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Obama and Bush Behind Closed Doors; Republican Party's Future

Aired November 11, 2008 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin tonight with the inside story, new details from inside the Oval Office between president and president-elect Obama, and, only on CNN, Mr. Bush's candid thoughts on Barack Obama.
Also tonight, your money, your future, new calls to bail out the Big Three car makers. What will it to do it? What could it cost not to?

And, later, will it be Palin's party? Sarah Palin not going away. In fact, she's talking more than ever. Fresh details tonight about how she may be trying to remake the Republican Party in her own political image and who is fighting back.

We begin, though, with troubling in president-elect Obama's transition to power, and new hints of what happened behind closed doors in that meeting yesterday with President Bush.

The newest spot on the economy, General Motors taking more hits, shares in the company today at prices not seen since World War II, the company announcing yet another round of layoffs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late today calling for emergency action to bail out GM, Ford, and Chrysler.

And, as that and other fresh signs of a slowing economy emerge, president-elect Obama finds himself in a politically awkward spot, pushing for action on the economy without the official power to make things happen.

It's one of the fascinating details to emerge from that Oval Office meeting.

CNN's Candy Crowley has more.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President-elect Barack Obama, alongside Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, was seen, but not heard this Veterans Day. Still, there was a lot of talk about Monday's meeting at the White House.

Sources on the Obama transition team say the president-elect urged President Bush to take quick action to help the auto industry. Obama thinks the aid could be coupled with appointment of a car czar, someone with the authority to push for industry reforms he has talked about recently. SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I have made it a high priority for my transition team to work on additional policy options to help the auto industry adjust, weather the financial crisis, and succeed in producing fuel-efficient cars.

CROWLEY: According to the source who got a readout of the session, Obama also urged a package of aid to homeowners under threat of foreclosure and the need for a second stimulus package, something he has also pushed in public.

OBAMA: If it does not get done in the lame duck session, it will be the first thing I get done as president of the United States.

CROWLEY: An Obama source said Obama is "not under any great illusion" that Bush would support another stimulus package.

Sources for both men say President Bush listed his own priorities, top on the list, a free trade deal with Colombia that the president argues would help the U.S. economy. Both sides denied stories that the president suggested he would support Obama's priorities if Obama approved the trade deal.

Those stories that Bush was bargaining irritated some White House aides, who thought the leaks were designed to make Obama look good, at Bush's expense. All that happy transition talk seemed in jeopardy, but the Obama team moved quickly. One source said there was no wheeling and dealing. "President Bush did not specifically suggest a quit pro quo."

And Obama transition co-chair John Podesta called White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten to smooth things over. By the time President Bush got to the USS Intrepid, the warm fuzzies were back.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One impression I can share with you is that one of the things that president-elect Obama was really interested in, after we had our policy discussions, was his little girls, how would they like the White House. And it was interesting to watch him go upstairs. And he wanted to see where his little girls were going to sleep.

And, clearly, this guy is going to bring a great sense of family to the White House.

CROWLEY: Ditto on the other side of the equation -- vice president in waiting Joe Biden was effusive about it in his salute to local veterans.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is a remarkable testament to what you all fought for that there is absolutely, absolutely total, complete, unadulterated cooperation and movement as if it is seamless.

CROWLEY: Still, a smooth transition does not pave over huge policy differences between the incoming and outgoing presidents. The White House, while open to an auto industry plan, has not seen one it likes. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Candy, we didn't see the president-elect much today, except for the wreath laying. What is he doing exactly behind is scenes? I mean, do we know what his days are like?

CROWLEY: Well, we do know that there's the routine. He goes to the gym every day. We know he went to the barbershop today. But there is in between all that any number of decisions to make.

There is an inaugural address to be written. There is an inauguration to put together, a lot of decisions there. There is the whole Cabinet that must be brought together, fairly quickly, at least quickly in -- in terms of usable transitions.

And he's got all these other sort of staff decisions to put in place. And I know they want to put the White House staff in place as quickly as they can, simply because there will then be a structure there to do some of these other things, so, lots of time on the phone, also talking about the stimulus package, talking with leaders up on Capitol Hill, that kind of thing, and -- and trying to push people toward a second stimulus package, hopefully, in the lame duck session, as far as they're concerned.

COOPER: So, is Rahm Emanuel there with him, John Podesta, David Axelrod? I mean, all the people from the campaign, are they -- they're all there now, meeting every day?


One of them, I must say -- and I won't reveal his name -- is in Mexico on vacation.

COOPER: You don't want to bust him on the air. OK.

CROWLEY: But Rahm Emanuel and...


CROWLEY: That's right. I don't want to bust him.

But most of the transition, at least the nuts and bolts of the transition, is going on in Washington, D.C. Rahm Emanuel obviously will come back and forth. He has a family here, that kind of thing.

But there are, you know, multiple daily talks between them. But there are two transition headquarters really. There is one here for Barack Obama, and there is one in Washington, D.C., where the bulk of the 450 people they're going to need for transition are working.

COOPER: All right, Candy Crowley, thanks.

More now on bailing out the Big Three, which would cost tens of billions of dollars. On the other hand, not bailing them out, these automobile companies, might cost even more, because so many suppliers and retailers could be hurt. Then, again, GM and the rest got where they did by making cars people don't want to buy.

And, if you bail them out, who's next? It's a brutally -- brutally difficult and politically painful decision to make. And here are some facts to help you at home decide. It's your money. It's your future.

Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cars are there. The buyers are not.

(on camera): Could you use a new car?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can use it, if I don't have to pay for it.

TUCHMAN: An industry that is the backbone of the U.S. economy is in desperate straits. A serious lack of economic confidence and a history of disastrous decision-making has put the Big Three on the brink.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We certainly have hopes that things are going to turn around. But until you have got more confidence than I have right now, you are just not comfortable enough to do it right now.

TUCHMAN: David Cole from the Center For Automotive Research in Michigan says two to three million jobs could be lost quickly if the Big Three go bankrupt.

DAVID COLE, CHAIRMAN, CENTER FOR AUTOMOTIVE RESEARCH: The bottom line is, is that this industry is at the edge of a cliff. If it goes over that cliff, to the cost -- the cost to the economy is going to be enormous.

TUCHMAN: Democratic congressional leaders are pushing for a lame duck session to try to pass legislation to make automakers eligible for help under the already passed $700 billion bailout.

So far, the Bush administration has resisted the idea. Some experts say a company like GM hasn't learned from past mistakes.

PETER MORICI, ECONOMIST: If we subsidize General Motors now, so it doesn't go down under 2009, it will go under in 2011. But, when it does, it won't disappear. The factories won't go away. It will go through bankruptcy reorganization, and a new company will emerge that makes the same cars, but with much lower costs and much better competitive prospects.

TUCHMAN: But others say, the immediate financial devastation would be immense and that the Big Three automakers are positioned for future success if they get the infusion.

COLE: I don't like the idea of government involvement, but, when you consider the size of this industry, the importance in the economy, and the fact that the cost of prevention here is much lower than the cost of a calamity, it is the right thing to do, in terms of what's best for this country.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This will give you an idea of what this industry is going through. I decided to visit a well-known GM-Chevy dealer here in Atlanta that has a great reputation for customer service. But, when we got here, the security guard said we couldn't park. I asked her why. And she said, the dealer has gone out of business.

COLE: It is absolutely a special case. And it has been for a long, long time in our economy.

MORICI: The automobile industry is not a special case, any more than the steel industry or the airline industry were a special case.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): A 180-degree difference of opinion, but all agree that, right now, business stinks.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta


COOPER: Well, let us know what you think about the bailout. Join the conversation at I'm going to be blogging when I can throughout the hour.

You can also check out Erica Hill's live Webcast during the break. That has already started.

Up next: the political dimension of an auto industry meltdown and how Obama is handling it, not an easy problem. It's not the only one he's got. We will talk about his options with our political panel.

Also, a CNN exclusive.


BUSH: I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said.


BUSH: Like "dead or alive" and "bring them on."

You know, as -- and, by the way, my wife reminded me that, hey, as president of the United States, you better be careful what you say.


COOPER: Hear what else President Bush had to say about his shortcomings and Barack Obama in a very candid interview with CNN's Heidi Collins -- ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Bailing out the Big Three, government intervention vs. letting the free market work, it sounds like economics 101. In fact, it's neither easy, nor simple, not to the kid whose dad was laid off, or the shop owner whose business dries up when the workers stop coming, or the innovators who fail because the competition just got bailed out.

As you saw in Gary Tuchman's report, millions of people have a stake in the problem, millions of people who vote.

The "Raw Politics" now from "TIME" magazine's Mark Halperin and Marcus Mabry, senior business editor of "The New York Times."

Mark, why is Obama pushing so hard on this bailout?

MARK HALPERIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a big part of the economy. There -- there are spinoff effects if one of the Big Three goes under. As long as the auto industry has troubles, the American economy is going to be slower to recover.

And their political constituents -- the governor of Michigan is a Democrat. Labor unions care a lot about this. And, of course, the most important thing is the human cost. He cares about it because real Americans' lives will be harmed if -- if this industry continues to have trouble.

The problem is, it is difficult to fix, may be impossible to fix, given the years of neglect and trying to deal with the problems.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it's pro and con. You bail them out. They're building cars that not enough people want to buy. What are you bailing them out for, then, ultimately?


I think what the Bush -- what the Obama administration is going to try to do is probably bring hundreds of billions of dollars that they want to use for an energy initiative they want to give to -- to Detroit, so they can actually make more fuel-efficient energy-wise green cars, and use that at the same time to bail them out, to get them over this cash hump, because the fact is, I find it hard to believe that President Bush won't do something before he leaves office, because, if he doesn't, GM has already said that they won't have enough to make it through the end of the year, just on a cash position wise.

I don't think George Bush wants his final legacy to be the Bush recession, that we will probably start to call it by January, and then the Bush collapse of General Motors.

COOPER: But are the Democrats really the ones to be negotiating with -- with automakers and the unions? I mean, they have these contracts that they're locked into. Are they going to renegotiate with unions, these contracts? HALPERIN: Well, it's -- I think this is going to have be one of the big things. We talked about it last night on the show, if Obama is going to try to do little things or big things.

This is one that has got to be big. It's got to have an energy component. It's got have to have an energy component. It's got have to have an environmental component. It's got have to have a labor union component, probably a health care component for longer-term problems.

But I think that's right. In the short term, Bush and Obama, together, are going to have to do whatever it takes to get them over the short-term cash problem.

COOPER: It's a tricky situation, though, for president-elect Obama. And, on the one hand, he's going to be president, but, on the other hand, he's not president yet.

We see him there meeting at the White House with President Bush. It's -- it's a hard position, probably, for him to be in.

MABRY: Well, I still think, in some regard, it's actually a blessing for him, because something has to be done before he comes to office. Otherwise, again, you will have -- the Big Three will be at least the big two, and maybe even the big one, by the time he gets inaugurated.

I don't think the Republicans, I don't think George W. Bush can stand to have that happen, unless you're talking about you want to create a perfect Democratic majority, because the Republican Party will have let -- would have lost Detroit.

COOPER: What are you making of all these leaks coming out of this meeting yesterday between president-elect Obama and -- and President Bush? The leaks basically indicating that President Bush is pointing for -- pushing for some sort of a free trade deal with Colombia, in return for action on -- on this.

HALPERIN: Well, Senator Obama, president-elect Obama and the Bush White House, I think, probably are lucky and the American people are lucky if they want unity and a smooth transition, that there was a lot of goodwill laid down before this happened. This was not consistent with the tone and substance of how this transition had gone up until now. And I think there were enough conversations...


COOPER: There weren't a lot of leaks coming out of the Obama campaign.

HALPERIN: Not a lot of leaks, and also a lot of respect.

You saw Senator -- president-elect Obama and his staff pull back, stop criticizing the Bush administration, be thinking about the future, and working very collaboratively -- collaboratively. There are a lot of strong, existing relationships. Both John Podesta and Rahm Emanuel, who are working on the transition for Barack Obama have strong ties to the White House chief of staff, current White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten.

So, I think this is going to be an aberration, and, again, so different than what we have seen for 16 years in Washington, where one incident causes the two sides to go to their respective corners and to the mattresses simultaneously, to use two different metaphors in one sentence.


COOPER: You can get away with it.

HALPERIN: This is -- I think they're going to -- I think they will smooth this over, and they will go back to the way it's been, which is good for the country. There needs to be a smooth transition that doesn't have politics.

The substance, though, of what was discussed, assuming the reports are accurate, I think, is interesting. It is, again, the kind of grand bargain, where both sides give something. Both sides say, I want this. The other side says, I want that. Let's do them both.

That's what is going to be needed for an energy-environment compromise. That's what is going to be needed for a lot of these problems.

MABRY: It is a great question, but I don't see the Democrats at this point, having won an electoral mandate they have just won, actually saying, OK, now we will give them the Colombia free trade deal. I don't see that happening.


MABRY: So, that's where it becomes...


HALPERIN: They don't have to do it if they want to pass things.

COOPER: Right.

HALPERIN: They have to do it if they want to pass things with bipartisan support. That is what Barack Obama is going for.

And I think the White House may say to the Democrats in Congress, you know what? We could pass this without adding this in, but let's get more Republicans on board. If he does it, I think he will have a more successful presidency.

COOPER: Interesting.

All right. We will see what happens.

Mark Halperin, thanks.

Marcus Mabry, thank you, as well.

Up next on this Veterans Day: straight talk on Iraq and Afghanistan, and new signs of how Barack Obama may deal with America's two wars.

CNN's Michael Ware and Peter Bergen join us -- live.

Later, the making of Sarah Palin 2.0, and the remaking of the GOP. She's doing more interviews than ever. What's up with that?

And is Barack Obama's mother-in-law headed to the White House? Will Sasha and Malia's grandmother -- grandmother be just down the hall? That's a question most presidents don't have to answer, but this young president will -- more when 360 continues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People said, you weren't afraid?

Of course I was afraid. Of course. Everybody is afraid. But, when you have got a job to do, and it's a big job, and it's an important job, and it's a God-given job, then you do it without fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are honoring the veterans that have gone before us, both past and present, both living and -- and gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have done a lot of things in my life, and I have worn a lot of hats, but none of them was more important than this one.

BUSH: Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you most.


COOPER: President Bush today, his final Veterans Day in office.

It is the seventh Veterans Day since American troops began fighting in Afghanistan, the fifth since the Iraq war began -- both wars about to become president-elect Obama's problem.

And, tonight, the Associated Press is reporting the Taliban posted a message on a Web site they often use, urging Obama to withdraw troops from both countries.

Let's dig deeper with CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen and CNN's own Michael Ware.

Michael, let's talk about Iraq.

President-elect Obama has talked about withdrawing troops within 16 months. It's actually now much more in line with the Iraqi government's position.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is, and indeed the Bush administration's position.

Right now, Washington and Baghdad are desperately trying -- well, certainly on Washington's part -- to thrash out an agreement that will allow the continuing presence of U.S. troops. The clock is ticking down until New Year's Eve. That's when the U.N. mandate for the U.S. troops runs out.

Right now, we're at stalemate. Indeed, the Iraqi government spokesman today just said that the U.S. is not doing enough, and they expect the U.S. to offer more.

So, what we're seeing is an enormously complex situation, where America desperately needs something to help break this deadlock. And, in the meantime, you see the insurgency making announcements today, calling on their forces to increase the attacks to overturn this agreement.

COOPER: Peter, there had been talk about leaving -- even president-elect Obama during the campaign had talked about leaving a residual force in place in Iraq. How long would that remain there? And do we -- do we have any sense of how big a force would be required?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, when he was candidate, Obama talked about this residual force, you know, counterterrorism mission, protecting the largest embassy in history, these kinds of things, but he was pretty careful not to say what that residual force would actually involve, because, clearly, the anti-war base of the Democratic Party isn't -- isn't necessarily going to be happy when they find out that the residual force might be something between 30,000 and 60,000 soldiers.

That's the level that U.S. military commanders are likely to recommend to the incoming Obama administration in terms of the residual forces that should be left. But, as Michael has pointed out, all this is, in a sense, moot, because a status of forces agreement between the Iraqis and the United States has yet to be agreed upon, and, in fact, is very unlikely to be agreed upon until the new Obama administration comes in.

But there's one big sticking point, which is, the Iraqis really want a date certain for all American soldiers to -- to pull out. And, of course, a residual force is not something that most Iraqi politicians will allow themselves to at least publicly sign on for.

So, there's a great deal of uncertainty going forward. And when that -- when that deadline expires on New Year's, you know, theoretically, at least, U.S. soldiers will have to be confined to their bases, if there isn't some sort of agreement, if the U.N. Security Council doesn't come in and say, we're going to extend that U.N. mandate by several months, which is plausible.

COOPER: And, in simplest terms, the idea was -- or at least in some quarters, was to take -- transfer the troops who are Iraq, move them to Afghanistan. But it's not that simple.

WARE: No, it's far from that simple.

And if you're looking at throwing troops at the war in Afghanistan, that's simply not enough. The so-called surge that has delivered so much success in Iraq was much more than the 30,000 reinforcements sent to the Iraqi capital.

And, in Afghanistan, the terrain there, the mountains on the end of the Himalayas swallows entire infantry divisions whole. So, just picking up from Iraq will not only leave a vacuum in that Iraq, but throwing them at Afghanistan simply won't work. And that's why we're hearing people like General Petraeus talking about talking to elements of the Taliban.


And, Peter, in "The Washington Post" today, it reporting that Obama is planning a more regional approach to Afghanistan, perhaps even this dialogue between Afghan government and what are termed as reconcilable elements of the Taliban.

BERGEN: Yes. And, certainly, General Petraeus has talked about that. The Bush administration is doing its own review, obviously, in the dying of the administration, is going to be looking at that.

And there's really no other option, because, as Michael pointed out, even if you send several thousand American soldiers to Afghanistan, that's not a game-changer. A game-changer is bringing in people who used to be shooting at you and trying to get them on your side, maybe put them on the payroll, as happened in Iraq.

Obviously, Afghanistan is different. There's different details that would have to be involved, different structures, but, nonetheless, taking the Iraqi model to some degree and seeing if it can work in Afghanistan.

COOPER: Obama also reportedly intends to -- to renew the commitment to hunt down Osama bin Laden. I think a lot of Americans think that all our troops in Afghanistan are doing is looking for Osama bin Laden. But that's -- that's -- that's the least thing they're doing, it seems like.

WARE: Absolutely.

I mean, they're fighting a resurgent Taliban. They're trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan villagers, who have seen so little produced since the fall of the Taliban. And, ultimately, if you want to find Osama bin Laden, according to America's own intelligence community, the place to look is not Afghanistan.

COOPER: Pakistan.

WARE: He's in Pakistan. He's in the Northwest Frontier Province.

And, indeed, a GAO report that came out in May this year said that, not only is al Qaeda senior leadership sitting there in northwest Pakistan, but it's also reconstituted its ability to strike the U.S. homeland. So, that's quite a promise from the president- elect.

COOPER: All right, two major issues, two wars we're fighting.

Peter Bergen, thank you.

Michael Ware, thanks as well.

Still ahead: domestic politics, literally domestic. The new dubbed -- newly dubbed first granny, will she stay in Chicago or will Sasha and Malia Obama's grandmom also be moving into the White House? Barack Obama's mother-in-law, could she live in the White House?

And, next, the return of John Edwards, speaking at an event tonight, but did he talk about, well, the affair?

Find out ahead.


COOPER: Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin doesn't have to answer to anyone these days. She can talk to whomever she likes. And she's talking up a storm.

First, though, we will -- before we get to that, let's go to Erica Hill with a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in Louisiana, eight people are charged in the killing of an Oklahoma woman who was shot after trying to leave a Ku Klux Klan initiation ritual. A sheriff said the victim was recruited over the Internet.

More help for troubled homeowners. Under a new government plan unveiled today, borrowers with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will get reduced interest or longer terms to make their payments more affordable. Critics say the plan, though, doesn't go far enough, since Fannie and Freddie backed just 20 percent of all delinquent loans.

Former presidential candidate John Edwards making his first public appearance tonight since admitting he had an affair with a campaign staffer. Ignoring the big elephant in the room, the Democrat took the stage at Indiana University to discuss the 2008 election -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, there you go. Thanks, Erica.

You saw a bit of it earlier in the hour. The man who shaped his party for eight years marked Veterans Day in New York, President Bush attending rededication ceremonies at the Intrepid Museum, the World War II carrier, which is just back from a $115 million renovation.

His father flew missions from a carrier much like the Intrepid. The president, of course, celebrated mission accomplished aboard another carrier more than five years ago. Today, he talked about that moment and the man whose campaign in so many ways repudiated it.

The president spokes exclusively with CNN's Heidi Collins.


COLLINS: This is your first interview since the election?

BUSH: Yes, it is. It is.


COLLINS: So, you know I'm going to ask you, how did you think that turned out? What was your impression?

BUSH: Well, my -- my choice didn't win. I was for John McCain.

I felt he battled hard. But I meant what I said after the election, that the election of Barack Obama is -- is an historic moment for our country. There are a lot of people in America who did not believe they would ever see this day.

And it is good for our country that people have hope in the system and feel vested in the future.

And so President-elect Obama has a great opportunity, and I really do wish him all the best. I mean, I am just as American as he is American. And it is good for our country that the president succeeds. And so the transition that we're working with him on is a genuine effort to help him be able to deal with the pressures and the complicated issues of the presidency.

COLLINS: I imagine that you probably have a moment in your presidency that you are most proud of and a moment that I'm sure you most regret.

BUSH: You know, I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said.


BUSH: Like dead or alive. Or bring 'em on. You know, and my wife reminded me that, hey, as president of the United States, you better be careful what you say. I mean, I was trying to convey a message. I probably could have conveyed it more artfully.

You know, being on this ship reminds me of when I went to the USS Abraham Lincoln, and they had a sign that said "Mission Accomplished." I regret that that sign was there. It was a sign aimed at the sailors on that ship. However, it conveyed a broader knowledge. To some it said, "Well, Bush thinks the war is over in Iraq," when I didn't think that. But nevertheless, it conveyed the wrong message.

So there are things I've regretted. There are -- I've had a lot of reasons to be, you know, proud, I guess, is the right word. I'm proud every time I stand in front of the United States military. I am proud to be the commander in chief of people who are so selfless and so courageous that they would volunteer to serve our country in a time of war.


COOPER: President Bush today with CNN's Heidi Collins. You can see more of that interview on "CNN NEWSROOM" tomorrow morning, 9 Eastern.

Up next, meet the new Sarah Palin. She's letting her daughter Piper talk to the media. And when she's not cooking up moose dogs for the press, she's doing interview after interview. What's behind the reintroduction? Is it her plans for the future? We'll look.

And later, Barack Obama's mother-in-law. She helps keep the next first family grounded. She also watches the daughters. Will she be going to the White House with them? Next.


COOPER: Moose chili and moose cheese dogs. That's what Sarah Palin says she was cooking at her house over the weekend. She let cameras in for the show. And she's letting the cameras follow her pretty much everywhere lately. She is on a media blitz.

She appeared on "The Today Show" this morning. She let her daughter, Piper, talk to NBC's Matt Lauer. Take a look.


MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, NBC'S "THE TODAY SHOW": Did you miss much school?


LAUER: And how is that now? Is it hard to catch up?

P. PALIN: Yes. It's really hard.

LAUER: So you're 7 now. So if your mom comes in four years, you'll be 11, and she says, "Piper, kids, here we go again. Another campaign," how would you feel about that?

P. PALIN: Um, I don't know.

LAUER: You don't know?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Would you want to do it again, sis?

P. PALIN: Yes.

S. PALIN: That was fun.


COOPER: How adorable is she? Seven-year-old Piper Palin. As for her mom, expect to see a lot more of her in the days to come. She'll be on CNN tomorrow, interviewed twice, first by Wolf Blitzer and then by Larry King. What a difference a couple weeks makes. We could not get this woman on our air to save our lives. And now she's all over.

For many Americans this is a very different Sarah Palin than the one during the campaign. Up close, here's 360's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember the big introduction?

S. PALIN: I will be honored to accept your nomination for vice president of the United States.

JOHNS: The star of the convention, Sarah Palin, won over the party faithful with her folksy charm, conservative values, and a killer sense of timing.

S. PALIN: I love those hockey moms. You know they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.

JOHNS: When she stuck to the script, reading from prompters and papers, Palin was always on message. Her role: lift up the base and tear down the opposition.

S. PALIN: Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country?

JOHNS: Palin granted few interviews, but when she did, it didn't always go well.

S. PALIN: As Putin rears his ugly head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border.

JOHNS: She soldiered on, drawing large, enthusiastic crowds and heavy fire.

Then came the election, the crushing defeat, and more fire, this time from within the ranks of a defeated campaign. But the loss freed Palin, and she's reintroducing herself and not holding back. Call it Sarah Palin's extreme makeover.

Step one: knock down the critics, those anonymous McCain advisers who called her as a diva.

S. PALIN: Come on up and travel -- travel with us to Alaska and see this diva lifestyle that I supposedly live or would demand, because it's just false.

JOHNS: And what about the whispers that she didn't know the countries that make up NAFTA, or that Africa was a continent? S. PALIN: That's cruel. It's mean-spirited. It's immature. It's unprofessional. Those guys are jerks if they came away with taking things out of context.

JOHNS: Step two: get back to basics, rebuild the brand. She invited cameras inside her home while she cooked moose chili and tried again to castoff that $150,000-plus campaign wardrobe.

Here's what she told "The Today Show" this morning.

S. PALIN: What is patently false is that I ever asked anybody at this convention to go out and buy me anything.

JOHNS: As for the attacks against Obama, ancient history.

S. PALIN: This is Barack Obama's time right now, and this is an historic moment in our nation. And this can be a shining moment for America in our history. And look what we're talking about. Again, we're talking about my shoes and belts and skirts.

JOHNS: But is it too much, too soon?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: She has the right chutzpah and charisma to succeed as the national candidate, but she's in danger of overexposure. She's in danger of looking too selfish. And she's in danger of really becoming somebody who's not credible or relevant to the Republican Party. That's the challenge for her right now.

JOHNS: And a big gamble for a politician still commanding attention.


COOPER: We know that she's at the Republican Governors Association meeting tomorrow. She's been doing some interviews on CNN. Has she been reflective at all of what went on? It's interesting. We heard President Bush today talking to Heidi Collins kind of about some of the mistakes he feels he has made, some of the language he used. Has she said -- admitted to any failures?

JOHNS: No. She hasn't been apologetic. She essentially has said she was impatient, particularly in that interview with Katie Couric. Matt Lauer asked her about that, too. But she said it wasn't her style to sort of repeat the memorized lines the campaign gave her. But as far as...

COOPER: That's what she's saying?

JOHNS: Yes. But as far as admitting that perhaps she botched the interview, no, she hasn't said that.

COOPER: All right. Joe Johns, thanks so much.

Just a quick reminder. Sarah Palin sits down in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. That gets underway tomorrow at 4 p.m. Eastern and then, of course, she's with Larry King at 9.

Coming up, cops are calling it a deadly hate crime. Have you heard about this? Seven high school students allegedly targeting a Latino man on a suburban street. Some say anti-immigrant anger fueled the attack. They're blaming community leaders. The story, the fallout, ahead.

And later, make room for the first grandma. Michelle's mother may follow the -- Michelle Obama's mother may follow the family into the White House. How many times has that happened before? A mother- in-law in the White House? Find out, ahead.


COOPER: Watching the returns on election night, Barack and Michelle Obama on the couch, sitting next to Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson. There's another picture with Mrs. Robinson. This time, with daughters Sasha and Malia.

There are reports tonight that the 71-year-old retired secretary will be moving in with the next first family. Marian Robinson took care of Sasha and Malia while her parents were on the campaign trail. With the election over, she may soon be calling the White House home.

The story now from Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 71, this former bank secretary is packing her bags for Washington, D.C., maybe even for the White House.

CAROL LEE, POLITICO.COM: She said during the campaign that she wasn't going to be thrilled about moving to Washington. She is going to be in a brand-new city and having a much, much higher profile.

KAYE: Higher profile, because Marian Robinson is Barack Obama's mother-in-law and proud grandmother of Sasha and Malia. The newly dubbed first granny took care of the girls while the Obamas campaigned. She doesn't relish the spotlight and rarely speaks to the media, but last March, Robinson told the "Boston Globe"...

MARIAN ROBINSON, MOTHER OF MICHELLE OBAMA: I'm doing it, but I really want to do it. It's not even a job. It's like, somebody's going to be with these kids other than their parents, it better be me.

KAYE: Robinson has lived alone in Chicago since her husband died in 1990.

(on camera) Last summer she quit her job to see the girls off to school, make dinner, do homework and get them to bed, 8:30 sharp. With a 24-hour staff at their beck and call for at least the next four years, the Obamas may not need help at the White House, but having her there may be a bonus anyway.

CARL SFERRAZZA ANTHONY, HISTORIAN, NATIONAL FIRST LADIES LIBRARY: It's important for her to be there after such a big move, because that's -- even if it's joyous, it's traumatic. Having the steady hand there and the familiar sentiment, so to speak, of a grandmother, really could be reassuring to the children.

KAYE: On the trail, Michelle Obama often thanked her mom.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: I want my mommy to stand up. This is the woman who keeps me grounded, who stays at home with my girls and makes sure that they're OK. I love you.

KAYE: So will the first granny call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home? That still hasn't been decided. But with 16 bedrooms in the White House, there is certainly room for her.

If Robinson does move in, it wouldn't be the first time a president's mom lived here. Bess Truman's mom did it, and Mamie Eisenhower's mother wintered at the White House.

Marian Robinson should feel right at home.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Next on 360, the alleged hate crime that is rocking a suburban New York town. An Ecuadorian immigrant, that man, was killed, allegedly at the hands of seven teenaged boys.


COOPER: You're looking at seven teenagers facing criminal charges in a deadly attack the police are calling a hate crime. The youngest suspect is 15; the rest, 17 years old. All seven allegedly took part in the beating and fatal stabbing of an Ecuadorian immigrant over the weekend, an attack that took place in an area of suburban New York where tensions over illegal immigrants runs high.

Once again, here's Joe Johns.


JOHNS (voice-over): It was an unusually warm night when police say a group of teenagers set out to go, quote, "beaner jumping."

DET. LT. JACK FITZPATRICK, SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK, POLICE: Their motivation was to find Latinos and to assault them. And that was what they went out to do that night, and that's exactly what they did do.

JOHNS: So, the police say, the boys searched a suburban New York town until they found a target: Ecuadorian immigrant Marcello Lucero. Police say the boys told them they actually wanted to, quote, "F" up a Mexican.

FERNANDO MATEO, HISPANICS ACROSS AMERICA: Those days of noosing, hanging and torturing should be a thing of the past. Yet again, we're living it today.

JOHNS: Police say Jeffrey Conroy, a three-sport athlete, repeatedly stabbed Lucero in the chest, as the gang beat him. Conroy faces charges of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't really tell you how I feel, you know. It's like I just wanted to do it justice right now.

JOHNS: His brother said Lucero had come to the U.S. on a visa 16 years ago. He's remembered as the friendly face of the local dry- cleaner who played a mean game of volleyball and called his mother several times a week.

REV. ALAN RAMIREZ, BROOKVILLE REFORMED CHURCH: Once again, there is the blood of immigrants, flowing through the streets of Suffolk County.

JOHNS: A neighborhood minister said the attack was fueled by xenophobia. In fact, he says the growing Latino population on Long Island is under attack. Houses have been burned down as people slept inside. Several day workers brutally beaten.

Across the country, a recent Justice Department report shows Latinos are the chief victims of ethnically motivated hate crimes.

RUBEN NAVARRETTE, LATINO COLUMNIST: When people go out on the airwaves or in print or at the stump as a politician, and they beat that drum, they shouldn't be surprised at the end of the day, many people out there, and particularly young people who are very impressionable, say, "Hey, you know what? This is one group we can do this to."

JOHNS: As for the victim, Marcello Lucero, his family blames the boys' parents for the brutal attack and plans to sue them in civil court. But the lawyers for the attackers say bias was not the boys' motives, adding that one of the boys is part Latino. All have entered "not guilty" pleas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jeff (ph) is like -- he's the nicest guy you'll ever meet.

JOHNS: But to Latinos in this community, the history of these attacks tells another story.

MATEO: We cannot harvest terrorists in our homes. These seven kids are terrorists, and they must pay as such.

JOHNS (on camera): The question that's already been raised by activist groups in the newspapers is whether anti-immigrant rhetoric has created a climate for this kind of thing. That federal Justice Department report on hate crimes says Latinos were the victims of hate crimes 61 percent of the time.

Joe Johns, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Coming up, the inside story on President-elect Obama's visit to the White House. What he talked about with President Bush behind closed doors.

And next, our "Shot of the Day." Forget about the lamb and the lion. Try a chimp and the cutest pair of tiger cubs you will probably ever see.


COOPER: All right, Erica, time for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one that any of us around here can think of.

So tonight's picture, Hillary Clinton attending the 2008 "Glamour Women of the Year" awards at the Carnegie -- at Carnegie Hall Monday in New York. We just call it Carnegie Hall. We don't need to say "the Carnegie Hall," as I did.

HILL: Thank you for clearing that up.

COOPER: Our staff winner tonight is Gabe. His caption, "150,000 bucks? Nah, just pulled it off my window."


COOPER: That's not nice.


COOPER: Gabe, that's just not nice.

Our viewer winner is Bob from...

HILL: And yet it won (ph).

COOPER: ... Massillon, Ohio. His caption: "What can I say? It was the only dress left at Neiman Marcus after Governor Palin finished shopping."


COOPER: All right, Bob. Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. Congratulations.

You can check out all the entries at our blog and play along tomorrow by going to You know what that is? That's our Web site.

HILL: That's our Web site. There are a lot of things that you can do there, Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: All right. Time for "The Shot." It is animal related, so let's see the freaky cat with the "Kill Bill" music. Do we have that?

HILL: Nice.

COOPER: This is the cutest video I think you're ever going to see.

HILL: I love it!

COOPER: A chimp -- the chimp is not smoking. He's not riding a Segway, but he's on the program.

HILL: He's feeding the baby.

COOPER: That's right. He's feeding a -- he's a 3-year-old chimp, and she's helping keepers take care of a couple of white tiger cubs. She feeds them. She cuddles with them, plays with them.

HILL: It's too cute to be real, Anderson.

COOPER: I don't believe it's real either, but -- I don't believe she really, like -- I think they were just set up like this. But anyway...

HILL: You mean, like, they said to her, "Hey, here's a cub. Why don't you give her a little nudge?"

COOPER: I find it hard to believe that she's, like, helping every day with these cubs. I don't know. I mean, they call her up in the morning, be like, "All right. Quick, get down with the tiger cubs are."

HILL: Time for your shift. You're late. You overslept again.

COOPER: Exactly. Anyway, the white tigers are very rare. They also may be on the brink of extinction. These two are being kept at the Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species in Southern California -- in South Carolina, I should say. The help comes from people and at least one chimp.

And I hope -- I'm sure...

HILL: She's a help, by the way, that chimp.

COOPER: She -- I could watch these pictures all day. And look, they're so nice together.

HILL: And especially (ph) that little face.

COOPER: Yes. Another -- and there's a freaky gerbil. I like the graphics.

Coming up at the top of the hour, new calls to bail out Detroit, the economic political pluses and minuses. Your money, your future. Just one of the economic hand grenades on Barack Obama plate. What are his priorities for defusing them?

That and more, still to come on 360.


COOPER: We begin tonight with the inside story. New details from inside the Oval Office meeting between president and President- elect Obama. And only on CNN, Mr. Bush's candid thoughts on Barack Obama.

Also tonight, your money, your future. New calls to bail out the big three car makers. What will it cost to do it? What could it cost not to?

And later, will it be Palin's party? Sarah Palin not going away. In fact, she's talking more than ever. Fresh details tonight about how she may be trying to remake the Republican Party in her own political image and who is fighting back.

We begin, though, with troubling new developments and President- elect Obama's transition to power and new hints of what happened behind closed doors in that meeting yesterday with George Bush.

The newest trouble spot on the economy, General Motors taking more hits. Shares of the company today at prices not seen since World War II. The company announcing yet another round of layoffs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late today, calling for emergency action to bail out, GM, Ford and Chrysler.

And as that and other fresh signs of a struggling economy emerge, President-elect Obama finds himself in a politically awkward spot, pushing for action on the economy without the official power to make things happen. It's one of the fascinating details to emerge from that Oval Office meeting.

CNN's Candy Crowley has more.