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Shooting at Texas College; Republicans Blast Inaugural Speech; Interview With Vice President Joe Biden

Aired January 22, 2013 - 18:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Perhaps Harry's main interest, himself, will be getting back out to the front line as soon as he can.

Max Foster, CNN, Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: new details emerging about staff training at that Texas community college where a shoot-out happened today.

Blistering Republican reaction to the president's inaugural speech.

An exclusive interview with the vice president, Joe Biden. He's speaking candidly about his relationship with President Obama.

And a possible inaugural lip synch shocker -- possible. Did Beyonce fake it or not?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

They held their tongues on Inauguration Day, but the celebrations had barely ended when Republicans let loose with a blistering assessment of President Obama's speech and the agenda he outlined. Republican critics are picking it apart, using the one word that encapsulates Republican disdain: liberal.

Our chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is covering our coverage -- covering what's going on this hour.

Dana, some pretty harsh reaction coming in from the GOP leadership.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Republicans are saying that the president should not be foisting his liberal agenda on what is still a center-right country. In fact, the Senate minority leader said that this is -- quote -- "not a great way to start his second term."


BASH (voice-over): The Senate Republican leader had his sound bite on the president's speech ready to go. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The era of liberalism is unabashedly far left of center inauguration speech certainly brings back memories of the Democratic Party of ages past.

BASH: Far different from the restrained response the House GOP leader gave us hours after the speech.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: 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.

We have some differences. Hopefully, we can bridge those differences.

BASH: Cantor was coming from a bipartisan post-inaugural lunch.

But now, with the inauguration over and the pressure to be respectful past, conservatives are eager to share their disgust.

REP. DAVID SCHWEIKERT (R), ARIZONA: He's trying to basically throw a bone to every left-wing activist group he could.

BASH: Some tell us that they're not happy, but hardly shocked. REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's exactly what we saw on the campaign trail. And if you don't see this president coming, you're not looking.

BASH (on camera): So, you're not surprised?

DUNCAN: I'm not all surprised at all.

BASH (voice-over): Republicans say that the president unleashed a new campaign for liberalism with lines like this.

OBAMA: Our journey is not complete until our gay brother and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.

BASH: In fact, a GOP campaign apparatus, Karl Rove super PAC responded with this video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unapologetically liberal. A progressive liberal agenda is what he's now clearly staking his second term on.

BASH: Even some relatively moderate Republicans call itself- righteous.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Yes, he doesn't have a monopoly on all that's good and all that's true.

BASH: Others, a missed opportunity.

(on camera): Do you think that the tone that he took is going to hurt relations with Congress?

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: I don't think it's going to change relations much and that's the real problem. BASH (voice-over): To be short, some critical House Republicans did not attend the inauguration.

(on camera): Were you at the inauguration yesterday?

AMASH: No, I wasn't.

BASH: How come?

AMASH: I just had personal things to take care of.

BASH: Were you there?

DUNCAN: I was not.

BASH: How come?

DUNCAN: I spent some time at home. My family was out of school and I have gone enough, and so, I spent the weekend with my family.


BASH: Although Republicans certainly sound angry about the president's call for a liberal agenda, the reality is, they know that this is a gift politically and in terms of raising money -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Dana, we're standing by to hear from the speaker of the House. We have been waiting for a while. He's getting ready to make a statement. I assume he's going to be reacting to the president's inaugural address.

BASH: He might be asked about that, but I actually was down at that press conference. It was an hour late. I had to come up and talk to you, because it's so late. I wasn't able to stay and ask him questions about that.

But the reason he's coming out, Wolf, is to talk -- you see, no budget, no pay -- is to talk about a vote that the House Republicans are going to take tomorrow to raise the debt ceiling temporarily for three months. And what he informed his caucus about, just in the last hour-and-a-half, is that they are going to write a budget that tries to balance the budget in 10 years.

That is going to mean massive cuts across the board from the perspective of Republicans, but that's how he hopes to get conservatives to agree to raise the debt ceiling temporarily.

BLITZER: He's got his own problems as well as speaker. Not an easy job. We will stand by to hear what he says. Dana, thank you.

So what exactly did the president say that raised so much Republican ire?

Kate Bolduan is here. She's got more on this part of the story.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Wolf, as you and I heard together, he used some pretty broad strokes in his inaugural speech to paint a blueprint of what he hopes to accomplish on major issues facing the country, some fiscal, some social, almost all controversial in trying to get Republicans on board.

CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here with more details.

Jessica, what's the latest on the president's second-term agenda?


Well, clearly the glow of inauguration is beginning to wear off, based on Dana's report. We know that the battle over debt and spending is going to heat up in no time at all, so the president does not have much time of his own to press the second-term agenda items he wants to pursue.


YELLIN (voice-over): High spirits --


YELLIN: -- high fashion and high bar for the president who outlined a long list of second term goals. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The threat of climate change. The size of our deficit. Revamp our tax code. Our gay brothers and sisters, hopeful immigrants.

YELLIN: Expect President Obama to tackle immigration reform first.

OBAMA: Our journey is not complete until we find a way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants.

YELLIN: The president won an overwhelming 71 percent of the Latino vote in November. Since become an article of faith that Republicans will agree to some kind of immigration reform this year, the American people are on board. A new CNN poll shows 53 percent believe illegal immigrant should have a path to residency.

Another goal: national security.

OBAMA: We the people still believe that enduring security does not require perpetual war.

YELLIN: As more U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the president is increasingly focused on a new kind of war fighting, shifting from ground troops to a reliance on intelligence and technology, especially drones.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: After more than a decade of war, we are entering a new phase. We continue the president's overarching goal when it comes to al Qaeda which is disruption, dismantlement and ultimate defeat. He's made great progress. YELLIN: Perhaps the biggest reach in his agenda --

OBAMA: We will respond to the threat of climate change.

YELLIN: It's an issue dear to the president, but he's already acknowledged climate change policy is so politically charged, there's no clear path forward.

OBAMA: That I'm pretty certain of. This one's hard.

YELLIN: Proof of just how hard? A day after the inaugural speech, Nebraska's governor wrote the administration in support of the Keystone pipeline.

That's an oil project environmentalists have long opposed, and it highlights yet again a tricky political problem for the administration.


YELLIN: On yet another topic, Wolf and Kate, in the speech, the president broke ground by promising to push for greater civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans.

Now, aside from health care reform, this could be the major legacy of his time in office. One Supreme Court case that will be decided this year could force the administration to make a decision this year on whether federal benefits will be extended to the spouses of gay and lesbian Americans.

BOLDUAN: All right, Jessica Yellin, thanks so much. We will see how the president prioritizes these agenda items.

And a very surprise twist to one of the most memorable moments of the inauguration, Beyonce's singing of the national anthem.

BLITZER: A lot of questions right now. Some contradictions about whether she actually sang it live.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has been trying to sort through all of these indications we're getting, statements we're getting. What are you learning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what we do know, Wolf. Earlier today, a spokesman for the U.S. Marine Band told CNN what Americans heard on Inauguration Day was a pre-recording of pop star Beyonce singing the national anthem.

Asked about that alleged lip synching all day long, officials were tight-lipped.


ACOSTA (voice-over): It's the question on just about everyone's lips in Washington on the day after the inaugural, was Beyonce's version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" live or was it lip-synched? According to a official with the same U.S. Marine Band whose music accompanied the pop star's performance, it was all on tape. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Marine Band tells CNN, "She did not actually sing."

Beyonce made a recording of the national anthem overnight, before the inaugural. She even posted pictures of herself in the studio, surrounded by a group of Marine officials. The pre-recording is standard procedure, the Marines say, in case anything goes wrong during the actual ceremony.

"Washingtonian" magazine first started raising questions about the authenticity of the performance. The magazine's editor, Garrett Graff, was seated less than 10 feet away from the U.S. Marine Band. He said it appeared the band was pretending to play their instruments.

GARRETT GRAFF, "WASHINGTONIAN": And it immediately struck me that I couldn't hear the band. And, you know, I was sort of seated there, staring at the saxophone player, couldn't hear him, couldn't hear anyone else, and when they'd been playing any other song, Kelly Clarkson or any of the ruffles and flourishes or "Hail to the Chief' or any of the other marches they'd been doing, you know, they were loud and in your face.

ACOSTA: The Marine Band later released a statement, blaming a lack of rehearsal time. "There was no opportunity for Ms. Knowles- Carter to rehearse with the Marine Band before the inauguration, so it was determined that a live performance by the band was ill-advised for such a high-profile event."

(on camera): It sounds like they were playing it safe, maybe?

GRAFF: That's exactly right. They decided it was the safest option to use the pre-recorded version. They knew that they would have that nailed and knew that it would come out great, which it did.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Despite the comment from that band spokesman, who said Beyonce did not actually sing, Marine Band officials are now contradicting themselves, saying: "No one in the Marine band is in a position to assess whether it was live or pre- recorded.

What's less clear is why Beyonce removed her earpiece during the performance. The U.S. Marine Band also didn't say. Beyonce's taped performance is not unprecedented. The band says during President Obama's first inaugural in 2009, American cellist Yo-Yo Ma used a prerecording due to the frigid temperatures.


ACOSTA: As for Beyonce, CNN did reach out to her publicist, but we have yet to hear a response from her team, nor did we get any official statement from the joint congressional committee overseeing the inaugural, and we did not get a statement from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Also, just one comment from the top Republican on the congressional committee, Senator Lamar Alexander, who said that Beyonce sounded great to him. But it's shocking, Wolf, that all day long, we have been reaching out to all of these various government agencies who were in charge of the inauguration, making sure everything goes off without a hitch. The only statements we have gotten on all of this are from the U.S. Marine Band, and those statements contradict themselves.

BLITZER: And the last statement from the U.S. Marine Corps Band said they don't know. How can they not know? This is not that complicated.

BOLDUAN: Right. It says they're not in a position to assess whether...

ACOSTA: They're not in a position to say. But they will say that their music was prerecorded. They will at least say their music was prerecorded, but they can't say now whether Beyonce was prerecorded. But that means that the U.S. Marine band would be saying that they weren't comfortable playing "The Star-Spangled Banner," the national anthem, live on Inauguration Day, with Beyonce.

That just seems very far-fetched.

BOLDUAN: Strange, strange story.

ACOSTA: And as for Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor, they were both live. They put out statements through their publicists saying they were live and the Marine Band was live with them as well.

BOLDUAN: The intrigue continues.

ACOSTA: The plot thickens.


BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

Up next: CNN's exclusive interview with Vice President Joe Biden, who opens up to our own Gloria Borger about his relationship with President Obama.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: How can you tell when you have done something that he doesn't like or that makes him angry?




BLITZER: It would be hard to find anyone, anyone who appeared to be having more fun at yesterday's inaugural parade festivities than the vice president, Joe -- we saw him sort of marching with the marching brand.


BOLDUAN: We were having more fun than him maybe. No, I'm just kidding. But he was sure having fun.

As he and President Obama begin their second term, he talked about, that would be Vice President Biden, about their teamwork, their disagreements, and Biden's unique role in an exclusive interview with CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.


BORGER (voice-over): If there's an odd couple of American politics, it's President Obama and Joe Biden.

BIDEN: What made it work is that if you go back to the days when we were actually competing for the nomination, all those debates we had, the only two people who didn't disagree on any subject were Barack Obama and Joe Biden. So when we got into this deal, we didn't have what other administrations have had, where the vice president and the president have a different take on the major issues of the day. We were totally simpatico.

And what developed -- and it made it easier -- was it went from working with each other to a friendship. We actually -- real trust built.

BORGER (on camera): We know, though, that you have disagreed with the president over policy and you know how to read him pretty well. So how can you tell when you have done something that he doesn't like or that makes him angry?

BIDEN: Oh, that's easy. That's easy.

We made a deal early on. When either one of us were dissatisfied, you just flat tell the other person. And so lunch once a week, you know, that's when we talk. And when he's not liked something I have done, he just flat tells me.

BORGER: So, he says, Joe, you shouldn't have done that?

BIDEN: He says, Joe, look, I don't agree with the way you did that. Why did you do A, B, C, or D? Or he will say or I will say, hey, look, man, I don't like the way this is going. This is what we -- so, you know, there's complete openness.

But, you know, we haven't disagreed on -- we sometimes disagreed on tactic as to how to proceed to try to get what he wanted done, which I have agreed with, but we have never disagreed on policy.

BORGER (voice-over): But there was a problem with timing when the vice president got ahead of the boss in this exchange about same- sex marriage on "Meet the Press."

BIDEN: Men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.

BORGER (on camera): That caused heartburn in the West Wing.

BIDEN: Even the so-called discussion about my saying I was comfortable with gay and lesbians and relationships, I knew his position. That was...


BORGER: But you got out in front of him on it, and that's -- that can be a problem.

BIDEN: I will tell you how he responded. I walked into the office, and he got up, smiled, gave me a big hug, and he said, I tell you what, man, that's one of the things I like about you. You say what's on your mind.

BORGER: You say it caused a little apoplexy around here.

BIDEN: It did, but not with him. Not with him.

BORGER (voice-over): Lately, Biden's become the White House closer, cutting the deal on the fiscal cliff and trying to get one on guns.

(on camera): Are you the only ones who can cut deals with Republicans now?

BIDEN: No, no, no, no. Look, first of all, the only reason I would be able to close any deal is because everybody knows I speak for the president. I have his complete support for what I'm saying, because I know what he wants, number one.

Number two, I think the reason why we make a good team, you know, Tip O'Neill used to say, and you will recall, politics is local, and you have heard me say. I seldom disagree with Tip O'Neill, God rest his soul, but all politics is personal. It's all personal. And it's based on trust. And I have spent a lot of time in this town. And I have personal relationships with people I strongly disagree, but there's trust.

And so I'm a logical person, a logical person to, as they say, you guys say, close the deal. But it's the president. It's not me. It's the president.

BORGER: But it's no secret that you and the president are very different people. You're hot. He's cool. You're a natural back- slapper. He's been accused of being more insular. Does the marriage work because he married his opposite?

BIDEN: Well, look, I think what you hope -- and he used this phrase one time, that we kind of make up for whatever weaknesses the other guy has.

And I have got a hell of a lot more weaknesses than he does. The one place that I just have had a lot of experience with a lot of the people we deal with. And, you know, everybody talks about, well, it's, you know, it's back-slapping, it's old -- it's not. It's trust. It's simple, simple trust. Find a single person -- and you know this town better -- who will look you in the eye and say, I don't trust Joe Biden.

It's just that I have been around longer and they know me, but they also know I speak for him. And he will keep whatever commitment I make on his behalf.


BLITZER: And Gloria's here with us right now.

Good interview, first of all.

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Gloria, it seems they found a good balance, the president and the vice president, in their relationship.

BORGER: They do. I think it's taken them a while to get there, but you saw it on the fiscal cliff. You saw it even on the debt ceiling negotiations over a year ago.

The president has learned to kind of go to Joe Biden, who has had 36 years of experience on Capitol Hill, after all, to close the deal. He does have those relationships. That's why Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, picked up the phone and said, does anyone around here know how to cut a deal?

And it's important, as the vice president said, he speaks for the president.

BLITZER: The closer, as you call him.

BORGER: That's right, the closer.


BLITZER: Good work.

BOLDUAN: We will see how much he will be depending on him in this second term.

BLITZER: Excellent interview.


BORGER: We will see. We will see. Joe Biden hopes a lot.


BOLDUAN: No kidding, exactly.

Still ahead: other news -- new details of a college campus shooting and the training that just took place. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: An ambitious second term agenda -- could Democrats be the biggest obstacle for President Obama? We are going to ask the chair of the Democratic Party, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's standing by live.


BLITZER: Get some more now on the president's inaugural speech.

BOLDUAN: And the ambitious -- and his ambitions and Republicans say, very liberal, agenda he has outlined.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of thousands of people cheered for the president during his inaugural address, but as Washington comes back to work, he's going to face a very different political landscape in which he will not be able to address just his fans, but a few hundred people up here on Capitol Hill who may be ready to fight about some of these issues that he raised.

Listen to what he talked about in his speech: tax reform. This is always a potential fight between Democrats and Republicans. Never more so than when they just finished fighting over the fiscal cliff, and they're currently locking horns over the debt ceiling.

Immigration reform. The president said he'd take that on in his first term, didn't get around to it. Now he says he'll take it on, but that's still a divisive issue.

Gay rights. The president did repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and later in his term said that he's in favor of gay marriage, but he still said basically this is a states' issue, not a federal issue. If he's going to make it federal now, people are going to have some arguments about that.

Renewable energy sources. The president has pushed a lot of money towards this. He wants to keep pushing money that way. His critics are going to argue, as they have all along, we're not seeing much for that money.

And of course, gun control. That's incredibly heated at the moment. We don't know how that will fare, but there will be an awful lot of harsh words on all sides about what can be done and what might work.

Five issues that he will argue about with not only the Republicans as he goes back to work, but maybe Democrats, too. And I want to show you why. Look at this. This is a map of the 2014 race for Democrats. They have 20 seats in the Senate that they have to defend, and importantly, seven of those seats are in states where Barack Obama did not win, where Mitt Romney won. In those places, Democrats are likely to be very hesitant about standing too close to the president, especially on some of those divisive issues, for fear that it could cost them their jobs.


BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much. Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with the congresswoman from Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's the chair -- newly elected chair of the Democratic National Committee. She's joining Kate and me right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Congratulations. Tough job, being a congresswoman, chair of the DNC. We'll get to that in a moment.

If the president's agenda is going to go forward, doesn't he have to worry about Republicans, but there are a bunch of Democrats, especially in the House, who are nervous about some of these very bold, shall we say, very liberal and progressive ideas.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DNC CHAIR: Well, I think for the most part, Democrats are unified and energized following the results of this election, where President Obama laid out a very clear vision and a clear case that we need to focus on creating jobs, on getting the economy turned around, on fighting for the middle-class families.

And yesterday in the inaugural address, he talked about the American journey and that we need to finish that journey, and we've got a lot left to do in order to make sure that we can have equality of opportunity.

BLITZER: You're the chair of the whole Democrat committee. Will Senate Democrats go along with the president?

SCHULTZ: You know, I haven't heard anything from any Senate Democrat, across the spectrum, that has given me an indication that they're refusing to work with him. On the contrary, we're going to continue to find common ground.

The problem is, is that we've got Republicans who continue to be as intransigent as you can be.

BOLDUAN: Speaker Boehner was just asked about the president's second-term priorities, including immigration. I want to show -- I want to have you listen to this, and I want to ask you about it.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are a lot of priorities for the Congress, a lot of priorities for the president. But right now, the biggest issue is the debt that's crushing the future for our kids and our grandkids. There's some hard-working taxpayers understand you can't keep spending money that you don't have.

So we're going to continue to focus, especially here over this next 90, 120-day period, on bringing some fiscal responsibility to Washington.


BOLDUAN: So when you're talking about the next 90, 120-day period, he's talking about, you know, that debt ceiling increase, you can push it off and continue really fighting over budgetary issues. How is this going to be any different than the last session?

SCHULTZ: First of all, for Speaker Boehner to even suggest that this is a 90 or a 120-day window, is really problematic, because...


SCHULTZ: Because what they're continuing to do is perpetuate the uncertainty. This economy is already in the midst of a fragile recovery. We're continuing towards it becoming more robust, but we can't just keep increasing the debt ceiling in small bites. We've got to make sure we take that off the table. That is nonnegotiable. You have to pay your bills. You can't jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States. And what we need to do, we agree, and we had that debate during the campaign.

The hard-working American taxpayers that he referred to decided that President Obama was right. They agreed with him, which is that we need a balanced approach to deficit reduction. We do need to get a handle on spending. We also need to make sure that everybody pays their fair share.

BLITZER: Here's the reaction from the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: One thing that's pretty clear from the president's speech yesterday, the era of liberalism is back. An unabashedly, far left of center inauguration speech certainly brings back memories of the Democratic Party of ages past. If the president pursues that kind of agenda, obviously, it's not designed to bring us together.


BLITZER: You know, a lot of people think inaugural addresses are designed to maybe bring the parties together. That clearly didn't happen this time.

SCHULTZ: Let's look at what the Mitch McConnell scowl was all about. The president talked in his inaugural address yesterday about making sure that we can continue and finish the journey for Americans on the long march toward equality.

That everyone, incoming LBGT Americans, should have an opportunity to be equal around the law and get that equal protection under the law.

That women should be able to get equal pay for equal work.

That we should make sure that we finally pass comprehensive immigration reform, so immigrants to this country have a rational way to actually remain here.

And that we focus, finally, on climate change.

All of those things are real problems, real issues that need to be addressed, and if the Republicans think that those are issues that -- that won't unify the country, they clearly weren't listening during this last campaign.

BOLDUAN: Well, in terms of unifying the country, he also was not maybe drawing a line in the sand, but he seemed to be kind of poking his finger in the side of Republicans. Listen to this little bit from the inaugural address.


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.


BOLDUAN: I mean, he's clearly singling out Republicans here, and kind of the bitter battles of the past, but is that helpful or hurtful if you want to unify the parties and the country going forward?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think what the president was doing was singling out extremism. I think he was saying, you know, there are reasonable, moderate voices on both sides of the aisle that can and should come together and find a way to reach common ground. And there are too many of the extreme variety of Republicans that are controlling their policies right now, that are preventing us from being able to do that.

BLITZER: The House Republicans want to vote tomorrow on raising the debt ceiling for the next three months, during which you can work on some of the deficit reduction and other issues. Are you going to vote in favor of that language?

SCHULTZ: I haven't seen the legislation yet. I'm going to have to take a look at it. I am very concerned. First of all, we should be sending the president a clean debt ceiling increase, no matter how long...

BLITZER: But if that doesn't happen, if the Republicans don't, you've got three months; it's better than nothing, right?

SCHULTZ: It depends what extraneous material is in that legislation. If it's not a clean debt ceiling...

BOLDUAN: Are you concerned there's going to be some poisoned pill in there?

SCHULTZ: Well, they are already tying a debt ceiling increase to something else: to a budget, to congressional pay. What we need to do is make sure we pay our bills. We need to make sure that we inject more certainty, not less, into the economy. A three-month debt ceiling increase does not do that, and especially if it's tied to -- if it's conditional, that's not clean.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, thanks for coming in.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Or Madam Chair.


BOLDUAN: Any title that you have.

SCHULTZ: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Militants on the rise in North Africa. Some experts now say the threat to the U.S. could be greater, greater than even Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. Stand by.


BOLDUAN: Algerian officials say five people still are missing following the end of that dramatic hostage crisis at a gas plant. Thirty-seven hostages died in that ordeal, including three Americans.

BLITZER: And the unexpected violent assault underscored a new terror threat taking place right now in North Africa.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us. What are you picking up on this front, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, officials that I am talking to are saying the old 9/11-era of al Qaeda spending years planning one single big attack, that is over. And this new era may leave the U.S. intelligence community struggling to catch up.


STARR (voice-over): Mokhtar Belmokhtar is the veteran jihadist claiming responsibility for the Algerian gas plant attack. U.S. officials say he's part of a generation of terrorists rising across North Africa, tied to al Qaeda, but operating in very different ways.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I argue they are more dangerous to both the United States and our allies.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is an era of a new threat, a threat to western interests across the region.

STARR: The challenge for the CIA? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't keep saying, well, it's just Yemen, it's just Mali, it's just Benghazi, it's just Tunisia. Can't do that.

SETH JONES, RAND TERRORISM EXPERT: What we're seeing is a blending of different types of operatives and groups coming together at different times.

STARR : Africa-based groups don't seem to need central leadership and Osama bin Laden. Militants have made advances. The attack against the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, taking over large areas of northern Mali. And now the attack against the gas plant in Algeria.

Algerian authorities say those attackers came from Egypt, Libya, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Tunisia, from within Algeria, and as far away as Canada. The U.S. is falling behind, experts say.

CRUICKSHANK: When they painstakingly built up an intelligence network in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region and also in Yemen, they're flying more blind in North Africa and in western Africa.

STARR: The militant Africa advantage? They can act fast with well-planned attacks carried out on very short notice. For now, Belmokhtar and others have their new strategy.

JONES: It makes it actually very difficult to monitor and very difficult for intelligence organizations to understand and act against, because there is no head of this organization. There are multiple heads. So you can't just eliminate them through strikes.


STARR: So the challenge now is what to do about all of this. Well, you know, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is vowing the U.S. will continue to -- continue to go after al Qaeda. But this new spread-out movement in Africa, the reality is it may be very tough to track, target, and hunt down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's the reality, Barbara. Thanks very, very much.

Other news we're following. It's not just the president, Kate, who's getting a second term. His daughters also now face four more years in the spotlight. They're growing up before our eyes.


BOLDUAN: As we watched the inauguration, we were remarking on how the Obama girls have really grown up over the past four years. Sasha and Malia handle all the attention with real grace. And they'll spend their critical teen years inside the White House.

Our Lisa Sylvester is here with more on that. That will be -- that would be tough for anyone, but it looks like they're going to be able to handle it, right, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are absolutely right, Kate. We have certainly seen first children before: Chelsea and the Bush twins. But one thing that's different here is Sasha and Malia are considerably younger than Chelsea Clinton or the Bush girls were when their fathers became president.

Sasha, keep in mind, was only in second grade when President Obama was first elected, and Malia will spend her formative years from age 10 through 18 living in the White House. That is quite a bubble to grow up in.


ANNOUNCER: Malia Obama and Sasha Obama.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): There aren't many 11- and 14-year-olds who walk out to a crowd of millions. But for Malia and Sasha, this is just a part of their lives.

The girls have changed on the outside since the first inauguration, but more than that, there's a newfound grace and poise, and something else, a sense of normal. It shows in moments like these. Malia and Sasha waving to family and friends in the inaugural parade reviewing stand, Malia showing her hip side. A few minutes later, breaking out their phones to get a picture of mom and dad kissing.

BLITZER: Sasha taking a picture of Mom and Dad. Nice, very nice.

SYLVESTER: The girls are at the middle point of childhood between being a kid and heading to college. We've watched them grow up inside the White House, and now we have four more years to go, including all of the markers of adolescence: driving, dating, and dances.

Despite their titles, the president and first lady try hard to keep things real.

KATIE MCCORMICK LELYVELD, PRESS SECRETARY OF FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: The president, for example, is an assistant coach on Sasha's basketball team. That routine for her, that involvement with other young people is something that's very important to him and to her.

SYLVESTER: That hands-on parenting will pay dividends in the long run, says historian Doug Wead, who has written a book called, "All the Presidents' Children."

DOUG WEAD, HISTORIAN: they get away from the White House. they don't stick right by the White House. they develop their own ideas, their own game plan for life.

SYLVESTER: There will always be those moments of youth glimpsed. Chelsea Clinton and the Bush twins, former first children, they're now with their own established lives in journalism and working for charity foundations.

But while the world looks towards the first lady and the president, the Obamas look to their daughters with pride.


SYLVESTER: And you know, like all parents of teenagers, the next four years won't be just an adjustment for Sasha and Malia, but also for Mr. and Mrs. Obama, who, like it or not, are going to have to preparing for something else. The empty nest -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Big empty nest. That's for sure. It's amazing how they really have grown up over the four years.

SYLVESTER: And when we see the pictures, I mean, they say the pictures are a thousand words. And you see the little girls, and now they're as tall as their mom.

BOLDUAN: We were both commenting on the same thing yesterday.

BLITZER: I wish the Obamas only the best. Enjoy these girls while they're still at home, because you're right, pretty soon they will be off to college.

The eyes of the fashion world on the first lady, Michelle Obama, from her inaugural outfit to her gown for the balls to her choice for today's prayer service at the National Cathedral. The first lady is getting high marks, rave reviews.

CNN's Alina Cho takes a closer look.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf and Kate, I think we all know by now that dressing first lady Michelle Obama for a high-profile history-making event like the inauguration is a real game changer for a designer.

Last night, the biggest prize, as we all know, went to Jason Wu, the designer of Mrs. Obama's inaugural gown. Sound familiar? Well, today, the fashion world got some more eye candy. More pictures of the first lady looking fabulous.


OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama...

CHO (voice-over): Think the inaugural fashion parade is over? Think again.

At the national prayer service, first lady Michelle Obama, hair back, bangs still on full display, wore a custom ivory wool dress and matching coat by Naeem Khan, a designer who was also in the running for the gown. That top honor, as the world now knows, went to Jason Wu, proving lightning does strike twice.

JASON WU, DESIGNER: The second she came out, I mean, everyone just let out the biggest scream. The whole entire studio. It was amazing. The energy was amazing. CHO (on camera): You had a little bit of a problem with the computer, didn't you? It was buffering at the moment.

WU: Of course, at the moment she was about to come out. I was like no, this cannot be.

CHO (voice-over): Wu skyrocketed to fame four years ago when the first lady wore his white gown to the first inaugural. That dress now sits in the Smithsonian. This time, as he started to think about how to top that, he kept seeing red.

WU: I felt like red was just so confident and it was, you know, it's commanding, and it's beautiful and passionate, and all those things describe Michelle Obama.

CHO: New term, new haircut, new look. A style that has clearly evolved into something style watchers say is more sophisticated. While still keeping true to her core: supporting young, emerging designers and mixing high and low.

Take inauguration morning, when the first lady chose custom Thom Browne for her coat and dress and J. Crew for her accessories: gloves, belt and shoes.

JENNA LYONS, PRESIDENT, J. CREW: If I look back to some of the previous first ladies, there hasn't been a level of attention on them but also, there has been zero exposure and zero experimentation. I think she's really broken the mold in terms of what's acceptable.

CHO: Like the belt that was originally a sash. The first lady customized it. Malia changed the button on her J. Crew coat. Making fashion your own. The very definition of style. And style does include hair.

(on camera): What do you think? Up or down?

WU: I love her new look. To me she can do no wrong.

CHO: Keep in mind, even though the world now knows his name, Jason Wu is just 30 years old. There's a lot more to do, including his fall collection, which he will unveil to the public in just two weeks in New York.

Alina Cho, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I thought the first lady looked great at all of those venues, didn't you?

BOLDUAN: I think she looked very nice. I always feel -- like, I don't feel like she feels the pressure. I just feel like there's always so much pressure on that dress and her wearing it. I always feel bad about that.

BLITZER: Lot of pressure. BOLDUAN: Yes. A lot of pressure. I think she can handle it.

BLITZER: I want to show our viewers a little bit of last night. More news coming up, but let's watch them dance a little bit.


ANNOUNCER: And now please welcome Grammy and Academy Award winner, Jennifer Hudson.

JENNIFER HUDSON, SINGER (SINGING): Let's stay together...



BLITZER: Sounds like something out of a movie but what happened to one news station in Florida is anything but fiction. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've seen a bug make a cameo...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! It's a giant invasion of a giant bug!

MOOS: ... on the Weather Channel. And a spider that seemed ready to try and hitch a ride on the space shuttle.

But what happens when a bee meets a drone? Make that a lot of bees, swarming the drone equipped with a camera.


MOOS: They ended up being put to music. "The Flight of the Bumblebees," naturally.

It happened when WPEC's operations manager, Carl Pugliese, sent up one of his station's drones to get video of a West Palm Beach mall being demolished. Instead, the drone got attacked by bees. Carl was on the ground swatting, watching the video streamed live over his iPhone.

Pugliese: I'm sitting here going like this with the bees, I'm looking up and there's a bunch of bees. And I looked at my iPhone and, I mean, when you see the video, it looked like, you know, "Star Wars." I had all these bees coming at the mother ship.

MOOS (on camera): If you think of the press as being sort of pests you'd like to swat, imagine how bees would react to a news drone.

(voice-over): After all, a drone buzzes. To bees it must be...

Pugliese: The mother bee of all bees, basically. MOOS: One even landed directly on the lens.

Pugliese: He's sitting there, trying to sting the lens at the same time.

MOOS: As Carl started to bring the drone in for a landing, he got buzzed so he jumped in his vehicle. The bees followed him in, and he had to open the door to get them out. Carl and his photographer, Chad Allison, each got stung a couple of times, but the drone got it worse.

Pugliese: There's all kinds of scuff marks on all the blades.

MOOS: Blades chopped up the bees, so that Carl had to clean the drone with alcohol.

Pugliese: Bee guts.

MOOS (on camera): While Carl was in his car dealing with bees, a homeless guy came up to the window.

PUGLIESE: He goes, "You know, bees sense your fear, and if you just sit still, they won't bother you."

And as he's telling me this, the bees started attacking him. So I was yelling through the window, "Sit still!"

MOOS: The guy ran.

Carl ended up landing the drone from inside the SUV.

We've seen lots of stories about swarms that cluster on cars, but we could drone on forever about the time the bees went after a drone, calling a SWAT team.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I don't know about you, but I'm scared of bees.

BOLDUAN: Bees sense fear. Just remember that.

BLITZER: I'm very fearful of them. Don't like them.

That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching. You can always tweet us. Tweet me, @WolfBlitzer or...

BOLDUAN: Tweet me, @KateBolduan.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, @KateBolduan. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.