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President Obama Set to Address Nation; Economic Stimulus Bill Advances in Senate

Aired February 9, 2009 - 18:00   ET



Happening now, the breaking news we're following: the president's economic rescue plan clearing a critical hurdle in the Senate only a few moments ago. It's an important test of the president's push for the plan and for bipartisanship in Washington.

Also this hour, President Obama is set to sell you on his economic rescue plan. He's gearing up for his first prime-time news conference just two hours from now. He is going to be testing his message face-to-face with everyday Americans as well.

And the vice president, Joe Biden, reaches out to Russia. And some wonder if he's in a turf war with Hillary Clinton -- all that coming up, 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're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But let's get to the breaking news right now, an important test vote for President Obama. And he wins in the U.S. Senate.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

It happened just a few moments ago. But what was the final vote, Dana, 61-36, right?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You got it, Wolf, 61-36. And that is because of three Republicans that crossed party lines and agreed to vote with the Democrats. And that was because of a very, very painstakingly negotiated compromise with those Republicans. And that included spending cuts.

And already on Capitol Hill, the president and his team are worried about the next step. And that is convincing House Democrats who are unhappy with those spending cuts that they need to do it in order to get this issue and get this big priority to President Obama's desk.


BASH (voice-over): On its face, the Senate economic stimulus compromise, about $827 billion, looks a lot like what passed the House, an $819 billion plan. But the reality is there are some major differences, setting up tough negotiations: Senate Democrats... SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: This is a compromise across the aisle in the finest tradition of the Senate.

BASH: ... vs. House Democrats.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: If it stays the way it is, then it's all a little bit more challenging for us.

BASH: In the Senate, the only way Democrats could lure Republican votes to pass the plan is by slashing some $100 billion in spending. But House Democrats are balking because a big chunk of the Senate spending cuts are aimed at education.

For example, the Senate sliced $40 billion in funding to the states, money for local officials to avoid cutbacks in education and other services. The Senate also eliminated $19 billion for school construction, and cut Head Start early-education funding in half, from $2 billion to $1 billion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned the cuts her fellow Democrats agreed to in the Senate do -- quote -- "violence to their economic goals." Other House Democratic leaders agree.

CLYBURN: Sure, part of this compromise does violence. What's wrong with funding Head Start? And so what's wrong with funding higher education?

BASH: Jim Clyburn insists House Democrats will fight to put money back he says is targeted to low-income Americans. The big problem is that any changes by House Democrats may jeopardize support from the Senate Republicans President Obama needs to pass his economic plan.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: If the bill comes back from the conference committee with a lot of wasteful spending reinserted or if it comes back in excess of the $800 billion, it will not have my support.


BASH: And House Democrats do know that reality. And, in fact, Wolf, the leadership, led by Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, they are meeting as we speak in her office in the Capitol, trying to figure out how much of those spending cuts they can really stomach.

But I can assure you, they are being peppered by the White House, from the president on down, saying, look, we understand you're not happy with this, but we have to do what it takes to get this broad bill passed. As the president said to House Democrats, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the absolutely necessary -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And once again, the breaking news, Dana, the Democrats managed to end this debate, getting 61 votes. They needed 60, three Republicans joining them.

One of the Democrats who joined was Senator Ted Kennedy, who's very ill, as all of us know, but he showed up in the Senate. Here's what he said as he walked in to the Senate building.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Doing well, doing well, and looking forward to this period of time -- 600,000 jobs have been lost in the last month, and hundreds of thousands of American families have been hurt by the failure of taking action on the health of the American families.

And it's time that we take action now. I think President Obama has demonstrated his strong commitment to making progress on these important issues. And I look forward to being a part of the team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.


BLITZER: President Obama, by the way, now less than two hours away from facing his biggest television audience since Inauguration Day.

We're standing by to bring you his first prime-time White House news conference. You will see it live here on CNN.

President Obama gave his message a road test of sorts in hard-hit Indiana earlier today.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is there -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, selling his stimulus plan on the road and sending a loud message to Congress, the president reached out to ordinary Americans in Elkhart, Indiana, some fighting to find work or struggling to hang on to their jobs, a community that says it's ready to put the government's money to work quickly.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The questions were not pre-screened, but Mr. Obama already knew what subject would dominate his first town hall meeting as president: the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send that check to our mailbox, so we can take it to the bank and pay that mortgage.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I have been pushing in this plan is to make sure that the tax cuts goes to working families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you allocate the money for Elkhart, Indiana, will it come directly into Elkhart?

OBAMA: Some of the plan will go to the state government. There are going to be other projects having to do with transportation, for example, in which we may be working directly with local municipalities and communities.

LOTHIAN: And this question about green jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there provisions in there that address green job issues?

OBAMA: Under this plan, we would double the production of alternative energy.

LOTHIAN: Elkhart County, where 75 percent of the nation's R.V.s are made, has been slammed by a bad economy. Unemployment skyrocketed last year from just under 5 percent to more than 15 percent. High fuel prices, a tight credit market and vacations on hold have put people like Ed Newfelt (ph), who introduced the president, out of work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had worked in the R.V. industry for 32 years. Right now, with unemployment benefits, I am making ends meet. But what happens when my unemployment benefits run out?

LOTHIAN: Twenty-five hundred people snapped up tickets and packed the Concord High School gym, many wanting to know what will be done to bring back lost jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of local companies have gone overseas.

LOTHIAN: An administration official admits the stimulus package won't directly address the ailing R.V. industry. But the town's mayor says he has 17 shovel-ready infrastructure projects that will put people back to work.

DICK MOORE, MAYOR OF ELKHART, INDIANA: Send us the money. Send it right here to Elkhart, Indiana. We will be held accountable for it. We don't mind that at all. And we will put people to work and we will put them to work in a hurry.


LOTHIAN: The president says Congress needs to act quickly to help, and he will take that message on the road again on Tuesday to Fort Myers, Florida -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Dan Lothian in Indiana for us, our White House correspondent, thanks.

Remember, the news conference, the prime-time news conference, begins our coverage right here at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. You will see it here, followed after the news conference with analysis from the best political team on television at 10:00 p.m., a special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360."

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Americans are keeping a close eye on President Obama just three weeks into his administration. But they are also focusing on the so-called fourth branch of government. That would be us, the media.

A new Gallup poll shows 38 percent of those surveyed don't think the press has been tough enough in its coverage of the new president -- 11 percent say too tough. And about half, 48 percent, say that the coverage has been about right.

It's not surprising that Americans' views on media coverage of President Obama tend to break down along party lines. Other recent polls showed that most Democrats find the coverage about right, while most Republicans claim that it's not tough enough. Independents are about evenly split.

When it comes to those who think the media has not been tough enough on President Obama, Gallup found an overwhelming majority of those people, 85 percent of them, are at least somewhat concerned the news media won't be able to fulfill its duties of providing oversight to this administration.

You may recall that was a big deal during the Bush years. The public was quite critical of the news media, saying they weren't tough enough in their questioning, particularly during the run-up to the Iraq war. And they were probably right.

In just a few short weeks in office, President Obama has been all over the media, popping into the White House press room, where he got his nose bloodied a little bit, doing sit-down interviews with network and cable TV news anchors, and holding town hall meetings.

Plus, tonight, he will have his first prime time news conference. And, as you have heard, we will cover that at 8:00 here on CNN.

Boy, we will cover it. We have got the whole crew from Washington up here. It will be analysis like you ain't seen.

The question this hour is: How would you rate the media's coverage of President Obama to this point? Go to Post a comment on my blog.

This is reminiscent of those primary election nights, when we had...


BLITZER: Yes. We're all here.

CAFFERTY: Everybody here.

BLITZER: We're all going to be sort of flooding the zone, as they say.

CAFFERTY: Well, we have got to cover the president.


CAFFERTY: That's our job.

BLITZER: Yes, we do that. If they liked our coverage during the primaries, during the elections, inauguration, they're going to love our coverage tonight.

CAFFERTY: They did. Wait until you see tonight.

BLITZER: OK, Jack, thanks very much -- 8:00 p.m. Eastern, the president's prime-time news conference starts, less than two hours from now.

Meanwhile, the vice president, Joe Biden, says there's something you and the world should know.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I come to Europe on behalf of a new administration, an administration that's determined to set a new tone, not only in Washington, but in America's relations around the world.


BLITZER: But between the vice president and the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is the world confused about who's in charge of the nation's foreign policy? We're about to assess.

And it's being called a security breach. A top House Republican reveals something secret he might necessarily not have wanted to reveal. We will tell you what's going on.

And where you live, how many people are jobless? Do your senators support the economic recovery plan? Our own John King standing by to track the breaking news. The $827 billion plan has survived a key Senate vote. We have the latest right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The vice president, Joe Biden, delivered a major speech in Germany over the past few days. He's now back in Washington, but some are asking, where's the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, on these foreign policy issues? What's going on?

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's working this story for us.

Any tensions there, as far as we can tell, Brian, between the secretary of state and vice president?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There could be, Wolf, but that's something that we're all going to be monitoring in the days ahead. From Middle East peace to global warming, Joe Biden has just basically unveiled the new administration's foreign policy. His speech in Munich on Saturday included an overture to Russia, pushing the reset button, as he says, in a relationship that's gone sour in recent years. But the mere fact that the vice president made such a substantive speech raises questions about who's really taking the foreign policy lead on this team.


TODD (voice-over): The vice president's mere appearance at the Munich security conference is a break from years past. This is a trip usually taken by the defense secretary. But an administration official tells CNN they felt it was so important to strike a new tone with European allies that the profile was raised to Joe Biden's level.

But he's now taken two high-profile trips overseas during the transition and first 100 days. Hillary Clinton doesn't take her first trip as secretary of state until next week's swing through Asia. And some question whether Mr. Biden is upstaging her.

PATRICIA MURPHY, EDITOR, CITIZENJANEPOLITICS.COM: Now, as they move into the administration, it does create confusion in terms of who's calling the shots on foreign policy and who's the face of American diplomacy.

TODD: A notion flatly rejected in Mrs. Clinton's building.

ROBERT WOOD, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I wouldn't read that into it at all.

TODD: State Department and White House officials stress that Mr. Biden and Secretary Clinton speak almost daily, meet once a week, and that the two of them and others worked closely to craft the Munich speech.

An analyst who advised Mr. Obama during the campaign and transition, but no longer does, predicts genuine harmony on this team.

RICK BARTON, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I don't see a conflict. I think, for one, they're colleagues and they have been colleagues for a long time. They were also on the campaign trail together. And they shared many of the same ideas. So, there's not an intellectual divide.


TODD: Rick Barton and other analysts we spoke with say, with all the dangerous trouble spots around the world, there is room for heavyweights like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton on the same team. But most observers also stress it's early in the game. Wolf, we better keep an eye on it.

BLITZER: Very early in the game.

All right, Brian, thanks very much.

Let's get back to the breaking news we're following, a key test vote for President Obama and the Democrats. It's passed the floor of the U.S. Senate. They have ended the debate now, setting the stage for the final votes in the Senate tomorrow.

Let's bring in our chief national correspondent, John King. He's working this story for us.

There are important economic, John, and political ramifications for a lot of Republicans out there who voted against the president.


And let's use the map to break it down. Our viewers might be familiar with this look from the election campaign, blue states Obama, red states McCain. But take a look at this. This shows you the gold and yellow states. Those are the 10 states with the highest unemployment rate, as high as 10.6 percent in Michigan.

The bluish-purple states, those are the states with the lowest unemployment rate. And the ones that are a lighter shade of purple, that is the states in the middle. So, let's just take a peek out here. Both of Tennessee's senators, they opposed this. They are both Republicans. They both opposed the Senate compromise. The unemployment rate just shy of 8 percent, so economic trouble in Tennessee, yet both Republican senators say they can vote no.

Same up here. You come up to Kentucky, again, two Republican senators, both opposed this, 7.8 percent unemployment. So, a tough environment to vote no on economic stimulus. But let's take this away and remind our viewers. Here is Kentucky. John McCain won, Barack Obama only 40 percent of the vote. Down here in Tennessee, John McCain won, Barack Obama just 42 percent of the vote.

So, you see two calculations here. And let's take one more look. And we will come to the West, to another part of the country, John McCain's Arizona. Again, John McCain carried that state, Barack Obama only 45 percent of the vote. And, yet, when you look at the unemployment rate, it is down here. It's in this area around here. So, what's the unemployment rate? Six-point-nine percent in Arizona. Both Republican senators, both, Wolf, making the calculation that, yes, their state might need help, but, on this plan, they have the political room to vote no.

BLITZER: Yes. So, in California and Florida, those states are in trouble right now, might explain why their Republican governors are much more open to this economic stimulus plan the president...


KING: Absolutely.


KING: ... Florida and California are among the goldest states.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the challenge that the president faces tonight. Less than two hours, I think we're counting down, an hour, 41 minutes, before the prime-time news conference begins. It will begin with an opening statement, then take reporters' questions. He faces a significant challenge.

BLITZER: He does.

A big victory for him in the United States Senate. And let's not play it down. But as Dana has been noting, and others, now he has to get a compromise through the House. Why does the president need to again use his bully pulpit? Let's start where he was today.

He was right up here in Indiana, as you know, Elkhart County. As Dan Lothian told us, 15 percent unemployment here. Statewide, in Indiana, a state Barack Obama just barely won, statewide, the unemployment rate now above 8 percent.

What is the challenge in the prime-time news conference tonight? Here's the issue. The president is extraordinarily popular -- 76 percent of the American people, far in excess of his support in the election, approve of his job performance as president, 76 for the president.

But ask them about the Senate compromise, and you get a much different number, Wolf. Let me pull this one down, only 54 percent. You have a 22 percent drop between the president's approval rating and what people think of this Senate stimulus plan.

They're worried about spending $800 billion, nearly $900 billion, on top of all the bank financial industry bailout money. So, the president needs to find a way to take his personal approval ratings and transfer them to this debate about the economy. If he can get this number closer to 60 percent, then he will have a much better chance getting this through the House and leverage and having the support of the American people, so, a challenge for the president tonight to link his personal popularity to this proposal.

BLITZER: And John's not going away. He is going to be here with the magic map throughout our coverage on this important night.

John, thanks very much.


BLITZER: The president makes his pitch on the stimulus to the job-starved Midwest.


OBAMA: We have had a good debate. Now it's time to act. That's why I'm calling on Congress to pass this bill immediately.


BLITZER: The president's hard sell on the stimulus, even as it passes a key test in the Senate.

Plus, a member of Congress, like so many of his constituents, talking on Twitter, but see why some are calling his tweet from Baghdad a security breach.

And those raging bush fires in Australia -- why the prime minister now is calling the disaster mass murder.

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


BLITZER: More on the breaking news coming up. President Obama and the Democrats win a big vote in the U.S. Senate. Stand by for more on that.


BLITZER: President Obama says America needs an economic stimulus package, and it needs it right away, even -- even if it isn't perfect.


OBAMA: We can't posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place.


OBAMA: That was what this election was all about.


BLITZER: Stand by to hear the president's cold, hard assessment of the economic rescue plan for yourself.

And President Obama hits the heartland and the airwaves. Are all his campaign-like appeals a sign of strength or weakness?

And one Democrat wants to dredge up some dark moments from the Bush administration, a controversial call to investigate past problems within the Justice Department and whether any crimes were committed.

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


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

Happening now: The stimulus plan just passed a key Senate test. We're watching the breaking news. But only three Republicans were on board. What does this say about the president's plan to change Washington's business as usual?

Plus, some of President Obama's most persuasive moments happened out there on the campaign trail. Will his road trip have the same effect in selling his economic recovery plan?

And George W. Bush may not be in charge anymore, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy wants to investigate what he characterizes as politically inspired moves during the Bush administration. He wants a so-called truth and reconciliation commission to look at the last eight years over at the Justice Department -- all this, plus the best political team on television.

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

It's some of the gloomiest language the president has ever used to talk about the U.S. economy, today, President Obama warning that if something isn't done and isn't done quickly to fix this economy, the nation could slide into a permanent economic nightmare.

Listen closely to the president in Elkhart, Indiana.


OBAMA: Because the situation we face could not be more serious. We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression. Economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don't act immediately, millions of more jobs will be lost. The national unemployment rates will approach double digits not just here in Elkhart, all across the country. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse.

So we can't afford to wait. We can't wait and see and hope for the best. We can't posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place.


OBAMA: That was what this election was all about -- the American people rejected those ideas because they hadn't worked.


OBAMA: You didn't send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same. You sent us there to change things. The expectation that we would act quickly and boldly to carry out change -- and that's exactly what I intend to do as president of the United States of America.


OBAMA: That's why I put forth a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that is now before Congress. At its core is a very simple idea -- to put Americans back to work doing the work America needs to be done. Ed -- Ed said it better than anybody could. He said, look, folks in Elkhart, they want to work. Nobody's looking for a handout. Everybody just wants to be able to get a job that supports a family.

And we've got the most productive workers on earth.


OBAMA: We've got the best workers right here in Elkhart...

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: ...who are willing to put in hard time and do whatever it takes to make sure a company succeeds. But they've got to have a chance.

The plan that we've put forward will save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years. But not just any jobs -- jobs that meet the needs we've neglected for far too long. Jobs that lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth. Jobs fixing our schools and computerizing our medical records to save costs and save lives. Jobs repairing our roads and our bridges and our levees. Jobs investing in renewable energy to help us move toward energy independence.


OBAMA: The plan also calls for immediate tax relief for 95 percent of American workers.

I'm not going to tell you that this bill is perfect. I mean it's coming out of Washington. It's going through Congress.


OBAMA: You know, look, it's not perfect. But it is the right size, it is the right scope. Broadly speaking, it has the right priorities to create jobs that will jump-start our economy and transform this economy for the 21st century.

I -- I can't...


OBAMA: I can't tell you with 100 percent certainty that every single item in this plan will work exactly as we hoped. But what I can tell you is, I can say with complete confidence that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will only bring deepening disaster. I can tell you that doing nothing is not an option.


OBAMA: So we've had a good debate. Now it's time to act. That's why I'm calling on Congress to pass this bill immediately. Folks here in Elkhart and all across America need help right now. They can't afford to keep waiting for folks in Washington to get this done.

Even with this plan, the road ahead won't be easy. This crisis has been a long time in the making. We're not going to turn it around overnight. Recovery will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months.

But we also know that our economy will be stronger for generations to come if we commit ourselves to the work that needs to be done, commit ourselves today to the work that needs to be done.

And being here in Elkhart, I am more confident than ever that we will get where we need to be. Because I know people are struggling, but I also know that folks here are good workers and good neighbors who step up, who help each other out, who make sacrifices when times are tough.


OBAMA: I know that all folks here are asking for is a chance to work hard and to have that work translate into a decent life for you and your family. So I know you're going to be doing your part. I think it's about time that government did its part, too.


OBAMA: That's what this recovery plan is all about.


BLITZER: The president speaking earlier today in Indiana. Remember, we're, getting ready for his prime time news conference. That's coming up at 8 00 p.m. Eastern.

We also are following the breaking news -- President Obama's economic recovery plan clearing a critical hurdle in the Senate. You saw it live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But with only three Republicans on board, does that really count as bipartisan?

Plus, the president looking and sounding very much like he's back out on the campaign trail -- will it convince skeptics to support the economic stimulus plan?

Stay with us.



BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our contributor, Roland Martin; and Marcus Mabry of "The New York Times" to assess what's going on.

Three Republicans in the Senate go along and vote with the president. No Republicans in the House voted with the president.

I don't think we can call that bipartisanship, can we?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, no, no. We can't call it bipartisanship. In fact, I was just talking to someone at the White House about this and said, what would you call this?

And he said, look, we can't call it bipartisanship. But he said, what's really important is the outreach was bipartisan. Our intent was bipartisan and the American public understands that we did try and get Republicans on board. BLITZER: I guess they could have had a bipartisan piece of legislation -- 80 or even 90 senators supporting -- if he would have gutted what Nancy Pelosi and David Obie wanted in the House of Representatives, right?

But he was against that.

ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, the people who are at home right now who are broke, who don't have a job, they don't really care about this whole conversation. They don't care about bipartisan. All they want to know is are we going to get any help from the government when it comes to this.

There are mayors right now in Columbus, in L.A. all over the country, who are saying we're laying off firefighters, we're laying off police officers. We need help. And so, frankly, they don't care how you got to 60, as long as you got to 60 and the bill passes.

BLITZER: We spoke to Larry Summers earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- one of the president's top economic advisers. He says once the president signs this into law -- and they're hoping to do it by next Monday, Presidents Day, to sign it into law, within days there will be immediate relief felt across the country.

MARCUS MABRY, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, that's certainly the White House's hope. And it is likely there will be lots of relief.

But will it be the kind of relief that Roland was talking about, that will be widespread and deep enough to really make a difference in the lives of millions of Americans immediately?

That's still up in the air. And depending on how much of that state and local aid actually makes it into the final reconciled bill between the House and Senate versions, they may not feel it immediately. And I think that would be kind of economically disastrous.

BLITZER: Some people are saying the hard work now begins, reconciling the differences between the Senate and the House version.

BORGER: Oh, yes. It's going to be -- it's going to be very, very difficult, particularly among these House Democrats. But, Wolf, on the bipartisanship question, I think we may be in a political situation right now where it's impossible to get bipartisanship. You know, we've had cultural issues that divide us. With the economy is now part of an issue. People approach the economy, philosophically, very differently.

MARTIN: Right.

BORGER: We have gerrymandered districts which are drawn to elect Democrats and Republicans.

So President Obama may really be up against something that will take a decade to change.

BLITZER: But there seems to be a disconnect, Roland. And I'm going to put some numbers up on the screen.

When we asked in our new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, how is President Obama handling his job as president?, 76 percent of the American public approved of how he's doing.

But he's so associated with this economic stimulus plan, the Senate bill, for example, only 54 percent say they approve of the Senate economic stimulus plan.

There seems to be a disconnect there.

MARTIN: Yes. It's no shock. You had a candidate, frankly, who spent two years with the American public getting to know who he is. All of a sudden, he wins. All the positive momentum with the transition. They've only spent basically a month on this stimulus package, if you will.

We didn't have -- no real details, only for a couple of weeks. And so one of the problems the White House has had, they have not been able to effectively sell this. Republicans -- they label it pork. And so they were able to attack it constantly.

The White House did not have a strong enough operation sending out surrogates. They've done a better job the last several days. Summers has been on the air left and right. Today, on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, I talked to Melody Barnes, at the White House Domestic Policy Council.

They now have surrogates who are now touting it. They don't see...

BORGER: They're late. It's late.

MARTIN: Yes, it is late.

BORGER: It's late.

MARTIN: Because I...

BLITZER: Because the Republicans, Marcus, have totally been energized by -- by their side of the story.

MABRY: Well, it's really shocking. I think if we remember what was George Bush's presidency like at this point. In the first term, he had barely gotten into office. In the second term, he had won just by one state.

Barack Obama won, by electoral count, by almost 200 electoral votes over John McCain. And yet, George W. Bush came in and said, I have a mandate to govern. I'm going to do what I want to do.

Barack Obama has tried to be bipartisan -- post-partisan. And, as Gloria said...

BORGER: It's impossible.

MABRY: ...the times don't seem to be in line with what he wants to do.

BORGER: Well, but I...

MARTIN: But, also, Bush did not have to also contend with what President Obama has had to deal with. And that is a House -- House Democrats wanting to put their stamp on policy. He has to negotiate Republicans, but also on his own party.

BORGER: I also think there was a little bit of a sense at the White House that the need for the stimulus package should be self- evident to all of us.

MARTIN: Um-hmm.


MARTIN: ...sell it.

BORGER: But it turns out -- right. But it turns out, it wasn't self-evident. And that's why you have the president today out on the campaign trail.

MABRY: But remember, President Bush actually got his bailout bill done with much less problems than President Obama has had with getting his stimulus bill done.

MARTIN: Because we were in a situation -- first of all, there was a campaign going on.

MABRY: Sure.

MARTIN: But, also, we got the Darth Vader report. It was the world will die if you don't pass this now. So everybody was scared...

BLITZER: All right, guys...

MARTIN: ...and that's...

MABRY: Well, we'll see what Tim Geithner gets tomorrow for the bailout.

MARTIN: Well, we'll see what happens.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: He's the Treasury secretary.

Guys, don't leave. We've got a long night ahead of us -- an important night. And we'll, of course, have extensive coverage of the president's prime time news conference.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour.

He's got a little preview.

What are you working on -- Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.

Tonight, we're reporting on the president's outright use of the politics of fear to sell the huge borrowing and spending legislation. President Obama abandoning the politics of hope for the rhetoric of fear in comments that he made today in Elkhart, Indiana in a town hall meeting.

We'll also tell you what the president is likely to say tonight in his prime time news conference. We'll also be talking with two people on opposite sides of the showdown over the so-called stimulus bill. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joins me and the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Richard Shelby.

And in our special coverage tonight, Lou's Line Item Veto, we'll examine what the critics are saying is another waste of taxpayer money -- a new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security.

Please join us for all of that, all the day's news, at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few moments, Lou.

Thank you.

A Congressman Twitters his trip to Iraq and Afghanistan -- a trip that has the government not necessarily wanting it publicized.

Was this a security breach?

Also, passengers were terrified, but he kept his cool. The captain of that US Airways jet speaking out about his miracle landing in the Hudson River.

Plus, your answers to this hour's question -- how would you rate the media coverage of President Obama?

Jack Cafferty has your e-mail and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, a top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, gave out details of his trip to the Middle East on Twitter -- an act one publication is calling a security breach.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

What exactly did the congressman post -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the congressman was posting almost daily updates of where this Congressional delegation was headed. Take a look.

"Headed to Iraq and Afghanistan Wednesday night," was the first.

Then: "On the way to Andrews Air Force Base, 12 hour flight."

Next: "Just landed in Baghdad."

"Congressional Quarterly" called the Congressman Hoekstra's posts on Twitter: "A security breach."

As is often the case when security is a high priority, Congressional offices hadn't publicized this trip ahead of time. The media generally doesn't report specifics until after the fact.

But Congressman Hoekstra's office says the trip wasn't classified and there was no risk: "Congressman Hoekstra is fully aware of the security issues when traveling abroad," they said in a statement. "He believes in giving people in West Michigan as much access as possible and posting on Twitter allows him to provide real time insight."

No more posts, though, from Iraq. And according to Twitter, Congressman Hoekstra has just landed at Andrews -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Welcome back, Congressman.

Thanks very much, Abbi.

Let's go to Jack for the Cafferty File --Jack.

CAFFERTY: What's Twitter?

BLITZER: Twitter -- it's like instant messaging.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.

The question this hour is how would you rate the media coverage of President Obama?

Jan in Knoxville writes: "I'd rate it an A plus. President Obama is so likeable, I'm sure the press enjoys covering him. He's like a breath of fresh air in Washington, as is his lovely family."

Pete in New York: "Slobbering is about the right description. After Obama picked three tax cheats for high positions, Brian Williams asked him if he was angry -- as if the president was the victim, instead of the person who made the decision in the first place. The first reaction of the press was to make an excuse for him."

Mike in Minnesota: "Hello, Jack. I watch CNN. I don't watch Fox News. I don't listen to that blow hard, Rush Limbaugh. I think CNN has done a fair job covering President Obama. I only wish someone there would have had some guts eight years ago, while Bush and his cronies destroyed this country on every possible level. We may never recover from the damage Bush 43 did to America, but we've got the right guy in charge now to give us a fighting chance."

Sandy in Chicago: "I can't say the media coverage has been fair and balanced. In my opinion, the media is pushing the idea that President Obama and his administration should have solved the economic problem by now. And what is it, three weeks into his term."

Paul in South Carolina: "I'm surprised you asked, Jack, given your obvious bristling at our oft times critical comments about the media. But since you did, I watched and heard the swooning of the media back in the Kennedy days and the over the top Camelot rubbish. This time around there was all the promotion of the coming of the new messiah, Barack Obama, by the media -- even before to the election. It must be a huge disappointment in the media ranks that another concocted fantasy couldn't be foisted off on the public. Better luck next time."

And Steve in Tennessee: "I give it an OK. It's that Bush guy you let get away with murder."

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

Do you use Twitter?

BLITZER: No. But I suspect pretty soon you will be using that blog as a Twitter. It's instant messaging with a whole group of people at the same time. And Jack's going to be "Saturday Night Live," I predict.

CAFFERTY: Frittering maybe, but not "Saturday Night Live".

BLITZER: "Saturday Night Live." You're going to be "Saturday Night Live" at Tweets.


BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.

It's not often you have a plane crash end so well people are actually feeling comfortable, having some fun with it.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The incident has actually spawned not one, but two online games. This one is called Double Bird Strike. You try to avoid ingesting geese into your engines.


BLITZER: Jeanne Moos has a "Moost Unusual" look at the miracle on the Hudson. That's coming up.


BLITZER: The captain and crew of US Airways Flight 1549 were honored today here in New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented them with the keys to the city, calling them real American heroes for landing safely and evacuating a crippled plane full of people in the Hudson River last month.

The captain, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, talked to CNN's Larry King about those final, dramatic moments.


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: You knew you were going to crash?

CAPT. "SULLY" SULLENBERGER, US AIRWAYS PILOT: I wouldn't put it quite that way. I would say that I expected that this was not going to be like every other flight I've flown for my entire career and it probably would not end on a runway with the airplane undamaged.

L. KING: Are you saying this as calmly as you were then?

SULLENBERGER: I was not this calm then, but I -- I was very focused.

L. KING: Talking to the control tower?

SULLENBERGER: Talking to air traffic control. And I quickly determined that we were at too low an altitude, at too slow a speed and therefore we did not have enough energy to return to LaGuardia, because it was too far away and we were headed away from it.

After briefly considering the only other nearby airport, which is Teterboro in New Jersey, I realized it was too far away. And the penalty for choosing wrongly and attempting to make a runway I could not make might be catastrophic for all of us on the airplane plus people on the ground.


BLITZER: You're going to hear a lot more tomorrow night, when Captain Sullenberger and the crew of Flight 1549 join Larry, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific, only here on CNN. The interview tomorrow night.

The miracle landing on the Hudson is being celebrated across the nation and, in many ways, laughs included.

Jeanne Moos finds it "Moost Unusual."


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a rare airplane crash that ends so well comedians can joke about it.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: You can now fly half price from LaGuardia to the Hudson River.


MOOS: And now, it's the "I can't believe we're alive" media tour.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here are the passengers, US Airways 1549.


MOOS: Some of the banter with those passengers was first class.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you back there?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in the front here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm in first class. Sorry.


MOOS: On ABC, Weatherman Sam Champion submerged himself in a simulator.


SAM CHAMPION, METEOROLOGIST: Throw it out of the way.


MOOS: But there was no simulating the man whose reputation dare not be sullied.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Captain cool himself, "Sully" Sullenberger.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Captain Sullenberger.


MOOS: All of America except this guy on YouTube.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hear about my man, Skully? Skully -- ah -- ah -- Shellingberger, I think his name is.


MOOS: There was a song for "Sully" sung by one of the passengers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get some inspiration...


MOOS: There's a cocktail named after him -- two shots of gray goose and a splash of water. And speaking of geese, there was survivor Larry the goose on "Saturday Night Live".


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In one minute, we were in a perfect formation and the next it was a complete cluster flock.


MOOS (on camera): The accident has actually spawned not one, but two online games. This one is called Double Bird Strike. You try to avoid ingesting geese into your engines.

And the other one is called Hero on the Hudson, where you try to keep your plane level before it goes into the water.

(voice-over): The creators say it takes about three tries for most people to land successfully, amid applause as passengers come out on to the wings.

It could be a long time before we have such a good news plane crash, so comedians...


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST: What a mouth this guy has.


MOOS: Enjoy those airport tower tapes.


KIMMEL: Hey, you need to return to LaGuardia.

What the (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) is it with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to try to land on Runway 1-3?


(END VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: Captain "Sully" seemed to appreciate the jokes.


SULLENBERGER: You know, I never heard a single story about a passenger who said get out of my way. Do the -- you know, I...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve Martin did.


MOOS: On "Letterman," Steve Martin claimed to have been a passenger.


STEVE MARTIN, COMEDIAN: Where's the VIP rescue boat?

LETTERMAN: Wait a minute now.


MOOS: At least we all have first class seats top watch the media tour.


MARTIN: Excuse me, I was in first class.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: He's a funny guy, Steve Martin.

Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I'll be back in one hour, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll have live coverage of President Obama's first formal prime time news conference.

See you then.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.