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American Morning

Bill Clinton's Take on the Obama Presidency; Auto Task Force to Oversee Detroit; Obama Goes on Economic Offensive; NTSB Investigation Reveals Continental Flight 3407 on Auto Pilot Just Before the Crash; Venezuelans End Term Limits For Elected Officials; British Media Reports Nuclear Subs Collide; Oil Down but Gas is Up; Lesbian Wedding Controversy on Soap Opera

Aired February 16, 2009 - 06:00   ET



JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Falling 800 feet in five seconds, new details about the terrifying final moments of Continental Flight 2407.

Plus one-on-one with President Bill Clinton.

(on camera): Do you think he really can bring change to Washington?

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's what I think will happen. I think that...

ROBERTS (voice-over): From President Obama's first test to fixing the economy.

CLINTON: This stimulus is our bridge over troubled waters.

ROBERTS: A rare Presidents' Day sit down on the Most News in the Morning.


ROBERTS: Good morning. Thanks very much for being with us on this Monday. It's February 16th. It is Presidents' Day and John Roberts together with Kiran Chetry. Good morning to you.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. So you had a chance to catch up with the former president, Bill Clinton, in Austin, Texas.

ROBERTS: Yes. We spent about 20 minutes together, talked about a bunch of different things, talked about some things off camera as well. It is now what? It's been a long time since I talked to him, a long time since I covered him at the White House.

So it was nice to get back together with him again for a little while. We've got all kinds of interesting things that he said to play for you this morning, so make sure that you're around all three hours this morning. CHETRY: Yes. We're going to share some of his insights with our viewers this morning.

Well, welcome. We start with breaking news this morning.

President Obama will not be naming a so-called car czar to oversee the restructuring of the struggling auto industry. Instead, the president claims to create an administration tax force that would be led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council. Tomorrow is the deadline for General Motors and Chrysler to submit plans detailing how they can repay billions in government loans.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just arriving in Tokyo in the last half hour or so. It's the first stop on her overseas trip as secretary of state. She'll also visit Indonesia, South Korea and China. Clinton is breaking with tradition by traveling to Asia. America's top diplomat normally usually goes to Europe or the Middle East as their first abroad trip.

And we're also learning more about the final moments of Continental Flight 3407 that crashed just outside of Buffalo killing 50 people. Federal investigators say that the plane was on auto pilot until just about the impact of the crash, automatically disengaged the auto pilot. The NTSB discourages the use of auto pilot in severe icing conditions, but investigators say there was no sign of severe icing at the time that the plane went down.

ROBERTS: Well to the economy and it's back to business for President Obama, topping his agenda, signing the economic stimulus bill into law. That will happen tomorrow.

Congress passed the plan on Friday night but only three Republicans bought into the $787 billion price tag. Among the Republican critics, Senator John McCain who told CNN's John King on "STATE OF THE UNION" that the president did not do enough when it came to bipartisanship.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's a bad beginning because it wasn't what we promised the American people. What President Obama promised the American people that we would sit down together.

Look, I appreciate the fact that the president came over, talked to Republicans. That's not how you negotiate a result. You sit down together in a room with competing proposals. Almost all of our proposals went down on a party line vote.


ROBERTS: Well, certainly Democrats not buying the case that the president is off to a bad start. I talked about that with former President Bill Clinton in Austin, Texas. He was there hosting the Clinton Global Initiative University which encourages college students and administrators to come up with creative ways to address global issues. Let's listen to what he said.


ROBERTS: So what's your take on what Senator McCain said that he's off to a terrible start.

CLINTON: Well, I just disagree with him, but we have a different economic philosophy. For example, there's a hundred economic studies which show that you get a better return in terms of economic growth on extending unemployment benefits or investing money in energy conservation jobs to improve buildings than you do giving people in my income group a tax cut. But it doesn't stop them. Those guys are on automatic. They have, you know, you punch a button and they give you -- the answer they give you.

I think that there are a lot of tax cuts in that bill for middle class family, for lower income families. There's a $7,500 tax credit that will kick in when these plug-in electric vehicles go on the market which would help us to become the world's leader in that and secure us jobs for a decade or more.

ROBERTS: Do you really think president can change Washington, can bring the type of change to Washington that he campaigned on? He's already up against a wall, against the Republicans in Congress, not quite as big a wall as you found yourself up against in 1993, but he does seem to be having some difficulty. Do you think he really can bring change to Washington?

CLINTON: Here's what I think it will happen. I think that as we go along, if the American people stick with him and if he begins to have good results, then I think more and more Republicans will cooperate with him because they will see that he's right or because he carried their states for any number of reasons.

ROBERTS: How long do you think he has?

CLINTON: Well, I think that first his next big challenge is to come forward with the details of how we're going to rewrite (ph) as many home mortgages as we can, how we're going to take some of these bad assets off the banks' books so they can get cleaned up and they can loan money, and what conditions will we give more money to banks for, that is they're going to have to loan money from now on. That's what Secretary Geithner is working on. Those three things make a lot of sense. That's our long-term answer.

ROBERTS: But how much time do you think he has? Hundred days, six months, a year, two years?

CLINTON: The public, I believe, will support him at least for a year trying in trying to work these things out. And he's been very straightforward in saying it might take as much as two years for the economy to really get in gear again. My instinct is it will happen a little quicker than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: Coming up, former President Clinton was among those that "Time" magazine blamed for the financial crisis, one of 25. So what does Mr. Clinton had to say about that? Find out here on the "Most News in the Morning" in less than 30 minutes -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Well, right now, General Motors and Chrysler are working feverishly on plans to show the government how they can repay billions in federal loans. The deadline for their proposals to turn around their companies is tomorrow. Yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said that efforts to shore up the auto industry will require broad sacrifices from the auto executives on down.


DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: We're going to need a major restructuring of these companies. How that restructuring comes is something that has to be determined, but it's going to be something that's going to require sacrifice, not just from the auto workers but also from creditors, from shareholders and the executives who run the company. And everyone is going to have to get together here to build companies that can compete in the future.


CHETRY: Also breaking news as President Obama gears up to launch a new offensive to help restructure the troubled auto industry. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux has been following this for us this morning. She joins us live from Chicago.

Good morning, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. Well, obviously, the administration looking very carefully at what's going to happen tomorrow when GM and Chrysler actually come up with these plans.

Well, the Obama Administration is creating what's called a presidential task force, and it is not going to be this position of a car czar like we all anticipated but rather a group of agencies working together. It's going to be led by the treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, as well as the top economic adviser, Larry Summers.

They're going to be working with these automakers for the next couple of weeks. They do expect some progress obviously to see how they're going to repay these loans. And Kiran, this is really all about the president's week ahead, putting an urgent focus on the economy.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): A quick glimpse of the first couple leaving a Chicago restaurant after sharing a Valentine's dinner, but the private weekend at home will give way to a very public PR campaign this week as President Obama hits the road, first to Denver on Tuesday to signs the $787 billion economic stimulus legislation, the point to put the president in front of real people, to convince them that jobs will eventually return.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Things have not yet bottomed out. They're probably going to get worse before they improve, but this is a big step forward toward making that improvement and putting people back to work.

MALVEAUX: Not everyone is buying that. Only three Republican senators supported the massive stimulus plan. Wednesday, Mr. Obama is heading to McCain's home state of Arizona to lay out his plan to address the housing crisis. McCain will be in Arizona that day but says he's made other previous plans.

The state has the third highest home foreclosure rate in the country. The administration's housing plan is aimed at stemming foreclosures and driving down mortgage rates.

MCCAIN: We've got to get back to stabilizing the housing prices, buy up these bad mortgages, give it to people that can afford the housing, so they can stay in their homes.

MALVEAUX: Also on the president's urgent agenda, filling two cabinet positions recently rocked by scandal. Aides say that's going to take some time.

AXELROD: Choosing cabinet members isn't like "American Idol." You don't throw contestants out there and let the American people vote.


MALVEAUX: Kiran, not like the "American Idol," aides say that it is going to take some time, that vetting process. And also on the president's plate this week, his first international trip. Now it is -- it is only to neighboring Canada, not too far away but obviously dealing with some very important issues, energy, the environment as well as trade, Kiran.

CHETRY: And, of course, making a little bit of time though to celebrate Valentine's Day, the Obamas, right?

MALVEAUX: Yes, that's right in Chicago, back with their friends and family. We did get a chance to see them leaving Table 52, it's called, a popular restaurant here in Chicago for a romantic dinner. And we understand as well President Obama got a chance to play a game of pickup basketball with his friends yesterday. He got his hair cut with the barber that he's been going to for years and got a chance to watch the All-Star's Game as well at a friend's house.

So spending important time with family at a friend's house. So, obviously, spending some really important time with family and friends here in Chicago, but Kiran, definitely returning to Washington in a couple of hours for a very, very busy week ahead.

CHETRY: Sure thing. Absolutely.

All right. Suzanne Malveaux for us this morning, thanks. ROBERTS: When it comes to the commerce secretary, maybe they should try the "American Idol" process because the way they've been working with so far hasn't worked too well.

Well, President Obama calls the $787 billion stimulus package a major milestone on the road to economic recovery. CNN's Stephanie Elam is crunching some of the stimulus numbers for us. She's here "Minding Your Business" this morning. So break it down for us.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And there are a ton of numbers. Good morning, John and Kiran.

Let's take a look at the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. We've got a pie chart we're going to show you here to give you an idea of how the numbers are all coming together.

First of all, $308 billion going to discretionary spending. You may know it as appropriations, but that's where things like $30 billion on energy related infrastructure projects, that's 39 percent of this pie here. Thirty-four percent is the $267 billion for direct aid. That includes increased things for unemployment benefits, also food stamps. And then 27 percent of that pie going to tax relief. That's $212 billion there and that's obviously tax breaks mainly for individuals but also for some businesses as well.

Now, of course, you're looking at this wondering, what's in this for me? Right? That's what a lot of people wanted to know. So, we want to break down exactly what this includes.

So $400, a credit per worker. That's $800 per dual earning couple couples here. So the thing is to get the full credit you have to make $75,000 or less. And if you're a couple, it's $150,000 or less. And then you get a partial credit up to $100,000 for individuals making that and $200,000 for couples.

Then you also have this alternative minimum tax patch, the AMT. You may have heard of that. It's a nasty little tax though that's meant to tax high-income earners but then it hasn't been adjusted for inflation, so it's hitting more and more people at home. So that's going to adjust that, too.

Then there's going to be a temporary expansion of the child tax credit which lowers the income threshold that would have to be met for that down to $3,000 this year and next.

And then incentives for home buyers and car buyers as well. The home buyers credit is boosted to $8,000 from $7,500 there. And then for cars, if you buy a new car, a light vehicle, an RV, if you buy a motorcycle, any of those -- you can deduct your state and local taxes if you're making less than $125,000 per individual. So lots of different things in there for people to take a look at.

ROBERTS: The last time our tax credit was sort of a tax credit because you had to pay it back.

ELAM: Right. This one you do not. That one is if you stayed in the house for three years.


ELAM: This one does not include that. They took that part out, so you can stay there longer.

CHETRY: One other quick question, is there anything, any help for home foreclosures in this?

ELAM: There is money set aside for -- I'm looking to see the number right here. There is money set aside to help people with their homes and that is $13 billion for housing projects to help them with that. Now how that money will be allocated, I can look into that, too.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks.

ELAM: Sure.

CHETRY: Well, it is 12 minutes after the hour. A look this morning at meteor-like white fireball streaking across the sky in Austin, Texas. A local news photographer covering a marathon Sunday captured the bright light. Now the FAA says it doesn't know what that mysterious object is. You can bet there's a lot of theories out there, though.

The U.S. Strategic Command is dismissing speculation it's what debris from American and Russian satellites that collided last week. So the question is --

ROBERTS: Maybe it was Bill Clinton leaving Austin, Texas.

CHETRY: I was just going to say. Maybe that's his new mode of transportation now that he's out of the White House.

Well, a small earthquake rattled central New Jersey this weekend. It's the second time in two weeks that a quake has been felt in Morris County. The magnitude 2.2 quake didn't cause significant damage or injuries. A week earlier, a 3.0 quake rattled windows in several New Jersey communities.

Singer Chris Brown breaking his silence a week after allegedly attacking his girlfriend, fellow pop star Rihanna. The 19-year-old issuing a statement saying, "Words cannot express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired." The singer said much of what's been reported has been wrong but he did not elaborate. He's free on bail after his arrest on suspicion of making criminal threats against a woman.

ROBERTS: Well, we have all been there frustrated over air travel plans gone wrong but few people may have reacted with as much public hysteria as this woman who was just told that she missed her flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Have a look.

(VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: You know, even though we might not have actually done that we've all felt like that, you know. Poor woman. You have to feel for her.

Spokesman for the airline though says that she was able to catch a flight just a few hours later. This stream and clip rapidly becoming a YouTube sensation, as you can imagine, racking up close to 40,000 hits in just three days.

I've wanted to do that a lot.

CHETRY: But she caught a flight three hours later, I mean...

ROBERTS: But at the moment, it was disaster. Haven't you ever been there?

There was a guy like that when I was flying to Austin. There was a guy like that. He was coming back from Kabul and really wanted to get to Austin because his wife was waiting for him to celebrate Valentine's Day and he kept on missing flights all day long. And he was just about at his wit's end and he managed to get on a flight. So...

CHETRY: That's what I tried.

ROBERTS: A little bit of a truncated Valentine's Day celebration but it got there nonetheless.

CHETRY: That poor woman.

ROBERTS: Well, we're following a developing story that is sparking nuclear concerns, reports that two submarines packed with nuclear weapons have collided. In a moment, we'll go live to London with the breaking details.

CHETRY: Also, new questions about the man appointed to fill President Obama's Illinois Senate seat. Roland Burris now revealing that he had more contact with the Blagojevich camp that he admitted under oath at the governor's impeachment hearing.

ROBERTS: And here's something that we really wanted to look into because something just -- there's an odoriferous quality this whole thing. Oil falling to new lows this year, so why are gasoline prices creeping back up towards $2 a gallon? We'll tell you at 6:15 Eastern time.

You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


ROBERTS: Seventeen and a half minutes now after the hour. Let's fast forward to stories that will making news later on today.

President Obama returns to Washington at 12:45 Eastern after his first visit back to his hometown Chicago over the weekend. Tuesday, he'll travel to Denver where he will sign the $787 billion stimulus package into law.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is 67-years-old today. Major celebrations taking place across the country. His birthday comes as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits with several Asian countries. Yesterday, Clinton addressed North Korea's nuclear program calling it "the most acute challenge to stability in Northeast Asia. She's in Tokyo now expected to speak in the next few minutes. We'll carry that for you live.

And federal investigators combing through the wreckage of Flight 5407. Officials say the plane underwent violent pitching and rolling in its final moments, and was on auto pilot just before the crash, raising questions as to whether the pilot may have ignored safety recommendations for flying in icy conditions.

CNN's Ines Ferre has more.

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, Kiran, investigators have been working hard trying to figure out how this plane literally fell from the sky.


FERRE (voice-over): It was a frightening fall from the sky for everyone on board Flight 3407. Investigators now say the plane dropped 800 feet in five seconds just before it slammed into a house in a Buffalo suburb. Just 26 seconds before the crash, the plane went into violent jerking motions, pitching and rolling, before banking a sharp 105 degrees to the right.

Investigators also revealed that the plane had been running on auto pilot just before it crashed.

STEVEN CHEALANDER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: In icing conditions, it might be best to disengage the auto pilot and fly that airplane manually so that you have the manual feel for what might be changing in your flight regime because of the ice.

FERRE: The National Transportation Safety Board says that in the past it's advised against running on auto pilot in severe icing conditions, but the conditions that night were not specified as severe. And NTSB officials say it's the FAA that calls the shots when it comes to auto pilot regulations.

CHEALANDER: In this one situation, the FAA sees things a little differently than we do because they see that for some reasons that you may need to be flying with the auto pilot, workload is one of those.

FERRE: Freezing temperatures and piles of wreckage have slowed attempts to find the remains of all 50 of the crash victims.

CLETUS KRAFT, RESIDENT: I can't help but think of the pain and suffering that all the families are going through.

FERRE: While investigators do their work, a local resident made room for flowers at this makeshift memorial site outside a church just blocks away from where the plane went down.


FERRE: An area around the crash site is restricted as investigators continue working through the wreckage. No word yet on when they'll reopen it -- John, Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Thank you so.

Well, Venezuelan President Higo Chavez may be a thorn in America's side far into the future. Chavez winning a referendum that allows him to run again and again and again. We'll have a live report from Caracas just ahead.

Also, former President Clinton named one of "Time" magazine's top 25 people who crushed the economy and are costing you money. So what does Mr. Clinton have to say about it? John will ask him. We're going to play some of the dancer (ph) in just a couple of minutes.

It's 21 minutes after the hour.


CHETRY: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is celebrating a victory this morning. Venezuelans have voted to abolish term limits for elected officials. It clears the way for Chavez to run for a new six-year term in 2012 and beyond.

CNN's Morgan Neill is following the story for us. He's live in Caracas, Venezuela for us this morning.

Tell us more about the implications of this vote.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially what this means is that at the end of this current term, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will be able to run again and used to win that election, he can keep running as long as he keeps winning. Now late last night we got the results from this referendum, the winner of course was President Hugo Chavez and he wasted no time in celebrating.


NEILL (voice-over): Just minutes after the results were announced, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took his place on the people's balcony, Miraflores Palace, and proclaimed victory.

PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (through translator): Victory, victory, popular victory. This is a clear victory for the people, a clear victory for the revolution.

NEILL: With 54 percent of the vote in favor so far, Venezuela passed a referendum putting an end to term limits and making it possible for President Chavez to run for re-election indefinitely.

CHAVEZ: Today we open wide the gates to the future. Venezuela will not return to its past of indignity.

NEILL: Mr. Chavez read a message from his close ally, Fidel Castro.

CHAVEZ: Here's a message from Fidel that just arrived when the president was announcing that the yes was ahead of the no. Dear Hugo, congratulations to your government for the victory because the magnitude is impossible to measure.

NEILL: The vote clears the way for Chavez to run for a new six- year term in 2012, but the victory wasn't a landslide. With 46 percent of the vote against and a third of the population not voting, the road forward won't be easy. Opposition leader and mayor of Chacao, Leopoldo Lopez, said President Chavez had used the resources of the state to win the vote.

LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, OPPOSITION LEADER: Today was a contest between David and Goliath and Goliath won. Goliath is a state. We were running against the state with all the financial resources, unlimited resources in media, all the institutions and, of course, economic and financial resources.

NEILL: Meantime, the president's supporters went on celebrating late into the night.


NEILL: So as Venezuelans rise today, they do so knowing that President Hugo Chavez could remain the country's principal political figure well beyond this term. In fact at the end of that speech last night, he declared himself a pre-candidate for 2012 -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Morgan Neill for us in Caracas this morning. Thank you -- John?

ROBERTS: Former President Clinton named a culprit of the economic collapse, so what does he have to say about it. Hear his answer just ahead.

And gas prices were a silver lining in these tough economic times when they dipped down about $1.70 a gallon. But why are they slowly creeping back up despite relatively low prices for a barrel of oil? We're getting the answers that you want to hear this morning.

It's 27 minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour now, and we're getting new information just in to CNN about what could have been a nuclear disaster.

British media reporting two submarines packed with nuclear missiles reportedly collided deep in the Atlantic Ocean.

CNN's Phil Black is live in London with breaking details for us this morning -- Phil.


Yes. This is the headline that broke the news in "The Sun" newspaper, "Nuke Subs Crash." According to this report, we understand two submarines collided in the middle of the Atlantic overnight between the 3rd and 4th of February. One of them, British, The Vanguard, and the other, French, the Le Triomphant.

Somehow they came to operate, although, independently in the same patch of water at the same time, somehow the sonar protection equipment on both ships failed. They were damaged, although able to limp back to their respective ports under their own power. This is significant though because of what could have happened. Both vessels are powered by nuclear reactor, both carry up to 16 ballistic missiles with multiple nuclear war heads, Kiran.

CHETRY: Do they -- do they have any more details on why this might have happened?

BLACK: There's no official confirmation or denial from the British Ministry of Defense. It is embarrassing. There's no doubt about that. One newspaper column describes this as amateur night in the mid-Atlantic. The Ministry of Defense will only go so far as to say that Britain's nuclear deterrent capability was not interrupted or broken at any stage -- Kiran?

CHETRY: All right. Well, you keep working the story for us. We'll check back in with you throughout the morning as you get new details on this. Phil Black for us live in London. Thanks.

ROBERTS: It's 31-1/2 minutes now after the hour. And checking this morning's top stories.

President Obama is set to name a team of senior White House officials to oversee the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler rather than appoint a so-called car czar. The automakers are getting billions of dollars in federal funds. They face a deadline tomorrow for submitting restructuring plans for the government.

President Obama will not be there until Wednesday, but people in suburban Phoenix began lining up this weekend for tickets to see him speak in a local high school. The tickets will be handed out later on this morning. The president will travel to Arizona to unveil a plan to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

Senate Republican leaders in Illinois are calling for a perjury investigation of Roland Burris, the man who was picked to fill President Obama's Senate seat. Burris now admits that former Governor Rod Blagojevich's brother asked him for fund-raising help before his appointment. That contradicts Burris' testimony at the governor's impeachment hearing back in January. Burris insists that he was not trying to mislead lawmakers.

Well, this morning President Obama heads back to Washington to confront an economy in crisis. The crisis the president has blame in a, quote, "era of profound irresponsibility." "Time" magazine also naming its culprits of the economic collapse, 25 of them, and among them former President Bill Clinton who presided over an economic boom during the 1990s. It's something I asked him about when I spoke to him in Austin, Texas, yesterday.


ROBERTS: Mr. President, in terms of the overall economic downturn, "Time" magazine had an article out this week in which it named 25 of the people most responsible for the economic downturn and you were there. They had a picture of you in what looked like a police lineup. They had a little button where you can vote who was the most responsible. They pointed to the -- you're signing of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, Commodity Futures Modernization Act. I wonder what you think about that.

CLINTON: I think that the only thing that our administration did or didn't do that we should have done is to try to set in motion some more formal regulation of the derivatives market. They're wrong in saying that the elimination of the Glass-Steagall division between banks and investment banks contributed to this. Investment banks were already -- banks were already doing an investment business and investment companies were already in the banking business.

The bill I signed actually at least put some standards there. And if you look at the evidence of the banks that have gotten trouble, the ones that were most directly involved in their -- in a diversified portfolio tended to do better.

Some of the conservatives said that I was responsible because I enforced the Community Reinvestment Act and they said that's what made all these subprime mortgages being issued. That's also false. The community banks, the people that loan their money in the community instead of buying these esoteric securities, they're doing quite well.


ROBERTS: And former President Clinton's global initiative not immune from the global financial crisis. Here's what he told me about the state of his foundation and its challenges this year.


ROBERTS: With the downturn in the economy, what kind of an impact is that having on the global initiative and your ability to raise the type of funds and generate the type of interest in overseas projects and projects here at home for that matter that you can perform?

CLINTON: First, let me say when it comes to the students, which we do separately, they normally do low-cost, high-labor impact projects. So, so far it's had no impact except to increase the interest and the sense of obligation I have to do more to help people in the United States as well as around the world.

We typically, we might have had in a normal time two-thirds of the commitments to Africa, Latin America and Asia and one-third in America. This year, it's more like 50/50, because these young people know that they need to do more work at home. But there's been more interest here, we probably are 50 percent higher than last year in the commitments.

Last year, we had 700 commitments when we left here, this year, we're at about almost 1100. With the larger Clinton global initiative we have in New York, last year which occurred after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and therefore when the market was going down and values were dropping, what I noticed was that in the direct donations, we were holding firm, but in the private investment part of the global initiative which was mostly in energy, that dropped off markedly last year, but we still had $8 billion in commitments. Now, of course, the test will be how we do this year, because now we've had a year of a down stock market and a year of commodities prices dropping.


ROBERTS: And of course now he's also fishing on those new funding restrictions because Hillary Clinton is the secretary of state. Then he told me that he's having to turn to Barack Obama style campaign fund-raisings, small donation...

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: ...from a lot more people than he did in the past.

CHETRY: Exactly. I mean, obviously, as we saw in this campaign it worked. You know, it was also interesting that you asked him about who's to blame. I mean, certainly, there's plenty of blame to go around. There's lots of finger pointing.

It is interesting, though, and we're going to be talking about this a little bit later with one of our guest in the 8:00 hour. About how subprime mortgages really ballooned after the repeal of the act he was speaking about, the Glass-Steagall Act from just five percent of all mortgage lending to about 30 percent of all mortgage lending. So there certainly wasn't an effect there in terms of how repealing various legislation made moves happen.

ROBERTS: Yes. Many economists believed that the subprime bubble burst and acted almost like a detonator that burst a bunch of other bubbles that are out there as well. Also, another interesting thing I asked President Clinton, U.S. news and world report in a survey asking American women with Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state, what should his role be? 37 percent said house husband. Wait until you hear his answer to that.

CHETRY: I can't wait. And we're going to hear more from the former president throughout our newscast.

Meanwhile, still ahead, thieves targeting Lance Armstrong. How about this one? Details of a one of a kind possession, you can probably guess which one. And Armstrong's response this morning.

ROBERTS: And soap opera weddings are nothing new, but you've never seen one like this on daytime television. What's that all about? We'll take you behind the scenes of "All My Children's" big event.

It's 37-1/2 minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: New this morning, an Australian court has identified a 34-year-old man as a suspect in the country's deadly wildfires. We also now have new images to show you of that deadly inferno from one of our iReporters in southern Australia. Officials now say 189 people were killed in that string of fires across Victoria.

Right now, police in California looking for leads after thieves stole a one of a kind bike belonging to Lance Armstrong. That bike was taken from a team truck hours after he rode it Saturday. Armstrong warning it would be hard to pawn it off because, quote, "There's only one like it in the world." He's also offering a reward. One of his teammates' bikes also stolen.

And this morning, gas prices holding steady for the most part after 18 straight days of increases and the rise in the prices comes at the same time that oil prices have actually plunged from their record high of nearly $150 a barrel last summer. So what gives?

Well, we sent Allan Chernoff to take a look.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Have you noticed prices at the pump. They're heading back up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's strange, and I'm not liking it.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Up 31 cents a gallon so far this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It hurts when you're on a fixed income. You have money going out, you don't have that much coming in.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): At a time when the price of crude oil has been sinking.

JIM DONOVAN, OWNER, TEANECK SHELL: It does seem kind of strange.

CHERNOFF (on camera): Station owner Jim Donovan says he's not making any more profit.

DONOVAN: We're pretty much set at the same profit whether you're paying $3 at the pump or paying $1.85 at the pump.

CHERNOFF: So if you're not making a lot more money in this environment, who is? If the price is going up, somebody has got to be making money.

DONOVAN: Well, I guess it's the oil companies that are making the money. But it's not us. CHERNOFF: It's the gasoline refiners who are profiting from these higher prices and the prices could keep on climbing, because this time of year, refiners always shut some of their facilities for maintenance.

PETER BEUTEL, OIL ANALYST, CAMERON HANOVER: We've seen refineries going through maintenance during the months of January, February, March and April. It isn't really until we get into the second half of May that refineries are ready to run all out for the summer.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): The wildcard affecting gas prices, how much will Americans drive? We've put the brakes on our driving since gas hit $3 a gallon in late 2007. But in the past few week, gasoline demand has stabilized, meaning prices got low enough that Americans have been putting their feet back on the pedal. Even in these tough economic times.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Teaneck, New Jersey.


ROBERTS: You know, when gas is down around $1.65, $1.70 a galloon, it is easier to get back in the car and put your foot in the accelerator. But there's a -- you don't want to say that there's a glut of oil in the United States, but certainly supplies of actual raw materials are up so it's just that refining bottleneck.

CHETRY: Yes. It's the same story we've been talking about forever. We haven't built a new refinery in what 25 years in this country, and you know, people don't want it in their backyard.

ROBERTS: You know, there's a lot of people in this country who are really hurting. And for gas to go back up to $2 a gallon, it's going to take a bite out of a lot of people's pockets.

CHETRY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: Keep that in mind.

CHETRY: Many stimulus.

ROBERTS: It's 44 minutes after the hour.

Real-life drama over a daytime TV storyline.



ROBERTS (voice-over): The buzz, the backlash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of things that people really don't want to see and lesbian weddings are certainly one of them.

ROBERTS: We're behind the scenes as the actresses say "I do".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The other part of Erica is like oh, hurray.

ROBERTS: You're watching the Most News in the Morning.



ROBERTS: Dawn breaking here in New York City. A look at over Columbus Circle this morning. And it's a chilly dawn, too.


ROBERTS: I'm looking for the nice spring thaw. What happen to the 50 degree temperatures we had just a week ago?

ROBERTS: Under pressure to create jobs and under fire from Republicans. I asked President Clinton if that sounded a little bit familiar in a special one on one interview.

Plus, advice that the former president has for the current president on this Presidents' Day.

And first, it was a cap on salaries, now one lawmaker wants to make sure if banks got something from the bailout, their executives won't cash in with a big fat bonus.

It's 49 minutes now after the hour.


CHETRY: Some Katy Perry this morning. Well, it's hard to believe that after nearly 40 years of daytime TV's most popular soap, "All My Children" is celebrating a first -- it's a lesbian wedding.

Lola Ogunnaike takes a look at the groundbreaking nuptials and the controversy surrounding it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dearly beloved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome Erika, Jackson.



OGUNNAIKE: Weddings are a dime a dozen in the world of soap operas -- Luke and Laura, Erica Cane and more men than you can count on two hands, but a lesbian wedding? Now, that's a first.

EDEN RIEGEL, ACTRESS WHO PLAYS BIANCA: When my character did first come out of the closet, there was a lot of negative reaction. People are very protective of Erica Cane's daughter. And I think that the beauty of the show was that we were able to reach people and get people sort of used to the idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once Bianca came out and said she was gay. Erica said that now we won't get married. Now that Bianca is getting married, you know, the other part of Erica is like, oh, hooray, I get to be at my daughter's wedding after all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The uniting of these women today to establish a new family is an important and memorable event.

BRAUN: I promise to love you and devote myself to you.

RIEGEL: I promise to always put my hand in yours so that we can face what's ahead together.

OGUNNAIKE: But at least one religious group is not happy with the long-running show's latest love affair.

GLENN STANTON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: I think it really is important to understand that there are a lot of things that people really don't want to see and don't want coming into their home. And lesbian weddings are certainly one of them.

BRAUN: Before you, I was in a timeless fog unable to see past yesterday.

NEIL GIULIANO, GAY & LESBIAN ALLIANCE AGAINST DEFAMATION: It's reality. And so when we see a lesbian couple getting married on daytime drama, it simply reflects what's happening in the real world. So in that sense, of course, it's a victory.

TAMARA BRAUN, ACTRESS WHO PLAYS REESE: With the divorce rate as high as it is, you should have that right, no matter what sex you are, who you love, what color you are, you know, how many extra toes and feet you have. Equal rights for all people.

BRAUN: Because standing here with you, it's where I belong.


OGUNNAIKE: You know, it's not the first time that "All My Children" has pushed the envelope. They had the first transgender character on television and the first same-sex kiss in daytime television. So, this is nothing new for them at all.

CHETRY: All of that and Erica Cane is still -- you know, Susan Lucci is still there after all these years. That's the one concept.

OGUNNAIKE: And you know how many marriages she has under her belt? Ten. Ten husbands -- Erica Cane. Can you imagine?

ROBERTS: You know, you just got to keep going for those plotlines.

OGUNNAIKE: No. Number 11 will be the charm, the magic one, right?

CHETRY: Lola, thanks so much.

OGUNNAIKE: Thank you.

CHETRY: It's 55 minutes after the hour.

ROBERTS: One-on-one with Bill Clinton.


CLINTON: This stimulus is our bridge over troubled waters.

ROBERTS: On John McCain's partisan potshots and the president's performance so far.

ROBERTS (on camera): He does seem to be having some difficulty, do you think he really can bring change to Washington?

CLINTON: Here's what I think will happen.

ROBERTS: Plus, recession love list.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to be part of a stressful situation.

ROBERTS: Height, weight, age, debt?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he asks me for money? Absolutely not.


ROBERTS: New deal breaker. Credit card debt. You're watching the Most News in the Morning.


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

More than 58 million Americans voted for John McCain in the 2008 election and when Barack Obama won and became our new president, it left many in shock.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain should have won because he was the right man for this country. And people can see it. And I don't know why. We picked the wrong guy. I didn't. I voted for the right guy, but as the country, we picked the wrong guy.


CHETRY: And that's a clip from an HBO documentary by Alexandra Pelosi. She's the daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And she traveled to 28 states talking to McCain supporters about the Republicans' failed campaign. And she joins me this morning.

Good to see you this morning. ALEXANDRA PELOSI, FILMMAKER, "RIGHT AMERICA: FEELING WRONGED": Thank you for having me.

CHETRY: You also -- people remember -- famously produced "Journeys With George," which was the portrayal of George W. Bush before he was president on the campaign trail back in 2000. Quite a sympathetic portrayal actually. And it's very interesting because you are the daughter of one of the most powerful Democrats and, of course, people on the right love to, you know, criticize your mom. So what was the fascination with following the conservatives?

PELOSI: Well, I am a journalist. I've been a journalist for 16 years. I'm dating myself now. And I did have this famous friendship with George Bush back on 2000 on the campaign trail. So, I, you know, really did feel like when I watch TV, I know who the Obama supporters are. I live in Manhattan. I'm from San Francisco. I've seen them on TV.

And I was more curious about who are the masses of die-hard people that go out and wait in line all day to get a glimpse of the GOP ticket. Those aren't people I know. Those aren't my friends. So I wanted to go and meet some people that were different from myself.

CHETRY: And so, as we pointed out, 58 million people voted for John McCain, what surprised your liberal friends about conservatives that you met on the campaign trail?

PELOSI: Well, I mean, something that we're seeing a lot in the last few weeks since Barack Obama became president that, you know, there are two distinctly different Americas. And sometimes I get the impression that we're not even listening to each other. And I think we really need to listen to each other.

And I was trying to hold up a mirror to show my friends, look, there are some people out there that don't agree with anything that you believe in. And it's important to remember that they live in America. They are your fellow Americans. And we should try and get to know each other, and try and listen to each other, and maybe then we will be able to be a little bit more like, instead of the red state/blue state thing, we'll try to be able to hear each other.

CHETRY: And you have to say, in parts of northern California, Manhattan, that's the extreme, you know what I mean. It's different when you're talking about Manhattan and I can't remember, it was like in single digits how many people voted for President Bush. But let's talk a little bit about some of the passion that you were able to highlight. Let's listen to one of these clips. This is very interesting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain should have won. He's the right man for this country and people can see it. And I don't know why. We picked the wrong guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHETRY: OK, that was the wrong one. It was funny, though, because it said I'm mad, I'm really mad. When you have an Obama, Pelosi and the rest of the who again ends up there running this country, we have to have our head examined. Now your mom, of course, is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many on the right see her as the embodiment of what's wrong with liberal America. So when you tell them that's my mom, how are you received?

PELOSI: Well, I probably don't mention that. That will be the first thing. But I would say that, you know, there's this caricature that the news media reduces everybody. When you watch the cable news and they turn it into a catfight...

CHETRY: Right.

PELOSI: ... it's so reduced into that. But, you know, I think that most people that go to rallies have really the wrong impression of their public figures and I saw a lot of that. But --

CHETRY: It's interesting that you said caricature because you got critiqued today by Michael Leahy of "The Washington Post" who said that your documentary also was drive by journalism. He said that you reduced some of the people to caricatures instead of explaining why they feel the way they do about McCain.

PELOSI: Well, you see this is the thing. When you write in the newspaper about the one guy that says Obama is the anti-Christ, you are forgetting about the hundreds of people that show up in the film that say really interesting, important things about losing their 401(k) or why they feel so angry.

CHETRY: Right.

PELOSI: There was a great anger in this election, and after an election we like to whitewash it and pretend like, oh, we all get along, everything is fine. But there are a lot of people in this country that aren't happy that Barack Obama is president and I was trying to give them a voice which they felt -- they felt they did not get in this election. They were saying the news media ignores us. They don't share our values.

CHETRY: Right.

PELOSI: They think that the media is liberal and so they feel like their perspective isn't on television. So I was giving them a platform and I think that's really important and I think that to take one person out of the film and say this is who the McCain voter is and that person could be a little extreme perhaps or passionate, more passionate than the average, you know...

CHETRY: Right.

PELOSI: ... generic McCain supporter, I think is taking -- this is what the media does wrong. They take one person and they say this person is an example of everything.

CHETRY: Like Joe the plumber.

PELOSI: It's like they focus -- they focus on the one plane that crashes instead of all the planes that land safely every day.

CHETRY: Right.

Exactly. Well, it's very interesting. The documentary is called "Right America, Feeling Wronged". Alexandra Pelosi, thanks for joining us this morning.

PELOSI: Thanks for having me. Happy Presidents' Day.

CHETRY: You too.