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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Obama Travels Rails to Historic Inauguration; Unprecedented Security around D.C.; The Day After Inauguration
Aired January 17, 2009 - 16:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COOPER: And that's an exterior shot at the Newseum, where we are located, actually, on the roof on the right-hand side. You see that sort of tent on the very top there on the right. That's where we are.
BLITZER: All the way in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. If you look all the way up there, I'm waving right now. You can't see me, but if you look all the way up there in that corner shot, that's where we're sitting.
COOPER: Perfectly positioned both for a great view of the west part of the Capitol, but also to catch a huge breeze.
BLITZER: Yes. As if the cold temperature weren't enough, we could get a little wind, too.
COOPER: Yes. Nice little wind, crosswind there. Absolutely.
But it has been a chilly day here in Washington, though certainly a great sense of excitement is building.
Donna Brazile is with us. David Gergen is with us. Soledad O'Brien as well.
And we've been talking about security, not only security here in Washington, D.C., itself, but all day we've been watching as Barack Obama and Joe Biden move on this train, this cordon of security that has been moving with it. Helicopters in the sky above the train. Coast Guard ships alongside where the train passes by water, as well as Secret Service vehicles on both sides of the train. A really unprecedented cordon of security.
Tom Foreman has been monitoring that, as well as a lot of security preparations under way. Let's talk briefly to him -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, it's amazing, because they're going through a huge amount of security right now. But as soon as he arrives here at Union Station this evening, the security will get even bigger.
These are the actual tracks he'll come into the Union Station. This is right near CNN, and a very short walk from here over to the Capitol, where he will be sworn in. But on Inauguration Day, Barack Obama is going to be about the only person who can make this walk easily.
Let me turn you down to show you the Mall in front of him. This is the area that's going to fill up with people, obviously, on Inauguration Day, if I can get it to rotate all the way around. It's going to be full of people all down here. But more importantly, look what's going to happen to the roads.
All of these roads throughout D.C. are going to be closed. D.C. has seen a lot of big security events; nothing ever like this.
The entire downtown area is going to be sealed off to all private vehicular traffic. If you want to get around down here, you're going to be on a bicycle or you're going to be on foot, or you're going to be in some kind of public transit. The only way you can do it -- a sense of distance, that's the Lincoln Memorial coming up back there.
From there to the Capitol is about two miles, a little bit more. And right over here, if you look closely, we'll take you over and show you, this is where Barack Obama's new home is going to be. And you can see that it is also well within the net of security here.
The amount of security here is extended to a degree that people really didn't expect in some ways. One of the big contentious points for some people here is that they've actually closed off all of the bridges over the Potomac River leading in from Virginia. There are many, many millions of people who live over here who normally can commute back and forth quite easily.
I want to show you one of these bridges as we walk over here in Photosynth, because this has been something that a lot of people in Virginia have been upset about. This is in Georgetown, facing right over to Virginia. You see it's a very short distance. And every day, bridges like this one, the Key bridge, filled with people driving into the city.
And on this day, when many of them would most like to be in the city, they will not be able to. The simple truth is, that's why everyone is being told, be patient, be patient, be patient, be ready for a long, cold day, a lot of walking, a loot of standing, and possibly a lot of just being frozen where you are, because the crowds will be so big, that you can't move. And certainly, you're not going to be able to get into a car and just drive in or out -- Anderson, Wolf.
COOPER: All right. Tom Foreman, thanks. We'll be checking in with you.
We are awaiting the arrival, of course, of Barack Obama's train into Union Station.
Donna Brazile, you are going to be attending. You showed us your ticket just a short time ago, Inauguration Day.
And it was interesting. During the break, you said you wanted to be there. You didn't just want to be in a television position, far away from it, commenting on it. You actually wanted to be there.
Why was it so important for you to be there? DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Because, Anderson, I never thought I would see this day. As a little kid growing up in the segregated Deep South, you know, our parents would tell us that we could become anyone or do anything we wanted to do. And yet, some of us believed when our parents left the room that they were basically telling us a lie.
And so -- and now this day has happened. And no longer, our parents will have to tell that little lie.
Kids now can grow up to become president of the United States. And I want to be there. I want to be there for not just myself, but my family, for those who have marched, those who have struggled and sacrificed, those who made this day possible.
So I want to be there. I want to witness history.
COOPER: And that's -- for all this talk about security preparations, and for all this talk about the difficulties people are going to face in getting from point A to point B, David Gergen, I think a lot of people are saying, I just want to be there.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's sort of bearing witness. Isn't it?
GERGEN: And it's -- I -- one can understand that. There are moments in your life that you would like to say, "I was actually there. I saw it with my own eyes. I couldn't believe it, but it was there."
And I think it's what has given a poignancy to this occasion that all of us feel, regardless of whether you voted for Barack Obama or not. I think there are a lot of Republicans who share in that pride in the country. And it is a major breakthrough.
I think it also reminds us that one of the things that's distinguished America from some other countries, that we've had many struggles over inclusion, but in each struggle, the people who wanted to broaden things have won. We started out just by allowing white men who owned property to vote. And gradually, we started allowing other white men to vote. And then gradually, we've expanded it beyond that to women.
And to blacks, and then to women. Women had to wait longer. But, you know, Catholics couldn't hold office in this country. And then we had John Kennedy.
We've had struggle after struggle. There are still people waiting. Gays and lesbians, for example, still are waiting, I think, to be fully embraced.
But this is a -- I think it's one of the most significant breakthroughs we've had in our national history, a history that is good on the subject, but it's still, I think, for all of us, it's a sense of, you know, we've finally done it. We have a long, long way to go, but this is a time to celebrate how far we've come.
O'BRIEN: It's been so interesting for me. Whenever people are asked about what Barack Obama means, almost inevitably they talk about, "Well, I was a child from the South, the Northeast." "My parents were black, immigrants, white, Hispanic," whatever.
I mean, people take his story and immediately transfer -- there's some sort of power in his story that's a very American story. And kind of a new American story. And they take that story and they sort of say, "And this is where I am." I mean, it's a story of progress.
COOPER: Well, as he has said, I think it was in the speech at the Democratic Convention, you know, "Only in America is my story possible."
COOPER: And only in America could...
O'BRIEN: And that's very true. You know?
The list of all the different and disparate parts that made up Barack Obama and his African-American wife, and his two children who are descendents of slaves and white people, and a whole mix of what he is, it could only happen here in this nation. And then he went on to say, which is why he believes in the promise of America, because his story can happen, because he will be president of the United States come Tuesday.
BLITZER: But until he did it, so many people, Donna, believed that it wasn't possible. That it was never going to happen. But he showed that it could happen.
BRAZILE: Including many African-Americans. As you'll recall, Wolf, in the early polling, African-Americans were very supportive of Hillary Clinton because many of them...
BLITZER: About half and half.
BRAZILE: That's correct. Because many of them believed Barack Obama could not win. And after, of course, he won the Iowa caucuses, African-American support sort of flipped. And they began to believe that it could happen. And so...
BLITZER: And they believed it couldn't happen because of what? Because white people wouldn't vote for a black man? Was that the sense, that, why waste a vote for Barack Obama? Hillary Clinton is a big supporter of issues important to African-Americans, we might as well be realistic?
Was that the sense?
BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, there has been so many disappointments over the last 43 years since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act. And African-Americans believed that, well, maybe he has a shot, but maybe someone will do something to prohibit him from going all of the way. And so, I think there was a lot of people who expressed their desire for him. But on the other hand, they were very afraid that somehow or another, the machines wouldn't work, people would not vote for him because he was black. Maybe he was too young.
And over the course of the Democratic caucuses and primaries, he convinced African-Americans, he convinced Americans of all backgrounds. And as you remember back in February of 2008, he won 11 straight contests in a row. And people began to believe that he could win.
O'BRIEN: Clarence Jones, who was a writer, really, for Martin Luther King and helped work on some of his more famous speeches, he said, "We believed that it would be a white southern president who would help carry that message forward. Our vision didn't include an African-American president. We were hopeful for a friendly southerner who would be able to carry the message. That's the only way that you could make progress."
And you talk to him today -- and he'll be one of our guests on Martin Luther King Day -- and he cannot believe it. He cannot believe that an African-American -- and there are many associates of Dr. King, all who believed in the dream and the vision and the possibility, who will also in the same sentence admit, wow, never thought that this would happen in their lifetime.
COOPER: It bears repeating, tomorrow -- excuse me, Monday, at noon, we've actually gotten the rights to play the entire -- what's known as the "I have a dream" speech.
COOPER: Most people know that one part of the speech, but there was a lengthy speech before that. And it really -- I mean, it gives a complete, fuller picture of what happened on that day.
O'BRIEN: And Martin Luther King was about economic rights at that point. I mean, he actually was getting a lot of pushback within his own group. But he was fighting -- he said, you know, it can't just be voting rights. You have to have economic parity, because that brings everything else with it.
Voting, the rights are great and important, but not the whole story. And so this economic message was what he was pushing for. I mean, the speech -- you know, the first line is, "The Negro has been delivered a bad check."
COOPER: Could Martin Luther King have imagined this day happening so soon?
BRAZILE: I think he could have, because Martin Luther King didn't see the barriers, he saw the opportunities. And you know, had he lived, he would have turned 80 on Wednesday -- on Thursday, on January 15th.
Dr. King was a drum major for justice. He believed in the promise of America. He believed in the American dream.
I want to go back to that speech. At the end of the speech, he was wrapping up, and Mahalia Jackson, she's actually, as my family would tell you, our fifth cousin, but, you know, I've learned...
BRAZILE: ... over the course of the last couple of months, I have many fifth cousins. She's buried in the same graveyard where my mother is buried...
COOPER: Oh, really?
BRAZILE: ... down home in Louisiana. But she said, "Martin, tell them about the dream. Martin, tell them about the dream." And that's when he concluded by talking about the dream.
BLITZER: You know, with your math, Donna, pretty soon Anderson and I will be your fifth cousins as well.
BRAZILE: Well, let me just tell you what I'm serving. I have red beans and rice. My beans are right now soaking. And I have jambalaya, so you're welcome to come home.
BLITZER: We're coming over right after.
BRAZILE: Come on home.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Hold on. We're going to take another quick break.
Ed Henry is getting some new information for us on what Barack Obama is planning on doing on Wednesday, the day after he becomes president of the United States.
They're on the train -- I think they're on the train -- heading from Baltimore to Washington. Stand by.
Our coverage continues right after this.
BLITZER: The Lincoln Memorial, there'll be an event there tomorrow, where Barack Obama will be speaking. Our sister network, HBO, will be televising a special event there with many stars who are coming to pay tribute not only to Barack Obama, to pay tribute to the United States of America.
And there you see the Washington Monument.
COOPER: Soledad's close, personal friend Beyonce will be there as well.
BLITZER: Beyonce. (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: Well, Beyonce was on the train with Soledad, which is why...
BLITZER: Did you do some major bonding with Beyonce?
O'BRIEN: She was asking me to be backup. I told her I had to do the show, I couldn't help her out.
BRAZILE: I have one better. I was on the plane with Lionel Richie.
O'BRIEN: Oh. Oh.
COOPER: Is that right?
BLITZER: Everybody's going to have a little fun over the next few days here in Washington.
I want to check in with Ed Henry. He's our senior White House correspondent. He's getting some information on what Barack Obama is planning on doing the day after he becomes president.
What are you hearing, Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting. Two officials close to the president-elect now confirming to CNN that on Wednesday, he's planning to meet with his top military commanders, discuss the war in Iraq, and talk about immediately implementing that promise he made on the campaign trail about withdrawing all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.
Very symbolic, very significant, because this, obviously -- Wednesday would be his first full day in office. You'll remember on the campaign trail this summer, Barack Obama promised, in his words, that on day one he would call in the military commanders and tell them that they now have a new mission in Iraq.
Obviously, they can talk about other issues like Afghanistan, that war as well. A lot of national security challenges for this incoming president. But he's trying to send a signal, is what's really going on here, to his supporters who are wondering, with all the emphasis during this transition, on the financial crisis, on his economic recovery plan, that he hasn't forgotten about Iraq.
That is a signature issue that first brought him to prominence, helped his campaign rise. And so he's trying to send a very early signal to his supporters he's not forgetting about the war in Iraq, and he's not forgetting that he's going to make sure military commanders have a new mission on the ground in Iraq. And the broader picture here that we're starting to pick up is that they're also planning a very ambitious week. Some executive orders they're going to release. One likely to be closing down the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. So they're trying to send an early signal that they're going to shift things, especially on national security, very quickly after President Bush leaves office -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry, thanks very much.
Ed's going to be busy over the next few days like all of us.
Chris Lawrence is outside the fence near the White House as well, near the reviewing stand where Barack Obama will be seeing what's going on Tuesday after he's sworn in. That's a pretty shot right there.
What are you seeing, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when you take a look ahead, you know, this is really where everything ends up. Just to give you an idea, we have been seeing people just coming here to the gates of the White House. Even if you're sitting at home and you've ever visited Washington, D.C., this is the area where most tourists come to get their closest look at the White House.
People bringing their children right up to the gates, trying to get a glimpse of the White House. Probably one of the last chances to get this close over the next few days.
We take you through here, these are some of the 5,000 seats that were open to the public. Theses are viewing for the parade on Tuesday.
This street right here are some of the last steps that Barack Obama will take as he walks this street and walks up to the presidential viewing area, where he will then view the parade that comes by.
We're hearing that, basically, they're going to start opening up some of the security checks for the parade route about 7:00 in the morning. And I would say just from the crowds and people that we've been talking to, if people are going to come out and try to see the parade along the route, they should probably start getting here well before that, because once they hit that number of about 300,000, 350,000, they're going to completely cut off access and push everybody else off to the Mall -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Chris. Thanks very much.
You know, Anderson, that whole area where Chris is -- and I don't know if we can get a shot of that -- it's a walkway now. It used to be a street, Pennsylvania Avenue. You used to be able to drive right outside the north lawn of the White House. But after the Oklahoma City bombing, they shut that off and made it a pedestrian walkway.
There you see right now it's as close as you can get to the White House. And eventually on Tuesday afternoon, after he's sworn in, he'll get out of the motorcade on the road from Capitol Hill to the White House and walk those final steps to that reviewing stand.
I remember when I was a White House correspondent, it used to be a regular street, Pennsylvania Avenue, but no more after Oklahoma City.
COOPER: It's important to point out what Chris Lawrence was saying, that 300,000, 350,000 is the maximum number of people along the parade route.
And Donna, as you well know -- you're involved closely with the planning all of this -- people are not going to be able to run from the inauguration ceremony to the parade route.
BRAZILE: That's correct. Anderson, if you have a parade ticket, the entrance will open up around 8:00. You must be seated before 12:00 noon.
So as soon as those bleachers are filled up, you cannot move. And let me just tell you, watching what happened -- occurred in 2000 and 2004, people will be lined up along the parade route. And it will be difficult to get to your seats.
So I told my friends -- I said, "You can get one or the other if you want to go to the swearing in or the parade." You cannot do both. It's just logistically impossible on that day.
COOPER: Well, there are going to be JumboTrons at both locations. So folks who are, you know, waiting along the parade route will be able to watch the swearing in. And people who are on the Mall watching the swearing in...
BLITZER: There is an excellent way, though -- I want to remind our viewers -- for people to see everything. They can be able to see the swearing in of the next president of the United States and see every one of those floats, all those marching bands from Madison, Wisconsin, or from Selma, Alabama. No matter where they're coming from.
You know what they can do?
COOPER: Let me guess. CNN?
BLITZER: That is correct.
COOPER: There you go.
BLITZER: That's the correct answer.
Let's take a quick break and continue our coverage right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Wow.
BLITZER: Great shot of the Washington Mall. Look at how empty it is right now. There are some people over there, but it's going to be jam-packed on Tuesday, starting, as Donna says, very, very early Tuesday morning.
People are going to get there, get some areas. You know what all those blue things on the side over there, what they are, Anderson?
COOPER: Those are Port-a-potties.
BLITZER: Port-a-potties. You know, and there's a controversy going on in Washington right now, because there might not be enough of them. I have no idea how they plan for that kind of thing, but they need a lot of those.
COOPER: I read an e-mail that this is the largest portable toilet event in history. That there's actually going to be a line of toilets basically stretching from the Capitol all the way to the...
BLITZER: And that's the Smithsonian right behind all those Port- a-potties. Lovely Port-a-potties.
Very blue Port-a-potties, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Outside of the Port-a-potties...
BLITZER: But for a million or two million people, you know what? You need...
O'BRIEN: You need a lot of port-a-potties.
O'BRIEN: But you know what? Outside of the port-a-potties, when they take that shot, I mean, it's empty, and it's amazing already.
COOPER: It's incredible.
O'BRIEN: But imagine with a million people packed inside, that's going to be the most amazing shot to see. I can't wait to see that.
COOPER: Especially that overhead camera shot we have.
O'BRIEN: Yes, it's great.
COOPER: I haven't seen that before. That's remarkable.
BLITZER: I like that shot because, you know what? It reminds me of a football game when they have that shot, that little -- going along there and showing what's going on.
COOPER: And we, of course, are awaiting the arrival of Barack Obama, who was supposed to get to Union Station... BLITZER: Well, it's scheduled to arrive at 7:00 p.m. It's supposed to leave the Baltimore station at 6:10, according to the official transition team schedule, but I don't know if that's happening or not happening. They've been pretty much on time though.
COOPER: They had a long stop over in Baltimore. I'm not sure what they're doing at this point. We saw a speech in Baltimore. And now the train, I guess, has not left yet.
BLITZER: Great food in Little Italy. They might have stopped off for some pasta. You know, a little spaghetti or something. Maybe that's what they did. You don't know.
COOPER: Maybe so.
BLITZER: I go to Baltimore sometimes to do that.
BLITZER: That's -- yes. But I don't know what they're doing in Baltimore. It's a nice place.
BRAZILE: It's normally a 35-minute ride on the Acela Express. And that's only one stop at BWI airport. So I think they're stopping in a little small town before they get to Union Station.
BLITZER: What do you mean? They're going to make another slowdown?
BRAZILE: They're going to slow down in Edgewood, Maryland.
BLITZER: They've already done that one.
BRAZILE: Well, then, I don't know. The only other stop is New Carrollton, and that's a big metro station.
BLITZER: BWI, New Carrollton, beltway station. I think they're going straight, nonstop from Baltimore to Union Station. And then they'll get off and continue the journey to the White House.
COOPER: David, the idea behind this whole train journey -- and we've been talking about it a lot throughout the day -- basically, why do you think they did it?
GERGEN: Well, it is symbolic. You know, the early journeys by presidents to Washington or to New York, when our first president, George Washington, went from Mount Vernon to New York, those were real because you actually had to get there to take the oath.
Now, Barack Obama has been, in effect, president for the last two weeks right here in Washington. So there's a lot of symbolism by leaving Washington to go to Philadelphia and then coming back.
And clearly, the most important part of the symbolism is to echo Abraham Lincoln, and the most famous trip of all the presidents. When Lincoln came from Philadelphia to Washington, as we discussed earlier in the day, he had to be essentially hidden away because of threats to his life. And so here we have another man from Illinois, another man who said farewell to Illinois, and who very much in the spirit of Lincoln and wants to evoke Lincoln regularly.
COOPER: And what is it about Abraham Lincoln that Barack Obama so relates to and wants to remind us of? I mean, he started his campaign in Springfield, Illinois. He's using Lincoln's bible, the bible that Lincoln used in his inauguration.
GERGEN: Sure. And the theme of the weekend, the theme of the speeches that we've been told is called the "New Birth of Freedom." And that phrase, of course, comes for the Gettysburg Address, when Lincoln went to Gettysburg and hearkened back to the Declaration of Independence as being the beginning of the country.
Most people, until that time, thought that the writing of the Constitution was the beginning of the republic. But he actually went back to the Declaration and made equal opportunity at the heart of the American dream. Until then, it had all been just about freedom. But he really helped us to remember it's about every person has an equal shot in life.
And Lincoln, in going to Gettysburg, talked about the importance of the Civil War to give us a new birth of freedom. And the Gettysburg fight in particular. So, in that commemoration, by Obama going back to Lincoln and talking about the new birth of freedom, he is really rekindling that flame.
And his election, I think, in many ways symbolizes that. And it's coming to fruition, not only what Martin Luther King stood for, but of what Lincoln stood for. And it's so symbolic that the Lincoln Memorial is where King gave his speech, the "I have a dream" speech. It all comes together.
BLITZER: You know, I want to get back to a point that Donna made about Barack Obama becoming the first president of the United States.
There have been other African-Americans, Donna, who wanted to become president of the United States. You worked for Jesse Jackson when he was running for president of the United States. Al Sharpton wanted to win the Democratic nomination. Shirley Chisholm, as you'll remember, ran for president of the United States.
Here's the question. What did Barack Obama have going for him that they didn't have? And the follow-up question is, Colin Powell, had he decided in 1996 to run for the Republican presidential nomination, would he have had a chance of becoming the first African- American president?
BRAZILE: There's no question that Shirley Chisholm's historic run in 1972 helped to pave the way for this day. Mrs. Chisholm ran at a time when African-Americans had just received the right to vote in many parts of the country. And she was the one who shook up the establishment, who said, why not run for president of the United States?
She didn't make it all the way. She didn't win a lot of states. Didn't have but a few delegates.
But it was Jesse Jackson's run, I believe, in 1984 that really, really empowered African-Americans to participate in the political process. Prior to Reverend Jackson running, we had less than 1,000 black elected officials. Today, we have over 10,000 black elected officials, including two black governors and now another black United States senator, our sixth since the history of this country.
So I think from the historic bid (ph), from Shirley Chisholm, Reverend Jesse Jackson, two historic runs, Al Sharpton in 2004, Carol Moseley Braun, that paved the way for Barack Obama. One could never forget the civil rights movement, the movement that really gave birth to this new generation of African-Americans, who empowered them to get involved in the political process. And I think of John Lewis, who I'm sure will be sitting somewhere on the platform, and so many others who will be there on Tuesday to witness this moment, because they helped to make this dream a reality.
BLITZER: And could Colin Powell, if he had decided to throw his hat in the ring in '96 -- and David, you can follow up -- could he have done it?
BRAZILE: I think so, because Colin Powell was very well respected, somewhat of a bipartisan figure. He had strong support in the African-American community, strong support, broad support across the country. He clearly had a narrative, a strong story to tell the American people. Well respected.
I do believe that Colin Powell could have become the first black president. But as you remember, his wife basically told him, oh, no, this is not your moment. And as a result, he decided not to pursue the presidency. But he's been very supportive of Barack Obama, and he's been very helpful in launching this whole weekend, a weekend of service.
GERGEN: I think he definitely could have become president. During the Bush -- the recent Bush administration, he was the most respected of all the people in the Bush cabinet in all the polls. He was ahead in the polls back then.
It's worth remembering, one of the reasons Alma Powell didn't want him to run was the threats against his life because he was an African-American, which we're now seeing play out again, the question of security here and something that's been hanging over both of the Obamas.
I think it's nice that on Monday night, when Barack Obama has this dinner, honoring people who have, in his judgment, worked in such a bipartisan fashion, he's not only honoring John McCain, but he's also honoring Colin Powell. He recognizes that Colin Powell is one of the people who also helped to bring breakthroughs to this country.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: There -- Colin Powell and all the others playing a role. Barack Obama is finishing that role. And it will be official on Tuesday.
DONNA BRAZILLE, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he would say he is yet another stick on the pile.
WOLF: Being the first African-American president.
BRAZILLE: But standing on his shoulders, as people say, and the shoulders being Shirley Chisholm (ph). A lot of people don't get named, including Reverend Jackson, fairly, don't get named in the people who move the ball down the field a little bit. Martin Luther King does. There's a lot of folks who don't.
WOLF: Good point. We'll take another quick break.
Getting ready for the train to get closer and closer to Union Station here in Washington. We're watching it every step of the way. We'll take a quick commercial break. Our coverage continues after this.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. There you see where the train is right now in Baltimore. We're getting word the train is just starting to leave Baltimore, if that is, in fact, the case. We're trying to just confirm that with Candy Crowley who is on board the train. It's a little bit ahead of schedule. Of course, the destination, as you see on the map, Washington, D.C., Union Station.
That's where we find Suzanne Malveaux who is standing by.
Suzanne, President-elect Obama is not going to be speaking at Union Station. Do we know what's going to happen as soon as he gets there?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Union Station is packed here. You can probably see the crowds behind me that have gathered. They're not necessarily going to see Barack Obama here but that doesn't seem to matter to them.
The train is going to pull up and essentially he is going to go from the train to the motorcade. A lot of folks really won't be able to get a glimpse of him. He'll do directly from the motorcade to the Blair House. A lot of people from out of town. A woman from Liberia, people from Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, everywhere. A lot of people are staying with friends at homes on cots, mattresses. They don't have tickets to the event, but they are very, very excited about just the fact that they're here for this historic occasion.
One of the real differences here is that president Bush, for a long time, talked about Washington in a way that really referred to the lobbyists and the politicians, not the people who really live here. He has not really engaged very much outside of the White House. Very different with the Obamas already just being here for a couple of weeks. They've embraced the Washington community. People get a sense that they're very excited, particularly the fact that Washington, D.C. is predominantly African-American. A lot of professionals, a lost of people. We saw Barack Obama this past week at Ben's Chili Bowl, really just a neighborhood place, but also an institution in Washington. A lot of people feeling very excited just by the fact that they're going to live here in Washington. They're going to be a part of this historic weekend occasion.
COOPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux for CNN at Union Station.
No doubt, people getting more and more excited as the train approaches. We'll check in with Suzanne maybe later on.
Suzanne talked to some of the people in the crowd to find out why they wanted to come, even though they may not be able to get a glimpse of Barack Obama.
Again, as we've heard from all along the journey, people just wanting to be there, wanting to get as close as they can.
It is interesting to hear Suzanne talking about the people she's talked to, the sense of excitement in an urban city. And as you pointed out earlier, David Gergen, Barack Obama, really one of the first presidents in recent memory from an urban center.
GERGEN: Yes he is our first urban president in our lifetimes. I think that makes a major difference. He understands the vibrancy and sort of the culture of urban living, feels very comfortable with it, connects with it, likes the neighborhood quality to it, likes walking around.
But I also think it's interesting, Anderson, that he's one of the first candidates for a long time who hasn't just run against Washington as an outsider. He's run against the lobbyists and special interests. He hasn't run against Washington overall. Embracing the city and being a good neighbor here is a really important part of governing.
Some presidents have come in here and sort of dismissed Washington, both the white establishment and the black establishment. They very quickly find themselves pretty isolated. For him to come in and go out to the chili house and go see the conservative columnists and meet with the liberals I think has been very smart on his part.
BLITZER: A lot of people in the District of Columbia feel -- and Donna can attest to this, as she's a resident of the District of Columbia -- this is a city that has taxation without representation, at least voting rights for the District of Columbia. 600,000 people live if Washington, D.C. They can vote for president of the United States. They can vote for a house delegate who doesn't have voting rights in the House of Representatives. There's no U.S. Senator representing these people who live in Washington, D.C.
BLITZER: Barack Obama is very sensitive to that.
GERGEN: He's very sensitive, but there are some indications he may not push it very quickly. BRAZILLE: He doesn't have to push it very quickly and use his political capitol. One of the things that Eleanor Holmes Norton has been able to achieve...
BLITZER: She's a nonvoting delegate from the District of Columbia.
BRAZILLE: That's correct. We had overwhelming support in the House of Representatives for the bill, the D.C. voting rights bill. But also in the senate Orrin Hatch has been a big supporter of the big. It will not only give D.C. full voting rights, it will also give Utah the extra seat.
BRAZILLE: So Orrin Hatch has been supportive of the bill. I think we have the votes in the United States senate. For ten years, I served as chief of staff to Eleanor Holmes Norton. So I'm familiar with taxation without representation. But Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has limited voting rights. She's able to vote in committee, what we call a Committee to Hold (ph), because the Democrats gave her limited voting rights. But she cannot vote on final legislation.
BLITZER: Here's the question. Is Barack Obama, as president of the United States going to do anything about Washington, D.C. and voting rights?
BRAZILLE: I believe he will. Not a big priority given the economy and other problems we face in the country, but if Eleanor Holmes Norton, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid can get the bill through the House of Representatives, all we need Barack Obama to do is sign the bill.
COOPER: Other issue, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, gays in the military. We heard from a spokesperson from Barack Obama that, point- blank, he said, yes, he will change that policy. Is there any timetable on that? Do we know?
BRAZILLE: I think many of these pieces of legislation will be on his agenda, will be on his plate. They will have to wait until the first 140, 150 days after he gets through the budget and stimulus plan and all the other things he has to accomplish as president. He is fully supportive of these issues. I know, given the complexity of getting things through to Congress, once he's able to get past that first 100, 150 days, this will be on his plate.
GERGEN: I do think they'll wait a little bit on it. Bill Clinton was so burnt on the issue early on. You remember reporting out of that, Wolf. He sort of stumbled into the issue without realizing quite what he had done. It caused him problems.
I definitely think it will happen in first couple of years in his office. But for many of his supporters, the first thing they want him to do is get out of Iraq. WOLF: The country, since Bill Clinton tried to do that back in '93, that was one of the first crises he had at president of the United States. He wanted to eliminate the ban on gays serving openly in the military. They came up with the compromise solution. Collin Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which has been the policy ever since. Now he says the country has changed. It's time to move on.
Barack Obama during the campaign at one of the debates that I moderated, he said he wanted to get rid of it. Robert Gibbs, his new White House press secretary, says he plans on doing it.
But you're right, there are so many other critical issues right now, including the economy and this disaster that's unfolding, he's got to worry about his priorities.
GERGEN: But the Ed Henry report is interesting. The fact that on Wednesday, the day after he's sworn in...
BLITZER: Reporting that his going to have this meeting with the military leaders about implementing his campaign pledge to start withdrawing U.S. combat forces over a 16-month period.
ANDERSON: Also the issue of Guantanamo Bay as well.
Candy Crowley has been on the train with Barack Obama as well. She, of course, has been on the train really since the beginning of last year.
ANDERSON: Fro the last two years.
BLITZER: Longer than Abraham Lincoln's trip.
ANDERSON: As she's been following the campaign, she's been metaphorically been following the train of Barack Obama. We'll talk to her coming up after this break.
Let's take a short break. Our coverage continues. You can also see Candy's blog at cnn.com. Check it out. We'll be right back.
ANDERSON: Night is falling here in Washington, D.C. That's a view from the Mall where, on Tuesday, it is going to be a sea literally of people all the way from the capitol, perhaps as far as the Lincoln Monument.
Candy Crowley is on the train with Barack Obama. She has been all day. The train has now left Baltimore on the way to Union Station here in Washington. We've been covering it all along for the last 36 hours or so, or so it seems to us sitting here.
Candy Crowley, she joins us now on the phone.
Candy, you have been following Barack Obama really for the last two years. What are your thoughts as you make this the last final leg of the journey to Washington, D.C. with him?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There are a couple of things. First of all, this is a man who began this campaign in Springfield, Illinois, with all the Lincoln imagery in Springfield. We're also on this trip from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. So there's that.
And there's also the fact that very little has changed about Barack Obama's message since day one. They've had a steady march to the White House. They were small things along the way. The fact of the matter is that he had, as he says all the time in his speeches, I just had a feeling that, in fact, they could, that the American people could do sort of what he called a grass roots campaign, sort of reaching in to that subterranean disappointment, alienation that was there. And he could bring in new voters. Certainly, we saw a lot of them on the campaign trip.
Also, when you look at the faces of the people as we came along on the train and in the crowd when he gave speeches -- there's an awful lot they have invested in the president-elect. There are so many people right now are talking about history and hope. Come Thursday morning people are going to be looking for help. That's where the rubber meets the road. Because as amazing as this moment is for Barack Obama and for the country, in the end, he's going to be a president and people will judge him on the presidential record. It just sort of struck me as kind of the last time of sort of pure enjoyment for the Obamas despite everything.
When we were leaving Baltimore, we had to go from the side of city hall, get on a bus and come back here. As we were walking along the train, we looked up at the -- through one of the windows, and they were throwing a bakery party for Michelle Obama. And she was dancing and the girls there. A very carefully moment -- in side history, which will only get tougher as they move along, come Wednesday, Thursday, Friday it begins -- Anderson?
COOPER: It certainly does. How, Candy, do they plan on moving forward, incorporating this great ground swell of support that Barack Obama has enjoyed thus far? How do they plan to keep holding on that to harness in order to get Barack Obama elected, how do they plan to keep holding on to that to help them get the agenda through?
CROWLEY: There's one very practical way and one that is more unique to the president-elect. The first one is, remember, they have enormous lists and text massage addresses that they have used consistently, since after he won the election. I get e-mails all the time from them about Barack Obama, we're rolling up in the last week, we want you to come. Can you donate money? They have a vast network of people they can contact in the new-age sort of way. They can go directly over the heads of Congress, can go directly over the heads of the media and draw on that power that he had during his campaign. They also believe, and he has always believed in his ability to move people with his message. They believe there will be a honeymoon period and that's when you have the toughest times. And he's also begun to warn people and we heard that today.
Remember, he's going into the highest moment of his campaign into his presidency and, today, he was saying, it's going to be tough. We're going to fail. And that's pretty much been his message since he won the election, which is, OK. Now, let's hunker down. This is going to take some time because I'm being left with a lot of problems, a trillion dollar deficit, two wars, that sort of thing. They've been trying to tamp down the expectations. They know that they have a network out there they can call on if they need some way to pressure Congress. And they believe in his ability to move people. and that's essentially how they think he'll run his presidency.
COOPER: Candy Crowley reporting from the train that President- elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are on.
Candy, thanks. we'll check in with you as the train comes heading closer and closer here to Washington, D.C. and Union Station and inauguration day on Tuesday.
Let's check in with Rowland...
BLITZER: With Ted Rowlands.
COOPER: Ted Rowlands, who is standing by in Utah at the Sundance Film Festival where he has been. He talked to Robert Redford earlier about his view on this inauguration and the Bush administration.
A lot of celebrities, Ted, who are there, are planning on coming here?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson, making a quick appearance here at Sundance and moving on to Washington, D.C. Lots of celebrities talking about Obama and the inauguration. Some of them even pledging to answer the Obama call to public service. Actor, Ashton Kutcher teamed up with MySpace CEO Chris DeWolf. They have come up with something called presidential pledges. Basically, what they've done is they've gone around, gotten celebrities to pledge to do something for the country. They're going to put this up on MySpace. Their goal is to harness all the young people that got into politics during the campaign through MySpace and other social networking sites, and basically, and get them to pledge to do something for the country. Basically, putting them to work.
ASHTON KUTCHER, ACTOR: I think there's a clear understanding that Barack Obama's not going to come in and puts his hand on the Bible and suddenly all the problems in the world are going to change. I think people are recognizing that. He doesn't have the magic wand, we do.
EVC ROWLANDS: That's presidential pledges site, it launches on Monday, the day before the inauguration, a day that most of the celebrities will be out of Sundance and in Washington, D.C. A lot of them, of course, want to be seen. This is normally the place to be seen but, this year, for them, it is in D.C. And lots of those folks are making the journey over the weekend and before, leading up to the inauguration.
COOPPER: There's a big concert -- Ted, thanks very much.
A big concert tomorrow by the Lincoln Monument.
BLITZER: At the Lincoln Memorial. That's HBO, our sister network, is going to be televising that live at 2:30 p.m. But we'll be on the air tomorrow, Anders, you and me and the best political team on television, from 2:00 to 5:00. And we'll be able to show our viewers are some unique back-stage access to some of these stars. And I think it will be pretty cool.
COOPER: Cool. We've got a lot more coverage coming up. Our coverage continues. We'll take a sure break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Washington, D.C. Momentarily, we think pretty soon Barack Obama and the entire Obama express will be arriving at Union Station here in the nation's capitol, getting ready for a big day tomorrow.
That's the Lincoln Memorial, where there will be a concert that Barack Obama will be attending. He'll be speaking. We'll have coverage right here on CNN tomorrow. All day, our special coverage.
"The Inauguration of Barack Obama" continues and our coverage. We'll take a quick break but we'll be right back.
BLITZER: You can see it's being tacked right now. The train has left Baltimore. It looks like it's about midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Right now, it's coming to Union Station carrying the next president of the United States and the next vice president of the United States, as well as their families.
Once they get to Union Station -- there it is. you're seeing a live shot. Lots of folks are already there and they're very excited. They're hoping to get a glimpse of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. We don't know if they will. We don't expect any additional speeches from the president-elect.