staff.

BIDEN: For the senior staff?


BIDEN: All right.

OBAMA: A number of Cabinet members have already --

BIDEN: My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts.




ROBERTS: He sort of comes up, nice joke, Joe, let's get on with it. Knowing, I guess, that he was going to retake the oath later on.

CHETRY: Right. He didn't seem amused. The other thing, too, is that I think you can imagine how Justice Roberts must feel. I mean, an incredibly intelligent man.

ROBERTS: I have no idea how anybody named John Roberts would feel.

CHETRY: And how anybody named John Roberts could flub up two little words, right? See?

ROBERTS: Never happened in my experience.


CHETRY: But the interesting thing is Chief Justice Rehnquist, when he administered the oath, he brought a note card with him. John Roberts foregoed (sic) the note card. He decided not to do that. And maybe that wasn't the best decision. I mean, it's a lot of pressure. ROBERTS: It was interesting back and forth, though, that I think, President Obama said he wasn't sure who was right and who was wrong. And that happens when you get in a moment like that, the adrenalin starts running, am I remembering it incorrectly? Or is he getting it wrong? You start to second guess yourself.

CHETRY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: Interesting to watch that happen.

Breaking news this morning, Carolyn Kennedy's flirtation with Hillary Clinton's Senate seat is over. She bows out. The "New York Post" reporter who broke the story will tell us what happened.

And the president's approach to faith, a look at the key signals that he is sending to the religious community and how they are being perceived.

It's 10 minutes, now, after the hour.



CAROLINE KENNEDY, ENDING N.Y. SENATE SEAT BID: I would be an unconventional choice. I haven't followed a traditional path, but I think I bring a lifetime of experience to this. In my family, you know, public service is really the greatest honor that anyone can have.


CHETRY: Well, that was then, Caroline Kennedy saying that she had the right stuff to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Now, though, she's withdrawing her bid for personal reasons. Fred Dicker is state editor for the "New York Post". He broke the story last night and joins us from Albany this morning.

Good to see you. Thanks for being with us. You've been reporting for days that Kennedy was Governor Paterson's choice. How surprised were you that she was taking herself out of the running in?

FREDERIC DICKER, STATE EDITOR, "NEW YORK POST": Very surprised. Everybody was surprised. The governor, himself, apparently was surprised. He didn't know what was happening. And he told people, in recent days, or indicated to people in recent days that Caroline Kennedy was going to be his choice.

CHETRY: That's the interesting thing. Here's what she said last night, it was a very short statement.

"I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I'm withdrawing my name for consideration of the United States Senate." There were media reports that she was shaken, of course, by the seizure at the inauguration lunch of Uncle Ted Kennedy, whom she has a very, very close relationship with. Others say it was because she wasn't Paterson's choice. Do you know what's going on here?

DICKER: No, we don't know the bottom line answer, the actual answer. Nobody is buying the line that she was pulling herself out because her uncle was sick. He's been sick for quite awhile. That is not a surprise. People are focusing on what may have turned up at the last minute as the final background check was being completed. She said personal reasons, without saying why. If it was Uncle Teddy, she certainly could have said that. There may be something else there. We're trying to find o that out now.

CHETRY: So who do you think if Kennedy is out, who is in. Who do you think is at the top of his list?

DICKER: I don't think there's any doubt that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the son of the famous governor, Mario Cuomo, has to be at the top of the list, along with a handful of others. Three congress members and a county executive from out on Long Island, Tom Swazi, they're really at the top of the list.

CHETRY: I asked Governor Paterson on Monday - he was on AMERICAN MORNING, down at the inauguration with us - if he was facing any pressure to appoint a woman to fill Senator Hillary Clinton's seat given the fact there aren't many women in the Senate. Here's what he said.


GOV. DAVID PATERSON, (D) NEW YORK: Without Hillary, there would be 16. So I think it's a valid point. I wouldn't say it's pressure. I wouldn't say it's a factor.


CHETRY: He also mentioned the fact that Latinos, as well as Upstate New Yorkers don't have much representation at the state or federal level either. Do you think he's leaning toward a woman?

DICKER: I think he is. Keep in mind that he is not an elected Governor. He has to run on his own next year, and the inside view in New York is that, and it's an understandable one, he's going to make a decision that's best for him, getting himself elected and having a balanced ticket, as they describe it here in New York, and generally in politics, makes some sense. There's no question I think that the governor has been looking to a women. There are a couple of women congressman, Carolyn Maloney, from Manhattan, Kirsten Gillibrand, from Hudson and Upstate New York, who are thought of as being on the short list. And would I think that's accurate.

CHETRY: Some people say there was pushback at the notion of a political "dynasty" which is why Carolyn Kennedy had a rough go of it. Wouldn't it be the same with Andrew Cuomo?

DICKER: I don't think so. I don't think there was any push back. Caroline Kennedy, from the start, was an awful candidate. She didn't handle herself well. She left a lot of Democrats angry because she didn't have a record within the Democratic Party, here in New York. She even skipped several elections. She was described by a lot of people as New York's version of Sarah Palin. To make the case that she was a lot worse than Sarah Palin, and in the end, she couldn't even see it through to the end.

CHETRY: All right. Frederic Dicker, who broke the news, the state editor for the "New York Post" Thanks for being with us this morning.

DICKER: Thank you.

CHETRY: It's 16 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS (voice over): Church, state, and the Obama White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

ROBERTS: Does change you can believe in also mean a new approach to religion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's willing to reach out to a wide array of individuals.

OBMA: So help me God.

ROBERTS: The faith factor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help us, oh, God so remember that we are Americans.

ROBERTS: You're watching the most news in the morning.


ROBERTS: Faith has ushered in presidents since George Washington added "so help me, God" to the oath of office. And like so many presidents before him, President Obama invited ministers to deliver prayers before, during, and after his inauguration. And the men and women that he chose are giving us an early glimpse of how Mr. Obama will handle religion. CNN's Jim Acosta is live for us in Washington.

And it looks like he's going across the spectrum here, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He really is. Much was made of how George W. Bush handled the issue of religion and the influence of the religious right during his administration, his value voters during the 2004 campaign. Well, times have changed. Barack Obama's inauguration and all the festivities around it indicate the new president will have a different approach when it comes to religion.


CHOIR SINGING: He's got the whole world in his hands ACOSTA (voice over): The Obama presidency wasn't the only first this inauguration week. Sharon Watkins became the first woman to lead the national prayer service, a ritual that dates back to George Washington .

REV. SHARON WATKINS, PRESIDENT, DISCIPLES OF CHRIST: It's good that we pause to take a deep spiritual breath.

ACOSTA: At the inauguration's kickoff at the Lincoln Memorial it was the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson delivering the invocation.

RT. REV. GENE ROBINSON, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: And the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

ACOSTA: Choices that illustrate Mr. Obama's desire for inclusiveness.

JIM WALLIS, PRESIDENT, SOJOUNERS: I've known Barack Obama for about 10 years and he's always been a good listener. He wants to know what you think. And he wants strong opinions around him, and then he listens and he then decides what he thinks.

ACOSTA: That could explain why controversial evangelical Pastor Rick Warren was asked by the president to give the invocation at the swearing in.

PASTOR RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: Help us, oh, God, to remember that we are Americans.

ACOSTA: Warren was both praised for his inclusive tone and criticized by some for invoking the name of Jesus.

WARREN: I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Jeshuah, Issa, Jesus, Jesus.

ACOSTA: Religious scholars are parsing everything about the president's handling of faith this week. He was quoting from the Bible --

OBAMA: The time has come to set aside childish things.

ACOSTA: To the support he picked up from Kirby John Caldwell, the Texas pastor who presided over the wedding of former first daughter Jenna Bush, author of "God In The White House," Randall Balmer says it all adds up to a new kind of presidential faith.

RANDALL BALMER, AUTHOR, "GOD IN THE WHITE HOUSE": There is a new way of doing business in Washington. Obama clearly means to send a signal that he's willing to reach out to a wide array of individuals.


ACOSTA: Even though Democrats criticized President Bush's office of faith-based initiatives, President Obama has plans to overhaul and expand the program. During the campaign, Candidate Obama insisted he would keep this office and still maintain a separation between church and state, a principle value here in this country, John.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. And speaking of churches, still waiting to see which church in Washington he will choose as his (INAUDIBLE).

ACOSTA: That's right. Closely guarded secret at this point.

ROBERTS: Yes. I wonder if a lot of people thinking that the 19th Street Baptist Church has got the inside track. We'll see. Jim Acosta for us this morning. Jim, thanks so much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

CHETRY: She's Madam Secretary now and just like her boss, the president, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a lot on her plate as she gets down to business. We'll take a look at some of her challenges ahead.

Also this morning, President Obama diving right into America's economic mess. A lot of politics and proposals on the table. Where does the next president start? Our next panel is standing by. It's 23 minutes after the hour.


JAY LENO, THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO: Two million people attended the inauguration, compared with less than 500,000 when Bush was inaugurated four years ago. But, that makes sense, because four years ago, you know, people had jobs to go to. So, it's different.


LENO: It's different.



CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. It's day three of the Obama administration and the president is moving fast to deal with some critical issues. He meets with his economic adviser this is morning.

At the moment, though, the president is missing his point man on the economy, that's Treasury secretary nominee Timothy Geithner. He was grilled in the Senate yesterday about his failure to pay thousands of dollars in taxes. Geithner apologized for what he called careless mistakes. Despite the tax flap, Geithner is expected to be confirmed.

Also, high on President Obama's to-do list bringing troops home from Iraq. Now, this is in the hands of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his top generals. They all met with the president yesterday. Mr. Obama meets with retired military officers today to discuss proposed executive orders on detention and interrogation policy. Also, Hillary Clinton, Madam Secretary, reports to work for her first job at the State Department. She was sworn in as the 67th secretary of State, after a near unanimous confirmation vote in the Senate. And she'll certainly have her hands full as well from the get-go reaching out to the players in the Middle East peace puzzle. CNN's Jill Dougherty is looking at the challenges facing Clinton. She joins us live in Washington.

And so we could see Hillary Clinton jetting off the Middle East sometime soon, right?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Well, she'll be jetting off some place. She will be doing a lot of traveling, Kiran, but not necessarily immediately to the Middle East.

Because what the Obama administration is going to be doing is using so-called special envoys. And we are hearing from diplomats and sources close to the administration, and one of the key people will be the former Senate George Mitchell. You remember him. He would be Mideast envoy, by the way. You remember him very well probably from the Clinton administration. In fact, when he was working on Northern Ireland, a very instrumental person in bringing peace in Northern Ireland, and also in 2001 he did the Mitchell Report, which really kind of laid the template for working toward peace in the Middle East.

Then, also Hillary Clinton has to work with allies, other countries, Egypt, France, who are really instrumental in negotiations. And it really is a very big challenge. Gaza has just exploded. It's a little bit quieter now and then you have the peace process in tatters.

CHETRY: A lot of big challenges for sure. On a smaller scale, what else is on her agenda today, Jill?

DOUGHERTY: Well, first day on the job, so tradition dictates that she goes to the State Department, and in the entrance there where the flags are, she will be greeting and greeted by the staff, talking to the members of the State Department. And also giving them, maybe, a pep talk. There's a lot of morale issues over there. A lot of the civilian jobs they used to carry out in countries, let's say Iraq, have been taken over by the Pentagon. And that's going to be one of the challenges Hillary Clinton has, is to bring that back where it traditionally belongs to the State Department.

CHETRY: Jill Dougherty for us in Washington this morning. Thanks so much.

ROBERTS: Well, this morning President Obama's first order of business fixing the economy, but despite an air of optimism in Washington , investors are increasingly concerned about America's biggest banks. Right now they are wracking up billions of dollars in losses. So what can be done?

Joined now by Chrystia Freeland, she is the U.S. managing editor of "The Financial Times", and our good friend, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to the United Nations.

Chrystia's our good friend, too.


ROBERTS: Sorry, didn't mean to play favorites (ph).


So people are saying, what the? You give the banks $200 billion and they're still crashing. Jeff, what's going on?

JEFFREY SACHS, INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIST: We gave them $200 billion, but they've lost trillions, that's the problem. Especially as the housing prices continue to fall, foreclosures, unemployment rising, the banks are just gushing losses. And the amounts that have been given are small relative to the losses. The problem is that the bank capital, what the owners still have, the shareholders, that may turn to shrink to almost nothing, in which case, these banks are going to end up in the lap of the federal government.

ROBERTS: So, Chrystia, what can the Obama administration do?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, U.S. MANAGING EDITOR, "FINANCIAL TIMES": Well, I think Tim Geithner's testimony yesterday was really interesting. And I thought he made two important points. The first one was they're going to try for a systemic solution. He was careful to say that he thought a problem so far had been signals that were made and then not followed through. The other thing is he talked about the good banks/bad bank solution that we had, Sheila Bair talking about last week. And he raised it but he didn't say that he was sold on it.

ROBERTS: Just -- just outline the good bank/bad bank scenario for people who might not be familiar with.

FREELAND: Well, the idea there would be to try to take the bad assets off the balance sheets of the banks and segregate them somehow in some sort of a bad bank aggregator so that the banks are able to operate with their good assets, but that's really hard to do. Partly because one of the problems is it's very difficult to price these toxic securities. No one wants to trade them so what are they worth?