Return to Transcripts main page


White House: Won't Let Big 3 Fail; Obama's Auto 'Frustration'; Jesse Jackson, Jr. on Illinois Corruption Scandal

Aired December 12, 2008 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, it may be the auto industry's last best hope for a bailout. The White House now considering tapping into a fund that was supposed to be off limits after the Senate refuses to rescue the big three.
I'll get reaction from the president of the United Auto Workers Union. He's standing by live.

Also this hour, dramatic new moves to kick the Illinois governor out of office. And we have a brand-new interview with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. He's flatly denying any wrongdoing in the corruption scandal.

Stand by for that.

And D.C.-area homes for rent during inauguration week. Wait until you see where you can stay if you can afford $50,000 a day.

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

The Bush administration now says it's moving on its own to prevent the collapse of the U.S. auto industry and the economic disaster that could follow. This, after the Senate rejected a $14 billion bailout plan last night.

The urgency heightened today. General Motors revealed it's cutting another 250,000 vehicles from its production schedule and temporarily closing 21 factories across North America.

Let's go straight to our Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry. He's working the story for us.

The White House still has one option that's available to do the deed, to make it work. What is the latest on that?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, CNN has just learned in the last couple of moments from two senior officials that the White House has decided they will not tap these funds today to bail out the auto industry because they want to collect more information and make sure that first, this would be the right move. But these two senior officials say they are leaving the door open to potentially tapping these funds this weekend or next week, something the big three say they desperately need.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (voice-over): Abandoned by his fellow Republicans and now under heavy pressure from Democrats to save the American auto industry on his own, the president is making a U-turn. He's thinking about tapping billions of dollars from the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Plan to help the big three, a sharp reversal from just a few days ago.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have always said that the TARP program was passed for a very different purpose, and that was to prevent the collapse of our financial institutions.

HENRY: Auto institutions now may need to be helped as well, Dana Perino explained in a written statement Friday because, "A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time."

The president's support in his own party has also destabilized. Intense White House lobbying efforts, including Vice President Cheney on the Hill and the president on the phone, failed to move enough Republicans to support a legislative bailout Thursday night. And top Republicans are now warning the White House not to take unilateral action without guarantees the auto companies will become more viable.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: If the White House puts TARP money in on top of GM's $62 billion in debt, OK, and doesn't require all of these things that I'm talking about to happen, OK, all they're doing is throwing good money after bad.

HENRY: Ironically, it's Democrats who are giving the president cover to tap the funds, declaring the situation is dire not just for automakers, but car dealers, bankers, parts suppliers.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), BANKING COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There is a cascading occurring as you and I are talking, so I'm hopeful that this day, before the day ends, the White House will make that decision, send that signal the markets need to hear, before even more damage is done. In a matter of hours now. We're not talking days or weeks now, we're talking hours.


HENRY: Now, senior officials here say they realize the situation is serious, but they want to rush into this. They want to make sure it's the right move. They want to carefully evaluate how quickly the big three need the money. Basically, also, what kind of strings would be attached to the funds to make sure that taxpayers could get some return on these emergency funds -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And so this weekend will be critical. Is that what you're hearing? Is that what you're feeling over there at the north lawn?

HENRY: The feeling right now is over this weekend it could happen, or the early part of next week. The White House realizes it's critical, but they don't want to jump into it. They want to make sure.

This is a very careful step. They're getting a lot of pressure from conservatives saying stop all these bailouts, you've got to make sure there are strings attached. They're going to make sure taxpayers get a return on their money -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to get reaction. And we're going to talk to the president of the United Auto Workers union, Ron Gettelfinger. He's standing by live.

Just want to congratulate Ed Henry. He's our new senior White House correspondent.

Good work, Ed. It's a position I'm quite familiar with. I'm sure you will be excellent over there.

HENRY: Wolf, I wanted you to know I'm wearing boots today because there's big shoes to fill. I knew you were here before.

BLITZER: I spent a few hours doing live shots over there as well.

Our Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry.

President-elect Obama is leading calls for White House intervention in hopes of saving the battered auto industry.

Our new National Political Correspondent Jessica Yellin is covering the transition in Chicago.

Congratulations to Jessica on this promotion, as well.

What are you hearing from the Obama team today about this last- ditch effort to save the big three?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're going through our own transitions here as well, Wolf, I guess.

I'll tell you, Barack Obama's team is saying that he is very disappointed with what has happened on the Hill. As you know, he was a strong supporter of a bailout measure, of an auto industry rescue. But you know, he's stepping back from truly using the bully pulpit to really press this issue hard.

He didn't come out and make a statement before the cameras today. Instead, he's released a statement on paper, a big difference, and says, "I'm disappointed the Senate could not reach agreement on a short-term plan for the auto industry. My hope is that the administration and Congress will still find a way to give the industry the temporary assistance it needs while demanding the long-term restructuring that is absolutely required."

He does not specify how he would like this to happen in any more details beyond that. So he is keeping his fingerprints off this one as much as possible. So Obama has consistently said he believes mismanagement of the auto industry over the years should not be the problem of workers across America because this will impact the economy. But again, he is keeping a bit of his distance from this issue today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So publicly, he's sort of not showing all that much involvement. But behind the scenes, I assume, he and his people are deeply involved. Is that right?

YELLIN: The answer to that is yes and no. Barack Obama, we're told, is being briefed continuously by Congress throughout the negotiations. His staff was aware of every step of what was being negotiated, and he has had constant conversations with the leaders. But Barack Obama was not making lobbying calls to the members of Congress urging them to vote yes.

Now, leadership is saying, look, this was defeated by Republicans mostly and he couldn't have made that much of a difference. So they understand why he didn't do it. No one's pointing fingers. But he certainly didn't throw his full force behind this in a way that he could have. He made a choice here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica's going to be with us a lot here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Congratulations, Jessica, on your new job, as well.

YELLIN: Excited.

BLITZER: Thank you. You should be excited, but it's excellent work rewarded.

Thank you.

In Illinois right now, top officials are going to new lengths to force the governor out. The Illinois attorney general is asking the state supreme court to temporarily remove Rod Blagojevich from office or strip him of his powers. At the same time, she's urging the state legislature to impeach Blagojevich, accused of plotting to sell Barack Obama's former Senate seat.


LISA MADIGAN, ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL: State government is paralyzed by a governor who is incapable of governing. My action will not eliminate the need for impeachment and trial. And the Illinois constitution gives the Illinois Supreme Court the authority to determine a governor's ability to serve.


BLITZER: The governor's chief of staff, who was also arrested in the federal corruption charges, today did what his boss has refused to do, he resigned.

Let's go to CNN's Don Lemon. He's standing by in Chicago, a place he knows quite well, spent many years working there.

Don, you had a chance to sit down with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. today, who has found himself deeply involved now in this scandal. Tell us some of the things he told you today.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: He's probably more involved in the scandal than he ever thought -- or even being involved in a scandal. He never thought that he would be. He said he thought that -- was hoping at least that this would be sort of a time of celebration because he thought that he had a really good chance, Wolf, at being picked as the person who would succeed Barack Obama in that Senate seat.

You mentioned Lisa Madigan. It's funny that you do mention her, because we started our interview with that. That was the breaking news at the time I started that interview when I sat down with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife.

I said, "At this moment, Congressman, Lisa Madigan is taking steps to have the governor removed from office." And he answered by talking to me about the governor's -- at least what he thought his mental health.


REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: That's clear, that the governor not only cannot perform his functions under the constitution of the state of Illinois, but has clearly violated a number of statutes under our state statutes and potentially federal statutes. And there may be a capacity issue.

LEMON: What do you mean?

JACKSON: A capacity as in a mental capacity to complete job, that he cannot function under the duress that he is presently functioning under.

LEMON: Do you think there's something mentally wrong with him? Do you think he's unstable?

JACKSON: I believe that anyone who, when one reads the criminal complaint, is trying to figure out, did they raise money as an indicted governor or an indicted senator, and is trying to determine how to game the system, has some profound problems.


LEMON: And Wolf, we also talked to the congressman about a "Chicago Tribune" investigation into possible dealings that he has with two businessmen here. And we'll bring that to you a little bit later on here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Don. We have a lot more to talk about.

Don Lemon in Chicago for us. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the fate of the auto industry is still unknown. As you've been reporting, the $14 billion bailout bill died in the Senate last night after a dispute over wage cuts.

Senate Republicans said the bill wasn't tough enough, it won't have done enough to put the automakers back on their feet. They wanted the United Auto Workers union to accept a lower pay and benefits package similar to what employees make at U.S. factories where they make Japanese cars. The union balked.

In an unusual move, labor and industry representatives met with lawmakers at the Capitol last night trying to hammer out a deal. But eventually, the union walked away unwilling to comply with the demands.

The industry still needs cash. General Motors said today they're going to cut 250,000 cars from their first quarter production schedule and temporarily shut 21 factories.

President-elect Obama asked the White House to intervene. The White House press Secretary said that all options are under consideration, including the possibility of dipping into the $700 billion Troubled Asset Recovery Program, or TARP.

So here's the question: Should the United Auto Workers union have accepted wage cuts in order to save the bailout?

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

BLITZER: I'm going to pose that question to our next guest, the president of the United Auto Workers union, Ron Gettelfinger. He's standing by, Jack, live. I think you'll be interested to hear what he has to say.

I'll also ask him about the union's refusal on this last point that Jack was just talking about, on salary and other demands, concessions, whether it will pay a price of massive layoffs.

Stand by for that interview.

And Senate Republicans dealt a fatal blow to the $14 billion plan to rescue the big three. What, if anything, do they have to gain?

And if you're coming to Washington for the inauguration, why settle for a hotel room or a rental condo? We're going to show you what $50,000 will buy.

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


BLITZER: Supporters of an auto industry rescue are discouraged but not necessarily defeated. At least not yet. Now that a rescue bill has died in the Senate, there are still some signs out there that the auto companies may, when all the dust settles, still get some help before they run out of cash and before many, many people potentially lose their jobs.

Joining us now from Detroit is the president of the United Auto Workers, Ron Gettelfinger.

Mr. Gettelfinger, thanks once again for coming in.

RON GETTELFINGER, UAW PRESIDENT: Thank you, Wolf. And thanks for having the UAW.

BLITZER: It looked like you were close last night, but the Republicans who opposed this bailout are saying in the end, it was your fault, the UAW, because you refused to agree to come down in wages to what American workers make at Toyota plants in the South, for example. That you wouldn't have the same kind of wage structure and that was the result of the collapse.

What say you?

GETTELFINGER: I'd say that's a bunch of rhetoric. The facts are we had an agreement with Senator Corker. Senator Dodd had asked him not to take it to the caucus but to take it to the floor. He took it to the Republican Caucus after he agreed to it, but then he couldn't sell it to the caucus.

BLITZER: Were you willing to bring the wages of the UAW down to the level that American workers make at plants for foreign owners whether in Alabama or in South Carolina or in Tennessee other states?

GETTELFINGER: Well, see, we're kind of chasing a game here. At first they talked about Toyota. Toyota has put out information saying that they're paid more than the autoworkers in the other -- the union autoworkers.

In other words, they claim they make around 30 bucks an hour. And maybe that's just anti-union rhetoric. But Wolf, we're willing to go in.

If Toyota wants to open their books or any of these companies want to open their books and allow to us come in with our research people and take a look at it, we're more than happy to do that. But while we're there, we also want to see all of the management pay scale, we'd like to see the supplier contracts, the dealer contracts so we can level the playing field, if that's what they want to do.

BLITZER: Here's what...

GETTELFINGER: But our wages are -- our wages are competitive in many instances, and will be in some instances more than competitive as we move forward into the future.

BLITZER: Because the widely held assumption out is that the UAW workers make a lot more money than the nonunion workers. That's the assumption that a lot of people have, as you know. GETTELFINGER: Absolutely. And there's a lot of spin to that, and there's no question.

There's benefit to belonging to a union, because you do have a voice just like in this situation. Who would have ever thought that a United States senator would sit down and want to negotiate with a union? And that complicated the situation even more. But we still have to negotiate with the companies.

But at the end of the day, look, we believed that we had an agreement with Senator Corker. We believed that Senator Corker could bring the votes from the Senate with him to get this passed. He was unable to deliver.

Now, that still leaves the problem here. We know because of the importance of the auto industry to our country that we cannot let up. I will say this, the White House kept their word.

BLITZER: Because it's interesting that right now, your single best hope of getting this deal done is the Republican president, the Republican secretary of the Treasury, for them to decide to use some of those so-called TARP funds, the $700 billion that's supposed to bail out the financial sector, use $14 billion or $15 billion to bail out Chrysler and GM.

GETTELFINGER: Absolutely, Wolf. But Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi and the White House reached a compromise on legislation and put it on the floor. The Republican minority went against the president's legislation, is what this boils down to.

It leads one to speculate as to why they would take that position. When this compromise was reached -- and again, the White House kept their word here. And that's a bit troubling to us as to why the Republicans went against us.

BLITZER: Are you confident in the coming days they'll find the money from the so-called TARP or some other area and make sure that the auto industry survives, at least in the short term?

GETTELFINGER: We were very pleased to hear the White House release a statement this morning saying that they would look at all options, including the use of TARP funds because they recognize the value of the industry. They recognize the stressed economy that we're in, and how much worse it will make it.

So we're very pleased that the White House took that position. But we're also hopeful, because until these things are resolved, they're not resolved.

And we're hopeful that in the next few days -- because I think it's important to understand the trade credits or the suppliers out there need to have some comfort so that they don't have a run on the banks, if you will, and demand payment on delivery. Companies cannot survive that.

BLITZER: That could affect the financial sector, as well. GETTELFINGER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. Gettelfinger, thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you over the next several days and see what happens. Whatever happens in the next few days, the story is clearly not going away.

GETTELFINGER: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: In the Minnesota Senate recount drama, Democrat Al Franken sees victory. Not that he's won the seat itself, but something has happened that's possibly putting him a little bit closer to it. We'll update you on what we know.

And you've often seen the first President Bush get emotional when he speaks about his sons. Now the current President Bush gets emotional talking about his dad. You're going to see what apparently almost drove the president of the United States to tears today.

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



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

Happening now, up to $15 (ph) billion lost. A Wall Street legend charged with fraud. We're going to explore what's being called a giant ponzi scheme.

Stand by.

And they wanted to move to Washington early to get their daughters started in school, but there's apparently no room -- repeat, no room -- at the presidential guesthouse. So who bumped the Obamas? We're investigating.

And they were exposed to toxic smoke from open-air burn pits every day. Is that why healthy U.S. soldiers are coming home from Iraq very, very sick?

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

Many Illinois Democrats are going to great lengths right now to try to distance themselves from the corruption charges against the governor, Rod Blagojevich. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. says for him it's nothing short than a fight for his political life.

Let's go back to CNN's Don Lemon. He's got more of his exclusive interview with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

He got rather emotional, I take it, at times during that long chat you had with him, Don.

LEMON: Oh, he did, especially when talking about his children and fight -- and talking about fighting for his name.

He says he wants his name back. But this was some other -- another bit of developing news here this morning from "The Chicago Tribune" about two supporters of Jesse Jackson Jr. and Rod Blagojevich and an apparent fund-raiser, according to "The Tribune," Wolf, that was held this weekend.

I talked to the congressman about that. And here's how he answered.


LEMON: To your knowledge, were they emissaries at all to raise money for you in order to get you that Senate seat?

REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: No, they were not.

And, so, Mr. Nayak also happens to be a friend of the governor. Did I ask him to advocate on my behalf? No. Did I send him as an emissary to me on behalf of the Senate campaign. The answer is no. And that's unequivocal.

I have got a great name, given to me by great parents. And I have got a great father who has a great legacy of public service.


JACKSON: It's so great, it's so great, that I named my daughter Jessica, and I named my son Jesse. So, I'm fighting now for my character.

But I'm also fighting for my life.


LEMON: He goes on even after that, Wolf, to get even more emotional, when he talks about his children. He said he wants to clear this up, not only for the people of Illinois, but so that his children, when they Google their names or they look back on their father's legacy, that they won't be embarrassed by this episode.

Wolf, we also talked to Mrs. Jackson about Patti Blagojevich, who has gotten a lot of press during this about words that she used in that criminal complaint. And I will play that for you a little bit later on, if you will have me back here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We definitely will. Stand by, Don. We're coming back to Chicago for you -- more of this exclusive interview coming up.

Let's get back to our top story right now.

Republicans have thumbed their noses at President Bush's wishes and earned the anger of many people who believe they put American jobs on the line. So, what's their motive for opposing the auto rescue bill?

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us right now.

Do Republicans in the Senate, Bill, have anything to gain by going forward and saying no to this bailout?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, possibly, because, you know, there were interests involved, not just ideology.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Senate Republicans took a big risk by killing the auto rescue deal.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: This is going to be a very, very bad Christmas for a lot of people as a result of what takes place here tonight.

SCHNEIDER: Republicans defied the White House. But President Bush is a lame duck and not particularly a hero to his party. Senate Republicans insisted they were taking a stand on principle, fiscal responsibility.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: You will never see the money back, and you will create an opportunity for us to spend a whole lot more money.

SCHNEIDER: But opposition to the rescue had as much to do with regional interests as with ideology. Opposition was spearheaded by Republicans from states like Alabama and Tennessee, where foreign automakers have made major investments.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: This is a huge proposed bailout, and I fear it's just the down payment on more to come next year.

SCHNEIDER: But a lot of state tax money was used to attract foreign investment, the president of the Auto Workers argues.

GETTELFINGER: Our taxpayers have put over $3 billion that we know of -- and this is money on the top -- to subsidize the foreign brands to come here.

SCHNEIDER: Critics respond that foreign automakers are making cars Americans want to buy.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Very few of us had anything to do with the dilemma that they have created for themselves.

SCHNEIDER: The vote was a showdown with the United Auto Workers union, which heavily supported Democrats this year.

CORKER: And it came down to one thing. And that was just getting the UAW to agree to a date certain that they would be competitive.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: Next year, we're expecting a major political fight over legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize. Thursday's vote -- vote could help Republicans raise money from business, but, you know, probably not from American automakers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect you're absolutely, positively right on that.

Bill Schneider, thank you.

Meanwhile, if the American auto companies collapse, their competitors could be hurt at the same time.

Our Brian Todd is standing by. He's explaining why -- what's going on. He's got a little unique perspective -- Brian.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're taking a look at the ripple effect. If one of the Big Three automakers goes down, how is that going to affect the entire auto industry? And we're going to do it with an illustration here with a -- this Toyota, 1997 Toyota Camry.

Ron Harbour, here is an auto industry expert. His publication examined auto manufacturing and performance.

Ron, you had a good point to make about certain parts that are, like, in a Toyota engine. Those companies also supply the Big Three. Talk to us about one of those parts.

RON HARBOUR, AUTO INDUSTRY EXPERT: Yes, Brian, here's -- here's a good example. In this Toyota vehicle, there's a starter motor here that is supplied by a company called Denso, formerly known as Nippon Denso, which is a Japanese supplier, but with a huge presence here in North America. They have plants all over the Midwest, and they produce parts, but not only for Toyota, but many of the other Japanese, German and the U.S. manufacturers, like GM, Ford, and Chrysler.

So, they're very a large supplier and probably a good example. If one of those companies was to go down and to go bankrupt, it would have a huge impact on a supplier like Denso. It wouldn't take them down, because they're a big supplier and they're a big global supplier, but it would have a huge impact on the number of jobs in those plants.

And, of course, the companies that remain, like Toyota, would be concerned. Would it have an impact on the quality of their parts or the delivery of their parts? What would that mean to them? So, those companies, too, have been scrambling to figure out, what's the impact on them if one of these companies was to go down? Would it cause the -- would it shut down one of their plants? Would it cause any other kind of problems?

So, they have spent a lot of time trying to plan for that contingency. TODD: And you mentioned Denso has a plant in Battle Creek, Michigan, right?


HARBOUR: They do, right -- yes, right in the heart of the Midwest.

So, most of the suppliers are really in that Michigan-to-Alabama corridor in the Midwest. And, as the -- as the newer plants have been built in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, the suppliers have really, you know, located in those areas to support them, as well as Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.

TODD: All right, Ron, thanks very much.

So, there you see it, Wolf. Companies like Toyota here, Honda, they could all feel the pinch if one of the Big Three goes down.


BLITZER: A unique perspective, as I said -- Brian Todd reporting.

Meanwhile, you have heard, certainly, a lot about GM, Ford, and Chrysler, but do you know which car companies they own or have a stake in? Under the GM umbrella are several familiar names, including Buick, Cadillac, Chevy, GMC, Hummer, Saab, and Saturn. Ford has Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. And among the Chrysler brands, Dodge and Jeep.

Just wanted to point that out.

If you're planning on making some -- a -- a trip to Washington for the Obama inaugural, you -- and you have some money to burn, you may want to check out the 500-acre estate that is now available for rent. Is it over-the-top luxury in these tough economic times? What's going on?

And Condoleezza Rice is pushing back against critics who say Barack Obama is inheriting a global mess partly created by the Bush administration.

And a battle of the titans from the Watergate era -- President Richard Nixon vs. his interviewer, Sir David Frost, their historic confrontation, now a major motion picture.

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


BLITZER: Some people are spending a lot of money to come and experience the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as president. But would you even consider spending $50,000 a night?

Samantha Hayes is joining us from outside you Washington, in Northern Virginia.

All right, Sam, what can $50,000 a night get you?

SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It can get you quite a lot, Wolf.

And I can tell that you that part of this enormous package includes a private concert the Sunday night before the inauguration. It will take place in this room. It's basically a mini symphony hall. And it's inside the music house, the theater house, which is on this enormous estate, 550 acres, owned by the maestro of the New York Philharmonic. His name is Lorin Maazel, his wife, Dietlinde Turban- Maazel.

They're in New York right now. But we had a chance to take a tour of their estate and find out what $50,000 a night will get you. And it's quite impressive and very luxurious, Wolf. There are nine, I think -- or 10, if you include the manor house, the main house on the estate, homes to stay in, including their cottages, their carriage homes, and -- and their very well-equipped, beautiful kitchens, bathrooms.

There's an indoor heated pool and spa. There's also a bowling alley, lots of -- lots of services, too. They're offering massages, a chauffeur to get you here and then to Capitol Hill, obviously, food and laundry services.

And there's also a petting -- petting zoo, I guess you could say. There's a camel on the property, even though this is known as horse country. The camel, Omar, I think is his name. Kind of entertaining. We enjoyed meeting him today.

The money is going to their music foundation. It's a very important part, as you can imagine, of their lives. And, today, in New York, we talked with Dietlinde Turban-Maazel about this extraordinary package. And she told us that she already has a few -- she has some interest already.


DIETLINDE TURBAN-MAAZEL, WIFE OF LORIN MAAZEL: We already got some individual calls. And I expect from everything that's out there now, from newspaper articles, corporations that we have talked to, travel agency packages and stuff, I expect there will be some response.


HAYES: Wolf, you may remember that CNN followed maestro Maazel to North Korea for a documentary that Christiane Amanpour did much earlier this year. So, we have met him before. It's kind of an extraordinary experience to be here on his property right now.

BLITZER: It sounds like an amazing opportunity, if you have $50,000 a night.


BLITZER: Is there a minimum number of nights he's asking for, for people to stay there?

HAYES: They're saying, right now, it's going to be available a few days before the inauguration, perhaps a few days afterward. I think they're kind of still working out the deal, Wolf. But, you know, 50 people can be accommodated on this enormous estate. So, perhaps 49 of your closest friends or maybe they will take individuals. They're kind of sorting it all out. Of course, some of it you may be -- you may be able to write off on your taxes, too, so maybe something to consider if you're trying to decide.

BLITZER: And they have got a camel there, too. Hey, what -- what could be bad about that?

HAYES: They have got a camel.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Sam.

If money is no object, there are a lot of other options for inauguration-goers looking to live it up right here in the nation's capital.

Let's go to our Internet, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, the luxury hotels, they are offering some eye-popping bargains, shall we say? I don't think so.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: I don't know about that, but $50,000 for all that, that does look like a bargain, when you consider that $99,000 is what it's going to set you back if you stay in the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Now, you do get a few more nights. You actually get four nights in a presidential suite. And, then, after that it, they will put you up in Grand Cayman for a few days to warm up, if you got very cold standing on the Capitol steps, watch that swearing-in ceremony.

There are still offers like that -- this going on in Washington, D.C., even though lots of hotel rooms are booked up. That's the case at the Mayflower Hotel, although, for $51,000, you can have their ultimate presidential package.

They will throw in some Burberry products, some champagne, and some inaugural jewelry, perhaps some presidential cufflinks for your trouble coming to Washington, D.C.

I spoke to a spokesman at the -- spokesperson at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. They said they have had inquiries for these packages, but they haven't filled them yet. Vivian Deuschl at the Ritz-Carlton says their big concern was looking like they were offering too lavish packages, considering this economy. That's why they're offering it for $99,000, and not $150,000, which is what they did last time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow. That's the only thing I can say, is wow. Thank you, Abbi.

Let's get an inauguration reality check right now. Federal officials say estimates that as many as four million people may be coming to Washington for the big event are too high, but they don't offer an alternative estimate. They say, stand by. We are told that D.C. Police will have 8,000 officers on hand, half of them from their own force and the other half recruited from outside departments.

Inauguration planners are expecting roughly 10,000 tour buses. That's about 10 times the number of buses that come to D.C. during the peak cherry blossom season. It's going to be crowded.

Only 240,000 people, by the way, who nabbed free tickets will actually get prime spots near the swearing-in ceremony. It's a lot, but still not that many.

In the "Strategy Session" that is coming up, Donna Brazile and Terry Jeffrey, they are standing by. The vice president, Dick Cheney, reportedly warning of a return to the Hoover days if Congress doesn't act to help the Big Three. But Republican senators, as you know, last night defied him.

And has John McCain gotten over November's results? He was on the Dave Letterman show last night. And we have the highlights.

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


BLITZER: Dick Cheney reportedly warns of something far worse if the car companies aren't bailed out, the vice president apparently invoking a time of massive job losses, soaring prices, and a stock market crash.

Let's discuss what's going on in our "Strategy Session."

Joining us, our CNN political contributor the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey. He's editor in chief of the Cybercast News Service.

"Politico" saying, it's going to be Herbert Hoover time, quoting the vice president, if in fact this bailout doesn't happen. He was up there trying to convince Republicans, Donna, they -- they have to support it. You know what? Most of them decided, not -- not so fast.


DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I actually agree with Dick Cheney on this one. This is probably a first. We will probably get another inch of snow in New Orleans because I'm agreeing with him.

But Dick Cheney is absolutely right. This is a vital industry. The Republicans should have supported it in the United States Senate. This is not just about bailing out autoworkers. This is about preserving jobs in this country. One -- one out of every 10 jobs is connected to the auto industry. It's a vital industry. And Dick Cheney is absolutely right.

BLITZER: If the -- if the federal government can bail out Bear Stearns for about $30 billion, a mortgage -- a financial investment house in New York, why not spend $15 billion to bail out GM and Chrysler?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Well, it's a good argument, Wolf, that maybe they shouldn't have bailed out Bear Stearns or the auto industry.

And I will tell you, Dick Cheney might have had a point if this bill actually would have saved the auto industry. I don't think people really understand what the Congress was voting on this week. One of the things this bill says is that this presidential designee, the so-called car czar, he would be able to approve the product mix and price structure of the American auto companies.

So, instead of having these auto executives who didn't do a good job, we would have a government bureaucrat dictating to the auto industry how they're going to market cars and succeed in the free market. Never work.

BLITZER: What do you think? Because there's one argument that -- that the government should stay out of the private sector altogether. And I'm sure Terry probably thinks it was a mistake -- I assume you think it was a mistake -- to bail out the investment houses as well; is that right?

JEFFREY: Well, I -- look, you know, here's another thing. People aren't actually looking at what's in this bill, Wolf.

Back, when they did the financial industry bailout, they -- there was two definitions of what they could do. They were going to buy mortgage-backed securities and things related to mortgages. The second definition was, and any other financial instrument.

Now President Bush is indicating that he might use some of that money to bail out the auto companies. That means, under this law, the $700 billion law, he's going to say the companies are -- quote, unquote -- "any other financial instrument."

BRAZILE: Well, I wanted to hear all of Terry's arguments, because I don't think the federal government could afford to sit on the sideline and watch Wall Street go under or Main Street.

These jobs will have consequences, if we lose these auto jobs. We will fill this up and down Main Street, auto stores, car washes, and, of course, the beauty salons and the barbershops, because nobody will be able to have any money. Everybody is unemployed.

So, I agree that the Bush administration should look at all options. And I hope they extend a lifeline to the auto industry. BLITZER: Do you think the president and the secretary of the treasury, Henry Paulson, when the dust settles, in the next few days, will use some of that so-called TARP money, the $700 billion, and save GM and Chrysler?

JEFFREY: Yes, I do. I think one of the things that President Bush doesn't want to see happen is these companies go down when he's...

BLITZER: Is he right or wrong?

JEFFREY: I think he's wrong. I think he's been wrong all along. I think he's wrong through this whole process for the last four or five months.

And, look, I think what the...

BLITZER: Donna thinks that George Bush and Dick Cheney are right.


BLITZER: And Terry thinks that George Bush and -- and Dick Cheney are wrong. It's an interesting development.


BRAZILE: Well, I think, at the end of the day, the federal government should step in to shore up our economy.

Look, we will reignite the capitalistic engines of this country. But, until that day, we have to, you know, make sure that people can borrow and that these industries...


BLITZER: The argument, Terry, is that people's lives really are on the line right now...


BLITZER: ... a lot of families out there. It's a million jobs. That's a million families out there.

And it's one thing to be, you know, theoretical and -- and look at the free market system. It's another thing to appreciate the consequences.


JEFFREY: Well, absolutely. Wolf, I agree with you. I don't think there should be an ideological approach to this. There should be a practical approach to this. And you look at what the practical consequences of your policies are.

I say getting the government deeper into this now, rather than getting back to an equilibrium that is based on people's choices in the market, sets us up for a bigger fall down the road. Thus, we have created a government infrastructure...

BLITZER: All right.

JEFFREY: ... that is bigger than what we had six months ago.

BRAZILE: Well, when we bailed out Chrysler, we created jobs and we preserved that company years ago. I think this will give the auto industry an opportunity to restart their engines.

BLITZER: Whatever happens, we think there's going to be a decision over the -- maybe over the weekend, early next week, in terms of giving them this lifeline. Then, we will see how that folds -- unfolds.

Guys, thanks very much.

BRAZILE: Support your president.


BLITZER: Who would have thought?



BLITZER: All right, coming up, we have some exclusive video of the governor of Illinois. It's just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. You're going to want to hear what he has to say. That's coming up.

And how can you protect thousands of miles of coastline against terrorists in small boats? The new rules that you could impact boaters everywhere.

And potential danger to U.S. troops that has nothing to do with the battles. A toxic dump spewing black smoke, could it be responsible for U.S. veterans coming home and one Iraq vet's death?

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


BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker": John McCain apparently is trying to prove he still has a sense of humor, despite losing the White House. He appeared on the David Letterman show last night, his second appearance there since famously snubbing the late-night host late in the campaign.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": After a campaign like this -- and it consumed two years and probably more, really -- what do you do? What has your life been like since? You go from going 1,000 miles an hour to a much slower pace. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't want to talk about the bleeping campaign, understand.



MCCAIN: If you think that I'm going to go back to that bleeping situation, then bleep you.

LETTERMAN: OK. Thank you.







BLITZER: I watched last night. He was actually very, very funny and very, very nice, John McCain in -- with David Letterman.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's always funny and always nice. And I'm talking about you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: What do you mean he was very nice? He goes to David Letterman, "Bleep you." That's not very nice.

BLITZER: That was -- it was cute. It was funny.



The question this hour: Should the United Auto Workers union have accepted wage cuts in order to save the bailout? Apparently, this $14 billion deal fell apart last night over demands that the United Auto Workers union accept the same pay packages that are paid to the workers in the Toyota plants in this country.

Billy in Las Vegas, Nevada, writes: "Any rational worker will accept a pay cut in this day and age to keep their company going, but management cannot then pay themselves an outrageous bonus for 'lowering labor costs.' I have seen it happen in the past. This time, everybody involved has to be at risk if the company fails: no golden parachutes, performance bonuses for management, until workers and investors are made whole."

Mitch in Washington writes: "Damn it, no. A bunch of anti-union Republican southern senators representing right-to-work states would rather break a whole segment of the auto industry to cripple a union to help save a couple million jobs. They complain about what might amount to $5,000 job subsidies. How much did their individual states spend to subsidize these foreign auto plants?"

Ruthie in Georgia says: "Was anyone on Wall Street asked to take a pay cut in order to get their bailout? How did Wall Street get to D.C. to ask for their money? How as the bailout money used? Wall Street is the cause of the meltdown of the economy, not the car companies and the union workers."

Don writes: "Absolutely the union members should accept wage cuts. Times are bad. You want to keep working? Take a cut. Join the rest of the real world."

Laura in Florida: "It's ridiculous people are retaining hope for the auto industry. We need to cut our losses. And, yes, times will be tough, but we're obviously not understanding or adhering to the capitalist economic model we pride ourselves on. If an industry is not working, it deserves to fail, to be replaced by something that will work."

And, finally, Stephanie says: "Unions should have made an agreement due to the economic times. Their inability to accept lower wages in order to save jobs shows how selfish the unions have become. They're not protecting their workers if the workers have no job to report to. This, folks, is why people outsource."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.