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American Morning

Caroline Kennedy Drops Bid for N.Y. Senate Seat; Toyota Tops GM as World's Biggest Carmaker; Obama Moves through Punchlist of Priorities; Salmonella-Tainted Products Still Being Identified; McCain Daughter Reflects on Presidential Campaign

Aired January 22, 2009 - 07:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: It's now the top of hour. It's 7:00 Eastern time. Breaking news this morning. It's official, Caroline Kennedy out of the running for Hillary Clinton's old Senate seat. She cited personal reasons in a short statement to New York Governor David Paterson. It came a day after her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, suffered a seizure during inauguration festivities in Washington.
Toyota now the biggest car maker in the world, that's a title that General Motors held for 77 years. Toyota topped GM in worldwide sales last year. GM is just trying to stay alive at this point. The government gave it another $5.4 billion yesterday and one official says GM could still run out of cash in two months' time.

The Obama administration hitting the ground running, a huge list of priorities making this an aggressive first week and CNN has learned that President Obama will use day number three to make some huge policy departures from his predecessor.

Three executive orders are expected today, one demanding that Guantanamo Bay's prison camp be shut down in a year's time, the second formally banning the use of torture on detainees, and the third, a launching a systemic review of all detention policies.

For more on Mr. Obama's agenda we turn to our Suzanne Malveaux.

And Suzanne, he seems to be changing not only the wallpaper in the White House but changing everything or many things that happened in the past eight years as well.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's really trying to make a clean break of this, John. We saw this yesterday with some other executive orders, but obviously, he is believed that Guantanamo Bay has been a stain on the U.S. record. So he is calling for that to be shut down, as well as ending torture and taking a really good look at those detention policies that he believes really have gone beyond the constitution.

Yesterday, we saw a real pledge from him in his administration for a new openness and transparency. The question is, is just whether or not it will be very much of the same or it will really be different.


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

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

MALVEAUX: The party is definitely over. Mr. Obama delivered the 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 establishing firm rules on 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 that 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 in 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, last night, at the White House, late about 7:30 or so, an interesting development occurred where Chief Justice John Roberts came into the White House, quietly in the map room, re- administering the oath of office.

You know, during the inaugural he botched it a little bit and Greg Craig, White House counsel, believed that he didn't need to do it legally but he thought if there were any questions at all about whether or not Barack Obama was indeed the president because of the oath, he thought, well, let's just go ahead and do this and get this right. So it was done quietly without TV cameras.

I want to show you something that happened earlier in the day, however, that we watched. It was the Vice President Joe Biden who was going to swear in some of the senior staff, made a little joke about the John Roberts flub-up. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Joe, you want to administer the oath?


OBAMA: For the senior staff.

BIDEN: For the senior staff, all right.

OBAMA: Yes. A number of Cabinet members have already...

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



MALVEAUX: John, you can hear that groan there, and you saw President Obama looking kind of stone-faced putting his hand on his shoulder there, shaking his head a little bit. Obviously, he wasn't pleased with that. We get the sense here that the president is really trying to set a tone, a tone of respect and civility, so that was something that we saw before they readministered the oath.

The big question that we're asking is, well, John, is whether or not there is going to be that transparency in light of the fact the media access was so restricted yesterday -- John?

ROBERTS: The president probably also knew that Justice Roberts was coming over to re-administer the oath so sort of wanted to keep the sense of comedy between the White House and the Supreme Court.

Hey, Kiran brings up a good point, Suzanne, maybe you can address this, quickly. This idea of banning torture. The Bush administration for eight years insisted we do not torture. So what exactly does it mean?

MALVEAUX: Well, you have to look at two different things. There is the manual, the field manual when it comes to the military and then there is the CIA, what the CIA does in terms of what they call enhanced interrogations.

Two different things, the Bush administration says yes, we don't torture. But they take a look and they say CIA interrogations different, different than what has been called in the Army Field Manual, what, essentially, Barack Obama, the president, is going to do is say look, it's all the same here, what's in the field manual, what these guys do and the CIA interrogators, it's all going to be the same.


MALVEAUX: It's not going to be this waterboarding, these kind of enhanced interrogation techniques.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: So -- he's basically going to be, I guess, saying that the enhanced interrogation amounts to torture...


CHETRY: ... by putting that formally?

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

CHETRY: Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning, thanks.

Well, Barack Obama has inspired millions to hope, including Rush Limbaugh, only Rush Limbaugh hopes something very different. Let's listen.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the U.S. government as possible, from the banking business, the mortgage industry, the automobile business to the health care -- I do not want the government in charge of all of these things.

I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to the guy, OK, I'll send you a response but I don't need 400 words. I need four. I hope he fails.


CHETRY: All right, so is the Obama honeymoon already over for some diehard -- for some diehard Republicans?

AMERICAN MORNING's Carol Costello joins us live from Washington with more on that.

The "Kumbaya" moment's over?


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you listen to Rush Limbaugh it certainly is. Let me ask you a question, though, Kiran, how long did your honeymoon period last after you got married?

ROBERTS: It's still going, right? So how many years has it been?


CHETRY: It's been eight, eight and still, you know, every day, every day's like the first time.

COSTELLO: Yes, but that's not the honeymoon period.



COSTELLO: What SOME -- some people say their honeymoon lasted as long as it took to walk down the aisle.


COSTELLO: Barack Obama, of course, is asking for a lot longer than that from Americans. The question is will he get it?



COSTELLO (voice-over): After a euphoric Tuesday filled with chants of "yes, he did" comes today's question, what if he can't? Some conservatives are already asking that, pointing to the Dow's plunge on Inauguration Day, and Obama's caution the economy may take four years to fix.

LIMBAUGH: And if the stock market is plummeting and if the messiah is telling everybody to take four years, would somebody tell me where in hell is all this confidence?

CROWD: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

COSTELLO: For Limbaugh, Obama's honeymoon was over before it began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rush Limbaugh is trying to make it over now.

COSTELLO: But polls show most Americans are willing to cut the new president a break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, honestly, we put this country in a big hole and wasn't a matter of a year or two years or three or four years. I don't think he's going to do it in one term. I think it's going to take some time to do it so.

COSTELLO: Still, it is clear as jobs disappear and two wars drag on, the Obama honeymoon clock is ticking and loudly for some Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How much time do you think you'll -- are you willing to give him to turn things around?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A month, two months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I can afford to last for very long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess the first 100 days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within like the next year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like in two weeks? COSTELLO: But President Obama is asking for more patience, lots of it, telling Americans it may take years to fix the economy. Most political insiders say his hopeful yet realistic tone is a good way to persuade impatient Americans to give him time. But make no mistake, if he doesn't deliver something within six months, the honeymoon's over.

MATT TOWERY, FORMER NEWT GINGRICH CAMPAIGN CHAIR: He has to take bigger steps than normal, normal because of the phenomenal level of the crisis that we're in.

COSTELLO: Matt Towery is a former campaign chair for Republican Newt Gingrich and author of "Paranoid Nation." He says Obama knows that, that's why Obama released pictures showing him hard at work one day after his inauguration, why he's already signed an executive order paving the way to close Guantanamo Bay, why he's meeting with his economic team and why he's already called world leaders.


COSTELLO: And you know, something else that might extend Obama's honeymoon, people in America have a very low opinion of Congress, don't they, very low opinion, so he's going to, like, introduce this big economic stimulus plan next week.

Well, if nothing happens with that, people are likely to blame Congress and not Barack Obama, so that goodwill towards Barack Obama may last longer and of course, that's what the president is hoping.

CHETRY: All right, Carol Costello for us this morning, thanks.

ROBERTS: Day three of the Obama administration begins with President Obama's pick to head the State Department now in place. The Senate yesterday voted overwhelmingly to confirm Hillary Clinton as the 67th secretary of state.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ninety-four members having voted aye and two members having voted nay, the nomination is confirmed.


ROBERTS: The pair of "no" votes came from two Republican senators, South Carolina's Jim DeMint and Louisiana's David Vitter. But strong Republican support came after John McCain used his first floor speech of the new Congress to call for Clinton's quick approval.

The vote on Mr. Obama's pick for attorney general, Eric Holder, was delayed a week by Senate Republicans after a heated meeting at the Senate Judiciary Committee. GOP members want the chance to question Holder more about his role in a controversial pardon in the Clinton White House. That was the pardon of Marc Rich in the last day in office of President Bill Clinton.

And the president's pick to head up the Treasury, Tim Geithner, expected to be confirmed on Capitol Hill today but not before a mea culpa to the Senate Finance Committee yesterday.

Geithner apologized profusely for not paying more than $34,000 in back taxes between 2001 and 2004.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY NOMINEE: These were careless mistakes. They were avoidable mistakes. But they were unintentional. I should have been more careful. I take full responsibility for them. I have gone back and corrected these errors and paid what I owed.


ROBERTS: The finance committee also explored Geithner's role in the government's Wall Street bailout.

CHETRY: All right. Well, Sarah Palin, the book? She entertained, rallied the base during her vice presidential run but is she ready to do the same in a tell-all book?

And you never have too little coats that generated so much buzz. How J.Crew was cashing in on the first daughter's colorful inaugural coats.

It's 12 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes after the hour. Hillary Clinton, now officially secretary of state, and her Senate seat still officially open, up for grabs. Caroline Kennedy pulled herself out of the running yesterday, leaving it wide open.

Let's bring in the best political panel now. Republican analyst and CNN contributor, Leslie Sanchez, and Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis are live from Washington this morning.

Chris, let's start with you. What do you think of Caroline Kennedy pulling out last night?

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, a strange turn of events. You know, Caroline Kennedy is a very impressive person and I think a very -- would have been a very strong senator. But you know, to be frank about it, the rollout or her rollout where she did that first visit up in upstate New York and Syracuse, it wasn't very good, and I think she got some bad advice or bad counseling from her advisers.

I think the last few weeks, it got better. But clearly a very strange turn of events in part because last night there seemed to be very much confusion about whether she was in or out. It's unfortunate but that's how sometimes it plays in politics.

ROBERTS: Leslie, do you think it's incumbent upon Governor Paterson to appoint a woman to that seat? LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN ANALYST, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Not necessarily. I think it's incumbent upon him to elect the best most qualified individual for that. You know, I think this is really a case where Caroline Kennedy unraveled her own candidacy. She did not have the grace, the stature, the expertise or maybe the preparedness to go in front of the national media and really make a case to New Yorkers that she was the best qualified for the job.

ROBERTS: OK, so we still have that Senate seat open. Yesterday, something else interesting happened last evening, when the oath of office was re-administered to the president.

Chris, what do you make of that last night? Was he just afraid that maybe another blogosphere is going to start to erupt with conspiracy theories that because he didn't, you know, complete the oath appropriately the first time that he's really not the president? What was going on?

KOFINIS: Yes, contrary to some in the blogosphere, he -- you know, President Obama is the president.


KOFINIS: And I think what we learned from the oath is that Justice Roberts can't memorize 35 words but putting that aside for a second, I mean, I think they just did it to be, you know, very exact and very specific...

ROBERTS: What do you...


KOFINIS: ... and not anything more than that.

SANCHEZ: The interesting part here, you talk about the blogosphere. It is the fact that there was so much concern about it and that it was starting to percolate, there's this cloud of suspicion, so they wanted to, you know, neutralize...

KOFINIS: A cloud of suspicion would be a bit of an exaggeration, Leslie.

SANCHEZ: They wanted to neutralize -- well, I'm just saying there are people in the blogosphere who were concerned. Legitimately there was not a case to be made. But it shows how responsive, I think, if anything, to the credit, that this administration wants to be to make sure they're exactly correct...


SANCHEZ: You know, and don't let anything fester.

ROBERTS: Try to minimize any potential distractions.

Hey, you know, so many people have been, you know, giving him the benefit of the doubt here, including on the Republican side, allowing him to have an opportunity. Rush Limbaugh, of course, though, having none of that, probably playing to his constituency.

Do we have that sound of what he was saying yesterday? Could we play that?


LIMBAUGH: Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the U.S. government as possible, from the banking business, the mortgage industry, the automobile business to the health care -- I do not want the government in charge of all of these things.

I don't want this to work. So I'm thinking of replying to the guy, OK, I'll send you a response but I don't need 400 words. I need four. I hope he fails.


ROBERTS: Leslie, "I hope he fails." Obviously, Rush Limbaugh trying to stay in business there.

SANCHEZ: Well, true. I mean you cannot argue with the first part of that, that this massive expansion of federal government is frightening and the thoughts and the implications that it has. You know, the government to the rescue is not the solution.

ROBERTS: But "I hope he fails"?

SANCHEZ: But the last parts are the parts that I don't agree with and I think a lot of people don't. We want to see this president succeed for the success of our economy.


SANCHEZ: I think Republicans are looking to come together, compromise, but we want good government, sensible, regulations that make sense, not overreaching which is what the Democrats contend to do in this case.

ROBERTS: Well, what do you think, Chris, is he going to overreach?

KOFINIS: Of course not. He's not going to overreach.

ROBERTS: Of course not.

KOFINIS: You know, unfortunately, Rush Limbaugh is a sad, little man. And you know, anyone who would want a new president to fail is a -- is a stunning statement, but the part that I find humorous about conservatives like Rush Limbaugh is they seem to ignore the fact the person that got us in this mess is the person that left the other day.

President Bush was the one that got us in this mess...

SANCHEZ: You know, Chris, no.

KOFINIS: ... out of eight years of mismanagement.


KOFINIS: And the notion that somehow Democrats are going to do wrong...



ROBERTS: Hey, we have to get one little button point to that, Leslie. Go ahead. Go ahead.

SANCHEZ: No, real quickly, I mean a lot of people are frustrated with the expansion of government under President Bush's administration but the bottom line is that Republicans and Democrats need better solutions and sensible government, and they're going to be held accountable to that standard.

ROBERTS: We got to run. Leslie Sanchez, Chris Kofinis, always good to check in with two members of our best political team on television. Thanks for coming in today.

KOFINIS: Thank you.

CHETRY: And I'm sure they'll all get a kick out of this as well. Are you ready for the Sarah Palin book? After lashing out at the media recently, the "Hollywood Reporter" is saying that McCain's former running mate is ready to tell her story and that she may actually use the same superstar attorney who brokered Barack Obama's "Audacity of Hope" book deal.

All right. Still ahead, he made more campaign promises than his two predecessors combined, he's facing much tougher economic odds. So what are the odds that he can really deliver on all of those promises? We're tracking them, just ahead.

And billions watched President Obama speak Tuesday but didn't get to see or hear all of it, especially in China, where certain parts of the inauguration speech were censored.

It's 20 minutes after the hour.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. I'm Kyung Lah in Tokyo, where this morning there is a new king of the auto makers. Japan's own Toyota.

General Motors has been unseated as the world's largest automaker. GM reporting its sales for 2008 were down 11 percent.

The champagne's not being uncorked at Toyota. Toyota is also bleeding red, just not as badly as GM. Toyota sales for 2008 were down 4 percent.

Back to you, John and Kiran.

CHETRY: Kyung Lah for us, thanks so much.

Well, most people think that the first daughters are cute anyway, but then put them in adorable coats and then shares of J.Crew jumped 10 percent after Malia and Sasha Obama wore these colorful coats at their father's inauguration.

The company's creative director said, "We are honored to be part of a momentous occasion in both history and in fashion." And of course, they looked absolutely adorable. Michelle Obama, famously, in one of her talk show appearances, also wore a J.Crew ensemble. So they've been getting a lot of pleasant, free advertising.

ROBERTS: She wears it well, too, doesn't she? She looked gorgeous over the course of the inauguration and balls and all that. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, what a couple.

You might want to wait before you give your four-legged friend that next treat. The salmonella scare from contaminated peanut butter now hitting the pet food aisle. We'll tell you which ones to avoid just ahead.

CHETRY: Also, it's being called ticket date. In the purple tunnel of doom, a fiasco for thousands shut out of the inauguration, they had tickets. Well, now they're banding together and demanding answers.

It's 25 minutes after the hour.



OBAMA: We are going to lead by once again setting an example for human rights and civil rights and rule of law. I will close Guantanamo. We will restore habeas corpus. You all have elected a president who has taught the constitution and believes the constitution and will obey the constitution of the United States of America.


CHETRY: And welcome back to the most news in the morning. That was Barack Obama 11 months ago promising to shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Well, today he is expected to issue an executive order making good on that promise. The new commander in chief also met yesterday with top military leaders.

For more, Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us live.

Our latest CNN Opinion Research poll showing that about -- it's split 50/50 but slightly more people favor shutting down Guantanamo Bay. About 49 percent of people do not favor it or 46 percent do not favor it. Meantime he's going forward and saying within a year, it will close. BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kiran. Expect to see the new president on the second full day in office take that dramatic step ordering the shutdown of the U.S. Navy detention facility at Guantanamo Bay that now holds about 250 suspected terrorists.

Action in three areas. He will order it to be shut down within one year. He will say that all interrogations in the future must be in line with army practices for interrogation. That's important, because it essentially closes what some people saw as a loophole, allowing the CIA to engage in more coercive interrogation methods. No more of that.

All cases will be reviewed, detainees that can be sent back to their home countries will be. Those who cannot, those who are so dangerous they must stay in custody. The U.S. will look for a place to put them inside the United States, but this is going to take awhile. It's not going to happen any time soon -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Also the formal banning of torture, also another step that Barack Obama is planning to take.

Can you explain a little bit more of that, since throughout the Bush administration, they maintain that the enhanced interrogation techniques were not torture?

STARR: Well, you know, it's a very complex issue to explain, as you have pointed out. For the U.S. military, which conducts the interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, now there is a very strict procedure to be followed under the so-called army field manual for interrogations.

This means that all interrogations, not just within the Geneva Convention, but they are very closely monitored, people's medical conditions are monitored. There are very strict procedures on what you can do in terms of issues like stress positions, playing loud music, lowering the temperature, doing things to potentially degrade people.

What the army field manual says no degrading or no inhumane treatment. This was all put into place after the years in which it came to light that at least three detainees were, in fact, waterboarded under CIA custody.

What Barack Obama is trying to do is get rid of all of that confusion and show a new face, especially to the Islamic world -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning, thank you.

ROBERTS: It is 30 minutes past the hour. We've got breaking news to tell you about this morning.

Caroline Kennedy has dropped her bid for Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat. She is citing personal reasons in a one-line statement issued earlier this morning. Recent polls showed her support slipping with more New Yorkers leaning toward the state's attorney general, Andrew Cuomo.

Petsmart is recalling seven kinds of its Great Choice dog biscuits. That's because they contain peanut products made by a Georgia plant linked to the salmonella outbreak. An FDA official says the risk to animals is minimal that people handling the contaminated treats could come into contact with the bacteria. We'll have much more in the story for you in just a short while.

And former Cuban president Fidel Castro apparently watched Barack Obama's inauguration. The president of Argentina says he spoke to Castro who he says calls Mr. Obama "a sincere person with good ideas." Recent reports speculated that Castro's health is deteriorating, something the Argentine leader is refuting.

A lot of political headlines rocking Washington today and a lot of people asking the question, why did Caroline Kennedy really pull out of the contest to take over Hillary Clinton's open Senate seat? For more on this, on the first days of the Obama administration, we turn to founder and editor-in-chief of the, Tina Brown.

Tina, great to see you.


ROBERTS: Glad to see you're back from Washington.

BROWN: I know it was quite a hike.

ROBERTS: Quite a trek. Yes. So what do you think of Caroline Kennedy withdrawing? Was it a surprise to you?

BROWN: It wasn't really. I think she made the right decision. She saw from the polls that she wasn't going to get really far, I don't think, and also I do think that she hadn't impressed the governor and made a smart decision before she was told she couldn't. But you know, I think American people have really got tired of dynastic politics.

You know, the whole idea that the Kennedy mystique alone will bless this candidacy. I think it's now passe news. She would have had to fight very hard as a candidate, and I don't think she was really prepared to.

ROBERTS: What does that mean for Jeb Bush?

BROWN: Jeb Bush is not good news.

ROBERTS: Tina, you wrote an article recently for "The Daily Beast" what Obama's America will look like. And I'm wondering what do you think that America will look like in the first 100 days with an Obama administration? BROWN: I think we've already seen that Obama is going to move very decisively to change the atmosphere and obviously it's going to take a long time for his decisions to play out in terms of the bailout and all of the things that he's actually doing in terms of policy, but with a stroke. I think that by the end of that 100 days you would have seen a very big change as we already have begun to see in the climate of America.

His decision, for instance, today announcing to shut down Guantanamo was a symbolic gesture as much for the world as it was for America, saying I am going to proceed differently. And his speech where he talked about how he's willing to extend the hand of friendship so those powers who want to unclench their fist is another message immediately which says we're going to be smart about the way we use power. We're not going to be just a heavy fist.

I think that's going to raise the spirits. I also think that by being the first really kind of digital president, he has really embraced this generation. He has really embraced the whole idea of disaggregating things in American society and letting and empowering people on their own.

ROBERTS: Yes. And you also say that his fight to just save his blackberry which apparently he has to turn in but he's going to have some sort of spyproof, encrypted Smartphone that he'll be able to carry around with him. It shows how much he is trying to change America.

BROWN: Indeed. You know, I was --

ROBERTS: How so?

BROWN: Wonderfully symbolic, too, that Obama wanted to hang on to his Blackberry. Because in fact, he said I want to stay in touch.

ROBERTS: He wanted to stay connected.

BROWN: Yes. I will talk to the people I want to talk to. I'm not going to have gatekeepers get in my way. And I think that's a fantastic symbolic thing that he's doing as well as being a practical thing that he wants to hang onto it.

ROBERTS: Right. Tina, it's always great to see you. Thanks for dropping by this morning.

BROWN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good reading your article in the "Daily Beast."

BROWN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thanks for coming by.

CHETRY: We're broke. That's one of the reasons our next guest says we should have a healthy skepticism of what President Obama can really accomplish. He has six others to talk about as well why change may be harder to come by and very, very expensive than we're all thinking. 34 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: He made more campaign promises than President Clinton and George W. Bush combined. So can President Obama keep even half of them in this tough economy and are expectations a bit too high? Jim VandeHei is the executor editor of He writes about seven reasons why we should have a healthy skepticism about exactly how much the new president can really accomplish and he joins me from Washington this morning. Jim, really enjoyed your article and let's run through some of them.

One of them you said is the genius fallacy that having a big team full of big name advisers doesn't necessarily guarantee success and you point out Greenspan whom everyone thought was an economic genius and then admitted in testimony that he did have a flaw in his thinking that the housing bubble wouldn't burst.

JIM VANDEHEI, CO-FOUNDER, POLITICO: Right, and also Bob Rubin, remember five years ago, everyone thought these two were the economic geniuses in this country, and now both have been shown that they did not anticipate or see this bubble coming and you know, Bob Rubin's had his trouble over at Citigroup.

Now you see people talking about you know Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, saying Republicans and Democrats alike saying these guys are the best and the brightest, they're going to be able to fix the problem. The truth is, economics is not a precise science and people need to understand that we can spend all of the money that we want to spend. It still might not fix the problem. And you hear that increasingly from economists on the left and the right. So I do think that people have to be somewhat skeptical as Congress rushes in to doing this stimulus package that could easily top $900 billion.

CHETRY: You also talked about the herd instinct. You said that bipartisanship is a nice lofty notion but that type of head-butting sometimes is better that, when both sides agree and just as a herd agree to something like authorizing the war in Iraq, it doesn't always turn out for the best.

VANDEHEI: One of my rules as a reporter is whenever Washington does something big and does it fast, beware. We saw this with the bank bailout a couple of months ago. Republicans, Democrats, both presidential candidates saying let's do this, let's spend $700 billion.

Half of that money is gone. A lot of people can't even figure out where some of that money was spent. Some of it was wasted, some of it probably did some good but now they're going to spend the other $350 billion and ask for an additional $900 billion and maybe ask for more money so just because everybody in Washington thinks we need to do something, and do it with a sense of urgency doesn't mean it's going to accomplish the objectives they set out to accomplish.

CHETRY: You also say that you worry that he doesn't challenge the home team enough, meaning his fellow Democrats. What have you seen so far in the lead-up to him taking office when it comes to dealing and working with the Congress?

VANDEHEI: It's a big question for Obama. He's talked a lot about changing politics and sort of transcending partisanship. But you can't just do that by sort of pushing Republicans out and doing what other Democrats want to do. The question is, will he start to challenge his own party and start to challenge some of his own constituencies that really do put a lot of pressure on the presidency, whether it's environmentalists or labor unions or other factions inside the Democratic Party.

We don't know. He said that will happen, but I think it's an outstanding question that will really help define his ideology and define his presidency.

CHETRY: You say the watchdogs are dozing as well as one of the last things that you talked about. Clearly there was a lot of exultation, a lot of joy and happiness surrounding Barack Obama coming into office. There were a lot of comments made by the GOP and others that the media was too soft on Barack Obama.

Do you think that the questions, the challenges, the skepticism are going to exist for this White House, and the transparency that's been promised is something also that's going to happen?

VANDEHEI: I hate to keep being the skunk at the party, but this one really does worry me. If you look, whenever you have one-party rule in Washington, meaning that Democrats control Congress and the White House, you're just not going to have investigations and oversight of the executive branch. We saw this under Republicans.

It's a Republican problem and a Democratic problem. At the same time, people are going to be watching these press briefings and be like wow, more people are covering the presidency than ever. A lot of those are from magazines, a lot of them are from institutions that have only one reporter. They're not doing investigative or accountability reporting, a lot of the big media institutions have witnessed huge cut backs over the last couple of years. So you're going to have fewer people doing the type of serious scrutiny that I really do think democracy in government needs.

CHETRY: Jim VandeHei, very interesting article for people who want to check it out. Executive editor of Politico. Thanks for being with us this morning.

VANDEHEI: Take care. Have a good day.

ROBERTS: Imagine, just imagine having a ticket for a box seat to presidential history only to be stuck in a tunnel while the whole thing went down. It's now being called the purple tunnel of doom. And we'll show you where it is, it's 41 minutes now after the hour.


ROBERTS: Forty-three and a half minutes after the hour. A little reminder there in our nine-pack of pictures coming in to us on inauguration day. The moment that President Obama took the oath of office, pictures from across the country. The inauguration went off without a hitch, well, mostly. Two million people, not a single arrest, 130 tons of garbage removed from the Mall but then, deep beneath the Capitol, there is a terrifying place. Now dubbed the "purple tunnel of doom." Randi Kaye has got some inauguration nuggets that may have gone largely unnoticed.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question, the inauguration of Barack Obama is one for the history books, but let's set the record straight. Did you know thousands of ticket holders were denied access to the big event? Many i-reports showed thousands of ticket holders in the "purple section" held back.

David Fernari says there was a definite lack of organization, signage and any volunteers or officials to give direction. He says the crowd chanted "let us in, let us in" before giving up. Some huddled and watched the ceremony on strangers' iPhones. Same story for thousands of other purple ticket holders in a tunnel underneath the Mall.

On this Facebook page started by a group calling themselves "survivors of the purple tunnel of doom" one wrote "it was completely disappointing to come all the way from California and not see or hear the inauguration live." And this -- "so close, yet so far."

In a statement, the inaugural committee said problems occurred due to unprecedented crowds. In a crowd of 1.5 million, nobody was arrested, but the ceremony was far from perfect. President Obama said this in his speech.

OBAMA: Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

KAYE: He was, well, how should we put this? Wrong. Grover Cleveland was sworn in as president twice. The only president to serve nonconsecutive terms, so that means only 43 presidents, including Obama, have been sworn in.

During the parade, did you catch Obama flashing what's called the shaka sign? It's a Hawaiian greeting. He did it as the band from his high school in Hawaii marched by.

Watch closely -- his girls did it, too. Far from Washington and China, the president was briefly silenced. His 18-minute inaugural speech cut short at the mention of communism. China's state-run TV network faded down the audio immediately and quickly began an interview with an analyst, seen here on YouTube, about Obama's economic challenges.


KAYE: And one final note about outgoing President Bush. For what it's worth, "The Daily Beast" reports on Inauguration Day, Bush's morning newspapers weren't delivered. A clear sign the transition was complete. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: Now as Randi was reporting, the majority of ticket holders who were shut out had purple tickets, shown here on this map here up in the VIP section in the lower left-hand side there. They were supposed to get a prime spot in the main standing area. It was actually a seating area in front of the capitol. They included some big-time Obama donors as well as volunteers. Randi also mentioned the "survivors of the purple tunnel of doom" have now set up a group on Facebook.

As you now it's close to 3,000 members strong, 700 wall posts. One of the threads quotes President Obama saying "it's time to dust ourselves off" and so on and so on. The consolation prize for the people who survived the purple tunnel of doom, how about this? A free tour of the building that you pay for anyways! Really?

Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer offered to arrange a Capitol tour for those who didn't get in to make up for the whole thing. Sorry you couldn't see the inauguration, Kiran. But we'll give you a free tour of the Capitol building, and it's free anyways.

CHETRY: Yes, exactly.

Also, I was at Amtrak, we were trying to catch a train back to New York and the place was packed with people. They were not Amtrak riders. They claimed they were in those purple seats and they waited in line for six hours and weren't able.

I'm not sure if you can get this. It's such a small picture. It's on my BlackBerry. Can you see it? All right. This is what it looked like at Union Station. It was literally packed with people, top and bottom.

A lot of them saying that they were supposed to have the purple suits and I have actually better shot of it on my computer right here. But a lot of them say we had to find someplace warm. We had to find some place that we knew had a television monitor and so there it is. That was Union Station.

ROBERTS: I tell you, it was so packed there. It's like nothing I've ever seen before. It was completely orderly and most people were in good cheer.

CHETRY: Hey, a tour of the Capitol.

ROBERTS: No arrests, that's remarkable. That many people and no arrests.

CHETRY: Well after weeks of silence a voice from Cuba, after reportedly watching the inauguration, rare words of praise for an American president from Fidel Castro? Will this change relations between the United States and that communist nation? We're going to be live in Havana for the latest. Also a front row seat to her father's failed bid for the presidency. She also got the most candid interview yet with her mom, Cindy McCain. Blogger and columnist Meghan McCain joins us live.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. You know, the list of foods affected by the salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter is actually getting bigger and the FDA says it's not over yet.


STEPHEN SUNDLOFF, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: We are well into the process of identifying all of the products that contain peanut butter or peanut paste from this company and recalling those from the market. We are not all the way there yet. We are still identifying new products every day.


CHETRY: Identifying new products every day. Now they are saying that pet foods are being pulled from store shelves. For more on this, senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is live in Atlanta this morning. It seemed like a huge undertaking. They are still trying to identify products at this point.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kiran. There are hundreds of products for them to go through. It's amazing how many things contain peanut butter or peanut paste. Let's talk about the most recent recall.

They're Grreat Choice dog biscuits. They may contain peanut paste that contains salmonella because they contain products from the company linked to the salmonella outbreak. Now, not only is this possibly a problem for your dog, but if your dog gets sick, your dog could get you sick. You could catch salmonella from your dog.

Also, if you're handling these biscuits and they are contaminated, you could get sick, especially a problem for children. Now as we said, this salmonella outbreak now has occurred in 43 states. All those yellow ones. The gray ones are the only ones that aren't affected. Now, of course, what everyone is wondering is well is my peanut butter safe? Are the products in my kitchen, are they OK?

Let's go over a list of what is OK and what is not. Supermarket peanut butter, that stuff you buy in a jar at the supermarket, that's OK. What is possibly not OK is peanut butter that are in restaurants, schools, nursing homes. That is questionable. It depends where it came from. Also, cookies, crackers, snacks, et cetera, that contain peanut butter or peanut paste, many of those have been recalled. If you go to, you will see a list for the entire list. Kiran.

CHETRY: So we're hearing them say that they are still, you know, in the process of going through all of these products. So if you check the recall list, your product is not on it, does it mean that you're safe to eat it or should you back off for now?

COHEN: Back off for now. That is what the Food and Drug administration says because they have not finished going through the list. So if your product is not on the list, still don't eat it. You can wait and see if it appears there over the next several days or weeks.

CHETRY: All right. You said

COHEN: There you go.

CHETRY: To be able to double check your stuff that's in your cabinet. Thanks a lot, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

CHETRY: Right now, it's 53 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY (voice-over): One-on-one with John McCain's daughter, for the first time speaking out about the inauguration, Sarah Palin and the way Obama treats her dad now.

OBAMA: If I'm screwing up, he is going to let me know.

CHETRY: Plus, voice from Cuba. Fidel Castro breaks his silence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had very concrete words about President Obama.

CHETRY: Sincere, honest, a good man. What it means? We're in Havana. And you're watching the Most News in the Morning.



ROBERTS: Senator John McCain's daughter Meghan attracting quite a following for her unfiltered take on the presidential campaign. Well, now she is opening up about the inauguration and the media's take on her family. Meghan McCain joins me now. She's a contributor to the She has her own personal blog as well, And just conducted an interview, of all people, her mom. Meghan, it's great to see you this morning. Thanks for being with us.

MEGHAN MCCAIN, SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: Thank you so much for having me.

ROBERTS: Let me first of all get your thoughts on the inauguration on Tuesday. And on the "Daily Beast," you described in the interview with your mom, her describing it as a bittersweet moment.

MCCAIN: Yes, I think that is the way it is probably for all of my family. Obviously I worked for almost two years trying to get my father elected. And it's, you know, it's a bittersweet thing to watch but you know, President Obama has won and I think our country should come together and support him. And I am just happy that democracy has played the role it has. And I thought it was a beautiful ceremony and I really liked Michelle Obama's evening gown.

ROBERTS: Now, on to the interview that you did with your mom and the posting at the, you say that the media compared her to a Stepford wife and a Barbie doll. That she had to be careful during the campaign not to respond. If she had respond, what would she have said to them?

MCCAIN: I think it's hard when people are attacking you for such superficial reasons. And I'm sure she would have been more aggressive but in that situation, I couldn't respond to people that attacked me either. It's just not the situation. Michelle Obama couldn't respond to people that attacked her. So I think this interview that I did on the "Daily Beast" is a good way for my mom to say all of the things she couldn't during the election.

ROBERTS: Well, help us out here. What is she really like?

MCCAIN: She is a lot like me which is what I don't think people normally get. And she is very fun-loving. She's got a really, you know, a fun sense of humor and it just never came across. And I was so sad that people are really surprised when she they see that side of her.

ROBERTS: In this article at the "Daily Beast," you were talking about the two most difficult moments for her during the campaign. What were those moments?

MCCAIN: She said election day, obviously, for obvious reasons. And then the day "The New York Times" profile of her came out which I think was a hard day for everyone. It was a very, in my opinion, not a very good article. It was actually being used in journalism classes as an example of the poor profile on someone, no one ever interviewed her. And it was a very hard thing to read. So she says that was second to this day.

ROBERTS: On the point, she says that there was a bias in the media. And you quote her as saying "I do believe there was a media bias. I do believe that the media had a specific agenda and with that said, the American people cast their vote." Do you think the media has the power to influence who people vote for?

MCCAIN: I do. I think that the media is what people see, now that people watch the news and you trust journalists and newscasters to give an unbiased point of view. I don't think that's always the case but I do think - there are a lot of good journalists out there. I personally am a big fans of many journalists but there are some I think, specifically "The New York Times" has come under attack in the last election and I think like we should just all come together and probably go forth towards having more unbiased journalism in the next election, just for the good of America. ROBERTS: Meghan, you said the only thing you won't talk about in the campaign is Sarah Palin. And I'm wondering why you won't. Particularly given her recent comments where she was quite critical of your father's campaign.

MCCAIN: You know, I think just at this stage like I said, President Obama just got elected. There's a whole new future out there for this country. I don't really think I would like to look back on what happened during the election. All of these things that are coming out. I prefer just to move forward and look forward, and I don't really have any comments on anything.

ROBERTS: What do you think of the criticisms that she has leveled against your father's campaign? Do you think they are fair?

MCCAIN: I think she is a fine woman. I got to know her pretty well during the campaign. She also has a beautiful family. I just would prefer not to comment on anything that she's saying.

ROBERTS: All right. Meghan McCain for us this morning from Phoenix. It's so good for you to get up early for us. I know it's only 5:00 there. It's good to talk to you.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much for having me.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks for coming on.