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American Morning

Caroline Kennedy Withdraws Senate Bid; President Obama Plans Executive Orders on Torture, Guantanamo; Healthy Habits Possible on the Road; Giddy Inauguration Watchers Fall in Love with Obama Couple

Aired January 22, 2009 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, right now, we're coming up to the top of the hour. We have breaking news this morning.
Caroline Kennedy officially withdraws her bid for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat and in a statement released overnight, Kennedy says that she told New York Governor David Paterson she was drawing "for personal reasons." Kennedy was once widely considered the front- runner. Recent polls though suggest her support at least among New Yorkers was slipping.

This morning, President Obama taking command of his new authority. In just hours, he is expected to sign an executive order demanding a prison camp at Guantanamo Bay be closed within a year. And for the second day, he will hold a high stakes meeting with his top economic advisers. This afternoon at 12:45 Eastern, the first White House briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will be taking place and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live at the White House. You'll be there front and center. What is the big focus today?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, it's going to be the executive orders that President Obama issues later today, very significant split with the Bush administration. First and foremost, he is going to call to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center within a year or so. And Kiran, as you know, it's going to take a lot of doing. It's something that the former president, President Bush, had talked about, but didn't actually do.

This is going to take perhaps months and months, even perhaps up to a year working out the logistics in getting those detainees to be taken and accepted by other countries that the United States believes will not torture them.

Now, when it comes to torture itself, Barack Obama is also going to issue a ban on torture. And I guess it all depends on how you define torture under the Bush administration. They are enhanced interrogation techniques, so-called, that included water-boarding for CIA and some other folks who participated in that. That was not considered torture by the Bush administration. We have heard very clearly from Obama, team Obama, that it is considered torture. So they are saying that is not going to be tolerated under an Obama administration.

And then finally, they're going to take a look at all of the detention policies and say, look, you know, is this working? What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong -- Kiran. CHETRY: And the other interesting thing that took place yesterday was a good old-fashioned do-over at the White House.

MALVEAUX: And nobody gets those. You don't really get a do-over in most occasions. But as you know, of course, on inauguration day, Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed up a little bit when it came to administering the Oath of Office.

Greg Craig, the White House Counsel said, look, while it's not legally a problem, there were a lot of questions that people are having, say, well, so does that mean that Barack Obama really is the president here if that line was messed up a little bit? And so they decided to do it again in the map room last night here. Kind of quietly at the White House about 7:30 or so.

They were exclusive when it came to who had access to this. Print reporters, yes, but no television cameras allowed from the networks. CNN and other networks actually filed a formal complaint about that asking for access. It's the kind of thing that you would think would be very important to actually see and document in history, and capturing that video on television is also part of that, Kiran.

CHETRY: Right. And Suzanne, how does that square with the promise of transparency that this administration has made much of?

MALVEAUX: Well, you could look at it and say perhaps it doesn't square with the transparency oath, the promise that we just heard the president made yesterday. It's one of the questions, obviously, that's going to be coming up in the first briefing with Robert Gibbs, how do they square that? You just had an oath and a pledge from the president saying, look, the federal government is going to be open and transparent like none other? And then you have this very restricted access when it came to the media at a very important, important event yesterday. So we'll be asking about that, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Well, good luck. You guys are starting over for the first time with a new administration. Have fun. Suzanne, thanks.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Kiran.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: This morning President Obama paving the way to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And about 500 miles west of the Naval Base, in the capital of Cuba, Havana, the island's former president, Fidel Castro, breaking his silence about America' new commander-in-chief. He's got a lot to say about it. And here's CNN's Morgan Neill from Havana with more.


MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner says she has met with Fidel Castro and that he looks fine. Fernandez spoke with reporters at the airport in Havana.

CRISTINA FERNANDEZ DE KIRCHNER, PRESIDENT OF ARGENTINA (through translator): I spent an hour with him. A little more than an hour, chatting. He was fine. He told me he closely followed the inauguration of Obama. He was watching TV all day. He had very concrete words about President Obama. He said he not only had a very good history as a political leader. Also, he was someone that he saw as completely sincere and who sincerely believed the ideas put forth.

NEILL: Also, there was Cuban President Raul Castro, who dismissed rumors about his brother's health.

RAUL CASTRO, PRESIDENT OF CUBA (through translator): Do you think if he was seriously ill, I would be standing here smiling? Soon I will be taking a trip to Europe. Do you think I could leave here if Fidel was seriously ill?

NEILL: The visit by Argentina's president is the first of its kind in more than 20 years. Now for his part, Cuban President Raul Castro, like his brother, had positive things to say about the new U.S. president, saying he seems like a good man and wishing him good luck. Morgan Neill, CNN, Havana.


ROBERTS: And in a startling development overnight, Caroline Kennedy has pulled out of the race for the New York Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton. Kennedy citing, quote, "personal reasons." Her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy is battling brain cancer and suffered a seizure on inauguration day. But some report suggest that Caroline Kennedy is bowing out after learning that New York's Governor David Paterson was not going to choose her anyways.

CNN's Mary Snow has been covering Kennedy's bid for the Senate since it started last year. So why did she withdraw her name and who else is in the running now.

MARY SNOW, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big question is exactly why did she withdraw her name? And there are a couple of contenders in the running. But I have to say there was massive confusion, lots of mixed signals last night.

Kennedy's withdrawal seemed to throw Governor Paterson's office into a tail spin. There were conflicting reports after whether she was in or out. Shortly after midnight, a Kennedy spokesman released a single sentence stating, "I inform Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I'm withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate."

Now, exactly what led to this decision, unclear. "The New York Times" cites the health of her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, as John just mentioned, he has brain cancer, suffered a seizure on Tuesday while attending the inauguration. But Politico reports that Paterson appear to be moving away from choosing Kennedy. It cites a source saying the governor's office had become annoyed by her use of lawyers as in to mediators when they asked follow-up questions to a questionnaire Paterson had sent out to prospective candidates.

Now as for the Governor, his office has refused until now any comment. And appear to be caught off guard 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 named as the favorite, but recent polls showed her popularity had waned. Paterson had talked about her pluses and minuses and that included her awkward rollout that fiercely private Kennedy had a tough time with the New York press after expressing her interest in the Senate seat.

Now the landscape changes in prospective candidates, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is in the running. Paterson, though, recent days has talked about the fact that with Senator Clinton leaving the Senate, it would mean one less female senator that it seems perhaps suppose to give chances for some of the other women being considered, they include Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand and Randi Weingarten, the head of the teachers union here in New York.

ROBERTS: I guess we're going to find out soon, because he told us earlier this week that he probably would have it done by Saturday.

SNOW: Absolutely, yes.

ROBERTS: All right. Mary, we'll find out who it is, soon. Thanks.

SNOW: All right, thank you.

CHETRY: Well, the new president made more 500 promises on the campaign trail. Are there just too many to keep? The Obameter tracking his progress. We're going to see where he stands right now.

Also the dreaded "d" word. Are we about to slip from a recession into a full-fledged depression? We're going to talk to some of our economic experts to find out. Seven minutes after the hour.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people in the days and weeks, months and years to come. That's a pretty good place to start. Thank you very much.


CHETRY: Well, Barack Obama has inspired millions to hope, including Rush Limbaugh. Only Limbaugh is hoping for something a little bit different. Let's listen to what he said.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO 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, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to 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 guys, "OK, I'll send you a response, but I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails."


CHETRY: "I hope he fails." Many were stunned by Rush Limbaugh's remarks. We're going to get reaction from our political panel today: Leslie Sanchez, Republican analyst and CNN contributor, and Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Both of them live in Washington today for us.

Good to see you both.


CHETRY: Leslie, let's start with you. Rush saying, I hope he fails. What do you think?

SANCHEZ: You know, overall, if you look at the context of what Rush Limbaugh was saying, he is talking about this massive expansion of government and the fact that it could have implications not only for all of us in our economy but for generations to come. I think there is a very valid debate with respect to that issue. But these words "I hope he fails," I can't speak for Rush Limbaugh. I think it was probably taken out of context. Nobody hopes that this president will fail. We need him to succeed.

Republicans, Democrats, independents, everybody coming together to ensure this economy keeps moving. I don't know if it's a personal attack as much as it is one against the policies themselves.

CHETRY: Well, you know, Chris, it's interesting, one of our e- mailers wrote to say he failed, it was obvious Rush was saying he hopes he fails in efforts to expand government, saying that it's nothing any different than from what our forefathers warned us about big government. So shock value aside, is it a valid point to be concern about the government taking over too much of the private sector?

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, I think it's a stunning statement about where we are as a nation, given the scope of crises that we face in the economy. You know, I think the mistake that people make is that somehow President Obama and his team want to do this. This is not something they want to do, it is really being forced upon them. And you see economists both from the left and the right who are basically saying that we need to do dramatic things to turn around an economy to make sure that it does not slip into a depression.

So it really is a force of necessity rather than it is an ideology. I mean, I think Rush Limbaugh, unfortunately, I think is playing to his audience. But the last thing, I think, that we need is that kind of negative, you know, attacks to be, you know, undermining what is a critical agenda.

SANCHEZ: You know, critical agenda aside, we want responsible government. We don't want overreaching. I think there is going to be a very valid debate. And people shouldn't be discounted because of the debate; I think it's the merits of what is expansion. I mean, this expansion started under President Bush. This is not new. People are frustrated --


KOFINIS: Yes, I didn't hear Rush Limbaugh speak out a lot during President Bush staying there.

SANCHEZ: He was pretty critical of Bush as well. So I think any conservative was critical about the role of government. They want it to be responsible. We understand this is intervention this time with respect to the government, but what is responsible. Do not overreach. How -- is it going to be transparent? Is it going to be accountable? Is there no pork barrel spending? There's a lot of questions that need to be answered, especially for taxpayers.

CHETRY: Another really interesting thing that happened yesterday, Chris -- we probably hasn't seen it in recent times is -- you know, in our modern times, in an effort to avoid confusion at the White House, Barack Obama actually retook the Oath of Office late yesterday after a little bit of the flubbing that had taken place between Justice John Roberts and the incoming president. What do you think about that? They wanted to make it official. They were perhaps concerned that people were going to try to question the validity of the oath?

KOFINIS: I mean, you know, I imagine some -- you know, some of the bloggers might, but I think they wanted to be exact and specific, and listen, it may, you know, it may ruffle some feathers that it wasn't something that was taped or available to the media. But, you know, my joke is anyone who is really upset about this should sent their criticisms to Justice Roberts, in care of the Supreme Court. I mean, he flubbed what was a historic oath. And unfortunately, this is what he had to do. And I think at the end of the day it's really not much to do about nothing.

SANCHEZ: If it wasn't so much to do, then why didn't they allow cameras in there to film it? I think that's probably the bigger issue. There's a lot of frustration. Why didn't they say it? They obviously felt it was something that needed to be done whether just to put their mind at ease or whatever the case, but the American public should have been able to, you know, really fully understand it and at least see what was going on.

KOFINIS: Well, listen, I mean, you had the image on inauguration day. I don't think, you know, just want it in a case perspective, I don't know what the rationale was, but you don't want a battle of images.

SANCHEZ: But this is not something people take lightly. I think people were very concerned that the administration starts off on the right foot. If you didn't have anything to hide, they might as well put it on camera and put it out there.


KOFINIS: Yes. I wish Justice Roberts hadn't taken the 35 words lightly, but nonetheless.

CHETRY: Oh, the poor guy! He's talking about nerves. You know what, he probably did make a mistake in not bringing the note card because Rehnquist -- Chief Justice Rehnquist did have a note card there just in case. You know what happens when your live and the pressure is on you. Sometimes, oops.

Chris Kofinis and Leslie Sanchez, great to see both of you this morning. Thanks.

KOFINIS: Thank you.


ROBERTS: Promises, promises. But has our new president promised more than he can deliver? The Obameter is keeping track. We're going to show you where Obama stands already.

And you know that the economy is in trouble, but at what point does a recession turns into a depression? Our Christine Romans checks out the warning signs for us. Sixteen minutes now after the hour.



CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": Today in one of his first official acts as president, Barack Obama had an emergency meeting with his top advisers to find out just, you know, what the situation is. But apparently it didn't go well, because after the meeting, Obama sold North and South Dakota. The news is, no one will notice.


ROBERTS: Oh, we all know that the economy is in dire straits, but as President Obama looks to pass his economic stimulus plan in Congress, a few noted economists are now uttering the dreaded "d" word. Christine Romans "Minding Your Business" this morning.

This is not good.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's not good, you know. But here it comes. We're almost 14 months, you guys, into an official recession. Recession. An a few economists are starting to utter the dreaded "d" word. It's scary, right, but when does a recession become a depression? Are we even close? And what does it even mean?


ROMANS (voice-over): President Obama knew he was taking office in the grips of a nasty recession. But is it something worse? There it is in black and white. "U.S. Depression looking likely," from Albert Edwards, a London-based analyst for French banks, "Societe General." He wrote last week, quote, "Economic data has been truly dreadful, consistent with something far worse than a deep recession".

Scary stuff, and pretty much the worst case scenario. Labor economists Peter Morici also recently declared, quote, "The U.S. is already in the jaws of a depression."

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: We're in a depression because of structural issues in the economy. Our excessive dependence on imported oil and our huge trade deficits are pulling us down. The stimulus package will give us some temporary relief, but then the economy will sink back.

ROMANS (voice-over): The very word depression conjures up unpleasant memories of the last century -- 25 percent unemployment and an economy that shrank 30 percent. Depressions are so rare; there isn't really an official definition.

(on camera): Is this a depression?


ROMANS: Anirvan Banerji studies economic cycles. First, there was a downturn. Then, a slowdown. Now, an official recession, but a depression, he says, it is not.

BANERJI: If the economy looks bad now, for it to be in depression means it will look much worse several times as bad.

ROMANS: Many wonder how can we be in a depression when the majority of Americans have not lost their job or home, and everyday life looks on the surface at least pretty much the same. But that fear of depression runs deep. Fears shared by the last treasury secretary and the Fed chairman last fall.

GEORGE BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was concerned that the credit freeze would cause us to be -- headed toward a depression greater than the Great Depression. That's what I was told -- if we didn't move.

ROMANS: Outgoing President Bush said his actions prevented it. President Obama plans to spend hundreds of billions more to make sure is doesn't happen on his watch.


ROMANS: On his watch, indeed. OK, this is all semantics, really. You know, we didn't even start using the word recession until after the Great Depression. You can call it a severe recession. You can worry about a depression. But it doesn't change what people are feeling. And economists agree there will be more layoffs, more businesses will fail and more foreclosures in the coming months. You can see about six months out. And six months out, as Jeffrey Sachs said earlier in the program, it looks pretty ugly. ROBERTS: They're not looking great for Nouriel Roubini, who was a student of Jeff Sachs as well in Harvard saying it's looking really, really bad coming up.

ROMANS: It's a severe recession right now. It really is.

ROBERTS: Two words to describe what's going on, we're -- and then you know the next word.


ROBERTS: Thanks, Christine.

CHETRY: All right. From senator to madam secretary, Hillary Clinton sworn in as Obama administration's secretary of state. We'll take a full look at her to-do list just ahead. It's 22 minutes after the hour.

Promises, promises.


OBAMA: We are going to give a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans.

I will sign a universal health care plan.


CHETRY: But how many promises can our new president really keep? An Obameter keeping track.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give the guy a chance at least. It's a good way to keep the politicians honest, but we need to give this guy a little bit of room to get the job done.


CHETRY: See where he stands already. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ninety-four members having voted aye and 2 members having voted nay, the nomination is confirmed.


ROBERTS: Welcome back to the Most News in the Morning. A look there at Hillary Clinton's confirmation as the country's 67th secretary of state. And waiting on her desk at day one a full slate of pretty critical issues. Gail Sheehy, she's a contributing editor at "Vanity Fair," she also wrote a biography of Hillary Clinton and she is here now with more.

Gail, it's good to see you.


ROBERTS: She's going to be addressing the employees of the State Department along with the president a little bit later on today. Not exactly the job she wanted, but still, a pretty incredible job.

SHEEHY: Well, she's really relishing it because she is going to be America's face to the world. That's pretty impressive. And she has a cosmic celebrity. You know, Joe Biden, who could have had the role, is not known to the rest of the world, but he talks about being the last person to whisper in the president's ear on any foreign policy issue, but Hillary will be the one who's out there selling it, rebuilding relationships, reintroducing America to the world. And that's pretty important and impressive.

ROBERTS: It certainly is. Do you think that she's going to put her own stamp on the State Department or do you think that she will faithfully follow Barack Obama's lead?

SHEEHY: Oh, she'll have to follow his lead. And he has shown that he's going to be very engaged in foreign policy by the meetings he had yesterday with General Petraeus on Middle East policy, withdrawing from Iraq, meeting with - talking to Middle Eastern leaders. He will definitely lay out the plan. And now that he may select George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East, Mitchell wrote the program for Palestinian and Israeli peace process.

ROBERTS: Right. I mean, certainly, she does have a lot of very wise hands who are there to help her out. But what about management experience? You know, her first big management experience was running her campaign, on which she wrote was about, quote, "as effective as the United Nations Security Council." State Department, she's got 30,000 employees, a budget of $10 million. Is she ready to handle all that?

SHEEHY: Well, you know, she's got a barely functional institution to run and so it looks like Soviet-style architecture and a lot of ingrained friction there. She wants to expand the diplomatic corps, and President Obama has given her a green light on that, but that's going to cost money.

So, I think, the smartest thing she did was to pick Jim Steinberg, former diplomatic -- former national security adviser in the Clinton White House and Lou, who was OMB. So, they will know how to find the money and give her the ammunition to try to sell it on Capitol Hill.

ROBERTS: Hey, Gail, you have studied extensively the relationship between Hillary and Bill Clinton. How do you think that is going to play out over the next few years?

SHEEHY: Really interesting thing is that whenever Hillary gets a prestigious post or is running for one, Bill Clinton gets turned on. And I saw the two of them sitting in the front row at the National Cathedral at the prayer service talking nonstop whenever there was a lull. So I think he is going to be very interested in her activities. And she, you know, they -- even during freeze periods, they talk four or five times a day on the phone.

ROBERTS: Hey, you were at the inauguration the other day and we've been talking this morning about this new group on Facebook called "Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom." A lot of people who are holding purple tickets who were stuck in that passage way underneath the capital, underneath the Mall there. You weren't a member of the Purple Tunnel of Doom, but you had a silver ticket.

SHEEHY: I was the silver people.

ROBERTS: Tell me about your experience.

SHEEHY: And after that, you know, trying to get on to the Mall, failed to do that, ended up watching with about 12 people in a tree on a cell phone upside down. But there was tremendous energy and people were jumping up and down and it was just thrilling to be part of it in any possible way.

ROBERTS: I can't imagine Gail Sheehy and 12 other people in a tree watching television on a cell phone. Amazing. Gail, good to see you this morning. Thanks for coming in.

SHEEHY: My pleasure.

ROBERTS: Appreciate it.

CHETRY: All right, 29 minutes after the hour. You can see it right there on your screen -- there you go -- Oscar nominations. They're going to be live in just a couple of minutes here, and we'll let you know how things are going, what movies are up for contention and what actors are going to be hopefully taking home those golden statues.

Meanwhile, Caroline Kennedy has dropped her bid for Hillary Clinton's vacant Senate seat citing personal reasons. It was just a one-line statement that she issued early this morning. Recent polls showing that her support was slipping with more New Yorkers leaning toward the State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Regardless, though, of where New Yorkers are leaning, it's up to one man. It's Governor David Paterson who'll be making that selection possibly by this weekend.

Well, part of Barack Obama's inaugural address was censored on Chinese television. "New York Times" reporting that China's main state-run network broadcast that broadcast that address live, until the moment that Obama mentioned communism. Well, after that, they cut to a shot of a TV anchor discussing the economic challenges that Obama will be facing.

And Barack Obama may be taking a leaf out of James Bond's gadget book. "Atlantic Magazine" online reports the national security agency has approved a 3300 spyproof Smartphone for Mr. Obama. It's reportedly capable of encrypting top secret voice conversations that can also handle classified documents. Instant messaging though for the first daughters that's still a no-no.

This morning, President Obama is wasting no time tackling the pile of promises that he made on the campaign trail. And the Web site politifact says that he made more than 500 of them. In fact twice as many as former president George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. So where does he start and who is keeping tabs? CNN's Jason Carroll joins me now. 500 promises is a lot to live up to.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's a lot. You know, Obama had said many, many times hold me accountable, hold me accountable. That is exactly what these folks are trying to do and they are doing something called the Obameter. They say they have compiled a list of each of Obama's promises ranging from closing Guantanamo Bay to getting his daughters a new puppy and anyone can go to their Web site to see how following the president's progress is going.


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

CARROLL (voice-over): Now that the history-making moment is passed, time to focus on the future and all the promises President Barack Obama made since declaring his candidacy.

OBAMA: My first act will be calling together the Joint Chiefs of Staff and give them a mission to bring our troops home.

CARROLL: And he has made a lot.

OBAMA: We are going to give a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans. I will sign a universal health care plan.

I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions.

CARROLL: It's a long, long list. Obama made 510 campaign promises according to the Obameter.

BILL ADAIR, EDITOR, POLITIFACT: We can show people everyday how Obama is doing with his agenda by showing the progress on the Obameter and then ultimately rate whether the promise was kept, broken, or a compromise.

CARROLL: The Obameter is featured on The "St. Petersburg Times" Web site that shows Obama making good on a few promises such as appointing at least one republican to his cabinet. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

OBAMA: There will be a ban on gifts by lobbyists.

CARROLL: His announcement yesterday, cracking down on lobbyists was one of three promises that Politifact says Obama fulfilled in his first full day in office. The Obameter also shows some 490 promises with no action. Yet, like number 56. Require children to have health insurance or number 286, securing the borders.

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Give the guy a chance, at least! It's a good way to keep politicians honest but we need to give the guy a little bit of room to get the job done.

CARROLL: According to the "St. Petersburg Times." Researchers crunched the numbers. Obama's 510 campaign promises were another historic mark. Bush made 177 and Clinton 204. Some political observers say since Obama has promised so much, someone has to keep track.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think the American public is really looking for something beyond the rhetoric, but actual achievement and this is a great example to measure that achievement against what he promised.


CARROLL: The folks at Politifacts say their Web site received an overwhelming response. They know it's very early in Obama's presidency. They say the point of the Web site is not to criticize but simply to follow Obama's progress. And you know, a lot of political analysts say it is hard for him to keep some of these campaign promises like he's made like number 38, repeal, push Bush tax cuts for higher income people and number 505 -

CHETRY: You got them all there.

CARROLL: Yes, I do. Create $3,000 tax credit for companies that add jobs but in this new economy obviously, some of these promises are going to have to wait.

CHETRY: All right. He talked about setbacks as well. So maybe he'll have to explain some of that. Thanks so much, Jason.


CHETRY: Appreciate it.

Hey, we're following breaking news right now. We will take a quick break. When we come back there is some new economic numbers out, including new jobless claims as well as new construction starts and of course there we're looking live at the Samuel Goldwin Theater for the Academy Award nominations. They will be announced any minute now. So we will bring you those live, too in just a moment in AMERICAN MORNING. 34 minutes after the hour.


ROBERTS: Thirty-seven minutes now after the hour. Just in to CNN, new job numbers out moments ago. Christine Romans "Minding Your Business." She's with us now and these are looking pretty dismal this morning, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. 589,000 people lined up for the first time last week for unemployment benefits. You know there have been some concerns in recent weeks that it was hard frankly to get in and get an interview, to get an appointment, to get signed up for benefits.

We know there are backlogs in some states and we know that last week 589,000 people got through and got signed up for the first time for unemployment benefits. That's an increase of 62,000 from the prior week. Longer term, the people who are continuing to get jobless benefits now tops 4.6 million in this country.

That 589,000 last week, that was a 26-year high. So we know that it's tough times out there in the labor market. I want to tell you it's going to be different where you live. It really is here. The largest increases for people filing for the first time for unemployment benefits in Michigan, California, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

There were decreases however in South Carolina, Massachusetts, New York, Iowa and Oregon. So depending on where you are in the country and what kind of industry, obviously, the situation is a little bit different but overall we're looking at some numbers that continue to bode ill for the economy over the next six months or so.

Also, we got some housing starts numbers down 15.5 percent. No surprise there. There are fewer shovels on the ground on these new projects, John. People can't get the financing for them and there's no demand to buy them. And so you saw a big plunge in housing starts there. Again, it's more of the same here, John. We've been talking about how you can kind of see, you know, six months out of the economy and this is what we're seeing. John.

ROBERTS: And some economists saying it is bound to get a lot worse than it is right now. Christine Romans this morning. Christine, thanks.

CHETRY: All right. Get ready to catch Oscar fever. Nominations for the 81st annual Academy Awards are about to be announced today in Beverly Hills. There you see a live picture right now that's coming to us from the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, the Academy's theater.

Ah-ha! The music is playing and here are the nominations. Let's listen.

SID GANIS, PRESIDENT, ACAD. OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES: Hello, everybody. Good morning. I'm Sid Ganis, president of the Academy. And before we announce our nominees for film's highest honors, I'm very pleased to welcome the producer, director, and Oscar winning actor, Forest Whitaker.

FOREST WHITAKER, ACTOR: Thank you. Good morning, everyone.

GANIS: The 2008 nominees for best performance by an actress in a supporting role are: Amy Adams in "Doubt," Penelope Cruz in "Vicky Christina Barcelona," Viola Davis in "Doubt," Tarajip Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler." Forest.


For best performance by an actor in a supporting role, the nominees are: Josh Brolin in "Milk." Robert Downey, Jr. in "Tropic Thunder." Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt." Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight." And Michael Shannon for "Revolutionary Road."

For best performance by an actress in a leading role, the nominees are: Anne Hathaway in "Rachel getting Married." Angelina Jolie in "Changeling." Melissa Leo in "Frozen River," Meryl Streep in "Doubt," and Kate Winslet in "The Reader.".

WHITAKER: The nominees for best performance by an actor in a leading role are: Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor." Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon." Sean Penn in "Milk." Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." And Mickey Rourke in the "Wrestler."

GANIS: In the category of best achievement in directing, David Fincher for the "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Ron Howard for "Frost/Nixon." Gus Van Sant for "Milk." Stephen Daldry for "The Reader." And Danny Boyle for "Slumdog Millionaire."

WHITAKER: For best original screen play, the nominees are: Courtney Hunt for "Frozen River." Mike Leigh for "Happy Go Lucky." Martin McDonagh for "In Bruges." Dustin Lance Black for "Milk." And Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter for "Wall-E."

GANIS: For adapted screenplay, we have Eric Roth and Robin Swicord for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." John Patrick Shanley for "Doubt." Peter Morgan for "Frost/Nixon." David Hare for "The Reader." And Simon Beaufoy for "Slumdog Millionaire."

WHITAKER: For best foreign language film. We have from Germany "The Baader Meinhof Complex." From France "The Class." From Japan, "Departures." from Austria, Revanche and from Israel "Waltz with Bashr."

GANIS: For best animated feature, the nominees are "Bolt," Chris Williams and Byron Howard; "Kung Fu Panda," John Stevenson and Mark Osborne; and "Wall E," Andrew Stanton.

WHITAKER: And finally, I'm pleased to announced that the film selected as the best picture nominees for 2008 are: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Cean Chaffin, producers. "Frost/Nixon," Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and Eric Felliner, producers. "Milk," Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen, producers. "The Reader" nominees to be announced. And "Slumdog Millionaire," Christian Colson, producer.

ROBERTS: So there you have it there, the nominees for the Academy Awards, a couple of surprises in there. A couple of good things to see, Heath Ledger who --

CHETRY: He passed away a year ago today on an accidental overdose and he was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in the "Dark Knight."

ROBERTS: Mickey Rourke is best actor.

CHETRY: Quite a comeback.

ROBERTS: Quite a comeback. Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy for "Slumdog Millionaire," which is a fantastic film, and the fact is, "Slumdog Millionaire" nominated for best picture of the year.

CHETRY: I do this to myself every year. I have to get to the theater every day now and try to see some of these movies to see which one deserves to win.

ROBERTS: "Slumdog" is a shoo-in for that. Forty-four minutes after the hour. We will be right back.


CHETRY: It's 46 minutes past the hour, we're going to check in with Reynolds Wolf for a look at extreme weather today. He is down in Atlanta at the Weather Center for us. Hey there, Reynolds. Good to see you.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEROLOGIST: Hey, great to see you, guys. We are shivering here in parts of the south, not just in Atlanta but further south into Florida, we got chilly conditions this morning.

Take a look at what we have as we go right into our weather computer. You see right behind me. I'm going to show you. We're going to show some of the temperatures that we have in places like Jacksonville back over to Orlando and even to Miami. We have that freeze warning that is in effect. Temperatures right now above freezing in most cities including Miami where it's 50.

One of the great things about freezing conditions in Florida is that they seldom last. We're expecting temperatures to jump up into the 60s and 70s in terms of your daytime highs as we get close to the weekend. The other big story the heavy rainfall we have out in California where temperatures are expected to rise into the 50s and 60s today. In Las Vegas with 70 and Salt Lake City with 37 and Kansas City, your high 67. In New York and Boston, highs mainly into the low to mid 30s. That is a look at your forecast. Let's send it right back to you, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Reynolds, thanks.


CHETRY (voice-over): What every first daughter needs to know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who better to get advice from people who have lived through it.

CHETRY: Advice for Malia and Sasha Obama from Jenna and Barbara Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How nice of Jenna and Barbara.

CHETRY: The White House survival guide for girls. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



ROBERTS: Ten minutes now to the top of the hour. Moving into the White House might be a bit overwhelming for young Malia and Sasha Obama but now the Obama girls are getting advice from two people who know something about growing up in the White House, former first daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush.

Alina Cho following the story for us. Good morning to you.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, good morning.

First children are a very small club, John. Good morning. Good morning, everybody. You know, very few people know what it's like having a dad who is also the most powerful man on the planet. So imagine how helpful a letter like this is. Almost a how to manual as in how to survive at the White House.


CHO (voice-over): They are arguably the most famous children in the world, now living in America's most famous house. A fish bowl few understand. Jenna and Barbara Bush do and they want to give Sasha and Malia Obama some advice. "Surround yourself with loyal friends." "Cherish your animals." And "when your dad throws out the first pitch for the Yankees, go to the game."

ANN SCHRADER, POLITICO.COM: How great is this letter? How nice of Jenna and Barbara.

CHO: The letter titled "Playing House in the White House" and published in "The Wall Street Journal" is a survival guide of sorts to life inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. After all, the Bush twins' relationship to the highest office in the land goes back 20 years to when their grandfather was elected.

Among the tidbits, "if you ever need a hug, go find Ramsey. If you want to talk football, look for Buddy. And if you just need a smile, look for Smiley," the White House ushers.

SCHRADER: They are the White House butlers. You know, the girls will see every day and that will be people that they probably will grow pretty close to.

CHO: Not since John John and Caroline Kennedy has America been so seemingly fascinated by first children.

DOUG WEAD, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The White House is a blur. It is very fast. It's a short part of their life and it's the best part of their life.

CHO: Why Jenna and Barbara Bush are advising young Sasha and Malia to go to anything and everything you possibly can. The Bush twins know all the highs and lows of life in the spotlight. They were once known for partying and ditching the Secret Service.

SCHRADER: When you get caught sort of doing things and the press sort of attacks you for it, they learn and who better to get advice from people who have lived through it, gone through it and learned and realized OK maybe we shouldn't do that.

CHO: Which brings Jenna and Barbara Bush to this. "Our dad, like yours, is a man of great integrity and love, not the sketch in a paper or part of a skit on TV. So here is our most important piece of advice. Remember who your dad really is."


CHO: Such a great letter. You know, the Bush twins went on to say many people will think they know him but they have no idea how he felt the day you were born or the pride he felt on your first day of school or how much he both love being his daughters. You know, presidential historians say this letter is unprecedented. It could become part of the historical record, John and should become a tradition. You know, it's the first time it's happened and maybe it will happen down the line.

ROBERTS: Very nice of the Bush twins to do that, too.

CHO: It's a good idea. Yes.

ROBERTS: Some good advice.

CHO: It is.

ROBERTS: Alina, thanks.

CHO: You bet.

CHETRY: When you travel, staying in shape can be specially challenging. In this week's "Fit Nation" segment, Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us how to take your workout on the road.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: As a busy sales manager in Silicon Valley, David Peck found himself eating too much fast food and neglecting exercise.

DAVID PECK, BUSINESS TRAVELER: I get really stressed out. I'd go for the comfort food, fill the belly, feel good.

GUPTA: And things only got worse when he was on the road.

PECK: Juggling things, I'm probably not that good at it.

GUPTA: But "Fit Nation" trainer Robert Arthur says just because you're out of town doesn't mean the workouts have to stop.

ROBERT DOTHARD, "FIT NATION" TRAINER: Whatever city you're traveling in, you can go online and find all sorts of resources. You normally have running trails, jogging trails. You can just run in place. Try to get a private room so nobody sees you do this but it really is effective and it gets your heart rate up.

I can work a whole host of muscle groups just using simple ankle weights that don't take up any more room than maybe a couple of pair of socks.

GUPTA: Of course, Robert says, take advantage of the free gyms and healthy food options in your hotel. And here is something else. Travel with rubber exercise tubing.

DOTHARD: It's very light and it literally is slices and dices, you know, it has a thousand and one uses. I can literally work out full body with tubing.

GUPTA: As for David Peck, after getting a heart scare, he says he is eating better, even on the road. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.


CHETRY: The affectionate first couple talk about public display of affection. And Jeanne Moos finds out why America is so smitten with the lovey-dovey Obamas. It's 55 minutes after the hour.



JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": It was a night that combined the best of monarchy with the worst of wedding schmaltz.


STEWART: Actually, that was beautiful, tasteful and elegant. Moving. Really don't know how to handle that. It's been so long.


ROBERTS: Beyonce not exactly wedding schmaltz.

What is the latest "in" thing -- being in love. Public displays of affection. The President and Mrs. Obama may just improve the state of romance in this nation. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us how the cuddly first couple is melting hearts with those public displays of affection.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was bad enough, the hand- holding, the kissing, the arms around one another, but when they did this --

Women everywhere swooned over the cuddly first couple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love it. I love that they love each and they show it in public.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just exudes out of them. It is spills over and just comes to all of us.

MOOS: If this keeps up, America's going to need a cold shower. When Beyonce sang "At Last" to the Obamas on ABC.


MOOS: Enthralled gawkers looked like they were in heaven. Not since Annette Benning danced with Michael Douglas in "The American President" has a slow dance gotten folks so revved up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I fell in love all over again.

MOOS: Have you noticed how affectionate they are?


MOOS: Even when the president stepped on her dress. It seemed cute rather than klutzy.

MOOS (on-camera): Half of you are probably all goo-goed eyed right at this second, smiling at the TV set, watching these images. Get a grip.

MOOS (voice-over): Some even marveled at their grip while dancing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This way, they danced like this versus like this.

MOOS: This partially obscured snuggle on the parade route ended up on front pages all over the country. All it is, is about their public --


MOOS: What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just saw the picture, really nice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aren't they the sweetest, most romantic? This is what we need. This says hope.

MOOS: On YouTube, this couple celebrated their second anniversary with an anniversinauguration. Dancing along with the first couple.

But dancing is not the only thing being emulated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like the fact they have a date night, you know once a week. Actually, a lot of my friends implemented that into their own relationship.

MOOS: You don't need a psychiatrist to figure out why folks are so smitten with the Obamas seeming smitten.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because that is essentially something we all want.

MOOS: The first lady even switched the hands she used to hold the president as she waved with it and then switched back. Some say the dancing reminded them of newlyweds at a wedding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were definitely on top of the cake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at least this will last four years. A lot of weddings don't.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: So those of you in love, get out there.

CHETRY: How about it?

ROBERTS: Don't be shy about it.

CHETRY: It was a little weddingish, wasn't it? The white dress.

ROBERTS: It was beautiful. Absolutely, romance is back in America.

CHETRY: Exactly.

Well thanks so much for being with us this morning on AMERICAN MORNING. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

ROBERTS: Right now, here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins.