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Barack Obama Travels by Rail to Inauguration; Unprecedented Security in D.C.

Aired January 17, 2009 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They're going to walk down those steps and that crowd is going to be pretty excited. I don't know who is speaking right now.

BLITZER: But they're just going to start the early -- the preliminary activities. This will be an exciting event for folks in Baltimore.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: One political note. It's always politics here. It's interesting to see if the mayor of Baltimore is going to be at this event, of course.


MARTIN: A couple of weeks ago, she was indicted on 12 counts. And so ...


MARTIN: It's good, politically, that they'll probably keep her away from this event. But we're going to see if she decides to show up.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I got one e-mail from somebody in the crowd who said a lot of people in the crowd were talking about Michelle Obama, wondering if she was going to be wearing purple in support of the Baltimore Ravens.

MARTIN: Like the two of you.




BLITZER: You know, it's going to be -- and, Soledad, I mean, I'm anxious to hear what, you know, you know, this is going to happen. They're all going to be focusing in on what Michelle Obama is wearing. And how many people will be focusing in on what Barack Obama is wearing.

O'BRIEN: It is the burden of being a woman. But there she is. A fabulous-looking woman and whatever she's in, she's going to look terrific. I mean, the bottom line, as first lady, you are going to be a style icon, whether you want it or not. You might as well go ahead and embrace that role immediately.

And you get the sense that she has -- she has a wonderful designer named Maria Pinto. And she has really, I think, has done a wonderful job of sort of balancing that fabulous and, you know, simple taste. Not over the top expensive considering we're in a recession.


O'BRIEN: You don't want to have a first lady who's, you know, throwing gobs of money at fashion. It's not going to read well.

But, you know, when I talked to Michelle Obama -- the woman is six feet tall. I mean, she is -- got the body of a model.


O'BRIEN: She can wear clothes and she looks great in them. And she knows it. And she loves fashion. So, I think ...

COOPER: And her inaugural gown will be at the Smithsonian with all the other first ladies' inaugural gown.

O'BRIEN: With all other first ladies. So, you know, on one hand, yes, there's no question that women, as a rule, get picked over for what they're wearing. And you all don't. But people will be reporting on my hat if they like it or not.


BLITZER: How do you think she feels about the role? How does a woman feel about something like that?

O'BRIEN: I think for someone like Michelle Obama who is, as a core, a realist, I think she gets it. That is the role. The role of the first lady is to ...

BLITZER: Part of the role.

O'BRIEN: Part of the role is to, you know, be this half of the couple that, you know, people are going to be looking at and judging and following and -- so, I think she gets that.

BLITZER: A lot of people say she's going to get a shot in the arm to the fashion industry because she's going to focus people's attentions a little bit more on it right now. And maybe that's good for sales, the retail sales.

MARTIN: She's also going to give them a shot across the bow because the fashion industry, all of the sudden, because you have a first lady, an African-American woman, they're not going to have to look at themselves when it comes to who's on their runways, when it comes to the kind of clothes that they also put out. I mean, she ...

O'BRIEN: I don't know. I don't know. MARTIN: No.


MARTIN: OK. You see multiple stories already about that the bottom line is, different -- she is a different first lady. Think about it -- 45 years old, younger first lady. It's going to be a different image there.

BLITZER: Well, why do say, Roland, that there aren't enough African-American models?

MARTIN: Well, absolutely.


MARTIN: I mean, you're going to see it. And it's going to come out there. It's going to happen.

BLITZER: All right. You know what? Let's listen in -- let's listen into the even that started. They're doing the national anthem.



BLITZER: All right. The national anthem, the presentation of the color guards, the invocation. I guess the next thing on the agenda has to be Barack Obama and Joe Biden. I assume they'll be speaking. If you see those teleprompters, Anderson, at the side -- at the side of the podium, that's where he'll be delivering his remarks.

COOPER: They're going to do the Pledge of Allegiance.



COOPER: In Wilmington, Delaware, we saw Vice President-elect Joe Biden introduced by conductor from the Amtrak car that he often rode to and from Washington as he would return home to Delaware each night. I'm not sure who's going to be introducing -- Vice President-elect Biden here or President-elect Obama here. It may be one of the 50 they called them "every-day Americans" who have been riding on board the train with the Obamas.

BLITZER: The special guest with unique stories of their own to help all of us better appreciate what's going on. I assume that's what's going to happen as well. But you know what? We're watching and we're learning it together with our viewing audience out there. Not only the United States, but around the world.

It's just after 4:00 p.m. here on the east coast. And the scene is Baltimore, Maryland. Not very far from Washington, D.C., but we're going to hear from these two men on this historic day as they get ready to be part of the inauguration of the president of the United States.

David, you want to weigh?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think of the one of things we should take note is in Baltimore, is that Barack Obama is unusual in many respects, but he's also our first urban president. We haven't had somebody from a big city like this. You know, most of our presidents since 19th century came from small towns.

And we always prided ourselves on that. But I think one of the reasons people are attracted in places like Baltimore is that ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Representative Elijah Cummings and Governor ...

BLITZER: All right. They're introducing some of the local dignitaries. Congressman Elijah Cummings among others. And they're going walking down those steps. I hope they're dressed warm because it's chilly there. I guess they're going to be speaking as well.

This is an exciting time for everyone in Maryland. And it's an exciting time for everyone in the country. And Elijah Cummings, as many of us know, is a powerful speaker. I think it'd be interesting to hear what he has to say.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: Good afternoon, Baltimore! My, my, my -- you all sure do look good. It is a very -- it started over two years ago when a young man from Illinois ...


CUMMINGS: ... started talking about hope. And he saw in our country and in our people a better day. And over and over again, he crossed this nation from one end to the other, lifting up people and reminding them of our greatness. And he did something else. He said, "We as a country could do better." And after he gave that message of hope, he did something else. He said that we must now change. We must now change.

And so it is so fitting that Baltimore and Maryland, who supported Barack Obama ...


CUMMINGS: ... like no other state did. It is so fitting that today, he returns just before he gets sworn in. And his last stop is Baltimore.


CUMMINGS: And there's one other thing. The thing I love about Barack Obama so much is that he realizes that it's not about him. Over and over and over again, he has said that change begins with each and every one of us. And so, we have a president. . As president Bush leaves ...


CUMMINGS: ... Obama comes in!


CUMMINGS: Last but not least, it is good to have a president who understands that all of this is bigger than him. A president that understands that we are preparing for generations yet unborn, and a vice president who understands our greatness. And so it is -- and so it is Baltimore, on his last stop, our president-elect comes to our town ...


CUMMINGS: ... Baltimore, to say thank you. Now meet and greet our great governor, Martin O'Malley.


GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY, (D) MARYLAND: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. How is everybody feeling right now?

Are you ready to welcome Barack Obama and Joe Biden to Baltimore?


O'MALLEY: It is my honor to be able to join with all of you today and to offer our new President Barack Obama and his Vice President Joe Biden a warm welcome to Baltimore, land of the free, home of the brave, and birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner. You can feel the optimism here, can't you? You can feel the excitement.

Well, my friends, this is an important beautiful day that we will remember for the rest of our lives. The optimism, you can see it in the faces of your neighbors. You can hear it in the voices of your children, of our grandchildren, of our parents and grandparents. This is what it's all about to be able to wake up and face the next day with hope and optimism, and a belief that we can make it better.

For today, my friends, here in Baltimore, Maryland, we proudly proclaim as Americans once again, that there is more that unites us than divides us. And among those most important things are these: Our belief in the dignity of every individual, our belief in the responsibility to advance the common good, and our understanding at the beginning and the end of our days, there is a unity to spirit and to matter. And that what we do in our own lifetimes does matter.

And so on your behalf, I ask you to extend with me your hands and your hearts, on behalf of the people of Maryland, I offer this blessing in the words of the John O'Donahue for our new president and vice president.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings, may your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills. When the way is flat and dull in times of grey endurance, may your imagination continue to evoke horizons. When thirst burns in times of drought, may you be blessed to find the wells.

May you have to wisdom to read time clearly and know when the seed of change will flourish. In your heart may there be a sanctuary for the stillness where clarity is born. May your work be infused with passion and creativity and have the wisdom to balance compassion and change. May your soul find the graciousness to rise above the fester of small mediocrities.

May your power never become a shell, wherein your heart would silently atrocity. May you welcome your own vulnerability as a ground for healing and truth join. And may integrity of soul be your first ideal, the source that will guide and bless your work.

And the people of Baltimore, Maryland, said, amen. Thank you all very much.



BLITZER: We're waiting for the formal introduction of the next president of the United States and the next vice president of the United States. We just heard from the governor of Maryland, Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. And the crowd there, I'm sure they're chilled, but they're excited as they get ready to watch and hear Barack Obama. They came from all parts of the state, probably elsewhere as well for this moment.

And it's an exciting moment at city hall in Baltimore, Maryland. No doubt for all of these folks who are there, I'm sure for a lot of folks who are watching.

COOPER: A cold moment no doubt. It's 19 degrees Fahrenheit there. It feels like 11 degrees for people who actually in the crowd with the windchill. And we've been watching people try to stay warm now for the last several hours. A lot of people have been there for a very, very long time, wanting to get the best possible view.

BLITZER: All of these people who ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome ...

BLITZER: Here we go, the introduction. Well, all of these people have gotten there had to go through metal detectors and magnetometers because this is a secured area, obviously. So, but there are tens of thousands, we don't know how many, maybe 35,000, maybe more. We do know that it's jampacked and no more room according to the local authorities for anyone there.

Another speaker is coming up right now. They're taking advantage of this moment in Baltimore to make sure ...


BLITZER: ... local authorities will get a moment to bask in the glory of Barack Obama. QUINCY LUCAS, TEACHER: It's great to be back in here again.

BLITZER: I think this is the one who's going to be introducing them.


LUCAS: I'm especially happy to be here in memory of my sister Whitney, who I know is here with us today.

Baltimore, you believed it was possible when the word "change" was mentioned. You rolled up your sleeves to help our country elect leaders who had a vision that inspired hope. Baltimore, you stood tall and firm. And history tells us that you have survived some of the toughest battles. We've declared our independence in Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love."

We've rolled -- we've united and proclaimed the history and that everybody is somebody in Wilmington, Delaware. And now, many of you who thought you would never see this day, have braved the cold and joined us as we embark on fulfilling the dreams. Baltimore, I'm here to tell you that President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are ready and determined.

Thanks for joining us today as we begin the journey to renew the promise that has been made to America. We have come together in unity and share purpose on this journey to Washington, D.C., Charm City, you are living history!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Joseph Biden, Michelle Obama, and President-elect Barack Obama.





OBAMA: Thank you, Baltimore!


OBAMA: To Quincy Lucas, thank you for the wonderful introduction. To Governor O'Malley, to Baltimore's own speaker of the House and partner with the soon-to-be Obama administration, Nancy Pelosi, to members of the Maryland congressional delegation to Maryland state and elected officials. To the best possible vice president-elect anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden.


OBAMA: And to his even more wonderful wife, Jill Biden. To the people of Maryland and the people of American -- thank you.

You know, we begin we begin this train trip in Philadelphia earlier today, and it is fitting that we did so because it was there that our American journey began. It was there that a group of farmers and lawyers, merchants and soldiers, gathered to declare their independence and lay claim to a destiny that they were being denied. It was a risky thing, meeting as they did in that summer of 1776. There was no guarantee that their fragile experiment would find success.

More than once in those early years did the odds seem insurmountable. More than once did ordinary men, fishermen, laborers and craftsmen, who called themselves an army, faced the prospects of defeat. And yet they were willing to put all they were and all they had on the line -- their lives, their fortune, and their sacred honor for a set of ideals that continue to light the world, that we are all equal, that our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come not from our laws, but from our maker. And that a government of, by, and for the people can certainly endure.

It was these ideals that led us to declare independence and craft our Constitution, producing documents that were imperfect, but with the blood, sweat, and tears of future generations, had within them, like our nation itself, a capacity to be made more perfect. After a few decades -- a few decades after they met in Philadelphia, our new union faced its first true test. The White House was in flames. And the British were advancing on Baltimore.

That's when the fate of our nation fell to the troops at Fort McHenry. They were a varied lot, these troops, sailors, militiamen, even runaway slaves. But on one long and rainy night, they beat back the greatest navy that the world has ever known. And when that night was over, they raised the flag in triumph, inspiring an onlooker to compose a poem that became the Star Spangled Banner.

We are here today not simply to pay tribute to those patriots who founded our nation in Philadelphia or defended it in Baltimore, but to take up the cause for which they gave so much. The trials we face are very different now, but they're severe in their own rights.

Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast, an economy that's faltering; two wars -- one that needs to be ended responsibly, one that needs to be waged wisely; a planet that's warming, although you can't tell today, from our unsustainable dependence on oil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, Barack Obama!

I love you back. And yet ...


OBAMA: And yet, while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not new. What's required is the same perseverance and idealism that those first patriots displayed. What's required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives and in our own hearts, from ideology and small thinking, from prejudice and bigotry, from selfishness and narrow interest, an appeal not to our easy instincts to our better angels.

That's the reason I launched my campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago. I did so on the belief that the most fundamental American ideal, that a better life is in store for all those waiting to work for it, that that deal was slipping out of reach, that Washington was serving the interest of the few and not the many, and that our politics had grown too small for the scale of the challenges we faced.

But I also believed in something else, Michelle believed in it, Joe believed in it, Jill believed in it. We believe that our future is our choice, and that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another, and bring everybody together, Democrats, Republicans, independents, from the north, from the south and east and west, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled, not -- then we would not only restore hope and opportunity in places that yearn for both, but maybe, just maybe we might perfect our union in the process.

This is what I believe, Baltimore, but you made this belief real. You proved once more the people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to leave for Washington, on a trip that you made possible ...


OBAMA: ... I know that I will not be traveling alone; I'll be taking you with me.


OBAMA: I'll be taking with me some of the men and women I met along the way. Americans from every corner of this country whose hopes and heartaches were the core of our cause, whose dreams and struggles have become my own. Yours are the voices I'll carry with me every day in the White House. Yours are the stories I'll be thinking of when we deliver the changes you elected me to make.

So, when we see new jobs being created that pay more to those who work them, I'll be thinking of people like Kevin and Kirsten Meehan, who can't afford to turn on the heat or pay the rent and are tapping into Kevin's 401(k), to help support their two young children. When our children are graduating from newer and better schools that prepare them to be good citizens and sought-after workers, I'm going to be thinking about middle school teachers like Rosa Mendoza who's giving her students the chance to fulfill their God-given potential. When quality healthcare is no longer something we have to hope for, but instead something we can count on, I'll be thinking about people like Patricia Stiles, who was diagnosed with a serious illness just as her husband lost his pension and her kids' tuition were coming due.

These are the stories that will drive me in the days ahead. They are the stories told by men and women whose journeys may seem separate, and yet, what you showed me time and again is that no matter who we are, no matter what we look like, no matter where we come from, no matter what faith we practice, we are a people of common hope, a people of common dreams, who ask only that what was promised us as Americans, that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did -- that that promise is fulfilled.

We recognize that such enormous challenges as the ones we face now will not be solved quickly. There will be false starts, there will be setbacks. There will be frustrations and disappointments. I will make some mistakes.

But we will be called to show patience even as we act with fierce urgency. And we should never forget that we are the heirs of those early patriots, ordinary men and women who refused to give up when it all seemed so improbable, who somehow believed that they had the power to make the world anew. That's the spirit we must reclaim today.

For the American Revolution did not end when the British guns fell silent. It was never something to be won only a battlefield or fulfilled only in our founding documents. It was not simply a struggle to break free from empire and declare independence. The American Revolution was and remains an ongoing struggle in the minds and hearts of the people to live up to our founding creed.

So, Baltimore, starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union. In our own lives, let's build a government that's responsible to the people. Let's accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable.

Let all of us do our part to rebuild this country. Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but only the beginning.

Baltimore, join me in this effort. Join Joe Biden and Jill Biden in this effort. Join Michelle in this effort and Nancy Pelosi in this effort and Governor O'Malley in this effort and the congressional delegation in this effort. And together, mindful of our proud history, hopeful for the future, let us seek together a better world in our time.

Thank you and God bless you.

God bless America!

Thank you!



BLITZER: All right. We want to thank Ray Charles for that beautiful rendition of "America."

There you see Barack and Michelle there in the crowd in Baltimore after he spoke. It's a very, very cold day, but there are tens of thousands of people who showed up to hear him say a few words. It wasn't very long, a rather brief speech, but one that is historic on the days leading up to the inauguration Tuesday

There's no doubt that those folks in Baltimore, like the folks earlier in Wilmington and Philadelphia, very, very excited.

Our own Brianna Keilar is right in the middle of all of those people in Baltimore, outside City Hall.

Brianna, what was it like in the middle of the crowd?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm off to the side of the crowd, and I can tell you, some people you could see during his speech were crying. And they told us ahead of time they were going to. They said that they had cried out of happiness so many times during this election, and they were pretty sure they were going to be emotional seeing Barack Obama here today.

This is, to hear it from many people in the crowd, quite a rare treat for them. Of course, Maryland, a state that was firmly in Barack Obama's column in the general election. So the folks here really didn't get to see him campaign a whole lot. And this is one of the few times where they've been able to come out and see him in person.

You've got so many people in the crowd who have brought their young children. In fact, a lot of people who said they wouldn't have come, that it was honestly just too brutally cold to come, except their kids wanted to come. Some of them young, some of them 16 years old. Obviously, a lot of kids who couldn't vote, but they were so inspired by this election, that they asked their parents to come.

And Wolf, their parents brought them. A lot of them also saying they came for their parents. Even parents who couldn't be here, who never would have believed that this could have happen, the first African-American president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We hear those stories over and over and over again, Brianna. And we just heard them again in Baltimore.

You can see how excited and happy Barack Obama is and Michelle Obama. They're in the middle of the crowd there shaking hands.

And going forward, at some point they'll leave City Hall, head back to the train, the Obama Express, as it's called, and then that train will continue the final leg of its journey to Union Station here in Washington, D.C. And that will be -- we're told, once he arrives in Union Station, he will not -- repeat, not -- be speaking anymore.

He'll head over to Blair House, the official guest House over at the White House. That's where he and the family have been staying the past couple of days since leaving the Hay Adams Hotel.

Soledad O'Brien is here in Washington with us as we're watching a very, very happy Barack Obama.

You know, I guess he doesn't realize how cold it is out there, because he doesn't look very cold, does he, Soledad? O'BRIEN: No. They really look like they're enjoying themselves. At some events you see where doesn't look like it's so much fun, but at this one, they both look very relaxed and like they're really enjoying being up close with the crowd, because, you know, you can see the Secret Service behind them. And I'm sure for them, it's a complete nightmare for the Secret Service to have the president-elect and his wife so close to the public.

The estimates now from the fire department, 40,000 people there. But obviously, you know, he wants to and has to, almost, reach out and touch the people who have come all this way and spent hours out in the cold to hear what he's had to say.

And he kept the same theme in this speech. I mean, he's not veering off of themes, as we've heard him talk at each of these stops. Relatively short speeches, kind of hitting the same themes over and over again. A combination of, the road ahead is going to be difficult and, also, you know, we, as the American people, need to step up and make the change that we want to see.

BLITZER: And, you know, he's got that really great smile, when he really brings it on. That's one of his -- there it is, right there, that smile, a trademark Barack Obama smile that has endeared him to so many folks out there. And there's no doubt about that, as we watch the handshaking.

And people just want to hug him and they want to take a picture with him if they can. They want to tell him a little story if they can.

But he's moving along, as he's grown accustomed to doing this. He did it for about almost two years out there on the campaign trail. And Michelle Obama got used to it as well.

Once they get back on that train and come to Washington, let's look ahead a little bit, Soledad.

On Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that's the official U.S. holiday commemorating Dr. King. You're going to be anchoring our coverage from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., and you've got some really special treats.

O'BRIEN: We have an opportunity to talk to some of the legends who were colleagues of Martin Luther King's. And then, also, the folks who come out -- and remember, this is a big celebration for the holiday itself, but looking forward to the next day, the inauguration of the first African-American president, I mean, it's quite remarkable timing, you know, if you will.

So we'll be talking a lot about both of those events, about Martin Luther King, some of his speeches. A lot of those speeches, as we know from hearing Barack Obama speak, he has, in some cases, as he did in his acceptance speech from the convention, he literally echoed the same cadence, the same pacing, the same tone as Martin Luther King did in some of his speeches, when he talked about the mountaintops. So we'll talk a lot about those speeches, but really look forward to what does this moment mean as an African-American man, a young president, will move into the White House with his young family, and what it means for us as a nation? And a nation in the global picture in the wake of a lot of really difficult things and a lot of crises facing this country.

BLITZER: And he'll be sworn in a day after this official holiday here in the United States commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, what he did for the country.

Barack Obama now gone inside City Hall, getting ready to drive back over from City Hall back over to the train station in Baltimore, together with Joe Biden and their wives and the rest of the family and the entourage. And they'll be heading here to Washington, D.C.

We expect their arrival around 7:00 p.m. Eastern, although it may be a little bit earlier. It looks like they're a bit ahead of schedule right now. And we'll have complete coverage, of course, every step of the way, including from on board the train. Our Candy Crowley is on board. She's been blogging from inside the train as well, as some of you know.

You can go to and read what she's saying. And you can get additional information from as well.

We'll take a quick commercial break and we'll continue our special coverage, the inauguration of the president, here on CNN.


BLITZER: Welcome back to Washington, D.C.

We're getting ready for the inauguration of the president of the United States, Barack Obama. He'll be inaugurated at noon on Tuesday. That's when it all becomes official, the swearing-in ceremony and then the parade, and a lot of the pomp and fun begins. There'll be a lot of excitement, a lot of balls.

Anderson Cooper, as we watch and get ready for this, let's go to Union Station first. They're getting ready to go back on the train in Baltimore and then continue the final leg of the journey to here, Union Station, a beautiful train station, historic train station, in the nation's capital.

He'll be arriving there, together with the entire entourage, and then heading over to Blair House. That's where they've been staying over the past few days, getting ready for the inauguration and the official move to the White House.

COOPER: Now, are they going to be speaking at Union Station?

BLITZER: No. They're not going to be -- we're told they're not going to be speaking, although you never know for sure.

COOPER: Right. BLITZER: But they're pretty disciplined. When they give the press a pretty good itinerary, a good schedule of what's going on, they basically pay attention to it. And we're told he's not going to be speaking at Union Station. And he spoke in Philadelphia, he spoke in Wilmington, he spoke in Baltimore.

COOPER: Right.

BLITZER: I would say that's enough for one day. What do you think?

COOPER: I think it probably is.


COOPER: They're going to be heading over to Blair House, where they moved from the Hay Adams Hotel. And then on Inauguration Day, after attending church service, they're going to head over to the White House. And from there, move to Capitol Hill, behind us, and back to the White House, where they will be living.


COOPER: Tuesday night will be their first official night in the White House.

BLITZER: Can you imagine how those little girls will be excited to be sleeping in the White House? And how about those adults, the parents?


BLITZER: They'll be pretty excited, too, I should say, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, one would imagine.

BLITZER: It's not every day that that happens.

All right. I want to just alert our viewers. Very exciting news happening here at CNN.

Donna Brazile has shown up.

Donna, are you warm enough today? How do you feel?


DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm a native New Orleanian, so this is a little cold for me.

BLITZER: I just want to make sure all those scarves don't cover up that microphone you got over there.

COOPER: I think it's all right.

BLITZER: All right. There it is right there, because we want to be able to hear. We haven't heard from you yet today.

COOPER: It's got to be just a remarkable moment on Tuesday night after this extraordinary, historic day for Barack Obama and Michelle Obama to, you know, be in bed at the White House, all alone. You know, the pomp and ceremony is all past, and to just suddenly -- just, you know, hear the house creek around them, it's got to be an amazing moment.

BRAZILE: I think, Anderson, most people are just waiting for Barack Obama to arrive in the city and go to the north portal, shake President Bush's hands, get him in the car, bring him up to the Capitol and quickly go back into the Oval Office to start governing. It's very exciting. This is not just a historic moment, but for many people all across this city -- I've been around Washington -- to D.C. today -- just picking up trinkets.

By the way, there's already a new ruler with President-elect Obama's picture on it.

COOPER: What is that?

O'BRIEN: A ruler.

COOPER: It's a ruler.

BLITZER: What does it say on the other side?

BRAZILE: This is a ruler. All of the presidents.

BLITZER: It's all 44 presidents.

BRAZILE: All 44 presidents. Now Barack Obama.

I have my seat. No, you cannot have it.

O'BRIEN: I was going to say, we can pin her down.

BRAZILE: And then you can tell it's close up. It's pretty exciting.

COOPER: So wait, this is an actual ticket to the...

BRAZILE: This is my actual ticket. I brought, Soledad, my actual invitation and the program.

O'BRIEN: Wow. Can I open it up?

BLITZER: So you're going to be right up there on the podium, right near where he's going to be sworn in as president of the United States?

BRAZILE: Well, I'll be looking right up at him. I won't be on the platform. Most of the platform guests are members of Congress, of course, and special guests, family members. But I have one of the best seats in the house, and I'm excited to be invited.

BLITZER: And you deserve one of the best seats in the house.

BRAZILE: Well, I'm excited.

BLITZER: You've been working hard for this day for a long time.

BRAZILE: I have. The invitation -- and actually, I have a couple of them. Roland Martin just tried to take a couple off me, but I told him to get in line.


BRAZILE: But this is truly a historic moment. Washington, D.C., is already filling up.

I live on Capitol Hill, the historic neighborhood behind us. And already, we're seeing cars from all over America -- Montana, Pennsylvania. People are driving in, parking, and trying to establish their place for history on Tuesday.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break and come back.

We've got Donna, we've got David Gergen, Soledad, Anderson, me, you know, the best political team on television. We like to say that. It has the added advantage of certainly being true.

When we come back, we're going to take a closer look at something very serious that's going on, security. I would say, and I've been in Washington for a long time, it's unprecedented right now.

Jeanne Meserve has some new information. She's going to share it with you. Tom Foreman is looking at this.

Stay with us. Our coverage of the Obama Express, the train ride -- they're getting ready to leave Baltimore to head to Washington -- continues right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to Washington, D.C., where we're getting ready for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Anderson Cooper is here, together with the best political team on television.

Anderson, the security is unprecedented. Already, you can see it. It's a powerful presence here in Washington, D.C.

And Jeanne Meserve, our homeland security correspondent, has had a chance to get a firsthand look at what's going on.

Jeanne, tell our viewers what you're picking up. JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a massive operation. And there are about 8,000 police, about 10,000 National Guard, 1,000 FBI agents, and more. But if anything goes wrong at this inauguration, it's Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, who is going to have to manage the crisis.

Yesterday, he took a last look at preparations and took me along.


MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPT.: I don't anticipate anything disruptive, but part of my job is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

MESERVE (voice-over): Michael Chertoff's tenure is ending with the biggest security event ever. He will spend Inauguration Day here at the Multi-Agency Command Center, along with representatives of the state, federal and local agencies involved in securing this massive multi-day event.

CHERTOFF: If something arises, we know who has the ball, we know who plays a supporting role. If an issue that's not anticipated comes up, we're in the room, we can talk about it. We can figure out what to do and we can make a decision.

MESERVE: Chertoff travels to Capitol Hill to get a better sense of the security challenges in handling the anticipated crowd. Intelligence will be scrubbed right up through Inauguration Day. At this point, there is no credible threat, but Chertoff worries about the possibility of a lone wolf.

CHERTOFF: You know, I'm still focused on the kind of event we had at Virginia Tech. One disturbed person kills a bunch of people. So, whether the motivation is racism or some psychological disorder, it's just, in an open society, it's impossible to prevent a single individual from doing some damage.

MESERVE: Outside the White House, Chertoff checks out the presidential reviewing stand still under construction. The weather is bitter, and Chertoff worries that some people coming to Washington will not plan properly.

CHERTOFF: The worst thing in the world would be for someone to come dressed like he's going to go to Bermuda with no food or water and no place to stay.

MESERVE: Chertoff says he doesn't want Washington to feel like an armed camp, and he rejects charges that his department is engaged in security overkill. He says he's tried to strike a balance between accessibility and security, and he thinks he has done it.

(on camera): Are you ready?


MESERVE: And Chertoff will be leaving his job on the 21st, not Tuesday, like other members of the Bush administration. That's so he can see the security event through to the finish.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne. Thanks very much.

We can't emphasize how significant this security preparation is. In fact, Tom Foreman is standing by. He's got more information.

We'll take another quick break, continue our coverage right after this.