Return to Transcripts main page


Covering the Preparations and Events Surrounding the Presidential Inauguration; Looking at Past Inaugurations

Aired January 20, 2013 - 18:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from Washington. I'm John King reporting live from the National Mall.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are going to join the ones you see here gathering to watch President Barack Obama to take the ceremonial oath of office.

KING: And, Erin, you see, some feisty folks out in the mall tonight celebrating. But the big public events are tomorrow. The president, though, officially began his second term at noon today, six hours ago, on this, January 20th, as required, of course, by the United States Constitution. Chief justice John Roberts administered the oath at the White House.


JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear --

ROBERTS: -- that I will faithfully execute --

OBAMA: -- that I will faithfully execute --

ROBERTS: -- the office of president of the United States --

OBAMA: -- the office of president of the United States --

ROBERTS: -- and will to the best of my ability --

OBAMA: -- and will to the best of my ability --

ROBERTS: -- preserve, protect and defend --

OBAMA: -- preserve, protect and defend --

ROBERTS: -- the Constitution of the United States.

OBAMA: -- the Constitution of the United States.

ROBERTS: So help you God?

OBAMA: So help me God.

ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Thank, Mr. Chief Justice. Thank you so much.



BURNETT: And there you have it. And in less than a minute, the second term was underway.

Tomorrow, he's going to do it again in front of the Capitol for all to see. And that will be followed by the familiar inaugural parade up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

I have to say, John. I really like how they coordinated their clothes today.

KING: They did coordinate their clothes.

BURNETT: They did. The tie was good.

KING: And they got the oath right.

BURNETT: Which was a change from last time around.

KING: They didn't have to redo the oath today.

Now, of course, into the evening hours attention turning to events scheduled all across the nation's capital tomorrow and, of course, big questions about what the president will say to set the policy agenda and the tone in his inaugural speech.

Let's go to the White House. CNN's Dan Lothian is standing by.

Dan, what do we know about the speech and what the president wants to tell the American people?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, what we're told by those familiar with the president's remarks that this will not be a policy speech but rather he will make it sort of a hopeful plea, talk about the reality that here in Washington you can't settle every debate, but that you can look for areas of common ground.

And this is a big difference from 2009 when the president came into office, talking about changing the way that Washington works and ran into the reality up on Capitol Hill. So he'll touch on that, touch on some of the challenges that the country faces as he moves forward on some key issues such as gun control, immigration reform, tries to deal with the debt ceiling. And, finally, we're told that the president will push to get the public engaged, engaged in their community, engaged in the issues to put pressure on Congress to move the president's initiatives forward, John.

This is seen as sort of the stage one or the act one, part two will be the president's State of the Union Address where he'll add more details to his proposals.

KING: You split it into acts there, Dan, appropriate, because we saw the president today, the swearing-in ceremony. But because this is a Sunday, we saw him only briefly in the Blue Room. How has he been spending the rest of the day, and what are his plans for this evening?

LOTHIAN: Well, this evening within this hour, the president will be heading to the building museum for a candlelight reception there. He will be making remarks, but much of the day, you know, was quite busy earlier in the day, then had some down time.

The president's still working on his speech. We're told that he's in the final stages. He did a lot of it on his own, longhand on those yellow pads. He does have speechwriters working with him as well, and we're told that the president will be making some tweaks right up until the last minute.

Perhaps the president also took in some football. I did reach out to an adviser. He did not have any details on that, whether he watched it or got an update on it. We know the president is a big sports fan, and I'm sure he's quite aware of what's going on.

KING: Dan Lothian at the White House.

BURNETT: Really?

KING: There's football today.

BURNETT: Wow, really?

KING: Football.


KING: Yes. Uh-huh. You're rooting for the right team in the late game, right?

BURNETT: Of course I am, the team that will emerge victorious, yes, the Ravens.

KING: The 49ers just won. So our fans in Atlanta are a little disappointed by that. One little editorial comment?


KING: Go Patriots.

BURNETT: Ad he adores those Patriots. We'll see. That's going to be a big fight going on on this set tonight.

The inauguration is the hottest ticket in town at least tomorrow. Obviously, this game will win out tonight. But not for everybody.

Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us.

And, Dana, so, who is planning to be there and who isn't? Which I know is a political statement in a political town.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, what's really fascinating is that they built this platform, that took three and a half months to build. Sixteen hundred seats are available on the platform.

It is tradition for the Supreme Court justices to be there. They will be there for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be there. They will be there, and for governors, senators and lawmakers as well as, of course, members of the president and vice president's family. For the most part, we do expect lawmakers to be there. One thing that we were sort of looking at is whether House Republicans are going to come.

Deirdre Walsh, our House producer, was at the Republican retreat this week, last week, I guess at this point. And she heard several members saying, you know, it's a long weekend, a holiday weekend. I'm going to go home. They didn't feel compelled to be here necessarily. So, we're going to be watching to see that.

Look, I mean, this is traditionally a nonpartisan event. I don't even say bipartisan -- nonpartisan event. This is a tribute to the system working.

So it is a second inaugural, but still, there is a symbol in people going and not going.

BURNETT: Well, you know, on "OUTFRONT", when you say that, recent tradition, at least, right, the person who lost the election is supposed to be there. That would be Mitt Romney.

BASH: Yes.


BASH: He's not going to be there. I just checked before coming on to double check with a source close to Romney who says that he, as far as they know, he didn't get an invitation. That he wasn't invited.

You know, we're not -- we haven't had time to check that with the White House, but I think what we have been used to seeing are the rivals of presidents coming because they have positions of power that cause them to be here. For example, John McCain is a senator. John Kerry who lost to George Bush is a senator. Al Gore who lost, remember that just a little bit in 2000, he was the vice president, so he had to be there.

And one other interesting note is that, speaking of Bush, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, father and son, neither will be here. George 41, the older, was in the hospital. He was just released. The younger said that he is not coming because he wants to be with his father.

But we know, covering George Bush, he likes to stay low-key, and this is not the kind of thing that he likes to come to for lots of reasons. Last time, he was here when he was departing the White House, it was mixed when you look at the public perception and the public reaction to it. But I think that, you know, he likes to sort of stay out of the limelight, stay out of the way, even at traditional events like this.

BURNETT: All right.

KING: Think about it. George H.W. Bush was here for both Reagan inaugurals, then his own inaugural, Bill Clinton's inaugural. I'm not sure we had a Bush at the second inaugural. Both Jeb and George W. were governors. I'm not sure if they were.

But, then, of course, the president. The Bush name has been around a lot.

BURNETT: Since 1997.

KING: And that Clinton name.

BURNETT: That Clinton name, yes. Who says we don't have dynasties in American politics?

All right. Up next, a look at what's to come over the president's next four years from a woman who was one of his closest advisors during his first term.


KING: This hour four years ago, Melody Barnes was six hours into her new job as the president's top domestic policy adviser. Well, she left the Obama White House about a year ago. She's with us now on Inauguration Day here on the National Mall.

Melody, four years ago, it was history. It was hope. It was change.

As this president begins the second term, still a sluggish economy, a very polarized political environment, what is the number one challenge as he prepares to address the American people tomorrow?

MELODY BARNES, FORMER DOMESTIC POLICY ADVISER TO PRES. OBAMA: Well, I still think it is about the hope of the American people, and it is still historic, the second inauguration of this president. But at the same time, obviously, it's going to be working with Congress to get the economy moving, moving forward in terms of the big initiatives that the president considers to be so important with regard to immigration reform, implementation of health care reform and making sure that everybody has an opportunity, has a shot at the American Dream.

KING: You mentioned health care reform. You know, Republicans would say he did that first last time. He got in our face. That ruined the environment.

I know each side blames the other side. I don't want to revisit history.

But as the president picks his order this time, Republicans have, for example, shown a willingness to work on immigration. Should he do immigration before gun control, try to cooperate before confrontation?

BARNES: Well, I think the president is going to move forward and see this as a walk and chew gum moment. He's going to do the things that are so necessary for both the American economy and the American people. And the decision to move forward with gun control obviously comes out of the tragedy that took place in Newtown, but also because of the many, many tragedies that have taken place in communities around the country.

And, obviously, the issue with regard to immigration reform is one of moving our economy forward as well as the moral issues that surround ensuring that we've got high-skilled immigration, but we also are moving people out of the shadows into American civic society.

BURNETT: What about the cabinet? You were -- obviously you're a female, you're African-American, right?


BURNETT: You've obviously been looking at this, and you know him very well personally. One thing that has stood out so far is the sort of power positions have all gone to white men, Defense, Treasury, State. They're all going to white men.

So, is this -- is he going to put women in other positions? And what's it going to take to get a woman in one of those big power spots?

BARNES: Well, I think we're going to have to look at the picture as a whole when the president is done. I mean, having served this president, knowing the women who have served him who are still there today, these are extremely influential, powerful women with a strong voice with regard to what's going on on a day-to-day basis. But we can't make a decision and a determination until the full picture comes to be.

And I would also say that when you look at the issues, homeland security, Janet Napolitano; making sure health care reform is implemented, Kathleen Sebelius. The list goes on. There are very, very smart, very influential women already in his cabinet and I know are going to be there.

KING: The second term is when that "L" word, legacy, comes into play. You're a veteran of this White House and also a veteran of working in the Capitol building behind us for Senator Kennedy and others.

Has this president had a conversation with his team where he says we must establish my legacy as or is that just a word that presidents avoid? BARNES: No, he comes to work every day thinking about what has to be done to ensure the security of the American people and to ensure the opportunity for all American people. So his decisions about what to tackle, how to tackle it, what's important really are rooted in those kinds of thoughts. It's not about legacy.

Legacy will be determined by historians and others in the years to come. He's trying to get the job done right now.

BURNETT: OK. Melody, thanks very much. We appreciate it. Good to see you.

BARNES: It's good to see you, too. It's a pleasure. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. The focus this weekend, the entire focus here, has been on the inauguration, of course. Your town has been overrun, John.

KING: My town. It's not your town?

BURNETT: I guess it's kind of my town, too. I grew up near here.

KING: New York, you know, it's the same country. We're all Americans tonight, Erin.

But, of course, it is the next four years the president is thinking about tonight. The problems, potential pitfalls and how to bring together a country and a Congress that, as we were just discussing, at times is deeply, deeply divided. We'll talk about that next.


BURNETT: President Obama today has been sharing the spotlight with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just before the president's swearing-in, President Obama and his family attended a church service celebrating King and his legacy. And tomorrow's swearing-in coincides, of course, with the national observed holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader.

When President Obama takes the oath of office, he will use a Bible that belonged to Dr. King. Also today, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden honored the nation's fallen soldiers during a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. This is an Inauguration Day tradition which took place shortly after the vice president was sworn for his second term, which, of course, John, also happened this morning.

KING: And with the beginning of that, we're now six hours, 15 minutes, 17 minutes to be exact into term two. Change has come for the new administration, a newly shuffled cabinet, headless al Qaeda overseas, but some trouble in North Africa at the moment, suddenly touchy subject of gun reform coloring nearly every page of the domestic agenda.

We're here to discuss the second term with Gloria Borger, John Avlon, and David Gergen. David, let me start with you. As a veteran of both Republican and Democratic White Houses, we've watched the Republicans blame the president for the poisoned environment. The president and the Democrats blame the Republicans.

He's the president, the singular leader. No matter who's to blame or how they share the blame, what does he need to do out of the box to say, let's try to make these four years different?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a hard question, John. I think he's got to make a choice.

I thought he would start off in a much more bipartisan way, the way he did last time. But he used the transition, of course, to issue some rather harsh attacks on Republicans. And the question tomorrow is, which way is he going to choose for the future? Is he going to go back to the bipartisanship, or is he going to give a kind of speech that Franklin Roosevelt did which he has studied for his second inaugural which was a pretty tough speech.

KING: And what's the first test in your view, John? Whether the president -- he'll talk bipartisanship tomorrow, but will he act bipartisan?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, it's fascinating because some of the proposals he's made that have already come under fire, for example, reporting Republican Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense has not gone over well with Republicans, especially the neoconservative crowd. So that outreach which traditionally would be bridge-building, has actually in this environment created a lot of blowback.

And the question is whether policy moves like immigration reform. Can they really cobble together any kind of bipartisan coalition? Bush backed it, but will the mere fact that President Obama is pushing now means that Republicans support it?

BURNETT: As John pointed a moment ago when we're talking with Melody Barnes, does he pick gun control or immigration? Gun control being an issue that's highly polarized. You have a lot of trouble in the House. Immigration where you've got Marco Rubio actually putting ideas out that kind of jibe with the president.

So, could he do immigration and be bipartisan?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the thing about immigration is that all Democrats are united on it. The thing about gun control is that this president has a problem in his own party on what to do.


BORGER: So, if I were advising the White House -- and I don't, but I talk to people who do work there -- I think they're looking at immigration sort of as a big early issue that they can get done.

I think they want to do gun control. And I think a lot of them expect that they won't end up with everything they want, but they might end up with closing the gun show loophole, that kind of thing, universal background checks.

But this is a president who understands that the Republican Party is unpopular right now. A recent poll had them at 25 percent or 26 percent, but he also has problems with his party. So he wants to divide them, move some of them over with the Democrats, see what he can get there.

GERGEN: Yes, I think that the easiest thing to break off would probably be a piece of gun control. That would be the background check, which gets 70 percent to 80 percent. Go ahead and get your victory and then leave it to the longer process to get the rest of it.

BURNETT: So forget the assault weapons ban?

GERGEN: Get a victory going early and get something going on a bipartisan basis because otherwise very quickly, you're going to run into all these budget fights, which is very, very divisive.

AVLON: That's right. And don't forget about that. I mean, we have the debt ceiling vote, whether it's coming at the end of February or three months later, that's looming. It's a major issue. It's non- optional.

And as David said, something like universal background checks, "Washington Post" poll showed 89 percent Republicans support for. Now, it won't translate into that level of support in Congress.

KING: We're talking about domestic issues. And, clearly, the president wants that to be his focus. He'd like to have a more robust recovery than the first term.

But again, we're often surprised. Events overseas can capture the attention. The president wants to look east, more to Asia and to China, but he's got a Middle East right now and North Africa that is unpredictable if not worse.

How much, David, do you see the world intervening in the second term?

GERGEN: A lot. And historically, it's intervened more and more partly because presidents have also sort of invited that.


GERGEN: As domestic power has wound down, they've turned to the international side.

But here, you know, suddenly, North Africa seems explosive. And I don't think the president, as much as he wants to pivot, I just don't think he can move away from it.

It's not just Benghazi. You know, it's Algeria, it's what's going on in Egypt, what's going on with Netanyahu, probably going to have a new government. You've got the Iranian issue looming, as you talked earlier today. BORGER: He can't avoid, he can't avoid it. But as you point out, second-term presidents often look abroad for --


BORGER: -- to establish a part of their legacy because after a couple of years, Congress doesn't really care about you. You become a lame duck. You don't have enough -- you don't have as much power as you once used to have.

So, he's got a small window here on domestic policy. So if he gets gun control or some part of it, he gets immigration reform, he did health care last time. You could argue that that's a pretty transformative presidency. You might.

AVLON: And, you know, the question I think a lot of people have been looking for is does he try to pull a Nixon and China on entitlement reform? Not in the inaugural address, but in the State of the Union. There is that opportunity there.

But with regard to North Africa and Mali, Erin, you've been there "OUTFRONT" on that reporting. This is not optional. The other shoe of the Arab spring is dropping, in real time, and this administration is going to have to respond.

BURENTT: All right. Thanks very much to all three of you. And that a big issue, as you have defense secretaries switching and maybe the view switching, that there's a little bit of a gap and a black hole right now on dealing with some of those issues.

KING: I thought our colleague Fareed Zakaria wrote how two Vietnam veterans, John Kerry at State Department and Chuck Hagel at Defense, two guys who are very, very wary of projecting U.S. force overseas, taking power at a time, as John just noted, the president has no choice here. It may be a smaller al Qaeda or a smaller terrorist threat, but it's bubbling up and it's unpredictable and in some ways harder to manage.

BURNETT: And you know what? Every single player I've talked, from generals that worked with the ECOWAS forces, the African Union, to the French, they -- even in the administration, they all believe that the United States will have to do more. France will not be able to solve this on their own. So, this will be a big test.

Well, no inauguration is complete without a speech, of course. So what will the president address in his? We're going to ask two of his former campaign press secretaries.


KING: The second Obama term started at just before noon today. But the president's big inaugural address is, of course, tomorrow.

Here with us now, two former Obama campaign press secretaries from 2008 and last year, Bill Burton and Jen Psaki.

So, help us. Take us inside the president's challenge. Jen, let's start with you, ladies first.


KING: After the 2008 election, the entire country had this history before us. There was this hopeful moment. We're in a very polarized town right now.

What's the challenge for the president?

PSAKI: Well, one advantage, let me start with that, is, you know, coming out of election night or actually on election night, the president was really reflective on the fact that it felt sweeter. You know, he had to work harder for it. It was -- you know, nobody knew what was going to happen the day before even though we felt good.

And that gave him some real confidence going into his second term. But definitely, we're not facing an economic crisis, so that's an advantage. However, the country is divided. He knows he has to be creative about his path forward and if he wants to get things like immigration and gun control legislation reform done, he's got to figure out how to find coalitions and how to do it in a creative way.

BURNETT: You know, Bill, I'm curious, people have talked a lot about President Obama as a gifted speaker which, of course, he is. But then people say, well, that first inauguration speech was not his best moment. He tried to do a whole lot of different things. Now, maybe you disagree.

But people say, look, he tried to do so many different things that there wasn't that sort of one-line memory that people get sometimes from presidential inaugurals. So, will this one be different? More specific? More targeted?

BILL BURTON, OBAMA 2008 CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, I think that people in this media environment really want to be able to pull a sound bite out and say, this is the thing we are going to hang this whole speech on. This is what's going to define whether or not it's a great speech.

And I think that the president, which we knew from the beginning of the last campaign, speaks in paragraphs. He doesn't speak in sound bites.

You know, for better or for worse in some of the debates. I think this speech is going to be about talking directly with the American people about what is this moment and how can we actually still make progress even though the politics in Washington seem so broken right now.

KING: But to the point about politics being broken, Jen, a lot of Democrats would say you have a divided Republican Party. Step on it, Mr. President, exacerbate the confrontation, let -- pick issues that make them fight among themselves.

Is that what the president wants to do right now, or does the president almost need to almost reject some of the people in his own party for maybe a perfectly good political reason, say go for it and try to step back and say, no, we need to govern?

PSAKI: Well, look, I think tomorrow his audience isn't just Republicans and Democrats in Washington. It's people who are watching at home, who are a little disgusted by Washington, we know that from the polls, but also want to hear kind of a lifted-up vision for his second term. I think you'll hear that tomorrow when he speaks.

Yes, I think once you get through tomorrow, once you get through Tuesday, he really is going to buckle down and focus on working with those Republicans, working with those Democrats, and that's an entirely different challenge. But tomorrow I think there will be a 10,000-foot, really, high-level speech.

BURTON: Jen makes a good point. The country is historically divided. If you look at even Harry Truman who the country was not crazy about when he was president, his approval rating went down to 35 after his second election. He went up to 69 percent approval. The president's only at 52 percent with his approval rating, which is a tiny bit higher than his popular vote total.

So the president has a much tougher job than presidents have historically to try to unite this country and make some progress.

BURNETT: What do you make of what David Gergen was talking about? He said, look, last time when he started out, there was a bipartisan reach-out right away. This time at least what David was saying, it certainly seems that the debt ceiling -- at least what we've seen so far, has been far from that.

It's sort of been well, look, I'm going to do this. On the debt ceiling, for example, no, I'm not going to negotiate. I mean, not a reaching across.

BURTON: Well, the problem here is that Republicans have never really paid a price for their intransigence. And in the first term, the president came out and said, you know what, let's work with Republicans on the stimulus.

This time around I think you see a president who's more muscular in the way that he's trying to attack these problems and try to get things done. And so I don't think there's room to just -- to -- you know, skirt around the issues. I think that he knows that his job is just get things done. And even if the Republicans aren't at the table, he's just got to keep trying.

KING: He also there's a clock ticking. Not fair to any second-term president, but this town has a thing -- you have the six-year itch in a second term.

BURNETT: That's right.

KING: Democrats will be worrying about those midterms and then that 2016 thing starts.


That 2016.


BURNETT: It's pretty sad. You get four years and you really only get 18 months. It's just -- something's wrong with the system.

BURTON: Hopefully it's 18 months.



All right. Well, there's no red carpet, but the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration has taken on, well, a Hollywood feel, I think it's safe to say, John.

KING: Hollywood, Hollywood. Here in Washington.

Coming up, we're going to take you right where you want to see, inside one of the many inaugural balls.


BURNETT: All right. This is a quintessential Washington evening for an inauguration. We've got all these folks out here. And by the way, the weather's pretty darn nice right now. They're out here enjoying it and getting ready. And of course the balls and the music actually start now.

Washington, D.C., John, for, you know, one time every four years, is cool.

KING: This is the Erin Burnett National Mall ball playing --


Playing out behind us. The heroes, red white and blue concert ball, is about to start. And our Brooke Baldwin has the lucky role of being at the Warner Theater where some southern rockers are tuning up as the attention, Brooke, will be at where it should be tonight on the nation's military men and women.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, I don't know if you can see the red carpet over my shoulder. And we're talking about a red carpet tonight for our men and women in uniform. But not only for our men and women who are so bravely protecting us and serving this country, it's for their spouses, the husbands and wives and partners and for the kids tonight here at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C.

You mentioned that southern rock band. You're talking Lynyrd Skynyrd. Also some of the Tuskegee Airmen will be here tonight being honored.

But I want to bring in Ken Robinson, obviously very highly decorated.

Nice to have you here on a cold D.C. night. You're here but you wear many hats tonight. It's the hat of veteran advocate. Tell me who will be inside the theater tonight?

KEN ROBINSON, VETERAN'S ADVOCATE: Those who served. What we're going to have is a group of men and women who have been in Afghanistan and Iraq, who have been wounded, who are at Walter Reed, and have been brought from there by buses to come down in front and to participate in the event.

The event is sponsored by Citizens Helping Heroes. It's a 501c3, it's nonpartisan, and the purpose is celebrating the country's unique experience with inaugurations and peaceful transitions of power. And that is brought to you by service men and women who defend the country.

BALDWIN: But, Ken, as we talk about celebrating and I was at the Kid's Inaugural concert last night. It's a ton of fun, music, bands, red carpets. But once all this ends after the weekend, I mean, this is time to get down to business. Tonight it's also really a call to action because they need jobs. We need to take that suicide rate down. How do you plan on doing that?

ROBINSON: Awareness. There's going to be a grassroots effort. It's going to happen in all 50 states. The Veterans Service Organizations in America, and there's many, if you just type VSO into Google, you can find them in your local area. And there's going to be a road show. The movie that's being shown with a teaser in the hallway here tonight is called "The Hornet's Nest" and it's about a father and a son who embedded in Afghanistan for an entire year with the soldiers, living their life with them, sharing the hardships with them. And it's going to bring awareness back as to what it costs to protect lives and freedom.

BALDWIN: Ken Robinson, thank you very much.

ROBINSON: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: Thank you for all you have done and so many amazing people here tonight. Again, folks from Walter Reed -- Fort Mead, Walter Reed. So we'll be talking to them tonight. We'll bring you Lynyrd Skynyrd live. We promised in fact we're about to go interview them and find out an interesting side note that the lead singer actually endorsed Romney over the summer, but he's here performing, of course, for the president this weekend at this inaugural concert.

And as Ken said, this is Republicans, Democrats, this is all for the service men and women. Back to you all.

KING: Amen. Amen to that. You know, there are some partisan -- traditionally a nonpartisan event. There's a little bit of partisanship as we see about the second term agenda, but, you know, all the troops out of Iraq, they're coming home from Afghanistan, some people think OK, it's over. There are generational challenges facing these heroes, men and women, when they come home.


KING: And any attention that we can help focus on them, amen for that.

BURNETT: Yes. Indeed.

KING: The president's first inauguration was the largest event in Washington's history. So what can we expect tomorrow? We're asking the man who planned all the festivities.


BURNETT: More than simply a swearing-in ceremony. The presidential inauguration has grown into a celebration of what's best about this country and the fact that our democracy works peacefully and smoothly.

KING: Democrat or Republican. You have to celebrate that.

BURNETT: Yes. Yes.

KING: This is a great historic moment. Brett Colburn is with us now. He's with the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The Constitution says the president must be sworn in, there's nothing about Stevie Wonder, nothing about balls, nothing even about parades. Putting together the second Obama inaugural.


KING: The first one was history. Did you -- when they came to you and said, put it all together, did you say, not me?


COLBURN: Well, you know, I was lucky enough to work on the first one. This one's obviously a little different. The second inaugurals, in general, they tend to be a little smaller and also a little different in tone. This is about looking back over the past four years, see where we've been as a country, as well as looking forward so see what's coming. And we're excited about all the events we're going to have this weekend. Had a great first day yesterday and obviously the big ceremonial day tomorrow.

KING: Any firsthand, direct messages from the president in terms of make this event a little different? Or you haven't included -- I don't see whether it's enough children's events or military events?


KING: Does he get personally involved?

COLBURN: Absolutely. Him and the First Lady as well. There are two events that they were very much keen on keeping the traditions that they added. And like you said, the only piece that is required by the Constitution is the swearing-in that actually took place already today at the White House. The rest of this is all just traditions. That these have all been brought to the -- to the program by different presidents along the way. For instance, the commander-in-chief's ball that we'll be doing tomorrow night is a tradition that George Bush started that the president continued in. One of his favorite parts of the weekend. So there are two big additions from the first family where the day of service that we did yesterday, they did that in '09. We had tens of thousands of people across the country participate, sign up to give over a million hours of their time over the next year to volunteer.

And then the children's concert that we held last night for military families. Again, a big extension of the First Lady's work to support military families. I'm an actually army brat myself so I really appreciate that. And really embrace that idea that when our men and women in uniform serve, their families serve along with them.

BURNETT: Last time obviously the country was in economic freefall. And people really needed this moment. It cost a lot of money, though. I don't know what the numbers we saw were. Nearly $200 million, $270 million, something like that. There was some criticism for that, but there were a couple of million people here.

COLBURN: That's right.

BURNETT: This time obviously there aren't going to be as many, but it's still going to be -- you know, we could have -- who knows, right? A million. So how much are you spending?

COLBURN: We're not getting into numbers at this point. The budget is somewhat fluid, as you kind of put this car together as it's running down the track for two months, you've got to figure that out as you're going. So we'll have a better sense when we're done. It does cost quite a bit of money, but again, we feel like this is an important moment for the country.

And not just for the country as I think John was saying during the break. This is a symbol to the world of how we transfer power here. How we work as a democracy, and it's a really -- a great chance for people from across the country here in D.C. or in their hometowns watching at home to come together and really celebrate what we're about as a people.

KING: Are you just the events coordinator or do you get involved in the back-and-forth? We were talking earlier with Dana Bash about a lot of Republicans are saying, I'm not going to come. Does that fall under you?

COLBURN: Luckily I don't have to dole with deal with that directly. But, you know, there's a whole team that puts this together. There's our group, the JCCIC, which is the inaugural committee that's chaired by Chuck Schumer up on the Hill, that's a bipartisan committee.

The military has been working on this for months. It's getting ready for these events regardless of who had won in November. And we really want this to be open to everybody regardless of party. It is really a nonpartisan moment for the country to come together and we hope everyone will tune in tomorrow to hear what the president has to say.

BURNETT: All right.

KING: Who ordered up the weather?

COLBURN: What's that? Look, we got --


If we can keep this going for another 24 hours, it will be the most blessed inaugural I've been a part of.

BURNETT: And you're nice to wear a coat, John. You're wearing a coat, because I'm wearing a coat. It's actually not that cold out here. It was for me.

KING: I'm a New England guy. But I'm big in solidarity. You made it look cold, so I thought it must be getting cold. And this is great.

COLBURN: Well, we're just -- yes, warmer than last time, I think, is what everyone is hoping for so.

BURNETT: Yes. Yes. It's like an electric blanket, you know? The man always has to decide on cold and the woman always has her side on warm.

KING: Got it.


COLBURN: I have nothing to add to that, I can tell you that.

KING: A wise man. See, that's why I just stay out of that one, too. There's some -- that was a trap.


COLBURN: A trap. That's right.

KING: So how does public opinion of President Obama at the start of his second term stack up against his predecessors? Stay with us. We're going to show you next.


KING: Welcome back to our special coverage of the second Obama inauguration.

Trust me, folks, I sure wish you could listen to the conversation up here during the break.


Erin Burnett, Gloria Borger, I'll leave it up to them on whether they want to fill you in. But let's move to the political moment.

Americans are pretty well, you might say, split right down the middle over how things are going in the country as the president begins term two. And our new poll, look at this, 51 percent said badly, 49 percent said well. But that figure, 49 percent, is more than double the 21 percent who thought things were going well at the time President Obama delivered his first inaugural address.

Let's go back a few administrations for context. Bill Clinton started his second term, enjoyed the highest recent number of people who felt the country was in good shape on Inauguration Day.

BURNETT: All right. Let's get to Gloria Borger. I was writing down those numbers so I was surprised, no doubt.


John Avlon and David Gergen are all here.

All right. So that's an interesting set of numbers, though, when you look at that, because, I mean, I would look at 49 versus where the president was in terms of approval, things like that.


BURNETT: Six, eight months ago as a big improvement.

BORGER: It is. And his personal likability is still over 61 percent. But what I'm looking at is the country's expectations. When President Obama was first inaugurated, he became -- and a lot of his staffers will tell you this -- sort of a victim of the high expectations that the public had for him. Now the expectations are kind of lower, so the folks in the administration are saying, well, if the expectations are lower, maybe we can over perform a little instead of underperforming like people thought we did last time around. So they're kind of looking for the glass half full part of this equation.

AVLON: But, you know, One of the things going on beneath those numbers indicates a sort of tsunami of hyperpartisanship that this administration has tried to operate in. Beneath that 49 percent is a stark partisan divide.

KING: Right.

AVLON: Seventy-six percent of Democrats thinks things are going well in the country. Only 28 of -- percent of Republicans feel that way.

BORGER: Right.

AVLON: So that is really a reminder of the divides at work beneath our politics.

GERGEN: I think what we don't know right now, one of the big mysteries, is where this economy is truly going. You know, we hear from a number of people like Jamie Dimon has been arguing. We get a grand bargain this economy is going to take off. And there are people -- a lot of people are saying on where the hedge fund -- it's going to take off anyway. On the other hand, most Americans are not feeling that.

KING: Right.

GERGEN: You know, and there's a distinctly different feeling about the economy among them. They think we're headed toward a recession. I thought Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster, put it well the other day. We've gone from hoping to coping.

BORGER: Right.


KING: The unemployment rate did go up to 10 percent during the first term. Today it's at 7.8 percent which is exactly where it was when he took the first inaugural address. The economy -- Democrats might object when I say this, but the economy even more than Republicans, I would argue, was the president's enemy in the first term and that there's no money coming in to Washington, there's no room to maneuver.

BORGER: Right. And this is what -- you know, he's got one fight after another coming up, although we've put up -- we've put off one fight a couple of months, and the president has to get over that in order to get to the -- to the rest of his agenda, and the question I have is whether the president is going to actually anger some of his liberal team by making those commitments on entitlement cutbacks on Medicare, for example, in particular, in order to get to the rest of his agenda and to David's point, to keep the economy chugging along.

BURNETT: Does he see that, David, as central, though? I mean, to the -- you know, so many people in the business community, it does seem central. If you don't put out a plan for entitlement reform, you can't get long-term growth in the economy. You simply can't because there's too many unknowns and too many, you know, strangleholds that are going to hit the economy. Does he see it that way or does he not see that risk?

GERGEN: I think that's a really good question because at the end of the day I think the evidence suggests he wants to do modest things with entitlements, not deeply serious things. I think he's increasingly more interested in leaving behind a progressive legacy of a lot of support systems for people who were hurting in the country. He's more interested in that than I think than getting the deficits under control.

AVLON: One thing I will say, four years ago, before his first inauguration, he went to the "Washington Post" editorial board meeting and he talked a good game about entitlement reforms.

KING: Right.

AVLON: Social Security and Medicaid.

KING: Right.

AVLON: He knows that you need to put this country on a sustainable path, not just for the economy but also just for dealing with our long-term debt and American competitiveness. So that is one of the real challenges. Does he use his leverage like Clinton did with welfare reform to try to come up with an acceptable solution on this key issue because we're confronting the debt, the Republicans in Congress are focused on it. It's going to be an area where he's going to have some maneuverability in the next two years. Because he needs that.

KING: Does he have that leverage? On the one hand he's got a Republican base that says give us those big entitlement changes.

BORGER: Right.

KING: Or we won't give you anything but he's got a Democratic Party that's already going to think ahead to the midterm elections. You have new voices. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, I will not cut Medicare.

BORGER: Well --

GERGEN: And chuck Schumer said today that the Senate would come up with its own budget. Remember, the Republicans have challenged him to do that.


GERGEN: Who can imagine that they're going to come up with big entitlement reform?

BORGER: They're not, but don't forget the president is already on the record in the grand bargain that wasn't for some kind of --

GERGEN: Well, some.


BORGER: And here is the other thing, the president wants, I mean, to do tax reform. Republicans are over the tax fight. They figure they've done taxes. They're not going to do that, and that's a part of the president's calculation. If he can't get that, what does he do on the spending side? Not much.

BURNETT: Right. Well, thanks very much to all of you. That's interesting. It does seem to many that tax debate is sort of done, Republican or Democrat.

BORGER: Right.

BURNETT: You know, we had that fight, here we are. Now what?

KING: But the -- but the one thing the president does get is to choose what the country focuses on. He doesn't necessarily get to choose the results. He does get to choose what the country focuses on, and so we'll see.


KING: This is a big test for him to pick his priorities.

GERGEN: Yes. And that's why tomorrow becomes really crucial. We'll learn a lot tomorrow.


Well, coming up, a rare look at a room inside the nation's capitol, a room that only a few people have ever seen.


BURNETT: The presidential inauguration is steep in history with some of its traditional going -- well, really unchanged more than two centuries, which is pretty amazing.

Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us now. And I know you got a rare look at a room that almost nobody has seen. It's kind of neat that we have one of those in American politics.

BASH: It is and it's the old Senate chamber which is in the capitol. You know, we mentioned at the beginning of the show that there are 1600 people on this platform, nine of them are members of the Supreme Court, and one of the rituals is that they get together and walk over as one. It's the one, one of the few times that all three branches of government are together in one place.


BASH (voice-over): Inside a historic room on the first floor of the capitol an Inauguration Day tradition not talked about much.

(On camera): So this room is going to be a very important staging point for very important nine people.

DIANE SKVARLA, SENATE CURATOR: Yes. The Supreme Court will come in here, the justices.

BASH (voice-over): The Senate curator gave us behind-the-scenes access to this old Supreme Court chamber where the Supreme Court met in the 1800s. Now justices use it to get dressed for the inauguration.

SKVARLA: They will actually change into their robes here. We have a bathroom that they're able to use in order to freshen up. It's a great sense of history, and they really enjoy that.

BASH: The history is rich.

(On camera): So these aren't replicas.


BASH: This is the real stuff.

SKVARLA: About 70 percent are original to this room.

BASH (voice-over): And for the inauguration of the nation's first black president, it is a room steeped in symbolism and irony.

SKVARLA: I mean, this is where the Dred Scott case was decided on.

BASH: The Dred Scott decision of 1857 declared no slave or slave's descendant could be U.S. citizens. It brought the country to the brink of the civil war.

SKVARLA: This is the desk that were purchased by Chief Justice Tawny for the court in the 1830s.

BASH: Justice Tawny, a staunch supporter of slavery, wrote the Dred Scott decision and a few years later administered the oath of office to Abraham Lincoln.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you prepared to take the oath, senator?

OBAMA: I am.

BASH: On the very same Lincoln bible President Obama used at his first inauguration and will again.

This Monday the current chief justice will prepare to administer the oath and along with his eight colleagues soak in the history of the room and, according to the curator who accompanies them, the moment.

SKVARLA: So we'll go behind here. This is where the justices can also go on Inauguration Day, and this is, of course, the bench. This is our wonderful historic benches.

BASH (on camera): This is the bench.


SKVARLA: This is the bench where the justices came and sat. You'll see some of the different chairs that they used. It's not used for very many events at all. This is one of the very rare occasions where we have the chief justices -- or the justices come back.


BASH: Now today is officially Inauguration Day, of course, and we did see two justices swear in the president and the vice president, and, you know, what's really interesting is that so much of this is mandated in the Constitution. That they have to take -- the president and vice president have to take something that is bound by oath or affirmation. The 34-word oath is written into the Constitution but the fact that the Supreme Court justices, the chief justice in particular, swears them in, that is simply tradition. It's just something that has happened for a couple of centuries now.

KING: Tradition is important in this old town.

BURNETT: I love -- you know, I was learning that the parade started with George Washington when local militia sort of joined up as he was coming in April. It's in New York in April, 1789, so.

KING: Old traditions. We need some traditions.

BURNETT: It happens. Yes. We do this odd one every time.