Return to Transcripts main page


More Special Coverage on the Inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America

Aired January 20, 2009 - 09:00   ET


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D) NEW YORK: The sort of interesting part of this is, I don't think people would be willing to make the sacrifice if we were still prosperous and I think, in a certain sense, Obama's road would be harder to make those changes.
But because we've had the downturn and because people are really worried fundamentally that maybe we were on the wrong track. And this is not blaming any particular person or political party. We all did it -- business, government, finance, and people.

Everyone was borrowing up to the skies.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: So if the American people have a sense of responsibility to change the way that they live and to not spend more than they earn...


ROBERTS: ... and just kind of, you know, tighten the belt, does the 111th Congress as well have a responsibility to enact some of these programs to put aside partisan sniping? You know, the 110th Congress, you know, according to many critics, was known as the do- nothing Congress.

SCHUMER: You bet.

ROBERTS: And you folks were in charge. Are you going to change your ways, too, and get, get a lot done?

You know, there is no question about it. I mean most of the reason we were blocked is they filibustered. You know we had 51 votes. We now -- well, looks like with Minnesota, we'll have 59. But far more important than having those votes. Obama will bring people together.

He's made a special effort to reach out to Republicans. That's what we want. Particularly on the Democratic side. We want to see government work. We don't want to just make speeches and yell at each other. We want to come together. And that will mean it's not going to be just our way. It won't be just their way.

This is a moment. And you know, once a generation, things pivot in America, you have three things happening at once. You have that pivot which hasn't happened since Ronald Reagan. You have an African- American president, but you also have a man, regardless of race, of huge talent. You know? The moment and the man have come together and I think the excitement here is real and deep...

ROBERTS: Well...

SCHUMER: ... and throughout America.

ROBERTS: A lot of Americans are going to be counting on you to see if you can get the job done.

SCHUMER: Well, it'll be...


SCHUMER: It's our job.

ROBERTS: It's so great to see you this morning.

SCHUMER: Nice to see you.

ROBERTS: Thanks for dropping by.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of work ahead. Good luck to you.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

CHETRY: Thanks a lot for coming to talk to us this morning.

SCHUMER: It's going to be a great year.

ROBERTS: You mentioned the crowd out in the mall so why don't we take you out to the mall.

Our Jim Acosta is out there. He's made an awful lot of new friends this morning and he's talking with a few more.

Hey, Jimmy.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, thanks for coming to me. I need to get in position here because I didn't realize you were coming. But, yes, you're right. Thousands of people out here. Just in this area where we are. At about 6th Street in the mall. And it is just -- it's unbelievable all morning to watch these crowds gather here.

I was coming out at about 3:00 or 4:00 this morning and because of the size of the crowds head nothing the metro, heading into the security checkpoints, it was -- it was really impossible to get down here and -- so many different directions. At one point, just start jogging here.

And when I got here, it was amazing to see just how many thousands of people were just sitting on the mall. They were streaming in at that moment. And we all -- and I'm standing here with a lot of the ladies and gentlemen I've been with all morning. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All morning.

ACOSTA: As we got here, we got to watch the sun rise over the capital. And when that moment happened, that is when we were able to sort of take all of this in, am I right?


ACOSTA: As to just how incredible this scene is here. And I know we've been saying this all morning, I grew up outside the Washington, D.C. area. And came down here for, you know, the Fourth of July when the Beach Boys would come and play on the mall.

The Washington Redskins win the -- win the Super Bowl, other inaugurations, we have just never seen anything like this down on the mall.


ACOSTA: As -- well, in my lifetime. There are some folks here who saw what happened here when Martin Luther King was down on this mall. And I'm joined by some ladies here.

I just want to --just pulling people randomly out of the crowd. So I hope you doomed. There's one lady here with "I have a dream" shirt.

Olivia, let's go right to you first. And there's a picture of Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.


ACOSTA: What does this moment in history mean to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This means so much to me for my mother, my grandmother, my great, great grandmother, my father, my great grandfather.

ACOSTA: Those who couldn't be here today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those who never ever thought this would be possible. And in my lifetime or in their lifetime and thank god my mother is still alive to see this and I'm so grateful. It's just amazing for all of us.

ACOSTA: Is she watching at home right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she is. I love you, mom.


ACOSTA: And you ladies look nice and warm. I'm going to stand with you all morning if that's all right.


ACOSTA: What do you think about all this? What do you think about all of these people that you're seeing?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... overwhelming. It's amazing. I've never seen that many -- this many people in one place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just this much support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Energizing. Exciting.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are all different nationalities here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the greatness of this occasion.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You would think that -- just folks who are of color who would be here but I've seen so many white folks and they are all enjoying the same program that we are, you know, chanting or we're saying, yes, we did, yes, we can. And it's so good to see all nationalities surrounding Barack and enjoying this day.

ACOSTA: Very well said, ma'am. And I just want to start walking through this crowd here because it's so remarkable to be out here with all of these people. And I guess what that woman just said is such an important statement because as these pictures are being beamed out to the world, one thing that we all have to keep in mind here is that, yes, the world has seen a side of America that many around the world -- haven't really liked very much.

But when they look at this image of America, they also have to take into consideration that this is also America. All of these hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions will have to wait and see what happens. We are gathering on the mall down here.


ACOSTA: I'm stumbling over these folks as I try to make my way through. But that this is also America and that this day represents, to many down here and many across the world, a different America, a changed America.


ACOSTA: It's exciting to be down here. You know, no matter your political stripe, it's always nice to see Americans waving the stars and stripes and that's what we're seeing a lot of down here, John and Kiran. CROWD: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

CHETRY: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks so much. Getting drowned out slightly.

ACOSTA: I don't hear you guys anymore.

CHETRY: It's all right, Jim. We hear you. And you got drowned out a little bit out there by some of these chants of "yes, we can." Of course the mantra of the Obama campaign and now that continues into inauguration day.

We're six minutes after the hour here in D.C. And Barack Obama, as well as Michelle Obama, are at St. John's Episcopal Church.

We're going to show you a little bit of video earlier. This will be the first time many of us saw Barack Obama today. This is his first public appearance. There you see him exiting the Blair House with Michelle Obama getting into the presidential car known as "the beast," because of the extraordinary security and technology surrounding it.

And they're making a short trip. John Roberts called it, 45 seconds. That's about how long it took the motorcade to exit the Blair House, which is, of course, the traditional residence of the incoming president-elect and his wife. And there they go and making their way on the short little jaunt up to St. John's Church.

They're attending a service there. It's a private service. The Bidens also made their way about 30 minutes before them, maybe 15, 20 minutes before the Obamas. And there you see Barack and Michelle Obama walking into the church being greeted there by the pastor and getting ready to go inside for a private service.

Probably some time for prayer and reflection, of course, on the enormity of the day. And there we see them shaking hands and then entering the small little church right adjacent to the White House.

Right now, we're going to bring in Jeanne Meserve. She is one of the security command centers. They are making it look easy, I must say. And I can't imagine, Jeanne, the extraordinary efforts that went into today, but as you see the orderly rally of people out there, the crowd is huge, but happy.

And -- it was a relatively easy. I know it's difficult to get into the city today. But the security checkpoints were all up and running, doing their best to manage what -- is going to be one of the enormous gatherings of people this city has seen in decades.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And Kiran, an absolutely huge effort this morning. I'm at the command center for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Let me give you a sense of what these places are like. They're probably about a dozen of them up and running in and around Washington today. You have various screens. This one keeps track of the incidents that are happening around town so there is a common operating picture, everybody knows what they're dealing with.

There's another screen over here that has camera feeds on it. The Federal Protective Service is one of the sub-units of ICE. They're in charge of protecting all the federal buildings downtown.

Those cameras are on buildings right along the parade route so they have a great vantage point of what's going to be happening there as the day progresses. There are 58 different federal, state and local law enforcement agencies involved in this security effort. About 8,000 uniform police. There are about 10,000 National Guard, another 20,000 National Guard on standby just in case something happens.

And of course, a wide array of technology. Some of it high tech, some of it low tech. We've got explosive detecting dogs down on the mall. We have horses that have been brought in to help with crowd control.

But there are also very sophisticated sensors that can detect chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. A full range of things.

We've talked to officials about how things have been going so far today. There have been a few suspicious packages they've responded to, nothing's panned out. A few minor communication glitches, but by and large, the report is so far, so good.

Kiran, John, back to you.

CHETRY: And any estimates so far? I mean, we know just how huge the crowds are expected to be. They were talking about upwards of two million. Or do they -- do they have any estimates right now as to how large they expect this to be as the people start to filter in hours before the actual inauguration takes place?

MESERVE: No. You know, it used to be the park police would do those estimates of how many people were on the mall. They made a decision several years ago not to be in that business anymore. So you will not be getting any official crowd estimates from them.

I imagine that there may be some experts on crowds who are out there eyeballing these pictures and they may give us some numbers but it's not going to come from the government -- Kiran?

CHETRY: Right. I got you. And you know, just one quick interesting aside. Washington's metro transit system said that by 7:00 a.m. some 207,000 people had entered the Washington metro transit system and all of those stops and that huge lines are still forming outside. And parking lots actually had to fill up and close.

They're talking about extremely crowded platforms as people still try to make their way in.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you, it looked like there were 207,000 people trying to get into the new Carrollton Metro Station...

CHETRY: Exactly.

ROBERTS: ... from the picture that we had just a little while ago.

Jeanne Meserve for us, thanks.

You're looking at one of the counter sniper teams on top of one of the roofs here. And as Jeanne Meserve showed us yesterday, the incredible training that this counter sniper teams go through at some of one of the Smithsonian museums, it looks like. And they want people to know that they are there.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: You see them on top of the roofs with their binoculars. They've got binoculars on a tripod there. They're looking down the mall, just to see if anything is out of the ordinary. One of those -- you have two-member teams there. You've got the one fellow who's on the binoculars, there's another military person there who's got -- looks like binoculars and a camera.

And then the other member of the team is the one who'll be the rifleman. And so you have a spotter and then you have the counter sniper as well. But they want people to know that they are there so that anybody who has any kind of intention on causing harm here knows that they are under the watchful eye of the United States Secret Service, to the FBI or any of the other 58 agencies who have enlisted to provide security for this inaugural event.

We're going to take a short break. It's 12 minutes after hour. We'll be back with more of our special coverage, the inauguration of Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States. Special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. We'll be right back.


ROBERTS: Fifteen minutes after the hour. We're back with more of our live special edition coverage of AMERICAN MORNING as we are about to see the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. The first American president who is African-American. An amazing and historic event here.

Our Brianna Keilar is out there on -- with the crowd on the mall and she's run into a couple of people who are from Sidwell Friends School and Sidwell Friends, of course, famous as the school where Chelsea Clinton went and now famous as the school where Sasha and Malia, the Obama kids, will be getting their education.

Good morning to you, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes, Sasha and Malia go to Sidwell Friends, as do Viveca, Casey, and Alyssa. You guys are juniors at Sidwell Friends.

Just talk to me about what it means since there is sort of a personal connection for you about being here today? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's just a really great experience. It's like being here for history.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's our generation. Everyone is out here. Everyone I know is coming down to the mall.

ROBERTS: Hey, Janelle?

KEILAR: And -- and you sort of -- parents had different views about you guys coming down because you girls are here alone. You're all 16 and 17 years old. Tell me about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, my parents are kind of like, go out there and see what you can. You know? They're really supportive of my kind of effort to see the inauguration, but that looks like it's not going to happen which is unfortunate.

KEILAR: What? To see it?


KEILAR: But you get to be a part of it, right? I mean you sort of knew, coming into this, you might not going to see it, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. But it's just great coming down here and showing support and it's amazing to see how many people from all over the country are just coming just to be here in Washington today, even if it doesn't mean seeing Barack so it's cool.

KEILAR: And you mentioned that since you go to Sidwell Friends, that it's really -- it's not that strange, right, having the first daughters there? Tell me about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like not a big deal at all. They come, they go. People don't really crowd around their car. They go between classes. It's not -- no one goes looks for them. They're just like normal kids.

KEILAR: Is it kind of neat or you don't really think about it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the knowledge of neat so...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's great. I think people are giving them their space.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. They understand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And normal kids. Yes, but it is very cool to have Barack's kids there.

KEILAR: I'm sure it is. Well, you guys, I hope you do get a good view, Viveca, Alyssa, and Casey. Thank you all very much. John, back to you.

ROBERTS: All right, Brianna Keilar for us in the mall.

And the crowd is going wild this morning. We are just a little -- a little more than two hours away from the beginning of the inaugural ceremonies. And again, the oath of office will be delivered at precisely 12:00 noon.

According to the article of the constitution, that's when the term of the president of the United States ends and the transition of power happens.

Want to welcome here a couple of guests this morning to talk more about the significance of this event. Sitting beside me here is congressman from Georgia and the great civil rights leader John Lewis, and as well, in our Washington bureau this morning, Willie Brown, the former mayor from San Francisco, joining us this morning for our special coverage.

Congressman Lewis, it's an honor to sit here and talk to you particularly when you look back over the history of everything that has happened in this country to bring us where we are, you know, I went and visited the home of Frederick Douglass in Anacostia on -- Saturday just to sort of trace the black history trail here through Washington.

And you just get an enormous sense of the sacrifice that so many people have made to bring this nation to where it is today. What do you think about this day?

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Well, it's unbelievable. It is unreal. You know, slaves helped build the capital, helped build the White House, the Department of Treasury. And there was a long, hard struggle to get us where we are today. It is unreal and unbelievable.

You know, when I first came to Washington, D.C. the first time in May of 1961 to go on the freedom rides, blacks and whites couldn't board a greyhound bus and sit together and travel from Virginia through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, into New Orleans without the possibility of being arrested, jailed or beaten.

And we were jailed, we were beaten, we were put in a state penitentiary impairment. People could not even register to vote. When we came back here for 1963 for the march on Washington and I was here when Dr. King stood and said, "I have a dream today, a dream deeply rooted in American's dream." And to come back here 45 years later, it is almost too much. It is almost too much.

ROBERTS: Willie Brown, what are your thoughts running this morning? You know, you sort of surprised us back in August when you said that you were worried about the -- about the candidate Barack Obama because you were (INAUDIBLE) -- just a second ago, two -- miles away from us at the Lincoln Memorial 45 years ago is where Martin Luther King gave his "I have a dream" speech and now down here at the other end of the mall, Barack Obama will take the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States.

I'm just wondering what you're thinking this morning.

WILLIE BROWN, FORMER MAYOR, SAN FRANCISCO: I think America has made a transformation that none of us could have envisioned. John Lewis is absolutely correct. There is no way that anyone would have believed this story if you tell it in June, if you tell it in May, you tell it in April.

It just would not make anybody say you knew what you were talking about. However, America has made a transition. That transition now says little black boys and little black girls can stand up and say, "I can be somebody other than Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods." They can stand up and say, "I can really do what I need to do in this country."

But even more importantly, young white kids are now going to look at little black kids and black people differently because all of a sudden, a black man has become the most powerful human being on the face of this earth at 12:00 noon today. That's incredible.

ROBERTS: So Congressman Lewis, maybe it doesn't immediately launch America into a post-racial society, but what former Mayor Brown was saying there about how people will look at each other differently. How do you think that is going to transform the nation over the coming years?

LEWIS: Well, what is happening is it's going to change America forever. We're going to be a better people, a better society, and we're going to become one America, one family, one people, the American family.

It's going to be a greater sense of unity, a greater sense of reconciliation. I see this as a down payment, a major, a significant down payment on the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.

ROBERTS: Well, you know, we had a poll out recently that showed 69 percent of African-Americans in this country believe this is the realization of his dream. So down payment or realization, we certainly got a long way down the road from where we were.

Congressman, it's great to see you this morning.

LEWIS: Good to see you.

ROBERTS: All right. And Mayor Brown, thanks for being with us. We really appreciate your time.

Now let's check back in with our Carol Costello who's along the mall with some of the revelers who have come this morning, wanting to not just witness history but wanting to be a part of history.

Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they want to be on TV, too, because I'm telling you I've never seen so many thousands of hands in my whole life. ROBERTS: Congressman, thanks very much.

COSTELLO: They are eager to get on to CNN.

With me now are two young women from New York City who managed to get around security without going through the security checkpoints.

How did you manage to do that, Dana?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we went all the way down and then around the White House. I guess the parade route was where you had to get the security checkpoint so we got around that. We had a few friends who got here earlier so they were telling us the secret.


COSTELLO: So there's a whole network now. So since you know your way around so much and we can't move. There is so many people like surrounding the CNN site. I cannot move literally. That's how packed in people are. But Dana has been out and about. Tell us some of the sights that you've seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's pretty cool out there. And people are losing all their scarves and gloves. But we saw a couple of people sitting on a bench and they were completely covered with their blankets like over their head. You couldn't see them but we could see through the holes of the bench that there were people under there so.

COSTELLO: How are you keeping warm, Rachel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shaking, moving around. But it's not that bad. I'm doing pretty good.

COSTELLO: You know, young people deserve a lot of the credit for electing Barack Obama. How much credit do you take for his election?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean I did some volunteering back at my university but, you know, it's just everyone coming together. It's really exciting.

COSTELLO: How does it feel out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean the energy is incredible. I'm so happy I made the trip to come here.

COSTELLO: Are you making new friends? Are people becoming instant friends as you walk through the crowds?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I mean everyone is just saying like good morning. Barack Obama. It's great.

COSTELLO: I know every time I turned around there seems to be a new Obama chant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We're on -- when we got into the metro yesterday and we were saying, (INAUDIBLE), and people were going, you know, when I say Barack, you say Obama, and everyone on the entire train was going Barack Obama. It was really good.

COSTELLO: I understand you're going to paint your face later?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We brought some red, white and blue and a couple of other colors and face paint to write some things. And he wants to color his entire face in red, white, and blue so we'll see how that goes.

COSTELLO: OK. Hey, you crazy person. Come up here. Come up here, crazy face-painting person.


COSTELLO: You're actually going to paint your face red, white and blue?



COSTELLO: Why not? How does it feel down here to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels pretty great. It feels -- it's un- rival feeling to be here. Something you haven't experienced in a long time.

COSTELLO: Are you making spontaneous friends as well?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not yet, but I plan to.

COSTELLO: In your dream -- in your dream of dreams, what is the sight you most wanted seen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sight I most want to see? I'd like to be up by the capital right now to be honest.


COSTELLO: I'm sure everybody would like to be up by the capital. Hey, what's your name?


COSTELLO: And why are you here today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I wanted to see Obama make history.

COSTELLO: What is your dream of dream sight today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seeing the first African-American black president (INAUDIBLE) the White House.

COSTELLO: Sasha and Malia, would you like to meet them?


COSTELLO: I would, too.

Back to you, John and Kiran. We're having a lot of fun down here today.

CHETRY: Carol, thanks so much. Carol, thanks so much. And again, if you're just joining us this morning, we're 26 minutes past 9:00 here in D.C. And we're now just about three hours away -- actually, 2 1/2 hours now from inauguration.

At 11:30 here in D.C. is when it officially all gets under way and then, of course, at 12:00 noon is when Barack Obama takes the oath of office.

And there you see the platform that was erected simply for this occasion right here on the west front of the capital. All of those empty seats will be filled by dignitaries, by special invited guests and many others. And another beautiful shot of the crowds. People have been lining up since we made our way through the security checkpoints.

Here's another look a little bit earlier of Barack Obama and his wife Michelle exiting the Blair House. That is the temporary residence of the president in waiting, the president-elect. And they're heading to St. John's Episcopal Church, a tradition that spans all the way back to FDR, back in 1933 on the eve of his inauguration. A 193-year history for that small church. And every president has stopped by there to worship on inauguration day.

One can only imagine what's going through the mind of Barack Obama as millions, not only here in the U.S., but around the world will be waiting on bated breath to hear his inaugural speech and then to watch the first days in office in a difficult time, a time of financial crises, two wars and a lot of uncertainty about our future and how the man at the helm takes over.

And joining me now is Frank Sesno who's also had a nice bird's eye view of everything that's going on there. And we don't have any estimates in yet, Frank. Some anecdotal, you know, estimates of possibly how many people up here. They thought one million, possibly two million. We're going to exceed that, it looks like, today.

FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can't count that high. But...


CHETRY: Me either.

SESNO: I can tell you is this view is really extraordinary. From here all the way to the Washington Monument. You don't see any (INAUDIBLE) space except those reserved seats which people are now decided to move into. As I drove in here earlier this morning, there are people walking over the bridges in from Virginia and that's miles, OK? As we were driving through the city, people were funneling in from hotels and buses and so I mean this is -- this is just a remarkable thing. I mean -- I've come to an awful lot of these and I've never seen or experienced anything like this. And there's enthusiasm with every president, but this sense of the moment, the man and the moment is just -- it's palpable and it's beyond anything, I think, any of us has experienced.

CHETRY: Right.

SESNO: And that's not an overstatement. That's just true.

CHETRY: The interesting thing, also, is you can walk up to a perfect stranger and start asking, probing questions and they welcomingly answer them. I asked a couple of people, you know, it's going to be freezing cold. Clearly you have other things to do. Why did you come here? Why did you need to be here as opposed to watching it on TV?

And a lot of people said they wanted to be able to tell their children and their grandchildren I was here. I witnessed history. I was a part of it. It doesn't matter how long it took me to get here or how long I have to stand outside in the cold, I need to be here.

SESNO: It gets passed down through the ages. It really does. You know, my mother used to say, I don't know if it's true, but her grandmother, they grew up in Philadelphia, sat on her father's shoulders -- as a little girl for Lincoln's Gettysburg address. Now that's generations down the line.


SESNO: And you can imagine people here doing the same thing that I was there or my little girl was there.

You know, whatever happens in Barack Obama's presidency, whatever you think of his politics, this is one of those unique moments. I tried to think what is the equivalent moment in American history where people have felt as uncertain or positive about something?

The only one I can come up and sort of modern days would be the E-Day, you know, those famous pictures? Times Square when everybody's in the streets?

CHETRY: Right.

SESNO: There's that sense now. Now it's tinged with great concern and worry about the economy and the world and climate and you name it, but there is this -- moment now that, you know, there is great enthusiasm when Ronald Reagan came to town.

CHETRY: Right.

SESNO: There was great enthusiasm when Clinton came to town. But both of them had their detractors who were very vocal. Even then, and for now anyway, everybody seems, they serve universally sitting back and saying take this in.

CHETRY: You bring up a good point, because there are times when we collectively come together in the aftermath of national tragedies.

SESNO: Right.

CHETRY: You know, space shuttle explosions, "The Challenger," 9/11. Times when we all sought comfort in each other and hope for another day. But you're talking about just pure happiness and jubilation and also this positive outlook as to what's ahead. That's a tall heady order for one man.

SESNO: It is. It is. It's a sense of what's possible and it's a sense of what's been achieved. But it doesn't take away from the fact that he is a man. This is politics. This is the world and this is complicated. And no one has repealed the laws of human nature or politics. There will be setbacks, there will be scandals, there will be controversy, there will be a debate, all that stuff, but for today, people are almost universally from universal.

People I've talked to here, but elsewhere are seem to be taking this in, letting this sink in, what this means and what it says about the United States of America. And the beacon that the United States of America projects to the world at this particular moment. Because the reaction from around the world from what we've seen is similarly awe-struck really.

CHETRY: Yes, and we were getting a little sense of that from some of our international reporters as well. I also want to ask you about what it was like in 2001, January of 2001, after that contentious election, and after of course the Supreme Court ruling that ultimately put George Bush in the White House. And the sad imagery of our president riding through the streets, not even really being able to stop at the inaugural parade because of the protesters. And there really was a feeling of discord and a division. That -- that--

SESNO: Very different.

CHETRY: That when you see this today that really marred that inauguration.

SESNO: I think that's true. I mean, it's very important to remember that. It's very important to remember for example that there was a huge cloud over George W. Bush's first inaugural when Bill Clinton came to town, there was a smaller cloud. There's a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of hope, but scandal preceded him.

CHETRY: Right.

SESNO: I mean, that had happened on the campaign trail. When Ronald Reagan came to town, an enormous enthusiasm especially among conservatives, conservative revolution but there are people who said, "Wait a minute, you know, he doesn't know what he is doing." He was -- he was derided. I was in Europe at the time. I was a reporter in Europe at the time. And Europeans were kind of laughing, were laughing at America. How could you do this, an actor? It turned out differently as we know.

This feels very different because it is -- if I had to come up with a word right now, I would say celebration. For the moment, it's a celebration. Tomorrow, it gets really hard. And as I say, you know, problems are not going to go away magically simply because we are celebrating today.

CHETRY: No. But you're right. People are taking in that moment for sure.

SESNO: Sets a different tone. And you know, when Roosevelt stood nearby and said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," it was an attempt to kind of jazz the country, bring some sense of confidence back, project the sense of leadership and direction, and that does matter. The national mood matters.


SESNO: The national mood begins to change today.

CHETRY: Well, we'll be talking to you tomorrow about reaction from what Barack Obama says in that inaugural speech that we will all be listening to. Frank, great to see you as always. Thank you.

SESNO: Good to see you. You are looking warm, actually.

CHETRY: Well, you know what, a few electric blankets, it's a wonder what these hand warmers can do.

SESNO: Keep them plug in.

CHETRY: Exactly.

Well, Suzanne, you know, you've been covering the White House for years of course as well. What's going through your mind as you watch these live pictures. And you know, I couldn't help but remember as I brought up before, Iowa, you know, the real turning point for a lot of African-Americans who said, wait a minute, Iowa, you know, a state that's 96 plus percent white voting to make Barack Obama the pick for the nomination.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, there really was a sense of shock and surprise by a lot of people who just didn't have the faith that this could happen. And they looked at Iowa really as a critical turning point.

Barack Obama and his team as well. I mean, that was the thing. The one thing about Iowa, however, is that they really got to know Barack Obama. There were so many twists and turns in the campaign. There were bumps along the way, where people really questioned who is this guy? What do we know about him?

We know about the Reverend Wright and that controversy. It really stirred a lot of questions, but not for folks in Iowa. They said they really got to know who he was. A lot of those things really didn't matter to them. We went back and asked them and talked to them. They said that was rally a caricature of Barack Obama.

He spent a good year actually talking to people, getting to know people. And that was the sense that when you saw a lot of white people -- predominantly white voters coming out and voting for him, they felt very confident that they got to know who this guy was. And he really has gone through an extraordinary journey.

When you look at the candidate about a year ago, and then we sat face-to-face on his campaign bus, the first interview about a year ago, this was not the same person. He has become more polished, he has matured along the way. This was somebody who needed really a good night sleep. And you could tell when he didn't get it.

He is really a grown when it comes to the physical strength, when it comes to his mental strength, and he has become much more focused. He has always been somebody who wanted to do something big and had to find a place, a way of doing that, a way of expressing it, he has finally found that place. He has been impatient for quite some time, but the community organizing, the teaching, all of that leading up to this moment where he really does now have a form, a national and international form to make change happen.

CHETRY: Absolutely. Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much. We'll check in with you a little later.

We're heading over to Dana Bash right now who has some breaking news for us, or at least some new information on what's going on with the secretary of state vote -- Senate vote today.

Hey there, Dana.

ON THE PHONE: DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kiran, that's right. Well, the Senate is actually coming to session at 3:00 today. And the main purpose of that is to get as many of Barack Obama's cabinet picks actually confirmed. And the headliner in that list was Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and the hope among Senate Democrats would have been able to confirm her as secretary of state today. But we are told that is not going to happen.

And the reason is because (INAUDIBLE) on such a fast track. They need all senators to agree. A republican senator objected to that. Therefore, that is going to wait until tomorrow. We are told the plan is now for Hillary Clinton to be voted on tomorrow, and that will be a formal roll call vote. So everybody will be able to register their vote, yea or nay for Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.


CHETRY: All right. Dana Bash for us with that news about that. We're going to have to wait a day for the, of course, expected confirmation of Hillary Clinton to secretary of state. Thanks so much, Dana.

Meanwhile, right now, we are joined by Michael Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan, as well as Karen Tumulty, the national correspondent for "Time" magazine.

Thanks to both of you for being with us this morning. You know, we just heard from Frank Sesno talking about trying to find a historical comparison about the real feeling of a new day, the type of energy, where regardless of your politics, you're on the same page welcoming the new president.

And Michael, he compared it to when your father took office in 1980. What are you thinking today? What are you feeling as you see these pictures and the obvious jubilation on the faces of many in the crowd?

MICHAEL REAGAN, RADIO HOST: This is a great day. This is a day where America and the world absolutely see us for what we are. We are a great nation. We have this great transfer of power. We sit there, we look at it, we celebrate the new incoming president of the United States.

You know, tomorrow, you deal with the issues of the day. Today, we'll let it be Barack Obama's. I remember walking into the Capital after my father was sworn in, and the usher saying to me, Mr. Reagan, enjoy today. You Reagans can do nothing wrong today. It is your day. Today is Barack Obama's day. Along with Michelle and the family.

CHETRY: And give us a little bit of a sense of what, you know, how you handle the enormity. How your father handled the enormity, planning for what he is going to say, knowing an entire nation and world is going to be hanging on the words that come out of his mouth? Not only to set the stage for what they can expect in the future administration, but looking for, you know, inspiration.

REAGAN: Well, I think that's what the president has to do. Ronald Reagan gave inspiration when he gave the inaugural address back in 1981 and 1985. Barack Obama, people look at him for the same thing, the inspiration of the whole campaign.

But it really comes down to what my father said to me after the inaugural. He said, you know, you become president. You're elected president of the United States. But the day you walk in the Oval Office, you become the president of the United States. The most powerful man in the world. And it's what you do in that Oval Office that really sets you apart as the president. More than speeches, it's what you do. And he understood that so much so during his eight years as president of the United States.

And Barack Obama, I think understands that also. The enormity of the position he's going to have. Because he takes over a plate that is absolutely full of troubles.

CHETRY: And, you know, Karen, a lot has changed since Barack Obama came into the national spotlight back in 2004 saying, you know, this is not a Republican and Democratic America, but the United States of America.

Can he deliver on that tremendous expectation of unity that seems to be before him today? KAREN TUMULTY, TIME NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if he can't deliver on that, it is going to be a lot harder for him to deliver on everything else that he has promised. And that is why one thing I expect -- I expect this to be not unlike election night, where Barack Obama was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of jubilant people, but his message was almost somber by comparison.

CHETRY: All right. Well, Karen Tumulty and Michael Reagan, we have to cut it a little bit short. A lot of live events going on today of course as we know. And church is about to get out for a couple of minutes as well for the Obamas. But thank you, both, for being with us this morning.


TUMULTY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: So let's take another look at the crowd out here on the Mall. And even the ticketed VIP seating is beginning to fill up now. We're very, very short way away from the beginning of these inaugural ceremonies at 11:30 Eastern Time. And there is a shot looking down here from the Capital toward the Lincoln Memorial through the Washington Monument. You can see the hundreds of thousands of people who have gathered here for this monumental occasion in American history.

And we've been talking all morning to so many different people about how this is going to change America in the years ahead, Kiran. There's nothing but a profound, nothing less than a profound impact on the future of this country. One way or another, not even politically, but certainly socially.

CHETRY: That's right. Absolutely. And the many people that we had a chance to speak within the crowd, who came from all over this nation, talk about the universal sense of pride, talk about how they will remember this day. They felt the need to be here. It's something they want to share with not only family members who were not able to be here today, but of course to their children and grandchildren in the future. So we eagerly await Barack Obama's speech, a little bit later, 12:00 noon, after he takes The Oath of Office. And stay with CNN, because throughout today, we are truly giving you a front-row seat to history.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. You know, 35 words that will be spoken at 12:00 noon today that will change the course of this nation and change America's relation with the world, we think, over the next four years.

We're going to take a quick break and we will be back with continuing coverage of the inauguration of Barack Obama as this nation's 44th president live from Washington, D.C. Stay with us here on CNN.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're just more than two hours away from the big moment. The moment that so many people in the United States and around the world have been waiting for when Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States. He is 47 years old. He'll be the fourth youngest president of this country.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. We're here on Pennsylvania Avenue at the museum. Anderson Cooper is here, as well, part of the Best Political Team on Television. We've got an extensive lineup of events coming up. Every moment will be documented.

Anderson, this is history unfolding before the eyes of the world.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is an extraordinary day here in Washington, D.C. You can see the crowds have been streaming in now for hours along the Mall. A sea of faces all expecting, all looking toward the west front of the Capital where, in just some two hours, Barack Obama will be sworn in a moment. (INAUDIBLE) constitution, the words he repeats will be the words in our constitution as he raises his hand, puts his hand on the bible. The same bible used by Abraham Lincoln. A day of tradition, a day of ritual and ceremony and a day just reaffirming the strength of our democracy.

We're here with Soledad O'Brien as well, Gloria Borger, David Gergen, all of us on the roof of the museum.

It is just an extraordinary day here in Washington. David, have you seen a day like this? You've been to a lot of inaugurals.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. Gloria Border and I were just comparing notes on this, and both of us just pinching ourselves, because this is a day -- we both are veterans of this city and we've never seen anything like this. The sense of celebration, of hope, of idealism. It's just overflowing out there. The throngs that you walk through the streets, the streets are clogged. But everywhere you go, people are polite. They are smiling. They are just having a good time. It's almost like Mardi Gras in January, but a much more serious purpose.

BLITZER: And it's really appropriate that -- may be a bit chilly out there, but it is a beautiful sunny day in the nation's capital. No snow, no rain, no hail. Nothing like that. And as a result, all of these people who spent hours and hours and many of them days and days making their way to Washington, D.C.

Gloria, they are here and should I say to Gloria Borger, it's a glorious day?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It is a glorious day. Yes, you can say that, Wolf. You know, we've spent so many years in Washington watching all the partisan wrangling which seems to have gotten worse and worse and worse. And today I think it's not about ideology, what we're seeing out there on the mall, it's about the possibility of America.

And we're always searching in America for something better, and today, for the folks out on the Mall, that's embodied in Barack Obama being sworn in as president of the United States. And so, it's a very different Washington today than the one we're used to dealing with.

COOPER: And the crowds were still screaming in. I mean, there are people here clogged up trying to get into the Mall. It's -- it takes a little while, it's a little slow. You were caught up in the crowd, Soledad, yourself.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We try to make our way, too. And there will be checkpoints, so that let a few hundred people in at the time, and then they close that checkpoint. Then they let a few hundred people more. And while there is overwhelmingly a very nice and happy feeling, I got to tell you, people who don't get a lot of direction and some are going to the parade, some are going to the Mall. They are all confused. And so they are hoping for more information to come out, maybe even online so that they can figure out where -- are they in the spot, because they are waiting for hours and hours.

But the minute you say, "Yes, we can, make it to the front of the line, everyone sort of laughs and they say, all right, we're going to be here for hours all day. It's going to be a long day. The weather is fabulous and I think people are enjoying that, too.

BLITZER: If you look at the pictures and the numbers of people, if we get a wide shot of the Mall area right now, and they're still -- as we said, we're just a little bit more than two hours before the formal swearing in ceremony. The massive humanity there.

Anderson, you know, I've seen pictures. I've never been at the Hajj in Mecca in Saudi Arabia where you see a million or 2 million people show up for that. But this would be roughly close to that, if not more?

COOPER: It is very rare that you get such a huge grouping of people. And also such a large grouping of people descending on one space in a very relatively short amount of time. I mean, I was out there at midnight last night. It was, you know, a couple of thousand people perhaps out there. But it is really just been in these early morning hours that the crowds have formed and if you are thinking about coming, you certainly want to head more toward the Washington Monument area, toward the Lincoln Memorial area in terms of where you are actually going to get space at this point, because the crowds are still arriving.

BLITZER: And you'll see -- you can see those big JumboTron, those huge screens, those TV screens, and that's where most of the people will see what is going on. There you see Barack Obama. He's now at a private church service which is traditional on this day. The day of the inauguration. He got there just a little while ago, together with the future First Lady.

She's the future First Lady for another two hours. But then, she will be the nation's First Lady, he will be the commander-in-chief. There you see. This is a church right near Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, right near where they originally stayed when they moved to Washington across the street from the Hay-Adams Hotel. COOPER: This said tradition goes back to 1933. Franklin Roosevelt was the first to go to church on the morning of the inauguration, went to this very church. Every president since then has done it except for Richard Nixon on his second term. He actually went to a church service the day after his inauguration. But it is a tradition. Sometimes president-elects have gone to different churches but very often it is St. John's Church. He's now going to be taking a very short drive back to the White House. You see him in the new vehicle. The Secret Service call it "The Beast." It is a state-of- the-art vehicle. Has a lot of Gizmos we don't even know about, that they are keeping secret. But, obviously, it's safe to say it is a very safe wheel, though perhaps the safest anywhere on the planet.

BLITZER: And once they're at the White House, the Obamas and the Bidens and the Bushes, they will all have coffee. That's shortly after 10:00 a.m. Eastern in a little while. It's an opportunity, David, for the Bushes to say goodbye to their house, and also to welcome the new occupants of the White House.

GERGEN: Absolutely. And I must say that George W. Bush goes out amidst controversy, just as he came in that way. But for all of that, he and his team have handled this in a classy way. This hand-off has been one of the classiest, most cooperative, most collaborative we have seen, so that these two men, who both are making their mark on history, have developed a relationship over several conversations. And in contrast to some earlier inaugurations when the relationship has been extremely frosty as it was between Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower back in '53, these two men are going to -- you know, I think they are going to hit it off just fine. It will be a very pleasant ride up that avenue.

BORGER: And I remember when Bill Clinton almost seemed unwilling to leave the White House. He was a bit late --

ROBERTS: Holding on in the curtains.

BORGER: Holding on. He was a little bit late in leaving the White House, and that's not the case with George W. Bush.

BLITZER: And we see the motorcade now making its way over to the White House from across the street from St. John's Church, near the Hay Adams Hotel, for those of our viewers who have been through Washington, near Blair House, the official residence of the White House for guests. That's where the Obamas have been staying the last few days, after they left the Hay Adams Hotel. It's a tiny little drive across Pennsylvania Avenue, the walkway.

Soledad, as you watched this, I want to point out, we might be hearing some singing in the background, up on Capitol Hill, behind us The San Francisco Boys' Chorus and The San Francisco Girls' Chorus. They began singing just a little while ago.

O'BRIEN: Oh, it's so beautiful, isn't it? It's been such a treat to have listening to the rehearsal. Let's listen for just a moment. BLITZER: So nice. Beautiful. The San Francisco Boys' Chorus, The San Francisco Girls' Chorus, they're going to be performing for about 20 minutes up on Capitol Hill.

But this is the north lawn of the White House. The North Portico, you see the car bringing the Obamas over to the steps there. Anderson, they're going to be walking up those stairs. I assume the Bushes are going to be there to greet them.

COOPER: What we're seeing, really, is something which is times down to the minute. And everything that we are going to be seeing today is something that has happened in transitions in the past. This is one of the rituals of democracy. We're a country that it doesn't have many rituals, doesn't have many sort of traditions of the government. But this is one day in which we will see many of our rituals on display, our traditions play out.

GERGEN: Many of these traditions go back over 150 years. They were developed in the early part of the 19th century, and the president and the president-elect joining each other to go to the Capitol, that goes back to the early 19th century. It is. And I think that's what gives us a special poignance, because we see this with every transfer of power and what is fundamentally important about today is not only Barack Obama himself, but in a democracy, power can be transferred peacefully. For thousands of years, that has not been the case among human kind.

COOPER: It's also --

BLITZER: That's the Vice President Joe Biden. And Joe Biden, they arrive first in that limousine. They're walking up the stairs. I wonder if anyone is going to greet them formally or just walk inside? Looks like they are walking inside toward the current vice- president, Dick Cheney to Lynne Cheney will be there to greet as well.

Dan Lothian is on the north lawn of the White House, our white house correspondent.

Dan, set the scene for us a little bit. You're right on location.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: That's right. They just pulled in right mind me, as you saw. They are at the North Portico where Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Joe Biden have just entered the White House. We will be seeing President-elect Barack Obama and soon-to-be First Lady Michelle Obama also entering the White House.

We expect that President Bush will come out to greet them. They will be having that coffee that you have been talking about, along with some congressional leaders. Meeting in the blue room, which up on the second floor of the White House, looking out --

BLITZER: Hey, Dan, hold on a second. I just want to point out to our viewers that the new First Family, they're walking upstairs, and the Bushes, indeed, are there. LOTHIAN: That's right. There you see them greeting the First Family. They will be going inside. And as I was talking about, they will be meeting in the blue room, which is up on the second floor of the White House, looking out at the south lawn, near the Obamas entering the place that will be both home and office.

BLITZER: All right. Dan, they're going inside. I wonder if they have microphones on the scene, Anderson, if they managed to pick up any of the little chitchat that what was going on. Every word is historic right now. Historians will be writing about this for many generations to come. And all of us who are watching in the United States and around the world, I think it's fair to say we're really privileged to have this front-row seat to history.

COOPER: I don't think any day -- any transfer of power has been as documented as this one. Really, for the last several days. And we know that after a brief time, the White House, the president and the president-elect will head toward the Capitol. They'll ride together. President Bush, sitting on president-elect's right-hand side as is part of the tradition.

O'BRIEN: For all the folks you see down there, many of the phrases we heard yesterday were about being part of history, and also a pilgrimage, literally a pilgrimage to come and pay tribute to Dr. King yesterday. To be part of something much bigger than themselves today. And it's a really nice feeling being down in the crowd, as much as you're stuck down there. You just get this sense of, I mean, not to be cheesy, but brotherhood, and people really looking forward to a new day in some way, shape or form.

BORGER: And when Barack Obama goes into the Oval Office, on the desk, will be a letter written to him from George W. Bush. And nobody knows what is in that. We know that George W. Bush wrote it, probably, over the weekend at Camp David. Wanted to put a lot of thought into it about what he was going to say to the next president.

BLITZER: They're supposed to spend about 40 minutes inside for this coffee, as it's called, David. They call it a coffee. I don't know if they're drinking coffee or what they're drinking, maybe hot chocolate, maybe tea. But it's called a coffee. And I'll just sit around and have a conversation. One family moving out of the house, another family getting ready to move in.

GERGEN: Well, coffee has been a long tradition. There was a time when there was brandy. But that was early on, and we had a vice- president back in 1865, Andrew Johnson who woke up feeling sick, got heavily into brandy and got totally drunk, gave an acceptance speech, they almost had to kick him out of the whole thing.

COOPER: And just about every president has accompanied another president in the Capitol, there have been a few exceptions. I think John Adams refused to go to the inaugural for --

GERGEN: John Adams was not a happy man when he left the presidency. He wanted to get the heck out of Dodge and get out of federal power. COOPER: He also, according from what I've read, had some concerns about, because it was the first time we were going from one party to another, he had some concerns that his followers, if he attended, there might be some violence.

GERGEN: That's right. We were moving from the Federalist Party to Thomas Jefferson. And Jefferson was a real counter revolution. Jefferson was a big inspiration for Barack Obama from the declaration. There are major links from Jefferson to Lincoln to Obama.

O'BRIEN: When you considered that Barack Obama's entire campaign was about George W. Bush, and was about replacing George W. Bush, and linked John McCain to George W. Bush, and the relationship they seem to have established in the post-election period, is really quite remarkable.

GERGEN: Well, that's right. One of the reasons I think they get along is that Barack Obama ran a strong opposition to George W. Bush, but it wasn't personal. It wasn't that homonym in terms of attacks0. One of the reasons that Truman was to angry at Dwight Eisenhower was he thought he was personal in the campaign. And had campaign against him -- had been really nasty toward him. And Eisenhower just sharply disagreed. That's why they had a frosty ride. Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt had terrible relationship on this car ride going up. But this one is going to be very positive.

BLITZER: As we watched these crowds, it's really amazing to see how many people are there. We know that in 1965 for the inauguration of L.B.J., Lyndon Baines Johnson, there were more than a million people that on the National Mall. That was the largest -- that's the largest crowd ever in the history of -- of Washington, D.C. And by all accounts, that number is going to go up. We don't know how many people will eventually be there. I know that the U.S. Park Service will have their estimates. Others will have their estimates.

But David, you want to weigh in.

GERGEN: How many can it hold, Wolf?

BLITZER: They said if it was fully occupied, between the U.S. Capitol all the way past the Washington Monument, up to the Lincoln Memorial, and they have opened it all. There are some estimates it's going to be 2, 3 million people. But, who knows?

GERGEN: The biggest one was LBJ.

BLITZER: LBJ was the biggest back in 1965, and that was a huge group of people. You see there, Anderson, you see the Washington Monument, and it's not that packed. There is still space around the Washington Monument, as you pointed out earlier. That means from the Washington Monument, further back to the Lincoln Memorial there's going to be even more space. So I guess for some latecomers, they wanted to just get out there