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Inauguration Day Festivities

Aired January 21, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Organizers are still, by the way, about $6,000 short of their scaled-down fund-raising goal.

But they are marching anyway and they're doing an excellent, excellent job.

Right now, I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington, D.C. We're right across from the president of the United States on the reviewing stand. There it is, the reviewing stand on the North Lawn of the White House. Kate Bolduan is here, Jim Acosta is here.

And we're in THE SITUATION ROOM, a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM watching the Wind River dancers from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming performing for the president of the United States. He's still there. He's still in the reviewing stand. The first lady, Sasha and Malia, they have gone inside. I suspect they have to get ready for the balls for tonight.

BOLDUAN: It's a very special day, obviously, but a very long day for the president and first lady. Up next, they will need to get ready and head to the balls and greet all of their supporters. But, as we see, up next here, on our parade root is the Canine Companions for Independence out of Fauquier County, Virginia, a very special group.

BLITZER: You wanted to see animals, you are seeing animals. There you go.


BOLDUAN: See, it's finally all happening for me.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are very special animals. They help wounded veterans and to people with disabilities.

BOLDUAN: It's a national nonprofit and something that we should definitely take a second to honor.

BLITZER: Excellent work for them.

Brian Todd is joining us right now.

Brian, tell us where you are because you had a unique opportunity to see a side of this inauguration that a lot of folks don't often see.


I'm down here on the Mall right now which is where we were earlier today. We were packed in tight with hundreds and thousands of people. The atmosphere was completely electric. It was really great to be among so many people. You really couldn't move there in a lot of places because it was a lot -- let's just say a lot more dense than this crowd behind us here.

And a lot of people here had to endure hardship just to get here on the Mall. They had to come a long way to get here, one of them, an incredible story, 85-year-old Juanita Smith. She came here from Florida City, Florida, first ever inauguration. She brought her grandchildren here. She had a terrific time, but she was visibly overcome with emotion when she saw President Obama getting introduced and she spoke to us a just couple of seconds after that.


JUANITA SMITH, INAUGURATION ATTENDEE: I feel just like crying and saying, it's great to be an American and I'm great to be -- glad to be here.


TODD: She was glad to be here. A lot of people we saw, as we said, endured a lot of hardship. We saw people in wheelchairs who had simply been waiting there since 5:00 in the morning, people who had -- one lady had actually torn a meniscus in her left knee over the weekend, but walked the whole route on crutches, an incredible story.

People are just charged. They will do anything to get here. There you see Juanita kind of overcome with emotion as she saw the president being introduced there. A lot of the crowd here, some of the crowd is still behind me. Did you guys have a good time today? Did you have a good time today? These are people who are just taking in the moment. A lot of people want to linger here and just soak it all up, as you know.

BLITZER: Brian, are they beginning to open up the city over there where you are or is it still pretty much clogged up?

TODD: A lot of the venues are opening up here. You can walk pretty freely around here. I know it's not like that where you are by any means. But a lot of the gates have opened up. People can walk on and off the Mall. Vehicle traffic is still very restricted but it's a just lot more open than it was hours ago.

BLITZER: Was there a moment, Brian, in your reporting today and I know you spent a lot of time with folks out there -- was there a moment that really jumped out at you that you will never forget?

TODD: You know, it had to be the moment with Juanita Smith. Here she is 85 years old. She told me in one of the clips that we did with her, in her lifetime she had endured a lot of hatred, that's the word she used, hatred between the races, tension between the races.

She was just so proud to be here. She waited all her life for a moment like this. There you see her again. She was just incredibly overcome with emotion when the president was introduced and I don't think any of us who witnessed that will soon forget it.

BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right. Brian Todd with a rare moment indeed.

This is the Pearl River Community Marching band from Mississippi. They are moving along together. I guess there are still two more, Kate.

BOLDUAN: They're not done yet. If you want a parade, we have got a parade for you. We have got quite a ways to go and a lot of special performances ahead.

BLITZER: We're watching.

John King is watching as well.

John, you have had an opportunity to take a close look at this special, special day in American history.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a time when everybody, all Americans, whether they are here in D.C., whether they're watching at home, whether they're Democrats, Republicans, independents, somewhere in between, everybody can and should enjoy this.

This is a celebration of our democracy. It's a nonpartisan parade. Obviously the president and the vice president are on the parade. But let's get a perspective at the end of this day on where we are because the parade I think we can all love.

If you look at the commentary already out about the president's speech, there's a wide range of opinion about whether it was a good start to the second term or whether it was too partisan. One commentary David Gergen was just reading to us said it was pedestrian.

Let's get around our group here. And I'm joined by Cornell Belcher, who is an aide to the Obama campaign, a Democratic pollster, Ari Fleischer, Republican who worked in the George W. Bush White House, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is with us and David I just mentioned and our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

Let me just start with you, Cornell. At the beginning of a second term, a speech of the president was groundbreaking on gay rights and laid out an agenda, climate change, immigration, gun control. Some of those are issues he could have tackled in the first term but generally shied away from. Your reaction, where you think we are at this moment at this evening?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: I think what is big about this speech look, budget battles come and budget battles go. What is big about this speech is the gay rights talk. I don't think we have ever seen a president bridge our founding fathers and Martin Luther King the way he did.

He clearly put Martin Luther King in the moral and ideal continuum of our founding fathers. It's interesting because he then used that to pivot and put Stonewall in the same space as Seneca Valley and Selma, which is not fail controversy, because, understand, a lot of civil rights leaders from that era resist putting the gay rights movement within the civil rights movement.

So I think, when a lot of this has gone to pass, we will remember the bigness of the gay rights stuff.

KING: Was it a big speech? Was it a partisan speech?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, it was both. It had elements of boat. Let me agree with what Cornell said here, because I want to hit this gay issue because I think there is something profoundly important here for society, as we change and as we evolve.

I couldn't help but notice the man who signed the Defense of Marriage Act, Bill Clinton, was sitting behind him. A man who came into office opposed to gay marriage changed his position in the course of his presidency.


KING: The president you worked for closed every speech in 2004 looking for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

FLEISCHER: Correct. And I do think there is something healthy about this change in our society. And I welcome it.

What I didn't welcome, though, was the most polarizing president we have had in recent years became even more polarizing today, in my judgment. This was a speech where the 51 percent that voted for him. There really wasn't much else for the 49 percent who did not. It was a speech that talked about mostly collective action by the government.

And when you look at the biggest issue we face of this era, it's the yawning deficits, the trillion of dollars of debt. And the president really didn't talk about that. He talked about, we're not a nation of takers. But what he didn't say is, we have become a nation of debtors. And that's the big issue of his era.

KING: Well, the president clearly is a smart man, a smart politician. He's also a writer and a thoughtful person. If that is the speech, if the speech is as Ari described, why would he decide to give that speech? What's the political goal?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is the last time he's getting sworn in as president of the United States. That's why.

I think it's Martin Luther King day. Martin Luther King was courageous. I think this president -- and David Maraniss made this point -- he was on our earlier, presidential biographer -- that perhaps the president had some sense of guilt about not doing gun control and that it took Newtown to get him to do that.

And so this is the speech you get to give once. And I think there may have been a sense he wanted to be aggressive because he could and because he had to set out what he believes he said, I'm not going to get all of it, don't let the perfect -- nothing can be perfect. But I do believe he decided, why not, essentially?

KING: We should make note that we're watching the presidential parade. As you can see, it's darkness here in D.C., but the parade continues. The president is still in the reviewing booth.

David Gergen, he's enjoying this celebration, the parade here. And you see the smiles. He's been actively involved and engaged with the groups as they go by, dancing at some points. He's going to go to the balls tonight and party. But he was saying something in that speech about what he wants to do in the next four years. And you know full well from your service in the White House that a second-term president has a window.

It could be a year, could be two years. But he laid out those goals. Now what?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we will wait and see, but in my judgment, this was one of the most important speeches of his political career, because it was the clearest statement of his political philosophy, his principles.

I think he argued basically that in the first term he inherited an economic crisis, he inherited these wars, but now that we're moving out beyond that, here's where I want to go for the country. This is the opportunity that I see for us.

If this were a foreign policy speech, I think we would call it the Obama doctrine. And it essentially was the firmest commitment we have seen to a progressive agenda. And that's why the liberal community is singing hosannas tonight, why there are a lot of people in this city who are very happy. This is a populist speech. And yet the reviews are also starting to come in now from conservatives who are holding back. They're starting to say, wait a minute. He really almost declared war. This was not about unity. This was about what I want to push through.

KING: But, Jessica, if this is about who he is, I assume he also wants to -- does he? I guess let me pose it as a question.

Is it more important to be successful or to lay out those principles and fight for them in the sense that whether we're talking about gun control, immigration perhaps there will be some common ground. He wouldn't get everything he wants, but gay rights. But he's picking some fights with the conservative Republicans who still control the House.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Obviously, he obviously he wants to succeed.

I think this was an action speech. And what he was doing was going -- building on what David was saying, he was calling on his supporters to -- what we have heard, lobby Congress from the outside, and picking up on what we were talking about earlier with this message about equality and the gay rights movement, that is his legacy to date. He has done more than any other president on gay rights.

He also though expanded Martin Luther King's vision not just to extend to gay Americans, but also to expand to Latino Americans. His next paragraph was about immigration reform. So, we could read into that that his next message is to fight for a broad effort on immigration. Now -- but the question is, will that succeed, and the problem, again, is, where will he prioritize?

KING: Here's where Republicans are going to still criticize, because this speech was very eloquent and good with the slices that make up America, but it wasn't good for all of America, and that's what Republicans are going to point out.

We will continue our conversation in just a moment, but let's get back to the parade. You see the Republican member of the Bush Cabinet, Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary there. I believe this is the Coast Guard Band. Let's listen.

BLITZER: This is the Coast Guard Band. They have been honoring all branches of the U.S. military, earlier the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, now the U.S. Coast Guard. You see the commandant of the Coast Guard there with the president of the United States.

This is a nice tribute to the Coast Guard. They help us in so many ways, ways that a lot of people don't even appreciate, but they are there almost all of the time for us for us. They have done a remarkable job in all sorts of disasters and we are so, so happy to be able to salute the United States Coast Guard for the terrific work that they do.

You see the president saluting the Coast Guard as well with the commandant of the Coast Guard. Let's take a quick break and resume our special coverage right after this.


BLITZER: The Northern State University Marching Wolves of Aberdeen, South Dakota, part of a thriving rural university with an on-campus population of about 2,000 traditional undergraduate students.

The NSU Marching Wolves are comprised of 120 members from seven states, two foreign countries. And they have got a powerful big sound as they go forward and perform for the president of the United States -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: I will tell you, I have been very -- not that I am a judge of marching bands, but I have been very impressed with all of the marching bands that we have seen throughout the afternoon, and this keeps going and going. We're not even done yet.

ACOSTA: And these kids are coming across the country. These folks are all the way from South Dakota. The amount of preparation that goes into this, the amount of travel, being away from their families, the cost that's involved. Some of these groups had to pay their own way, raise money through bake sales and whatnot, I imagine. It's a true American parade that we're watching today.

BOLDUAN: And you noted earlier it happens quickly.

ACOSTA: It does.

BOLDUAN: Think about the time between the election and now. They don't have a ton of time for preparation to get ready and get here and get going.

ACOSTA: That's right. It's a good thing they are playing a lot of parade favorites. That helps, I'm sure.


BLITZER: These are the Military Spouses of Michigan from Detroit, Michigan. It's a group of military spouses, family members of Michigan dedicated to building a network of support and services.

BOLDUAN: Oh, look at those cute kids.

BLITZER: Michigan -- yes, they are adorable -- military families, some of them lack family readiness group resources. They make them available to family members, and they have been doing a great, great job. That's why they were invited to march here on this inaugural parade day.

BOLDUAN: Clearly an issue very close to the first lady and the second lady's hearts, as they work on their joining forces, efforts, one of their major causes. It will be interesting to see what both of the first -- both of these women do in their in the second term. I'm very interested to see what Michelle Obama does.

ACOSTA: And as a reminder as these wars that are winding down during the course of this presidency, too, and how many of those touching scenes have we seen, Wolf, in those aircraft hangars and those high school gymnasiums when fathers and mothers come home to their kids waiting for them after very long tours of duty overseas.

BLITZER: This is Londonderry High School Marching Band and Color Guard from Londonderry, New Hampshire. They have come all the way from New Hampshire, nearly 300 members of the marching band. And they are well known. They have performed at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, most recently in 2011, they have marched in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade.

They have even performed overseas in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. By the way, on the left part of the screen, you're seeing some live pictures from the Commander in Chief Ball. They're getting ready for that later tonight. Kate, are you ready for that...


BOLDUAN: I am always ready.

BLITZER: You have got the outfit, you have got the gown, you have got everything ready to go?

BOLDUAN: I'm ready to go. When are you picking me up?


BLITZER: Jim Acosta, are you ready to go?

ACOSTA: My tux is pressed and ready.

BLITZER: It's a beautiful...

BOLDUAN: That's a beautiful shot of the Washington Convention Center where these balls will be taking place. Here, this is the Commander in Chief Ball, fewer balls than this time than four years ago.

It's a more scaled-down affair kind of all over the map. I won't argue. I'm not sure the parade, however, is called down.

We will have special coverage, by the way, later tonight of all of the balls. Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett, Piers Morgan, they are spread out across this town. We are watching what is going on.

And I think our viewers right after THE SITUATION ROOM will want to see our coverage of the balls. I assume the first lady, the second lady, they are inside the White House now. They are getting ready.

ACOSTA: Oh, they have to. That's right.

And some amazing musical acts tonight at these balls. We have been listening to these marching bands all day long. Some of the bands, some of the performers that are lined up for tonight, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry. I think Soundgarden will be playing tonight from my grunge days, my younger days, and the band Fun, which is a very popular group right now.

BOLDUAN: Some of the same artists that actually performed over the weekend for the kids inaugural concert will be performing again this evening.

BLITZER: And you know what? Our own Piers Morgan has an interview with Stevie Wonder, who will be performing tonight as well.

BOLDUAN: We actually saw Stevie Wonder today at the inaugural ceremony on the west front. He was right below us, actually.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: He was really getting into it. He loves politics. I have met him myself on a few occasions and he's been so supportive of this president. He wanted to be here for the inauguration. He was here and he will be performing. And Piers has a good interview with him later tonight.

BOLDUAN: We have to mention this, because it is from my home state. This is Culver Academies of Indiana, so we must point this one out. I must cut you off.

BLITZER: Did you know that Kate is from Indiana?

ACOSTA: I know it now.

BOLDUAN: I try to point it out at every turn, if you don't know.

ACOSTA: It's a good thing they're passing as we're speaking here.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Culver Academies' participation in the parade dates back 100 years to Woodrow Wilson's inaugurals in 1913 and 1917, when Culver's Black Horse Troop served as the escort for Vice President Thomas Marshall. So, a little trivia to Indiana right now.

BLITZER: You see the reviewing stand. We are directly across right now from the reviewing stand, where the president and vice president, they are still there, although I see a -- there are some empty seats there. So, a lot of the folks probably are getting ready for the balls already.

There are a few more fans, a few more floats. We will take a quick break, resume our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: And welcome back to our special SITUATION ROOM.

We're watching the finale of these parades that have been going on here in Washington. This is the Liberty -- the Liberty North High School band from Liberty, Missouri. It's a band program among the Missouri's most respected. They have been selected for several prestigious honors.

They have performed in the Bahamas, New York, Saint Louis, and elsewhere around the country. The president is still there. You can see Ray LaHood with the vice president, Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, the former congressman from Illinois.

You know, Jim Acosta, you see the president has been chewing a lot of gum in there. I don't know what's going on.

ACOSTA: That's right. I have e-mailed the White House for some kind of explanation of this. We do know that the president occasionally chews Nicorette gum. So, don't want to speculate. Could be a cough drop.

BLITZER: It could be regular gum, too.

ACOSTA: It could be regular gum, too.

BLITZER: Could be Spearmint, something like that.

BOLDUAN: Gum-gate, we started it.


ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: But he's clearly enjoying himself. And they're all going to be enjoying themselves even more later as they go to these balls and see some of the great entertainers who are getting ready to entertain the president and the first lady.


BOLDUAN: Got so much going on. Two major balls tonight and you can guess, as we have been talking about fashion throughout the day, it will be very big news whatever the first lady wears because that is what many eyes are waiting to see, the next outfit.

BLITZER: Those are live pictures from the Convention Center on the left part of the screen. Some people are beginning to come in, but it's still very, very early. These balls really don't get going for a while.

BOLDUAN: They don't get going for a while and they go for a very long time.

If you are getting there early, you should pace yourself. And you should -- maybe they are just trying to get in very good positioning, because they are very fun and, as Jim pointed out, some big-name performers coming out for the president and the vice president.


ACOSTA: Probably not a bad idea to get out there early tonight, I mean, considering who is going to be playing tonight. You want to get that picture.

BOLDUAN: Could be jampacked and the fact that there are fewer balls this time, they will probably be a little busier.


BLITZER: And we're going to have extensive coverage of all the balls later tonight, but in the meantime, we're watching the parade go past the reviewing stand where the president and vice president are standing there and they are appreciating what's going on.

I want to see which band this one is. Is it the Frankfort High School Marching Band from Ridgeley, West Virginia?

BOLDUAN: I think it might be. Yes, it is.

BLITZER: Yes. And they're just wrapping up, and then there's Las Vegas, Nevada, a group that is coming, dancers from Las Vegas. I think this is almost over with, though.

BOLDUAN: Comparsa Morelense.

BLITZER: They have come all the way from Las Vegas to be part of this parade. I think the president is going to stay until the very, very end.

BOLDUAN: As well he should.

BLITZER: As he should.

BOLDUAN: They have come very far. This group from Las Vegas, they come for this few minutes, this moment really to be able to walk in front of the president. I always do enjoy turning around, as we're watching it unfold live on TV, but I always like to turn around to try to catch the glimpse, because even if you're dancing and even if they are trying to keep a very serious face, they always give one little glimpse to the left right as they are passing by the reviewing stage.

ACOSTA: And of all the outfits today, I know we have seen some colorful outfits, but, my goodness, look at this. This may be the most colorful bunch we have seen all day.

BLITZER: This is a dance troupe, as we said, from Las Vegas.

You go ahead. I know your Spanish is very good. So, go ahead, Kate, and tell us...

BOLDUAN: Comparsa Morelense.

BLITZER: Beautiful, very good.

BOLDUAN: I don't know if I pronounced that right.


BLITZER: They performed at the Latin Grammys. They are very excited to participate in this inauguration parade.

And this is now the Letcher County Central Marching band from Kentucky. They have come all the way from rural Appalachia to perform for the president of the United States. It's very exciting.

BOLDUAN: The president even referenced Appalachia in his remarks today in his inaugural address.

ACOSTA: And if you're the president, you have been reelected, this is your second inaugural, you're going to stay to the end. You are going to stay until all these bands go by. You're going to soak it up to the very last second.

BOLDUAN: And that's one thing that we really have noticed and noted throughout the day, is how the president -- the vice president loves every moment, but the president seems to really be trying to soak up every minute, because he knows this is his last, obviously.


BLITZER: All right. Let's go over to the National Mall.

John King is watching what is going on. He's got some good people with him.

John, pick it up a little bit.

KING: Wolf, we're watching the parade here at the National Mall. We had a great crowd behind us earlier today. They've mostly gone away. Perhaps some of them following the final acts of the parade.

Let's continue our conversation about the challenges in the second term and this moment, including the celebration we're watching tonight. Ari Fleischer, Cornell Belcher, Gloria Borger, David Gergen and Jessica Yellin with me. I started off to my right last time. I'll start to my left this time.

Jess, the country is celebrating tonight. All Americans should, whether you voted for the president or not. Again, this is part of our democracy, part of the great ritual, an example to the world of how we do things. This president began, so let him celebrate tonight. What happens tomorrow?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an interesting question for this White House, because this is not where they thought they'd be. You know, when he was re-elected, the expectation was he would begin with some sort of negotiation over the tax cuts, the tax -- Bush tax cuts and they would have a plan to negotiate tax reform this year, and we would be well into a deficit deal and tax reform right now, and then he could move on to the next agenda item.

Well, it didn't quite work out that way. And so now they have to figure out what is the first agenda item? Is it immigration? Is it going to be guns? They can't move ahead, necessarily, with guns. So we have to figure out what are they going to -- what are they going to move on right away?

KING: Quick time out. Everybody hold for one second here, because we're at an important juncture. I want to go back to Wolf for just a second. I believe we're nearing the end of our inaugural parade.

BLITZER: This is the last band. These -- this is the second to the last band. Go ahead.

BOLDUAN: These are the firefighters of Idaho performing together for the first time for the inaugural parade from Idaho, as I mentioned, comprised of representatives from fire departments across the state. You can see 20 bagpipers, seven drummers and multiple honor guard members. The bagpipers are dressed in kilts, as you can obviously see, while the other marchers are wearing honor guard attire, hat, jackets and slacks and badges. It's common for fire departments to have bagpipers or drummers. And the firefighters of Idaho were excited for the opportunity, as everyone is, to come and perform and represent their state in this 57th inauguration.

BLITZER: And just behind them, that's the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia.

And that's the last -- the last group that will be going forward, Virginia Military Institute. They're marching now for the president and that will wrap up this parade. This inaugural parade here in Washington, D.C., recognizing the 44th president of the United States, who was sworn in today for a second term in a public ceremony.

Let's listen in for a moment.


BLITZER: And that's it. The Virginia Military Institute marching band and now the president and the vice president, they will leave the reviewing stand. They're saying good-bye to some friends, the VIPs who were invited, those who remained for this parade.

The president will leave. They'll go back inside the White House, and he'll put on a tuxedo and get ready to go to some of those inaugural balls tonight. Kate Bolduan, I'm sure he and the vice president and their wives will look very, very dapper, distinguished for such a special occasion.

BOLDUAN: Speaking of dapper...

BLITZER: Speaking of dapper and distinguished, our own Piers Morgan is over at one of those inaugural balls right now. Where are you, Piers?

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm in the middle of the inaugural ball, and it is unbelievably loud, which is surprising. There's absolutely nobody here. I'm at the biggest airport hangar you could ever imagine, and there's this deafening noise behind me.

But you can see, it's the most extraordinary party. They expect at least 30,000 people all gallivanting in this very room. And I'm here with Erin who's looking, I must say, extremely glamorous tonight. And we intend to be the kind of James Bond and Moneypenny of the operation, bringing you all the latest action as it happens -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You look extremely distinguished, Piers. Can we get another -- we're looking at the president. I'd like to see the tuxedo, though. Can you share the designer, which tuxedo you have tonight?

MORGAN: It's one of many, obviously. It's Dolce & Gabbana, Wolf.

BLITZER: You look very good.

BOLDUAN: The sweet life.

BLITZER: Fix the collar a little bit, because it's over your jacket a little bit. I want you to fix your jacket so you look...

MORGAN: Here we are.

BLITZER: The other side. That's right. Now you look great.

BOLDUAN: As you two continue talking about suits, we continue to watch the president and the vice president thanking the Tuskegee airmen as well as the other guests.

BLITZER: Let's listen into the president for a second.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, sir. Appreciate you. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. They're putting their coats on. They're going to go back inside the White House.

I Wonder if the vice president is going to drive over to the Naval Observatory, the vice-presidential residence, to change, get ready for the inaugural balls.

There he is, the president of the United States going back towards the White House. A very, very happy man, as he should be on this very special day.

Let's go back to Piers for a moment. Piers, as we watch the president and the vice president leave the reviewing stand, head back towards the White House, give us a little preview of what you expect to see tonight.

MORGAN: Well, there's two main balls. There's the inaugural ball on this floor, and then above us will be the commander-in-chief ball. And the president and first lady will be at both of those.

They're expected to do their first dance. You may remember the whole Etta James extravaganza last time. This time we're not sure yet what that dance will be. That will take place upstairs, and they're expected to come back down here to the inaugural ball and dance again here, which will be just a few feet behind me.

I just had a great interview, actually, with Stevie Wonder, who is performing at both the balls tonight, and he was really great, actually. He's one of the main instigators behind the Martin Luther King's Day. It was one of his ideas to make it a national holiday. So he was thrilled that the president was being inaugurated on this day today.

And I got to chat with him about a lot of issues. He was delighted with the president's speech. He thought it was a powerful, rousing speech, invoking the memory of Martin Luther King. He loved what he said about equality, and he loved what he said about the safety of children. He was very big on that and said to me, we've got to do something now about gun control in America, and he raised a really powerful point. He said, "Look, I can go to a store, I, Stevie Wonder, and buy a gun tomorrow. How safe do you think it would be in my hands?" You know, it was a powerful thing to say.

He's a fascinating guy, Stevie Wonder. For him I think, doubly, it's an amazing moment to have a black president being re-elected and re-inaugurated on Martin Luther King Day. And it meant an awful lot to him personally.

So he'll be with me tonight. He was with the first couple last night, and he said they were talking about their favorite Stevie Wonder songs. And apparently, it includes "My Cherie Amour," "Superstition" and a few others. But those were the main ones, he said, that the first couple liked. We may -- may -- hear those tonight.

BLITZER: "Isn't She Lovely," I assume we're going to hear that, as well. Don't you think?

MORGAN: No, it -- sorry. "Isn't She Lovely," as well. Another one. So yes, those are the three, but he was narrowing down.

But the cast list of performers is terrific: Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Jamie Foxx, Marc Anthony, Katy Perry, John Legend, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. It's going to be an amazing night, and I was walking around earlier. It took about two days to walk from one end of this room to the other, and everywhere you go, there is vast amounts of alcohol. You'd love it here, Wolf.

BLITZER: I would love it. Maybe I'll show up, Piers. You never know. I could surprise you.

MORGAN: Jack Daniels waiting in my name.

BLITZER: All right. Piers, we're going to be watching you. We're going to be watching Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, all of the special coverage of these inaugural balls. I'm pretty excited about what's going to happen.

BOLDUAN: It's been a very exciting day.

BLITZER: Did you hear those entertainers?

BOLDUAN: I heard the entertainers, but you know, we've got marching bands; they've got entertainers. It's a pretty good day. We'll have more of our special coverage when we return.



ANNOUNCER: A president who's been tested for four, long hard years renews his oath to a nation still struggling and still divided.

OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear. ANNOUNCER: In the shadow of the Capitol where so many political battles have been fought, a gala celebration of democracy and a promise of better days ahead.

OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.


BLITZER: A live look at the United States Capitol, where this historic day started.

And here now at the White House, the first family is starting the next four years with a night of balls, gowns, and dancing.

Once again, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer along with Kate Bolduan and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BOLDUAN: It's been a very fun SITUATION ROOM today.

BLITZER: Lots of fun.

BOLDUAN: Unlike four years ago, when they attended several inaugural balls, this year there are only two. The Commander in Chief Ball includes members of the military, along with stars like Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and Marc Anthony. They will perform.

And there's also the Inaugural Ball, where tens of thousands of people are expected to join the first couple. A long list of artists will perform, including John Legend, Katy Perry, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. And as you just saw, our Piers Morgan will be live from one of those balls.

BLITZER: All that coming up. But first, an historic day, an inaugural speech that caught so many people by surprise. CNN's John Berman has details.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Cloaked in history, shrouded in expectations, surrounded by exuberance.

OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.

BERMAN: The re-elected president retook the stage where he first stood four years ago to renew the mission of his office.

OBAMA: Now more than ever we must do these things together as one nation and one people.

BERMAN: The day began with prayer and then revelation of the fashion variety. The answer to the epic question, what or who is she wearing? A navy Thom Browne coat and dress; belt and shoes by J. Crew; cardigan by Reed Krakoff; and necklace, Cathy Waterman. With those questions answered, time for pomp. The crowd was smaller than last time, but at one million people, by no means small.

With daughters dancing, political friend and foe looked on to witness the oath for the second time in two days, for the fourth time in two terms.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

BERMAN: This time, the treacherous, perilous moment was his.

ROBERTS: The office of president of the United States.

OBAMA: The office of the president of the United States.

BERMAN: It was the inaugural address that took many by surprise.

OBAMA: We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.

BERMAN: Nineteen minutes, making history, invoking the words of the Founding Fathers on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day to relate the fight for civil rights 50 years ago to the fight for women's rights and gay rights today.

OBAMA: We, the people, declared today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.

BERMAN: His words had progressives cheering (ph). Kelly Clarkson's voice had America singing.

KELLY CLARKSON, SINGER (singing): From every mountaintop, let freedom ring.


BERMAN: Beyonce didn't disappoint either.

BEYONCE, SINGER (singing): And the rockets' red glare...

BERMAN: From "American Idols" to a first-generation Cuban American, the poet, Robert Blanco.

ROBERT BLANCO, POET: Here: the doors we open / each day for each other, saying hello, shalom, / buon giorno, howdy, namaste or buenos dias / in the language my mother taught me -- in every language / spoken into one wind carried our lives / without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

BERMAN: It was a day that even a president had to pause to take in. GRAPHIC: I want to take a look one more time. I'm not going to see this again.

BERMAN: Not a long look, though, because there was one last inaugural parade. The flags, the floats, the fans. And then one last inaugural walk.

Now, nothing but inaugural balls and four more years ahead.

John Berman, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: And Beyonce did, in fact, do an amazing "Star-Spangled Banner."

BOLDUAN: Quite a moment.

BLITZER: The national anthem once again from Beyonce.




BLITZER: And we'll be right back with more news.



BOLDUAN: Mr. President.

BLITZER: Mr. President. How are you doing? Hey, Mr. President. Mrs. -- Mrs. Obama. I don't know if they see me.


BLITZER: I don't think they saw me. Maybe they did. I don't know.

BOLDUAN: There were a lot of people.

BLITZER: They were standing there. We stood up. There you were. You were down on the other side.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was down on the rolling flatbed truck with the rest of the media, watching you and thinking, "Boy, I thought I was making a ham out of myself."

BOLDUAN: Right, exactly.

BLITZER: He wasn't saying anything to us at all.

ACOSTA: But it just goes to show you will stop at nothing, Wolf, to get that story.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Exactly what -- that's exactly what Wolf was thinking.

BLITZER: We had a good time.

ACOSTA: It was great.

BLITZER: Historic day. A presidential inaugural is a highly, highly choreographed and well-rehearsed event.

BOLDUAN: It absolutely is. Here's Jeanne Moos with a little bit more.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a day that got off with a bang.


MOOS: Not that bang, the bangs on Michelle Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the bangs. Let's not forget the bangs.

MOOS: It was also a day of odd couples. Beyonce and Jay-Z rubbing shoulders with Newt Gingrich and Callista. Audio difficulties forced Beyonce to pull out her earpiece...

BEYONCE: ... and the rocket's red glare...

MOOS: ... but she still nailed "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The president, on the other hand, blew one little word as he took the oath.

OBAMA: ... the office of president of the United St...

MOOS: And no stumbling by Sasha as she literally skipped and ran from place to place. Sasha gyrated, Malia danced as they waited for the festivities to begin. Sasha kept picking at and wiping something off her coat.

When the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sang, the president may or may not have wiped a tear from his face. A second later, he definitely winked.

Singer Kelly Clarkson's rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" got a one-word review from Senator Chuck Schumer.


MOOS: Of course, there were a few media flubs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Morgan Freeman, I think. No, Russell Armstrong. OBAMA: The freedom of every soul on earth.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It continued. I stopped, but it continued. Welcome back to our -- welcome back to our continuing coverage.

MOOS: And boy, did it continue. From famous faces...

MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: Hello. Hey, how are you all? Hi!

MOOS: To the unknown anti-abortion protester in a tree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the babies?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I'm making an important decision, like whether or not to get an abortion, I always listen to men in trees.

MOOS: When he finally climbed down a police ladder, the crowd cheered his arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to jail! Go to jail!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to jail! Go to jail!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go to jail! Go to jail!

MOOS: There were plenty of solemn moments, for instance, when the president paused after making his last inaugural speech.

OBAMA: I want to take a look one more time. I'm not going to see this again.

MOOS: Spent almost 30 seconds gazing back at the sea of spectators.

But solemnity gave way to fist pumping and the kids taking kissing pictures of their parents. As for Michelle Obama's outfit, it was by American designer Thom Browne. Whether you like it or not, it could have been worse. Imagine these other designs by Browne. Instead of the Obamas, it could have been the inauguration of the Munsters.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I don't know about you, Kate, but I had a great time watching all of this, the serious, the not so serious, and now people are going to go out there and have a few laughs.

BOLDUAN: Quite a day, from the official ceremony on the west front of the Capitol to all the fun we've been having covering this parade and watching the president watch the parade from the reviewing stand. It was quite a day, and it's not even over yet for them.

BLITZER: No, because Piers Morgan, Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett, they're getting ready to cover some of the fun, black-tie inaugural balls. They are only just beginning.

BOLDUAN: Only just beginning. And there's a live picture that we're seeing of one of the balls. And the big question next, what is everyone wearing? That's where things go now.

BLITZER: And we want to know what the first lady will be wearing. Of course, the history continues. You will see it live here.

That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching. Our coverage continues right now.