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Big Three Return to Congress; Bill Gates Speaks Out

Aired December 4, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. There it is. It's a beautiful scene, the new White House Christmas Tree. We see it every year. It's the last time that President Bush is going to do it as president of the United States.
And, to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: The Big Three automakers ask Congress for some big bucks -- automakers returning to Washington with their bailout plans on the table and their hands wide open. Will weary lawmakers give the green light? Stand by.

The billionaire Bill Gates wants something from president-elect Barack Obama. The final part of my rare interview with the Microsoft founder and philanthropist, that is coming up this hour.

An all-expenses paid trip to Washington to the Obama inaugural. A businessman is picking up the tab. Wait until you hear who he is inviting.

All that coming up, 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.

Angry protesters shouting down auto executives at a Senate hearing today, calling a proposed bailout a sellout. It was a brief disruption, but tension and skepticism rippled through the room much of the day, hours of testimony, tough grilling, six hours, in fact, as the CEOs appealed for up to $34 billion in emergency loans.

Let's go to Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash was watching and monitoring what was going on.

Dana, there is still a lot of skepticism out there.


And there were actually a lot of different ideas bandied around about just how to throw a lifeline to these automakers, but it was very clear that these auto executives have a big challenge still convincing lawmakers that they deserve it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BASH (voice-over): With choreography for the cameras, the big three CEOs returned to Capitol Hill in fuel-efficient cars instead of pricey private jets. Lesson learned when it comes to public relations, determined to convince wary lawmakers they learned bigger lessons about restructuring their struggling companies.

RICK WAGONER, GENERAL MOTORS CEO: We're here today because we made mistakes which we're learning from.

ALAN MULALLY, FORD CEO: It used to be that our approach to our customers was, if you build it they will come. Now we are aggressively matching production to meet the true customer demand.

ROBERT NARDELLI, CHRYSLER CEO: We've identified approximately $4 billion of potential cost savings and improvements.

BASH: The CEOs came armed with new business plans that Congress demanded, promises to consolidate and modernize, concessions from autoworkers unions to help cut costs, but skepticism that taxpayer money would be well spent in Detroit is still deep.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I don't trust the car companies' leadership. I worry that if they're left on their own, they'll be back a short time later asking for more.

BASH: Executives expanded their rescue requests to $34 billion. One panelist warned an auto turnaround could eventually cost $75 billion to $125 billion.

Republican Richard Shelby, who opposes any bailout, pounced on that.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: If they got to $34 billion, how long will it be before they're back here, in your judgment?

MARK ZANDI, MOODYSECONOMY.COM: I think it will be...

SHELBY: Six months?

ZANDI: No, it will be fall, late '09.

SHELBY: But they'll certainly be back, won't they?

ZANDI: I think that's a high probability.

BASH: The committee's top Democrat told CEOs he still has a lot of unanswered questions, but also warned colleagues that doing nothing would be playing Russian roulette with the entire economy.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT), BANKING CHAIRMAN: I'm not a miracle worker. No one is here. But we're not going to -- I'm not going to pack a bag and leave and go back to Connecticut. I am going to stay here and try and get this done.


BASH: But there is still a very deep divide about just how to do that, specifically where the money should come from.

And, Wolf, I was just told that the Democratic leaders here in Congress, they are about to send a letter to President Bush and that letter is going to once again urge the president to use the money from the already passed $700 billion that was intended for Wall Street.

And this letter is going to say that they should use it for Detroit, because they thought that the hearing today made clear that anything that hurts Detroit will actually hurt the financial sector, but we know that that is something that the White House has adamantly said that they oppose doing, case in point of how difficult it is to get things done here.

BLITZER: All right, we will watch it, because the stakes clearly are enormous and the clock is ticking right now. Dana, thank you.

The president-elect has been putting up caution signs whenever he is asked about a possible auto industry bailout. His administration in waiting has been working hard on the issue behind the scenes.

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, last May, long before Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee, he went to Michigan and declared the auto industry would have a friend in the White House if he were elected. So, the Obama team is looking at help for the auto industry in two different ways, first, what Congress does now, second, what Obama might do after he becomes president.


CROWLEY (voice-over): President-elect Barack Obama and his advisers are said to be studying options for helping the auto industry beyond what Congress does or doesn't do before he takes office. Only one option is off the table.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We can't allow the auto industry simply to vanish.

CROWLEY: Industry sources confirm even before the election and continuing after, Obama's staff has been in touch with auto executives. One source suggested the nature of these conversations were "... informational ... about (our operation) how and where we spend... our forward-looking goals."

The talks are tacit recognition that the incoming administration believes whatever Congress does is likely to be a stopgap to keep one or more of the big three from going under. Obama's public talk and the private work of his team are aimed at more comprehensive assistance tied to viability.

OBAMA: 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 here in the United States. I have asked my team to explore what we can do under current law and whether additional legislation will be needed for this purpose.

CROWLEY: Industry sources say there has been no talk of specific long-term legislation. In terms of the immediate future, Obama has been supportive of loan guarantees to the big three, but he's been careful not to put public fingerprints on how much they should get or where the money should come from.

OBAMA: I want to wait and see specifically what's said during those hearings.

CROWLEY: Still, Capitol Hill sources say the Obama team at many levels has discussed the bailout, including talks between the president-elect and the congressional leadership.

(on camera): Regardless of the level of Obama's involvement, one source on Capitol Hill calls it improbable that Democrats would actually pass a package Obama doesn't like -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Candy Crowley covering the transition to power in Chicago for us.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, did you know Oprah is going to Washington, along with everybody else or half of the people in the country?

The daytime diva says she's going to do her television show from Washington, D.C., during inauguration week. Estimates are that three million people may show up for this historic event, the swearing-in of the first black president. The mayor of Washington thinks the number could be as high as five million.

Some are going to come to watch. Some will actually participate in the celebration. There will be parties and formal balls. But according to a CNN opinion poll that is out today about our economy, 79 percent of Americans say things are going badly in our country right now and 42 percent say the recession is serious.

News of layoffs and pleas for government bailouts continue daily. The bad news about the economy shows no signs of letting up, so it is really time for a huge celebration? Obama insiders won't reveal any details of their inauguration plans, but they tell CNN that the party will go on. We just don't know how big a party it's going to be.

Here is the question: Should president-elect Obama scale back his inauguration celebration in light of the economic crisis facing our country?

Go to and post a comment on my blog. That is going to be quite a scene down there in January, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes. You coming?

CAFFERTY: I don't know. You haven't invited me.

BLITZER: Well, now you are invited.



BLITZER: OK, Jack. Thanks. We will do "The Cafferty File" from Washington.

As you try to survive the brutal economy, you might want to take advice from one of the world's richest men, the billionaire Bill Gates. You are going to hear exactly what he has to say about the economy, the final part of my one-on-one interview with him. That's coming up this hour.

And let the guessing game begin. Barack Obama is said to be considering giving a major speech from somewhere in the Muslim world soon after becoming president.

And a CNN exclusive -- you will hear from the nanny who risked her own life to help save baby Moshe from Indian attackers.

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


BLITZER: Virtually every American is taking a financial hit amid the bruising economy. But how are some of the world's richest people doing?

I sat down at George Washington University with the billionaire Bill Gates to talk about keeping money in these tough times. And we also spoke about giving money away.


BLITZER: I recently interviewed my old boss, Ted Turner, who told me his wealth has really gone down over these past few years for a variety of reasons, not just the economic crisis right now. He's still worth a lot of money, more than a billion dollars. But I wonder, have you suffered financially as a result of this economic crisis right now?

BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT: My net worth is not as high, but no, I have not.

BLITZER: I'm not saying you personally have suffered, but your net worth has gone down a considerable amount, a modest amount?

GATES: A modest amount. You know, I own stocks in companies like Berkshire Hathaway, which is incredible. There's a lot of great companies out there. Valuations are down. But, you know, that's the -- you know, people earned a lot in the market in the last two years. So, you know, compared to what? And my wealth is all dedicated to go to the foundation. And that's giving the money back to society to help with the education system and to help with the poorest countries.

BLITZER: And you're giving away billions and billions of dollars through the foundation.

GATES: That's right. So far I have put over $30 billion in. And over my lifetime, the rest of the money goes to the foundation.

BLITZER: Do you have any idea how much more there is there to give?

GATES: Well, there's many tens of billions additional money that will flow to the foundation. And, you know, the foundation's been able to increase what it's doing.

We're spending a higher percentage. Warren Buffett was unbelievably generous in terms of making large annual gifts. And so we've been able to take these health programs and education programs and be more ambitious.

BLITZER: So I guess the point I'm trying to make is, you're not going to have to cut back on your charitable work, on your foundation work, as a result of this economic downturn?

GATES: Because we think these issues are so important now, we're actually increasing next year.

BLITZER: Really?

GATES: And it's a higher percentage of our asset base. But you know, these are programs that pay off incredibly well.

Things like this malaria vaccine is going to be fundamental. The advances in AIDS treatment are going to be fundamental. So the sooner we get these things, there's a lot of avoided misery and cost that comes from staying the course, whether it's education or health.

BLITZER: We invited our viewers to send us video questions, I- Reports for you. And let me do a couple of them.

This one from a woman named Hilary Ohm of Colville, Washington. She said she recently lost her job because Microsoft stopped contracting with her company because they didn't have a worldwide work force, something like that.


HILARY OHM, I-REPORTER: What do you think about the outsourcing of U.S. jobs? And do you think that this trend will continue in the future for Microsoft and its vendors?

(END VIDEO CLIP) GATES: Well, Microsoft employs a higher percentage of people in the U.S. by a large amount than the portion of our sales that are in the U.S. We're a global company, and you've got to have salespeople and great engineers from around the world contributing to those products.

But we're a company whose labor base is overwhelmingly here in the United States. And so issues like the quality of education are very important. You know, that's why I believe in that issue. Actually, the company gives a lot to those issues.

And so, you know, actually, Microsoft, so far, has been able to be increase employment. And so as a contributor to additional economic activity. Part of that is because we do have worldwide sales, worldwide presence. That means we're not exposed just to the one economy.


BLITZER: So, what does one of the world's richest men think Barack Obama needs to do as president? You are going to hear exactly what Bill Gates is now urging the president-elect to do. That's coming up in the next part of this interview.

And nerves are on edge right now in India, after last week's attack. Today, there was a scare at the main airport in New Delhi. Police say the sound of gunfire was heard. They believe shots were fired, though no one was seen shooting. Police say that no one was also hurt or killed and that it was not a terrorist incident.

Meanwhile, you may remember that little child who was saved from the attackers when his parents were murdered. The hero that saved baby Moshe, his nanny, has been speaking exclusively to CNN.

CNN's international correspondent, Paula Hancocks, has more.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is an incredible story of how a nanny risked her own life to save another, that of 2- year-old Moshe.

And seeing Moshe playing with his nanny, Sandra Samuel, in the back garden in Israel playing with a balloon, eating tuna, drawing pictures with her, doing normal things that a 2-year-old does, was incredibly heartwarming.

And speaking to Sandra, you could instantly tell how strong she was, not only because she left her secure location inside Mumbai's Jewish center while there were grenades going off, while she could hear the gunmen, the second she heard Moshe's voice calling to her, but also because she has moved to Israel to be with Moshe, and she vows she will be there as long as he needs her.

SANDRA SAMUEL, SURVIVED MUMBAI ATTACKS: For two or three days, he asked for his ima continuously, and because she used to always give him some special time to him. And Shabbat was just -- it was just his abba, his ima, and the baby. Even if I was there, it was not my thing. She used to always keep him with her, so that special bonding was there.

HANCOCKS: Sandra even questioned if she could have done more. She saved Moshe's life, but she still questions whether she should have gone back in where these gunmen were, and they had already shot her, to try and save Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, who she says were alive, but unconscious when she left them.

SAMUEL: The first thing is that a baby is very important for me. And this baby is something like -- something very precious to me.

And that is what made me just not think anything, just pick up the baby and run, because, see, when I heard gunshots, it's like not one, two. It's like hundreds of gunshots, 10, 20 grenades bombed in the Chabad. So, what -- even I am mother of two children. So, I just take the baby and I run. I don't think of fear. Does anybody think of dying in that moment, when a small precious baby is -- no.

HANCOCKS: Moshe will not be parted from Sandra for very long. And considering what he has been through, it is not surprising. She is the one constant that he can hang on to at the moment -- Wolf.


BLITZER: What a sad story and what a courageous woman. Thank you, Paula, for bringing our viewers that story.

So, how would you like an all-expenses-paid luxury trip here to Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration? A wealthy businessman is offering just that to certain people. We're going to tell you who. You are going to want to see this story.

And the president-elect's team is pledging to make this inauguration the most open and accessible in American history. And they just announced a major break with tradition. We will tell you what is going on.

And President and Mrs. Bush are new homeowners. We will tell you where they will be living after they leave the White House on January 20.

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



BLITZER: Young wannabe corporate giants, take note. The Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, is giving free advice.


MARK MERRITT, I-REPORTER: As a young professional, with the economy the way it is, what do you feel is the best method to stay above water and not lose hope?


BLITZER: Stand by for the answer to that I-Report question in the final part of my interview with Bill Gates.

And should Barack Obama kick off his presidency with a direct appeal to an Islamic nation? The best political team on television is ready to weigh in.

And a change some Americans will definitely believe in -- they are getting a free ride to the inauguration and a makeover, to boot.

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


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

Happening now: making their case. The CEO of Detroit's Big Three were back on Capitol Hill, pleading for a $34 billion bailout. But getting congressional approval could be a tough sell.

Bill Gates' advice for Barack Obama -- the Microsoft founder and philanthropist is telling me what he thinks the president-elect should do to show leadership in the global financial crisis.

And it's the hottest ticket in Washington, D.C., and the hardest to get, but a generous benefactor just may help you get an all- expenses-paid trip to Barack Obama's inauguration. We're going to reveal the details right here.

All of that coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

One of the richest men in the world will surely be watching the next leader of the free world. You just heard Bill Gates talk about Americans losing money and his foundation giving away billions and billions of dollars.

Now more of my interview. The Microsoft mogul has a message for the next president.


BLITZER: You have suggested that president-elect Obama should double foreign aid once he takes office. Is that right?

GATES: Actually, he, during the campaign, made a commitment to do that, which I think is absolutely fantastic.

And now, in the face of these pressures, you know, I'm hoping that he can get to that commitment as soon as possible. I think there's a lot of great benefits to it. But yes, I believe it's a very smart way for America to show leadership, to help out in a different way than we have in the past.

BLITZER: Explain to our viewers in the United States why you believe, at a time of economic distress in this country, it's important to send money to other needy nations to people around the world.

GATES: Well, when have you people who, if you gave them better seeds, they could avoid starvation, if you get -- gave them better vaccines, they could avoid, you know, a million children here dying of malaria, those needs deserve to be somewhere in -- in our priority list.

And we have seen now there's a type of foreign assistance for vaccines or for AIDS treatment that are incredibly effective. These are all about saving lives. And the good news is that, as you make those breakthroughs, the population growth in the country goes down. And, so, their ability to get on their own standing and not need aid comes along.

And we have seen that in many countries. Now we have got a minority of countries, but still about a third, where they need that -- that helping hand. And, so, it was a priority for this country after World War II to help other countries. All of these countries are suffering from this global and economic crisis. And for them, in terms of feeding their people or getting these vaccines, I do think it should stay high on the list of things that count.

BLITZER: You believe that President-Elect Barack Obama can live up to the commitment?

GATES: Well, he -- he obviously has the Congress that gets to actually vote the final decision for how the money is spent. But I do think he will get us to that commitment.

I'm, you know, thrilled to be able to see that people are responding to the success stories. Aid from the United States did go up in the last eight years. For example, these AIDS drugs -- the initiative there has been a fantastic success. And it's with successes like that that you get the voters saying yes, even in tough times, we should help out countries that are in far worse shape and have these life-threatening issues.

BLITZER: So you give President Bush some credit for that?

GATES: Absolutely. He, in the case of PEPFAR, stood up for taking taxpayer money and investing it in saving lives in a way that's proven to be very effective.

BLITZER: What new technology do you see out there right now that could really change the world along the lines of what you did with the PC?

GATES: Well, if we talk about the needs of the poorest, the miracle technology is vaccination. In 1960, 20 million children died; last year, only 10 million. Now that's 10 million too many, but it's half as many. Why is that? Because we had new vaccines. And in the pipeline today, we have vaccines that would cut that 10 million in more than half. And the benefits to that are quite immense. So I'd, you know, say that at a very basic level, vaccination is -- deals with a -- a critical need and it would be at the top of my list.

BLITZER: Anything the second on your list?

GATES: Well, when you get to developed countries like the U.S. I think education is the big thing. And as we can get great courses online, people testing out their knowledge online, teachers learning from each other online, I think there's a way to take the Internet and use that for areas like health and education in ways that have not been done before. That's one of the -- the great opportunities, both for the private sector and the government coming in. It has an important role, clearly, in education, but also in health care. So innovation is why we will be far better off 10 years from now than we are today.

BLITZER: And that could really change the world, there's no doubt about that.

We have another iReport question from Mark Merritt of Aurora, Colorado.


MERRITT: As a young professional with the economy the way it is, what do you feel is the best method to stay above water and not lose hope?


GATES: Well, I think people are being more careful about using credit cards and getting into debt. I'm hopeful that people will invest in themselves -- that is, get more education, because that's the thing that has the highest payoff, not just economically, but in terms of the contribution you can make and in terms of having a job that's stimulating and enjoyable for your entire life.

And so, you know, if somebody is thinking about going back to school, even though, in the short run, that's hard for them, I'd encourage them to do it.

BLITZER: Bill Gates, thanks for all the work you do and thanks for joining us.

GATES: Thank you.

BLITZER: And we want to thank all of our iReporters for sending in video questions. We had several great submissions for our interviews with Bill Gates and the big three auto executives. You saw that earlier.

And remember, go to to see the ones that didn't make it on the air. You probably will be interested in that.

It was Barack Obama's first major international speech and huge crowds turned out to see him Germany. You remember that.

Now, there are reports he's going to do it again, this time from an Islamic capital.

And the president-elect is promising to save and create millions of jobs.

Is that enough?

The best political team on television is standing by to weigh in.


BLITZER: President-Elect Barack Obama is reportedly considering delivering a major foreign policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office.

Let's talk about this and more with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; and our political contributors, Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post" and Steve Hayes of "The Weekly Standard." We saw him in Berlin before he was elected...


BLITZER: Now he's elected. What do you think about going to a Muslim capital and addressing not only the Muslim world, but the world?

BORGER: I think it's a -- I think it's a brilliant idea. I'm not quite sure where I'd have him go. He does have roots to Jakarta, so maybe that would be kind of a good place to have him go.

But it's not so important where he goes as what he says. Because I think he can press -- he has a real opportunity here. He's going to have more of a honeymoon abroad than he's going to have in this country. And he can really press the reset button. But he has to go to give a speech that's big with a really specific, new idea.

BLITZER: He lived in Indonesia for a few years when he was a little boy.


BLITZER: His mother took him there.

DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR "WASHINGTON POST": He did. I would choose that over, say, Tehran, for my first stop.


BORGER: Right.

(LAUGHTER) MILBANK: Just -- that would just be my advice. But, you know, the truth is probably just showing up anywhere and saying look at me, not Bush...

BORGER: Right.

MILBANK: going to get him about 90 percent of the way, because there's just such a relief around the world on this. So...

BLITZER: Because he could go to Cairo. He could go to Amman. He could go to Istanbul in Turkey. He could go to Baghdad, if he wanted to. There are a lot of Muslim cities he could go to.

STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": He could. If he were going to go to Tehran, he would probably have to have some preparations, if not preconditions, before he went there.

BORGER: Right.


HAYES: Look, I agree with Gloria. It depends -- it all depends on what he wants to say.

BORGER: Right.

HAYES: If he wants to go and talk about democracy, which I think would be an interesting idea, go to Saudi Arabia. Go to Cairo. Make a case. If he wants to be bold and aggressive in these places, I think there are plenty of places for him to go.

BLITZER: In this CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, we asked, "Are you confident that Obama will improve relations with other countries?"

And a mere 79 percent said yes, they are confident.


BLITZER: Twenty-one percent not so confident. The expectations for him are enormous.

BORGER: Well, they are enormous here, but, also, abroad, as I was saying. I mean, I think the expectations abroad are so huge that he has a real opportunity to say I'm different. But I don't think it can be just poetry, Wolf. We've heard a lot of peltry from Barack Obama, as Hillary Clinton used to say.

It -- he's got to go wherever he goes with some specific ideas that he wants enacted on.

BLITZER: I want to play, Dana, this clip from Obama Wednesday at his news conference. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Right now, across America, the finest products in the world are rolling off our assembly lines and the proudest, most determined, most productive workers in the world are on the job. Some are already in their second shift of the day, many putting in longer hours than ever before.


BLITZER: All right, when you listen to that, does that say to you he really wants to make sure the U.S. auto industry survives?

MILBANK: There's no question about it. If he weren't taking that view, it would be absolutely insane. I mean, the Senate Banking Committee just today was hearing from economists and all that it would be cataclysmic for there to be a failure. I don't think anybody is going to be in a position of allowing that to happen.

But they're -- they're just...

BLITZER: So they'll provide the $34 billion?

MILBANK: Well, they're debating at the margins and it's sort of a game of chicken with the administration -- are you going to give them the money from the -- the TARP fund or is...

BLITZER: The $700 billion for the financial sector.

MILBANK: Exactly. It seems that they're haggling within that realm now, though.

BLITZER: Yes. He says he's going to either save or create, Steve, two-and-a-half million jobs. George Will, writing in "The Washington Post" today, said: "How will anyone calculate the number of jobs saved in what sense -- in what sense saved? Saved from what? Saved by what? Because scores of millions of today's jobs will exist two years from now, but who will be able to dispute a presidential claim that administration policies saved some portion of them? What do you think?

HAYES: Well, that's a pretty good point. I mean, and George Will also made the point that these two things came in sequence. At first, he said he was going to create 2.5 million.

BORGER: Right.

HAYES: He later said he was going to save 2.5 million or save and create 2.5. And that's a huge difference. I mean, if you're going to create 2.5, it's very different than saving.

But I thought that the best part of this George Will column was that he was writing about Joseph Schumpeter. And he was talking about creative destruction. And these are the kinds of, I think, free market ideas that Washington could use more of these days. We could use some Friedrich Hayek, maybe.

BLITZER: Because people are going to be really disappointed -- getting back to these high expectations, Gloria... BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: ...if two-and-a-half million jobs aren't created. Bill Clinton, in his eight years...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ...what, there were 20 million new jobs created?

BORGER: You know, there's a technical term for what Barack Obama did in politics. It's called fudging.


BORGER: It's save or create? I mean you listen to that and you go what is that? What does that mean?

That's nothing. Honestly, George Will is right. It's not a lot of jobs. He just -- he's so careful that -- you know, this is the flip side of Obama, the side we saw during some of the primaries, is that he's so careful. And this may be a time to be bold.


HAYES: But if you look, too -- look, too, back at the -- I mean these -- the numbers and the way politicians throw around numbers are, should we say, less than precise.

MILBANK: You think?

HAYES: And you go back to -- to Bill Clinton's 100,000 new police -- new cops on the street and the way that that came about. It was sort of thrown out, you know, in a discussion one time. And then it was politics.

MILBANK: But there, at least, you can actually appoint a thousand cops. Here, you're just at the mercy of economic cycles. He was going to create jobs when jobs were being created.

BORGER: Right.

MILBANK: Now he has to say well, we're going to destroy fewer than we would have before. It's like the fly on the chariot wheel in Aesop's fable, you know, looking at the big dust he raised.

The president has very little to do with this. He's not (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: We're waiting for the rest of this year. But so far this year, what, 1.2 million jobs have been lost. And the year by no means over. November -- we're waiting for the November and December numbers.

BORGER: Well, and, by the way, every day the stimulus package in Congress seems to grow by billions and billions and billions. So we'll see what that does for jobs.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll leave it right there. Thank you.

A luxury trip to the inauguration for people without a penny to spare. You're going to meet the man behind what will be the trip of a lifetime for some who never thought they'd see Barack Obama's swearing in.

And should President-Elect Obama scale back the celebration in light of the economic crisis facing the country?

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


BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

The big three carmakers again pleading their case before Congress, looking for $34 billion in bailout. Skeptical lawmakers are still not convinced. We'll have complete coverage tonight.

And the Treasury Department may finally step up and try to help struggling homeowners. It's actually now considering a plan that could drive mortgage interest rates down below 5 percent. We'll have the latest for you.

And there are thousands of toxic toys in stores all across this country. Who's looking out for your safety? Not the federal government. We'll have that special report.

Please join us at the top of the hour for all of the day's news, all of those stories and more, from an Independent perspective -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: See you in a few moments, Lou. Thank you.

Barack Obama is keeping his promise of change in at least one way. In a break from tradition, the entire length of the National Mall here in Washington will be open for as many people as can fit during the inauguration. That's from the inaugural committee, which now says it's committed to making Barack Obama's inauguration -- and I'm quoting now -- "the most open and accessible in history."

So here's another question -- do you want an all expenses paid trip paid to Washington to be part of Barack Obama's inauguration on January 20th? You'd get a hotel room, food and drinks -- even gowns and tuxedos. Well, for some of you, this may be your chance.

Let's turn to CNN's Samantha Hayes. She's been looking at this story for us. And it's all provided by one really remarkable businessman -- Samantha, what's going on?

SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Earl William Stafford, Wolf, who made his money in a technology company, decided to buy what was advertised as the premier hotel inauguration package. We're talking about rooms and food, balls, the works. And he decided to invite people who never thought they'd be able to come.


SAMANTHA HAYES (voice-over): It's a million dollar view an the top of the JW Marriott on Pennsylvania Avenue. And on Inauguration Day, William Stafford decided it should go to those who don't have a penny to spare.

WILLIAM EARL STAFFORD, BENEFACTOR: We hope that the balcony here, that the terrace is filled with those who are disadvantaged, those who are distressed.

SAMANTHA HAYES: Those who didn't think they would ever be able to see Barack Obama sworn in as president on these steps. Not only will they see it, but Stafford is making sure his guests experience history in style.

STAFFORD: Why not give them an experience that they can tell their children and their grandchildren about?

HAYES: The entire package includes 300 rooms and four suites under renovation just for the event.

ERICK SPEIGHT, SALES EXECUTIVE, JW MARRIOTT: Stunned. Literally stunned. I mean, we hear about great benevolence all over the place. It's another story when this gentleman is in your face saying, "Hey, I'm going to do this. Here's the money.

SAMANTHA HAYES: And an even better story if you are one of those selected. Stafford will be working with organizations like the Urban League.

LAVERN CHATMAN, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE, VIRGINIA: I can't imagine it. You know, you're sitting there and you've been seeing the election and you see what the balls are going to look like. And everything says, oh, they're sold out. Nobody's going to be able to get in town. And then you get a call saying you've been selected. We're going to fly to you Washington.


HAYES: And Stafford is also hosting a prayer breakfast, a luncheon and two balls. And, Wolf, he's throwing in the gowns and tuxedos for those events.

BLITZER: He sounds like a really remarkable guy.


BLITZER: All right, Samantha.

Thank you very much. Jack Cafferty is standing by. He's got "The Cafferty File."

Are you going to apply for one of those spots -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, no, I don't it was intended for somebody like me. And this question that I'm going to ask kind of runs a little counter to what he's trying to do there. But we'll see how it plays.

The question this hour is: Should President-Elect Barack Obama scale back his inauguration a bit, in light of the economic crisis facing the country? Most people don't think he should.

Diane in Barneveld, New York: "I think he should have his day like every other president. This is the first time in a long time that I've been interested in an inauguration and I imagine there are others that feel the same way. Let's have our celebration and see history made."

Jay in Georgia writes: "Absolutely. This Is a government, not a frat house. The party ends with Bush. Time to get serious. Bah humbug."

JaRee: "No way should he scale back. This is a once in a lifetime celebration most of the country's been waiting for. I think we can afford to take a break for one day out of the year and welcome in our new president."

Linda writes: "Absolutely. And I believe that he'll set an example. I live and work in Macau and Obama is the big hope for the world. He'll have to work miracles to live up to the expectations but this would send an excellent message to Americans and the rest of the world."

Christopher in Houston writes: "Absolutely not, Jack. Given that we're in a huge mess with the economy, daily layoffs, the big three bailouts, we deserve something to smile about. We ought to honor and recognize this fantastic moment in history, which I personally never thought I would see."

Dion in Dallas writes: "There are two major things this country needs right now. One, a celebration that won't cost the average citizen a dime. And, two, spending to spur the economy. Let's have a big party with someone else's money and live through the celebration vicariously."

And finally, this. I like this one. Eric in Florida writes: "Barack Obama's celebration is something that will be remembered for all time. This inauguration would serve as a great coming together of the American people to raise the country's morale and hope during these trying times of economic stress. Make it big, make it loud. Let the world know that what we have done is historic. We're proud to be Americans and that we're ready to begin a new and hopeful chapter in our history." I like that.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and peruse those that are there. You might find your own -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is it too early to tell our viewers, Jack, that CNN viewers will have all day and all night coverage on January 20th, in the way only CNN can do it?

Is it too early to remind our viewers who won't be able to come to Washington that this is the place that they'll want to see this inauguration?

CAFFERTY: Apparently it's not.

BLITZER: OK. I just wanted to point out...


BLITZER: I just wanted to ask if I could do that.


BLITZER: Because, you know, between now and January 20th, what we're going to be doing?

CAFFERTY: Well, probably talking about the fact that we'll have this nonstop coverage of the inauguration day and night around the clock. Is it true the bars are going to stay open day and night for four days down there?


CAFFERTY: Is that a good idea?

BLITZER: They've kept the bars open a little longer to celebrate.


BLITZER: We'll discuss that a little bit of that tomorrow, because we're out of time right now.


BLITZER: So maybe that will be one of your questions tomorrow, Jack. Thank you.

On our "Political Ticker," the outgoing first couple are new homeowners. A spokeswoman confirming that Mr. And Mrs. Bush have bought a home in Dallas to live in after they leave the White House. They'll also continue to spend time at their ranch in Crawford, Texas. The Bushes lived in Dallas before they moved to the Texas governor's mansion in Austin back in 1995.

The architects of Barack Obama's victory already are starting to cash in. The campaign manager, David Plouffe, reportedly is writing a book, has hired the famed Democratic attorney, Robert Barnett, to shop it around to publishers. It's tentatively entitled "The Audacity To Win."

And remember, for the latest political news anytime, you can always check out The Ticker there is now the number one political news blog on the Web. A lot of information there. Go there -- Talk about a deal with the devil -- in a new ad campaign, a Christian TV station has a pitch man with a fork. Our own Jeanne Moos has that "Moost Unusual" story. That's coming up.

And our "Hot Shots" are coming in from around the world.

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


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Zimbabwe, children gather water as the country declares a national cholera epidemic.

In India, women do yoga exercises as part of a trauma relief camp.

In New Hampshire, a modular home falls off its trailer while in transit.

And in Wisconsin, a Canadian goose soars over the open waters of a lake.

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

A Christian TV channel has enlisted a "Moost Unusual" pitch man for a new ad campaign.

Our Jeanne Moos has the story.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Greetings, my minions.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What the devil? A religious TV channel is teaming up with guess who?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and I have toiled together to create filthy television. Now a new network is threatening our wonderful world of evil-tainment.

MOOS: And this one really is a little devil -- 4'5".

MICHAEL MIGLIOZZI, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, CESARIO MIGLIOZZI AGENCY: Having a little person was something that just added to the comedy visually. MOOS: How did the Catholic Archdiocese of Brooklyn get mixed up with him?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not tune in to Net TV on December 8th at 8:00 p.m.. I will go to



MOOS: He's the anti-spokesman created by a Los Angeles ad agency to relaunch a New York-based religious channel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New evangelization television.

MOOS: The programming will include a Catholic newscast, a restaurant review show called "Breaking Bread" and good, clean cartoons -- for instance "Bullio the Bubble," who's best friends with Jesus.

So why enlist the help of the devil?

MIGLIOZZI: We could have preached to the converted, but we wanted to widen the audience.

MOOS: And it's not exactly new for the church to use the devil as a recruiting tool, says ad agency partner Enzo Cesario.

ENZO CESARIO, COFOUNDER, CESARIO MIGLIOZZI AGENCY: Good and evil -- it's been around for centuries.

MOOS: In the computer age, the devil gets his own Web site, where you can type in questions.

(on camera): Does the devil really wear Prada?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What kind of question is that? Do I look like a Google?


MOOS (voice-over): No. You look like actor Jimmy Briscoe dressed in a costume and horns purchased at Target, seen here devilishly looking down the makeup woman's. His puns can be hellish.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got someone on my tooth. I had the filet of soul for lunch.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: That's soul -- S-O-U-L. The devil appears in viral and TV ads, as well as on buses. Judging from some of the language used by viewers commenting on the ads, it looks like they are reaching beyond a religious audience. Whoever thought we'd see the Catholic Church using a pitch man with a pitch fork?

(on camera): Did God approve this message?





MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Jeanne, thank you.

That's it for us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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