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CNN Live Event/Special

President Biden Finally Sworn In As The 46th U.S. President; Three Former U.S. Presidents Show Their Support To Biden; Powerful Message From Amanda Gorman; Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) Is Interviewed About His New Position As Senator; Seventeen Executive Orders Signed Today. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 20, 2021 - 22:00   ET



VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (on camera): And what Biden was able to do tonight and was to get the culture of the country online. And you had country, you had graft, he had every kind of cultural force saying this is who we want to be. And to me, this is a -- it's just -- it's been medicine all day long.

But, listen, when you see that kind of literally firepower -- that was -- the fireworks, I mean the firepower of the culture coming back online, coming back online, Just beautiful.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You think back to the poem also that Amanda Gorman said earlier today. I just want to read some of what she said. She said, we will rise from the windswept northeast where our forefathers first realize revolution. We arise from the Lake Rim cities of the Midwestern states. We arise from the Sunbake south. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That about says it, doesn't it, Anderson? I mean, look at this. Here we are in the middle --


COOPER: By the way, we're going to be speaking to Amanda Gorman exclusively --


BORGER: Here we are in the middle of a pandemic and such a historic day and such beautiful pageantry in a different way. And the day, I mean, when you think back two weeks ago, the capitol was a crime scene. And today, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in a historic inauguration, she becoming the first woman and woman of color to be vice president after this insurrection.

And I want to make note of three American presidents meeting together today and talking to the country where George W. Bush talked about and we just saw it the institutional integrity of our country. And that's what today was about. And Joe Biden got in office, and think of it the Senate changed hands today. And he couldn't have moved faster to turn the corner.

COOPER: And whether you agree with President Biden or not --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- it certainly feels like a new day.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My goodness, this was not just a transfer of power, it was a profound change of attitude, and as Gloria said amid real suffering and fear and concern around in the country from morning until now with these fireworks, he has hit and they have hit all the right notes.

You know, the power of the presidency in many ways is the story that you tell about the country. And Joe Biden told today the story of the America that he believes in the north star he's driving to. And that is really, really important.

Tomorrow reality hits because it always becomes more complicated when the details come into conflict or come into contact with the narrative. And the challenge will be to continue the momentum of today. But the good news is he had a wonderful, wonderful day. And now he's just got three years and 364 more days to closeout a triumphant administration.

COOPER: Also, Evan, I think one of the things that's so powerful about what they chose to do today is not pretend as though this is not a country suffering trauma and grief. They acknowledged the hurt and yet it's our history. They acknowledged the pain, but they also embraced the promise. And they acknowledged the grief, but they also embraced the greatness of America.


COOPER: And the two can exist at the same time, the pain and the promise.

OSNOS: We went in the span of one day from watching in the morning the isolation of a president at the end of a term isolated from his own vice president, isolated in many ways from the country, low popularity, and we crossed the span of emotion, we crossed the span of American experience and background and the styles of our cultural life and we ended up with this encompassing display at the end.

Now this is gesture of inclusion. I was reminded also today something Roosevelt said in 1933 in a moment of enormous for his country. He said only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment, but he also did it while launching us on the kind of hard work and constructive projects that eventually got us where we are.

And you know, Amanda Gorman had a brilliant line in her poem. She said America is more than a prize we inherit. It is on us.

AXELROD: Yes. OSNOS: We have to make it.

AXELROD: Robert Kennedy said the future is not a gift, it's an achievement. And that is something we have to bear in mind. We -- this -- the project of democracy requires effort, constant effort. We've learned that in the last few months. And when Biden said his soul is into that effort and he's recruiting us to join in that effort, which is what leaders do.


BORGER: You know, I'm reminded four years ago on those same steps today the former president talked about American carnage. And the current president on those steps today said the politics doesn't have to be a raging fire. And he talked about unity.

I mean, you want to think from one inauguration to another and the difference in tone and message.

JONES: You know, and the thing about it is you wouldn't -- had we not gone through the dark part, the difficult part this wouldn't hit us hard, it wouldn't lift us up as much. There is something -- the world is watching us and I think they're also saying to the world that America is back.

They are saying to the world this is actually the America that, you know, you believed in, that we're still here, we're even more beautiful, we've got more dance moves, we've got cooler music. You know, the whole thing is here. And, you know, for me, what you're saying, for instance, is so important. They don't deny the pain but they don't let the pain have the last word, and that's the point.

You don't deny the pain. You don't pretend there's not a pandemic. You don't pretend that people aren't suffering but then you don't let the pain have the last word because you show the incredible resilience of the American people, the genius of the American people, the incredible (Inaudible) that we have to bring against any problem and they showed it. They didn't just say it.

The speeches are good, but it was just showing all those faces. I didn't know who some of those people were, but I was with them. You know, I was like hey, man, I never heard you before but I love what you're doing.

COOPER: That's because we're old.

BORGER: I don't think Joe Biden has either --


JONES: It's awesome.

AXELROD: You know, symbols are so important and they were particularly important today. And all of the symbolism and all of the images were right. And we've said it before, Biden is right for this moment. These fireworks remind me of the way he talks about this country and not just in public but in private, when he would exhort the White House staff, all of us there. It was, there was always a sense of this is the United States of America, man.


AXELROD: We can do this. That is what he believes.

BORGER: It's giving us permission to be proud of what we can do --


BORGER: -- by telling us the truth about what we face. And I think Biden today said, look, we are entering the toughest and deadliest part of the virus. Right there, right in his inauguration speech saying this is not going to be easy but telling you what you face. And that's all people really want to hear.

I remember Donald Trump telling Bob Woodward, you know, I didn't want to tell the people about the virus because I don't want to panic the country. This was different. This was I'm going to level with you as Biden says all the time, but here's how we get out of it and immediately went to his executive actions saying what we're going to do on the pandemic and how they're going to get vaccines in people's arms. Right to work from all the pageantry and all the beauty we saw today and the three presidents coming together.


JONES: Didn't -- everything that --

AXELROD: You know -- you know, you said something, Van, about how what we've gone set this -- and we were talking, Evan and I were talking earlier about how fundamentally different the world views of Joe Biden and Donald Trump or the philosophies of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump believes that the world is a jungle. He was raised to believe you are either a killer or was it a winner -- no you're a killer or a loser. A killer or a loser.

JONES: Right.

AXELROD: The world is a jungle, you know, and the survival of the fittest. You know, Joe Biden is quoted St. Augustine today, you know. BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: It's a different view of the world. And I think it's more attuned to the way most Americans want to think of our country.

COOPER: Also, you think about the three presidents, the three former presidents that we saw gather together to speak about this moment in history, to speak about the new president. The former president who just left office could have been among those three, could have been four. And forevermore now one considers when there are gatherings of all the presidents will the most recent president who just left, will he be in there?


AXELROD: Not a chance.

BORGER: Not a chance.

COOPER: Probably.

AXELROD: I've been thinking about this a lot. If two things had happened Donald Trump would have left Washington in a much different way today. If during this pandemic he had leveled with people and if he had just advocated from the beginning that people wear masks, that would be one thing.

And then obviously if he had accepted the results of the election and he had done what other presidents, all other presidents have done in assisting his successor and leaving gracefully. As he praised Barack Obama for doing four years ago in his own speech, in his inaugural address.


I think he would have left under -- he essentially destroyed what was left of his reputation in these last two months and he made himself a pariah by fundamentally waging war on our democracy.

OSNOS: You know, I --

BORGER: But you know he's always been the architect of his own demise. He always had self-inflicted wounds. We've watched that for the last four years, and he couldn't admit that he lost.

JONES: Can I say one thing that was cool?

BORGER: It's simple as that.

JONES: The educators. When they celebrate -- I just -- my mom was a teacher, my dad was a teacher and the fact that you had teachers who are on the front lines who want to be able to help kids and they were, you know, to lift up teachers. The UPS worker, I mean to me that is the point.

This was Joe Biden's biggest day and it wasn't about Joe Biden. Think about that. All he's been through, all -- he's been trying to get there. And when he gets there, he doesn't make it about Joe Biden. He makes it about the teachers and the workers and the hungry kids. That is a cultural shift not just a political shift.

COOPER: And also, I mean, from all we've heard from Joe Biden today none of it has been I had the biggest crowds, I was the greatest, I've done this for a long time. Let me tell you about me. It was about America.

OSNOS: Yes. You know, he called himself at one point in this campaign a transition president. That's what he wanted to be.

BORGER: Right. OSNOS: And what he meant by that was I want to open the door for new people to come in. And do we hear today, we heard a poet in our early 20s tell us things about ourselves we didn't -- we couldn't put into words.

JONES: That's right.

OSNOS: This is a country today, the median age in America is 38. The average senator is 68. We are approaching a moment in which there is going to be a transition, a kind of we are trying to get two generations talking to each other. We are coexisting, we are living with one another and it's not easy. You know, we are not always talking so clearly to one another.

And Joe Biden who is after all the oldest president coming into office is saying to people, I want to learn from you, I want to hear from you.

BORGER: You know, in a way he did talk about himself as a transitional leader. But look at what he's going to be facing. In many ways, he's going to have to be transformational. He has no choice.

And so, you're right. Talking about generations and bringing in younger people, et cetera, but he's going to have do more in so many ways than anybody in his first 100 days in office in a long time. And what was so interesting to me hearing these three former presidents, the three amigos standing there talking to each other is they said to Joe Biden we are available to you in any way we can help.

And can you imagine the previous president calling up these folks and saying, hey, we're having a bit of a -- can you give me some advice? I can imagine Biden getting on the phone with any of these people, right?

AXELROD: Without question.

BORGER: I mean, can you imagine him calling up Barack Obama or calling up George W. Bush and saying help me out, help me out.


AXELROD: Without question, without question.

COOPER: Amanda Gorman is coming a little bit later in this hour. I'm just going to toss back to Jake with just the final words of her poem. She said, when day comes, we step out of the shame, of flame and unafraid. The new day blooms as we free it but was always light, if only we're brave enough to see it, if only we're brave to be at. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Anderson, thanks so much. And I'll tell you we had a little bit of a view of the fireworks here --


TAPPER: -- from our perch with the White House right there. And I've been in Washington now for almost, almost 30 years. And I've never seen the fireworks display like that ever. It was quite something. It was quite spectacular.

BASH: Our friend Wolf Blitzer says all the time that our jobs are great because we get a front row seat to history, and we did that all day today, but we also got a front row seat to a really amazing fireworks display. I completely agree with you. I've seen so many fireworks over the mall, over there. I went to school here. I've been here ever since and nothing compares to this. It does help that we're overlooking the White House.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's nice to see the monuments being used in lieu of other things. I mean, I think under normal circumstances we wouldn't be talking about, you know, fireworks over the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial or Tom Hanks narrating.

BASH: We got to call.


TAPPER: Poor Tom Hanks need to coat.

PHILLIP: Narrating in inaugural. Tom Hanks need a jacket.


PHILLIP: But it was -- it was a nice replacement for what we usually do. And I think that people at home would have found it to be just kind of a special moment and an opportunity to kind of see a little bit of a normal life that maybe they missed. A lot of people haven't been going to concerts for months and months and months and so seeing a lot of their favorite stars and celebrities, this is the night for that.


TAPPER: Yes. And look, I understand there's a real desire to feel good after a long time of not because of the pandemic and because of what the country's been going through the last couple of months in particular. And certainly, seeing Presidents Clinton and Obama and Bush together speaking like fellow Americans, speaking like colleagues if not friends are reassuring.

But I have to say, you know, when Bush said -- President Bush said the fact that the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country, there wasn't a peaceful transfer of power.

People were killed because there was an insurrection incited by President Trump. And you know, then it cut to Tom Hanks talking about how world leaders were -- or people around the world were no doubt looking at the three presidents and thinking how great it is. I don't know that we command that respect around the world after these last couple months.

BASH: I take your point, but it was aspirational. It was, you know, showing just first of all the image, I kind of gasped when I saw the three of them standing there at that memorial because I've never seen anything like that.

And the fact they came together obviously they all know each other quite well, but the fact that they agreed to do this, to send a signal that despite what happened two weeks ago today that this is what America should stand for and is going to stand for again with Joe Biden as president. And yes, of course there wasn't a peaceful transfer of power. I agree with that. That was a --


TAPPER: My concern is that if we --

BASH: That was a step too far.

TAPPER: -- is that, if we whitewash it and paper over it then it can happen again except next time it will work. That's my concern.

PHILLIP: I think this was supposed to be comforting.

BASH: Yes, exactly.

PHILLIP: For Americans.

TAPPER: I get it.

PHILLIP: To see, you know, look, I mean, what happened two weeks ago was really traumatic for a lot of people. Frankly, the last four years was really traumatic for a lot of people who didn't vote for Donald Trump. And I do think what they were trying to do tonight was give people just a glimpse of what the normal life --


PHILLIP: -- might look like, what, you know, regular old former presidents look like when they come together, and it's remarkable but only because the last presidents was such an anomaly. But I think the goal here tonight was to just remind people that America is still America at the end of the day. And yes, they were talking -- they were talking about a peaceful transfer of power. We didn't have one.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: But they were discussing that idea.


TAPPER: No. And it was written that way cleverly, the fact the three of us are standing here talking about a peaceful transfer of power speaks to the institutional integrity of our country. But that all I'm saying is and I'm not trying to be professor Buzzkill here.

But all I'm saying is that there are questions about the institutional integrity of our country, and if McCarthy had been speaker and not house minority leader and if 20 different officials out there whether it's the governor of Arizona or the governor of Georgia or a couple of officials in Michigan or Arizona or whatever, had been of weaker character, I don't know what would be going on in this country right now.

And yes, I want people to feel comforted. I want people to feel good. I want to enjoy this, but at the same time I don't want to paper over what happened.

BASH: You're absolutely right. The line that I thought really stuck out since George W. Bush was the only Republican standing there was Mr. President talking to Joe Biden, the new president. I'm pulling for your success. Your success is our country's success and God bless you. It sounds like was this --


PHILLIP: (Inaudible) letter.

BASH: That letter that he wrote to president on that again in public in this tribute with the two other former presidents now to President Biden. That was very telling especially given the fact as I said that he was the only Republican standing there. He was trying to send a message.

TAPPER: Yes. Now, look, absolutely. The fact that they did this video is because they know the nation needs to see it. I mean, they don't do this every four years or eight years. Former presidents don't go onto a memorial and do a little get-well video to the nation.

Let me bring in Kate Andersen Brower, a historian and CNN commentator to talk about this video. We've really never seen anything like this. And even though the three presidents, Clinton, Bush and Obama, didn't say it directly I have to believe that they felt like we need to do this because the country has been through this trauma especially (AUDIO GAP).

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, HISTORIAN AND CNN COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. I understand you point though that we can't be lulled into complacency to think that our democracy can't go through something like this. Again, it's fragile. And I think the last couple of weeks have shown that.


But the thing that really struck me was when President Obama said that his relationship with President Bush was forged in those first few days, in that transition period when the Bushes did welcome them into the White House twice in fact. Laura Bush welcomed Michelle Obama once and then once with her daughters to show her around the White House.

And President Obama said we can have fears, disagreements and recognize our common humanity. And you know, there's no doubt there will be a lot of disagreements in the days ahead between Republicans and Democrats. But the idea that these three former presidents will be there for President Biden should he need it, and I think he will probably be leaning on President Obama from time to time, I think is a wonderful thing and it's something we've been sorely missing over the last four years. TAPPER: Absolutely. And the absence of Donald Trump in that group was

notable and regrettable as well. Some of the actually most interesting post-presidential friendships historically have been between actual rivals.

I mean, on one level it's easy for Clinton, Bush and Obama all of whom are two-term presidents, none of whom who ran against each other to be friends. On one level even if they ran against each other's legacy. But Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford became friends. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton became friends despite having run rather tough races against one another.

BROWER: I mean, it's remarkable if you look back at these inaugural addresses, too. You had the incoming president praising the outgoing president in each of those cases. You had, you know, you had Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter actually, you know, thanked president ford for his service. Bill Clinton thanked George H.W. Bush for his service and actually saluted him.

I think we all miss that today just seeing President Trump there would have been, you know, very important. And it was such an anomaly and so unprecedented. Obviously, we haven't had this since 1869 so it's really difficult to kind of wrap your mind around it.

But I think tonight was important, and like you said it was incredible to see those three former presidents united together including a Republican president supporting an incoming Democratic administration.

TAPPER: Yes. And they were standing, I think they were standing at the World War II memorial, three presidents who are from post-World War II generations. Kate, thank you so much, I appreciate it. Let me throw it back to Anderson.

COOPER (on camera): Jake, thanks. Sometimes it's hard to put a moment like the one we as a country are in right now into words. But today an extraordinary 22-year-old poet did just that. Amanda Gorman is her name. She recited a poem that she wrote for this day "The Hill We Climb." I spoke to her a few moments ago. But first, here's some of what she said today.


AMANDA GORMAN, NATIONAL YOUTH POET LAUREATE: When the day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade. The loss we carry a sea we must wade. We braved the belly of the beast. We've learned that quiet isn't always peace. And the norms and notions of what just is isn't always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow, we do it, somehow, we've weathered and witnessed a nation that isn't broken but simply unfinished. We the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.

If we're to live up to our own time then victory won't lie in the blade but in all the bridges we've made. That is the promise to glade the hill we climb if only we dare it because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It's the past we step into and how we repair it.

We've seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. In this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

COOPER: Amanda Gorman, it is such a -- first of all, how do you feel?

GORMAN: I feel just so overjoyed and so grateful and so humbled. You know, I came here to do the best with the poem I could and to just see the support that's been pouring out, I literally can't absorb it all. So, I'll be processing it for a while.


COOPER: The -- can you just explain the -- why this message today? How did you go about crafting this?

GORMAN: Right. Well, you know, I did a lot of research ever since I found out in late December that I was going to be the inaugural poet. So that was making sure I read all the previous inaugural poems, really doing a deep literature dive of other orators who I looked up to, whether it be Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and how they speak to a nation that could feel very divided.

And I was around halfway through that process and kind of that research when the January 6th insurrection happened at the capitol. And I'm not going to say that that completely, you know, derails the poem because I was not surprised at what happened. I had seen the signs and symptoms for a while and I was not trying to turn a blind eye to that.

But what it did was energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope and community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear.

COOPER: Were there particular images from January 6th at, you know, that were kind of foremost in your mind, or was it just the totality of the horror of the insurrection?

GORMAN: I'm a poet so often I don't work in images. I work in words and texts. And so, what I was actually doing is while keeping mental sanity looking through the treats and the messages and articles and seeing what stood out. And there's a line in the poem that you might have heard, which is we've seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it.

And I got that actually from looking through a few tweets and a lot of people being like, wow, this is what happens when people don't want to share the country with the rest of us. And so, I took that which often became a meme on Twitter and I put that in the poem.

COOPER: It's so interesting to me that you -- you're not thinking visual -- that you're not -- it's not the images that motivate you, it's the text, the words that you come across.

GORMAN: Right. To me words matter, and I think that's kind of what made this inauguration that much more sentimental and special. We've seen over the past few years the way in which the power of words has been violated and misappropriated.

And what I wanted to do is to kind of re-claim poetry as that site in which we can re-purify, re-sanctify not only the capitol building that we saw violated but the power of words and to invest that in kind of the highest office of the land.

COOPER: I want to read just the last few lines of your poem, and I apologize because I'm not going to do it justice as it should be done. But you said we will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful. When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.

I got shivers when you said that. I mean, that is what it takes, doesn't it? It's bravery. It takes bravery to see it and to be that light.

GORMAN: Right. Well, I think that recitation was great. You know, I should have you up there. That was a tease.

COOPER: Please.

GORMAN: But you know, I'm so grateful you brought up the last line. It's something i've been seeing a lot of people repeat. And to be honest I was concerned of whether I should include that last line of be at all. I was kind of deliberating between see it, be it, free it.

And then I said you know what, we need all of these things at once. We need that to cover and we need to realize that hope isn't something that we ask of others, it's something that we have to demand from ourselves. And that's what I wanted the poem to end on.

COOPER: I had a form of dyslexia as a child and kind of a minor speech issues, slight little stutter. Joe Biden has talked about this. I read that you had some form of a speech impediment or may still have which is obviously something you would have in common with President Biden.

He's talked often about overcoming it. And I understand that you use writing to cope with it, to share your voice that way. Can you talk about that a little bit?

GORMAN: Yes. I'm proud to be in the speech difficulty club with you and President Biden and also Maya Angelou. You know, growing up I had a speech impediment. And for me it wasn't a stutter. It was, you know, dropping a whole swath of letters in the alphabet.

So, for I want to say most of my life up until two or maybe three years ago I couldn't say the letter r. Even to this day sometimes I struggle with it which is difficult when you have a poem in which you say rise like five times.


And so, for me, I use writing, one, as a form of self-expression to get my voice on the page. But then also, metamorphosize into each own speech pathology. So, the more that I recited out loud, the more in which I practiced spoken word in that tradition, the more I was able to teach myself how to pronounce these letters which for so long had been my greatest impediment.

COOPER: What -- I understand was there -- I know there was some Hamilton references today. I caught as a big fan of Hamilton. And I know Lin-Manuel Miranda also caught them because I know -- I saw those tweets going around. But I understand is there something about, some of the stuff that Aaron Burr said in Hamilton that you used for your speech?

GORMAN: Right. So, like I said, you know, it was as recent as college that I was still struggling to say the R sound. And so, one thing that I would to do try to do to train myself to say it is I would listen to the song Aaron Burr's sir, because it was just packed with R's, and I would try to keep up with Leslie Odom Jr. as he, you know, do this amazing rap.

And I'd say if I can train myself to do this song, then I can train myself to say this letter. And so that's been a huge part of my own speech pathology, it's why I included it in the inaugural poem. Also, beyond that I think Hamilton is such a great American cultural piece of what it means to be a better country. It was really hard for me not to like copy and paste my shot and e-mail it to the inaugural committee like, here's my poem.

COOPER: No one would have noticed.

GORMAN: You know?


GORMAN: No one would have noticed, but I cite my sources which is I why I tweeted about Hamilton. I'm really proud I was able to incorporate that in there.

COOPER: I understand you have a mantra that you say before every reading you give. Can you -- can you reveal what that is?

GORMAN: Certainly. I do whenever I perform and I definitely did it this time. And I close my eyes and I say I'm the daughter of black writers. We're descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me.

COOPER: Wow, you're just -- you're awesome. I'm so transfixed. Amanda, your mom must just be so proud of you and your whole family and you must be so proud of them.

GORMAN: Yes. I say I'm proud of us because this takes a village. I have so many supporters, so many organizations that have supported me whether it be urban or the National Poet Laurette program or (Inaudible) where I get a lot of free creative writing resources when I was that skinny girl with the speech impediment who needed a mentor.

My mom is absolutely filming me right now as I do this interview. So, like I said it takes all of us being present and lifting me up to climb this mountain.

COOPER: Well, mom, congratulations. You certainly done an amazing, amazing job. Lastly, Hillary Clinton tweeted a picture of you two from the inauguration today saying wasn't at the Amanda Gorman's poem just stunning. She's promised to run for president in 2036, and I for one can't wait. President Gorman has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

GORMAN: Yes, it does. Madame President Gorman, I like the sound of that.

COOPER: Yes. I think a lot of people like the sound of that today. Thank you so much. It's just thrilling to see such a bright talent certainly you burst like a super nova. So, thank you.

GORMAN: Thank you so much.


COOPER (on camera): I mean --


BORGER: Really?

AXELROD: Holy smoke.

COOPER: -- how great is she?

JONES: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. First of all, for the rest of our lives we're going to know who she is. That wasn't a star being born. That was a super nova being born. And at the right time. And you know what? No pressure. No diamonds. No pressure. No diamonds.

She has gone through something and she's arrived at a place in herself that the country can arrive at, too. The poise, the presence of genius. She is a priestess, you know, for a nation that needs it. And she's not alone. There's a generation out there.

AXELROD: Well, that's the --

JONES: There's a generation out there.

AXELROD: That's the thing, you know, I mean, she is extraordinary beyond words. I mean, you know, I'm right there with you, Anderson, on the fan boy thing.


AXELROD: I mean it's just impossible to watch her and not be completely blown away. But then you wonder how many other kids like that are there?

COOPER: Totally.

AXELROD: And that gives you hope.

COOPER: That's right.


AXELROD: That gives you hope for the future. I mean, and that is part and parcel of why this day was so glorious.

COOPER: It's also the difference between kids who, you know, have a family that is able to, you know, embrace their talent and show up in their life and others around an organization. I mean, it's just --

JONES: It takes a village. Look, I've been blessed to get a chance to work in places like Oakland, and you find these young people and you just cannot believe. We are wasting so much genius in this country. But you know, all the food fight at the top, so much pain and promise at the bottom. And I think it was Jill Biden that discovered her.


BORGER: Jill Biden discovered her.

JONES: Tell that story.

BORGER: She was a -- this is -- I don't know this first-hand. I think it was in The Times today Jill Biden went to reading in Washington and heard her --


BORGER: -- and said this young woman is amazing, which of course she is. And can I just add one thing about her as a girl who does her homework, when she talked to you, Anderson, about doing what she called a deep order dive, doing her research into great oratory and then looking at tweets and getting inspiration from tweets and Hamilton that she could then weave together into a poem --


BORGER: -- it was remarkable.

COOPER: But also, to be writing -- I mean, first of all, the pressure of writing a poem like this is just extraordinary.


COOPER: You know, the greats who have spoken on this day, and yet, and then to have the events of January 6 occur.


COOPER: And as she has said, it it could have derailed the poem, I mean, beyond just derailing democracy.

BORGER: Right.

OSNOS: Right.

COOPER: And yet she was able to incorporate it in a -- in her own way.

OSNOS: You know, there is a great line about writing which Joan Didion said that we tell stories in order to live. And what she meant was that literature is an empathy machine. It forces us to put ourselves into the shoes of another person and to see ourselves as inhabiting this larger thing.

And, you know, it started last night when we heard that to remember is to begin the process of healing and mourning. And that process, remembering, putting it down in words, sharing it with other people feels all the more important right now because we are disconnected. We're physically disconnected.


OSNOS: And we're also -- let's face it we're culturally disconnected. We're isolated. It's part of the hunger that you feel out there for community.

COOPER: But I think one of the things that I think that's very impressive about what she did is just as Joe Biden -- President Biden has acknowledged the hurt and the pain that is happening and acknowledged the hurt but also praised the history and acknowledged the history of this country, she did not shy away from January 6th.


COOPER: She did not create a poem about, you know, some sort of perfect America. It was this sort of idea of democracy as something that one strives for, which is sort of reaching for, not necessarily something that --


JONES: And that's thriving. I really love what Gloria was pointing out. Is that, we see something like that and think, she's amazing, but look at the work.


JONES: Look at the work ethic.


JONES: Look at the commitment to the craft, the commitment to excellence so that when she arrives there everything that she's done, that was hard won. That was hard won, and that's the other thing, too. Well, you know, I'm great because I say I'm great. I'm just going to -- I'm the biggest, I'm the best, I'm the greatest even though I haven't read my briefing book for a year. BORGER: Right.

JONES: She's giving you a different example of how to do it, on how to do it.

AXELROD: You know, on the point about the 6th and how it changed her, she didn't surrender to the horror. She didn't surrender to the awfulness of that, and she emerged realistic but hopeful. I mean, that's -- and that is really what democracy is constantly a struggle between cynicism and hope.

And what you want is to embrace hope, not unrealistically, but you want to strive for something better. You don't want to submit to the idea that we can't get there. And what this whole day was about was that. That we can hope and work for that better day, that we don't have to surrender to cynicism, we don't have to surrender to division.

In fact, that we can conquer the things that we are ailing from right now if we come together and recognize our common humanity and our common concerns. And her poem, her spirit, that whole -- this whole day spoke to that.

So, we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Tomorrow may be a rougher day.


AXELROD: But it certainly has changed the trajectory and the kind of -- our self-image for the moment and gives people a little spark. It's a good beginning, really a spectacular day from start to finish.

COOPER: I mean, to me, poetry is something that's always mysterious. I don't quite understand it. But there she sort of -- she sort of pointed out the magic in the mystery, and you just imagine how many sort of other young women and young men are out there who saw her and, you know, saw what she does with words and sparked something in some other --


AXELROD: That's magic, too.

BORGER: Absolutely. She --

AXELROD: It's transformational.

BORGER: She also performed. I mean, you watched her and --


COOPER: Her hand gestures --

BORGER: -- you were mesmerized with her hands.


BORGER: Just she felt her poetry, and you could feel her optimism along --

JONEs: The power --

BORGER: -- her.

AXELROD: Your recitation was good, too.

BORGER: Yes, Anderson, you get a good --

JONES: The power of discourse in Washington, D.C. has usually been law and policy. Her language was more powerful. There's a new power language of youth poetry that can change the world, too.

COOPER: Stay with us. Our special coverage continues as the Bidens celebrate their first night in the White House. We'll be right back.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a time in testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis. America's role in the world, any one of these moving up to challenge us in profound ways.

But the fact is we faced them all at once. We will rise to the occasion is the question. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children? I believe we must. I'm sure you do as well. I believe we will.



TAPPER (on camera): President Biden hitting the ground running on his first day in office. He took 17 executive actions after that speech. Some of them reversing President Trump's more controversial policies.

The new president stopped funding for the border wall, for example. He reversed the travel ban banning individuals from coming to this country from several predominantly Muslim countries. And he's begun the process of rejoining the Paris climate accord and stopping the U.S. departure from the World Health Organization.

And Dana, I mean, he lays out the list of challenges and then he says but we can do it, I believe we can. And I know that he is optimistic by nature. He does believe that the United States can conquer these problems.

BASH: Absolutely. And look, you know, what we saw was him doing at least the beginning of what he can do with his pen to reverse the -- the policies that Donald Trump had that he ran against, that every one of his Democratic opponents in the primary process ran against. And maybe the better way to say it is run for -- for engaging on the climate crisis, for dealing with immigration in a way that doesn't ban Muslims, for example, and so on and so forth.

But the optimism is going to be challenged when he has to deal with the reality of Congress. Unlike Donald Trump and frankly even unlike President Obama who was a senator for not very long, Joe Biden knows what he's getting himself into when he talks about the fact, he thinks he can get things done even though it is incredibly divisive.

PHILLIP: And it's not at all clear to me that he has a willing opposition party in the Republican Party to solve these problems. I think the Republican Party right now is trying to figure itself out. Its future in a post-Trump world and what that looks like, and whether that future is, you know, ideological in nature or whether it is driven by the same kind of personality politics it had been driven by for the last four years.

And it seems that Joe Biden made -- you know, he laid out his view of it which is that, you know, that they are going to sort of -- the sort of snap back to their senses type of thing because the provocateur is no longer there.

But I don't think that is clear yet because you're already hearing Republicans making it clear that they don't necessarily want to cooperate on even basic things like his cabinet nominees. And if that's the case it's going to be a tough ride.

And it's probably one of the reasons why, you know, you are going to see probably more executive orders than we are used to in the pre- Trump era. You know, Trump did a lot of executive orders and a lot of them are being undone. But the reality of governance in Washington right now is that it's very difficult to get things through Congress no matter who the president is because of the partisanship.

And if you're going to deliver for your base and for Joe Biden, Democrats are clamoring for frankly, relief on a lot of issues whether it's on immigration or COVID or what have you. You've got to do in some ways on your own and for that reason it's temporary in nature because the next president can just do away with it.

TAPPER: And the incentive structure is not for cooperation.


TAPPER: I mean, Mitch McConnell is going to be there as the minority leader in a 50-50 Senate and he's got some big seats, big races coming up in 2022. Is the incentive for him to and the Republicans in the Senate to work with Joe Biden to figure out a way to address climate change? Or is the incentive to let Democrats own it so that the Republicans can run against it? The incentive structure for so much of this is built against cooperation.

PHILLIP: Well, so many Republicans in the House and even in the Senate are -- they are not coming from purple places. They're coming from deep red places. And that makes the incentive structure very difficult for cooperation because there is a gulf.

The reality is, you know, all the talk of unity aside there is a huge gulf culturally and politically between the red states and the blue states. And that gulf has not been closed any just because Donald Trump walked off the stage.

BASH: Yes, and the other challenge we haven't talked about -- we've been talking a lot about unity across party lines is that, you know, every step that President Biden wants to take towards the Republicans as he historically does -- it's in his DNA to do which is listen to the other side.


What do you need? What can you not give up? What can you give up? When he gets the here's what I can give up? Or here's what I can't I give up. Here's why you need to move. He's going to get an earful from the growing number of real progressives in his party, in the slimmer majority in the House, who are going to say, wait a minute, Mr. President. You can't compromise on that.

And so the question -- one of the questions is how much running room he is going to have, at least in the beginning, maybe at all, from his own party who gave him a lot of runway during the -- when he was just making promises and when he was campaigning, whether that's going to be the same when he's actually governing.

PHILLIP: And they're impatient. They're -- a lot of Democrats right now waited a long time, they feel. Even in the Obama era, feeling like President Obama wasn't progressive enough on some issues. And then for four years of Trump they were impatient for things to happen now.

TAPPER: Well, speaking of Democrats in the House and Senate, joining us now, the brand-new Democratic senator from the state of California, Alex Padilla. Senator Padilla, congratulations. You were just sworn in today by your predecessor, now Vice President Kamala Harris. Tell us how it feels in that moment when you took your place in the U.S. Senate.

SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): So, thank you, Jake. Yes, great day for California. Great day for the nation. Great day for history, you know, to -- as you know, I'm the first Latino senator to represent California in our 170-year history and to be administered the oath by the first woman African-American, Asian vice president, also, a Californian. It just oozes history and progress for the nation.

I had to admit though sobered by the daunting task ahead of us to, you know, tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and so much more.

TAPPER: President Biden has already sent an immigration bill to the Senate. It has an eight-year path to citizenship. Republicans in the Senate are expressing concerns about it. I know that you have a very moving story. You are a son of Mexican immigrants. As you note, you're the first Latino senator from California. What do you think of this legislation? Does it go far enough for you? Do you support it?

PADILLA: Yes. Look, no, I am in support of it. But I think we might be able to do even more. I know Republican members are already trying to poke holes at it, take shots at it. The eight-year time period to wait, you know, I think it's on the table to maybe shorten that a little bit.

But here's another element that hasn't been focused on yet. The cost of the naturalization application itself, you know. It's one thing to say, well, we need a path to citizenship for all undocumented individuals. I firmly believe that. But for the millions of eligible immigrants that can become citizens, sometimes it's frankly cost prohibitive, plus the wait times that you're referencing. So, there's a lot of layers to immigration reform that I'm hopeful we'd be able to tackle and move quickly on.

TAPPER: Los Angeles in particular continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, just becoming the first county in America to report more than one million coronavirus cases. Why is it so bad in Los Angeles? What needs to happen to turn it around there?

PADILLA: Look, I think it's a couple of factors. One, we're in, you know, month of 10, working on 11th of this pandemic, not month number one. So, folks are hurting, folks are struggling, folks are getting impatient. You know, maybe you've lost your job. Maybe you've lost your business. Maybe you've lost a loved one.

Los Angeles County, not just the largest population of any county in America, it's the most diverse population and we've known since day one from the CDC that communities of color are disproportionately vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic from contracting the virus, the impact physiologically.

And so, it's all those factors now coming home to roost, you know, that's why I think so many people have been hopeful and are glad that this day has arrived. We can now count on responsible national leadership. That's been lacking for the last ten months.

We saw it in President Biden's address. You know, 100 days of mask mandate. We're going to shoot for 100 million vaccines in 100 days. Finally, a real plan.

TAPPER: As you know, there are a lot of concerns that the impeachment trial, which will go to the Senate soon, we're told, will take focus away from what President Biden needs focus to be on in terms of COVID relief, in terms of revitalizing the economy, in terms of getting his cabinet nominees confirmed. Two questions on that. First, do you have any idea -- have you gotten any guidance about when the Senate trial might start?


PADILLA: Still no complete guidance, but I can tell you from every colleague, at least on the Democratic side that I've spoken to, everybody is prepared to do whatever it takes. Both to protect the nation against this coronavirus and to protect our democracy. That's really what the impeachment trial is all about. If it means longer workdays and longer work weeks, then so be it. But we have to be able to do both.

TAPPER: And lastly, senator, are you not at all concerned that the American people desperate for COVID relief, desperate for jobs, desperate for their schools to open, would rather have the U.S. Senate focus, at least in these first 100 days, on them and not on President Trump?

PADILLA: Look, it's what I just said. It's not about either/or. We have to be able to do both. We're prepared to do both. We have to deliver the resources and the relief for struggling families, for state and local governments, for small businesses owners out there when it comes to COVID, and improve upon vaccine production distribution and administration across the board, but at the same time, we have to hold people who undermine our democracy and were behind the insurrection of January 6 accountable. Nobody is above the law.

TAPPER: Congratulations again, Senator, on your new gig. Hope to see you again soon. I appreciate your time today.

PADILLA: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, president Biden's very busy first day on the job. The historic inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris. Plus, the most memorable moments of this unprecedented day. Our special coverage continues right after this quick break.