CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

The Presidential Inauguration

Aired January 21, 2013 - 09:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: -- wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: The United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All are equal. All are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The presidential inauguration is getting under way right here on the capitol, and we have a front row seat.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Here on the National Mall, people are staking out their spot to experience these moments in history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The sun rises on Barack Obama's second term.

OBAMA: We gather because we have chosen hope over fear. Unity and purpose over conflict and discourse.

ANNOUNCER: On this day, a public celebration of the presidency after a private oath the day before.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: So help you God?

OBAMA: So help me God.

ANNOUNCER: In this capitol where so many battles have been fought and will be fought, political rivalries are being set aside in a show of democracy and unity for all the world to see.

OBAMA: And we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're live here on the west front of the United States capitol for one of the grandest celebrations of democracy in the world. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Less than three hours from now, on this stage, right behind me, President Obama will raise his hand and publicly take the oath of office. We'll show you that and every big moment of this inauguration day.

We're learning about the sources of inspiration for the president's inauguration speech and the mistakes he wants to correct. And we're just minutes away from giving you a candid look at the Obama family and their daily life in the White House. The first lady is planning some changes over the next four years.

Now take a look at this. Across the National Mall, right here in Washington, hundreds of thousands of people are gathering. This is the way the president will see it right near the Washington Monument at the edge of the crowds, our own Anderson Cooper is standing by.

Anderson, a very exciting day.

COOPER: It certainly is, and the crowds are building around this area as well. A lot of people got here very, very early. They want to stake out a spot to watch the inauguration. We have got cameras in place all across the National Mall, along with teams of anchors and correspondents, including Don Lemon, Robin Meade, and Christi Paul.

First, let's check in with our Robin Meade.

Robin, what's happening where you are now?

ROBIN MEADE, HLN ANCHOR: OK. Wait. Well, I'm standing here with a bunch of people from -- what states do we have? Florida, New Jersey, Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michigan.

MEADE: OK, we've got a lot of folks who are in this town making their way. I want to introduce you to -- this is Marcela. She's 70 years old. She is volunteering from California.

Why did you come all the way to California to volunteer? You've got to work.

MARCELA, VOLUNTEER: That's true. I thought this was a great opportunity to show my love for the president and for the country. And it would probably be my last opportunity to see Barack Obama in office and to be a part of this whole historical event.

MEADE: So while you're working, what do you anticipate him saying today in the speech?

MARCELA: Well, I think he'll talk about bringing the country together and the strides and --

MEADE: Just the goals? MARCELA: The goals of Martin -- I'm sure he'll bring in Martin Luther King and the goals that he shares with him and with the country. And trying to get Congress to work together to pass all the initiatives.

MEADE: Well, Marcela, you have the whole list off -- ticked off in your head there. Thank you so much for the work that you're doing today.

And everyone, we're back to work. Say back to work.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Robin, thanks very much.

President Obama is due to arrive here at the capitol less than two hours from now. At this moment, he's beginning the start of his second term in prayer.

Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is outside St. John's Church. That's right near the White House.

Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is on the National Mall.

Brianna, let's go to you first. Tell us what's going on. What is about to happen?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, I am across from the church where President Obama and Mrs. Obama are inside sitting, not in the traditional president's pew, but in the first row, as is the vice president and his family, and I want to show you, if this bus will move behind me, you can see over here the presidential limousine, the Beast.

Once this service is over and we are told that it will be short and sweet, the Beast is standing ready to whisk President Obama and Mrs. Obama off to the capitol.

BLITZER: Brianna, thank you.

Let's go to Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, I understand you're learning some details about what the president will say.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: OK. All right. One insider -- one insider insisted to me, Wolf, that there is no challenge to be met today, no political test, but President Obama considers this speech deeply meaningful, an important opportunity, a chance to reset the political conversation and aides concede to me, it's no easy task.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear. YELLIN (voice-over): A second inaugural, a second chance for President Barack Obama. He used his first address to issue a grim warning about the coming economic crisis.

OBAMA: Let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come.

YELLIN: That message was not well received. It clashed with the euphoric mood of a nation expecting hope and change. CNN has learned the president began working on this address with longtime speechwriter John Favreau in mid-December.

Favreau writes, the president rewrites in the drafts margins or long hand on yellow pads.

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: This is a historical event. And so that you can't help but feel some pressure because of that, and a desire to make those few minutes when you're up there count.

YELLIN: In today's speech, don't expect policy details. That will come in the State of the Union. Instead, this address will be heavy on sweeping themes. Among them, the responsibility that comes with citizenship. For inspiration, the president read this inaugural.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

YELLIN: A second theme, a call for unity in a time of division. The president read Bill Clinton's second inaugural.

CLINTON: Will we all come together or come apart?

YELLIN: And Abraham Lincoln's, delivered to a nation divided by civil war.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, FORMER PRESIDENT (dramatization): With malice toward none, with charity for all.

YELLIN: A third theme, renewing our commitment to the values of our founding fathers.

Perhaps it's surprising the president found inspiration in the words of this former adversary.

BUSH: There can be no human rights without human liberty.

YELLIN: Aides tell us CNN, though the president disagrees with Mr. Bush's policy, he's moved by that speech's embrace of America's democratic principles.

BUSH: Freedom by its nature must be chosen and defended by citizens.

YELLIN: A message, aides say, the president will echo today, as he did at the White House last week. OBAMA: That most fundamental set of rights, to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights are at stake. We're responsible.

YELLIN: Of all his predecessors, the president says he is most inspired by President Lincoln.

LINCOLN: That government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

YELLIN: In November, Mr. Obama screened Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln" at the White House theater. Sources tell me, ever since, he's been quoting it around the West Wing.

AXELROD: Lincoln is the apotheosis of a uniter.

YELLIN: And look for an acknowledgement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision on the day we honor the civil rights leader. A coincidence of timing that's not lost on the nation's first African- American president.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now the speech was finalized over the weekend, but the president often makes final word changes up to the very end, and this time was no exception. I'm told that he made tweaks this morning, in fact. The president, I'm told, will speak for under 20 minutes. By reading prior inaugural addresses, he decided the shorter, the better. His last address was just over 18 minutes. And his favorite two past inaugurals were Kennedy's, which ran just under 14 minutes, and, of course, Lincoln's second, which at 700 words, had to be fewer than 10 minutes.

I'm told that President Obama had a quiet breakfast with the first lady and his daughters before going to church -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Well, let's talk about it with our John King and Gloria Borger.

What are you anticipating, John, hearing today?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think broad strokes. Time to bring the country together. Time to try to get through these tough economic times. I think it will be a cautious speech because of the uncertain environment.

The president doesn't quite understand what's going to happen with Republicans. He thinks maybe common ground on immigration with most, but there are confrontations looming. If he wants to go back for a big grand bargain and a legacy on Medicare and entitlements, he has a fight with the Democratic Party.

If you look around the world, is Syria at a tipping point? What exactly is happening in North Africa right now? He begins his second term with uncertain political situation here in town and some big question marks around the world. So I think, as Jessica noted, you save the nuts and bolts for the State of the Union, you try to get off to an optimistic start.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And my question is whether he acknowledges the partisanship that exists in Washington but then says, that doesn't mean you can't get anything done. Just because we believe in different things sometimes doesn't mean we can't reach and find some common ground, which is obviously what he's got to do if he wants to get some of those ambitious agendas through.

COOPER: How much -- how much does what he say really matter today? I mean, is it just -- I mean, do we know there have been speeches throughout history that have resonated and continue to give -- people can quote John F. Kennedy and others. Paul Begala wrote a piece on the "Daily Beast" the other day saying that President Obama should, you know, give lip service to unity and getting together and then go out and be ruthless afterward.

KING: Well, he has -- that is a very tough choice for the president. What does he want his political strategy to be in this very short window that second term presidents get. Is it a year, is it 18 months, is two years? By that 2014 midterm, the climate here will change even more. But the president -- you know, he's in a better place now. The American people feel better about the direction of the country than at any point in his presidency.

Yet only 49 percent of Americans think the country is going in a good direction. So the president has to bring the American people along at a time when they don't like this town, they don't like Washington, and frankly they don't feel -- they're not totally in love with his first term. He just beat his rival at the election.

BORGER: You know, people have lower expectations, so I think we're going to -- he may try and raise that a little bit. This will be a lot of poetry, and I think the State of the Union address is going to be the prose where he really lays out the agenda.

COOPER: Let's also bring in Jessica Yellin and also David Maraniss, from "The Washington Post." Also he's the author of the book "Barack Obama: The Story." Also Cornell Belcher, a pollster for Obama 2012. And Margaret Hoover, Republican consultant and CNN contributor.

David, what are you expecting to hear?

DAVID MARANISS, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think there's a paradox here, which is that four years ago there were huge crowds and so much ebullience about the moment. And he gave a somewhat of a -- you know, a wintry speech. This time there's -- the crowds are smaller. There's less expectations and I think he's going to give a much more optimistic speech. I think he feels he's in a much better place today than he was the same four years ago?

COOPER: Cornell?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER POLLSTER, OBAMA 2012: I think we're going to hear some of the things picked up from the campaign. I mean, he certainly got to talk about the economy, certainly got to talk about the number one issue to Americans, and that's sort of -- you know, jobs and expanding and growing the middle class.

But we're looking at a middle class that continues to shrink, and it's something that really bothers the president.

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is a speech that talks about values. And he's going to talk -- try to paint a vision for his next term. But the danger is if he's too broad. It won't be memorable. So how does he keep it tight, have memorable lines, maybe a quotable nugget that we can take with us like blue states and red states, the United States of America. I mean, it's a high bar to set, but he's done it before.

COOPER: Jessica, you've been covering him now for a long time at the White House. Has she -- is this a different man than he was four years ago, a different politician, a different president?

YELLIN: You know, we always saw Barack Obama, there was the professor, and there was Barack Obama, the competitor. And since he's been in office, we've seen Barack Obama, the competitor, emerge as a more dominant force. And Barack Obama, the competitor, plays to win. And so we've seen him do more of the things it takes to win.

You know, we saw him return from his vacation in Hawaii to fight Congress just now on the Bush tax cuts battle as opposed to three years ago, during the health care brawl, he hid away in Martha's Vineyard while that was exploding around the country. So he's doing those things you need to play to win.

And he's taking his case to the American people more aggressively. It is not different. When I interviewed him in 2007 on the bus in Iowa, I covered him all through that campaign. I interviewed him before he won a single primary. He said to me on the bus in Iowa, what I need to do if I become president is take my case to the American people and make them rally Congress.

COOPER: It sounds, though, like a constant campaign is what we're looking to over the next four years, like a never-ending campaign.

YELLIN: It's -- but this is what I'm trying to -- this is what he always believed. Going back to 2007, he always believed he needed to constantly rally the American people and campaign. He understood that's how Washington works. He just didn't always do it. And he's now realizing he has to always do it.

COOPER: David, do you think he's very different?

MARANISS: Well, as John and I know so well from covering Clinton, the permanent campaign has been a part of American politics for 20 years. Barack Obama thought he could get away a little bit without that, and he's learned the lesson that he has to do that. Of course he's different. I mean, think about it. Ten years ago, he was a state senator, just getting into the majority in Illinois. So he had really scant administrative experience before this, and he's had to learn on the job. KING: I think that's a critical point. You know, David has done brilliant work on both of our last two Democratic presidents, the current one and Clinton.

Clinton had been governor. He knew how to cut deals. Mostly Democrats in Arkansas, but a Democratic Party that was more conservative in some ways. He had the chief executive experience.

That's my biggest question for President Obama the second term. What did he learn from the first about being the boss?

BORGER: Here's my question: where's the idealism? You know, this is a president, you can argue now, he's taking on guns. But why didn't he do that during the first four years? And is there some sense that maybe I need to do the things --

MARANISS: Absolutely.

BORGER: -- that I didn't do and I wanted to do?

COOPER: In the midst of all this spectacle, Michelle Obama says she's keeping her kids grounded. We're going to peel back the curtain on the kids' daily routine and see how their lives have changed in the White House.

Also, I'll have a live interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as he would like to see an African American president who's a Republican in his lifetime.

But, first an inaugural flashback.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DWIGHT EISENHOWER, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We must be ready to dare all for our country.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, HISTORIAN: I think the reason so many inaugural speeches are not memorable is they're like graduation speeches. The president reaches for these large themes. We remember Lincoln's. We remember FDR's. We remember Reagan's.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Let us begin an era of national renewal.

GOODWIN: We remember JFK's.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

GOODWIN: Sometimes they fall flat. It does depend upon the circumstance. If there's a war, if there's a depression, those are the moments that create great speeches in a certain sense, but it also depends upon the person being able to inject himself into that moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the presidential inauguration.

As you can see, the crowds are growing literally by the minute here. A lot of people very, very excited to be here. They woke up early on this cold, cold winter morning here in Washington, D.C. But the sun is shining, and the excitement is growing.

That is the church where President Obama and Michelle Obama, the first lady, are attending services, as is tradition on this day. Then they will come here to the Capitol, where they'll have a lunch before the swearing in begins.

There's going to be a lot of performances. Beyonce will be performing, singing the national anthem. Kelly Clarkson will be singing, as well as James Taylor. There's a lot to look forward today, a day of pomp and pageantry, parades.

It is going to be a moving, historic day. The fourth time that President Barack Obama has taken the oath of office. Two the first time because the mistake made by chief justice John Roberts. He also took the official oath of office yesterday. That was in a private ceremony, which we broadcast from the White House.

Let's check in with our Soledad O'Brien.

We've got correspondents stationed all over the National Mall, all over the parade route, to give you a complete look at what is going to be happening today. Just stay with us throughout the day.

Soledad, what are you seeing? How crowded is it getting where you are?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Anderson, I have to tell you it's starting to get crowded because I have one of the best seats in the house except I don't really have a seat. I'm here with folks who have these coveted blue tickets. Look at that and weep because they get to be in some of the most amazing seats. These are folks who either are donors or related to people who are in elected positions, and they get to sit right in front of the president.

Right there is the balcony of the Capitol where the president will take the oath of office. Somebody else who gets to have a great seat in the house, if you're a celebrity. Same thing, Angela Bassett with us, she's got a great seat.

You've been very supportive of the president, and this is a thank you when you get to do this.

ANGELA BASSETT, ACTRESS: Absolutely. I have had the pleasure of being a surrogate for the president, you know, this election. Here we are, we finally made it. We're here on this miraculous day. And --

O'BRIEN: And it's so much warmer than it was four years ago when we fro -- BASSETT: It was cold last time.

O'BRIEN: What do you want to hear from the president in his inaugural address, which many people are sort of trying to guess what he will say?

BASSETT: I think it will be inspiring. It will be grand. It will be bold. And I think he'll fire us up, whatever it is. I think he'll fire us up.

O'BRIEN: We're all looking forward to that. It's great to see you.

Our blue ticketed people, we're very, very, very jealous, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, everybody is jealous of those seats. Amazing.

Also, Eva Longoria is actually going to be on the podium behind President Obama. She's co-chair of the inauguration. She has also been one of the main Latino fundraisers for President Obama and was out on the campaign trail a lot for him.

I interviewed her. She's becoming something of a power player out here in Washington, D.C., according to "The Wall Street Journal," which gave a front page story to her.

Let's also check in with Don Lemon, who's also on the National Mall.

Don, how are people around you?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people. They're actually keeping me warm. They're swarming us.

Hey, listen, I just want to show you. That's where Soledad is. That's how far down we are. The crowd is really picking up.

I heard you, Anderson, say earlier the crowd streaming in by the minute. They really are. And if you come back this way, you can see the monument down that end. That's the way they're coming in. They're coming in towards us.

These guys who are with me drove all night on a bus from Greenville, North Carolina, Amy and Pat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amy and Pat.

LEMON: How many people are with you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fifty-five.

LEMON: How was that bus ride?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Awesome. Awesome and exciting. We are here to witness the great event that's going to take place on today, which is our president being sworn in, and once again, which is awesome.

LEMON: You're not exhausted, Amy? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. We're excited. Obama! It's time for Obama.

LEMON: Yes, you guys were screaming four more years earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I wish we could have four more years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is history made all over again.

LEMON: Were you here last time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LEMON: Yes. And you made the trek again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LEMON: We're excited that you're here. You're not cold?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.

LEMON: Anderson, they have been standing out here trying to get on television for about 30 minutes now. It was cold. They've been keeping me warm. We've been keeping each other warm.

It's warmth in spirit and, you know, temperature-wise as well, Anderson. Back to you.

COOPER: Yes, there is a great vibe out there today. A lot of excitement. A lot of very happy people. People feel privileged just to be here to witness this historic day.

Let's check in with our Christi Paul, who's down in the crowds as well -- Christi.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, you know, about an hour ago, I had some room to breathe. You can see that has changed now. We've seen this contingent of people come in from all over the place.

I talked to people from Atlanta, Georgia. A guy was here from Colombia. Another guy was here from Ireland.

I've got Mr. Trevor over here in seventh grade. He's here.

What do you want to say?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Hi. Hi, granny.

PAUL: He wants to say hi, granny.

But they are all, of course, here to see President Obama, and we have Lindsey here, too. She was here four years ago, and she said, even though the crowds obviously are not as big as they were last year, she's just grateful that she's going to get a better seat this time around. She may not have those blue tickets, but they're definitely going to get a little closer this year than they did four years ago.

So, all of these folks, I've been seeing the hats, the flags, everything's crazy, and they're going to start dancing here too.

So, Wolf, take it away.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Christi, thank you very much. Love the crowds over here.

As America's first African American president begins his term, today's public celebration falls on a very, very fitting holiday, honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

Shannon Travis is over at the MLK memorial here in Washington.

It must be very moving for so many folks over there, Shannon.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. For a number of people that I've spoken with, Wolf, that are streaming in, Rangers have told me that thousands of people have been visiting the monument all weekend.

One family that I actually stopped and accosted to speak with is this family right here, Wolf. It's three generations of a family from three different cities in the District of Columbia, and this is the matriarch of the family. I'm going to ask you why it's so important to be here today, Gloria?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so important to be at the second inauguration of President Obama that coincides with Dr. King's holiday to represent the generations that have gone before us.

TRAVIS: Thanks so much for talking with us. I hope you enjoy it.

Wolf, after this, they're going over to the Mall to watch the swearing in.

BLITZER: Very appropriate moment. Obviously, very fitting on this special, special day. Thank you, Shannon.

Certainly not easy getting around here in the nation's capital. Right now not easy on the National Mall up here on Capitol Hill. As you'd expect, security is very, very tight and for good reasons. There are now plenty of long lines.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns is over at one of the checkpoints.

What's it like over there, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the yellow gate, as you can see, a lot of people. We just wanted to give you some idea of the numbers of people. Metro, which is the subway system here in Washington, D.C., says about 113,000 people had passed through as of 8:00 this morning. That's running about one-third of what it was four years ago during the first inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Taking a look at the yellow gate here, if you can see through there, I just wanted to give you an idea of the types of police officers who are doing this work. These are United States Customs and Border Patrol agents who are checking the tickets, as it were, kind of ironic there.

Overall, as far as security goes, there have just been a few blips on the radar screen. A guy in a tree over the west front of the Capitol where the inauguration is going on, he's causing some problems.

Last night, probably the most notable problem of all, about 50 or 60 marauding protesters tore up a couple of ATMs. The police say it was malicious, felonious destruction of property, but nothing serious.

So, pretty quiet here so far. Authorities say no trouble. They suspect it's going to be a smaller crowd, a much smaller crowd, or else people are just going to start showing up very late.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Let's just hope everybody is very well-behaved. Joe, thank you.

The individual checkpoints for the inauguration crowd is just part of this huge, huge security plan. It's a massive undertaking involving the police, the military, and so much more.

CNN's Tom Foreman has the big picture.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The people in charge of security here won't tell us a whole lot about their plans, obviously, for security reasons, but there are some things we know that we can share with you.

The first is that this is an absolutely massive job, because the protection actually starts miles outside the city and tightens up as you move in toward the core. The Secret Service is in charge, but they have a lot of help because they have to really tighten down on the middle here. This area from around the Washington Monument and the White House to way up by the capitol, and they have some very specialized needs in here.

For example, think about the president's parade route. When he leaves the Capitol and heads up Pennsylvania Avenue, he's actually going to be going between tens of thousands of citizens, and in some sections he'll even be out and walking.

Guarding that distance takes a lot of bodies. That's why there will be about 10,000 active duty and National Guard troops here to help the Secret Service. In addition to that, there will be about 8,000 police officers from all sorts of agencies, including nearby states, the National Park Service, things like that, and they'll be doing many duties. There will be planes flying around to protect the air space. There will be boats on the river. There will be people on bike patrol. There'd be people with dogs looking for anything they can find -- chemical threats, physical threats, disturbances in the crowd.