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Inauguration Day; Interview With U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; Interview With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor

Aired January 21, 2013 - 15:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to preview the parade, because I'm excited myself thinking about the marching bands, thinking about the floats.

Erin Burnett is right in the middle of it.

Erin, tell us what we're about to see.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you know what, Wolf, there have been people waiting here.

I was just talking to our photojournalist who is saying when he showed up this morning at 4:30 in the morning, there were already people who said they had been here since 2:30 in the morning, waiting at the security perimeter to get in. And obviously, Wolf, the reason is they're going to be very, very close to the president. They're all hoping that they get out and walk right around here on Pennsylvania Avenue at Freedom Plaza where we are.

But we will see. People are getting excited, because obviously it's going to be happening pretty darn soon -- back to you.

BLITZER: Very soon, indeed.

And I just -- myself, I was up on Capitol Hill. Kate Bolduan and I were up there.

Kate, we drove down. We had a special escorted bus. We were allowed to go down. We saw the parade route the way the president...

(CROSSTALK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We did.

BLITZER: You were waving a little bit to folks along both sides.

BOLDUAN: I was waving. They did not know why I was waving at them, however.

No, I...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I was waving a little bit.

BOLDUAN: People know you.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Let's go to Robin Meade. She is right in the middle of what is going on.

Robin, where are you?

ROBIN MEADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm at Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh, yes, and I was here with Ann Gerald (ph) and Alicia (ph). And they're from Birmingham, Alabama. They think the president should get out and walk here. And how could he miss those hats?

How did you come up with those hats?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We went to visit the Kennedy Center, and we liked -- they had Alice in Wonderland. We liked the hats because they were celebration hats, the top hats and Abraham Lincoln. We decided to put our famous buttons on there for President Obama.

MEADE: So just like his speech, you guys also drew a line between Abraham Lincoln and your hats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

MEADE: And now the parade hats. All right. So back to you guys.

BLITZER: Lovely hats. And, Robin, I like your hat. What do you think of Robin's hat?

BOLDUAN: I think Robin's hat is beautiful.

BLITZER: She's got a great hat too, Robin. Don't go too far away.

Kate, describe a little bit, and I will describe also what it was like to drive down Pennsylvania Avenue on this historic day.

BOLDUAN: I think we were probably one of the first large vehicles to come through, so people were actually quite excited, waving, waving, throngs and throngs of people. You saw American flags. You saw just old, young. It was really, really neat to see. And it felt for a moment like we were really special.

BLITZER: We were special, because we had that police escort. We had to get here. They did it for a bunch of journalists.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: They did.

BLITZER: To move us from Capitol Hill here to the White House, right behind us.

BOLDUAN: Right behind us.

BLITZER: The viewing stand on the North Lawn of the White House, and the White House right behind that. The president is going to be literally right behind us with the first lady, the daughters.

BOLDUAN: The first family.

BLITZER: They're going to be watching these...

BOLDUAN: All of these people have been waiting here as well for a very long time. It almost feels like we're at a sporting event, because I think I saw some people doing the wave. They're now doing cheers. They're all trying to pump themselves up as well.

BLITZER: People are excited here. They're getting very excited when we walked in.

Jeffrey Toobin has been here for a while as well.

Jeffrey, as you take a look at this situation, you appreciate what is going on.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely.

And, you know we have Jimmy Carter to thank for a really wonderful modern tradition. He was the one who first got out of his car and started walking.

BLITZER: No, no, he walked the whole way.

TOOBIN: Right, right.

BLITZER: He didn't get out. He just walked from Capitol Hill with Rosalynn Carter. And they walked from Capitol Hill all the way to the White House.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: No one has done that since. But they have all, I believe with the exception of George W. Bush in 2001, when the weather was very bad, he -- they all get out and walk.

It really is a chance to see the president for people out here at a pretty close level. It does make the security people somewhat nervous, because even though Pennsylvania Avenue is a wide street, it's not that wide. And so if you're at the curb, you can see him very closely.

BLITZER: Christi Paul is right in the middle of what is going on.

Christi, where are you? Hey, Christi, if you can hear me, where are you?

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, hey. I want to tell you about something we noticed here. If you take a look down at not just security as we have been talking about, but the five branches of the military have representatives that are out here from 9:00 in the morning until this parade will finish.

And they do rotate. With us is Captain Udine (ph). Captain, thank you so much for being here. This has got to be such an honor. We should point out that you're not to be here part of security, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct, ma'am. We're simply here to pay respect to the president of the United States.

PAUL: So what is it like to stand out here? Tell me about the honor and how you're chosen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For each of the service members, we're actually we're actually volunteering to do this. So it's definitely an honor for each and every single officer doing this, because we don't get the privilege of doing this every four years because our assignments are so short. So those of us that are able to be here, it's definitely an honor to see the president of the United States, honor him in being reelected as our commander in chief.

PAUL: When he come downs, what do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he comes down, we're going to coming to position of attention and rendering a hand salute for the president of the United States.

PAUL: And you rotate how often?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're rotating every 20 to 30 minutes for each service member so they can warm up in a tent or in a designated building and come right back out there and maintain our position until the president comes back.

PAUL: And how is everybody holding up? It hasn't been too bad today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it hasn't. Thank God. The weather was projected to be a lot worse than it actually is, so we're very grateful. Especially the sun is out now. So we're very excited about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Captain Udine (ph), thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for your service to you and all the service members out here.

Again, they're interspersed as you see with all the security detail that is out here as well. But all of the service members here are from the D.C. area. I know you can hear the music there too. The announcer has been getting everybody here ready for the last probably half-hour. He started at one end, and the crowds here -- because we're toward the end of the parade route. We can see the presidential area where the president and Mrs. Obama, first lady, are going to stop with the vice president. And they're going to be sitting right down probably about 50 yards from us.

But they have all been doing the wave, because they're all -- all the crowds here are saying hey, we're going to be the loudest. So the announcer has been egging everybody on. You just happened to catch us at a time when they stopped. But that's OK, because if they had kept going, you wouldn't be able to whatever me anyway, Wolf.

BLITZER: We can hear you because you have a good strong microphone over there. We're sitting right across from the reviewing stand. We're anxious to see the president and the first lady. They will show up here. We will see what is going on together.

Don Lemon is right in the middle of the action as well.

Don, where are you?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You see me, Wolf? I'm waving at you.

BLITZER: Very good.

LEMON: There is a jib way on the other side of the street on the balcony of the museum. I'm on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Hey, everybody, wave to Wolf Blitzer. Say hello. Hi, Wolf. People here from Stone Mountain, near me where I live in Atlanta. Say hi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.

LEMON: How long are you been here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since Saturday.

LEMON: Since Saturday. Are you enjoying it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.

LEMON: The weather turned out to be warmer than you thought, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It did. I'm from the South.

LEMON: And you're from my hometown?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

LEMON: Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And I have got some folks here from Saint Louis. Saint Louis in the house. This is such a cool -- Mississippi is in the House as well. This is such a cool shot, Wolf, that we have from the museum.

We can basically go all the way up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. The Capitol is that way. The entire parade route is 1.5 miles that goes that way. And this is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shante (ph).

LEMON: Shante and?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thurman.

LEMON: Thurman. Turn this way toward the camera so they can see you. You guys have been here. You're from L.A. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LEMON: And you have been here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since Saturday.

LEMON: Since Saturday. How long have you been out here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since at least 12:30.

LEMON: Are you hoping the president and the first lady will get out right here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, of course.

LEMON: Yes. Are you going to try to shake their hands?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will take a head nod or anything I can get.

LEMON: Are you a woman of fashion as well like the first lady?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not as fashionable as she is. She is amazing.

LEMON: What did you think of her outfit?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh, it was totally amazing.

LEMON: And the bangs?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bangs are it, 2013 style of the year.

LEMON: Can you believe how big the girls are? They are so tall now. We have watched them grow up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're getting big.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very proud of them.

LEMON: So where are you guys from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boston, Massachusetts.

LEMON: All over. Thank you, guys. Thank you, guys. It's so loud out here. Wolf, I'm going to walk over here behind the trees, so I'm going to be out of range for a little bit. But, listen, again, this goes all the way down. Last time, four years ago, they got out a little bit further down, a little further down closer to Freedom Plaza to where you are. But right here when they got towards the museum, the crowds were really loud, and they were egging them on to get out of the car, to get out of the limo.

They didn't. There is a reviewing stand over here as we make our way down.

Hello, sir. How are you? Where are you from?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington, D.C., 10 blocks from the White House.

LEMON: Ten blocks.

Hi, how are you? Good to see you. Nice to meet you, nice to meet you. And we have members too of our armed forces who are out here. Again, another reviewing stand, Wolf. It's so loud, I can't hear the director, but I think you guys are saying toss back to you. But we will be here. We are hoping that the president and the first lady will get out here. And if they do, we will be here, Wolf -- back to you.

BLITZER: Don Lemon, he's got a lot of friends over there on Pennsylvania Avenue near the museum.

You see the vice president, Dr. Jill Biden. They're going through the Rotunda now. They will be going outside together with the president, the first lady, the speaker, the majority leader, the minority leaders as well. They will be walking down those stairs, and they're going to be reviewing the troops, in effect saluting the troops, saying thank you so much for everything the men and women of the United States military do.

This is the last official act, Jeffrey Toobin, that the president and the first lady will do before they get into the motorcade, the presidential limo, to take them on that route down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol all the way over to the White House.

And for those people who know Washington, they're going to go down Pennsylvania Avenue. They're going to make a right turn at 15th Street, they will go up 15th Street and they will make a left, and they will come up to where we are right here, this reviewing stand here on the North Lawn of the White House.

TOOBIN: You know, when president Kennedy made this trip in 1961, he was so appalled by the conditions along the way, that the buildings were falling down, he actually said we have to get this area improved.

And it took a long time. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was later the senator from New York. He was responsible for trying to revive Pennsylvania Avenue. And it is so difficult and so much improved than it was much earlier. But it was an inaugural parade that had very significant effect.

BLITZER: Here they come, the president and the first lady. They're pretty happy right now. They're going through the Statuary Hall. They're going to be walking down the stairs, saluting the men and women of the United States military.

And as they do that, let's remember, Kate, that there are still almost 70,000 -- about 65,000 U.S. troops still serving in Afghanistan right now. All U.S. troops are out of Iraq. But there are still about 60,000, 65,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, all of them in harm's way. All U.S. troops are supposed to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Maybe they can accelerate that withdrawal a little bit. But as the president and the first lady, they go down these stairs, let's remember those men and women who remain in harm's way in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. There is still a lot of serious issues throughout North Africa, the Middle East, in Asia.

Still about 25,000, 30,000 U.S. troops along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea as well. Let's not forget those troops as we watch what is going on.

BOLDUAN: We're reminded of it every day as see in the headlines that we cover about what a dangerous world this is and how our troops are protecting us.

We're awaiting the president and the first lady as well as Joe Biden, the vice president, Dr. Biden to review the military and then get into their cars to start the fun, as we like to say.

Jeffrey, I wanted to ask you your thoughts on the oath this time around.

TOOBIN: You know, it was chief justice's fondest hope. He is not the story today. It was a flawless performance on his part.

BLITZER: They did a really good job.

Anderson, they're going to be moving down Pennsylvania Avenue toward you guys. You might even be able to look to your right a little bit, and you might see the parade, the floats, the bands, and the president going out.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right.

And our Dana Bash is with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, while President Obama is about to review the troops.

Let's actually take a look and just listen.

BLITZER: As we listen to the fife and drum, let's go to Dana. She's got a very, very special guest, and appropriate one right now -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one of those cases where it's better to be lucky than good. We do have the secretary of defense right now with us as we are watching the commander in chief review the troops.

You are the departing defense secretary. But you obviously have a front-row seat to the president's relationship with those people who he is honoring right now.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: He has really had a terrific relationship with the military.

He has been very supportive. His wife, of course, and Jill Biden have been very supportive of benefits for our wounded warriors and for their families.

And because of that, I think the troops really have a very high regard for him. And it's important, because, frankly, these young men and women have to go into battle, put their lives on the line. And to have the president of the United States be able to back you 100 percent, you can't beat that.

BASH: You are -- this is the beginning of the president's second term. You are leaving. What do you hope to see in the second term from afar from your winery in Northern California?

PANETTA: Well, you know, I think it's really important that they provide some budget certainty here.

We're going through obviously a deficit reduction. It's important that defense play its role,but we fashion a strategy that protects the United States as the strongest military power on Earth. If the Congress allows the sequester to go in or if these budget cuts impact, I think that will do incredible damage to our defense.

BASH: And real quick, one of the first official acts the president did in his second term was to officially nominate your successor, Chuck Hagel. It is pretty controversial up here. It looks like he will get through. But do you feel some of that criticism is warranted?

PANETTA: No, you know, I know Chuck Hagel. And I'm very confident that, first of all, he will win confirmation. And, you know, he will get some tough questions, but there is no question in my mind he will be able to handle it. That's what secretary of defenses have to do.

BASH: OK. Thank you.

And the mood in there, was it pretty good in the lunch?

PANETTA: It was great. It was a great mood.

BASH: OK. Thank you for stopping. Good luck to you.

PANETTA: Thank you. Bye-bye.

BASH: Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. The president and the first lady, the vice president, the second lady, they have wrapped up their review of the troops, a nice gesture to wrap up an historic day on Capitol Hill. They're now in the presidential limos.

The motorcade is getting ready to leave to depart Capitol Hill. And this will be the official start of the parade. They will go down Pennsylvania Avenue. They will drive for a little while. But at some point, they will stop. They will get out. We are told the crowds will go crazy. They have been waiting for hours and hours on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Security is intense, obviously, for good reasons. But this is one of the most exciting moments.

And, you know, Kate, as we get ready to see the start of this parade, you have been doing a lot of research on the floats and the marching bands. Give us a little preview. I am so excited, because I know...

BOLDUAN: I know you are.

BLITZER: ... the floats especially are going to be great.

BOLDUAN: The floats are going to be fabulous. In all there are some 8,800 people that are going to be involved with this parade. Also, you might want to know some 200 animals involved with the parade.

BLITZER: Really?

BOLDUAN: Really.

BLITZER: What kind of animals? Like horses and stuff like that.

BOLDUAN: My research did not go that far.

BLITZER: All right.

BOLDUAN: But stand by. It's a surprise.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Good.

BOLDUAN: We also have eight official inaugural floats that include honoring the home states of both the Obamas as well as the Bidens. So we will see those. And those will be very creative.

BLITZER: That would be Hawaii, and Illinois, and Delaware, among others.

BOLDUAN: Exactly, among others. So we're waiting for those and 59 groups, marching bands galore that we are going to be looking for. So there is going to be a lot going on. It's going to be fun. It's going to be a celebration.

And some odd numbers that I have here, 41 is the number of unicyclists that we will be seeing in the parade today.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Wow.

Anderson, I don't know about you, but yesterday we had a preview of the Grambling State University marching band. They were playing with you and with me right over there on the National Mall. They're going to be playing for the entire world momentarily as this parade gets under way.

COOPER: That's right. They're actually the lead band in the parade. It's their third time in an inaugural parade to lead it off. Grambling State, of course, is from central Louisiana. A lot of folks in Louisiana are going to be very excited to hear that. Jessica Yellin, you and I were talking before about the movie "Lincoln" and the impact that has had on President Obama. I don't think a lot of people realized the extent to which he has been quoting it around the White House.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's true, Anderson.

He has said that Abraham Lincoln is his favorite president. But since this movie has come out, and he screened it in the White House movie theater, he has been quoting not just Abraham Lincoln himself, but actually lines from the movie, and in jest. I should say he is doing it somewhat ironically.

But the reason he likes Lincoln so much is Lincoln is sort of the ultimate fighter, the president who unified a nation during a time of incredible division. And so all presidents look to him as the one who persevered through the worst. So no one wants to compare themselves to him, because it would not be humble. So they're always careful to say they don't.

But, you know, they like to quote him. So President Obama, I'm told, has been quoting him a lot, and especially Daniel Day-Lewis. And Daniel Day-Lewis was there at a dinner in the residence with a lot of the cast.

COOPER: This is going to be very exciting for all the people who have been on the National Mall, who now have gone to the parade ground. We see the president approaching -- starting the parade route. He will -- they -- the first family of course will take their seats and then watch as the rest of the parade goes by.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the pivot point of the day. Now we go to celebration. We have a parade.

There's a celebration for the president and the vice president, but also for the country. You mentioned the variety, the diversity of the floats and the bands and others who have participated in the parade. Then you have the balls tonight. So we're pivoting now to the celebration, which the country deserves, and which the winners of the election, the president and the vice president very much deserve.

A big question in my mind, what we have seen in the last few hours is the spirit of friendliness and cooperation, and all the right things were said. Let's circle back in a week or three and just see even if on a few things, on a few things they can sustain it and show we're going to fight over this, but we made some progress here. We're going to fight over that, but we made some progress here.

The trust deficit, Margaret spoke about that earlier, that's the biggest deficit in town. You can't solve the financial problems, the financial deficits until they solve the trust deficit. Maybe it's hopeful idealism. But maybe they made a small down payment today.

(CROSSTALK) GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was also thinking as I was watching the president review the troops, and you heard Leon Panetta talk about the first lady and Jill Biden and how much they have done for the troops and their families.

But I'm also thinking coming into this next phase, this is going to be a president that could have some difficult relationships with generals. He has always been concerned about the generals and not being overtaken by them. And he has spoken an awful lot about that as presidents have to make their own decisions, not be led too much by the generals.

I think the nomination of Chuck Hagel is somebody who was a sergeant, whom he believes comes at the Pentagon from the view of the bottom of the ladder, not at the top of the ladder. And so I think you're going to have some real issues.

COOPER: General Stanley McChrystal wrote about that actually in his new book. He talked about kind of the deficit of trust they had early on in the administration.

Let's go back to Wolf, who is waiting down by the White House, down by the parade grounds -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You can see the presidential limo, Anderson, just beginning to move slowly. You see the Secret Service van right behind that presidential limo there, obviously very tight security. The vice president is there, and the president and the first lady.

They are being accompanied by what is initially called the presidential escort. These are the parades, performing groups organized into five divisions, each led by one branch of the U.S. armed forces, the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Air Force and, yes, the Coast Guard as well, even though the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, not a part of the Department of Defense. It is one of the five branches of the U.S. armed forces as it is considered on this date.

In addition to these five armed forces, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, there will also be representatives of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police. They will be participating in this presidential escort as it's called as this parade begins.

They have got to line up everyone. They have got to get everybody going, Kate, to make sure that they're all ready to go because once they start moving, they don't want to have to stop again.

BOLDUAN: There is really no stopping that they want to do.

BLITZER: Right. They don't want to stop. They want to keep on going. So they're just lining everyone up. And it's all extremely well-coordinated. Division one begins with the United States Army. Then they go on to the color guard, the various National Guard units. But then there Is a marching ban from the Punahou High School Marching Band. That would be in Honolulu, Hawaii. BOLDUAN: That would be in Honolulu, Hawaii. That is the high school, the school that President Obama graduated from in 1979. So there is a lot of -- this is all planned down to the very person and the very float, I can assure you.

Everyone though awaiting to see where and when and whether President Obama and possibly the first lady will be getting out of that limo. You know that is the moment when the Secret Service all hold their breath.

BLITZER: Yes. Everybody gets a little nervous for good reasons. And that's why, Jeffrey Toobin, there has been such incredible security as we get ready....

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You can see it right there. Look at that.

BLITZER: You see the police over there. They're lined up. They're going to be -- what a show of force. That presidential force, Jeffrey, is very impressive.

TOOBIN: Things changed after 9/11, that the security in Washington is so dramatically different from when you first came here, when I first started visiting Washington.

The post-9/11 security is a completely different order of magnitude. All those people we will see along the route pass through metal detectors to be allowed to stand where they are. So it's not like this is just some random crowds on the street. There are no reserve seats along most of the ways, but everybody has been through at least some form of screening.

BLITZER: And once you go down Pennsylvania Avenue and you see many of those office buildings on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, every one of those buildings has been secured. As they say, they have been swept to make sure that everything is quiet inside and that there is nothing that could really happen that would endanger anyone in this parade.

BOLDUAN: Security is absolutely tops. I'm sure if it's a building with a parking garage in it, every car had to be out of the parking garage. Every floor of every office building, we know there are many that line Pennsylvania Avenue that have all been closed for a very good reason, as we watch this all begin.

So it's looking right now it's moving very slowly, but for good reason. Everyone wants a chance to wave at the first family.

BLITZER: I like the Secret Service guys who walk as the motorcade moves. These guys are very, very -- they're in excellent shape, I got to tell you, excellent condition, because sometimes that car begins to move a little more quickly, so they start running a little bit.

By the way, you see in front of the presidential limo, you see some photographers. Those are some journalists. They have unique access. So we're going to be able to...

BOLDUAN: Yes, they themselves have quite the setup.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: As we watch this parade begin and the police escort, the military escort just getting under way, it's all very choreographed, Dana Bash has got another special guest with her -- Dana.

BASH: That's right, the majority leader of the House, Eric Cantor.

Thank you very much.

You not only are the majority leader in the House, but you also were a chair, a co-chair of the Joint Inaugural Committee. So you're very much involved in the process here. You had a front-row seat. Let's just start with your partisan reaction, frankly. What did you think of the speech?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Look, today is a day for all of us in this country to come together. It was the swearing- in, the inaugural of our commander in chief.

And, you know, it really doesn't matter who you don't voted for, which side you're on. Today is a day we can all come together. And I think that the president's speech was one that spoke to some of the aspirations that he has for this country. I think many of us share in what he spoke about, which is trying to help folks who haven't necessarily benefited from upward mobility in the past.

BASH: Now, you are being very generous. I think that this is traditionally a nonpartisan day. But some Republicans out there in the Twitterverse are saying they thought it was -- that the president's inaugural address was too aggressive, too overly partisan, too liberal.

CANTOR: You know, I think that the president did a fine job, certainly laying out what he would like to see happen as far as the future of the country.

You know, there are plenty of areas of disagreement. But there also some things fundamentally we agree on. And that is this country is one of opportunity. And it's sort of the way we get there to help everybody, there are some differences. Hopefully, we can bridge those differences.

BASH: You were a fly -- you are our fly on the wall for two behind- the-scenes moments I want to ask you about. First, right over there, the Martin Luther King statue, the president was talking about some things. What was he saying?

CANTOR: Well, first of all, he said it was the first time that he had ever seen the statue, and stopped. And obviously today is also Martin Luther King Day, very symbolic given it is the inaugural for Barack Obama as well. But, you know, I think it was just recognition there of the importance that Martin Luther King has played not only for, you know, the African-American community in this country, but for all of us.

BASH: And then the lunch that you helped put on, for 45 minutes, we couldn't see it. It went dark. You were inside. What happened?

CANTOR: You know, it's a very nice lunch. And it is really a continuum of the spirit of the day, where both sides come together. There is bipartisan representation at the tables. There is legislative branch, judicial branch, executive branch all sharing tables, and just nothing but good.

Hopefully, that kind of cooperative spirit can continue.

BASH: And last -- four years ago, the president accused of not socializing, didn't eat. We heard that he socialized the whole time. Did he eat or socialize?

CANTOR: Yes, and I think one even sort of indicated that he was the one for the delay in the program, because he went to every table and shook every hand.

BASH: Huh, very interesting, very interesting. Well, maybe it's a new day. We will see. We will see. For both parties. For both parties.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ask him, Dana, if he can't hear me -

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: Ask him how long this good will is going to last.

BASH: Wolf wants to know how long the good will is going to last

CANTOR: Right. I said, you and I both, Dana, would say to Wolf, we hope that this lasts and that we can focus on solutions, bridging differences, setting aside differences and trying to focus on what we have in common as Americans.

BASH: There you go. There's your answer, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sounds good to me. Let's see if they can do that. If they can, that would be encouraging to everyone in the country. Thank the majority leader from all of us.