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CNN Live Event/Special

Inauguration Day Coverage

Aired January 20, 2009 - 13:00   ET


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: There is not a word in here about trying to remake the world. It is rather peace and dignity. That's what we're seeking with other nations. That's a very big departure from what we've had.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought that was the toughest part for George W. Bush to hear, because the words, "We are ready to lead once more," implies that -- to George W. Bush that we haven't been leading in the right way.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought the speech had something for everyone, if you will, in terms of he spoke of the slaves; he spoke of rescuers; he spoke of the military. I mean, there was a moment, if anybody was listening closely to the speech, where they heard their name mentioned, essentially.

GERGEN: He wrapped himself not only in the civil rights history but in all of American history.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. And then to take it internationally, as well, your struggle and our struggle, we understand. It was like he was speaking to individually to people in his speech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a new face for America to the world.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We should point out, while President Obama and Vice President Biden -- still getting used to saying that exactly correctly...


COOPER: And their wives are having lunch on Capitol Hill. A number of their aides are already starting to work. Ed Henry is on Capitol Hill.

Ed, what are you hearing?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, what's interesting is right after Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president and was about to begin his inaugural address, I noticed some Obama people starting to leave shortly thereafter. Greg Craig, the White House counsel, the new White House chief lawyer, among the people who were leaving. Jim Messina, a deputy White House chief of staff.

The reason they were leaving, their were vans here outside the Capitol to bring them over to the White House to get them started. There were about 20 or 30 Obama aides who have already been cleared in, already got their paperwork through. They're trying to finish the paperwork on other people to get to work, as David Gergen was saying, to start tackling some of these challenges.

And I spoke to John Podesta, who has been co-chair of this transition but will not be in the White House. He was in the Clinton White House in 1993. He said he jumped into one of these vans in 1993 while Bill Clinton was giving his inaugural address. And when he got to the White House they were still taking the old drapes down. They had not even completed all of the work. And that's how quick this transition of power is.

One other thing I noticed, as well: as John McCain was right down here, the governors were in front of me, the senators a little further. And the senators were right behind where Barack Obama was delivering the inaugural address. Fascinating to watch John McCain watching closely every single word. And there was even a part of the inaugural address about serving a cause greater than your own good. That's a line almost borrowed from John McCain, something he talked a lot about on the campaign trail.

But you'll notice Barack Obama did not mention John McCain in this speech. He did mention though, George W. Bush, and thanked him for his service to the country, Anderson.

COOPER: President Obama signing a document that will declare today a day of national renewal.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Flanked by the leadership of the United States Congress. Let's listen in.


OBAMA: Tell them not to swipe the pen. I have two more. I guess I have to (INAUDIBLE). Yes, I forgot about that.

COOPER: These are his official -- these are his official nomination documents for his members of his new cabinet. All of these must be signed in order for the process to move forward.

BLITZER: And if you've ever seen Barack Obama's signature, he is very precise when he writes, and it's -- and if he writes, he scribbles some words before he signs an autograph, for example. His penmanship, I must say -- and I've seen it -- is really excellent.

GERGEN: He's got a little flourish to that signature.

BLITZER: He has a great flourish. And it's very impressive.

I think we still have Ed Henry on Capitol Hill.

Ed, what do we know about the days ahead in terms of action Barack Obama plans to take through executive orders or otherwise?

HENRY: Well, it's very interesting, Anderson. I can tell that you one of the things that he's considering doing today, if not tomorrow, is getting involved in the Mideast crisis. I can tell you that there have been some aides telling me that they were a little concerned about him getting so quickly involved in the Mideast crisis, but I'm told that, privately, Barack Obama himself has been pushing to get involved. And how he'll do it is to name at least one special envoy to deal with this crisis as early as today. Not just what's happening in Gaza and what has been happening, but the broader Mideast conflict, the lack of peace for many, many years.

Also tomorrow, he's having two big meetings. He's bringing in his senior economic advisors to talk about trying to drum up support for his massive economic recovery plan that's now eclipsed $800 billion in price, but he's also bringing in military leaders, the joint chiefs of staff, and he's going to give them a new mission. What he talked about on the campaign: start withdrawing all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.

What he's doing there, clearly, is sending a signal to his liberal supporters. They've been nervous that he might not fulfill that campaign promise. And he's sending a signal that he's going to start moving towards that promise.

But we have to point out that doesn't mean that he's actually fulfilling the promise yet. It's a long way to do. Remember, he has a Republican defense secretary in Robert Gates from the Bush administration who's staying on. If six months down the road he suggested it would not be wise to continue pulling out all combat troops, it's going to be a very tough call for Barack Obama, whether he continues the campaign promise or adjusts. It's something that is going to be interesting to play out.

The final thing to point out: a whole slew of executive orders that could be coming, among them closing down the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That would fit right into what he was saying in the inaugural address, essentially, about reaching out around the world, trying to change America's image around the world, Anderson.

COOPER: Roland Martin and John Roberts had a very up-close seat over there on Capitol Hill. Let's go to them.

Roland, your thoughts upon watching this remarkable transfer.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, it was interesting watching all of the different folks who were down here, as they were taking photos. We could see -- John and I could see, you know, Oprah Winfrey and Smokey Robinson and Puff Daddy.

One of the folks who I was really looking at was Congressman John Lewis. And watching him, and in fact when President-elect Obama came out and he saw him, he gave him a hug. And you can see Lewis whispering something in his ear. And then when he turned to the other side, he also touched the next generation, if you will, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

And so the emotions were amazing down here, because people saw what many folks thought could never happen. JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: We talked to Congressman Lewis about that this morning, you know, famous civil rights leader. He was one of the ones in the struggles in the south. And he suggested that, while this is not the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream, he says it certainly is a good, long step along the way.

It was just so amazing to see that, when Barack Obama was giving his acceptance speech and actually, you know, taking the oath of office, he was two miles away from where, 45 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King gave that speech.

But this is my third one, pretty much from this vantage point. I was actually on the platform for George Bush in 2000 and 2004. Now, while there's, you know, a sense of pageantry and the honoring of tradition of handing over power between the presidents, a peaceful transition of power, there was something different about this one, something incredibly different.

And in the same way that, when President Bush said good-bye to President Clinton, you know, there was a cloud that was hanging over the presidency because it was decided by the Supreme Court.

But this time, Barack Obama, a clear victory, a clear mandate from the American people, to take this country in a different direction. And you got that sense that there was a pivot. Every once in a while in American history there is a pivot point, and this was one of those points, Roland.

MARTIN: You know, and also, it was the -- listening to his speech, there was a certain amount of conviction in his voice. A very short speech. But when he made that point about leading, and in essence, how we going to change in terms of our leadership, I sort of felt, "Ooh, that was a little touch, if you will, to the president sitting just over his shoulder."

But then also, when he made it clear that, if anything happens, that we are going to defend this country, that's when President Bush stood up.

ROBERTS: And Vice President Cheney stood up as well. As bad as his back is, he stood up for that one.

But clearly, he was sending a message that there's a new leader in town and a leader who's going to...

MARTIN: A new leader in town, not a new sheriff in town.

ROBERTS: No, not a new sheriff. No, a new leader in town -- careful. I avoided the word "sheriff." A new leader in town who is going to govern in a different way than the leader who was in charge of this country for the past eight years.

And you know, you saw that sense through the audience, as well, as the helicopter lifted off and climbed over the Capitol building, then headed down Pennsylvania Avenue, final fly over the White House, and then over the Potomac for a left-hand turn, and down to Andrews Air Force Base. People were waving at the helicopter.

MARTIN: A it wasn't a salute (ph).

ROBERTS: And they weren't saying "good-bye." They were saying, "See ya."

MARTIN: Right.

ROBERTS: And so, you know, a palpable sense in the crowd that one administration that they weren't really appreciative of was over, and a new one was coming in.

MARTIN: A lot of folks spent a lot of time on Pastor Rick Warren and the whole issue. When he came out, there were not many folks clapping when his name was announced. There were very few people who clapped.

ROBERTS: But what a moving experience it was to be here, Wolf. And certainly one for the ages.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. They're now going into Statuary Hall, where President Obama, Vice President Biden and their families will attend a luncheon that's being hosted by the joint congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies.

We have the menu. There are about 200 guests who have been invited to this luncheon. You see two of them right there. You just saw John McCain and Al Gore. We'll tell you what was -- what's on the menu. We'll tell you what's going on. We've got a lot more...

COOPER: Sort of a Lincoln-inspired menu.

BLITZER: I would...

COOPER: That's what they're saying.

BLITZER: Once -- once you hear this three-course meal, what it's all about, I think you'll be fascinated, if you like food, as all of us do.

And there is Al Gore once again and John McCain. They're having a little chat. Tipper Gore and Cindy McCain is there, as well.

COOPER: A lot ahead, though, to stick around for. We have the entire inaugural parade, which will be quite something: 13,000 people, groups from -- 90 different groups from all around the country. A lot to stick around for.

BLITZER: All right. We'll take a quick break. Our extensive coverage of the inauguration of now-President Barack Obama will continue right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back. They're getting ready for lunch over on Capitol Hill. It's a pretty exclusive list, about 200 guests. They're having lunch in the Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill. You see Hillary Clinton, soon to become Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Still United States Senator Hillary Clinton. Al Gore, the former vice president, right in the front of your screen.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama will be coming in.

This is Executive One, this U.S. Marine Corps helicopter, just touching down at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. Didn't take very long for the former president, George Bush, and Laura Bush and his parents, the former president, George H.W. Bush, and Barbara Bush to make that little journey over to Andrews Air Force Base.

Before they board a plane to fly out to Texas, it's one of those big 747s, normally called Air Force One. It won't be called Air Force One on this trip, because the president of the United States isn't aboard.

They're going to go inside and have a little ceremony, thanking Colonel Tillman, who was the long-time pilot of Air Force One, Colonel Mark Tillman. He retires today. He'll fly the former president back to Texas. And that will be his last mission as the chief pilot of Air Force One. Colonel Mark Tillman. We wish him good luck.

There's Senator Inouye of Hawaii, one of the most distinguished members, long-serving senators here on Capitol Hill, among the distinguished guests.

Dana Bash is right outside there. She's in the Rotunda on Capitol Hill.

Dana, this is luncheon. We see Ted Kennedy there, among others. We'd have liked to have been invited to this luncheon. But you're outside. Tell us a little bit about what we know.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It would be wonderful to be invited into that luncheon, no question.

We know -- first of all, I can tell you that I am in the Rotunda of the Capitol, which is adjacent to Statuary Hall, where that luncheon is taking place. And we're actually waiting. You might see a shot of our camera at the door. We're waiting for Barack Obama to make his way from the Senate, the president's room, which we had just seen and him signing his papers, make his way from there through the Capitol into Statuary Hall for that lunch.

And you know, Statuary Hall is -- I actually peeked my head in there. I'm not allowed into that lunch, but I peeked my head in before it began. And it was a beautiful setup with, you know, beautiful roses for the centerpieces. And it was a reminder of just the history of this building.

That was actually the House chamber during the 1800s, from 1819 to 1857. And they moved out of there when they had the chamber that they're currently in. And they did their voting in there. But -- and now it is obviously a ceremonial room and a room with fantastic art. And you know, the idea of this kind of lunch is relatively new. This idea of a lunch has really only happened, I think, since 1981, having this kind of big lunch with the new president and members of Congress and members of his team. It is sort of a nice idea, I think, from the perspective of those here in Congress, because they can toast the new president before he goes down to the other end of Pennsylvania and they really -- Pennsylvania Avenue and they really start doing the business here.

Now, I just want to tell you one other thing as -- as we're waiting. There was kind of a moment -- and you have a lot of those, you know, in covering Capitol Hill.

We had a moment where John Cornyn, the Republican senator of Texas, pulled aside Hillary Clinton, and they had a five-minute conversation. I wish I could read lips, in watching that conversation from across the Rotunda. Because John Cornyn has objected to the idea of making Hillary Clinton the secretary of state and confirming that nomination today.

My sense is that he probably said to her something along the lines of what he said to me today, which is that he has concerns about the funding and the donations to her husband, President Clinton's foundation, and that she -- he wants a little bit of debate and a full Senate vote. And that he's just trying to kind of make a point and that he doesn't think that this will imperil her nomination at all.

But we're going to try to talk to Senator Cornyn to find out what that conversation was all about, because it was a moment that we saw. And it was certainly captured by the cameras before they went in to this lunch in Statuary Hall, Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, stand by.

I want to tell our viewers what we know about this lunch. About 200 guests have been invited. The president, Barack Obama, will make remarks at the top, at the beginning of the luncheon. And then at the end he'll say something, as well.

Let me tell you about the three-course meal that's on the menu for this luncheon. First course, seafood stew. Second course, what they're calling a brace of American birds, and the third and final course, apple sponge cake. It will be complimented by California wines.

Anderson Cooper, what do you think about that meal?

COOPER: They were described as sort of Lincoln-inspired. Apparently, Abraham Lincoln enjoyed apples very much and sort of game meats. So I think they're having some...

BLITZER: Yes. I could go for a piece of that apple sponge cake myself.

COOPER: You're just excited about the possibility of a band performing. BLITZER: They will also have some gift-giving. The president and the vice president will be presented with gifts on behalf of the American people. A framed official photo of the swearing-in ceremony, inscribed engraved crystal bowls. And then at the end each guest will receive a crystal vase.

John King is watching all of this unfold.

John, you've covered a lot of these inaugurations. Dare I say this one has been unique?

KING: It has been unique, Wolf. This is six. I don't know if I should be proud of that fact or if it proves my age here in Washington, but this is a remarkable sight. As Dana was just saying, this is the purest day of our democracy.

And there was some partisan lines. There were some last -- last rebukes of George W. Bush in the inaugural address of Barack Obama. But on this day. They will all be friendly; they will all be polite. The challenges will come after this day, when Barack Obama moves down the avenue after the parade we will watch after this luncheon, starts down his policy agenda.

We're beginning to see some cracks, and we will see some fights. But as you see Rahm Emanuel right there, signing something, perhaps an autograph for -- sitting at the table. He's at the same table as John McCain. He will be the new White House chief of staff, one of the most powerful people in Washington. All smiles on this day.

The hard work of governing: getting the stimulus plan through the Congress, issuing those orders about Guantanamo Bay, meeting with the commanders and talking about how fast can we get the troops out of Iraq, and can we convince even our friends around the world who are saying they don't want to send more troops to Afghanistan, something Barack Obama wants?

So the overseas challenges and domestic challenges are many. But Wolf, this is a day to celebrate and to reflect and, because of the history, it's extra special, I guess, is the easiest way to say it.

BLITZER: Yes, interesting seating at that table. You see from the right of your screen, that's Rahm Emanuel right in the middle there. His wife Amy is next in. Then Cindy McCain, John McCain, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. A nice mix of good conversation, I'm sure.

And then on the right of your screen, Anderson, we see the former president, George W. Bush, and Laura Bush. They're now off that U.S. Marine Corps helicopter. They're going to be going inside a hangar for a private ceremony, largely to thank the crews of Air Force One that have flown them around the United States and the world over these past eight years. And also to celebrate Colonel Tillman, who's retiring.

COOPER: They're at Andrews Air Force Base, obviously, for that. I was just looking over the Mall over our shoulder. It is already emptying out to a large degree. It looks -- it's amazing how quickly it sort of emptied out.

Clearly, a lot of people want to try to, I guess, head toward the parade route. They had been told -- we had been told that was not going to be possible or was going to be very difficult for people to be able to run from the Mall to try to get a view along the parade route. Only 300,000 or 350,000 people could actually line the parade route. We are told that -- those are the areas that are totally open to the public. There are some ticketed seating for the parade route. But at this point the Mall seems pretty empty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please take your seats.

BLITZER: Looks like the president is about to enter Statuary Hall where this luncheon is.

COOPER: There's some views along the parade route. You can see security is incredibly intense. There's literally a line of law enforcement personnel, in some cases military personnel. Every -- every three or four feet, there is a law enforcement personnel on both sides of this parade route. This is the largest security event in American history, we are told.

They weren't sure how many people would be attending, but they have taken all precautions possible. Snipers on all the rooftops around us and throughout this city. Some 40 or 50 different law enforcement agencies involved and have been involved, really, for many days.

The train ride down here presented unique security challenges, to say the least. And they certainly continue on this day.

BLITZER: It's a nice mix of bipartisan leadership, Soledad, in this luncheon. Prominent Democrats, prominent Republicans. This is a day where the country seems to forget about politics. It won't last very long, I can assure you.

O'BRIEN: No, it will last about a day. That's it.

BLITZER: Timothy Geithner, the incoming secretary of the treasury that we just saw. Got a little controversy going on, but the betting is he'll probably get confirmed. Right, Gloria?

BORGER: The betting is that he will.

And Wolf, in fact, this week the Congress is getting ready to mark up in committee the president's stimulus package, as well as his tax cuts. Those are, of course, going to be controversial.

But Barack Obama has spent an awful lot of time already on the phone with Republicans and with Democrats to garner support for that. In fact, I think when we look back on Barack Obama's first 100 days, we might say that they began on January 2, because in fact this legislation, they hope, will be done by Presidents' Day weekend. COOPER: Interesting story, actually, one of the statues in Statuary Hall is of Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy. Clearly, just another indication of how far this country has come.

BLITZER: And it's called Statuary Hall for the obvious reasons.

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: A lot of statues in that hall. I've been in that hall on many occasions. I've just walked around and looked at those statues. And sometimes, some old-timers there, they think some of those statues are actually talking to you. They're giving you some advice.

BORGER: There's -- there's a Whispering Gallery in Statuary Hall. If you stand at one side of it and then you have somebody stand way at the other side and you whisper to each other, you can actually hear each other.

GERGEN: I don't think they'll leave Jefferson Davis in there.

BORGER: I think they will, actually.

COOPER: They are waiting for Barack Obama. Again, as Wolf said, he's anticipated to speak at the start and again at the finish of this.

BLITZER: They're going to let our cameras stay in there for the open and then the close. But in between they're going to quietly, politely ask all of the TV crews inside the pool to shut down those cameras. They're going to have a private luncheon, which is of course, their right. They can have a private luncheon if they want.

Barack Obama on this day enjoying every moment, no doubt about that.

COOPER: David, you were talking about the speech and just -- what surprised you? Is it what you anticipated him saying?

GERGEN: Not exactly. It was not as lofty as I had anticipated. You know, having -- because he went and visited the Lincoln Memorial and looked at that second inaugural and looked at the Gettysburg Address, I had thought maybe he was moving in that direction. I thought, rather than speaking to the ages as Lincoln did, he was speaking to this moment and this generation, that he wanted to appeal to make his case to that generation. So it was very much rooted in the here and now.

And the speeches that tend to live on for the ages, as I think his race speech will, tend to be -- have a little more loft to them. But did this speech work for the moment? I think it worked extremely well.

BORGER: I think it was a very ambitious speech, audacious in the words of Barack Obama. But an ambitious speech, because it spoke about remaking America, but it also talked about very big plans in a time of crisis.

And he said, you know, what the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them. And that was a sense that, "Yes, it's a new generation and, yes, we can do big things. And this crisis gives us the opportunity. And say good-bye to the old, stale political arguments that brought to us where we are."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; House Republican Leader John Boehner, accompanied by Mr. Pelosi, Mrs. Reid and Mrs. Boehner.

BLITZER: The leadership has just been introduced. You know what that means. The president of the United States and the vice president of the United States are about to be introduced.

There's the head table where they will be seated. There's Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and her husband. I guess he's going to be seated right -- right beside -- beside her. There he is.

COOPER: I also am just -- I mean, I keep coming back. I'm just amazed that John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, messed up the oath of office, an oath which is written into the Constitution.

BORGER: That's a lot of pressure. A lot of pressure.

BLITZER: Those words are written in the Constitution. And I guess -- I'm just guessing -- hold on a second. Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the vice president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Dr. Biden, escorted by Senator and Mrs. Bennett.

BLITZER: Let's not forget Joe Biden is really a creature of the United States Congress. He's been in the Senate for more than three decades, so he's very, very familiar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States, Barack H. Obama, and Mrs. Obama, escorted by Senator Feinstein and Mr. Blum.

(MUSIC: "Hail to the Chief")

BLITZER: Wow. "Hail to the Chief," the commander in chief, the president of the United States, Barack Obama. He's about to have lunch with 200 guests in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill.

Can only imagine, Anderson, what must be going through his mind and Michelle Obama's mind.

COOPER: And the mind of John McCain, who Barack Obama just said -- President Obama just said hello to and Cindy McCain there. There you also see Rahm Emanuel; former vice president Al Gore, and his wife; Michelle Obama's brother. BLITZER: He's a basketball coach and a good one, indeed.

COOPER: Mother-in-law. Tim Geithner, choice to be treasury secretary.

GERGEN: (INAUDIBLE) Tim Geithner's very close by. They certainly have a lot of confidence...

BLITZER: He's going to have a big job, assuming he's confirmed.

GERGEN: They have a lot of confidence he's going to be confirmed.

BLITZER: A good half of that inaugural address was devoted to the U.S. economy.

COOPER: Justice Roberts there on the left. Justice Breyer on the right. I wonder if President Obama said to him, don't worry about messing up the --

BLITZER: He probably said, don't worry, stuff happens.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: It was interesting how...

BLITZER: There's Mayor Adrian Fenty right in the front of your screen.

BROWN: They're very close.

BLITZER: He's the mayor of Washington, D.C. He's a very popular young mayor here in the nation's capital.

COOPER: Senator Orrin Hatch, of course.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Who is supporting Timothy Geithner.

COOPER: I believe that's Joe -- Vice President Biden's mother.

BLITZER: She's in her 90s.

COOPER: Here you see Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg in the background. Chris Dodd, who would have liked to have been in this position.

BLITZER: He ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. Didn't exactly work out.

BROWN: Dropped out after Iowa.

Valerie Jarrett.

BLITZER: That's one of his close aides, Valerie Jarrett, you just saw. I believe that's Valerie Jarrett. Yes.

COOPER: Some new faces in Washington in this crowd, some old faces in new positions as well.

BLITZER: Now, remember, this luncheon is being hosted by the joint congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies. And the senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, is the chair of that committee. Robert Byrd, the senator from West Virginia, is there. And everybody is just thrilled that Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife are there as well.

Now, let's hear what Barack Obama -- he's supposed to speak right at the beginning. Not extensively, just a few words. And I'm interested, I'm sure as all of you are, to hear what he says. So, we'll listen in.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The tradition of holding this inaugural luncheon began in 1953, actually, when President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon and 50 guests dined on creamed chicken, baked ham and potato puffs. Our menu, we think, is a bit more exciting, and believe it or not, the recipe page has been the most visited part of the inaugural Web site.

So we are very honored today to be hosted in Statuary Hall, which served as the House chamber when Abraham Lincoln was a member of Congress. As president, he participated in the public inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol, even during the darkest days of the Civil War. As we approach the bicentennial of his birth, we honor his determination that those who have sacrificed for our country shall not have died in vain, and that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.

President Lincoln is also the inspiration for the painting we have chosen today, and this is the view of Yosemite Valley, of course, which happens to be in California, by Thomas Hill...


FEINSTEIN: ... strange -- a 19th-century painter that I very much love. It's on loan from the New York Historical Society, so it kind of binds New York and California. As a country struggled to emerge from the turmoil of the Civil War, many Americans looked west for the dawn of a new era.

In tune with his times, President Lincoln signed Yosemite land grant in order to protect the majestic wild beauty of the area. Thomas Hill painted the grandeur and the beauty of the American West that captured America's essence, our land of opportunity, optimism and freedom. It is now my privilege to ask Dr. Barry Black, the chaplain distinguished of the United States Senate, to deliver the invocation.

BLITZER: All right, they're about to kick us out of the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Congress, where this luncheon is going to be private for the 200 guests.

I want to go up to -- stay up on Capitol Hill, though. We have a very special guest right now. Former secretary of state, the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Colin Powell is joining us. General Powell, I know you came in and endorsed Barack Obama. How excited are you by what our country has gone through on this day?

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm enormously excited, Wolf, and I think the whole country is excited. This is such a momentous occasion for all of us: A new generation taking over, a new president coming in, a solid team coming in with him. And he happens to be African-American. You can't ignore that fact, particularly the day after the holiday that celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. So, all of us were deeply touched at the speech that he gave, at the very act of him taking the oath of office.

And looking where I was, up on the stand, looking down the length of the Mall at a million or 2 million people, it was a deeply moving experience, and I think the whole country's going to be touched by it. And now the difficult work begins tomorrow. And we now need to come together as a nation and help our new president.

BLITZER: Did you ever think, Gen. Powell, that you would be alive to witness this day?

POWELL: I didn't know if I would or I would not. I knew the day would come eventually. I watched over the last 50 years, the 50 years of my adult life, as my country went from Jim Crow and discrimination and segregation, and I couldn't get a hamburger in a hamburger joint in the South. And slowly but surely, things changed, things improved, America looked at itself with Dr. Martin Luther King holding the mirror up for us to look at ourselves. And we said, this is not who we should be or what we should be. This is not the inspiration to the world that we present ourselves as.

And so, slowly but surely, we changed. And then, in recent years, more rapidly, to the point where a man of enormous skill, enormous capability was elected president of the United States, and not just because he is black, but it's a sign of our society and our democratic system that he is black and he made it. A lot of people said, white folks will go into the booth, but they wouldn't pull the lever for him, no matter what they said outside. Well, they did. And he ran a brilliant campaign, an organized campaign, and it was a very successful campaign.

And Wolf, let me just say how touched I am at the way in which he has reached out to the other side, if I may call it that. The very act of having a dinner in honor of John McCain last night and for John McCain acceptance of that invitation, showed that President Obama intends to reach out to all Americans across all racial, ethnic, social and economic lines and bring this country together in a unifying effort.

BLITZER: Secretary Powell, he did deliver a strong message to friend and foe alike in his inaugural address. I wonder what you thought about that.

POWELL: I think it was a very powerful statement, and I think it was a proper statement. We do have foes out there, and they should be on notice that America will deal with them. We will fight for our interests, and we'll fight for the interests of our friends. But I think he also made it clear that his preference is to find peaceful ways to talk to people and to work with our friends and allies. But America will defend its interests, and I think it was most appropriate for him to say that, so that there is no mistake on the part of any of our potential foes.

BLITZER: Are you going to be there for him if he calls you, Gen. Powell, and he says, you know, Colin, I need your help. I want you to do something. What are you going to say to the commander in chief?

POWELL: What would you like me to do, Mr. President? And I would consider anything that a president would ask me to do. I've tried in the course of my career, when consulted by a president or a senior official in government, to give my advice, and if I can, to provide my assistance.

BLITZER: He's been saluting a commander in chief almost his entire life. He'll continue to do so right now. Gen. Powell, thank you so much for spending a few moments with us on this historic day. I know how significant and meaningful it is to you and to our viewers, not only in the United States and around the world. We'll talk down the road. Appreciate it very much, and good luck.

POWELL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Gen. Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. He in his own right broke many barriers, reaching the level, the areas that he did.

We're going to take a quick break. We're going to show you the parade route down Pennsylvania Avenue of what's about to happen, because this day is by no means over. There is a new president of the United States, a new vice president of the United States. They're about to make the journey, right after that luncheon on Capitol Hill, over to the White House. And they're going to go down Pennsylvania Avenue, and people are gathering to watch what's going to be an enormous and an excellent parade. Our coverage of the inauguration of Barack Obama will continue after this.


BLITZER: They're behind closed doors on Capitol Hill right now at this luncheon in Statuary Hall, the president of the United States, the vice president of the United States and about 200 invited guests, including the top Congressional leadership, among others. And then shortly thereafter, Anderson, they're going to walk out the U.S. Capitol, get into that motorcade, and they're going to make that trek down Pennsylvania Avenue.

You see security, law enforcement getting ready. The drive from Capitol Hill to the White House, where this really traditional, enormous parade. And there are going to be floats and marching bands coming in from all over the country.

COOPER: The parade is supposed to start at around 3:35 Eastern time. The crowds are still sort of sparse along the parade route, but it is very difficult trying to get around. Don Lemon, CNN, Don Lemon, has been trying to move around out there. You've been seeing how hard it is. What's it like trying to get through, because a lot of places you simply can't get through.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you can't get through. It's very difficult. There are people standing around in bars and hotel lobbies watching the speech because they can't get in. Hundreds deep in those checkpoints along 10th, 11, 12th streets, and you simply cannot get through. They're obviously checking everyone. But I don't know, Anderson, what the crowd estimates are, but I think it's going to be a lot higher because there are people still waiting three, four hours to get into the venue (ph).

COOPER: It's actually very frustrating. I was stuck in a crowd for about 20 or so minutes. And just, there's really no information. So everyone is kind of asking each other, but no one really knows where to go or what to do. And if they see somebody walking with purpose, they tend to follow that person.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: In addition to that, since there's no information, in a group that's now stuck between borders when they sort of crowd them in, you know, people are going two different directions. Some people said, no, no, I'm going to the Mall, and other people said, oh, I'm waiting for the parade. And I thought, neither of you are going to get where you need to go.

BROWN: Well, and now you have directions shifting, right? People leaving the Capitol to try and get somewhere else.

LEMON: If you are on one side of Pennsylvania Avenue, you are stuck there until this is all over. So, and if you're -- you know, if you're on the side that's not near the Mall, you can't get to that side because that's where the checkpoints are. And if you're lucky to get on the other side of the Mall, then you're stuck there for who knows how long.

COOPER: Elaine Quijano is along the parade route. Let's check in with her. Elain, what's the scene where you are?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's exactly right. If you are on one side of Pennsylvania Avenue, you can just about forget trying to get across. But that has been the case since early this morning. I know -- I could tell you from personal experience.

But keep in mind, as you look at the broad expanse here down Pennsylvania Avenue, even though the crowd might look thin in some parts, that's not necessarily reflective of the number of people who actually wanted to be here, because I can tell you just beyond camera range, beyond the security checkpoints here, I am seeing a sea of people on some of the side streets that go off of Pennsylvania Avenue here.

So, just because you're not seeing massive crowds lining the route here does not mean they have not come. But one of the people who did come is joining me down here. I noticed you, Carmelita Spain (ph), because you and a group of I guess now your best friends were dancing earlier, even though you say you were here since 3:30 in the morning trying to get in. Tell me about that. CARMELITA SPAIN (ph), ATTENDING INAUGURATION ACTIVITIES: Yes, well, we wanted to make sure that we were able to get in and to share this happy, blessed event. And so, having come in at that time, we wanted to make sure we had good seats, of course.

QUIJANO: Has it been worth it? Because unlike the Mall, there are no JumboTrons here. There is literally nothing to see at this point unless -- we've got the motorcades going by. But for the most part, you're just hearing what's broadcast over the loudspeakers here and not really seeing anything. Has it been worth it?

SPAIN (ph): It's been worth it because we've been in the midst of the history being in the making. We've been joining forces, and it doesn't matter what race, creed or color, that we all have united here to witness the inauguration of the first African-American to become president.

So, yes, it was totally worth it for us to be here, because I tell you, just as President, now, Barack Obama has stated, the whole theme is for us to unite and be one, and that's the whole purpose of why we all came here.

QUIJANO: All right. Carmelita Spain (ph), thank you so much. So, a message of inclusiveness really resonating here in Freedom Plaza, so named because Dr. King, Martin Luther King, Jr., actually wrote part of his "I Dream As -- I -- sorry, he wrote part of his "I Have a Dream" speech nearby at the Willard Hotel.

Pardon me, it's been a long morning so far, Wolf. But certainly despite the brain freeze here, a lot of people are very enthusiastic and certainly anticipating that moment when they see now-President Obama's motorcade coming down Pennsylvania Avenue -- Wolf.

COOPER: It's not just brain freeze. It's really lip freeze more than anything when you stand out there.

BLITZER: Although it's pretty balmy up here, Anderson, where we are.

COOPER: It's balmy up here, but when you're standing down there for hours at a time, as I and tell you and as Soledad can attest from last night on the Mall, your mouth gets pretty frozen.

BLITZER: Let me tell our viewers to get excited because pretty soon, you're going to see two remarkable pieces of technology that only you'll see here on CNN. We had a satellite reconnaissance, a space photo taken of the Mall at the moment just before Barack Obama became the president of the United States. There was some cloud cover but we're told by the satellite experts that picture, Anderson, is going to be very, very cool.

COOPER: Did we have a correspondent in space?

BLITZER: We had no correspondent, but we had a camera up on this satellite that's very cool. Also we've been telling you about that photosynth, that remarkable moment where we invited viewers who were nearby to snap a picture of Barack Obama as he took the oath of office. We're now getting that together for a three-dimensional unique, very unique vantage point of what happened that historic moment.

Much more of our coverage, including from the parade route and a lot more when the inauguration of Barack Obama continues.


BLITZER: Former President George W. Bush is now aboard Special Air Mission 28,000. It looks like Air Force One and usually is Air Force One. But it's only called Air Force One once a sitting president of the United States is aboard. He is no longer the sitting president of the United States. As a result, it's called Special Air Mission 28,000.

A few minutes ago, he left the hangar there after a little private ceremony thanking the crew of Air Force One. He and Laura Bush and their daughter, you can see them going up the stairs right there. They're going to be heading off to Midland, Texas, with continuing service over to Waco, and spend some time over in Crawford, Texas, at the presidential ranch.

As you probably know, they've also recently purchased a home in Dallas, Texas, in a nice area there. And that's where they're going to be setting up shop, in Dallas and Crawford, as she gets ready to write a book, and he has suggested, Anderson, he'll be writing a book as well, at least at some point down the road.

We have a lot more to cover of the inauguration of Barack Obama. And our coverage is only getting started right now. The formal parade is about to begin from Capitol Hill over to the White House. The president of the United States and the first lady, Michelle Obama, they're wrapping up their luncheon in Statuary Hall. We're going to be seeing and hearing from them fairly soon, so stay with us. This historic day here in the United States, our coverage continues right after this.


COOPER: And welcome back. President Obama and Vice President Biden are on Capitol Hill still having lunch. Their parade will be beginning in about a little bit more than an hour. The crowds are building. A lot of people are trying to get to the parade route. We are hearing from Elaine Quijano.

If you were on the Mall at the stroke of 12 when -- well, actually, I guess it was a little bit after 12 when Barack Obama raised his hand to take the oath of office, and you took a picture of it with your cell phone or camera, we want you to send it us. Send it to We're going to create, using the perhaps hundreds of photos that we get, a unique image of that actual moment. So, again, if you have a photo --

BLITZER: And we're getting ready to show that image to our viewers. COOPER: Right, but you can keep sending -- send your photos really throughout the day. We can keep adding to the image. It will be a changing image, really, throughout the day, which should be pretty cool.

We also have a satellite image taken at the moment of the swearing-in ceremony. We're trying to get that to you very quickly as well. We want to go down to the parade route quickly. But before we do, Soledad got an e-mail from someone who is out in a crowd, kind of --

O'BRIEN: Yes, she's at 12th Street on the Mall. And she said you all have been talking how confusing it is, and that's for the people trying to get there. She said, "But where I am, since 3 a.m., it's unbelievably organized and civil. Everyone got in and out fast, lots of cops, military volunteers, total strangers hugging, carrying each other's kids.

"Lots of the older black folks are surrounded by young people, and they're holding court. They're telling stories of segregation to the young people and anyone who will listen. Everyone's sharing their life experience."

LEMON: Three a.m., she said?

O'BRIEN: Well, that's the key line there, 3 a.m.

COOPER: That's why it doesn't seem confusing. She's been out on the Mall, in position since 3 a.m. But it's the folks who have been trying to get into position --

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's the getting there that is the frustrating part. And I think once they're there, it becomes a really nice experience.

COOPER: That's when they started allowing people to go into the Mall, around 3 a.m.

LEMON: And Wolf and Anderson, if I can share just a very interesting observation, being out there on the street, I mean, the city was just bustling. Noise, you could hear the sirens, people, you know, screaming. And the moment he got up, when they gave him the oath of office and he got up to give his speech, total silence on the streets of Washington, D.C. It was an amazing moment.