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Automakers Ask For Bailout; Sarah Palin Vents

Aired November 6, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: one job filled, lots and lots more to go. Barack Obama's White House is taking shape at this very moment. And we're getting new information right now about who is running for some powerful posts that could affect all of our lives.

Plus, a desperate appeal by the nation's top automakers. They want billions and billions of dollars of loans at taxpayers' expense. So, here is the question. Will the Obama administration bring out another bailout?

And Sarah Palin vents. She is not happy at all with the news media. She's not happy with what McCain staffers are saying. There are fresh details about a reported rift between her and some of the top advisers to John McCain, and some ugly, very ugly, allegations now being circulated. The best political team on television is standing by.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But, first, in Chicago right now, Barack Obama is starting to put together his White House team. And he has checked off his chief of staff. That is off of his to-do list right now -- Obama issuing a statement just a short while ago formally announcing that Congressman Rahm Emanuel has accepted the position.

We could learn more about Obama's team in the hours ahead. The president-elect is scheduled to answer reporters' questions tomorrow, the first time since he became president-elect.

Let's go right to CNN's Jessica Yellin. She is covering the transition to power in Chicago.

Jessica, what is happening behind the scenes right now?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama has been in private meetings all day. He is focusing on his first picks for key Cabinet and senior staff positions, on national security and economic matters. His top choice for his -- his top choice was his chief of staff. He announced it right away, Rahm Emanuel, a man who has expertise in the White House, on the Hill and in Wall Street, three areas where Barack Obama needs somebody who has as he describes it knows how to get things done.


YELLIN (voice-over): President-Elect Obama keeping a low profile here, leaving the Chicago offices of the FBI after his first top- secret intelligence briefing. Later in the day, heading into private meetings. But we already know his first move.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: I'm going to go have lunch with my wife. I recommend to all of you to go have lunch yourselves.

YELLIN: That's his new chief of staff, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, known for his brash manner and political savvy.

EMANUEL: My parents are alive to see their middle son have a choice in his career between being a congressman, with one chance -- one opportunity down the road of maybe rising into leadership, and being the chief of staff to a historic presidency at a historic time. I'm very fortunate that my parents are alive to see that, whatever choice I make.

YELLIN: Emanuel was a key strategist in both terms of the Clinton White House. An investment banker and then a Chicago congressman, he helped Democrats retake the House of Representatives in 2006. Democratic legislators owe him.

Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner calls Emanuel ... an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center. But many Democrats applaud the pick.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: It touches all of the critical elements, it seems to me, in beginning that kind of transition you'd like to have. So I think it's a great choice.

YELLIN: The new administration's top priority? Responding to the financial crisis.

Tomorrow, Obama meets with top economic advisers, then holds a press conference. Among the names under consideration for treasury secretary, former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, considered a brilliant economist, but prone to making controversial remarks. And Tim Geithner, head of the New York Fed, also well respected in academic circles and on Wall Street, also a relative Washington outsider.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, in that press conference tomorrow, Obama is expected to be asked about other top appointments to his White House staff. We expect David Axelrod, his longtime senior adviser on the campaign trail, will go to Washington with him in that role.

And Robert Gibbs, a man familiar to most viewers, also expected to become press secretary in the new White House. Barack Obama, though, will be taking many questions tomorrow and we will look forward to being there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we will, of course, have live coverage. Do we know what time that news conference is tomorrow, Jessica?

YELLIN: I believe it is 12:30 Central time, 1:30 Eastern.

BLITZER: We will have live coverage here on CNN. Thank you.

It has been eight long years since Democrats had the power to fill those White House jobs. A lot of people are available. And a lot of names are certainly being tossed around. We heard some of those names in Jessica's report.

Let's bring in Ed Henry. He is also doing some serious reporting on all the possibility. Ed, for example, here is a key question. Who is being considered based on what we know for secretary of state?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, obviously, enormous responsibility for secretary of state, and one name we keep hearing, he is making some calls, he is telling people he is very interested, is Senator John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential nominee, someone who obviously brings enormous credentials, foreign policy to the table, but a potential downside, talkative, sort of like Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, sometimes veers off the talking points.

And that is why you keep hearing the name potentially of someone like Bill Richardson, who got behind Barack Obama in that divisive primary with Hillary Clinton, or go the bipartisan route, Republican Chuck Hagel, someone who has been enormously critical of the Bush foreign policy, could show Barack Obama reaching across the aisle.

And what is interesting about John Kerry is that, if he does not get the secretary of state job, he could get Joe Biden's job in the Senate, Foreign Relations Committee chairman, which Joe Biden is giving up. In line for seniority there is John Kerry -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. What about secretary of defense?

HENRY: Well, that's interesting.

As you heard Jamie McIntyre, our senior Pentagon correspondent, talk about a little while ago, he was saying that Bob Gates' name keeps coming up, that President Bush's defense secretary would stick around.

A lot of Democrats I talked to, very senior ones in Washington, were saying today that makes a lot of sense, that maybe Senator, now president-elect Obama will think about Bob Gates for six months or a year, deal with Iraq and Afghanistan, then turn the reins over to a Democrat, someone like Jack Reed, Democrat from Rhode Island. Keep hearing about him, an Army veteran. And in fact he's the person who traveled with Chuck Hagel and Barack Obama overseas a few months ago during the summer, has enormous defense credentials and someone Barack Obama is very comfortable with, Wolf.

BLITZER: And what about secretary of health and human services?

HENRY: Here's an interesting one, because you hear a couple of big-time Democratic players who are very interested in this job.

First of all, Tom Daschle, former Senate majority leader, has a lot of credentials and a lot of credibility on Capitol Hill. Health care is his signature issue. He's somebody who a lot of people thought would be the White House chief of staff. Rahm Emanuel got it instead, so he's looking for potentially something else.

But Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, expected to give up his post in the next couple of months, his signature issue as governor of Vermont was health care. A lot of Democrats saying that he is sending out word he would interested in health secretary.

And the reason why this is important is not just a lot of jockeying -- 47 million people without health insurance right now. As Barack Obama told you in that interview last week, he plans to make health care a key priority. Having a key player who can actually be effective on Capitol Hill, it could make the difference between Barack Obama's health plan actually passing through the Hill or being dead on arrival, Wolf.

BLITZER: Howard Dean is a medical doctor. Did you point that out?

HENRY: I did not. I'm glad you did, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He is a medical doctor. So, whoever is the secretary of health is certainly going to have an important role in trying to shape health reform if in fact that does take place. And we will watch it very carefully.

We know this is one of the top priorities. Ed Henry working the story.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have to be grateful for small favors.

One of the longest, nastiest, most divisive presidential elections in history is now on the books. The next chapter, moving forward, getting the country back on its feet, no small task, that. Obama supporters, though, are ready. They're fired up, but that is not exactly the case when it comes to many of John McCain's supporters.

Amidst all the jubilation around the world over the election of Barack Obama, it is worth noting that 56 million Americans did not vote for Barack Obama and are not thrilled that he won. In the popular vote, Obama won by less than eight million votes, out of more than 120 million that were cast.

Barack Obama has talked about repairing this divided nation, and in Grant Park on election night, he said that he would be a president for the people that didn't vote for him, as well as for those who did. But with emotions running high this soon after the election, supporters of John McCain are having trouble letting go.

Here is the question: What will Obama have to do to win over wary McCain supporters? Go to You can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Cash-strapped Americans are buying fewer and fewer cars right now, but might automakers in the United States get your money anyway? You are going to find out how they are seeking taxpayer dollars, seeking help from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. What will Barack Obama do about all of this?

And she says/they say. Amid reports of very bitter infighting and backstabbing involving Sarah Palin's supporters and others in the McCain campaign, Sarah Palin is now speaking out to CNN. I think you are going to want to hear what she is telling our Gary Tuchman. He's up in Anchorage.

And President Bush does not want history to repeat itself. He does not want some offensive things done when he first came to the White House done to president-elect Barack Obama.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In only 75 days, the next president will assume the reins of power. So, today, the current president of the United States promised to do all he can to help president-elect Barack Obama.

Let's go right to the White House. Kathleen Koch is standing by. President Bush says this is a top, top priority. What did he do today?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he talked about the transition, offered obviously his full support. But it is important to understand that transition is more than putting the right people in the right jobs. It is a delicate dance. And President Bush today was trying to lead without stepping on toes.


KOCH (voice-over): His entry to the presidency was contentious.


KOCH: Now George Bush is laying the groundwork for a graceful exit.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And ensuring that this transition is as smooth as possible is a priority for the rest of my presidency.

KOCH: After a pep talk to 1,000 executive office employees, the White House announced the president would be meeting with Barack Obama Monday. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson today became the latest Cabinet member to pledge to ensure a smooth and effective transition. Press Secretary Dana Perino says there will be a two-way exchange of ideas.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are certainly going to be mindful of the need to have their input on a lot of different issues as we move forward. We have a lot of responsibility right now.

KOCH: Historians point to the handoff from Herbert Hoover to Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression as an example of how a rocky transition can impact the nation. The two men couldn't see eye to eye, and faint signs of economic recovery faded. The Depression deepened. Few expect a repeat of that in this transition.

STEPHEN HESS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: These two people understand their roles, understand the importance of cooperation, understand what help one can give the other, but I think also, clearly, because both have said it, understand who has the power when.

KOCH: President Bush knows about divisive transitions. Clinton staffers were so angry about the election results, some pried W's from computer keyboards and engaged in pranks and minor vandalism.

Mr. Bush urged his White House employees to conduct themselves with decency and professionalism in the final months.

BUSH: I will be honored to stand with you at the finish line. May God bless you.



KOCH: A very touching moment there on the South Lawn between President Bush and his staff. As to the much-awaited Bush-Obama meeting, that will be here at the White House Monday afternoon. At the same time, first lady Laura Bush will be welcoming Michelle Obama to the residence.

Now, the children, though, won't be in attendance, but Dana Perino says the president and the first lady are looking forward to meeting them soon.

BLITZER: The United States about to get a whole new first family. We will be watching it every step of the way.

KOCH: It will be exciting.

BLITZER: Thank you, Kathleen.

Congressional Republicans are making a transition of their own right now. They are trying to figure out how to stay relevant with their numbers in both houses of Congress reduced and with a Democrat in charge of the White House.

In the midst of all the turmoil, a top House Republican is now giving up his leadership post.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's working the story. Brian, a lot of hand-wringing, second-guessing among Republicans right now. They are so bitterly disappointed in their setbacks.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. This is a new sign of disarray in the Republican Party today, the second shakeup in as many days.


TODD (voice-over): The Election Day defeat for Republicans claims another top leader. The GOP's number two in the House will step aside.

Roy Blunt joins their number three, Adam Putnam, in giving up a leadership post after the Republicans' defeat in the polls. Two consecutive Republicans have the support of Minority Leader John Boehner to take over.

How will the new GOP minority deal with the new Democratic president? Conservatives say Republicans need to stand firm -- less spending, less government and lower taxes. But one former congressional aide offers them this advice...

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Think of what Barack Obama is saying, and find ways you can find agreement with him. And then find ways that you can -- with your principles, you can principally oppose him. But don't just knee-jerk oppose him right off the top.

TODD: And top Republicans says the burden is on President-Elect Obama to keep his agenda moderate if he wants any GOP help. MIKE DUNCAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: To turn change we can believe in into change we can actually see, he'll need Republicans' help fighting back the rigid, liberal orthodoxy of his congressional leadership.

TODD: And if the Democrats overreach when they take the reins in January --

SUSAN MOLINARI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's not just good enough to take advantage of Democrat mistakes. You have to make sure that the Republicans show that they have the right approach to the solutions.


TODD: Now, in the meantime, we are told by Republican insiders they believe there are at least two advantages to being in the minority. At least, when things go badly, they won't be to blame. And the Democrats are going to be providing them with a target-rich environment here in Washington -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

For the second straight day, stocks suffer on Wall Street today. The Dow shed about 443 points. Since Election Day, the Dow lost 929 points. One industry especially hit hard by the credit crisis is the auto industry. It is bleeding cash right now, desperately searching for help.

Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is joining us. Allan, the heads of the top U.S. automakers had a special audience today. What happened?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf, one important meeting with House Speaker Pelosi and another meeting taking place right now with the Senate leader, Harry Reid, this all because the big three are facing very big trouble.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Auto executives are laying out to Congress the dire situation they confront and their desperate need for billions of dollars in loans from Uncle Sam. House Speaker Pelosi was sympathetic in describing the agenda of this afternoon's meeting.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: On how we can work together to go forward to ensure the viability of that important industry.

CHERNOFF: Its viability is in question. The industry is burning through cash, as auto sales have stalled. General Motors and Ford Friday are forecast to report combined losses of several billion dollars, on top of billions already lost this year.

REBECCA LINDLAND, AUTO ANALYST, GLOBAL INSIGHT: Realistically, they are in danger of bankruptcy. We are looking at some of the lowest levels of sales that we have seen in decades.

CHERNOFF: Auto sales have crashed with consumer confidence. And some willing to buy a car can't get financing. The California New Car Dealers Association is accusing GMAC Financial Services of abandoning GM dealers and California consumers.

Washington has already approved $25 billion to help automakers, but the money is to help them meet new fuel economy standards, not to support them through the economic slump.

Democrats seem inclined to support the automakers. Barack Obama, while campaigning for president, said Washington must help Detroit, but automakers are looking for help before Obama becomes president.

And outgoing House Republican Whip Roy Blunt said Thursday, "Our members will be very hesitant to move forward on anything that is not well thought out."


CHERNOFF: The automakers say their health affects more than just Detroit. Indeed, they argue that millions of jobs are at stake across the nation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Allan, thank you.

Senator Joe Lieberman, as a lot of our viewers know, simply infuriated so many Democrats with his speech at the Republican National Convention. So, will he pay a heavy political price now that his former party has control of both Congress and the White House? We are taking a closer look.

Plus, Governor Sarah Palin says someone really disappointed her during the campaign, but it is not John McCain.


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: We have a great relationship. I have nothing but admiration for him. I love him.



BLITZER: Some McCain staffers are making very serious allegations against Governor Sarah Palin, and she is now responding. We are going to hear what she is saying. There is a lot of bitterness out there right now. Stand by. We will get her reaction.


BLITZER: Sarah Palin, she has a bone to pick.


PALIN: Too many of media folks decided not to correct something on the record, when they could have easily done it. That left me with a little bit of disappointment in the whole vocation here.


BLITZER: The former vice presidential candidate is not happy with the news media, but are reports of the feud with some inside the McCain camp true? Dana Bash is working the story. Gary Tuchman is in Alaska. Stay with us for that.

And the last time that Democrats had jobs to fill over at the White House, mistakes were made. Can Barack Obama avoid the pitfalls experienced by Bill Clinton?

And the benefits of having Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff -- what he learned from the Clinton era, for better and for worse.

Stay with us -- lots of news happening right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Sarah Palin returns to Alaska, and she is speaking out about some of the ugly rumors circulating about her and a vicious rift supposedly within the McCain campaign. We are going to hear what she is saying.

Also, lessons from the past -- what president-elect Barack Obama can learn from the missteps of the Clinton administration, mistakes his new White House chief of staff saw firsthand.

And Joe Lieberman, the Democrats' former vice presidential nominee, went independent and backed John McCain. Now he is an outsider. So, what is his future with the Democratic Party? All of this, plus the best political team on television.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There are wild claims of bitter infighting in the last days of the McCain campaign, and much of it centers on Governor Sarah Palin.

Let's go straight to CNN's Dana Bash. Dana, we are hearing Governor Palin wanted to give a speech after Tuesday's loss. Didn't exactly happen. We are hearing a lot worse than that. What is the latest?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it has just gotten even more bitter and even more public, the things that we had been talking about and reporting on for the past month or so. Now that the campaign is over, aides -- anonymously, but still more frequently -- feel free to talk about some of the things that went on.

And you mentioned the speech. Well, obviously, on Tuesday night, we saw John McCain come out and give a concession speech, not Sarah Palin. But, in fact, I spoke with somebody who is close to Sarah Palin, who said that they actually did write two speeches for her, one if they won and one if they lost, that they planned for her to come out and introduce John McCain, talk about John McCain, talk about Barack Obama, and that, when they arrived at the suite with John McCain, they were -- she was told, specifically by one of John McCain's senior aides, Steve Schmidt, no, that is not going the happen. You are not going to speak.

I have gotten some conflicting reports about why that is, but, for the most part, she apparently did seem to want to speak, and they thought that that was not the appropriate thing for her to do, for various reasons, Wolf.

BLITZER: And some McCain aides, as you know Dana, they are leaking all sorts of wild allegations about her, really ugly things, that she didn't know, for example, supposedly, that Africa is a continent.

BASH: That's right.

BLITZER: She thought it was a country, that South Africa was part of that country of Africa. She didn't know, supposedly, who the members of the NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, are. What is the latest on that, because those are pretty sinister, pretty ugly allegations against her? BASH: And things that I am hearing as well, Wolf, from some advisers inside of the McCain campaign -- specifically, I did hear the idea that Sarah Palin didn't know that Africa was a continent and didn't know where it was on a map. That is something that I was told by somebody who should be in a position to know that -- in fact, allegedly involved in that situation.

But I can tell you, I spoke to someone close to Sarah Palin who said that they thought that that was a miscommunication and that the conversation didn't go, maybe, as it is being reported. And this person who is close to Palin says that she's somebody who is very smart and has a photographic memory.

On the other hand, again, hearing some people who are not as close to Sarah Palin saying that they were actually dismayed about the fact that she didn't seem to be knowledgeable about some of the big policy debates -- you mentioned one of them, NAFTA -- about some of the big policy debates that have been going on for the past decade in this country. So...

BLITZER: And they're supposedly also saying she refused to be prepared for that interview -- that famous interview with Katie Couric.

BASH: Right.

BLITZER: What about this other issue, Dana, that Governor Palin is -- you know, was a part of that hoax by this radio station, that she was supposedly speaking with the leader of France, President Sarkozy? It speaks of what's going on with this back stabbing and this bitterness.

BASH: Right. Well, obviously, not only was that an embarrassing for Sarah Palin and for the campaign, to be pranked like that, but the other thing that went on behind-the-scenes is some people at headquarters -- McCain headquarters -- were upset about that, because they didn't know, they say, that -- this is what -- this is what I am told -- that they didn't know that this was even on the schedule.

And the -- what this is sort of playing into is the idea that some people were very upset, that they thought that Governor Palin and some people who are close to her were thinking more about preparing her for the 2012 run, or any other future run, and not so much for this particular election -- not so much for John McCain -- and that that was what that was all about. That's why somebody set up a call with the leader of France.

Now I can tell you, again, from the other point of view, to be fair, I spoke to somebody who was involved in that who said the reality is that this call -- even though it was faked -- this call was on her schedule for three days and if somebody at headquarters didn't know it, they weren't looking at her schedule -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much.

I want to read a statement that Meg Stapleton, a top aide to Sarah Palin, just sent me a little while ago. She e-mailed me this: "This is so unfortunate and, quite honestly, sickening. The accusations we are hearing and reading are not true. And since we deny all these anonymous allegations, there is nothing specific to which we will respond. We have the highest regards for Senator John McCain. Governor Palin was honored to be chosen as McCain's running mate. And as governor of Alaska, Governor Palin looks forward to working with President-Elect Obama on securing energy independence for America."

Let's go to Gary Tuchman. He's up in Alaska right now and had a chance to ask her some more questions. What's going on up there -- Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we talked to Sarah Palin last night. She tell us these types of complaints are false allegations. Last night, she rode on the McCain-Palin campaign plane for the last time, landing at the Anchorage International Airport. About 150 supporters were on the ground on the frozen tarmac waiting for her and her husband and her family. She came off, she greet them.

And then she talked to members of the news media. And we asked about these complaints against her, against members of her staff. And she said they're unnamed sources and that says it all. That's a quote. She also says the people who said -- these unnamed sources -- are small, bitter people.

I then asked her directly, what is her relationship with John McCain?


TUCHMAN: Would it have been helpful for you and Senator McCain to have had more face time with each other before he selected you?

PALIN: I think that American voters have spoken regarding who it is that they want to lead, regardless of how much time face time Senator McCain and I had together. We have a great relationship. I have nothing but admiration for him. I love him.

TUCHMAN: Would it have been easier, though, for your relationship if you knew each other better?

PALIN: We've got a great relationship and -- and I talked to him on the phone on the airplane when we were in Seattle. And we have nothing but good things to say about each other. And it's not just political, it's sincere admiration that I have for him and I honor him.


TUCHMAN: Despite the fact that it was even unseasonably cold for Alaska last night, she shook the hand and hugged everyone who wanted to talk with her and hug her and shake her hand. The thing she heard the most from the people who were out on the tarmac was we want you to run in 2012. She said she hasn't made any decisions about that whatsoever. She was very positive throughout much of the day. And with the fact of the campaign being over, you would think a lot of people would be very nostalgic and reminiscing and maybe a little sad. She didn't seem that way.

The only thing she wasn't positive about was about us.


PALIN: I have come away, unfortunately, with a little bit of disappointment in the world of the media. And don't anybody take it personally, please. You guys thick skin, too. Please. Build your skin thick.

TUCHMAN: We don't.

PALIN: Yes. Hmmm, sorry. Because, you know, so many things that were reported that could have easily been corrected in terms of what my record is and what we do up here in Alaska and how our government works, too many of the media folks decided not to correct something on the record when they could have easily done it. That left me with a little bit of disappointment in the whole vocation here.


TUCHMAN: Well, sorry she feels that way about our vocation, but she isn't the first politician who's said that and she isn't the last.

And I will tell you, Wolf, with that kind of comments and other comments she made last night, we would have liked to have followed up repeatedly. But this wasn't the kind of event where we could do a lot of follow-up questions. It was her return to Alaska. But you could tell right now that she in no way, shape or form is saying that these complaints against her are true.

BLITZER: Gary, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, here's a note. You can see more of Gary's report tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic vice presidential nominee back in 2000, was backing John McCain and making digs at Barack Obama this year.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: Eloquence is no substitute for a record -- not in these tough times for America.


BLITZER: So what's going on right now? Now that Senator Obama is President-Elect Obama, is Lieberman changing his tone?


LIEBERMAN: The election is over and I completely agree with President-Elect Obama that we must now unite to get our economy going again and to keep the American people safe.


BLITZER: So what's Lieberman's future with the Democrats? The best political team on television standing by to weigh in on that and a lot more.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The president of Iraq is now speaking out about President-Elect Barack Obama and his plans for withdrawal. I want you to listen to what Jalal Talabani has just told us exclusively.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are hoping that Barack Obama will be a little bit flexible, take some advice and not stick to that 16-month deadline.

PRES. JALAL TALABANI, IRAQ: Let me speak very frankly with you. I don't think that -- I'm sure that President Obama, as a young man, as an intellectual man, will be flexible. Here's -- even with those who are considered enemies of America, he thinks that there will be another way to talk to them. What about a friend like -- a friend country like Iraq? So I am sure that he will be flexible and he will listen to us, also.


BLITZER: All right, let's talk about that -- that interview that Phil Black, our reporter in Baghdad, had with Jalal Talabani.

Joining us, our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our CNN political contributor, Tara Wall -- she's deputy editorial page editor of "The Washington Times;" and our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. They are all part of the best political team on television -- Gloria, what do you think?

Sixteen months -- we've been hearing that a long time from Barack Obama, the amount of time he says the U.S. needs to withdraw its combat forces from Iraq. But Jalal Talabani is hoping that this young man, in his words, will be flexible.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think Mr. Talabani may have stuck his foot in his mouth in this interview. I don't think it's not wise politically, diplomatically to tell the president-elect that he should be flexible on a promise he's made for the last two years to the people who voted for him. And I think that the way he said it was sort of a little condescending, in a sense -- he's young man, he'll be flexible, he'll change his mind. Not so wise.

BLITZER: Yes, not so diplomatic.

BORGER: Right. BLITZER: Candy, what do you think?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, first of all, that there always was in Obama's rhetoric about Iraq this little tiny wiggle room -- not that he doesn't want to get out, because he does, but saying of course I'm going to listen to the commanders on the ground.

So, obviously, he will. But I think that the broader picture here is people are still trying to figure out what sort of president that Obama is going to be. Everyone has sort of looked at him and seen, in some ways, what they wanted to see. And I think that is true nationally as it is internationally. And I think you're seeing a reflection of that. And, also, you're seeing a reflection of what international leaders like to do, which is kind of push out and put something out there in the public and try to influence the next incoming president.

BLITZER: The entire world, Tara, wants to know what kind of President Barack Obama is going to be. And as we heard from intelligence officials, including the head of U.S. intelligence, there's going to be probing, there's going to be testing. Even President Bush today suggested the U.S. during this transition period, has to be alert.

TARA WALL, "WASHINGTON TIMES," CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. And I think that's why the Bush administration has really focused in its efforts in this transition process to, you know, give him briefings that have a lot to do with homeland security and security issues. Those are the most pressing issues on the table right now. So I think they want to make sure he's up to speed and understands all the threats that are out there and everything that he needs to understand coming in.

And it was Joe Biden himself who said that, you know, this man is going to be tested internationally with a crises. And so I think, you know, there are going to be questions about -- there's going to be enough time to talk about timelines and all of those things. And cooler heads will prevail. But we will see, in the weeks and months to come, how he's going to respond to these issues. He looks like he's off to a good start, though, in immediately starting to name some of the staff.

BLITZER: Yes. I think that's important, not wasting any time.

Gloria, Joe Lieberman, will he remain part of the Democratic Caucus in this expanded Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate or will he leave on his own, go become a Republican, in effect, or will he be kicked out by the Democrats?

BORGER: Well, those are the big questions. And, as you know, Wolf, he -- you know, he met with the Democratic leader, Harry Reid, today. My Democratic sources are telling me that there's a real sense that Joe Lieberman is not going to remain chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. That's for sure. But I think that they have to decide, for example, what other committee assignments does he get? Does he meet with the Democratic Caucus? You know, they're all pretty angry at him because of his speech at the Republican Convention, in which he took the Republican line against Senator Barack Obama and was quite tough on him.

So I think they're -- they're trying to find a way to get this done where it looks like it's kind of mutual. But it's sort of clear he's not going to remain chairman of that committee.

BLITZER: All right. But, Candy, what do you think?

Will he continue to caucus, as they say, with the Democrats?

CROWLEY: Well, I think that they would let him caucus with them because the more votes the merrier. I think the essential truth here is that the Democrats no longer need Joe Lieberman, that, in fact, before they had less of a majority and his vote was important to them.

At this point, as they rack up higher numbers in the Senate -- we're not really quite sure what that number is going to be when it's all over -- they look at Joe Lieberman as someone that is expendable, frankly, at this point, as far as his vote is concerned. I don't think that means that he won't caucus with them, because I think, in general, that's up to him.

BLITZER: Tara, very quickly, Rahm Emanuel -- the naming of him to become the White House chief of staff under President-Elect Barack Obama, what does that say to you?

WALL: Well, you know, I think the jury is still out. I think, you know, obviously, many would say he is a hyper-partisan, if you will, and that in this spirit of bipartisanship that Barack Obama has talked about, this is one indication of what some would see -- many conservatives would see as clear partisanship in naming a chief of staff who is, by many accounts, someone who is pretty tough to work with when it comes to crossing party lines and broadening those relations.

So, you know, look, I think it's yet to be seen as he fleshes out the rest of his staff appointments and his cabinet. But so far, it looks like he's sticking -- you know, that the whole theme about, you know, is he going to play nice and share his marbles or keep all those marbles within the Democratic control?

BLITZER: All right --

WALL: And so we'll see. So far, he's kept the first marble. We'll see what he does with the rest.

BLITZER: Well, he's already reaching out to the Republicans in a statement that he put out today. I'll read a line for you. He said: "I want to say a special word about my Republican colleagues, who serve with dignity, decency and a deep sense of patriotism. We often disagree, but I respect their motives." That statement from Rahm Emanuel a little while ago. WALL: Good to hear it.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much. We'll continue this conversation.

He's President Bush's beloved canine companion and it turns out Barney is not just all bark. Stand by.

Plus, the hour's question -- what will Barack Obama have to do to win over weary McCain supporters?

Jack Cafferty with your e-mail and a lot more coming up right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're just getting word coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now that President-Elect Barack Obama has now spoken on this day with nine world leaders by telephone. Stand by. We'll tell you who they are.

Meantime, let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: He's not wasting any time, is he?


CAFFERTY: The question this hour: What will President-Elect Obama have to do to win over wary McCain supporters?

Beevee in Michigan: "He needs to work closely with McCain or appoint McCain to some important position in his administration to assure McCain's supporters that all is forgotten and that he's ready to be president of the United States, not just Democrats."

Ryan says: "I think a bipartisan cabinet would help make the McCain supporters who are moderate Republicans believe in Obama. The ones who are on the extreme right will probably never be able to support Obama, which is a shame. As a McCain supporter, I fully support Obama and hope he does well for the country and its citizens."

C.J. in Atlanta, Georgia: "McCain's supporters need to stop condemning our country's future before giving Obama a chance. They'll be pleasantly surprised when the sun continues to rise and America prospers again."

Sean writes: "Use the term, 'my friends.'"

Sheba in Delaware: "I'm not concerned about Obama trying to win over anybody. I want him to do his best to clean up the mess left by the past administration. He doesn't need a fan club, he just needs to be able to do his job to the best of his ability."

John in Arizona: "If he wants to win over McCain Republicans, he can ban gay marriage, appoint a far right Supreme Court justice and nominate Secretary of State Sarah Palin. I'm not recommending any of the above, you understand."

And Michael in Pensacola, Florida: "Say 9/11 and bomb Iran every few sentences. And as for the Palin supporters, walk around without shoes and say real Americans."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours there, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker," Jack, there's no doubt that Barack Obama has won the White House, but there's still some question about the outcome in two crucial states -- Missouri and North Carolina. The official vote count continuing in those states. CNN has not projected a winner in either of those states.

At last count, Obama was a percentage point ahead of John McCain in North Carolina. McCain was a point ahead in Missouri. Look at how close it is in those two states.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he get you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He totally got me.



BLITZER: You don't want to get on Barney the White House dog's bad side. Look what happened when a Reuters TV correspondent got a little bit too close to the president's canine companion. Now he's getting treatment from the White House doctor, including a lot of bandages for his nipped little finger and some antibiotics at the same time. Who knew Barney was tough like that?

And remember, for the latest political news any time, you can always check out The Ticker is now the number one political news blog on the Web. Stay with us for that.

Also, media queen Oprah Winfrey -- she wept openly during Barack Obama's victory speech Tuesday.


OBAMA: When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land --


BLITZER: But whose shoulder was she crying on? CNN's Jeanne Moos revealing the mystery man who became Oprah Winfrey's human hanky. That and the names of the leaders with whom Barack Obama spoke with today on the phone, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: If you saw President-Elect Barack Obama's victory speech Tuesday night, you no doubt caught the shots of Oprah Winfrey weeping as she watched him.

But here's the question -- who was that man Oprah Winfrey was crying on?

CNN's Jeanne Moos found out in her "Moost Unusual" way.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No one present at the Obama victory speech is likely to forget it, but the guy Oprah Winfrey was leaning on really won't forget it.

(on camera): You know when you're on the plane or a train or somewhere and some stranger falls asleep on your shoulder?

Well, that's kind of what happened to the mystery man. He became Oprah's hanky.

OBAMA: When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, you saw a nation conquer fear itself with --

MOOS: Now lots of TV personalities cried over Obama's victory.


SHERRI SHEPHERD, CO-HOST "THE VIEW": I can look at my sons and say no limitations.


MOOS: From Sherri Shepherd on "The View" to political pundits.


JUAN WILLIAMS, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: This is, you know, I don't care how you feel about him politically.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mother's people. Oh, jeez.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take your time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: Even funny man Stephen Colbert seemed to wipe away a tear or two.

But Oprah really let go -- on a stranger.


OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I don't know who this guy is --


WINFREY: You know, friends were calling me around the country saying, who was -- who was with you?

I go, I don't know him.


MOOS: Neither does Jesse Jackson, but at least Jesse cried from a distance. Not Oprah.


WINFREY: At one point, I was just sobbing on his shoulder -- mascara everywhere. Anyway, thank you, Mr. Man, for letting me cry on your shoulder.


MOOS: So naturally, everybody started asking who Oprah was leaning on?

One person posted: "I'd send that phony" -- meaning Oprah -- "a bill for my dry cleaning." Others called it touching. And then we spied these five words -- "his name is Sam Perry." End of mystery.

Sam Perry is an investor and was communications director at Silicon Valley for Obama, though he wouldn't communicate with us when we left messages. He's donated thousands of dollars to Obama and other Democrats. No wonder he got primo position, along with Oprah.


JON STEWART, HOST "THE DAILY SHOW: Who had actually purchased this white man to lean on during the speech.



MOOS: For at least one night, Sam the hanky belonged to Oprah.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And the Obama transition team has just released the names of the nine world leaders with whom Barack Obama spoke on the phone today, thanking them for their congratulatory calls. They also released this still photo of President-Elect Obama speaking to these leaders. He spoke and returned calls to the leaders of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the United Kingdom -- Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom. Barack Obama calling them back, thanking them for their good wishes, as he gets ready to become the 44th president of the United States.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.