Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

What Happened to Caroline Kennedy?; Hillary Clinton's Power Grab; Stem Cell Research

Aired January 23, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: President Obama sends an SOS to Congress to save the sinking economy, and do it fast. He is hoping his efforts to reach out to Republicans will pay off.

The new commander in chief sends a tough message about the war against terrorists. This hour, the first military strike on his watch.

And Hillary Clinton's Senate seat finally is filled. Now questions about -- are being raised about why Caroline Kennedy said count me out -- all that, plus the best political team on television.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, President Obama is working against the clock to meet his goal of getting an economic fix-it plan passed by mid-February. Today, he tried to light a fire under congressional leaders, especially those skeptical Republicans.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He has got the story on what happened -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president has been trying to build support for that massive stimulus plan in Congress Today, the leadership from both parties did come here to the White House and again they heard about an economy that is not only in critical condition, but getting worse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Mr. Obama says the economic crisis has to be dealt with rapidly, and $825 billion will be a significant jolt.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Moving this recovery package through to create three to four million new jobs, that is going to be absolutely critical.

LOTHIAN: The president sat down with top congressional leaders, Reid, Pelosi, Boehner, McConnell, a bipartisan effort to find common ground.

OBAMA: I know that it is a heavy lift to do something as substantial as we're doing right now. I recognize that there are still some differences around the table and between the administration and members of Congress about particular details on the plan. LOTHIAN: White House Secretary Robert Gibbs promises the bulk of the billions would be put to work quickly.

ROBERT GIBBS, PRESS SECRETARY: And 75 percent of this money will be spent in the next 18 months to create jobs and to get people working and to get the economy moving again. Absolutely, it's stimulative.

LOTHIAN: And Obama's budget director sent a letter to Capitol Hill promising unprecedented levels of transparency. But there are skeptical Republicans who see the $825 billion package as a moving target that's way overpriced.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: We believe that spending nearly a trillion dollars is really more than what we ought to be putting on the backs of our kids and their kids. Because at the end of the day, this is not our money to spend. We're borrowing this money from our kids.

LOTHIAN: Republicans want deeper tax cuts and reassurances that there's some reality behind the millions of jobs Mr. Obama is promising. But even with the skepticism, one leading Republican signaled that the deal, however it ultimately looks, will get done.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I do think we'll be able to meet the president's deadline of getting the package to him by mid-February.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Next Tuesday, Mr. Obama heads to Capitol Hill, where he meet with both House and Senate Republicans. He wants to sit down and listen to their concerns, hopefully again find some common ground, as he pushes for the stimulus plan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, we are going to play extensively what he said today at that meeting with the Democrats and the Republicans. The entire statement, that is coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Dan Lothian, thank you.

In Pakistan today, the first apparent U.S. missile strike since Barack Obama became commander in chief. At least 17 people were killed. And the world is now getting an early sample of this new administration's war on terror.

Let's go to the Pentagon. Our correspondent Barbara Starr is standing by with details -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the new commander in chief is already exercising his authorities.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: I do solemnly swear... STARR (voice-over): Just as President Barack Obama was sworn in Tuesday, General David Petraeus was in Pakistan pressing top officials yet again to crack down on militants. The first side the Obama administration's not going to ease up on the hunt, two CIA missile strikes Friday killed more than a dozen people in the tribal region. There have been some 30 strikes like these over the past year.

The new president is making clear the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan will get more attention.

OBAMA: This is the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism.

STARR: CNN has learned from a top U.S. official the missile attacks are authorized under a covert program which has been briefed to Mr. Obama. The reason for the program's existence? To target and kill senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and keep survivors on the run. Suspects may be tracked for weeks before strikes are called in.

Under George Bush, the president did not have to approve each strike beforehand. It's believed Mr. Obama, for now, has the same arrangement, according to U.S. officials.

Even during the campaign, candidate Obama made clear he wouldn't hesitate to cross Pakistan's borders.

OBAMA: If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.

STARR: In an interview Friday with Wolf Blitzer, Musharraf, now out of office, said Pakistan doesn't expect the U.S. strikes to stop.

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, FORMER PAKISTANI PRESIDENT: Nobody in Pakistan is comfortable with the strikes across the border. There's no doubt in that. Public opinion is very much against it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Now, of course, these missile strikes came just one day after the president now called Afghanistan and Pakistan the central front in the war on terror, one day after he appointed a new envoy to the region, and promised a renewed diplomatic effort -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr working the story for us.

By the way, that interview with President Musharraf, my exclusive interview with him, the first interview he's given since he was removed as Pakistan's president, we're going to have more of it coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow, Saturday, our new SITUATION ROOM, 6:00 p.m. Eastern Saturday. That's coming up tomorrow. We have got a lot of good stuff in that show.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: When President Obama made a surprise visit to the White House press room yesterday, he was asked how he justifies his new policy banning lobbyists in this administration, when his pick for deputy secretary of defense lobbied for Raytheon, a big defense contractor.

President Obama said he just came by to visit. He said, this is what happens. He added, he wouldn't be able to stop around informally to visit if he gets grilled every time he shows up.

When the reporter from Politico.com pressed further, the president got serious and by some accounts sounded irritated. He said -- quote -- "We will be having a press conference, at which time you can feel free to ask questions. Right now, I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself to you guys. That's all I was trying to do" -- unquote.

During the 10-minute-or-so visit, President Obama was also asked if he has been able to work out or play basketball. And the president asked some questions of his own about who sits where and so forth. And he checked out the reporters' offices, shook hands with members of the press corps, and then noted how small the space was.

The question, though, is this. Was it unfair to ask President Obama a substantive question during an informal visit to the White House press room? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

I'm biased, but my answer is no.

President Obama counts the ways he hopes to fix the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The recovery package that we are passing is only going to be one leg in a -- at least a three-legged stool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president explains how he wants to help you. You're going to hear him in his own words extensively. That's coming up next.

And this is the woman who won't be the next senator from New York State, but was Caroline Kennedy's bid hurt by the fact that she is a woman?

And it wasn't at 3:00 a.m., but Hillary Clinton was on the phone today discussing global problems. You're going to find out how she is already flexing her muscles as the new secretary of state.

Lots of news happening today -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With Americans losing their jobs at an alarming rate, President Obama says Washington has to act without delay.

The Republican leadership in the Senate says they believe the economic stimulus plan will clear Congress by mid-February. Mitch McConnell spoke at National Press Club after Republican leaders met with congressional Democrats and the president over at the White House.

We want you to hear right now what President Obama said at the meeting. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We are here together, once again, a couple of weeks after our first meeting. My initial message is to thank the leadership for arrange of actions that have been taken early to meet some of the urgent requirements of the times.

First of all, I want to thank all the leadership in the Senate for moving expeditiously on a number of my nominations. People have been extraordinarily cooperative, and I think it's been unprecedented the speed with which we've gotten a number of nominations done.

I want to thank both the House and the Senate for moving forward very diligently on this process of getting a recovery and renewal plan passed. You know, I know that it is a heavily lift to do something as substantial as we're doing right now. I recognize that there are still some differences around the table and between the administration and the members of Congress about particular details on the plan.

But what I think unifies this group is recognition that we are experiencing an unprecedented, perhaps, economic crisis that has to be dealt with and dealt with rapidly. And, you know, I have asked Larry Summers to give me a daily economic intelligence briefing so that we are monitoring what's happening and, frankly, the news has not been good.

OBAMA: Each day brings, I think, greater focus on the problems that we're having, not only in terms of job loss but also in terms of some of the instabilities in the financial system.

So for all of you to have moved as quickly as you have, including through some holiday seasons, to start moving this economic recovery package through, to create 3 to 4 million new jobs, that is going to be absolutely critical, and it appears that we are on target to make our President's Day weekend. I thank both Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi, for that.

One last point that I want to make. The recovery package that we're passing is only going to be one leg in a, at least, a three- legged stool. And some of the reports that we've seen over the last couple of days about companies that have received taxpayer assistance then going out and renovating bathrooms or offices or in other ways not managing those dollars appropriately, the lack of accountability and transparency in how we are managing some of these programs to stabilize the financial system. And a recent GAO report that speaks to some of the problems of waste in our government -- those all have to be part and parcel of a reform package if we're going to be responsible in dealing with this economic crisis.

And I'm looking forward to having conversations with all leadership here about how, even as we move swiftly and aggressively on the recovery package, we are also starting to put in place the kinds of reform elements, oversight, transparency, accountability that's going to be required in order for the American people to have confidence in what we're doing.

So I thank you again for your great work. And we're looking forward to having a frank conversation, as we always do, when we get together.

OK, guys?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The first of what will be many meetings over at the White House between the new president and the bipartisan congressional leadership from the House and Senate.

He flirted with the idea of tossing his own hat into the presidential race. Now the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been talking to CNN's John King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In the economy, can just having a new president -- there's enormous goodwill for him -- his approval ratings are off the charts -- any politicians would love to have them.

(CROSSTALK)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Sure. Keep in mind that George W. Bush had a 90 percent approval rating at one point.

KING: At one point. So, just having sky-high approval ratings and a new boss in Washington, a new president in Washington, is that enough to deal with the crisis of confidence?

BLOOMBERG: No, it's not enough, but it helps. I think people are optimistic. They are looking for leadership. Of course, now he has to deliver.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You might be surprised at some of the questions the mayor is raising about the new president. And you can watch the full interview this Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING." It airs 9:00 a.m. Eastern Sunday morning.

Hillary Clinton flexing her muscles. The new secretary of state works to take back resources she feels rightfully belong to her department.

And what derailed Caroline Kennedy's bid to take over Hillary Clinton's Senate seat? Many of her supporters say she was hurt because of a double standard for women.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is settling in on her new job, rallying her diplomatic troops and revealing her priorities.

Let's go to the State Department.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is monitoring day two of Secretary Clinton's tenure.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Secretary Clinton has been doing some intensive telephone diplomacy today, reaching out to allies in the Mideast, Europe, and Asia, even as the administration is beginning some intensive reviews of foreign policy hot spots.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail. This time to take back power and resources for the State Department.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: My goal is to make sure we match the mission and the resources.

DOUGHERTY: The message drew cheers from staff at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The U.S. military is now doing jobs that used to be done by diplomats, like handing out dollars to support small business in Iraq. Clinton says that should stop.

CLINTON: Captains and majors and lieutenant colonels are giving unfettered resources through the Commander's Emergency Response Program to spend as they see fit to build a school, to open a health clinic, to pave a road. And our diplomats and our development experts have to go through miles of paperwork to spend 10 cents.

DOUGHERTY: Just two days on the job, Clinton is flexing her muscles. Traditionally, a new president visits the Pentagon first. Instead, he visited the State Department. And a verbal slip by the vice president showed how the new team is putting diplomacy and Hillary Clinton in the lead.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a moment here, Mr. President, you're going to announce two new powerful weapons in our -- or I guess the secretary is going to announce two very powerful weapons in our diplomatic arsenal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: But Hillary Clinton also knows that if she wants to get more resources for State, she has to make the case. And that means making a more efficient operation and one that can react quickly in times of crisis or in other hot spots around the world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's see how she does.

Jill, thanks very much.

The new U.S. senator from New York does not have a big name, like Clinton or Kennedy. Was Caroline Kennedy's potential Senate career sabotaged by a double standard?

And President Obama's new break with the Bush administration on the issue of abortion, what it means for women and the message it is sending.

And how California is leading the way on embryonic stem cell research.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. HANS KEIRSTEAD, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE: We are in the engine room of a stem cell laboratory.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The engine room?

KEIRSTEAD: Yes.

GUTIERREZ: Why do you call it that?

KEIRSTEAD: What we do is, we grow human embryonic stem cells in these incubators.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now: There is lots of speculation about what derailed Caroline Kennedy's Senate bid. Now some are asking, would she have received the same scrutiny if she were a man?

Also, President Obama meets the congressional leadership to sell his economic recovery package. Are the Republicans buying it? The best political team on television is standing by.

And it looked like a live performance, but now we know the music was on tape. Practical move or an inaugural embarrassment?

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

All that coming up, but, first, a major development on the issue of abortion, the new president of the United States taking a dramatic step only a little while ago.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, with details -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is an executive order. We knew it was going to be coming.

It basically overturns Bush policy that prevented international family planning groups from using taxpayer money to promote abortion as an option. This is obviously something that is going to please liberal groups that supported the president's campaign, but it's infuriating conservatives already.

What is fascinating is sort of the backstory. We knew this was coming. But they decided not to do it yesterday, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, that landmark Supreme Court decision, instead doing it on a Friday, usually a slow news time, where, if you want to sort of bury something, you get it out Friday. Then it's in Saturday's newspaper. That's pretty thin.

And, secondly, they had twice called reporters and said, look, we're going to bring you in for an event where the president is going to sign something. And, so, there was an expectation that there would bring TV cameras to record this.

And, then, in the end, they said never mind. That's been canceled. The president signed this behind closed doors without any TV cameras again, so that you are not going to see it. So, those pictures won't be out there for the American people to see. It seemed like something they wanted to keep very much under the radar.

And that's in sharp contrast to the other executive orders we saw yesterday, for example, closing down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. They got those out there early in the day, the president signing, so those pictures would be out there all day. The day before that, he signed those ethics in government acts, as well, those executive orders. Again, they wanted to get those pictures out. It shows how they are managing this message from week one very, very aggressively -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Ed Henry, thanks very much.

On a related development, there's important news emerging right now about stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research and other stem cell research.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is standing by. She is watching what's going on.

Thelma, tell us our viewers what you are seeing and hearing.

GUTIERREZ: Wolf, I can tell you this is a big day for scientists right here in California and throughout the world. Now, five years ago, California voters passed Proposition 71, which paved the way for scientists here to use human embryonic stem cells in their research.

Now, it was a way to get around all the federal government's restrictions. Now, will President Obama lift those restrictions? Here's what he told CNN's chief national correspondent, John King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: You will have the power at the end of that parade to, at the stroke of a pen, lift the federal ban on embryonic stem cell research.

OBAMA: I like the idea of the American people's representatives expressing their views on an issue like this.

GUTIERREZ: While President Obama is waiting for congressional action on embryonic stem cell research, California is already off and running. Clinical trials are set to begin on patients with severe spinal cord injuries to see if human embryonic stem cell therapy is safe and effective.

It took years to get here.

DR. HANS KEIRSTEAD, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE: We are in the engine room of a stem cell laboratory.

GUTIERREZ: Why do you call it that?

KEIRSTEAD: What we do is, we grow human embryonic stem cells.

GUTIERREZ: Lead researcher Dr. Hans Keirstead shows us the incubators at U.C., Irvine, where his team is growing human tissue.

KEIRSTEAD: See the bottom of this? You have got cell colonies.

GUTIERREZ: The colonies of human cells look like smudge marks to the naked eye. But when the embryonic stem cells are mixed with chemicals and hormones, they transform into something different.

KEIRSTEAD: Phase two is then to flip those billions of cells into spinal cord cell types. In our hands, that takes about two months.

GUTIERREZ: The spinal cord tissue that Dr. Keirstead is growing has shown promise in treating lab rats with spinal cord injury.

KEIRSTEAD: These animals are paralyzed. They can't support their weight. There is no coordination from front limbs to back limbs. But, after transplantation with these stem cells that we have made into spinal cord cell types, they restore after about two months.

GUTIERREZ: You can see the injury site before and after the stem cell treatment.

KEIRSTEAD: As a scientist, I have never worked with a -- a tool that has had such potential and such hits in such a short period of time.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUTIERREZ: Clinical trials by the Geron Corporation are expected to begin this summer on patients who've suffered spinal cord injuries. But it's important to note that the treatment has so far only shown promise if it's administered within two weeks after the injury. And Kierstead says that at this point in humans, they're hoping for incremental improvements that could help with sensation and bladder control.

But he says that any benefit at this point would be resounding victory -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow! important stuff going on out in California.

Thank you, Thelma.

After weeks of speculation about who might replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. senate, Congressman Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has been appointed to fill the seat. She's also filling the void left when Caroline Kennedy took herself out of the running.

Now, some are raising some tough questions about the political scrutiny that Caroline Kennedy received.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, has been looking at this story. And some say there was a clear-cut case of a double standard.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

You know, for most of her life, Caroline Kennedy was treated as royalty by the media -- that is, until she went after a Senate seat. Now some believe she faced scrutiny and criticism that a man never would have faced and her treatment revealed a double standard for women.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: What derailed Caroline Kennedy's bid for the U.S. Senate?

GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: This decision was not based on gender or on geographic location, on race, religion or sexual orientation.

YELLIN: Maybe not for him. But consider this. In the chaos after Kennedy dropped out, sources close to the governor said she had nanny and tax problems. True or untrue, it's apparently a plausible reason for a woman to bow out, but not a man.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY NOMINEE: These were careless mistakes.

YELLIN: Tax and nanny problems seem to seemed to be but a speed bump for Obama's Treasury secretary nominee.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: So I've asked Governor Paterson to consider me. YELLIN: From the start, Kennedy received rough treatment in the press. She was called unprepared for the job.

KENNEDY: I would be an unconventional choice. I haven't followed the traditional path.

YELLIN: But these men never held elective office before running for the Senate. That did not hold them back. And Kennedy was slammed for being inarticulate -- a quality that has not kept the guys out of office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Childrens do learn.

YELLIN: So is there a double standard for women?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: And if it were her brother, John F. Kennedy, Jr. , if he had been seeking the Senate seat, you know, there's just no question that anybody would -- that people would have automatically said, oh, of course, you know, absolutely. That makes sense -- simply based on the difference in their gender.

REP. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Governor, for this incredible honor.

YELLIN: The woman who did get the Senate seat has been criticized for being too aggressive. One elected official said public women are judged, she puts it, for having the audacity to seek elected office.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It's like it leaves a bad taste in people -- in too many people's mouths when a woman is ambitious and is going after something that she wants.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

YELLIN: Now, certainly there other reasons that Caroline Kennedy got rough treatment. She didn't exactly court the press. And she never seemed particularly comfortable as a candidate or in the public eye.

But, on the other hand, some of her supporters say she got caught in a double bind that affects a lot of women, in their view. They say if you show ambition, Wolf, women are disliked. But if women in public office do not show enough ambition, they're considered too weak for the job.

BLITZER: It's a tough road. There's no doubt about that.

Thanks very much, Jessica, for that.

We're going to take a close look at the week that was. What a week it was here in the United States. A new president -- we're going to have some new excerpts from what he had to say to the American people. The best political team on television is standing by to assess what was this week and what's about to happen next week.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

At a moment when the out come of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: "Let it be told to future worlds, that in the depths of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end; that we did not back nor did we falter. And with eyes fixed on the horizon and god's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Wow!

What a political week it was.

We're back with the best political team on television to assess what was and what's coming up.

Joining us, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN's Don Lemon is here; and Tara Wall -- she's the deputy editor of "The Washington Times".

Guys, thank you very much.

All right, very lofty words. But the reality is there's a nearly trillion dollar economic recovery plan he wants passed. He tried to sell it to some skeptical Republican leaders today.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He did. And he had some meetings with members of Congress from both sides. And what I was told from members on both sides is that there were actually intellectual discussions -- philosophical discussions in which each talked about, for example, refundable tax credits for low income workers, why the Democrats believe you need to do that. The Republicans think you don't need to do that.

After the discussion was over, Wolf, the president said, you know, I won -- to the Republicans. He said I won and I guess I'm going to trump on that. So -- but there were some Republicans that had some ideas on tax cuts. He's sending White House staff to talk with them to see if they can incorporate some of those ideas into the plan.

BLITZER: To the winner goes the spoils.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Tara, I'll play a couple of clips of how the Senate and House Republican leaders reacted to this meeting.

TARA WALL, DEPUTY EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I do think we'll be able to meet the president's deadline of getting the package to him by mid-February.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, we believe that spending nearly a trillion dollars is -- is really more than we ought to be putting on the backs of our kids and their kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Some Republicans and some Democrats will ask where was he when the Bush administration was spending a lot of that money?

WALL: Well, it's a good question. It's a legitimate question. And I think that -- I think what is ironic is, in the words of President Bush -- when Obama said today he won, he did win. And in the words of President Bush, he's spending his political capital.

And at the end of the day, he probably will win. But it was Obama and it is Obama who says he wants to have bipartisan cooperation with this package.

And I think, at the end of the day, when he goes back for reelection, he's going to need to spend some more political capital and be able to deliver that bipartisanship.

At the same time, though, Republican leaders have to react and respond to their constituents and their constituents want them to be transparent. They want a conservative agenda. And they want to know that their lawmakers -- their Republican lawmakers -- are working on their behalf. So they're going to have to answer to them at the end of the day.

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) want a stimulus package, though. If you look at the polls, overwhelmingly, the public wants...

WALL: They want something done.

BORGER: ...something done.

WALL: They want something done, but they don't necessarily want this amount.

BLITZER: Because...

WALL: And they want accountability for it.

BLITZER: Because people are hurting out there.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Don, you've spent a lot of time out in the community just talking to folks and they want action.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They do want action. And I actually spent some time today in Washington, D.C. at Ben's Chili Bowl, just talking to people -- some from D.C. some from other places. And overwhelmingly, they said the economy, the economy, the economy. That's what the president, that's what our Congress and our government needs to attack right away.

But interestingly, enough, as you said, he doesn't really need that much -- the president doesn't really need that much Republican support because...

BORGER: No.

WALL: He doesn't. He really doesn't.

LEMON: ...you know, and but -- but he is still willing to reach out and he said I will listen -- I will listen to you carefully.

BORGER: But he doesn't need a unanimous vote.

LEMON: Right.

BORGER: But he wants a chunk of Republican support...

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: ...because, because he wants a little -- he's going to own the package because he's the president. But it will do him good in the future if he can -- if he can bring over a bunch of Republicans.

BLITZER: As long as he doesn't

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: ...Republican constituents, as well. Remember, he is the president of all people and represents the values of all Americans and there is a core group of Americans that still want a centrist president.

BLITZER: But there are plenty of moderate Republicans out there in the House and in the Senate. They're looking over their political backs right now...

WALL: That's right. BLITZER: ...Tara.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And saying to themselves, as long as he doesn't have any tax increases in this economic stimulus...

WALL: That's right.

BLITZER: ...package, they're open and they're receptive.

WALL: That's right. And I think, at the end of the day, that's what people don't want. They don't want to be -- they don't want to be over taxed. And at the end of the day, when you keep piling on and piling on, it's going to raise questions.

Another point that people aren't realizing, too, is what's being added to the package. In my county, for example, I mean they're adding things and they're saying, yes, it's for infrastructure. But they're adding things like community organizing and parks and services -- millions and millions of dollars. These aren't the things that are stimulative and that are needed right away.

BLITZER: All right...

WALL: And that's the other part of this package, is it's not right away.

BLITZER: Let's talk about this remarkable week here. And what a week it was. We heard very lofty rhetoric from the president of the United States. He's got to get down to business, as we see right now.

But what do you take from these first few days?

BORGER: Well, I think that Barack Obama's speech was a get down to business speech. It was almost as if he had been president for a few weeks and was now setting out his agenda for the country.

I think it was a sharp rebuke of George W. Bush in every way, -- domestic policy, foreign policy...

LEMON: Quickly, a quick rebuke in every way.

BORGER: Right. While the president -- while the former president was sitting right there. It was kind of stunning, actually.

And I think with these executive orders we've seen bang, bang, bang, right away, setting a different tone, getting to work, closing Guantanamo -- you know, doing things that he said he would do in the campaign -- new ethics rules.

BLITZER: He's really not wasting a whole lot of time.

LEMON: He's not wasting a whole lot of time. And what I get out of this week is really what you said -- tone. But the way people are feeling when you go out and talk to them, that there is hope again. And, you know, maybe I'm in a bubble here or in a vacuum being -- having covered this story all week. But sometimes you go oh, President Bush. That was just one -- not even a week ago. And you -- everyone is so focused on the new administration and how they're going to change things now that it's almost (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's benefiting from a whole lot of goodwill.

WALL: Absolutely. And you'd -- listen, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him an opportunity to make these proposals work, regardless if, you know, Republicans are going to agree, disagree. At the end of the day, give it some time. I think that, you know, the speech itself was not overly, you know, flowery. It wasn't, you know, stimulating and didn't -- it didn't have a rah- rah message.

But I think he sounded very presidential and he laid out those things that he needed to -- he touched on every gambit, whether it was the economy to foreign policy to all those things that Gloria mentioned, as well.

But I think at the end of the day, it may -- it may be harder -- it's going to be harder for him to bring this had to fruition than I think he first realized, beginning with Guantanamo Bay.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by, because we're going to continue in the days and weeks and months to come.

Appreciate it very much.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": As you put it, Wolf, a lot more ahead.

Much more tonight on President Obama's efforts to win bipartisan support for a huge stimulus package.

But will House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid follow the president's advice and his lead and listen to Republicans?

We'll have complete coverage for you.

Also tonight, rising opposition to a nuclear deal between the United States and the United Arab Emirates -- a deal that could make it far easier for Iran to steal U.S. nuclear technology. We'll have a special report.

And seething anger among homeowners already reeling from a housing crisis and plummeting home values -- those homeowners now facing skyrocketing property taxes. That story and outrage after Obama adviser Robert and former Labor secretary, Robert Reich, introduces race into the discussion about who should benefit from the government's massive economic stimulus package. We'll tell you all about that.

We'll have all of the day's news at the top of the hour.

Please join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks.

See you in a few moments.

Thank you.

It certainly looked like a live performance, but now we know the music was on tape -- a practical move or an inaugural embarrassment?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a good singer. But if I went up and sang something and it was really Domingo's recording, that would be unethical to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Plus, behind-the-scenes at the inauguration -- a "Time Magazine" photographer captures moments of history. We'll share those images with you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The music was spectacular at the inauguration. I loved it. Tens of millions -- hundreds of millions of people around the world did. But there's a controversy, Kate Bolduan, that's now emerging.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little bit of controversy, Wolf.

We've all heard of lip synching, but what about cello synching?

With one performance at the inauguration, there was more to it than meets the eye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): The pomp and circumstance of the inauguration -- the build-up to the big moment filled with music.

Aretha Franklin stirring the crowd.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But then, flashbacks to moments like this -- Ashley Simpson lip syncing on NBC's "Saturday Night Live".

(VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The world watched renowned musicians Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, along with their two colleagues, perform during the inauguration. But only within earshot heard it live. The rest of the world heard a taped performance.

(VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Prerecorded two days earlier, a spokesman for the inaugural committee says, because of the cold weather and the effect it has on instruments.

So we asked the experts. Herman Bernie teaches jazz bass at George Washington University.

HERMAN BURNEY, JAZZ BASSIST: The strings are cold. I don't know if you want to feel them or not, but they're...

BOLDUAN (on camera): Yes.

BURNEY: ...you know, they're a little bit colder. So I think that the strings have contracted some and the bass has contracted a little bit. So usually when I'm tuning the bass, those two pitches would be right dead on. But I don't know if you could hear it, but they weren't.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Organizers say the piano couldn't hold tune for extended periods of time below 55 degrees so the quartet decided after their sound check in freezing temperatures, they'd use the recording over their live performance to ensure the quality of the piece.

But the question remains, should the audience have been informed it was prerecorded?

ROBERT BAKER, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: And they were playing along with themselves, in effect. It's not as if they were misrepresenting themselves. So we had that fine line. They were entirely on the right side of that line.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BOLDUAN: Now, we have received a statement from Itzhak Perlman's spokeswoman saying Mr. Perlman was deeply honored to be part of the inauguration ceremony. The brutal cold created the distinct possibility of broken or out of tune instruments and in order to avoid a weather-related issue detracting from the majesty of the day, a decision was reached to play along with the recording that the quartet had made earlier in the week.

So there you have it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's understand -- the music was great.

BOLDUAN: It was. And a lot of people say they -- they would have been surprised if they would have been so in tune in those temperatures.

BLITZER: Yes. Those can (INAUDIBLE) because whatever it was, it was beautiful music.

BOLDUAN: It was beautiful.

BLITZER: Kate, thanks very much.

Let's go back to Jack Cafferty.

He has The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, was it unfair to ask President Obama a substantive question during his informal visit to the White House press room yesterday?

Joe in Delaware says: "The question was fair. Talk is cheap. He needs to walk the walk."

Liz in Maryland: "It wasn't unfair, but it was inappropriate for the reporter to push Obama for an answer. It's one thing to ask a question, it's another to be rude to the president. Obama is also correct that there's a time and a place for pressing for answers and a time and a place for a cordial greeting."

Kevin in Pennsylvania: "Give the guy a break already. He went down to say hi, shake hands and try to set the stage for a new kind of presidency. I'm, quite frankly, tired of this new paparazzi attitude of shoving questions in his face just like cameras. He's the president of the United States, for goodness sake. Show him some respect."

Jim in North Carolina: "Why not? Sunlight, transparency, accountability, etc. -- his rules."

Rick in Davis, California: "It's never unfair to ask the president a substantive question. It's sort of silly to expect a substantive answer in an informal setting."

And Jay in Brownwood, Texas says: "No, it wasn't unfair. It's clear President Obama just wanted his visit to be a publicity shot showing he'll be accessible to the press and the American people. But what good is accessibility if he's unwilling to answer the important questions that we want answers to?"

Jim in El Paso, Texas says: "Sure it was, Jack. But what do you expect from press people? They have no sense." Then he adds: "You're not included in that bunch."

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

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Have a great weekend.

We'll see you back here on Monday.

Revealing photos of the first family before and after they became the first family. You're going to want to see these pictures, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We want to give you a look at some Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In India, members of the air force practice marching for the upcoming Republican Day Parade -- Republic Day Parade.

On Wall Street, two traders share thoughts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

In the Czech Republic, a musher and his dogs take part in a 100- mile race.

And in Pakistan, a cricket team works together to stretch before practice.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

This clarification on a story we ran earlier here about some women's groups being disappointed with the president. We just received a statement from NOW and the Feminist Majority Foundation: "NOW and the Feminist Majority are today celebrating the repeal of the global gag rule and believe we are making progress for both women, both on appointments and the economic stimulus package. Now and the Feminist Majority are not allied with New Agenda on this matter."

That statement just coming in.

Many Americans grabbed their cameras and cell phones to snap the moment Barack Obama became president. But "Time Magazine" photographer Kelli Callie Shell captured images no one else has.

Here he is, the president of the United States.

Do you remember where this was taken?

CALLIE SHELL, "TIME" PHOTOGRAPHER: Yes. This is in the Blue Room. And I have to say, I worked at the White House for eight years and I knew all the staff and I just really think a lot of them have been there since Kennedy. And it meant a lot to them to be working with a black president. And he went around and he greeted everyone. And he didn't say, you know, thank you for, you know, working for me. He said thank you. I'm so glad we'll be working together.

And I just really think that it means a lot to these people who served any president of our country. And they do it with such pride. These people haven't gone home in like three days just to make sure everything is right.

BLITZER: Yes. I know. I used to cover the White House, too. And remember, they are so lovely, all of these people. And you were an official White House...

SHELL: And here's the gloves.

BLITZER: ...photographer, right, during those years?

SHELL: Yes. And I just wanted to say that he has -- her -- Michelle's gloves, which he went out and got. He was so proud of himself. And he got the gloves for her because she was looking for them. And he was holding them on to them tight so he could present (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: All right, let's take a look at the next picture. This is the former president and the new first family.

SHELL: This is also in the Blue Room. And this could be, I think, one of the most -- a very tense time. You know, you have the outgoing president and the incoming president. But I think, actually, for the Bushes, you know, he served for eight years. He was ready for -- to get out in the free world.

And they were -- I found they worked very hard to make the Obamas feel comfortable in that...

BLITZER: And they did a great job in that transition.

SHELL: And they really did.

BLITZER: I've covered a lot of transitions. This one was about as smooth as I've ever seen.

SHELL: And he was, you know, just talking about, you know, they'll take care of you and you're going to do fine. And, you know, I have to say that both the Cheneys and Bushes, it was obvious that they were working really hard to make the new families (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Will you come back and share more of your pictures with our viewers here in THE SITUATION ROOM?

SHELL: Yes. Well, if you'd like me to.

BLITZER: We definitely will.

SHELL: Thank you.

Callie Shell of "Time" magazine, thanks very much.

SHELL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Amazing pictures, indeed. And we certainly will have her back.

This important note to our viewers. Starting tomorrow, this Saturday and every Saturday, THE SITUATION ROOM on six days a week. Tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We have more of our exclusive interview of Pervez Musharraf, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the outgoing chairman of the Intelligence Committee and a lot more.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.