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Obama in the Oval Office; Obama's First Order and Plans for GITMO; President Bush's New Disapproval Rate

Aired November 10, 2008 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, inside the Oval Office behind closed doors -- the Obamas get a White House welcome, but the president and president- elect get right down to business, planning a historic handover of power during this time of crisis. Barack Obama could act quickly to put his own stamp on the White House by reversing some of President Bush's orders. But is there a down side? Stand by.

And he's vowed to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, but what would Barack Obama do with the terror suspects who have been held there for years?

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

An historic meeting at the White House, followed by a select -- shall we say, a private meeting -- over at the airport. Barack Obama said on election night that change has come to America. Now some stunning images today reinforcing that, as the Obamas got a traditional White House welcome from the Bushes.

And when the president-elect stepped into the Oval Office for the very first time in his life, it was for a closed door meeting with the president of the United States and a firsthand look at the very difficult job ahead.

Here's our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the pictures here today at the White House were remarkable.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Thank you so much for having me.

QUIJANO (voice-over): For all the symbolism and history surrounding an African-American president-elect, the public pictures of George Bush and Barack Obama were fleeting -- with no on-camera statements from either of them. On the South Lawn, quick pleasantries before the traditional colonnade walk, ahead of their hour plus long Oval Office meeting.

OBAMA: Eight years of failed economic policies promoted by George Bush... QUIJANO: For whatever partisan rancor existed on the campaign trail...

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's always amazed me how President Bush is able to let heated rhetoric like that slide off his back and move forward.

QUIJANO: The two are members of an exclusive club, as current and future American presidents. With the ongoing financial crisis, two wars and national security all pressing issues, the coming weeks will mean a delicate dance between the outgoing Republican president and his incoming Democratic successor.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think you're going to see an unusual degree of good spirit between George W. Bush and President-Elect Obama. This is very serious stuff. And I think you'll see Bush and Obama working well together in the next few weeks.

QUIJANO: This time, though, the Oval Office meeting took place away from the cameras -- unlike President Bush's own experience with President Clinton in 2000.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's such a huge honor to come as the president-elect.

QUIJANO: An experience that included reporters' questions and unsolicited input.

BUSH: And I can't thank the president enough for his hospitality. He didn't need to do this.

QUESTION: Yes, he did.



BUSH: I hadn't quite finished yet.


QUIJANO: That interruption may explain why there was no interaction with reporters here at the White House. An Obama aide would only say they want to let the pictures speak for themselves -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Elaine Quijano is over at the White House.

We just got a still photo in from the White House of Barack Obama and George W. Bush inside the Oval Office. We're going to show that you picture. There it is right there -- the two men seated. Their discussion just by themselves -- no aides present. We're told it went on for about an hour inside the Oval Office. And as we've been pointing out, this was the first time that Barack Obama has been in the Oval Office, but starting January 20th, he'll be spending a great deal of time right in that office not only meeting with his staff, but also receiving leaders from around the United States and, indeed, from around the world.

There it is -- the picture of President Bush and President-Elect Obama in the Oval Office today.

We're also getting some information about the president-elect. He's right now the aboard an American Airlines charter plane over at Reagan National Airport. There you see live pictures we're bringing in to you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

He was heard by reporters -- he's up in the front of the cabin speaking on a cell phone.

I'm going to read some of the quotes we're getting from a pool report that's just come in THE SITUATION ROOM from reporters aboard this American Airlines airliner.

Obama on the phone -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I'm not -- I am not going to be spending too much time in Washington over the next several weeks."

That, by the way, is traditional. The president-elect usually stays where he is and comes to Washington periodically for meetings, as was the case today. He doesn't really come until January 20th, when he's sworn in.

At another point in the conversation he was heard saying this, "I don't want us to go lurching so far in one direction." Don't know what he is referring to.

And at another point, he said -- and let me quote -- he said, "If we come up with some good, sensible options." We don't know what he was referring to there, as well. He was also saying, at another point, "Well, I am doing well."

All right. So those are some of the quotes we heard from -- from the -- there's another -- those are some of the quotes we heard from the president-elect aboard the plane.

And we're just getting an on the record written statement from the White House, from President George W. Bush. Let me read the statement to you. "The president and the president-elect had a long meeting, described by the president as good, constructive, relaxed and friendly. They spoke about both domestic and international issues, though, since it was a private meeting, the White House will decline to comment on specifics.

The president also showed President-Elect Obama the living quarters, including the office the president uses, the Lincoln Bedroom and the rooms for the Obamas two young daughters.

The president enjoyed his visit with the president-elect and he then pledged a smooth transition for the next administration."

All right. That's what we know about what happened. But I suspect we're going to be getting a whole lot more information, a lot more details, in the next moments and hours to come.

Barack Obama's first actions as president of the United States may involve rolling back some of President Bush's orders. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's been looking into the story -- Brian, what have you learned?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, publicly, the Obama team is saying they're reviewing some of President Bush's orders and they're going to be consulting with people from both sides of the aisle before acting on any of them. But at the same time, we're getting strong hints that some of Mr. Bush's most controversial orders could be on the chopping block.


TODD (voice-over): The very image of a smooth transition. But behind the scenes, indications are that President-Elect Obama will waste little time in trying to set a very different course from his predecessor.

JOHN PODESTA, OBAMA TRANSITION TEAM: Senator Obama said that he wanted all the Bush executive orders reviewed and decide which ones should be kept and which ones should be repealed and which ones should be amended. And that process is going on.

TODD: A possible reversal of President Bush's limit on government funding of stem cell research may be just the start. A so- called gag rule, reinstated by Mr. Bush, barring family planning groups that get U.S. government money from counseling on abortion may also be lifted.

The expansion of oil and gas drilling may be reversed.

Formally, the Obama transition team says before he makes decisions on Bush's executive actions, he will be conferring with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, as well as interested groups. But experts say presidents who take office with a mandate for change often use executive orders to make an early mark.

MARTHA KUMAR, TOWSON UNIVERSITY: What a president is doing is sending the signals of his intentions, because it takes awhile once they come in to come up with their proposals for legislation.

TODD: Executive orders are legally binding orders given by the president to government agencies on how to carry out already established laws or policies, or how to spend the government's money. They don't have to be approved by Congress and there are few restrictions on them. But historian Douglas Brinkley says many incoming presidents don't tamper with their predecessor's executive orders because...

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN: If you're going to challenge one, there's a political consequence to it. It's a highly partisan move, because the next time it's you. It will be your executive orders being undermined.


TODD: And, of course, all of these orders go in the historical record. So we'll be able to compare Barack Obama's executive orders to those of his predecessors.

Taking a look back, President Bush, up to now, has issued 262 executive orders. Bill Clinton right before him, 364. The fewest by any president, Mr. Bush's father, who took office after a popular president who he served under -- just 166 executive orders. The most ever -- 3,728, by none other than Franklin D. Roosevelt, who came into office with possibly the biggest mandate for change, of course, Wolf, during the Great Depression. So he issued quite a few of them.

BLITZER: And remind our viewers, Brian, who started this sort of modern trend in the White House of issuing these executive orders?

TODD: Very interesting. We're told by Doug Brinkley that it was none other than Teddy Roosevelt, who came in and started this had modern trend. He said that basically he thought of the White House as a bully pulpit. And one of the things that -- when he found out when he came into office was that there were pelicans being slaughtered off of an island off Florida. He was a great naturalist. They were being you had to make women's hats and things like that.

Roosevelt simply thought that was a bad idea, said an executive order, we're going to stop this. It became the basis for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. So they can have some historical muscle.

BLITZER: To paraphrase Mel Brooks, it's good to be president.

TODD: That's right. It's good to be the king.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Brian, thanks very much.

It's also good to be Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: I don't know about that. Some days are better than others.

It was a sort of a Flintstones meets the Jetsons moment. President Bush and his wife Laura welcomed President-Elect Obama and his wife Michelle to the White House today, as you've heard if you've been watching this program.

While Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Obama went on a tour of the residence, the current president and the president-elect got down to business in a meeting in the Oval Office. It wasn't Obama's first trip to the White House. You remember that emergency summit in September to address the financial crisis. But it was his first time in the Oval Office. Despite the fact that he had endorsed John McCain, President Bush has called Barack Obama's victory a "triumph of the American story." It was certainly all that.

And Mr. Bush has vowed to cooperate in making the transition from one president to another one smooth smoothly. Wouldn't have you loved to have been a fly on the wall in the Oval Office during that meeting today?

Anyway, here's the question: How can President Bush be most helpful to President-Elect Obama in making this transition?

Go to and you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

And as President-Elect Obama continues this transition to power, there's devastating news that's been delivered to almost 10,000 Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're taking away everything from me, my family, my friends, this whole town.


BLITZER: A major employer announces its shutting down a key U.S. operation. We're going to go to the town that has been hit unbelievably hard.

And Barack Obama's plan for the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba -- what will happen to the hundreds of terror suspects who have been held there for years?

Plus, school age children living in the White House -- for the first time in almost a decade, there are big changes in store for those adorable little Barack Obama girls.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: All right. You just saw the -- and heard the statement from the White House on this very productive meeting that the president of the United States and the president-elect of the United States have had over in the Oval Office today. They were walking inside. We heard that statement.

Now, the White House -- excuse me. Now Barack Obama's transition team has issued a statement, as well, this from the spokesperson, Stephanie Cutter. Let me read it. "President-Elect Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama were very warmly welcomed today at the White House by President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

Upon arrived, President-Elect Obama and President Bush proceeded to the Oval Office, where they had a productive and friendly meeting that lasted for over an hour. They had a broad discussion about the importance of working together throughout the transition of government, in light of the nation's many critical economic and security challenges.

President-Elect Obama thanked President Bush for his commitment to a smooth transition and for his and First Lady Laura Bush's gracious hospitality in welcoming the Obamas to the White House."

Then the statement from Stephanie Cutter, the spokesperson for the Obama-Biden transition team, goes on to say this. "After a brief private meeting, the first lady led Mrs. Obama on a tour of the White House that focused primarily on the private residence of the historic home. After this tour, the first lady and Mrs. Obama visited in the West Sitting Hall, where they discussed raising daughters in the White House, as Jenna and Barbara Bush were similar in age to Malia and Sasha Obama when they visited their grandfather, President George H.W. Bush, during his presidency.

Mrs. Obama was honored to finally meet the first lady, who was a gracious hostess." And then the statement goes on to say, "Mrs. Obama also met with the White House chief usher." All right. Lovely statements coming in from the Obama team, as well as from the White House, on what happened today.

But let's discuss all of this right now with Dina Powell. She's our guest. She was former assistant to the president, President Bush, and played a key role in the last transition. First of all, Dina, how does it look like it's going from your perspective? You're an outsider looking in right now, but you can read between the lines.

DINA POWELL, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Um-hmm. Well, I think it looks like it's going as well as it possibly can be. I heard from some former colleagues in the White House that they did have a very long meeting and that President Bush then also gave President- Elect Obama tour of some of the living quarters, the office that he uses and gave him a great deal of thoughts on what the pressing issues will be.

And I heard Donna Brazile on an earlier segment talk how important it is that this transition be seen as a very positive and smooth one. And I think President Bush is trying to do that.

BLITZER: All right, what about President-Elect Obama? He doesn't want to step on this president. He keeps telling everyone there is only one president of the United States at a time.

POWELL: Well, that's true. And I think that shows a tremendous amount of graciousness on his part. But he's got to get to work. And he's got to find a team of people throughout the administration. That's why the 9/11 Commission had ensured that the White House would begin working with both Senator McCain and President-Elect Obama's team, so that they could hit the ground running.

You know, Wolf, there's 5,000 political appointments that every president has to make throughout the government. Eight hundred of those require Senate confirmation. So many people often focus on secretary of the Treasury, secretary of State, but you've got some very important layers beneath those, throughout the government, that have huge responsibilities.

BLITZER: And I think the Obama team certainly appreciates it. We heard John Podesta, who's in charge of this transition, saying that they started planning on it -- they didn't know if he was going to win, they were hoping he would win -- as early as August, maybe even earlier, trying to get ready for what has been -- what is an historic moment right now.

What are the most important things he's got to do? How quickly does President-Elect Obama need to get that team in place? Because it's not an easy chore, as you know.

POWELL: No, it's not. It's a really daunting task. And, of course, he's got to move quickly, because there are so many challenging issues facing our country. But he's got to be deliberate, as he said.

You know, I think this is the first real test of leadership for any president-elect. The people that he selects in these next weeks and months will have an unbelievable impact on his entire presidency. And they say people are policy for a reason. And I think what they're going to do now is try to sort through the thousands and thousands -- tens of thousands of resumes that will come their way. There will be no shortage of recommendations from people all around the country.

And I do think they'll benefit from these challenging times. The American people often raise their hands when our country is facing the most difficult challenges and say they want to serve.

BLITZER: I've heard several people say to me over the last few days, since the election, you know what, the decisions he makes between now and January 20th, when he's sworn in on the steps of the Capitol, these are decisions, especially the naming of key personnel, that will make or break, potentially, his presidency. Is that a fair or exaggerated statement?

POWELL: Well, I think that it is obviously critical that he focus on these personnel decisions, because these portfolios come with great responsibilities. He has said that he has a very full agenda, that he wants to engage. And I think that it takes a whole lot of people to fulfill these campaign promises.

I do think that it's not a job you can delegate. You know, the president has to take a look at the most senior positions. And I would say there are nearly 800 that require Senate on confirmation. And he's got to be involved in this process very intimately and, I think, try to find a balanced team around him. BLITZER: Dina Powell knows what she's talking about because she -- she had to review those resumes during the Bush transition and then early on, when she served in the White House.

I guess you can appreciate what the Obama people are going through right now. Dina, thanks very much.

POWELL: It's great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Joyous celebrations in African-American churches give way to deeper issues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to be reminded within the African- American community that Barack Obama is going to be everybody's president.


BLITZER: What do African-Americans do now that they've broken the ultimate color barrier?

There's a new debate happening now. We'll share it with you.

Plus, massive layoffs threatening to devastate one Midwestern city -- almost 10,000 jobs are being cut -- 10,000.

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


BLITZER: Let's check in with Zain. She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Zain, what's going on?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, unable to shake recession fears, stocks slumped today, with the Dow finishing down more than 73 points. Any enthusiasm that a $586 billion Chinese stimulus package was a step toward fixing the global economy was really just short- lived. AIG's huge restructuring, Circuit City's bankruptcy protection filing and more weakness in U.S. automakers all added to Wall Street's woes.

Crews don't expect to find more anymore survivors at a collapsed school in Haiti. Officials say at least 90 students and teachers were killed when a three story building came down on Friday. A U.S. rescue team in Haiti says it's unlikely the death toll will go much higher. Weak building construction may be to blame for this disaster.

And lava flows from a giant volcano in Ecuador forcing the capital city to temporarily close its airport. The 1,600-foot volcano just exploded today, threatening roadways and two oil pipelines. The eruption is not as violent as one back in 2002, which shot ash 10 miles high and covered the city 60 miles away. And Parisian pooches are getting behind President-Elect Barack Obama. Wolf, take a look at this. This pet shop has already sold more than 100 Obama outfits in less than a month. And as you saw there, some of the shirts bearing the name McCain were altered following the election. The owner is saying, Wolf, that most of the customers who are buying are American, British and Australian -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Cute little pooches in Paris over there. All right. Thanks, Zain. Stand by.

The president-elect of the United States, Barack Obama, says he wants to shut down the controversial U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

But what becomes of the hundreds of terror suspects being held there?

Also, the power of the Internet helped propel them to victory. And now Team Obama intends to keep using the Internet to its advantage -- how they plan to do it from the White House.

Plus, new schools, a new pet, their grandmother moving with them -- the tremendous changes in store for the incoming first daughters.

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


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

Happening now, President-Elect Barack Obama considers closing down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

If that happens, what will happen to the hundreds of terror suspects who have been held there for years? Stand by for details.

He used the power of the Internet to campaign. Now he wants to use it to govern. We're going to tell you about Barack Obama's high tech plans to communicate with the American people.

And bailout controversy -- why won't the Federal Reserve say who's getting billions of dollars in emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers?

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

President-Elect Barack Obama has called the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba "a sad chapter in American history." And he's made it clear he wants to end that chapter -- and do so quickly.

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's been looking at the detention center and the various options available to the president-elect -- Kelli, what are you finding out?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president-elect has said that he wants to close Guantanamo Bay. And officials close to him tell CNN that he's even considering issuing an executive order to do that. But it's what happens after that that has everyone buzzing.


ARENA (voice-over): It won't be easy and the pressure is on. What to do with those 255 men still locked up in Guantanamo Bay? Here's what President-Elect Barack Obama told CNN just days before the election.

OBAMA: We have to put in place appropriate plans to make sure that they are tried, convicted and punished to the full extent of the law.

ARENA: Under plans being considered by Obama's camp, detainees would not be subject to military commissions now in place, but would be tried in U.S. criminal courts.

JENNIFER DASKAL, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The U.S. civilian court system is a system that has had the most experience dealing with international terrorists.

ARENA: But there are huge problems. Some Gitmo detainees have been in custody for years and were subject to harsh interrogation techniques.

COL. MORRIS DAVIS (RET.), FORMER GUANTANAMO CHIEF PROSECUTOR: Some of those techniques clearly had a useful purpose for collecting intelligence. But in my opinion, went too far for use in an American court of justice in a criminal proceedings.

ARENA: And conservatives don't like the idea of bringing dangerous terrorists to the U.S.

DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER REAGAN ADMIN. LAWYER: There's really no place in the United States that can replicate the sort of operational security features that Guantanamo has.

ARENA: Some detainees are likely to be released.

DASKAL: The detention of several men without charge becomes a terrorist recruiting tool and it's caused the United States much more harm than it has good.

ARENA: But once free, the U.S. can't control what they do.

DAVIS: Clearly there have been examples of some of the individuals that we determined were no longer a threat that went back and did bad things.

ARENA: Perhaps the most controversial part of what's being considered, the creation of a new national security court to deal with the most sensitive intelligence cases.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ARENA: The Obama team says that no final decisions have been made and won't be until the national security and legal teams are in place. This is an enormously complicated task, Wolf, even for a former constitutional law professor like the president-elect.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Kelli, thanks very much. Kelli Arena reporting.

Take a look at this. This is a historic photo we're about to show you; a picture of the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush and the incoming first lady, Michelle Obama. Not only the president and the president-elect toured the white house and had a substantive meeting in the oval office, but the incoming and outgoing first ladies also had some of good quality time together reviewing a lot of important stuff for their respective families. What needs to be done?

Let's talk about that. Let's keep that picture up for a moment. Hilary Rosen is joining us and Leslie Sanchez, two of the best political team on television. You see that picture, Hillary. It's an amazing picture in terms of the historic moment. What goes through your mind?

HILARY ROSEN, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Well, first I think the thing is that they both look quite relaxed and obviously, you know, Michelle Obama has said before and I'm sure she showed it today how much respect she has for the way Laura Bush conducted herself as first lady. The sort of kind of quiet grace she picked a few subjects that she wasn't too up front and focused mostly on raising heritage daughters at the time. And I think that's what we're going to see Michelle Obama focus on.

BLITZER: They both look pretty happy, Leslie.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Very much so. I'm interested in how Michelle Obama is leaning into the picture versus Mrs. Bush who's obviously looks more relaxed. It shows she's excited. I'm inspired by that photo. I think it's exciting. I'm thrilled to see what Michelle Obama can do because I do hope she stretches the boundaries of what it is to be the first lady in this country. I think America wants to see that.

BLITZER: We saw Barack Obama board that American Airlines charter and take it from Reagan National back to Chicago. Michelle Obama was not on the return flight. She's decided to spend more time here in the nation's capital. I know you're hearing what she's doing.

ROSEN: We know she's looking at schools for her first priority obviously is to get her kids settled. We know she's looking at schools. We don't know all the schools she's looking at but you know I know she was visiting Georgetown Day School for one this afternoon.

BLITZER: Which is a private school here in Washington.

ROSEN: I think the likelihood is that the secret service are going to be encouraging them to send their children to private school. It's much easier to protect the family. They have a lot of security requirements. That's kind of burdensome for a public school.

BLITZER: The Bush twins when President Bush became president, they were getting ready for college if they weren't in college already. But I remember in '92, '93 when Chelsea Clinton came to Washington, there was a whole to do, would she go to private school or public school. She wound up going to Sidwell Friends.

SANCHEZ: And Sidwell Friends has a lot of protocols in place for children of powerful leaders and other diplomats. It's not unusual for many schools in Washington to have that. Go back for years. But I think it's interesting to see the dynamic of it how the city responds to these children. I think very much so there's a lot of vibrancy in this city.

BLITZER: These kids are adorable. You can see their personality even in those brief little snippets that we've seen that one interview where the parents I think they regretted it later allowed them to talk to a reporter.

ROSEN: One thing that's interesting is for the past you know, 30 years that I've been in Washington, every time a new president comes in, it's been from a governor's office. They've been new to Washington. This is the first time since John Kennedy that a sitting senator has become president. The Obamas have actually lived in Washington on and off over the last couple of years. Senator Obama rented a house on Capitol Hill in a nice neighborhood in Washington.

BLITZER: But the girls always stayed behind and went to school in Chicago.

ROSEN: This is not a family unfamiliar with Washington. They have a lot of the friends here and I think you're going to see them as kind of a vibrant part of the community institute.

BLITZER: Do you think so?

SANCHEZ: I definitely think so. There's definitely two different degrees of understanding Washington. You have so many senators and members of congress who make a point of saying this is a just kind of touchdown spot for me. I represent the state of Illinois or whatever state that may be. This is a very different sense of how these children are going to respond. Being so young, I think there's going to be very much a watchful eye.

ROSEN: You know, I have small kids. Most of my socializing is done at my children's school with other parents and it's after school and it's activities. There's a lot you sort of have to get out for. I expect that the Obamas are going to be very involved in their kids' lives.

BLITZER: And they have been throughout their lives, these are young little kids.

SANCHEZ: Popular carpool right now. Make a bet.

BLITZER: I don't think they're going to have trouble finding people who want to get into that. Let's just talk a little bit about the executive orders. When President Bush became president, he issued some executive orders. Weren't popular with liberals and now President-Elect Obama is getting ready to issue some executive orders that won't be popular with conservatives. But one thing seems to be clear that the expansion of presidential power that's been put in place by President Bush and Vice President Cheney over these past eight years ironically President-Elect Obama is going to be grateful to that because his power given the precedents over the past eight years, if he wants to use it, he would use it.

ROSEN: I think some of the big ones that a President Obama will end up rejecting. He has been on record as saying for instance the most important presidential power is tempered. He needs congress to authorize a military attack on another country. That's not the position, as we know, that President Bush took, except obviously in cases of imminent threat. I think the situation with Guantanamo, you know, a President Obama wants to see people either charged or released.

BLITZER: There will be some dramatic action.

ROSEN: I think we're going to see a dramatic difference in the use of executive power.

SANCHEZ: There are many Republicans who felt that the president did overreach. He said he was going to push the pendulum as much. We also have to admit this country has not been attacked under this president's watch. But I think a lot of people, myself included, want to see that equilibrium established where it's much more along the lines. I will make a push for the executive order for the white house initiative on education for Hispanic Americans. I have to admit I was the executive director. It's sunset under President Bush but I think there is a need for it again.

BLITZER: That's a plug. All right, guys. Thanks very much.

A week after the election, the mood of black churches, let's put it this way, it's electric.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President-Elect Barack Obama, thank you, America!

BLITZER: After a record number of African-Americans votes, the question is this, what now? And how are the Obama children getting ready for the transition? We have more on this part of the story. What life is like for the first kids in the white house. You'll want to see it.

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


BLITZER: It was a Sunday unlike any other in black churches across the United States. Their congregations are ecstatic at the Obama victory breaking the ultimate color barrier in this country. But even amid all the celebrations, some are already asking, what's next?

Here's CNN's Chris Lawrence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Across the country, black churches are celebrating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President-Elect Barack Obama, thank you, America!

LAWRENCE: From the pulpit and pews there's a renewed sense of patriotism.

But between the songs and sermons, pastors are challenging their churches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it mean that yes, we can is now yes, we did?

LAWRENCE: After a record number of African-Americans voted, the question is, what now?

Pastor John Hunter lowered expectations for Obama's first 100 days. He told his congregation not to expect economic miracles or special treatment.

PASTOR JOHN HUNTER, FIRST AME CHURCH: We need to be reminded within the African-American community that Barack Obama is going to be everybody's president.

LAWRENCE: Hunter told black voters to find their place within the diverse coalition that Obama assembled and on Sunday, pastor singled out one such group for praise.

HUNTER: Were it not for the support of Hispanics and Latinos, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida and even parts of California could not have been carried.

LAWRENCE: The service focused on personal responsibility. And some say while discrimination still exists, it can't be blamed for not succeeding.

BENNY REEMS, WORSHIPER: I don't think that's apropos now. We've got to say I can.

RUBY BROWN, WORSHIPER: We have to do away with all the excuses that if you can ascend to the presidency, you can ascent to anything.

LAWRENCE: That was always the hope, as Martin Luther King's sister explained in Atlanta.

CHRISTINE KING-FARRIS, SISTER OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: He said, I may not get there with you. But we as a people will see the Promised Land. This is symbolic of the Promised Land for us. LAWRENCE: One of the pastors seemed to sum it up when he told the congregation inspiration is nothing if it's not followed up by greater aspirations.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Los Angeles.


BLITZER: As Barack Obama gets ready to become president of the United States, get this, it's symbolic of the economic crisis in the country right now, almost 10,000 more Americans are learning they'll soon be out of a job. DHL says it's shutting down a major portion of its U.S. operations to focus in on its global business. Let's go to our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff. He is in Wilmington, Ohio, watching the story.

That's where they're taking the brunt of this news. It's devastating. It's devastating, isn't it, Allan, to this community?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, because this is the biggest hub for DHL in the entire United States. And this community very much relies upon DHL. In fact, one of every three households here depends upon the company.


CHERNOFF: Fred Wadsworth sits before his breakfast wondering how he'll put on his own table next year. His job as a supervisor for DHL Shipping will soon be gone.

FRED WADSWORTH, DHL: Pretty bad. We've kind of been figuring something's going to happen. And as it stands, now we know. It's going to shut down.

CHERNOFF: DHL devastated this central Ohio town back in May when it announced plans to have UPS take over its domestic air-shipping which would put thousands out of work here. Wilmington is DHL's main U.S. hub.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're taking away everything. For me, my family, my friends, this whole town.

CHERNOFF: Barack Obama campaigning in Ohio this summer pointed to Wilmington as an example of the economy's troubles.

OBAMA: It gives you some sense of the urgency that we feel when it comes to our economy.

CHERNOFF: Now DHL, a German company, is taking a step further away from the U.S. It will stop shipping within the United States by the end of January, affecting 9500 jobs on top of more than 5,000 jobs cut earlier this year. "This is the right move for our U.S. express operations given the current economic climate and for the long run," said DHL's global CEO.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband's been there for 19 years, and we've been worrying about this, everybody in this community has.

CHERNOFF: So much so that insurance agent Eric Welch is giving up on Wilmington just like DHL, shutting his business at week's end and moving out of town.

ERIC WELCH, OHIO INSURANCE AGENT: I don't see the long-term future in this community for me as an insurance agent to be very rewarding.


CHERNOFF: Neither has the U.S. been rewarding for DHL. The company expects to lose $1.5 billion in the U.S. this year. Wolf?

BLITZER: What a story. All right. Our heart goes out to those folks in Ohio.

Making an elegant mansion into a new home, the first lady to be gets a tour from the first lady and some helpful pointers on how to raise daughters in the white house.

Plus, those first kids to be have a public promise of a new puppy. We're going to see what else they can look forward to in the white house.

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


BLITZER: There's Jack Cafferty. And he's got the he's got a Jack Cafferty File.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. I got to pull out quickly or you'll frighten the children.

The question this hour is how can President Bush be most helpful to President-Elect Obama in making the transition?

Joe in Virginia writes, "Despite a bazillion Bush haters who will blame him for every ill since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, he seems to be working toward making this a smooth transition. Bush has made more than his share of mistakes but he can also tell Obama how he's managed to keep us safe from being attacked since 9/11. We hope President Obama will do as well."

Kathy in Dallas writes, "President Bush can be most helpful to President-Elect Obama and to the country as a whole by being honest and open regarding all situations facing our nation, without a partisan skew."

Greg in Arkansas, "How about if President Bush shows some leadership to the lame duck congress by introducing some of Obama's campaign economic ideas to the rest of the lame ducks or some sort of open-mindedness towards change, the Republicans that screwed everything up these past eight years have a chance to change their ways, maybe redeem themselves before January." Julie in Texas writes, "By agreeing to move the inauguration up to November the 27th."

Katy in Peking, Illinois, "By promising he won't make any decisions concerning the future of our country during his remaining days in office. I can't imagine Bush trying to give any advice since he's been such a dismal failure."

Mike writes, "Wait, I know this one. Leave. Leave now. Don't bother packing. We'll send you your clothes."

And Chris in Boise, Idaho, "Bush needs to clean the bathroom, transfer the power bills to his new address, and don't forget to turn in the keys to the mailbox. See ya."

If you didn't see your email here, you can go to my blog thing there. You know we post letters there. You might find yours or you might not and that's that deal.

BLITZER: That's a good deal.

CAFFERTY: Is it true you were singing over the weekend?

BLITZER: We'll talk about that later, Jack. Stand by. We've got details later.


BLITZER: They'll be the youngest children to take up residence in the white house in more than 30 years and preparations are already being made for Barack Obama's daughters. Let's go to Deborah Feyerick. She's looking at this part of the story. It's an exciting part of the story.

What are you hearing, Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, all things considered, Malia and Sasha Obama have had a pretty normal childhood, tour included, but now like other famous first kids, they're going to be picking out fabrics for their new rooms while getting used to everyone watching.


FEYERICK: There's renegade and renaissance, radiant and road bud. New names for a new family moving into their new house. The code names given by the Secret Service are no longer secret now that security transmissions are encrypted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's always amazing how the secret service manages to come up with names that are appropriate.

FEYERICK: For the Obamas there's lots to do before January when they move into the White House. First, there's the issue of schools for fifth grade Malia and second grade Sasha. The girls who got a ride from their dad Monday morning currently attend private school in Chicago. When the Clintons first moved to Washington, they opted for private school for 12-year-old daughter Chelsea. Nine year old first daughter Amy Carter was sent to public school. And it won't be just the four Obamas moving in. The girl's grandmother who helped care for them during the campaign will also come as will a new best friend. Not everyone brings a puppy. Caroline Kennedy brought her pony Macaroni. Teddy Roosevelt's kids snuck their pony Algonquin into the White House to cheer up a sick brother. With so much extra security around the family, that's unlikely to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the kids who have lived in the white house have gotten used to the secret service and have become great friends with them.

FEYERICK: The Obamas will set up house on the second and third floors. The girls can even attend dinners like Amy Carter did with heads of state, although it's unlikely they'll bring a book. And while the girls are likely to spend a lot of time inside, there's lots to do like private pool parties, hide and seek, maybe even ride a bike like another former resident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really is Eloise at the plaza. These two girls are going to find so many wonderful things to explore and so many rooms and so much history. And it's very much a home up on the second floor. It's very cozy up there.


FEYERICK: And, of course, the family can always get away from the scrutiny by escaping to Camp David where the girls can run around as much as they'd like and be kids, not first, not famous, just kids. Wolf?

BLITZER: These kids are going to have a great time over the next four years, maybe eight years. You never know. We'll be watching these little girls grow up. Thanks very much, Deb, for that.

$2 trillion in emergency loans. But who got them? The Federal Reserve isn't saying. Lou Dobbs is demanding answers.

Plus, Sarah Palin at home talking to the news media about losing the election. And talking also about "Saturday Night Live." She'll be my guest right here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Wednesday. Governor Sarah Palin here in THE SITUATION ROOM this Wednesday. Stay with us. Right now you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: She'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Governor Sarah Palin right here on Wednesday. I'll be interviewing the Alaska governor, the former Republican vice presidential nominee and guess what, you could be part of the interview. If you have questions for John McCain's former running mate, send them to us. To upload your video questions for Governor Palin, go to

We're hearing reports that the fed is refusing to reveal the recipients of literally trillions of dollars of rescue loans. Let's go to Lou Dobbs. He's keeping an eye on this story.

Lou, what is going on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf. I mean and we've got to give credit right away to Bloomberg News that has both filed suit and sought a freedom of information action on the -- on the fed to get the -- get exactly what's going on here. $2 trillion, to put that in some context, that is 2/3 of the federal budget, equivalent of that, that has been loaned out and the Federal Reserve is refusing to say which institutions have received that money. And this is in -- this money being loaned out. Congress said they were going to demand accountability, demand transparency, and that simply isn't happening.

BLITZER: Why isn't it happening?

DOBBS: Because this is the way the fed has acted for years. They have maintained confidentiality. But this is, as you know Wolf, an entirely new situation. We're talking about federal taxpayer money being loaned out in an emergency rescue for all sorts of institutions. And this is unconscionable and it has to be stopped. Both this president and this congress, the Democratic leadership and President Bush have to act. This is the basis -- in my judgment, if this fed does not release what is happening to the American public, this is a basis for a change in the charter of the fed altogether. This could mean the end of the fed.

BLITZER: Lou is going to have a lot more on this story. He has strong feelings about it.

DOBBS: You bet.

BLITZER: Thanks.