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Obama's Iraq Promise; Bush Meets With Obama

Aired November 10, 2008 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, happening now: Political adversaries appear to bury the hatchet. But is there lingering bad blood from the bitter campaign? We're learning new details of what happened when President Bush welcomed president-elect Obama to a very historic meeting today.
And Laura Bush takes Michelle Obama on a special White House tour. And the future first ladies sees up close where her family will be living over the next four years.

Sarah Palin makes what could be the most revealing comments yet. Wait until you hear what she's saying -- all of that plus the best political team on television.

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

President-elect Barack Obama is now on his way back to Chicago. But he spent much of the day here in Washington becoming familiar with the reins of power he's soon going to assume. Today, the incoming president walked side by side with the current president for a meeting steeped in tradition and privacy.

President Bush welcomed Senator Obama to the White House. Then Obama did something he's never done before. He stepped inside the Oval Office in the West Wing.

Our White House correspondent Ed Henry is joining us. He's got more on this developing story.

It's an important meeting for both of these men, isn't it, Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The president-elect needs to show he's ready for this dramatic transition, while the current president needs to show he's ready for a graceful exit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): Another day, another barrier broken. President-elect Barack Obama and the future first lady stepping into history and their future home. President Bush predicted a stirring sight when the first African-American president-elect showed up at the White House. And it turned out to be quite a moment.

So much excitement, people literally pressed their noses up to the gates to try and get a glimpse hours before the two leaders took the long walk alone to the Oval Office for a one-on-one chat only a select few men have had before them.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think any of us can understand what it's like for two people who are now going to be in a very small club who understand what it's like to be the commander in chief.

HENRY: As the principals huddled, outgoing Press Secretary Dana Perino gave her likely successor Robert Gibbs a tour, while Mr. Bush's personal assistant showed his successor around the campus. It's an American tradition that happens sooner than usual this time because the key topics were the financial crisis and the fact this is the first handoff since 9/11. Both men know there were terror attacks in Spain and Scotland during transfers of power.

PERINO: We really want to make sure that we work with them through joint exercises, through providing briefings, so that when we hand the baton to them, they're able to move forward and continue to protect the country.

HENRY: Despite their sharp differences, both sides are praising the cooperation so far.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We envision having a couple of joint meetings once our national security team's named between their national security principals and ours so that we can have a seamless transition from the -- you know, from January 19 to January 20, when the president takes the oath of office.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, White House aides say the current president has been saying privately he almost sees this like a relay race and he wants to make sure two things do not happen. He doesn't want anyone to drop the baton during this handoff and he also does not want anyone to break stride.

And what he means by that is he wants to make sure that Barack Obama has all the information that he needs to make sure that this transfer of power is peaceful and that he's prepared for any potential terror attack -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks.

Ed is over at the White House watching this story.

While the two men met inside, there were adoring crowds that gathered outside the gates of the White House. They were cheering, many people gathered there, hoping for a glimpse of the president and the president-elect.

Meanwhile, we're learning new details of what happened in this historic meeting. Stephanie Cutter -- she is the spokeswoman for the Obama/Biden transition team -- says this in a statement.

And let me quote from that statement: "They had a brought 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."

Let's go to our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Candy, what do you think? What is your take on this meeting?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's interesting, as Ed pointed out, this is earlier than it usually is.

And I think this points to what is a very important transition in really, basically, economic perilous times, as well as a country that's at war in two different countries, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And I think it's very important for both these men. President Bush seems to be siding a little toward the whole idea of keeping the nation safe, homeland security, smooth transition there.

Barack Obama, obviously focus number one right now, as he has said repeatedly, is the economy. He's talked about wanting a stimulus package as soon as it can be done. He clearly would like it done during this transition period. So, there's lots of substance for these two men to talk about, in fact, I would argue a lot more than previous transition times.

BLITZER: Yes. So far, he's named a White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. He has a transition team, an advisory team in place. What are you hearing about Cabinet selections, if anything, Candy?

CROWLEY: We are hearing everything about Cabinet selections, frankly, Wolf. There are so many names floating out there. You have heard most of them at this point, some of them quite familiar names, John Kerry at the State Department, for instance.

But, honestly, at this point, we are told by this campaign that they do not expect a Cabinet selection in a week. They don't necessarily expect anything this week. They do seem intent, however, on putting together that White House staff first, because it then gives Barack Obama a structure through which he can make these important Cabinet decisions.

But, by the way, the collecting of information and the ideas of -- of who might fit in what spot have -- began to be gathered far earlier than just election night. So, they're pretty well on track, as far as they're concerned.

BLITZER: And it's only just beginning. They have got a lot of work ahead of them, not only during this transition, but wait until January 20.

Candy, thanks very much for that.

While President Bush and president-elect Obama met, their wives were touring the residence. We have this official White House photo of Laura Bush and Michelle Obama together in the private quarters upstairs over at the White House. It was Mrs. Obama's first-ever visit to the White House.

Let's go to Kathleen Koch. She's looking at this part of the story for us.

It's going to be their home, the Obamas' home, Kathleen, as you know, for the next four years.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is indeed, Wolf.

And, by all appearances, this first visit between the current and the future first ladies went very well. You really have to admit this was certainly a bittersweet moment, the end of a journey for one and the beginning for the other.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH (voice-over): Smiles and a warm welcome, the job for first lady Laura Bush, turning over the 132-room mansion that has been home for eight years.

SALLY MCDONOUGH, PRESS SECRETARY FOR LAURA BUSH: Every first lady who's come before would say, make -- make it your home. And that's certainly what Mrs. Bush did. And that's what she hopes is made available for the Obamas.

KOCH: Michelle Obama will, like first ladies before her, be able to redecorate. Each president gets $100,000 to use to refurbish and maintain the White House over the next four years. Historians will guide any changes made to the public rooms.

MCDONOUGH: There's a wear and tear that happens, replacement of carpeting, et cetera. There will be rooms that will need attention, and they will bring that -- those rooms to Mrs. Obama's attention and give her the option of being actively involved or not.

KOCH: And, yes, Malia and Sasha can paint and decorate their rooms any way they want.

MCDONOUGH: It is their space. It is their bedroom. It is their private residence. And, so, depending on what their parents allow them to do, I'm sure the girls can help decorate their room, to the degree that they would like to do that.

KOCH: The incoming first family brings their own furniture, if they choose, one set of moving vans rolling in at noon on January 20, as another rolls out.

It can be a difficult time. But most point to Laura Bush's defense of Michelle Obama on national television after her remarks about being proud of America for the first time as a sign the two women will get along well.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: I think she probably meant "I'm more proud," you know, is what she really meant.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF SENATOR BARACK B. OBAMA: I was touched by it. And I -- that's what I like about Laura Bush, you know, just calm, rational approach to these issues. And, you know, I'm taking some -- some cues. I mean, there's a balance. There's a reason why people like her.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: And indications are, Michelle Obama will be making more cues from Laura Bush. She said she won't have a West Wing office. She will advocate for issues she cares about, like those facing working women and military families. And, like Laura Bush, Obama plans to arrange her schedule as much as she can around her two daughters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's priority number one, of course, for her.

KOCH: Quite so.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kathleen Koch, reporting.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, remember him, the incompetent boob that a chorus of retired generals and admirals called on to resign because of his inability to lead this country's military? He did finally quit in November of 2006.

But guess what? According to a report in "The New York Times" this morning, Secretary Rumsfeld authorized a classified order back in 2004 that allows the U.S. military to carry out broad secret attacks against al Qaeda, even if those attacks occur inside countries that we're not at war with.

In other words, these controversial strikes of late inside Syria and Pakistan are just fine, according to Rumsfeld's order, whether the governments or people of those countries like us waging war inside their borders or not. More than a half-dozen current and former military and security officials confirmed this story that was in "The Times" this morning.

The measure gives the U.S. military the power to attack al Qaeda anywhere in the world anytime. Most of these attacks when they do occur are carried out by U.S. special forces in conjunction with the CIA.

So, here's the question. Should the United States be attacking al Qaeda inside foreign countries without permission? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

Wolf, at some point, now, we need to discuss your singing appearance over the weekend.

BLITZER: What a transition.

CAFFERTY: At your convenience, of course.

BLITZER: That's a great transition, but stand by. We're not going to talk about it right now.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We have got very serious news reporting here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Barack Obama sticking to his guns on Iraq. The president-elect wants the troops out as soon as possible, but will reality force him to think twice once he's commander in chief? A top general in Iraq weighs in.

Sarah Palin, as you probably have never seen her before, at home in Wasilla cooking for the cameras. And wait until you hear what she's saying about President Bush. And, you know, we're interviewing her here in THE SITUATION ROOM Wednesday.

And a new CNN poll -- President Bush sets a record for the nation's disapproval, the worst numbers in history.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President-elect Barack Obama got a look at his new office today, but his meeting with President Bush may also have been a reality check about the gravity of the nation's economic problems.

Let's go to our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi. He's working the story.

It's issue certainly number one is this historic transition, Ali. What are you picking up?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's going to stay issue number one for a while. A sharp increase in the unemployment rate and the number of people laid off in October only underscores that an Obama administration has got to work fast to stop these job losses, Wolf, but it also has to tackle the shift to an alternative energy economy that Barack Obama talked about and maybe a stimulus plan to create jobs to build that economy.

And there's health care and the tax cuts to the middle class. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who is part of Obama's incoming economic team, the advisory team, says the next White House can tackle all of those problems at once, capitalizing on both political goodwill and on the urgency of getting the financial house in order.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY: I would say a major stimulus bill. We have got to have infrastructure. We have got to repair roads and bridges and levees. We have got to have public transportation. As quickly as possible, we have got to get people into jobs. As quickly as possible, we have got to get the economy moving again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: And, regardless, Wolf, of what president-elect Obama does, economists warn that this 6.5 percent unemployment rate that we have got right now is going to soar to somewhere between 8 and 10 percent within a year, after losing 1.2 million jobs so far this year. Some people expect another 500,000 people to be out of work before Inauguration Day.

The national debt is going to increase. Home prices will continue to drop. On the bright side, Wolf, interest rates are likely to stay low, which means those people with money or with good credit could start buying houses. And that will gradually cause home prices to increase -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, it looks like this recession is going to be longer and deeper than a lot of people probably feared. Is that right, Ali?

VELSHI: That's what it looks like right now. If it's a global recession, which we think it is, it could be 16 to 18 months long. We could be halfway through it at this point. But that means we have got as long to go.

BLITZER: Wow. All right, Ali, thank you.

President-elect Obama is not backing away from his campaign promise to bring all U.S. combat troops home from Iraq by the spring of 2010.

Let's go to our senior military correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

Some say the reality of governing is a lot different than the reality of campaigning, Jamie. What are you picking up?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, any smart politician will reserve the right to renege on a campaign pledge if conditions change. But for president-elect Obama, he is sticking with his plan to put U.S. troops in Iraq on a fast track to come home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): It seems like this one would make U.S. commanders wary of pulling out of Iraq too fast. Violence may be down overall, but, any given day, a single attack can claim dozens of lives. More than 30 Iraqis were killed in suicide bombings Monday, three attacks in Baghdad and one in Baquba.

So, while the average Iraqi may want the U.S. out now, the average Iraqi commander is in not so much of a hurry, says one American general.

MAJOR GENERAL MARTIN POST, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I think we're still, if you would, that security blanket for them in standing behind them.

MCINTYRE: But Barack Obama's strategy is to yank much of that security blanket away, believing, only then, will the Iraqis stand on their own.

JOHN PODESTA, CO-CHAIRMAN, OBAMA TRANSITION TEAM: They will listen to military commanders on the ground in Iraq. But I think that we want to withdraw.

MCINTYRE: Obama is likely to get some pushback from his top generals, including the popular David Petraeus, whose aversion to speedy troop cuts was evident after last summer's meeting with Obama in Iraq.

OBAMA: In his role as commander on the ground, not surprisingly, he wants to retain as much flexibility as possible in terms of accomplishing that goal.

MCINTYRE: Obama says, as commander in chief, he has to look beyond Iraq, at the bigger picture, especially the urgent need for reinforcements in Afghanistan. In

Iraq, the new top commander, General Raymond Odierno, did tell CNN last week it may be possible to move faster than initially expected on troop cuts, but also urged caution.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Now, that prudence is something that Obama will have to consider if he decides to ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on. Gates, perhaps the only member of the Bush administration with widespread bipartisan support, has also been pretty clear in backing his commanders in their reluctance to pull U.S. troops out too fast -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie is at the Pentagon working the story.

Thank you.

Barack Obama could act quickly to put his own staff on the White House by reversing some of President Bush's orders, but could he push too hard too soon? The best political team on television is standing by.

And front-page frenzy. Barack Obama's victory turned newspapers into bestsellers -- how they're meeting the incredible demand for all those history-making headlines.

And what California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is saying about whether he might take a job in the Obama administration.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: After Senator Obama won the presidency last week, it seems everybody wants a piece of American history. Newspapers were quickly sold out across the country. And now they're ramping up to meet this incredible demand.

Let's bring back our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, folks want those front pages. What can they do about it?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, "The Chicago Tribune" tells me that the only thing that remotely comes close to the demand they saw last week was when the White Sox won the World Series. But demand for this front cover here breaks all records there.

They have gone into another 400,000 copies printed for this. And not only that. A weekend edition that came out yesterday, they have had to reprint also. That will be appearing in sections tomorrow as well.

And this repeats in newspapers all around the country. "The New York Times," it sold out last week. If you go on to their online store today, it's going to say that they're experiencing very high traffic there. "The Washington Post," as well, they have teamed up with the Web site CafePress to offer not just the front page from last week, but also that reprinted on a tote bag, on a T-shirt, on a mug, whatever you would like. And "The L.A. Times" telling us that there are queues around the block and also today to get a copy of that. And they're also offering a printing plate from the press room for a few extra bucks.

Suddenly, Wolf, high demand for newspapers.

BLITZER: I want one of those printing plates, too. That's pretty cool. Yes, people can get them if they pay?

(CROSSTALK)

TATTON: About 20 bucks.

BLITZER: That's all? OK. History.

TATTON: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Thank you.

We're getting word from our CNN photojournalist Tim Garraty (ph) that he just spotted Michelle Obama, the incoming first lady of the United States, visiting some of the schools in the area. We're going to get that tape in for you -- some of the private schools. The two little girls are going to have to go to school once they make the move to Washington. And we're going to share with you what we know. Stand by for that.

Meanwhile, President Bush earns something no other American president ever has, and it's not an honor. He now beats even the most unpopular presidents, as record numbers of you feel the country is in bad shape.

Also, free from campaigning, Sarah Palin is now talking freely, no more authorization from the campaign necessary. What she's saying about her and John McCain's loss, revealing, and we will be speaking with her -- I will be, that is -- Wednesday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And John McCain is going back to the campaign trail. You're going to find out why -- lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: the worst numbers ever for a sitting president, the new post-election CNN polls. Stand by.

Sarah Palin, at home in Wasilla, she's cooking and dishing on the McCain campaign and President Bush.

And we sit down with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. John King did -- what the Republican thinks about working with on Obama administration -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

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

When president-elect Barack Obama starts his new job in January, it looks like he will have his work cut out for him. A just-released CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll measured Americans' attitudes about their leadership, old and new.

So, what does the poll say about the mood of the country right now?

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, what does the poll say about the mood of the country right now? Well, there's bad news and there's worse news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): How bad is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the economy is falling off the cliff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got two wars going on, and we have got an economic crisis, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression.

SCHNEIDER: Eighty-three percent of Americans say the country is in bad shape. That's more than in 1992, when the first President Bush was ousted because of the economy, stupid. That's more than in 1980, when President Carter got fired after the malaise crisis. That's more than in 1975, after Watergate and the Nixon pardon.

In fact, the public is in its worst mood since this question was first asked nearly 35 years ago. Who are they taking it out on? President Bush. Seventy-six percent of Americans disapprove of the job Bush is doing. That's a record.

It's worse than President Clinton's low points in 1994.

It's worse than his father's low point in 1992.

It's worse than Jimmy Carter's low point in 1979.

It's worse even than Nixon during Watergate.

Harry Truman held the previous record for the most unpopular president since World War II. President Bush has now broken that record by nearly 10 points.

But wait. There's hope.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Immediately after I become president, I'm going to confront this economic crisis head-on, by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families and restore growth and prosperity.

SCHNEIDER: While three quarters of Americans believe President Bush is doing a lousy job, three quarters believe President-Elect Obama will do a good job.

What's he going to do exactly?

OBAMA: We are going to have to focus on jobs.

SCHNEIDER: Most people are not clear exactly, but they have great expectations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: Voters are clear about one thing -- two thirds say it is more important for the new Obama administration to stimulate the economy than to reduce the deficit. Full spending and full tax cuts ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks.

Bill Schneider, thank you.

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin now back home in Alaska, where she spoke candidly to a local newspaper about losing the election.

Brian Todd has been following the story for us.

So what's the governor saying -- Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, Wolf the Sarah Palin unplugged tour is continuing. From the kitchen of her house in Wasilla, she unwinds on why her ticket lost, what she really thinks about Tina Fey. And we even get a glimpse of Palin family fare.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): She insists the moose chili in the crock pot and the moose hot dogs on the table are not props for the media. This is how the family really eats -- not the only eye-openers from Sarah Palin during an interview with "The Anchorage Daily News" from her home in Wasilla.

Take her answer on why her ticket didn't win on election night.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: There was such a desire for change across the nation. I mean that was -- that was the given, that was change was going to be ushered in. And I think the Republican ticket represented too much of the status quo -- too much of what had gone on in these last eight years -- that Americans were kind of shaking their heads and going wait a minute, how did -- how did we run up a $10 trillion debt in a Republican administration?

How have there been blunders with war strategy under a Republican administration?

TODD: The White House declined to comment on that, other than to say historically, it has always been very difficult for a party to win a third consecutive term in office.

With her 7-year-old daughter asking guests what they'd like to drink and shuttling their newborn son, Trig, upstairs, Sarah Palin said now that she's back as governor, she'll stick to her campaign pledge to reform the practice of earmarks.

PALIN: We had better make sure that every earmark we request is in the nation's best interests and it is something that has been vetted and seen the light of day via public participation before we even request it.

TODD: When it came to how she was covered by "Saturday Night Live"...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," COURTESY SNL/BROADWAY VIDEO)

TINA FEY, ACTRESS/COMEDIAN: Are we not doing the talent portion?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: ...she had only nice things to say about actress Tina Fey, who lampooned the governor in several comedy skits.

PALIN: I really liked her. And then her in-laws came to one of our rallies and met us back stage. And they're pretty hard-core Republicans, the in-laws were. And she had told me that. She was like, "Believe it or not, I'm from a family of Republicans."

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: But Palin said she was frustrated by other aspects of media coverage of her, like accounts that she says were misleading that she tried to ban some library books -- Wolf. BLITZER: Is she saying anything, Brian, about staying in the national spotlight, sticking only to being governor of Alaska?

Or does she have national ambitions?

TODD: Well, only saying that she is not ruling out a run for president or vice president in 2012. But she's already going to be in the limelight later this week. She's going to go to that Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami. And I know you know something about that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to be going there, as well, to interview her on Wednesday.

Sarah Palin will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll interview the Alaska governor. And, by the way, you can be part of the interview.

If you have questions for John McCain's former running mate, send them up to us right now. To get your video questions for Governor Palin, you can go to iReport.com. The interview Wednesday, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Heated campaign rhetoric gives way to handshakes and kisses -- Bush and Obama then and now.

CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.

Plus, it's the hottest ticket in town, but getting a ticket to the Obama inauguration from a scalper could be a federal crime. Buyer beware.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President-Elect Barack Obama ordering an immediate review of President Bush's executive orders.

Here's a question -- is there a danger of pushing too hard, too fast once he becomes president on January 20th?

Joining us now, three of the best of the political team on television. Gloria Borger is joining us, Dana Milbank and Steve Hayes. Gloria, Steve Hayes in the middle, Dana Milbank all the way over there to the right of your screen -- Gloria, is there a danger he's going to push to hard to reverse some of these Bush executive orders?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I don't think so. I think he's been elected president. He believes he has a mandate. And it's a way to set the tone and to change the tone in Washington to say, you know what, I'm a different fellow from the one who was here before. These are the things I believe -- that you ought to be able to have abortion counseling abroad, for example; that maybe you ought to be able to do stem cell research in certain ways that you couldn't before. And this is what I was elected to do and I'm going to do it right away with the stroke of a pen.

BLITZER: We saw...

BORGER: No problem.

BLITZER: We saw President Bush do it. We saw President Clinton when he took office issue some executive orders right away.

Any problem there -- Steve?

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": No. I agree with Gloria entirely. He won. I mean this is what presidents do. I mean this is -- to me, this is a non-issue. He should come in, he should reverse as many executive orders as he wants to.

I think if conservatives or Republicans object to the substance of those executive orders, they, too, have every right to make it a big issue, to point out and to try to draw contrasts with Barack Obama.

But this is what presidents do. Of course he's going to overturn these executive orders.

BLITZER: Here's what David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, Dana, wrote in thenationalreview.com: "He is immediately muscling his way into power and the Bush administration out of the door. Not only is he signaling in advance which Bush actions will be overturned, but he is already signaling Congress how he'd like it to vote on current measures."

A fair assessment?

DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR "WASHINGTON POST": Well, no, I don't think so. I mean the real danger for Obama is not that he rushes in there in -- with a whole huge agenda, but that he doesn't move fast enough, that he doesn't move swiftly enough. The expectations are so extraordinarily high, people are going to be surprised if he doesn't, you know, leave the inaugural parade and walk on water over there on the tidal basin.

(LAUGHTER)

MILBANK: So, you know, this is talking about a stimulus package, talking about stem cell research. This is relatively minor, non- controversial stuff. We're not talking about the Clinton idea of gays in the military here.

BORGER: Right.

MILBANK: So this definitely seems to be a no-brainer.

HAYES: Yes, and, you know, Wolf, I think one of the things he's trying to do with these executive orders is essentially to buy off interest groups. I mean this is about making his base, making the constituencies that comprise his base, the interest groups, happy. And I think, you know, he signals these things well in advance of January 20th, when the hard, heavy lifting really begins.

BORGER: And what's wrong with presidential muscle, by the way?

MILBANK: Right.

BORGER: Everybody applauded presidential muscle when Ronald Reagan came in and had massive tax cuts and added to the defense budget and set the tone for his administration through legislation. I mean, presidential muscle is something a lot of people would like to see.

BLITZER: You know, and I pointed this out before, Dana. It's sort of ironic that the expansion of presidential power that we've seen over the past eight years is presumably going to be something that's going to benefit this liberal Democrat right now.

MILBANK: You're not kidding. He was protesting it all along, but not too much.

You know, Bush came into office eight years ago with a minority of the popular vote. And they said at the time, if you act in a strong way, strength begets strength. And we think of Bush as a very weak president right now. But you have to remember how successful he was right away in getting that agenda through.

So here you have a president coming in who has a 6 percentage point advantage in the popular vote, a huge electoral margin. He certainly should be using all of his considerable clout.

BORGER: And the difference...

BLITZER: But that...

BORGER: The differences will...

BLITZER: Go ahead.

BORGER: ...that it's going to be open. You know, the American public is going to be able to watch it, warts and all, because, as opposed to having meetings -- secret meetings about your energy policy, as people said Dick Cheney had, this administration, for example, on health care, is going to bring in all the lobbyists, all the pharmaceutical companies, all the health care companies and sit down. And you might be able to watch it right on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BLITZER: And in THE SITUATION ROOM, as we see everything else.

By the way, these live pictures we see from O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Barack Obama's plane getting ready touch down over there. We're standing by for that. We'll watch it unfold. It's a historic day, as we've been pointing out. John McCain, Steve, he's getting ready to campaign down in Georgia for his friend Saxby Chambliss, who's got a run-off because apparently he didn't get a majority of the vote in that contest against the Democratic challenger, Jim Martin.

Are we going to see McCain doing more of this?

HAYES: Yes, it wouldn't surprise me if we did. I mean, I think he enjoys campaigning. I think we saw that over the past couple of weeks of own race.

And in Georgia in particular, I think, this makes sense, because Saxby Chambliss, one of the things he's going to need is to get moderates and get Independents to come to his side and support him.

John McCain speaks well to moderates. He won the State of Georgia, I think, by 4 or 5 points. So I think it does make sense and I'd expect him to do more of this.

BLITZER: Do you think, Dana, that we'll see Barack Obama or Joe Biden, both, perhaps, going down to Georgia to campaign for Jim Martin?

MILBANK: Well, I'm not exactly sure that he would want them, because, as Steve pointed out, that this was a state that was won by McCain. And you know, McCain did not seem to have suffered from this defeat in a way that people are dumping all kinds of abuse on him, saying this was some sort of a humiliating defeat. People are probably accurately saying this is really President Bush's defeat.

So McCain is really still a strong figure in these -- in these red states.

BORGER: It...

BLITZER: We'll leave it there, Gloria.

Hold your thought until tomorrow.

BORGER: OK.

BLITZER: Stand by.

Arnold Schwarzenegger -- does the California governor have any interest in a position in the Obama campaign?

He speaks candidly to our own John King.

Plus, our question to you this hour -- should the U.S. be attacking Al Qaeda in foreign countries without permission of those countries?

Jack Cafferty and your e-mail, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

The federal government's bailout of the financial industry has ballooned to nearly $2 trillion, but the government refusing to say where that money -- your money -- has gone. We'll have complete coverage.

Also, new evidence of the worsening outlook for jobs in this country. Thousands more job cuts today announced, many more lay offs expected in the weeks and months ahead. We'll have that special report.

And our weakening economy one of the top issues at today's meeting between President-Elect Obama and President Bush. We'll tell you what happened, what the president-elect is planning to do in his first days in office.

And presidential historian Rick Shenkman joins us here. Three of the country's top political analysts, as well.

Join us for all of that, all the day's news and much more, from an independent perspective, straight ahead -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you at the top of the hour, Lou.

Thank you.

DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: The California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is reaching out now to President-Elect Barack Obama.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, spoke to the governor on "LATE EDITION" yesterday in an exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

I have made it very clear that now, since the election is over and the people have chosen Obama, that I will be 100 percent behind this man. Anything that he needs, we as a state will work with him. We want to make sure that he is successful, because then the country is successful. It has absolutely nothing to do with politics. I'm all about getting the job done, whatever party it is.

Let's work together, Democrats and Republicans, and I think a lot of things can be accomplished.

KING: Any communication with you?

Your name gets kicked around in Washington every now and then, say, for a cabinet job.

Any interest?

Any communication? SCHWARZENEGGER: No. I also made it clear that I wanted to stay here until I'm finished with my term. There are so many different challenges that California has. It's the greatest state in the greatest country in the world. But we also have challenges like the rest of the country, with unemployment, with the housing crisis, the mortgage crisis.

So there's a lot of work ahead. And I want to make sure that we can put people back to work and to keep people in their homes and to stimulate the economy again.

But we have to do that together with the federal government.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: As for his fellow governor, Sarah Palin of Alaska, Governor Schwarzenegger says she's a terrific governor and could easily go national if she wants.

I'll ask her about that when she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Wednesday.

In the meantime, let's go back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: A special report in "The New York Times" this morning indicating that Donald Rumsfeld signed a secret order back in 2004 authorizing the U.S. to go after Al Qaeda wherever they are.

So the question is, should the U.S. be attacking Al Qaeda in foreign countries without those countries' permission?

Braden writes: "Absolutely. If we sit on our heels and ask for permission, only one thing is going to happen -- we'll miss the opportunity to act against these people. Either Al Qaeda is there without that government's knowledge or they're there with the approval of that government. Either way, the government can't legitimately complain about us going in and doing this without condoning terrorist actions."

Greg in Pennsylvania: I'm a hawk when it comes to this, but as much as I would like to say yes I cannot. Would the U.S. tolerate someone violating our sovereignty to attack a terrorist? Is it OK for Russia to strike Pennsylvania if some Chechen terrorist was operating there? I know the U.S. wouldn't let terrorist operate there, but one country's terrorist is another country's freedom fighter."

Harold in Alaska writes: "Only a few high value targets, such as Osama bin Laden, would be worth the political cost of these operations."

Ed in Woodbridge, Virginia: "Anywhere those dirt bags hide."

John in Los Angeles: "If the Special Forces can kill terrorists, they should do so, wherever they happen to be. Far better that than using conventional forces, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people as collateral damage and far better than another attack on America."

Richard writes: "You're a stupid liberal for even asking such a question. Obviously, the only idiots who tie our hands like you are a bunch of terrorist appeasers. Next time we are attacked, you should be fired."

And Kylis writes: "I don't remember them asking for permission for 9/11. Did the Japanese ask for permission to bomb Pearl Harbor?"

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

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thanks.

See you back here tomorrow.

In our Political Ticker today, undecided races. Look at this. In Georgia, the race between Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss and his Democratic challenger, Jim Martin, is set for a runoff. Neither man reached the required 50 percent plus one vote.

In Minnesota, check it out, Republican Senator Norm Coleman is a couple hundred votes ahead of Democrat Al Franken. But it's headed toward an automatic recount and that could take a while.

In Alaska, also a tight race between the Republican incumbent, Senator Ted Stevens, a convicted felon, and Democrat Mark Begich. Stevens leads by a few thousand votes, but votes -- absentee ballots, among others -- still being counted.

And in Missouri, look at this -- we have yet to project that state for the presidential election. Wow! Still, almost a week after the election, we don't know who carried the electoral votes in Missouri.

The senator in charge of President-Elect Barack Obama's January swearing in ceremony here in Washington is getting a leg up on would- be staffers. Senator Diane Feinstein of California says she's writing to Web sites like eBay, among others, to ask them not to sell scalped tickets. She's writing a bill, actually, to make it a federal crime to sell the tickets, which are supposed to be free to the American public.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, go to CNNPolitics.com you can check out CNNPolitics.com. The Ticker is the number one political news blog out there on the Web. That's where you've got to go to get a lot of information -- CNNPolitics.com.

It wasn't so long ago that the candidate was slamming President Bush and his policies, but now President-Elect Barack Obama is downright chummy with his soon-to-be predecessor. CNN's Jeanne Moos is standing buy. She'll study today's burying of the hatchet.

And a tearful farewell -- this touching goodbye and more, still ahead in today's Hot Shots, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Now let's take a look at some Hot Shots.

Over at the White House, President Bush reaches out to greet the newly elected president and first lady.

In Indiana, a soldier looks into his girlfriend's eyes before departing for training and deployment to Iraq.

In Nicaragua, protesters disputing municipal election results shout slogans in the street.

And in Congo, a boy covers his face with a mosquito net at a displacement camp.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Political adversaries playing nice -- Jeanne Moss has a Moost Unusual account of today's historic meeting over at the White House between Barack Obama and President Bush and their wives.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It began with Laura Bush bidding a cheery good morning...

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning.

MOOS: ...at almost 2:00 in the afternoon.

We noted one air kiss to the cheek, Obama grasping Bush's arm, Laura touching Michelle's elbow and Obama putting a hand on Bush's shoulder. It was over before some of us knew it had begun.

(on camera): It's too late. I missed it.

(voice-over): The Obamas arrived more than 10 minutes early -- exactly opposite of when John McCain arrived late for his own endorsement. And the waiting president killed time tap dancing. Just imagine having to stroll past the roses with the guy you've been attacking for months.

OBAMA: Where has George Bush been?

And what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?

The Bushes have dug a deep hole for us.

MOOS: They did no digging in the Rose Garden. The two met in the Oval Office -- home to those famous drapes.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama is measuring the drapes.

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've got him measuring the drapes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, now he is measuring the drapes today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He's bringing in the tape measure. It's for real.

MOOS (on camera): Remember that classic moment eight years ago when Bill Clinton was giving George Bush the welcome to the White House tour and reporter Helen Thomas chimed in?

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

HELEN THOMAS: Yes, he did.

MOOS (voice-over): Leave it to Helen.

THOMAS: Yes, he did.

MOOS: Much as we in the press tried to eavesdrop this time...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY FOX NEWS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's just listen in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Almost all we heard was the clicking of cameras. Viewers heard a bit too much on MSNBC, when the host Joe Scarborough let fly the "F" word while discussing the transition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MSNBC)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: They don't go around flipping people off or screaming (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) at the top of their lungs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Jaws dropped, though Joe didn't seem to know what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY MSNBC)

SCARBOROUGH: Did I say the word?

Great apologies if I said the word instead of the letter. My wife is going to kill me when I get home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Susan, we are so sorry.

SCARBOROUGH: My wife just sent me a text. Two words -- oh, my. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: But the president-elect has to watch every word, as we watch his every move -- from dropping off his kids at school to being followed to the airport O.J.-style, to being followed to the restroom on his plane.

Mr. President-Elect, kiss your privacy goodbye.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And this programming note. Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, will be right here in THE SITUATION ROOM Wednesday. I'll be interviewing her. You can be part of the interview. If you have questions for John McCain's former running mate, this is what you do. Send those questions to us. To get your video questions for Governor Palin, you can go to iReport.com.

The interview Wednesday with Governor Palin in THE SITUATION ROOM.

That's it for us.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington.

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

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thanks, Wolf.

Tonight, President-Elect Obama planning swift action to reverse eight years of President Bush's executive orders.

Will the president-elect also reverse some of his campaign pledges?

We'll have complete coverage.