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Inaugural Luncheon; Taste Tests For Luncheon; Presidential Inauguration Coverage

Aired January 21, 2013 - 13:00   ET


ROBIN MEADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. If you're on the National Mall, like these folks were, I wanted to see how the speech resonated with them. They want to get a cheer in first. And I told them they could as long as we can hear Stephanie Jessup (ph). She's from India, from Indianapolis. And you said there was a part of the speech that really resonated with you.

STEPHANIE JESSUP, INAUGURATION ATTENDEE: Yes, it was a very emotional moment, but the best part was the president calling us to unite as a nation, unite as a nation. It was wonderful.

MEADE: OK, how about you, Gwen (ph), over here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you know, he just talked about how we are such a resilient nation, and I just thought, you know, we -- I live in New Jersey, so we just did the Sandy Storm, and, you know, a lot of people, a lot of my friends, they -- their houses got swept away. So, you know, he was saying, hey, you know, even though we can be at our lowest point, we're a nation that always comes back, and we would stand at the forefront. So, to me, that was a big thing. You know, we really need to focus on that.

MEADE: Gwen, thank you. So, you unity seemed to be a lot of the message that really resonated with the crowd here -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Robin (ph), thanks very much. Obviously, the tragedy in Newtown is something that has resonated very deeply with this president. He made reference to it in his speech. Let's listen to that part of the inaugural address.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of the Appalachians to the quiet lanes of Newtown know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.


COOPER: David Armano, this is clearly something the president was extraordinarily moved by and continues to be.

DAVID ARMANO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that Newtown changed Obama. And I think when he said that was the most difficult day of his presidency, I think there was a level of remorse, actually, of guilt that he had not moved more on gun control in the first term. And that gave him that sort of set a passion and resolve that really helped transform him. And I think we can feel it today.

COOPER: He also talked to you -- several days ago, he talked about the family of Grace McDonald who was killed in Newtown. Grace's father, Chris, gave him a picture of an owl that Grace had drawn which he framed and has put in his private study right off the oval office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Presidents sometimes keep these things to remind them of what they were sent to office to do. And the picture hanging on the wall is important, because, as you heard former president Jimmy Carter say to Dana Bash, some of gun control will get through. Sometimes you need those things to remind you that you have to push and you have to continue to push, and I think that's what we heard in the speech today, actually. A push on equality, a push on principle and then an action agenda which we heard detailed in the -- in the speech.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look at any one of the controversial things, talking about making further advances in gay rights, again, groundbreaking advances in western civilization. It's hard to argue with that, certainly for the president of the United States. It's a heavy life. Gun control, a heavy lift. Immigration reform, a heavy lift. Climate change, a heavy lift. Immigration and climate change were on the first term list. And President Carter just alluded to it that the president didn't really fight for them because there were such political risks. Now, he has a second four years. And a second term president faces fundamental choices. You try to do all the hard things and you might fail. And what does that say about your legacy? Or do you just pick a couple of things to add to your basket?

Today, he made the case that he's going to try on some pretty heavy lists. And if we judge him in a year or two by what he said today, this is pretty substantial. OK, we need to see the specifics. And he also made clear you need to compromise. No one man can do these things, he said. So, he's saying my way or the highway, but he's saying, this is my list and I'm going to stay at it. And it'll be a fascinating test to see months and a year from now because these are not small politically consequential items.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you mentioned six months or a year. He has a short window. He -- it's not large. You know, a second term president, have to get things done before their first mid-term election. You know, they have maybe a year, 18 months.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He acknowledged it in a way. You know, another -- he said twice, we are made for this moment and we will seize it.


YELLIN: He said, we will have -- make progress. It requires us to act in our time. So, there -- this speech was about -- for the centuries, for the future, by talking about equality, but there was also a measure of recognizing he has to act now. COOPER: Well, some of the issues which he talked about, particularly on equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, are now things which initially he couldn't do but which the Supreme Court may be ruling on. Jeffrey Toobin is joining us right now, our senior legal analyst. Jeffrey, obviously two major Supreme Court rulings to be coming up on the defense -- the so-called defense of marriage act and also proposition A.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and -- you know, as you noticed, I mean, this incredibly strong embrace of gay rights in the speech where he put stonewall in the same category with Seneca Falls and Selma, standing right beside the Supreme Court that will consider these issues. And remember, this is a president who, when his parents got married in Hawaii, their marriage was a crime in 19 states. Interracial marriage was still constitutionally allowed -- there was no prohibition against those sorts of laws. It wasn't until 1967 that the Supreme Court said states could no longer ban interracial marriage. That case for gay rights potentially is before the Supreme Court in -- and it's going to be argued in March. And the parallel there is really quite striking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alex Castellanos, from a Republican standpoint, did the president reach out enough, do you think, to the opposition -- to his opposition in Washington?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's the issue that Republicans will have. As we started to say, this is not a speech that John F. Kennedy might have given to inspire folks, let's go on a great mission together. This was the speech of a warrior. This was an FDR type of speech. As a matter of fact, you know, when FDR, his second inaugural said, our problem is social justice. Our problem is not more for those who already have much, it's getting enough for those who have so little. When we take care of that problem, we can move forward as a country. Barack Obama echoed that today. He said things like -- that our country cannot succeed with a shrinking few who do very well and a growing many barely make it. Echoes of FDR, a fighting president who also had a long-term stagnant economy. This was -- this was a guy who is ready to go to combat and he said, look, you votes were great but I now need your voices.

COOPER: Alex brings up history. Let's check in with H.W. Brands, a history professor and author from the University of Texas. From a -- I'm curious about your viewpoint on this speech from a historical perspective.

H.W. BRANDS, HISTORY PROFESSOR, AUTHOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: A couple things. I was struck by the comparatively combative tone that the president took. It was really clear that he's not backing down from the fact that he won the election and he's going to govern as though he won. He made a reference to the fact that he and other people took the oath of office to God and country and not to parties. And he deliberately tried to reach over the heads of Congress and heads of his opposition by repeatedly calling to the people, referring to fellow citizens, fellow citizens, we need to do this. I think perhaps the most important part of the speech is one that's gone comparatively unremarked so far, and that is his review to his predecessors for what he called his decade of war and his belief that the United States does not have to pursue a policy of what he called perpetual war, instead that war can be -- the pursuit of war can be replaced by the pursuit of peace. The reason I think this might be the most significant is that it's probably one aspect of the agenda he laid out he'll actually be able to do because presidents in their second term very often turn to foreign affairs because that's one in which they exercise the greatest initiative. Nearly everything else that was laid out, he's going to have to get the cooperation of Congress. But to change American foreign policy, he can do that pretty much by himself.

KING: His team -- his team he's appointing reflects that view. Senator Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, in the defense department, who says that building has to be downsized, has been very skeptical of drawing a very hard line before you shed American blood. Senator Kerry, another Vietnam veteran who has been very skeptical. So, the professor makes a key point, I think, about the president's world view, be more cautious than his predecessors. I want to make one other on the gay rights question. If you historically, for major movements on any of these big questions, women's rights, civil rights, someone in a leadership position who, for a long time, has been saying no has to say yes to bring the movement along. It was the old bulls in the Senate, in the civil rights movement for example. President Obama was a not when he took office on these questions. And that one of the areas where fellow progressives frowned on him, did not like the fact that he was a no. He said he was skeptical. He said his own religious upbringing. And Van (ph) was talking earlier as we listened to the quiet take of John Lewis, a lot -- the civil rights movement has a lot of its base in the African-American church. A lot of those ministers said no to these questions. Some of them still say no but a lot fewer today than a few years ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think (INAUDIBLE) ever really said no. I think that was a political calculation and also one about bringing people along. He's always trying to avoid the traps and I think that he was waiting to get to that moment.

COOPER: Let's check in with Dana Bash. The president is about to, I think, pass by her, again -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. We're standing, again, in the capitol rotunda. Right over behind me is where Statutory Hall is. That is where you see the pictures right there of John Kerry and other senators inside waiting for the president. And we're, in fact, waiting for the president ourselves. He should walk by us pretty much any minute. You saw him earlier doing some official signing, signing some important things like officially nominating some new members -- he hopes will be new members of his cabinet. And so, we're waiting for him to walk by here and go into this -- into this -- to this lunch.

One interesting little anecdote is that -- and I had mentioned this earlier in our programming but I think it's worth repeating, that four years, the president, according to the Senate curator who watched him during most of the lunch, he didn't eat. He instead was kind of walking around from table to table greeting people, socializing which is kind of ironic now because over the past four years, especially over the past few months when things have gotten really, really intensely partisan here, the president has been criticized for not socializing enough, not reaching out enough. So, we'll see if he does the same things at this -- at this lunch, if he sits down and eats and keeps to himself or he actually goes around the room and shakes hand with all of the Democrats and Republicans and Supreme Court Justices and the other members of the exclusive guest list that are going to be at this lunch.

COOPER: Yes, Dana, talk about this lunch, I mean, who is -- who's invite -- oh, here's the president and the vice president. Vice president -- excuse me, vice president (INAUDIBLE.) Dana, who was invited to this lunch? It's not all members of the Senate.

BASH: Not at all. 220 tickets, that's all. So, some of the most senior members of the Senate are invited, the leadership of the House and the Senate, some of the most senior members of the House, select members of the House. Also, as I said, members of the Supreme Court, the joint chiefs are invited. But I'm looking up -- you know, I'm going to -- just looking over here because I believe the president is about to walk by. I see his official photographer, so he should come any minute. And here they come. Here comes President Obama and Mrs. Obama going to their lunch. And you see -- you see that he is escorted, Anderson, by some of the Senate folks who really keep the Senate running, like the sergeant at arms, but also Senator Chuck Schumer who you saw M.C. the earlier ceremony. He is the chairman of the inaugural committee who's going to be with them all day. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Barack H. Obama and Mrs. Obama accompanied by Senator Charles E. Schumer and Mrs. Schumer.

COOPER: And Dan, I know Senator Schumer from New York who organized this luncheon was responsible for the menu. He wanted to make sure most of the items on the menu were from New York. I think there are apples from upstate New York. I understand he tried to get Long Island duck but instead they ended up with bison from out of state.

BASH: That's right. The reason that happened is because they actually have this very interesting tradition where the spouses of the members of the Joint Inaugural Committee actually do a tasting. And they tasted the duck and they said, according to Schumer, it just wasn't -- it was kind of gross, so they decided to go do -- to bison. Let's listen.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Mr. President -- what am I supposed to do? Ladies and gentlemen, please take -- please take your seats. Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. Mr. President, Mr. Vice president, honored guests, my colleagues on the Joint Congressional Committee on inaugural ceremonies and I are pleased to welcome you to today's inaugural luncheon. In this historic room, we look around at the 35 statues representing men and women. Well, one woman. Thank you, Lenore and Senator Durbin for the statue of Senator Willard, though I feel obligated to note that she was born in Rochester, New York. Thankfully, she will soon have company when Rosa Parks completes her journey from the back of the bus to the front of statutory hall later this year.

Now, we look around and remember the men and women who helped define our nation. They, like us, faced obstacles. And they, like us, worked hard to move this country forward. Here in this hall, four presidents took the oath of office. Here, Abraham Lincoln served his single term in Congress and John Quincy Adams, the only former president to return to serve in the House, spoke out against slavery.

Today we also remember an event that took place outside this building, but reverberated within. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington which spurred passage of the historic civil rights laws. We're honored to have with us a colleague, Congressman John Lewis, who was a speaker at that historic march. Congressman Lewis' life exemplifies the courage and sacrifice that have made our nation great.

John, please stand and take a bow so we all can recognize you.

Behind us, the painting we have chosen for this luncheon is Niagara Falls. Painted in 1856 by Ferdinand Richardt. For me as a New Yorker, Niagara Falls never fails to inspire a tremendous awe for the natural beauty of our great country. Then and now, the mighty falls symbolized the grandeur, power and possibility of America.

And I want to thank my former Senate partner, our great secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for allowing us to borrow this beautiful painting from the State Department collection.

But, frankly, we aren't here for the paintings, we're here for the food. And while the theme of today's ceremony is "Face in America's Future," today's menu could be labeled face in America's food. From the New England lobster, to the heirloom vegetables, to the South Dakota bison, to the wonderful New York wines, each element was carefully chosen and excellently prepared. It was actually chosen by the tasting committee which consisted of Debbie Boehner, Landra Reid, Diana Cantor, Paul Pelosi, Honey (ph) Alexander and my wife, Iris. They did a great effort. They did a great job and the effort was truly bipartisan. So if you don't like the food, you can't blame it on one party or the other. But I know that won't happen. I know you'll enjoy it.

Before we begin, it is my privilege to ask the Reverend Luis Cortes, Jr., president of Esperanza, to deliver the invocation after which lunch will be served.

REV. LUIS CORTES, JR., PRESIDENT, ESPERANZA: Please rise. Let us join together in prayer.

Dear God, in this room stand women and men of differing beliefs. Different understandings of how you reveal yourself, how you reveal your will and your desire to us. Yet at this moment, our nation joins with us in prayer and supplication that despite political differences within these chambers, and despite the fact that at times we may take for granted things that are unique to our American democracy, that we be united in hope and aspiration for the future of our nation.

We pray for continued freedom. Freedom to pursue happiness. Freedom to create goodness. Freedom to preserve the common good.

We pray for continued liberty. Liberty to preserve our rights. Liberty to defend our understanding of good. Liberty to develop ourselves fully as you would have us.

Our nation prays with us as we ask that our leaders be endow the wisdom, that they may know on which path they should move our nation. With courage that they may go against their own when necessary for the common good of our beloved America. With resolve that they not tire but move unrelenting toward that common good.

We pray a blessing on our House of Representatives, on our Senate and our judicial and executive branches. Bestow on every member spiritual protection and good health. We uphold President Barack Obama and his family in the same manner. We are thankful for the religious freedom of this nation, for our family and friends, and for this meal which we will now share. Remembering that there are still those who suffer hunger in our nation. We have all joined in this prayer in our particular God's name, and I in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen and Amen.

Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. President.

SCHUMER: Please be seated and enjoy lunch.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Lunch -- the cameras will go down for. It's -- the rest of the lunch is not televised, so we continue to broadcast here from the National Mall. The National Mall is really -- it's kind of thinning out very quickly. Most of the crowds are trying to, I guess, grab some food, maybe, and then try to get a spot along the parade route. But if you're watching at home or wherever you may be watching, you've got the best vantage point. We have our correspondents and cameras all across the -- all along the parade route. We're going to be following it every step of the way, of course. Looking forward to that.

There -- one of the things in which the -- one of the things the president talked about -- and there you see some of the crowd still very excited to be here. They have not, obviously, made their way to the parade ground there yet. One of the things the president did talk about was a time to stop name calling and work together with Congress. Let's play part of that speech.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name calling as reasoned debate. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Name calling as reasoned debate.

John King, do you think that actually resonates or is that what Paul Begala said which is kind of, pay lip service to bipartisanship and then go out and be tough and ruthless?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the 99.9 percent of Americans who live outside of Washington or don't work in politics would say, amen, and they hope he means it. And I don't say that to be cynical. I say that because there are some people out there who would blame the president and the Democrats just as much as they would blame the Republicans.

Now, a Democrat out there right now is saying, no, the Republicans are more responsible and a Republican out there saying, no, the Democrats. This is the fight that has paralyzed this city, not just for the past four years. We went through some of this in the Bush administration. We went through some of this in the Clinton administration. We can trace some of it back to the Washington and Adams and, you know, Madison administrations.

But in recent times, things have become so petty that this town often resembles more a daycare center than an operational cooperative, adult government. And so I think the president's trying to make a point. He's going to have to follow through because he and his lieutenants have done this at time too. And, again, we've talked about the issues. He talked about their heavy lifts (ph). And he's asked -- if he's asking the Republican base to do immigration, that's going to cause internal friction with the Republican Party. When he asks them to do -- if he asks Democrats to do entitlement, it's going to cause internal friction in his party. That's when the name calling starts. Will he step out and try to stop it?

GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But here's the -- here's the rest of that paragraph. He says, we must act, but we know our work will be imperfect and we're not going to get everything we want. So what he's essentially saying is, OK, we've got to act on gun control. Maybe we won't get 100 percent of it, but we kind of have to try and do and get done what we can get done. And he said, you know, we must act knowing that today's victories will only be partial. So there's a bit more realism, I think, in this president, saying I'm going to start the fight and I may not get everything I want.

VAN JONES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, for me, I feel like one of the things he was trying to achieve is a level of values. I mean we talked a little bit about some of the policies, some of the policy fights. We know they're going to be tough. But there is a tug-of-war happening in this country over the meaning of patriotism itself. Who are the patriots? Are the patriots the people who are challenging the president and saying that he's not even born here? That's a form of patriotism.

I think what he really did, he laid down some pillars here for a new kind of patriotism where when you invoke America's values, you include everybody. Alex talked about equality. I do think he was trying to deepen that commitment.

I also think what's extraordinary is the embrace of Dr. King almost as a second founder. When -- if you -- if you really know Dr. King's story and how vilified and reviled he was when he was alive, he was not a celebrated person. He was considered a gadfly. Even "The New York Times" backed away from him the last few years of his life because of his stand on the war, because of his stand against poverty. For him now to be embraced, I think Dr. King was mentioned more than George Washington over the past couple of days. That is an extraordinary achievement. And now I think this president wants to see more people included in the same way. The Latino community, et cetera. And that is, I think, is the importance of this speech to his base. And again, his base is a rainbow coalition that is now the governing coalition in this country and it includes a lot of people who have yet to feel the embrace we now see with Dr. King.

COOPER: Many people watched this day for politics, others for personalities, in particular Michelle Obama and what she is wearing, what the kids are wearing. Alina Cho is joining us with some information on I guess some of what Michelle Obama, the first lady, was wearing.



And I'm sitting here next to Tim Gunn, who is, of course, the noted fashion consultant and judge on "Project Runway."

The coat and dress that Michelle Obama wore to the inauguration morning was designed by American designer Thom Browne. He is from Allentown, Pennsylvania. Started his label way back in 2001 with just five suits and by appointment only. I caught up with him recently at his studio in Paris, actually just this morning. He had just shown his men's collection. And that is significant because he told me that the fabric that was used for this outfit was based, developed on men's silk ties. He told me at moments like this he's really at a loss for words. Let's listen to what he told me.


CHO: Were you nervous?

THOM BROWNE, DESIGNER (voice-over): I'm nervous now. I'm nervous that -- you know -- you know how sometimes you get so excited and so, you know, overwhelmed that you -- you know, I'm somewhat nervous just talking to you about it now because you can't really put it into words on, you know, how it feels. But -- because I even just saw her walking in just that second and she looks amazing. She's been so supportive of all of us, particularly American designers, and she has amazing style and just always looks so good in whatever she chooses. And she just has great taste.


CHO: You know, one quick note, Tim, that Thom also told me was that he chose that navy specifically because he was mindful that the president might wear navy.


CHO: And he wanted to make sure that she looked good next to him. So in your estimation, how did she look?

GUNN: Well, on a scale of one to 10, I give her a 100. She looked absolutely fantastic. Really radiant.

CHO: But it really comes down to the fit, doesn't it?

GUNN: Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

CHO: Now, what about the dress? Because we just got a first glimpse of the dress just a few moments ago.

GUNN: Well, yes. For the first time because I've only -- I had only seen her in the coat up until that moment. I have to say, when she belted the coat and gave it more proportion --

CHO: J. Crew belt.

GUNN: Yes. It was a beautiful J. Crew belt. I loved the coat even more. And I have to say, I do love the dress. I've had to wrap my brain around how different it looks without having the coat over it. But Mrs. Obama is nothing if not a fashion icon and she has a radiance about her that is captivating.

CHO: I think what's also important to point out is that she's a real woman.

GUNN: Yes.

CHO: I mean this blue cardigan she's wearing is made by another American designer, Reed Krakoff. And if I'm not mistaken, I believe it is the same blue cardigan that she wore yesterday --

GUNN: I believe it is.

CHO: To the official swearing in ceremony.

GUNN: Yes.

CHO: I mean really a nod to American designers, emerging American designers. And when you look at her style, Tim, and her legacy, don't you think it will be that, that she --

GUNN: Oh, definitely.

CHO: She embraced not established, but emerging talent that really need a boost.

GUNN: And also American designers. So much of what's been happening in the White House with first ladies has had to do with Europe. And while that certainly is the American legacy, we come from that, we have certainly come into our own since World War II. And Mrs. Obama is here nurturing and supporting and cultivating less known designers. Some of them not even that so young but less known. And she is championing everything that's American about American design.

CHO: I mean --

GUNN: It's a fabulous thing.

CHO: You look at what happened to Jason Wu four years ago.

GUNN: I know.

CHO: It put him on the map. It gave him worldwide fame. He has exploded as a result of that. And it -- we, of course, will be watching the inaugural gown choice for tonight --

GUNN: Indeed.

CHO: Right, with bated breath.

All right, Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Alina, how long has Thom Browne actually been designing clothes for women? Because I always knew him as a men's wear designer.

CHO: You know, it's interesting that you should point that out, Anderson. He started his label officially in 2003 with his first ready to wear collection. There you see him. He really popularized the notion of the shrunken suit for men. You know, I you see men wearing those cropped pants and those tight-fitting suits, that's because of Thom Browne.