Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Obama: 'Show Me' the Jobs; Illinois Governor Impeached; Ruling on Disputed Senate Pick

Aired January 9, 2009 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Barack Obama tells critics of his economic plan to just "show me" something better. The president-elect forced to focus in on job losses while announcing new members of his anti-terror team.
Stand by.

The vice president-elect, Joe Biden, is overseas right now amid new questions about whether he's stepping in already on Hillary Clinton's turf.

And does Dick Cheney know something we don't know about the hunt for Osama bin Laden? Stand by for my new interview with the vice president. It's got some surprising comments in there as well.

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

This hour, the president-elect's latest hires are taking a back seat to history-making job losses here in the United States. New figures show 2.6 million jobs vanished in 2008, the worst year for unemployment in more than six decades.

Let's begin our coverage right now with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

Candy, the numbers really are enormous. Those of us who have covered Washington for a long time, I can't remember seeing disastrous economic numbers like these.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And so disastrous, that even though Barack Obama had a news conference today to unveil the last two key members of his national security team, he had, obviously, to address the jobs issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): The trouble that awaits the Obama administration was in evidence when the president-elect arrived at a news conference with two key players in the battle against terrorism and then opened with his take on new devastating job loss figures.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Today's job report only underscores the need for us to move with a sense of urgency. We received a stark reminder about how urgently action is needed. This is the moment to act and to act without delay.

Clearly, the situation is dire. It is deteriorating and it demands urgent and immediate action.

CROWLEY: Faced with some preliminary Democratic dissension to aspects of his gargantuan stimulus plan, the president-elect declared himself open to discussion on a fast track.

OBAMA: If it works better than something I've proposed, I'll welcome it. What is not an option is for us to sit and engage in posturing.

CROWLEY: Moving on, no need for a compass to find Obama's message to the U.S. intelligence community either, with his unmistakable reference to the after-the-fact discovery there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

OBAMA: We've learned that to make pragmatic policy choices, we must insist on assessments grounded solely on the facts and not seek information to suit any ideological agenda.

CROWLEY: Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama's choice for director of National Intelligence, is all in.

ADM. DENNIS BLAIR, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE NOMINEE: And intelligence services will support you with facts, interpretations, assessments in a straightforward manner, and we will tell you how well we know what we know and what we don't know.

CROWLEY: Ditto. Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to President Clinton, who made note on the inscription on the wall of the old CIA headquarters.

LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

If confirmed, Mr. President-elect, I will be honored to lead the men and women of the CIA to seek and speak the truth.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Despite the intelligence firepower on that stage today, many of the questions that Obama got did center around the economy. Asked if he was surprised by the dissension he's hearing on Capitol Hill, asked if it was tougher than he thought it would be, he said, "That just assumes that I thought it would be easy," and he didn't -- Wolf.

BLITZER: On the Leon Panetta recommendation, nomination, is he encouraged that seems to be -- some of that earlier criticism seems to be fading a little bit?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And Leon Panetta also got, as both of them did, actually, very strong endorsements from Barack Obama. He said, make no mistake about it, this is the man who will be in charge, who is capable of doing the things that need to be done at the CIA. Listen, when Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller backed off their earlier criticism, I think it was pretty much a done deal that Panetta will indeed be confirmed, as everyone expects all of this team will be.

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up and the economic numbers.

Thanks, Candy.

But I want to go to Illinois right now, where only a short while ago, the governor, Rod Blagojevich, said he's not surprised the statehouse voted overwhelmingly to impeach him. But he said he's sure he'll be cleared of any wrongdoing. The governor offering a rambling defense of his record, even as he faces stunning allegations of corruption.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is in Chicago working the story for us.

The Senate in Illinois is now set to follow up on a trial; is that right? He's been impeached by the House?

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

The trial actually has now been set to start, at least the preliminary arguments, on January 26th. They're going to get moving on this. And as you know, Wolf, impeachment doesn't mean that he's out of office. The state Senate would have to decide whether or not to kick him out of office.

But there have been seven governors in this nation who have been impeached. Now the governor of Illinois is the eighth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House does adapt House Resolution 1671, and Governor Blagojevich is hereby impeached.

ROESGEN (voice-over): By a vote of 114-1, the Illinois House of Representatives impeached the governor not in sorrow, but in anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ought to be disgusted. You ought to be mad as hell, because this is our state. This is our system.

ROESGEN: And what did the governor do while lawmakers were voting to impeach him?

(on camera): How can you jog when you've been impeached, Governor?

(voice-over): The governor had been invited to tell his side to the legislature, but never appeared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's amazingly fitting that Governor Blagojevich face impeachment today, of all days, on his self-admitted hero Richard Nixon's birthday. Their common bond of impeachment will unite them in history's dark annals of corruption.

ROESGEN: The lawmakers knew about the accusation that the governor tried to sell Barack Obama's open Senate seat, but there was so much more from the legislature's own investigating committee, including charges that the governor's office hired an interpreter for the deaf who didn't know sign language and set up a cheap prescription drug program that involved buying drugs from Canada, which isn't legal. Plus, held up the funding for Children's Hospital in Chicago, waiting for a campaign donation.

At last, the governor spoke up.

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: ... that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. That issue will be dealt with on a separate course in an appropriate forum, a federal court. And I'm confident that at the end of the day, I will be properly exonerated.

In the meantime, I have a job to do for the people. They hired me to not just say that I'm for things that can help them, but they hired me to fight for them. And I'm going to fight for them every step of the way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN: Wolf, this state is $4 billion in debt. The state comptroller is calling for the governor to resign immediately and not wait for the Senate here to possibly kick him out of office -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens in Illinois. Susan, thanks.

By the way, a new ruling today from the Illinois Supreme Court on the governor's choice of Roland Burris to be a United States senator. The courts says the Illinois secretary of state does not need to sign off on the disputed appointment for it to be valid. Secretary of State Jesse White has refused to give his OK.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's working this story for us.

All right. So, how does this figure into the calculations among the Democrats on Capitol Hill, Dana, about whether or not to seat Burris?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It complicates it, Wolf, big-time. And here's why.

When Democratic leaders reversed themselves this week and said that they did see a path to seating Roland Burris, part of the reason why they said they could do that is that they thought the secretary of state in Illinois would be forced by the Supreme Court to sign that certificate of appointment. As we heard, as we just heard the report, the Illinois Supreme Court did no such thing. In fact, they said just the opposite. They said from their perspective, it is perfectly fine, valid and legal for Roland Burris to be a senator.

Now, I was talking to a leadership aide inside the Democratic Caucus who said, "Look, from our perspective, that's well and good, but it is still federal law, and it is still Senate rule that that signature from the Illinois secretary of state is required." So they're basically in a holding pattern at this point.

Now, I should say, they are, as we speak, reviewing this decision, trying to figure out if there is some other way, loophole, or some other mechanism, because these are uncharted waters that they can use to seat Roland Burris, but it's unclear. But one thing that is really interesting, Wolf, is that you heard Susan Roesgen report that the impeachment proceedings are going on. They are still hoping that they continue to the point where Blagojevich is actually impeached and all of this will be moot.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see what happens on that front.

Dana's on the Hill.

Thank you.

Let's go to New York. Jack Cafferty has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: 2008, the U.S. lost 2.6 million jobs, more jobs than were loss in any year since 1945, the end of World War II. Job losses accelerated during the final four months of last year once the credit crisis hit full force. In fact, more than a million jobs disappeared in November and December alone.

Unemployment's now 7.2 percent. There is more to come. This afternoon, Boeing announced plans to cut 4,500 jobs.

Many people who still have jobs are facing shorter hours and pay cuts. The automobile industry is in full crisis. Retail sales are awful. In fact, some stores -- pardon me. Some stores like Macys are going to close some of their locations.

Consumer confidence is at an all-time low and the whole thing resembles a dog chasing its tail. People are worried about losing their jobs, so they're not spending any money, or they simply don't have any money to spend. And if customers aren't buying, then businesses can't turn a profit or pay their employees, and eventually they have to cut jobs or close their doors, and the cycle begins anew.

Things are on their way from bad to worse.

A dire warning yesterday from President-elect Obama. If nothing is done, the recession could go on for years.

So here's the question: How much worse do you expect the economy to get before it begins to recover?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Somebody said to me the other day, it's going to get worse before it gets worse.

CAFFERTY: Well, there's a -- that's the glass being completely empty, isn't it?

BLITZER: Yes, it's pretty depressing when you think about it.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: By the way, Jack, should we show the viewers later the videotape we got? You know, I taped the Ellen DeGeneres show last night and she introduced me. I walked in, we danced a little bit.

Do you think we should show that to the viewers?

CAFFERTY: I am quivering with anticipation of seeing that video.

BLITZER: We're going to show it to them later.

CAFFERTY: OK.

BLITZER: Get ready, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I'm ready.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks.

Democrats in the new Congress may be in need of an intervention. New concerns about whether Barack Obama's party is being self- destructive.

Also this hour, Joe Biden, globetrotter. He's exercising his international expertise. Is he also stepping, though, on Hillary Clinton's toes?

And my new interview with the outgoing vice president, Dick Cheney. Tough questions about the war against terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Why haven't you been able to capture or kill bin Laden or Ayman al0-Zawahiri, the number two al Qaeda leader?

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we've got a few days left yet, Wolf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President-elect Barack Obama wants to hear from you. He's essentially issuing a challenge to anyone who's listening. If you could come up with a better idea to get the economy moving again, he wants to know about that idea.

Today, the president-elect hit back against criticisms about his economic plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There are some people who have said that it's not big enough. There are others who say it's too big. Well, as I said before, Democrats or Republicans, we welcome good ideas. And so the challenge for all of us, I think, is to identify good ideas, good spending plans that deliver on my commitment to create or save three million jobs.

I want this to work. This is not an intellectual exercise and there's no pride of authorship. If members of Congress have good ideas, if they can identify a project for me that will create jobs in an efficient way that does not hamper our ability to, over the long term, get control of our deficit, that is good for the economy, than I'm going to accept it.

If Paul Krugman has a good idea in terms of how to spend money efficiently and effectively to jump-start the economy, then we're going to do it. If somebody has an idea for a tax cut that is better than a tax cut we've proposed, we will embrace it.

So, you know, one of the things that I think I'm trying to communicate in this process is for everybody to get past the habit that sometimes occurs in Washington of, whose idea is it, what ideological corner does it come from? Just show me.

If you can show me that something's going to work, I will welcome it. If it works better than something I've proposed, I'll welcome it.

What is not an option is for us to sit and engage in posturing or, you know, the standard partisan fights when the American people are out there struggling. And I don't expect Congress is going to do that, because I think that they understand the urgency of the situation, and they're hearing from their constituents.

QUESTION: You said you're going to hone and refine the package, but are you...

OBAMA: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: You said earlier you're going to hone and refine the package. Are you open to substantially increasing the size of it as it's being described, the spending portion on Capitol Hill?

OBAMA: I think that there are going to be a lot of different opinions out there. We're going to take all of them in. And at the end of the day, we're going to have a package that Congress passes and I sign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about something that could turn out to be a real problem for the president-elect, opposition to his economic plans. Not from Republicans, necessarily, but from some Democrats.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.

You've been doing some reporting on this. How worried should he really be? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he's got some problems with his own Democrats who seem not to understand that now that they control the Congress, Wolf, and that it's incumbent upon them to help the president get something done -- you know, it's different when you're in the opposition. They're used to being in the opposition. Now they actually have to work with Barack Obama, and sometimes they may have to put their priorities on hold.

And I think that's been a bit of a difficult adjustment for them. There were meetings on the Hill yesterday, and I heard that Rahm Emanuel has called more than one senator to say, look, we want to hear your ideas, but we're not in the mood to dawdle over this, we need to get this done.

BLITZER: Because all these senators, especially...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... House members to a lesser degree, but the senators, they all think they know perhaps a little bit more.

BORGER: Well, they do. And of course, none of them want to be accused of being a rubberstamp Congress. You know, in many ways, they've always accused the Republicans of being a rubberstamp to George W. Bush. Some remember back to the days of Bill Clinton, when they went along with his deficit reduction program and they felt like a bunch of Republicans, you know, voting to slash the budget.

Now they finally have this opportunity to spend money, and they want to make sure they do it in the ways that they want to do it. But I'll tell you something else, Wolf, there are going to be public works programs here, and Barack Obama and his team have made it clear, we're not going to do local pork. We're not going to make this constituency-based. We want this to be a federal program, and there's going to be a lot of Democratic resentment over that too.

BLITZER: I spoke with Nancy Pelosi and we're going to play that later.

BORGER: Oh, great.

BLITZER: But she made a commitment to the American people on that pork. You'll be interested to hear what she had to say.

BORGER: I will.

BLITZER: Gloria will be back later.

Can they all simply get along? We're talking about the vice President-elect, Joe Biden, the secretary of state nominee, Hillary Clinton, and their teams. Biden is off doing something right now that's causing some to wonder if he'll be stepping on Hillary Clinton's toes in the Obama administration.

And apparently some pirates are getting paid. They seized a ship and demanded a ransom. Wait until you see how they got their money. You see that parachute there? We'll pick the up story later.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: There doesn't seem to be a lot of love lost between Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, but the current vice president does have some serious recommendations for his successor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: It's a very different kind of a job from being an executive running the big organization or being a senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: My one-of-one interview with the vice president, that's coming up.

And in our "Strategy Session," the Illinois governor defiant as ever just hours after being impeached. Is he helping or hurting his case?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, Sarah Palin, a lightning rod for attention, says she wasn't treated fairly during the presidential campaign. She's lashing out at the news media and she's naming names.

Plus, my one-on-one interview with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi -- the mistakes she says needs to be fixed before the country's economic recovery can move on.

And under mud and muck, homeowners at a loss for what to do. They turn to a tough-talking woman made famous by a Hollywood movie.

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

Just 11 days before the transition of power, the vice president, Dick Cheney, still holding out hope that Osama bin Laden will be captured on the Bush administration's watch. I sat down with the vice president over at the White House earlier today and I asked him about the hunt for the top al Qaeda leaders.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Why haven't you been able to capture or kill bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two al Qaeda leader?

CHENEY: Well, we've got a few days left yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Something happening we should know about?

CHENEY: Well, no, I can't predict that, obviously. We would like very much to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, but my guess is at this point, he's operating in an area that's very difficult, very hard to get to, that he's not an effective leader at this stage.

You can't really engage with his organization without coming out of whatever hole he's hiding in. And the key thing for us, even if we got bin Laden tomorrow, is to take down his organization, and that's what we've been actively doing.

BLITZER: How frustrating is this to you, personally, though, that he's still at large?

CHENEY: You know, obviously, I would like to solve that problem, but a much bigger problem, a much more important problem is keeping the country safe. And we've done that now for seven and a half years.

The fact that we were able, through our terror surveillance program, interrogation program of high-valued detainees, the Patriot Act, all those steps we took in the aftermath of 9/11, have had, I think, a remarkable impact, and that there has not been another mass casualty attack on the United States since 9/11. That's a great achievement, and I think that's more important than getting any one individual man, although, obviously, I would like very much to get Osama bin Laden. I'm sure the hunt will go on after we leave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Meanwhile, the vice president's also spending part of his remaining days defending his role in the White House, even offering some suggestions to the man who will take his place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you have one piece of advice for Joe Biden?

CHENEY: I -- the most important thing that any vice president needs to know is to understand what it is the president he works for wants him to do. That really will determine everything.

In terms of the kind of the meetings he attends, the policy issues he gets involved in, the kind of assistance or advice he's asked for by the president and others, it's a very different kind of a job from being an executive, running a big organization, or being a senator.

You really are there in a -- it's sort of a combination staff capacity, a sometimes surrogate for the president, active in doing all those things the vice president does, fund-raising, et cetera.

But the degree of influence you have, whether or not it's a consequential vice presidency, if you will, is going to depend almost solely upon the president and what he wants. BLITZER: And, finally, as you leave office, are you encouraged or worried about the Obama administration?

CHENEY: I -- obviously, I didn't vote for Barack Obama. I voted for John McCain. I'm a Republican, a conservative; he's a liberal Democrat.

On the other hand, I have the same feeling that I think many Americans have, that it's really remarkable that what we're going to do here in a few days is swear in the first African-American president of the United States.

When I came to town in 1968, we'd had the Martin Luther King assassination, Bobby Kennedy assassination, riots in the cities, major, major disturbances, a lot of it racially motivated around the country.

And, in fact, things have changed so dramatically that we're now about to swear in Barack Obama as president of the United States. That's really a remarkable story and, I think, a record of tremendous success and progress for the United States.

BLITZER: Pretty historic, pretty exciting.

CHENEY: It is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You can watch the entire interview with the vice president, Dick Cheney, this Sunday on "LATE EDITION" -- "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk. It airs at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

One of them will be the next vice president, the other likely the next secretary of state. But will they be able to get along? Right now, Joe Biden is off doing something that's not unusual for senators or for vice presidents. But with it being so close to the inauguration, his activities are raising some questions.

Brian Todd is working this story for us.

Brian, Senator Biden, now vice president-elect Biden, is a very experienced foreign policy hand. So, what's -- what's the commotion? What's at issue here?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is experienced, Wolf. As a senator, he's met with plenty of foreign heads of state. But now that he's vice president-elect, taking a trip overseas is a bit more complicated for Joe Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Joe Biden in Pakistan, meeting leaders in one of the most sensitive regions for American national security, 10 days before becoming vice president. Is he being quick off the mark or too soon out of the gate? THOMAS DONNELLY, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I think it's far too early for the incoming administration to have anything like a coherent South Asia policy, to be -- that would be an unfair expectation of them.

TODD: But a Biden Senate aide says there's no time to waste and that Biden's purpose is "to gather facts and listen to the leaders and commanders in the region. He's not articulating policy or engaging in diplomacy."

President-elect Obama this week reiterated that, until January 20, only President Bush speaks for the U.S. Biden's office says he's traveling in his capacity as senator with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

But what about the risk of Biden stepping on the toes of Hillary Clinton, president-elect Obama's choice for secretary of state?

STEVE CLEMONS, AMERICAN STRATEGY PROGRAM DIRECTOR, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Right now, the real reality is, Hillary Clinton is not secretary of state, and they wanted intel from top foreign policy people very early on.

TODD: It's certainly not unheard of for a vice president to play a role in foreign policy, but another analyst is wondering whether there will be a turf war between Joe Biden and the secretary of state.

DONNELLY: It's -- it's not a train wreck, but there are a lot of big trains traveling at very high speeds. And we don't know whether there's going to be an intersection of the tracks or whether they're just going in parallel direction.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are not the only heavy- hitters in this discussion. There's talk that Mr. Obama may appoint Richard Holbrooke as a special emissary for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia. And he's no shrinking violet either, as you know -- Wolf.

BLITZER: To put it mildly.

Why not wait? Why not wait for the vice president-elect to go on this mission after the inauguration? What was the timing all about?

TODD: Well, the timing is crucial here. An aide to Mr. Biden says that, if he went as vice president, it would have been maybe four to six weeks before this kind of trip could have been organized and executed.

Now, by going now, this aide says, Biden is going to be able to report back to the Obama administration's first meetings on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and South Asia, maybe help them get a running start on those very, very crucial regions of the world.

BLITZER: Indeed, to put it mildly. Thanks, Brian, very much.

In these tough economic times, even a congressman has to find ways to make ends eat. We're going to meet the lawmaker who calls his office his home.

And, in our "Strategy Session," the Obama's team reliance on poll numbers to decide policy, is that too much? Is it just right? What's going on here?

And, later, Sarah Palin vs. the news media -- why the former vice presidential candidate won't give up with a fight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama's choice to be labor secretary is describing historic job losses in this country as a crisis situation -- Hilda Solis facing senators at her confirmation hearing today.

Some Republicans are questioning whether the California congresswoman too cozy with one of the Democrats' strongest allies, organized labor.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

Brianna, any serious roadblocks to her confirmation?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: None expected, Wolf. This was a pretty tame confirmation hearing. But, in the background, a big fight brewing over a big Obama backer, organized labor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Hilda Solis, Barack Obama's pick for labor secretary, sat for her first confirmation hearing on a day that spelled out just what she will be dealing with.

REP. HILDA SOLIS (D-CA), LABOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: More than 500,000 jobs were lost in December.

KEILAR: The only sticking point at the hearing, an imminent battle in Congress over making it easier to unionize. Barack Obama supports the move, and Solis has backed the cause. But many Republicans, saying it will saddle businesses with big costs, oppose the effort. Lobbying on both sides of the issue is heavy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're giving you health benefits, a pension, and a nice big raise. I'm feeling generous.

NARRATOR: If you think this is going to happen by itself, you're dreaming.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AMERICAN RIGHTS AT WORK AD)

NARRATOR: Meet Bill, a real union boss. Here's Bill assaulting a cameraman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, I (INAUDIBLE)

NARRATOR: Tell Congress you don't want to meet Bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Solis' upbringing speaks volumes about her stance on labor issues.

SOLIS: My father, as you know, worked hard as a Teamster shop steward in a battery recycling plant for more than 20 years. His membership in the union helped my family have health and other benefits, even when times were tough.

KEILAR: But, asked about her current view on making it easier for companies to unionize, Solis demurred.

SEN. MICHAEL B. ENZI (R) WYOMING: Why would we want to change laws of the United States now with regard to how unions are unionized?

SOLIS: These are very unique circumstances that we're undertaking today. And my position as nominee for president-elect Obama to serve as secretary of labor doesn't, in my opinion, afford me the ability to provide you with an opinion at this time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Democrats want to change the way union-organizing elections are held. They favor an open signature drive. But Republicans say that forces workers who don't want to organize to join unions. They favor the current secret-ballot progress. They say they're going to fight this bill, Wolf. And they also say that Solis waffled on the issue, favoring a secret ballot when it benefited union -- unions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, on Capitol Hill, thank you.

There's new evidence, meanwhile, that members of Congress are by no means immune to the economic pressures many Americans face right now. One lawmaker has found a way to use his office to save money.

Let's go to CNN's Jim Acosta -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, up on Capitol Hill, we found out, sleeping on the job is one thing. Sleeping in the office is quite another.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Hey, how are you? Jason Chaffetz. Nice to see you. ACOSTA (voice-over): When the staff for House Republican Jason Chaffetz says the congressman is in...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Jason Chaffetz's office.

ACOSTA: ... they really mean it.

CHAFFETZ: And then I -- pardon me.

ACOSTA (on camera): Whoa. I better get out of the way.

CHAFFETZ: It's a little -- little tight.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Lincoln Bedroom, it's not. It's the closet inside Chaffetz's House office on Capitol Hill.

(on camera): I can help you out with the other corner over here, I guess.

CHAFFETZ: There you -- yes, that would be great.

ACOSTA: There we go.

(voice-over): Where the gentleman from Utah showed us he's bunking down every night.

(on camera): Is that how that works?

CHAFFETZ: You work late into the night. You know, I was up until 12:45.

ACOSTA: Doing the people's business.

CHAFFETZ: Working hard, talking to constituents, e-mailing them, writing letters.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The office comes with a half-bathroom and what Chaffetz calls his breakfast nook.

CHAFFETZ: Fig Newtons for breakfast. These are usually for lunch, and this kind of the dinner snack right there.

ACOSTA: By not renting an apartment in D.C., Chaffetz says there's more money to send home.

CHAFFETZ: I will save about $1,500 a month for our family by doing this. And I -- you know, I have got a wife. I have got three kids.

ACOSTA: There's just one problem: things that go bump in the night.

CHAFFETZ: The biggest challenge is what goes on in the hallway at night, because there's this cleaning machine that comes down, and it's got that obnoxious, you know, beep, beep, beep.

I will call you -- I will definitely -- I will call you back.

ACOSTA: Although he's an unknown freshman in the House, word of his sleeping arrangements is spreading.

REP. JUDY BIGGERT (R), ILLINOIS: Well, I'm really glad that we have a neighbor here. It's going to make sure that somebody is here to make sure the neighborhood is safe at night when we're not here.

(LAUGHTER)

BIGGERT: So, it...

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA (on camera): Sort of a neighborhood watch; is that it?

BIGGERT: That's right.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Chaffetz's next-door neighbor doesn't mind.

(on camera): It's kind of not a bad image to project, I suppose.

BIGGERT: Fiscal conservative. You're right.

(LAUGHTER)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Congressman Chaffetz says it's about putting the nation's fiscal house in order.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The House will be in order.

CHAFFETZ: We are now $10 trillion in debt -- $10 trillion. Those are -- those are expenses that have to be paid at some point.

ACOSTA: If he can tighten his belt in these tough economic times, he says, so can Congress.

(on camera): It's a two-year gig. Is...

CHAFFETZ: Yes, there's no job security here.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A job he says he's willing to put in the long hours to keep.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: In case you're wondering, the congressman showers at the House gym. With amenities like those, it's no surprise Chaffetz says he will be staying for awhile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

He's not the only congressman, as you point out, having to do that.

Do you have problems with Barack Obama's plans to fix the economy? Then he has a challenge for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If you can show me that something's going to work, I will welcome it. If it works better than something I have proposed, I will welcome it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, how will the president-elect and his team convince lawmakers and you to get behind his plan?

And the Illinois governor impeached. But he's making it clear he's mad as ever and not going to take it. Did he make his case today? You're going to hear what he said, and you decide.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: When it comes to selling his economic stimulus plan, the president-elect, Barack Obama, is using some poll numbers and focus groups to try to prove his argument.

The question is this: Should policy be decided by these kinds of polls and groups?

Joining us now in our "Strategy Session," our CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

They used these kind of groups, these kinds of tactics, very effectively in the campaign. Should they now be used in -- in policy?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so, in helping him guide -- in helping him put together his framework to sell this to the public.

There's a lot of bailout fatigue. And I think what president- elect Obama -- Obama's team is trying to do is to make sure that the public understand, not only the gravity -- the gravity of the problem, but also the solutions.

BLITZER: So much of what a president has to do is sell his ideas to the American people.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes.

BLITZER: What's wrong with using these kinds of tactics?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You do them on a daily basis.

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: I don't think there's anything wrong with it.

Now, I mean, some presidents in the recent past have taken it a little too far. We do remember that the Clinton administration was once accused of polling whether it was OK to go to Martha's Vineyard. That's probably over the line.

But you're exactly right. I mean, I have agreed with almost all of the Bush administration's big -- big policies. What the Bush administration has not done very well, as Donna said, is sell those policies.

So, anything that -- that Mr. Obama and his folks can do to make sure that they're using the right terms, the right phrases, the things that really connect with people, because it's a very difficult time, I'm for. I think that's a good idea.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Communicating with the American people is one of the most important things a president can do, and especially when the issues are as sensitive and as critical as they are right now.

BRAZILE: Especially when you're trying to sell a big package, like the president-elect is trying to sell, you want to make sure that the public understands it. And I think they should use this polling...

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: You also have to -- it also helps, because, if you get the Senate Democrats, as -- as you guys have reported, are not happy with some of the tax cuts in this thing, it's helpful to be able and go and say, now, look at what the people in your state think about this.

BLITZER: Look at these polls. Look at these focus groups.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Look at all of that.

All right, here's the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, coming out today. He's been impeached by the House in the state of Illinois. There's going to be a trial in Senate.

And -- and here's, in part, how he reacted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH: I took actions, with the advice of lawyers and experts, to find ways -- creative ways to use the executive authority of a governor to get real things done for people who rely on us. And in many cases, the things we did for people have literally saved lives.

I don't believe those are impeachable offenses. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's -- he's defiant.

BRAZILE: He's defiant, but I have read most of the -- the report, Rich and I.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: And let me just tell you, 69 pages, the -- the summary is just devastating.

He -- he -- abuse of office, the plot to sell the Senate seat, Wolf, this is damaging information. And, as you have said, the Senate now will take this up. The trial will probably last a couple of weeks. And, if the Senate decides that it's time for him to go, well, the next time he puts on his jogging suit, perhaps he will keep running.

BLITZER: He didn't even come before the House to make his own personal case.

GALEN: Well, I mean, I think, if I were his lawyer, I would say no either, because the state -- the state House is not in a position to grant immunity against a federal charge. So -- so, from a -- a legal standpoint, that probably made some sense.

But what I -- I think he's probably right, what he said in that little clip, about, those are not impeachable offenses. He's right. But Donna and I read through the whole 69 pages, and there were plenty of other things in there that this, oh, by the way, Democrat governor is guilty of.

BRAZILE: Yes.

BLITZER: Did he mention that Blagojevich is a Democrat?

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: Well, of course he's a Democrat. But it has nothing to do with party affiliate.

GALEN: Oh, no.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: He's abused -- he has abused the power of his office.

BLITZER: Speaking of a Republican, Colin Powell...

GALEN: Yes.

BLITZER: ... who endorsed Barack Obama, he's now out there. He's trying to get community service, national service going. GALEN: Yes.

BLITZER: He's making speeches, doing what he wants to do. But he's not apparently going to take any formal role in this administration. Are you disappointed about that?

GALEN: Well, he -- Mr. Powell has been -- or General Powell has been...

BRAZILE: Yes.

GALEN: ... in public service for well over 40 years. He has given the huge proportion of his life to the American people.

He said last spring, I think, that, even before he endorsed then Senator Obama, that he was not interested, no matter who won, in going back into public service. He really feels he has done his job. And I think he has been one of the great Americans of our generation.

BRAZILE: I -- I really enjoyed the fact that he's urging Americans from all backgrounds to join in this national day of service across the country. Let's not just celebrate the election of Barack Obama. Let's begin to serve this country in other ways.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I assume we will hear that message from the president- elect in his inaugural address as well.

BRAZILE: I'm waiting for that moment.

BLITZER: I know you are.

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: I can't get across the bridge, so I won't see it.

(LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: You can come in my house.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: That's another story, guys. Thanks very much.

Barack Obama jumping for a political football that has the college sports world on the edge of its seats.

And the president-elect goes public with his choice for spy chief, and the questions, though, about Leon Panetta's qualifications still coming up.

And the challenge of keeping the president-elect safe on his historic train ride to Washington, D.C., next week.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: On today's "Political Ticker": Barack Obama's apparently not afraid of sports controversy. Recently, the president- elect correctly guessed Florida would beat Oklahoma in the Bowl Championship Series.

Last night, Florida won 24-14. After that, Obama reiterated his support for a playoff series in college football, instead of the current system that relies on rankings and polls to pick the best college football teams. That's an issue that's dividing many people in the sports community.

I'm with Obama on this one.

Remember, for the latest political news any time, check out CNNPolitics.com.

All right, here we go. If it's good enough for the president- elect of the United States, I guess it's got to be good enough for me.

I taped a guest appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" last night. The show will air on Monday. You know what it means, though, when you're invited to come on that show. You have got to dance with Ellen. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW")

(MUSIC)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Well, Jack Cafferty, what do you think?

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: That's just awful.

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: By the time you get to the couch, you have got no credibility left.

BLITZER: You see that?

CAFFERTY: It's all gone.

BLITZER: Wait until you see the rest of it.

CAFFERTY: No, actually...

BLITZER: Wait until you see the next 10 minutes.

CAFFERTY: There's 10 more minutes? Not of dancing? BLITZER: Oh, yes.

No, not dancing, no.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Lot of -- lots of other good stuff.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Why -- why would you do that?

BLITZER: It was fun. I like to dance.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: And you -- you know that song? You're familiar with that group, right?

CAFFERTY: Yes, well -- yes, I am, actually.

BLITZER: Oh, you are?

CAFFERTY: You know, that's good. You -- you were getting your groove on a little bit there.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: I'm -- that's I'm -- I -- I defer to anyone who has even a small amount of ability on the dance floor. I have none. So, not too bad. I will look forward to watching the show Monday.

The question this hour -- it was awful -- the question this hour...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: ... how much worse do you expect the economy to get before it begins to recover?

Nate in Michigan: "There are people holding back on all types of purchases. As soon as we get a leadership change, we see a few businesses start turning around, then consumers will start cutting loose. I give it six months max. I'm not an optimist, but I'm old enough to have seen this dance before."

Tom in Maine: "I think voters are already demanding that the Republican Party start to cooperate. In six months time, all obstructionists will have been sidelined and America will go back to work."

Mary in Virginia: "The economy will continue to fall as long as we have too many foreign workers and millions of legal citizens unemployed and looking for work. If you want to completely collapse the economy and what is left of our social services programs, amnesty for millions that would not normally qualify for citizenship will finish it off." Jim in North Carolina: "It will get much worse, perhaps losing another million jobs before recovery begins. Of course, it will depend on how fast the cash infusion hits our economy, if the politicians drag their feet, which they always do, in passing the stimulus package, we will all be on I.V.s and in critical condition for years."

Meg writes: "I think the foreclosures, middle-class unemployment, and stock market turmoil will continue to cause problems for the next several years. I don't think there is an easy way out of this. Congress has to stop arguing with everyone, begin somewhere to start working on the cure. I really feel that it will get a lot worse before it starts to get any better."

And Diane in New York writes: "It's hard to determine. Bush still has 11 more days to screw it up even more."

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

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

We have got more of those clips coming up later. I think you will want to see them. Thanks very much.

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

Happening now: Their job of helping America outsmarts its enemies -- outsmart its enemies may soon be shrouded in secrecy. President-elect Barack Obama unveils his intelligence team, but his picks draw some criticism.