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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Obama's National Security Challenges; Rush Limbaugh Speaks Out on Health Scare

Aired January 1, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, President Obama has new information about the failed airline terror attack to study and a long list of national security challenges to take on in 2010. That includes new warnings about his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and new concerns about his nominee to a key job in the war on terror.

Let's bring in our congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

And you have been reporting about the holdup of the TSA job here. I understand there is yet another hitch to this story? What are we learning?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the new development, Suzanne, has something to do with what Erroll Southers did in the 1980s.

He was an FBI at the time and he has accessed confidential information about his then estranged wife's new boyfriend. Southers told lawmakers who reviewed his nomination that he wanted to see if the man had a criminal record because Southers' young son was with his mother at the point and in the company of this man.

This was a correction of what he initially told the Senate Homeland Security Committee, that he had a colleague run the background check. But right after that committee sent his nomination on to the full Senate, Southers said, actually, he was wrong. He accessed the database himself and he accessed it not once, but twice.

He told the committee this new information about a month ago, though it is only coming out right now -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And the initial reason why it was delayed, what does that have to do with what is taking place now?

KEILAR: Yes, the initial reason it was delayed was completely different than this.

Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, put a hold on Southers' nomination because of Republican concerns that Southers would allow TSA agents to unionize. But after this new revelation, DeMint says this is another reason why he might not support Southers' appointment. Overall, though, there does not appear to be widespread uproar among Republicans. Remember, Republicans, at least this on this committee, have been aware of this discrepancy for some time. And they have not been making a whole lot of noise over it.

MALVEAUX: OK, Brianna, thank you very much.

Now to the backlash against the president's plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Mr. Obama's critics even some members and of his own party are worried about increasingly worried about sending detainees back to the front lines of terror.

Brian Todd has been looking into that.

And what kind of new details are we learning today, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, the administration is almost certain now to miss its previous deadline for closing Guantanamo Bay, this month, and with new information on possible connections between Guantanamo and the latest major terrorist plot, those plans get more complicated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Fresh calls from Republicans for the Obama team to slam the brakes on its plans to close Guantanamo, GOP lawmakers concerned over a flood of new information, the possible connection between the recent plot to bomb a U.S. airliner and the group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which had in its senior ranks at least one former Guantanamo detainee, and the fact that the administration transferred some Yemenis from Guantanamo back to Yemen in recent weeks.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: I think sending these -- any quantity of these people back to Yemen would be a huge problem. And regardless of the rehabilitation program that they go through, I think of them many would find their way back onto the battlefield.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, an administration official said in an e- mail, "The president's team closely reviews each case for relevant information about each detainee, including the threat they pose, to determine whether they should be prosecuted, detained or transferred."

An attorney for several Yemeni detainees him up.

DAVID REMES, ATTORNEY FOR TRANSFERRED YEMENI DETAINEES: They have reviewed the files of every single man in great detail, all of the evidence, and they have approved for transfer a certain number of men who included my client, as well as the other six who were released. This is not a careless process.

TODD: Yemenis currently make up almost half the prisoner population at Guantanamo, one reason critics say closing the facility is a huge mistake.

But a White House official says the closure is crucial to national security, because, he says, the facility has been used as a rallying cry and a recruiting tool for al Qaeda.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And as this debate rages back and forth, some analysts are calling for at least a pause in the transfer of Yemeni detainees, while take an even closer look at the potentials dangers posed. But there is no hard indication at the moment that that is being considered -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Brian, is this administration transferring detainees from Guantanamo, bringing them to other countries any faster than, say, the Bush administration was?

TODD: Surprisingly, according to one attorney, he doesn't believe they are. He says they are going a little bit slower. David Remes, the attorney who we featured in the piece, says by his count the Obama administration in its first year of office, 2008, authorized fewer transfers out of Guantanamo Bay than the Bush administration did in its last year of office. He attributes that to the review case by case of each detainee by the Obama administration.

MALVEAUX: OK. Brian, thank you very much.

I want to go to Hawaii now for the latest on the health of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh. He held a news conference just a short while ago at the Hawaii hospital. That is where he was admitted for some chest pains.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, who is in Honolulu, he's been covering the president, but also Rush Limbaugh is out there as well for his vacation, so he got news on both ends.

Hey, Ed, what is the details?

(CROSSTALK)

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The team out here has been covering a lot of stories. I can't really keep track of all of them, but you're right. Rush Limbaugh is part of it.

And he has been officially discharged from the Queens Medical Center, some good news for him. I was at the news conference before he was officially released. I have to say, he looked very good. He looked trim. He was very upbeat. He was in casual clothes, looking like he was going to return to his vacation, frankly.

And I think the -- he said that, in terms of medically, he had an angiogram yesterday. And he said that it really turned up nothing. The doctors really don't know what went wrong. It may have just been a spasm. But he said he is feeling better.

And I think the surest sign that he is sort of back on his feet and ready to get back on the radio was that he took a not-so-subtle swipe at the president, who is also vacationing here in Honolulu.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The treatment I received here was the best that the world has to offer. And I -- I -- based on what happened to me, I don't think there's one thing wrong with the American health care system. It's working just fine, just dandy.

And I got nothing special. I got no treatment other than what anybody else that would have called 911 and been brought in with the same kinds of symptoms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: I suspect that is a sign of Rush Limbaugh getting right back into thick of the health care debate and many other debates for his millions of listeners.

He said at the beginning of this news conference he would not take any questions, but I did ask him one that he answered about this report that paramedics were initially told by Rush Limbaugh when they picked him up on Wednesday afternoon that he was taking medication, painkillers, for back pain. And that is something he had been addicted to previously, had gotten into hot water over that. He told me he is not taking painkillers, but said he is taking something called Prednisone, which is a steroid, to deal with inflammation, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Ed, we both noticed he could not help but make that political statement about health care. Did he have any message for his listeners?

HENRY: He did.

He was talking, it was interesting, about how sort of scary it was for him in the first time when he felt these pains Wednesday afternoon. He was at a resort here on the island of Oahu. He said he had never experienced such heavy pain in his upper chest. And his message to people all around the country, around the world was, if you feel pain like that, get to a doctor right away.

Don't, in his words, tough it out. He noted that he is 58, about to turn 59, not getting any younger, trying to give I guess his listeners and others a little bit of medical advice, not something we normally hear from Rush Limbaugh.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: All right, thanks, Ed.

And, also, Speaker Pelosi is there in Hawaii, so, if she makes any news, please come back with us and let us know.

HENRY: It is one big happy family. We have got everybody here.

(LAUGHTER)

HENRY: You know, we had the Village People here last night. I mean, what other city in the world can bring together the Village People, Rush Limbaugh, the president of the United States, and Nancy Pelosi? A pretty motley crew here, Suzanne.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: There's a lot of news coming out of Honolulu now.

Thanks, Ed.

MALVEAUX: Well, foreign countries are among the big donors to Bill Clinton's foundation. Could there be a conflict of interests, however, because of his wife, her position being secretary of state?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, if you are a sports fan, imagine missing the last week of the NFL season or bowl games, or what if you are just a fan of "The Simpsons"?

Well, it could happen if a dispute between FOX and Time Warner Cable is not resolved. Negotiations are still going on, but it is already past a deadline that could end programming for millions of viewers.

Joining me now is CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti.

Where do the talks stand right now, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good question, because we have not heard much yet all day today, but tough times mean fewer advertising dollars, and that is why networks are looking for more ways to raise money, but will consumers pay the price?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWD: Three, two, one

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): When the new year rolled in, FOX TV shows did not fade to black on Time Warner Cable systems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It didn't go off at midnight. What happened?

CANDIOTTI: It is what millions of viewers may be wondering. As both corporations privately locked horns, a public tussle with each trying to score points with viewers. Time Warner Cable asking, should it roll over to FOX's demand for more money or get tough? FOX firing back with:

NARRATOR: TV without no FOX? Thanks a bundle, Time Warner Cable.

CANDIOTTI: Media experts doubt either company would dare pull the plug on tonight's Sugar Bowl.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I knew they would extend the deadline, because neither Time Warner nor FOX wanted to feel the wrath of millions of football fans.

CANDIOTTI: Like Florida Gator fan Dan Beiley, who heads an alumni club and who is eager to watch his team. He and hundreds of other alums will head to bars equipped with satellite TV to avoid missing the game.

DAN BEILEY, PRESIDENT, GOTHAM GATORS: I think it would put some people in tears if they were not able to watch the game.

CANDIOTTI: FOX is demanding Time Warner Cable pony up $1 per month for each of its 13 million subscribers for the right to carry its FOX broadcast channel featuring shows such as "The Simpsons," "House" and "American Idol," along with pro football.

KURTZ: If FOX succeeds in this attempt to pressure Time Warner and other cable systems into paying more for its programming, then the other networks are going to say, hey, we would like some of that, too.

CANDIOTTI: Senator John Kerry, who heads the Senate Communications Subcommittee, issued a statement urging both sides to keep talking: "I encourage a long-term mutually agreeable solution that does not strip consumers of programming unnecessarily."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: So, Susan, any idea when this is going to end, when this is going to resolved? Where are we with this?

CANDIOTTI: Well, we don't know. I mean, they kept on talking past midnight. That is the last we heard, each side putting out a statement saying we are still at it in Los Angeles. And that is all we know.

Frankly, most people agree that there will be a settlement, not a blackout, but, really, it is anyone's guess as to when. By the way, Suzanne, Time Warner Cable is -- is an independent operator. Last year, it parted ways with CNN's parent company, Time Warner.

MALVEAUX: OK, thank you, Susan. I know a lot of anxious people waiting to figure out what is going to happen there. Thank you very much, Susan.

CANDIOTTI: Sure.

Well, John King of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" made it his quest to visit all 50 states in 2009, telling stories of Americans outside Washington, D.C. He had to go pretty far in December, to Hawaii, where conventional energy is at a premium and alternatives are becoming a way of life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A light breakfast has long been part of Susan Chandler's morning routine, but the trip to the shed began just two months ago and still makes her a tad giddy. SUSAN CHANDLER, SOLAR PANEL USER: But then this is the one I like.

KING (on camera): CO-2 saved, 891. 7 pounds.

CHANDLER: Pounds, right.

KING: The box is linked to these rooftop solar panels. The hilltop location overlooking downtown Honolulu provides ample access to one of Hawaii's richest sources of alternative energy, the sun.

CHANDLER: First thing I did was change all my own light bulbs, and then I started tracking my energy bill. So I put up the panels. We've got terrific tax credits in the state, as well as the federal government, so it's not that expensive. And I'm into just saving energy.

KING: And into saving money.

(on camera): Roughly the same period last year, you were at $104.

(voice-over): Hawaii's electricity rates are the highest in the nation. To compare Chandler's costs from a year ago to now is to see a dramatic cut.

KING (on camera): It's down to $45.

(voice-over): A big financial plus on top of the satisfaction she gets from learning daily the environmental benefits of generating clean power.

CHANDLER: They have these cute little things about how I have saved as if I was planting four trees or not driving 415 miles. And -- and so you get to see each day what your energy production is. Why everybody doesn't do this I don't quite understand.

KING: As the climate change debate ripples in Washington and around the world, Hawaii is in the early stages of a dramatic energy evolution. At the moment, imported oil accounts for 90 percent of the state's energy needs, one reason power costs are so high. The state's ambitious goal is to generate 70 percent of its power from clean sources within 20 years, and it is looking everywhere, including at the breathtaking ocean that brings so many tourists to Hawaii's beaches.

TOM WILKOLAK, COO, HONOLULU SEAWATER AIR CONDITIONING: We take cold seawater from about -- we go out about 20,000 feet, about four miles. And that allows us to get to a depth of 1,750 feet.

KING: Tom Wilkolak is chief operating officer of Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning, a $200 million project slated to be online in two years and to use a loop of cold seawater to cool roughly 40 of the downtown's largest buildings.

(on camera): Any idea how many barrels of oil that ought to save?

WILKOLAK: About 178,000 barrels a year.

KING (voice-over): Wind is another ample resource, though many islanders bristled at the thought of blocking their majestic views. But objections to this 20-turbine wind farm in Maui diminished when oil was in the $150-a-barrel range a few years back.

NOE KALIPI, FIRST WIND: That was very helpful to everyone's understanding of how important clean energy is.

KING: These turbines use sensors to turn automatically into the shifting winds. And First Wind's Noe Kalipi says the 20 on this site power about 11,000 homes on Maui, roughly 10 percent of the island's needs.

KALIPI: I think they're a very important piece of the future. They're valid, tangible proof that we can harness robust renewable resources to be able to generate electricity for our use.

KING: A new energy source, but only a modest economic boost. About 200 jobs were created for construction, but this site has only seven full-time workers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can stop it and start it.

KING: A computer system in the base keeps track of the energy output, and a ladder takes you nearly 200 feet up to the turbine itself.

(on camera): How much electricity can this generate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 1.5 megawatts.

KING (voice-over): Just a few more steps, and it is out the hatch...

(on camera): Kind of pretty actually. If you look around, you get the water over here.

(voice-over): ... for a bird's-eye view of the wind at work, of Hawaii's energy evolution, and of its breathtaking landscape.

John King, CNN, Maui.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: An extraordinary custody fight between a woman who renounced her homosexuality and her former lesbian partner, how a young girl's future rests on the outcome.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Well, some fellow Democrats fear that the president has too much on his plate in 2010. How will he prioritize his long and difficult to-do list? A veteran lawmaker is offering some clues.

And two women married in a civil union now apart and fighting over custody of the daughter. The case is even more complicated because one of the women says she is not a lesbian anymore.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Happening now: The new year is just beginning, and the president's agenda is full -- one Senate veteran's advice on how to handle it all.

And concerns over a former president's charitable foundation, why close attention is being paid to some of those donors.

And a complicated custody dispute. A woman renounces her homosexuality and battles with her former partner over custody of their daughter.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Some unsolicited advice for President Obama by some: Enjoy the sun, surf and golf in Hawaii while you can. When he gets back to Washington here, he will find the weather here is not very welcoming.

And the political pressure on him may be getting even greater than when he left.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is with the president in Hawaii.

Obviously, a lot of things that he is paying attention to. This is no boondoggle. Hawaii has been very chockful of news and a lot of that he has got to deal with at home, Ed.

HENRY: That's absolutely right, Suzanne. This working vacation has really been more work and less vacation a reminder of the 24/7 nature of the presidency.

But, nevertheless, one of the president's good friends is urging him just to slow down a little bit in 2010.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY (voice-over): As the president rests up for his second year in office, one of his closest allies here in Hawaii is expressing concern about the pace of year one.

SEN. DANIEL INOUYE (D), HAWAII: I think he has done exceedingly well, although, as one who has been there for 50 years now, he is pushing himself too hard.

HENRY: The charge he has too much on the plate usually comes from Republicans. This time, it is Democrat Daniel Inouye, who speaks with authority after serving in the Senate with 10 presidents now. INOUYE: Five months ago, we were at some very informal gathering, and the president looked at me. He says, well, "Dan, how am I doing?"

And I had to tell him, "Mr. President, the campaign is over." I have yet to find any presidential candidate who carries out every political promise.

HENRY: In some ways, the first year has resembled a campaign, the president barnstorming the country to sell largest economic recovery and health care plans in history, all the while scoffing at the notion he's taking on too much, after inheriting two wars and a financial crisis.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would love if these problems were coming at us one at a time, instead of five or six at a time. It is more than most congresses and most presidents have to deal with in a lifetime. But we have to been called to govern in extraordinary times.

HENRY: Besides, he promised major change. And, after a historic victory and big Democratic majorities, there is something to be said for striking while the iron is hot.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: He came in with sky-high approval ratings. And if he was going to get something done, it was going to happen this year.

HENRY: Those approval ratings have come back down to earth. And on this Hawaiian vacation, the president has been trying to get some downtime, but the Christmas Day terror incident intervened, and now the president has added an overhaul of the intelligence community to his already-full agenda.

OBAMA: It's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date.

HENRY: This is why the old pro Daniel Inouye says 2010 will be all about resetting priorities.

INOUYE: The second year will be one where the first year will have to be clarified.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, White House aides have been saying that, in 2010, the president will really zero in on jobs, perhaps a sign that he has heard some of these concerns from Democrats about really sharpening the focus on the economy, while still tackling other challenges -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Ed, we know the president is going to be back at the White House on Tuesday, obviously to get more of a readout from his security team.

How do you -- what aides telling you about how this whole terrorist scare is going to affect his agenda going into the new year?

HENRY: Well, look, they realize that, you know, Democrats can talk about heading into these midterm elections and it being all about the economy. And that is certainly a major, major issue.

But, all of a sudden, terrorism, security is back in the forefront as well. And people, how they feel about their personal safety in an election year is just as important as the economy. And this White House knows that, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK, Ed Henry. Thank you very much, Ed.

On the first day of this year, the release of a donor list for former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation is sure to raise some eyebrows.

Why?

Because a number of donors on the list are foreign countries and his wife is secretary of State.

Our CNN's Brian Todd, he is back in THE SITUATION ROOM, obviously covering this story, as well.

Give us a sense of who's on the list and why it might be controversial.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, during her confirmation process, Suzanne, Hillary Clinton was pressed repeatedly on whether she'd have potential conflicts of interest as secretary of State because of donations to her husband's foundation. Well, today, the Clinton Foundation, which tries to eradicate disease and poverty, made public a list of people who have donated since she took office.

The foreign entities worth mentioning on this list, the governments of Oman and Norway gave a lot of money. The foundation says in 2009 and in previous years, Norway gave between $10 million and $25 million to the Foundation; the sultanate of Oman gave between $1 million and $5 million over that same period, as did two wealthy Saudi businessmen.

Other contributors that you might want to note here, major firms that were bailed out by the U.S. Government. Bank of America gave this year; AIG and Citigroup, plus Freddie Mac and General Motors, also have given to the Foundation, but not this year, Suzanne.

So those are just some of the notables.

MALVEAUX: Are there some that are surprising from years past that have given?

TODD: There's at least one that's very surprising. I don't know if you'll remember this man, Richard Scaife. He gave between $100,000 and $250,000. Nothing this year, but he gave that amount in previous years. Some of our viewers may remember him as the financier who bankrolled those anti-Clinton investigations in the 1990s -- all of those -- while they were in power. So surprising that he gave quite a lot of money.

MALVEAUX: OK, Brian.

Thank you very much.

TODD: Sure.

MALVEAUX: Well, police are just now getting involved in search for a Virginia woman who defied a court order in a bitter custody battle over a 7-year-old child. In this particular case, both parents are women.

Our CNN's Mary Snow is joining us -- and, Mary, bring us up to date on this case.

What's this about?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, today was supposed to mark the end of a bitter and complex custody battle pitting mother against mother. But a Virginia woman failed to hand over custody of the 7-year-old girl to her former lesbian partner.

Police in Virginia tell the Associated Press she could now face parental abduction charges.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: (voice-over): The bitter custody battle stems back to Vermont, where Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller were married in a civil union in 2000. Miller then became pregnant with her daughter Isabella through artificial insemination.

But by 2003, the couple split. Vermont ordered shared custody, but Miller took the child to Virginia, where same-sex unions aren't recognized. She became an Evangelical Christian and denounced her homosexuality.

In 2005, both women spoke to CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 2005)

LISA MILLER, MOTHER IN CUSTODY BATTLE: I wanted a clean slate. And the only way I could do that was to totally separatize, where there would be no ties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM 2005)

JANET JENKINS, MOTHER IN CUSTODY BATTLE: This would not be happening if this were a heterosexual marriage with a divorce and custody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: There were years of court battles. Ultimately, the Supreme Courts of both states recognized Vermont's ruling that Jenkins is an equal parent and deserves visitation rights. The decision, say legal experts, is one of the first of its kind.

CATHERINE ROSS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: It now makes very clear in a very visible way that same-sex parents are like other parents, that children have a right to the parents who have raised them.

SNOW: A family court judge in Vermont found Miller in contempt of court for not allowing Jenkins visitation rights. He ordered Miller to transfer custody of Isabella, now seven, to Jenkins and noted that Miller's whereabouts were unknown. The hand over was set to take place at 1:00 p.m. at this home in Falls Church, Virginia, but nothing happened and Jenkins has now reached out to police.

We reached one of her attorneys by phone.

JENNIFER LEVI, LAWYER FOR JANET JENKINS: This is a really tragic case. I think that Janet is really appealing to the public at this point to help find her daughter. She's worried -- very worried about her safety.

SNOW: We reached out to attorneys for Lisa Miller, but did not receive a response. We were told Miller's attorneys were on vacation. But the Family Foundation of Virginia, a conservative group working to ban same-sex marriage, has supported Miller's cause and had this reaction to her failure to hand over her daughter.

VICTORIA COBB, VIRGINIA FAMILY FOUNDATION: This is not the first time in a custody case where we've seen someone disappear with their child trying to protect them from what they know -- they feel is not a good situation.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: Now legal experts we spoke with say it's likely that a Vermont judge would issue another contempt order. They also say, Suzanne, that Lisa Miller could face jail time -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Interesting case.

Thank you, Mary.

Well, who will be the biggest political winners and losers in 2010?

I'll ask the best political team on television.

They are standing by with their new year predictions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Brianna Keilar is monitoring some of the other top stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

What are you working on -- Brianna? KEILAR: Well, Suzanne, former hostage Peter Moore, he returned home to Britain today after more than two-and-a-half years in captivity in Iraq. He's believed to be the only survivor of a kidnapping in Baghdad in 2007. Britain's foreign secretary said no deal was made to secure Moore's release, but it did coincide with the transfer of the leader of the militant group behind the kidnapping from U.S. to Iraqi government custody.

The pope is urging peace with the environment in his World Peace Day message. He says peace with the natural environment is the beginning of peace with all of God's creations, including people. This address comes a week after a woman knocked him down during the Christmas Eve mass. He was, thankfully, unhurt.

After 34 years on the job, Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden is going out a winner. His Seminoles beat West Virginia's Mountaineers 33-21 in today's Gator Bowl. Thousands of fans greeted Bowden as he arrived at the stadium. The 80-year-old announced his retirement December 1st. He is the second winningest coach in major college football. The Bowl match-up was fitting. Bowden began his career at West Virginia.

Thousands of people lined up for a view of the nation's biggest New Year's Day celebration, the Tournament of Roses Parade. People started camping out the day before for prime spots to see the marching bands and flower-covered floats. Chesley Sullenberger, that pollute who landed the stricken U.S. Airways plane on New York's Hudson River, led the parade. This year's theme was "a cut above the rest," which he certainly is.

You've got to love it. And I love that parade. I used to -- you know, I -- I grew up in Southern California. I used to think it was too cold to wait for -- in the -- in, you know, wait out to -- to get a seat for it. Little did I know.

MALVEAUX: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Thanks.

Good to see you.

Erica Hill is here with a preview of "CNN TONIGHT" -- hey, Erica, what are you working on?

ERICA HILL, HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": Suzanne, thanks.

We'll have plenty of politics. But also coming up at the top of the hour, for a lot of people, this is one the biggest days in college football. There is, of course, the Rose Bowl. Bowl games bringing in the New Year all across the country.

For the schools involved, though, getting into one of those games actually has a lot more to do -- a lot more going for it than just school pride. There is an enormous amount of money at stake here. We're talking millions of dollars. So we wanted to know where all that cash actually goes.

Join us for that and much more coming up at the top of the hour.

And Happy New Year -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Happy New Year to you, too, Erica.

Thanks.

Well, what political surprises does 2010 have in store?

The best political team is here with their New Year predictions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: So what will be the biggest political surprise in 2010?

Let's ask the best political team on television -- our CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; former Republican Congressman Tom Davis; Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee; and CNN Congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

First of all, Happy New Year to everybody.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Happy New Year.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Happy New Year.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: And welcome here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right, biggest political surprise for this year, 2010 -- Gloria, what do you think?

BORGER: Well, I -- I think it's going to be very interesting to watch President Obama. He, after the midterm elections, where he's going to lose a bunch of seats in the House, as well as in the Senate, he's going to kind of morph into Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan lost a lot of seats in his first midterm election, decided he had to work with Democrats and actually got a lot done.

The same, by the way, happened with Bill Clinton.

So I think. You're going to see some Reagan and some Bill Clinton, also, in Barack Obama. It will be good for him -- more bipartisan.

MALVEAUX: OK. More bipartisan.

Congressman?

TOM DAVIS, FORMER REPUBLICAN HOUSE MEMBER: Well, I think the Democrats are going to take a larger hit than they anticipate in both the House and the Senate. If you look at the last two cycles where one party has controlled Congress and the presidency, the hits have been big. In 1994, both houses switched.

In 2006, both houses switched.

The Senate is a steep climb for Republicans this time...

BORGER: Yes.

DAVIS: ...given who's up. But I think they could win six or seven seats easily and 30 -- and maybe even take the House. It's going to be a big year for the Republicans, given the dynamics of an angry electorate focusing on the people who control power right now.

MALVEAUX: OK. A big year for Republicans.

Mo?

MO ELLEITHEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm going to go bold here.

MALVEAUX: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLEITHEE: Democrats are going to win the Texas governor's seat and here's why...

MALVEAUX: Really?

KEILAR: A silver lining.

ELLEITHEE: Well, this is a race that hasn't been on anyone's radar screen except for the fact that there's a really hot and gearing up to be nasty Republican primary between the incumbent governor, Rick Perry, and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

I think Governor Perry is going to hold on and win that primary. But he's going to come out bloodied. And he's a guy that the Democrats can beat. We were lucky in our recruiting in that we got Houston mayor, Bill White, into this race. He's a very strong candidate. This is a race to watch.

MALVEAUX: Brianna?

KEILAR: I'm really looking to see how some ethics and corruption-related issues affect House Democrats in this election year. You've got Charlie Rangel, the chairman of the tax-writing committee, who admittedly did not pay taxes on the earnings he got from a vacation rental property.

You have John Murtha, who heads up the subcommittee that deals with the Defense Department budget. There are some questions the Justice Department has about whether he steered some federal dollars toward defense contractors for campaign contributions.

And this is going to be a big deal, depending on how it plays out, for House Democrats. They promised to drain the swamp. They hit Republicans very hard when they had corruption-related and ethics issues. And if this turns out badly for them, it could play a very big part come November.

MALVEAUX: What do you think about Ensign?

KEILAR: And Senator John Ensign, yes, the big issue there being that he had an affair with his former chief of staff's wife and then his chief of staff. You know, is there a question of whether he got a lobbying job for his chief of staff, whether his chief of staff, his former chief of staff actually lobbied him directly, which is a violation of the law.

And so that's really an issue, to see how that plays out for a rising star in the Republican -- or a former rising star in the Republican Party.

But I think for House Democrats, it's -- it's much more of a systemic issue.

MALVEAUX: Big surprise, for me, I think Sarah Palin is not going to go rogue. I think she's going to go mainstream. I think she is going to announce that she is not going to make a run for the White House. She's going to continue making money off of her books and tour. And, you know, who knows, maybe she'll do -- fill Oprah's seat. You know, that will be the biggest surprise. We'll see. We'll see what happens with her.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: ...that she has a talk show.

What do you think?

KEILAR: I -- I wouldn't be surprised at all.

DAVIS: She is a hot commodity right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Well, in a...

DAVIS: Less as a...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: ...in a Republican...

DAVIS: Less as a candidate.

BORGER: In a Republican...

DAVIS: Less as a candidate to...

BORGER: ...Party that, you would have to admit, they're going to do really well in the midterms.

But there is a leadership vacuum, wouldn't you say?

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: What do you think, though, Congressman?

I mean if she doesn't run, is that going to be good or bad the Republicans?

DAVIS: Well, I think it can be good. And she'll still be a factor. She'll still have a strong constituency behind her. She'll still draw crowds, raise a lot of money and she's going to be a player. It's just a question, does she want to make some money and have a life or does she want to stay in -- in politics, where I think it's unlikely she gets nominated.

BORGER: I still want to know who breaks out of the pack in the Republican Party?

DAVIS: A long way to go. I think we have some new faces that will come on. I think the midterms, you've got John Kasich in Ohio. You've got other...

BORGER: You do?

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: Well, he's in now. He's -- he's -- he -- you know...

ELLEITHEE: But...

DAVIS: ...he took a hiatus.

ELLEITHEE: But Republicans still have a problem in that they still don't have a leader. They still don't have a voice within the ranks of the Republican Party that people can look to and know who that is. Right now, it is the talk show hosts. It is Rush Limbaugh. It is Glenn Beck. And who knows, maybe it will be Sarah Palin.

MALVEAUX: All right, you guys. Hold on.

We're going to get right back after this break.

I want you all to stand by.

When we come back, we're going to get your predictions for the biggest winners and losers of 2010.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: So who will be the biggest political winners and losers in 2010?

We're back with the best political team on television -- Gloria Borger, Tom David, Mo Elleithee and Brianna Keilar.

I want to start off with you -- Gloria.

Give us one of the biggest winners. BORGER: I think Hillary Clinton. I think she -- she was a winner last year. I think she's going to be a winner this year. She's really made her mark in the cabinet. I think she had made herself indispensable to this president and I think he values her advice, just as he values the advice of his Defense secretary, Gates.

She and Gates have become quite a foreign policy behemoth in the administration and I think they'll continue to be so.

MALVEAUX: Congressman?

DAVIS: I think John Kasich will be the next governor of Ohio. He's one of the most gifted political leaders I've seen...

MALVEAUX: No, this is a loser -- the biggest loser.

DAVIS: Oh, you want one -- well, John will be a winner.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: The losers, I think, are going to be Arlen Specter and Parker Griffith. Each switched parties. Parker Griffith in Alabama switched from Democrat to Republican. I think he loses the primary. And I think Arlen Specter loses the Democratic primary for the Senate in Pennsylvania.

MALVEAUX: Mo, give us the biggest winner -- a winner.

ELLEITHEE: I think we've got -- you know, if the Congressman is right from the previous round in that we -- the Democrats lose a bunch of seats in the Congress, I think one bright spot for us is out in the states in the governors' races. And Governor Jack Markell, the new chair of the Democratic Governors Association, has some real opportunities here.

If you look at the map, we've got a chance to win over governors races in California, in Florida. We already talked about Texas. There are some real pickup opportunities out West, in Arizona and Nevada and Hawaii and in New England...

MALVEAUX: (INAUDIBLE) governor of Delaware, you mentioned.

ELLEITHEE: Yes. I'm sorry.

MALVEAUX: Yes.

ELLEITHEE: The governor of Delaware, who is now chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

So we've got some real opportunities. There's a chance that after election day 2010, more Americans are governed by Democrats than Republicans. That would be a change.

MALVEAUX: Congressman, what do you think of that, real quick there? DAVIS: It's a long way to go. State elections run on a different cycle than federal elections -- a little different atmospherics. But the voter anger, I think, is going to be directed against Democrats and that could have some effect on the governors' elections.

But I think Mo is right, that's still up in the air and that's going to -- going to be defined.

MALVEAUX: Brianna, give me one of your biggest losers.

KEILAR: I think -- I'm thinking liberal Democrats could really be the biggest losers when it comes to the issues that really matter to them. On health care, the writing is on the wall. You know, they could only get a watered down version of the government-run insurance plan, the public option, through the House. The Senate couldn't pass any kind of the public option.

So that tells you that, in the end, likely what President Obama would sign into law is not going to include a public option.

And then there's the issue of Afghanistan -- President Obama's plan to surge the troops there. And you have liberal Democrats who are so opposed to this. And they'll tell you that in one breath and then in the next, they'll tell you that it's likely the president is going to get what he wants.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: Mo, what do you think of that?

ELLEITHEE: Well, look, you know, we -- we've all said that, you know, there's a long way to go here and things could look very different a year from now. I think. You're going to see the president's popularity go up and down over the next year. I think if the economic indicators continue to get better, if health care passes, if a number of things go our way, things aren't going to look as bad for Democrats a year from now as they do today.

And who would have thought a year ago that things would look as good for Republicans as they do today?

BORGER: Not the Republicans.

ELLEITHEE: So -- not the Republicans.

BORGER: That's right.

MALVEAUX: Definitely.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLEITHEE: It's going to be very volatile.

DAVIS: The surge...

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: ...surge voters are asleep right now. And I think what's most likely to wake them up are Republicans overreacting. I think traditionally voters will react to something negative like that. I think that Obama and the Democrats are going to try to keep them awake. But I think the Republicans have to be careful that they don't awaken and it's a sleeping giant.

MALVEAUX: I think one of the biggest losers is going to be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president. I think that he's facing a lot of pressure from both sides. Obviously, the Obama administration, that is ready to launch at least some kind of sanctions, even if it's not through the U.N. Security Council, targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

And then the protests that you see on the streets. There really does seem to be a groundswell -- a movement, if you will -- that he has got to get -- get a hold of in some way.

I think another losing -- big loser that's going to be, is the democratic process, when you take a look at the elections in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, which, to a lot of people, look like a joke; and Ahmadinejad's election as well; that there's going to be some real changes that people are going to be looking for.

BORGER: Again, I'd go back to my biggest winner, Hillary Clinton, here because, you know, if the world changes in Iran in a way we might like, this is also something she can use, particularly as a woman, because women have been so vocal against Ahmadinejad in -- in Iran, I think this is the way that Hillary Clinton can flex her muscle.

MALVEAUX: All right. Happy New Year to all of you.

Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: I hope we'll all be winners this year.

KEILAR: Yes.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks again.

ELLEITHEE: Thanks.

MALVEAUX: Our CNN's Jeanne Moos has made us think and laugh with a year full of Moost Unusual reports. Well, we've chosen our favorite. Wait until you see what it is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Here's a look at Hot Shots.

In Hong Kong, chaos and confusion take place, as pro-democracy protesters -- protests try to cross a police line. In Pakistan, members of a civil society club sing songs to rally against terrorism.

In Germany, in 39 degree water, this man takes a swim in the North Sea during the annual new year swim event.

And in England, a man and his dog go for a walk in heavy snow.

Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Well, we combed through the archives looking for our favorite Moost Unusual moments of 2009. And after much debate and deliberation, we concluded there's no better way to start off 2010 than with Jeanne's 2009 classic. That is the "keyboard cat" and a YouTube sensation and Internet sensation.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE Democratic Governors Association, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): This kind of keyboard meets this kind of keyboard...

(VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: ...to produce the latest Web sensation. The "keyboard cat" has become a recurring theme...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

BILL O'REILLY: Do it live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: ...tagged onto the end of some of the web's classic videos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

O'REILLY: (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE). They suck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: Be it Bill O'Reilly's rants or a break dancer who kicks a kid.

(VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: ...or the TV salesman whose ladder collapses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So really, you think...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh, Harold.

Are you OK? (END VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: The videos tend to be captioned, "play 'em off, "keyboard cat"."

(on camera): How is the cat?

CHARLIE SCHMIDT, OWNER, "KEYBOARD CAT": The cat, actually, unfortunately, is dead.

Democratic Governors Association (voice-over): Charlie Schmidt is an artist and inventor from Spokane, Washington. He videotaped his cat, Fatso, 20 years ago. Suddenly, people are taking his cat video and adding it to other videos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

Democratic Governors Association: Tagging videos with the "keyboard cat" somehow highlights their absurdity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to sit down?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: For instance, a guest fainting on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be back. We'll be back in just a second.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: Charlie thinks the "keyboard cat" works especially well with news video.

SCHMIDT: That's what the news is. It's sort of a frame for weird behavior.

Democratic Governors Association: Like a car chase.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my goodness.

Democratic Governors Association: "Keyboard cat" could replace news anchors.

SCHMIDT: We don't need these guys necessarily. Don't tell Wolf I said that, though.

Democratic Governors Association: We added a cat to this one ourselves.

(on camera): In case you're wondering how he did it, Charlie, dressed his cat, Fatso, in an infant t-shirt then manipulated the cat's paws with his own hands under the t-shirt.

(voice-over): Actually, there's a cat that really does play the piano -- sort of. But the "keyboard cat" isn't really playing.

Who says cats and dogs don't get along?

(VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: It's easy to make CNN "keyboard cat" moments.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, nice melons behind you there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're yours.

Democratic Governors Association: We asked Charlie for his favorite "keyboard cat" video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM YOUTUBE.COM)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: South Africa and Iraq, everywhere, like, such as.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Democratic Governors Association: Sometimes a cat should get your tongue.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

Wolf Blitzer returns to THE SITUATION ROOM Monday.

In the meantime, Happy New Year.

Up next, "CNN TONIGHT."