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Obama Picks Chief of Staff; Palin Pushes Back

Aired November 6, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, even with 75 days until he's sworn in as president, Barack Obama got to work at warp speed.
Today's highlights, he spoke by phone with nearly a dozen world leaders. He scheduled his first news conference for tomorrow, and he filled one of the biggest jobs for his new administration, a controversial choice, too, one some say is too partisan for this supposedly post-partisan new administration.

The new White House chief of staff is one of Washington's toughest political operators. And Congressman Rahm Emanuel didn't exactly jump at the opportunity. This is what he said before he finally said yes.


REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: I'm honored. I appreciate all this. I have a lot to weigh, A, the basis of public service, which I have given my life to, a career choice. But, most importantly, what I want to do -- not most -- yes, most importantly, what I want to do as a parent.


BROWN: So, is Obama with this choice going for a classic good cop/bad cop operation? Was it a smart pick? We're going to talk about that with our panelists a little bit later tonight.

For the record, things are still hearts and flowers over at the White House.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So for the next 75 days, all of us must ensure that the next president and his team can hit the ground running. For more than a year now, departments and agencies throughout the federal government have been preparing for a smooth transition.


BROWN: The current and future presidents and first ladies will get together at the White House on Monday.

And the new first family brings a big change to the White House, little kids. Tonight, we're going to get some experts' predictions about what the Obama girls can expect growing up in a fish bowl. Also tonight, Governor Palin pushing back against her former McCain handlers, calling their latest criticism about her during the final days of the McCain campaign sickening.

We're going to have more on that. Well, actually we're going to talk about that right now.

Cutting through the bull, tonight, the scapegoating of Sarah Palin.

Whatever you may have thought about John McCain's running mate, about whether she was qualified, prepared or experienced enough for the job, try, if you can, to put all of that aside for just a moment, because Sarah Palin is who she is. She did not become measurably more intelligent or measurably less intelligent during this campaign.

Remember, she was only part of the campaign for a matter of nine weeks. Sarah Palin is who she is, which is why I find it so stunning that the very people who introduced us to Sarah Palin, who told us she would make a great vice president, have now turned on her with a vengeance.

They are the top advisers to John McCain's failed campaign, and they are desperate right now to find someone to blame for their long, long list of mistakes. They have been launching grenades at Palin and her supporters. Some of their allegations, we at CNN we have found to be patently false.

You will hear people say that this is always what happens with a losing campaign. And, hopefully, frankly, this is the last time we're going to be talking about these people. But what they have done just in the last few days to save their own skins is worth a final comment.

To those top McCain advisers who leaked the little story about seeing Sarah Palin in a towel, to those who called her and her family Wasilla hillbillies, while using her to stoke class warfare with red- meat speeches and an anti-elitist message, to those who claim she didn't know Africa was a continent, to those McCain aides to say she is the reason they lost this election, can I please remind you of one thing?

You picked her. You are the ones who supposedly vetted her and then told the American people she was qualified for the job. You are the ones who, after meeting her a couple of times, told us she was ready to be just one heartbeat away from the presidency. If even half of what you say now is true, then, boy, did you try to sell the American people a bill of goods.

If Sarah Palin is the reason some voters chose Barack Obama, that is no one's fault but your own. John McCain, as he so graciously said himself the other night, lost this election. He lost it with your help, your advice, your guidance, and, yes, your running mate recommendations. And that is crystal clear to everyone, no matter how hard you try to blame Sarah Palin or anyone else.

And now to president-elect Obama's big announcement this afternoon. Chicago Congressman Rahm Emanuel will give up his seat to become White House chief of staff.

And Candy Crowley is in Chicago. She is watching all the developments, as the Obama administration starts to take shape now.

And, Candy, president-elect Obama has been out of the public eye, but behind the scenes a lot of things going on. He got his first classified security briefing. He announced his chief of staff.

But start with the security briefing. What can you tell us?


I can tell you that they used a secure FBI building here for that first session. This is the first of daily sessions he's going to have by top CIA and other officials. Today, it was the director of national intelligence who came to Chicago to give him this first briefing.

It is, of course, about things we can't imagine, I would tell you, just the top secret classified information about what is going on in the world.

Beyond that, we also know that Obama spoke to nine foreign leaders who had called him to congratulate him. He's returning the calls. The ones that we have been told about were congratulatory, for the most part, but also how each was looking forward to getting to know the other.

He's been, as you mentioned, not all that visible since that night that he won the election, but, tomorrow, we're going to see a bit more of Barack Obama. He is having a news conference, so lots of questions there.

He's also allowing cameras in for a session with his economic advisers, at least to take a quick picture of that, a very strong signal from this administration in waiting that what their top priority is, and that's the economy -- Campbell.

BROWN: And, Candy, quickly, I know we're seeing the administration take shape. We have talked about Rahm Emanuel.

Give us a sense for who is on board.

CROWLEY: Well, we are also hearing -- and these are not locked in -- but I know that there have been, according to a source, discussions under way to bring in David Axelrod, a longtime loyalist, a friend of Barack Obama, said to be the last person Obama talks to before he goes to bed at night, and basically a very close, very loyal friend, maybe a senior adviser at the White House. It came as a surprise to some of us to hear that, simply because Axelrod has not shown much interest in moving to Washington.

Also hearing, for that most visible job at the White House, there has been talk and discussions within the ex-campaign of Robert Gibbs, also a senior adviser, longtime loyalist of Obama, being the White House press secretary -- Campbell. BROWN: And we should just mention, too, yes, Axelrod is also credited with winning this campaign, chief strategist for Obama and the campaign.

Interesting stuff.

All right, Candy Crowley for us -- Candy, thanks.

In a minute, we're going to take a closer look at Obama's new chief of staff, who we mentioned earlier. This is a guy who plays rough. The story goes, Rahm Emanuel once said a dead fish to a pollster who had angered him. So, what kind of a White House are we in for? We're going to ask some of the sharpest political observers around, including Emanuel's friend and colleague from the Clinton White House Paul Begala.

Also, a closer look at Sarah Palin and the blame game John McCain staffers are now playing.

And then later, another big change at the White House. Children are going to be living there again. You remember this?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love you, daddy. Bye.


BROWN: Coming up, Randi Kaye looks back at other first families with children and ahead to what the young Obamas can expect.


BROWN: Talk about your political plumbs. Imagine you are the very first person to be offered a job in the Obama White House. It wouldn't take you long to say yes, would it?

Well, apparently, it wasn't a slam-dunk for Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel. Listen to what he said just this morning when asked about the job.


EMANUEL: Here's the deal. My parents are alive to see their middle son have a choice in his career between being a congressman with one chance, one opportunity down the road, or maybe rising in the leadership, and being the chief of staff to a historic presidency at a historic time. I'm very fortunate that my parents are alive to see that, whatever choice I make.


BROWN: Whatever choice you make? The president-elect of the United States wants you to be his chief of staff and you don't jump at the chance?

Well, that sound bite tells you a lot about Rahm Emanuel.

Jessica Yellin is here to tell us a little bit more.

And, Jessica, a lot of people may not be all that familiar with the name Rahm Emanuel or remember him from the Clinton days. Bring us up to speed. Who is this guy?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's a guy, Campbell, who is currently a congressman from Chicago, but he is really known for his brash style and his political savvy.

He started his national political career in the Clinton White House, where he was a key strategist for both terms of the White House and developed a reputation for having sharp elbows and cracking skulls. His nickname there was Rahmbo.

From there, he left, became a successful investment banker, made enough money to leave that field and became a congressman from Chicago. Within two years, he took over the project to help Democrats take back the House of Representatives, and managed to recapture the majority there and is now a member of Democratic leadership.

So, so many Democrats owe him. He's a guy with expertise on Wall Street, on the Hill, and in the White House. He checks a lot of boxes for the incoming president -- Campbell.

BROWN: And, Jessica, you mentioned sharp elbows. That might be an understatement.


BROWN: Yes, he's really legendary when it comes to his toughness, isn't he?

YELLIN: He is.

And he's got very colorful language when he's not on camera. In addition to the story you told about wrapping a dead fish with a poll that he didn't like and sending it to a pollster, there's a story.

One time after President Clinton was first elected, he was at a diner called -- a restaurant called Doe's (ph) in Little Rock, and he stood up and started stabbing the table with a knife, calling out the names of everyone who had betrayed the administration, saying he would get them.

So, he's got a big personality. But that was a lot of years ago. He has mellowed. I will tell you, his nickname now, instead of Rahmbo is Rahmy, because his staff thinks he's kind of a softie in the middle.

And what is important to remember is, in addition to people considering him a partisan nowadays, back then, in the Clinton years, Congressman was dominated by Republicans. So, Rahm does have a history of working across the aisle. As Obama says in his statement today, Rahm's biggest asset is, he knows how to get things done -- Campbell.

BROWN: And that says a lot.

We're going to talk about this more with our panel in a minute.

Jessica Yellin, thanks. Appreciate it, Jessica.

And coming up: Who is next to join team Obama? The president- elect could earn some points if he reaches across the aisle for a few key members of his Cabinet. But it's always a bit of a political risk. Will he take it? We will talk about that.

And then later, as far as we can tell, the White House Secret Service detail was not called in, but the first dog today went Cujo. Barney's run-in with a reporter, it was caught on tape. And we have got it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear President Obama, I'm writing this letter to you because I have a few concerns in this country. I am very uncomfortable hearing about global warming and how bad it's getting. I would really appreciate it if would you try to do something about it. I would like it if you would make cars run on vegetable oil. Thank you for reading my letter.


BROWN: All over the country right now, schoolchildren are writing letters to our incoming president. And starting tonight, they're going to be sharing some of those letters with all of us. Tonight's letter that you just heard came from Rau Rosensweig (ph), a student in Woodland Hills, California.

We're going to have more for you tomorrow.

And if you would like to send us videos of your kids and their "Dear Mr. President" letters or their questions for the new president- elect, log on to

Now, the buck stops in the Oval Office, but a lot of what ends up there believes in Cabinet meetings. In his transition to power, Obama has a lot of crucial hiring decisions to make right now, many sooner, rather than later.

Tom Foreman has been checking out some of the candidates for the new West Wing.

And, Tom, what have you found?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, we what we know right now is that these are the only three people with chairs in the room at the moment, Emanuel, Biden over here, and of course Senator -- president-elect Obama right in the middle. He's got a place. So, the number-one hot seat in here, the one they have to fill first, the one they want to fill first, is the Treasury job. So, who is up for that as a possibility?

What we have got over here, Larry Summers, a former president of Harvard. He was a former treasury secretary with Bill Clinton. And he has got the right chops for this. But, at the university, he also annoyed some of his colleagues with some off-the-cuff comments. So, that's going to be one thing they will be looking at with him.

Another possibility is Tim Geithner. He worked for Larry Summers for a while. He's the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York now. Or Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve under both Carter and Reagan, and maybe New Jersey Governor here Jon Corzine.

All indications are, Obama really wants to fill that Treasury slot as soon as he possibly can, get somebody lined up and calm down the markets by doing that.

Let's look at another one, secretary of state, another top concern. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry over here is lobbying hard for that job. Or at least people close to him are. They would like to see him in that. He has got a lot of foreign affair chops.

So does New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson down here. But don't take your eye off of Indiana Senator Dick Lugar. He said some nice things about Obama during the campaign. Obama likes him. And he would help him fulfill his promise of a bipartisan Cabinet, because he's a Republican. You bring a Republican in, that's going to make some of the Republicans happy if he looks that way.

Another big job here, defense secretary. There's a lot of talk about Robert Gates, who is now the defense secretary, staying in that job. That would do a good thing for Obama. It would stabilize the military in Iraq and Afghanistan during this transition. Bob Gates is thought very highly of. Again, it would speak to the question of bipartisanship.

But don't forget about Colin Powell. Colin Powell is a big player in all of this. He could not only be good for that job, but any other number of jobs that might be considered.

Other players you want to keep an eye on here, Hillary Clinton is back in the conversation because of the notion that she, too, could fill in a number of different jobs. The question being, does she want to do that or stay in the Senate and keep building her experience there and her time there and her strength there?

And, also, a lot of talk about Camelot, the question of Caroline Kennedy or Robert Kennedy Jr. way down here, the notion that they could get involved as an ambassador to the U.N., by chance, head of the EPA down there.

This is all just guesswork right now. Not sure which ones would become real in the big play-up. But particularly keep an eye on the ones who represent independents or Republicans, because one of the things we know about Obama is he is a big admirer of Abraham Lincoln, in part because Abraham Lincoln picked enemies to be in his Cabinet, because he wanted people who would challenge his ideas, and if he could convince them, help expand his constituency.

We will see how much Obama believes in that idea and whether or not he want to go that way as he finishes all of his picks here.

BROWN: It's an easy idea to support in theory, but when you actually start surrounding yourself with your enemies, we will see if he has the courage to follow through on that.


BROWN: All right, Tom Foreman for us tonight -- Tom, thanks.

Barack Obama's Cabinet picks will offer us some pretty big clues into the kind of White House he wants to have and he's going to run. And, today, we mentioned earlier he chose a political pit bull as his chief of staff.

Joining me to process that pick and some of these others, or speculative picks, we have got some of the best political minds around, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Paul Begala, and CNN political analyst and national radio commentator Roland Martin.

Paul, I have got to start with you on this, Rahm Emanuel buddy of yours. He's known as a street fighter. You go way back with him from the Clinton days. And you once called him a cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache, which doesn't exactly sound like a compliment to me.

What do you think? Is this a good pick for Obama?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I think it's a great pick for president-elect Obama. He could not pick a better person. That comment -- no, I was probably misquoted. That doesn't sound like me, does it?

BROWN: Oh, yes. It actually does. It was so colorful, I thought only Paul Begala could have said this.



I was alluding -- this was in 2005, if memory serves -- and Rahm was running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He was bludgeoning me and lots of other people into essentially working full- time for free for the Democrats around the country.

He sent me to two dozen or more congressional districts campaigning, raising money, doing all this. And this reporter was asking how and why. And my response was, he's so persistent. He just stays after you. You can't get rid of him. He's like a cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache,

So, it's true. But the president-elect could not have made a better choice. Congressman Emanuel, think about it. He's got White House experience at the highest levels, Capitol Hill experience at the highest levels, Wall Street and financial experience at the highest levels, and, maybe most important, he's got the relationship.

He has the trust and confidence of president-elect Obama. And he's being asked to make an enormous sacrifice for his -- our new president and our country. And I think it's wonderful he's willing to do it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Campbell, there's also one other thing Rahm does.


BORGER: And that is, he does the outside role really well.

You need somebody in the White House chief of staff job who knows how to talk to the press, who can also sort of be another face of the administration, who can do those Sunday talk shows and can do shows like yours. And Rahm is somebody who is quite practiced at that.

And I know that they were looking for somebody to do the outside job, as well as the inside job.

BROWN: Let me ask you this, though, Roland. Republicans didn't waste any time going after Obama for picking him. The Republican National Committee put out a statement immediately saying: "Rahm Emanuel is a partisan insider who played a lead role in breaking Washington. Our nation will be ill-served if Obama runs the White House the way Rahmbo ran the Democratic Congress."

I mean, look, the message from Obama has been -- from president- elect Obama is post-partisan, reach across the aisle, we're all going to work together.

And that -- does he sort of jibe with that message and that pledge?


Now, what the Republicans don't want to say is, he's the one who broke their backs in 2006 and the Democrats regained the House. And that's what they don't really like about it, because he kicked their butts all across the country.

Look, any time any Republicans or Democrats talk about post- partisan, the reality is, you're going to be a partisan. You don't have a little pot out there of people who sit there and have not chosen a side.

And so the reality is, as Paul said, he's worked in the White House, in the Congress. But here's the piece I think everybody keeps looking over. Republicans obviously want to see him as attacking them. But he also can also talk to Pelosi and Reid in a different way than other Democrats. She owes her job to him in '06 regaining the House. And so I think he brings that element as well.

BROWN: Let me ask you guys just a theoretical question here, because I think it's -- in this early stage, it's fair to ask.

Gloria, take this.

A lot of excitement about this new administration. Tomorrow, he's going to meet with his economic team and then hold his first news conference as president-elect. And probably the first order of business is trying to figure out how to manage expectations.


BROWN: How do you do that?

BORGER: Well, that's always really hard for an incoming president, particularly one who had this kind of a popular vote and this kind of Electoral College tally and this kind of enthusiasm and this kind of support.

I think what he has to do, Campbell, is have a plan. And I think he needs to share that plan with the American people. He's already said he's going to take charge of this economic crisis. Look, he's having this meeting tomorrow.

But I also think he has to set out his priorities, which he did during the campaign, and say, this is what we can do now, and this is what we can do later, and here's what I'm going to do first, and here's what I'm going to do second.

And don't keep the American public guessing. Make the public go along with you and be kind of on your side as you do it. No reason to keep any secrets about what you want to do.

BROWN: Right.


BROWN: Yes, go ahead.

MARTIN: But he has to be careful, though, because the fact of the matter is, he's still president-elect. George W. Bush is still the president. He can lay that out, but, again, there are also actions being taken by the current administration that he can't get in the way of.


BROWN: Paul, go ahead.

BEGALA: That's right. No, Roland is exactly right. We only have one president at a time.

And if I could have one rule, in addition to one president at a time, so I guess two rules, it would be, I would banish this phrase "100 days" from our lexicon.


MARTIN: Absolutely.

BEGALA: That was so important -- so important in that speech in Grant Park, where it could have been very easy to give just an easy, fun, happy speech celebrating the history that he made.

Instead, he took his time in a very serious, almost somber way to remind us of Dr. King's final sermon preached in Memphis and of President Kennedy's inaugural preached in Washington, where both of them said, in their ways, we may not get there in our lifetime or the lifetime of this administration, as JFK said.


BEGALA: Very important. President-elect Obama is doing a wonderful job of managing our expectations and leading us, not in the kind of short-term way that we have become accustomed to.


BROWN: All right, Gloria, many thanks to you. I know you're leaving us.

But, Roland and Paul, you're sticking around. We have got more to talk about with you when we come back.

Coming up, for at least a few high-profile, very vocal conservative Republicans, we recommend some anger management training. Why? You have got to hear what they are saying here.

And she has left the national stage, for now, but Sarah Palin is still a political pinata for the McCain campaign. The GOP blame game -- still ahead tonight.


BROWN: Coming up: Why are some of McCain's top aides trying to throw Sarah Palin under the Straight Talk Express? We will get to that.

But, first, Randi Kaye has got the briefing -- Randi.


Wall Street investors took another beating today. The Dow Jones industrial dropped another 443 points. They are down almost 10 percent since Barack Obama became president-elect. This morning, the Labor Department announced, the number of jobless Americans hit a 25- year high.

Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will not face criminal charges. Prosecutors say there is no evidence Spitzer misused public funds to pay for prostitutes. The disgraced governor was forced to step down eight months ago, after spending thousands of dollars on a high-priced call girl.

Supporters of same-sex marriage are protesting against the LDS Church in California. One thousand gay rights activists gathered in front of a Mormon temple in Los Angeles today. They say the church spent millions on ads that deceived voters into passing Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.

And a hurricane warning tonight for the Cayman Islands. Hurricane Paloma is headed that way with winds near 75 miles per hour. It's expected to strengthen tomorrow. Paloma could make landfall over Cuba this weekend. And Jamaica could also be threatened -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Randi, thanks. Appreciate it.

Coming up: They didn't like Obama before the election, and they really don't like him now. And they are already rallying the troops.

Plus, America's new first kids, the challenges Sasha and Malia will face as they prepare to move to the White House.


BROWN: We all saw the pictures on election night. People all over the world dancing in the streets. But some Americans, particularly conservatives, have very different feelings about president-elect Obama. Many of them feeling really, really angry right now. And Joe Johns has been listening to what can only be called right-wing rage.

And, Joe, tell us what these conservatives are saying.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, there is a certain amount of hand-wringing and that is to be expected. There are those who are already comparing this to the early '90s when Bill Clinton won.

As everyone remembers, Republicans regrouped and it wasn't long before Newt Gingrich and his conservative army swept to victory in the House. And guess who's also hammering away at the Democrats? Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh blasting both Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama hours after the polls closed.


VOICE OF: RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He is good old- fashioned Chicago thug just like Obama is a good old-fashioned Chicago thug. On the night of the Clinton election, Rahm Emanuel was so angry at the president's enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign; Rahm Emanuel grabbed a steak knife and he began rattling off a list of betrayers. And as he listed their names, he shouted, "Dead! Dead! Dead!" And he plunged the steak knife into the table after every name. This is not a bunch of people that are going --

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: So if you were thinking the country is now unified, think again. There are still deep divisions. Some conservatives say the message that brought them to victory in Congress in the '90s are still viable.

Remember, they road in on a wave of pushing things like smaller government and less spending. It was a return to an update of classic Grand Old Party themes.


DAVID KEENE, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: All those lines got blurred during the course of the last six or eight years. Republicans in Congress began to act like the Democrats that they've gotten rid off in the '90s. The president began to spend money like he was Lyndon Johnson, and the result was that voters began to get very upset. So, yes, you have to go back to your basics.


JOHNS: That, of course, was David Keene of the American Conservative Union. But make no mistake, this whole thing would be rehashed a thousand times before there's another election -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Joe Johns for us tonight. Joe, thanks.

Coming up next, a new feature, the PDB, the political daily briefing. All those political nuggets people are going to be talking about it tomorrow.

Tonight, we'll show you how Governor Sarah Palin's staff said welcome home to Alaska. And we'll wag the dog a little too. A look at White House pets, including a very naughty Barney.


BROWN: The campaign is over. No more stump speeches, no more robocalls, no more attack ads. Oh, no, thank God for that seriously.

We all know that elections do come to an end, but the politicking never really does. So starting tonight and every night from now on, "No Bias, No Bull" will be bringing you even more political news.

White House Correspondent Ed Henry is here with our first political daily briefing.

And, Ed, let's start with that Oregon Senate race. One of the four undecided Senate races, it went blue today.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Jeff Merkley, the Democrat, basically won now because Republican Senator Gordon Smith conceded the race.

It's really like a game of dominoes. They keep falling for Republicans. This now gives Democrats 57 Senate seats. There are still three races basically unfinished. So it's possible that if they ran the table, it can get up to 60 seats.

That's significant because then all of a sudden you have a filibuster-proof majority. Barack Obama with a mandate already could really push through his economic agenda, his health care agenda.

And then you have what Republicans are calling the nightmare scenario, which is the fact that come inaugural day, there are going to be six out of the nine Supreme Court justices or who are at least 70 years old, and the possibility of a couple retirements on the high court. That gives Barack Obama the chance with a really strong Democratic Senate to completely reshape social policy.

BROWN: That would be huge.

Let's talk about balance of power a little more because Joe Lieberman today, here is a Democrat who then became an independent, who then was a big supporter of John McCain who said some pretty bad things about Barack Obama during the campaign in support of McCain, now meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to what? Kiss and make up? What happened?

HENRY: Well, not anything close to that. What I'm told is a pretty rough meeting and Democrats are saying, look, they think Senator Joe Lieberman was a little naive as he went into this. He went very hard for John McCain, and he thought maybe well, after the election is over, we'll all just kiss and make up. Take a listen to how Joe Lieberman put it today.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: The election is over. And I completely agree with president-elect Obama that we must now unite to get our economy going again and to keep the American people safe.


HENRY: A lot of happy talk, not from Senator Reid, though. I'm told that the majority leader basically made it clear that Democrats want to strip Joe Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee. One option they're giving him as a face-saving measure, I'm told, is to basically he can get a subcommittee.

Well, you know what? There are dozens of subcommittees. That means a one-way ticket to Siberia. This means Democrats, the fissure is real. They're trying to ship Joe Lieberman off.

BROWN: It's payback time, more or less.

OK. Finally, Sarah Palin back in Alaska and I understand you got some insider knowledge on the inner workings of her office. What's going on?

HENRY: Well, it's just sort of insider I guess. Her staff went on another shopping spree but no, they didn't go to Neiman Marcus. They went out and they bought some streamers, some balloons, sort of a welcome home party. We've got some interesting pictures of that. And they basically just wanted her to feel welcome when she came back to the office. They even cooked her some cookies. You know sort of Baked Alaska, I guess you can call it.

And it's interesting. Our own Gary Tuchman is on the ground in Alaska and he talked to the governor last night. And she was basically saying at one point that she's got a tough political skin, and she thinks her opponents, and even reporters should get tougher skins. And I think it's interesting you're talking about it on the top of the show. She's taking a lot of hits right now.


HENRY: But she's come of this as somebody with a pretty tough political skin, and that could really help her moving forward to 2012. People know that.

BROWN: 2012. I can't believe we're talking about it.

HENRY: Sort of started.

BROWN: Can we put a ban on conversation about 2012?

HENRY: This is the daily briefing. Kicking along.

BROWN: OK. All right. It's kicking off our coverage of 2012.

HENRY: That's right. That was the point.

BROWN: Ed Henry, thanks a lot, Ed.

HENRY: See you.

BROWN: Appreciate it.

Sarah Palin is back in Alaska, as Ed just mentioned. But next, we are going to talk about this that's getting a lot of attention. Should she be the target of blame for John McCain's loss?

And later, what the Obama girls can expect. We asked historians and authors who have interviewed some of those who grew up in the White House. What are they in for?


BROWN: Sarah Palin isn't the only veteran of the 2008 campaign who is moving on. Judging by what Tina Fey told Oprah Winfrey today, she is moving on too. Take a look.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": Is it true you're going to retire her now? You're going to retire as a character? You're never doing her again?

TINA FEY, COMEDIENNE: Yes, I'm going to retire. But I think, you know, I think if need be, I think Kristen Wiig from "SNL" would do a great job. I think, yes, I think I'm going to pack up my wig.


BROWN: Now judging by some of the rumblings we have been hearing, some former McCain aides are hoping Governor Palin herself will pack up her national political ambitions and stay home in Alaska.

Our Dana Bash has been covering this story.

And, Dana, let's talk about last -- clarify a story we reported here last night. You told us Randy Scheunemann...


BROWN: ... who was McCain's policy adviser, was fired by the campaign for going and talking to reporters and trashing the way McCain's aides were handling Sarah Palin. Then today we find out that that's not true. He wasn't fired. What's going on?

BASH: What's going on, Campbell, is all-out nuclear war inside of what remains of the McCain campaign. The sources I talked to who were very senior thought he was fired for allegedly, as you said, trashing some McCain aides about the way Sarah Palin was handled.

It turns out that Scheunemann was reprimanded. The campaign turned off Scheunemann's e-mail, and he actually didn't go to Phoenix with the rest of the senior staff for Election Day but he never formally got the boot. And here is what Randy Scheunemann told us and I'll give you a quote.

He said, "I was not fired. Anybody who says so is either lying or delusional and is certainly a whack job."

How's that, Campbell?

BROWN: OK. There are also -- there have been a lot of leaks of information about Sarah Palin coming from senior McCain aides. Give us a sense for what they are saying and then let's talk a little bit about their motives and what's behind it, too.

BASH: Right. I mean, that's an excellent question. Look, fair or not, some senior McCain aides believe that Palin betrayed them and that she was picked for a lot of reasons. But when she was picked, she promised point blank to remain loyal and that either she or some people around her or both did things that threw them off message and it was a hurt campaign that already -- was already hurting and it was hurt even more from that. That's obviously something that, as you know, Sarah Palin staunchly denies, Campbell.

BROWN: But they've gone further than that. I mean, they've been critical of her intelligence and her knowledge about things. And I know you asked these people that, you know, and said to them, hey, you guys vetted her.

BASH: Yes. BROWN: And you defended her throughout the campaign. You came out and told the American people she was ready to be the vice president, and now you're saying, well, she didn't know all this stuff. I mean, how do they respond to that?

BASH: It is the question. You're absolutely right. And they don't really have much of an answer for that question. But I think probably the most telling moment was on McCain's plane of the very last ride on Election Day.

Steve Schmidt, who had a big role in picking Sarah Palin, he was talking to reporters and was asked if he was happy with Palin. And you know what, Campbell? He would not answer the question. All he would say is that there will be time for post-mortems later.

BROWN: All right. The blame game, yes. We'll see if they can shift gears. They're certainly trying now.

OK. Dana Bash for us tonight. Dana, thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

BROWN: We should note that Governor Palin's camp did put out a statement today about all of these nasty leaks that have been coming from senior McCain aides.

And Palin's spokeswoman says, "This is so unfortunate and, quite honestly, sickening. The accusations we are hearing and reading are not true and since we deny all of these anonymous allegations, there is nothing specific to which we will respond. We have the highest regards for Senator John McCain. Governor Palin was honored to be chosen as McCain's running mate."

So we want to get our panel's take on this. What's happening within the Republican or the former candidates' campaign right now. The Republican blame game.

Kevin Madden, Republican strategist, former national press secretary to Mitt Romney's campaign. Back again, Paul Begala and Roland Martin.

Kevin, you know, bottom line here, McCain's the boss. The buck stops there. So if he picked Palin, why has she become a pinata for all these staffers who were trying to take a swing at her?

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, I think that ultimately at the end of campaigns, there are a lot of open wounds, especially when you lose in the fashion that the McCain campaign lost this election. And, you know, I think a lot of campaign staffers have a choice.

Do they maintain the discipline of the campaign in high command, and do they make sure that they cover up those wounds in the hope that they heal? Or do they pour salt in those wounds? And I think that there are a few people, these are just a couple of individuals who are now probably giving the campaign a bad name by pouring salt in those wounds. I think it's unfortunate.

And look, as a party we're going to move forward. We're going to need everybody's help. So there's probably not much to be gained and looking to a sign blamed to any one person or any one reason why this campaign did not work out the way it did -- the way we wanted it to.

BROWN: And Paul, you're a vet -- you're a veteran of this. Campaigns on the winning side and the losing side. I mean, is it always this bad?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Not very many on the losing side.

BROWN: All right. You know, look at one or two. You try to put yourself in their shoes. Is the infighting at this level, because there have been some pretty dirty things said here, is this normal?

BEGALA: No. There's always backbiting, backstabbing. Certainly, look, many of Hillary Clinton, who was my candidate in the primary, I supported her I didn't work for her, but a lot of her top advisers leaked memos that they've written in a very self-serving way. So this does happen but I've never, never seen it at this level before. Just the bitterness, the vengefulness, I frankly couldn't be happier. I mean, it's just wonderful. I'm marinating --


BROWN: He's reveling in it.

BEGALA: I'm like pasting it up on the wall like some obsessed freak. You know, I have it all over my house.

OK. That's a little strange (ph).

BROWN: That's really more than we ever wanted to know.


BEGALA: But here's a good reason to do it, though. If, in fact, Sarah Palin didn't know that Africa is a continent and not a country, we need to know that. She's a rising star in the Republican Party if she's going to run for president in 2012.

BROWN: Yes. But didn't we need to -- shouldn't they have found that out when they vetted her?

BEGALA: Well, exactly. Yes. Exactly. That was -- look, you prescreened your guests better than John McCain prescreened his vice presidential choice. Ultimately, as you said, and will lead him to this, it's McCain who's responsible because the buck stops with him.

But now McCain is departing the stage. Governor Palin is ascending. She is the leading Republican face in America today. She's going to run for president in 2012. She's already starting to position herself for it, and we need to know if she's that ignorant -- it's the nicest word I can think of it -- we need to know that. Of course, that's pretty relevant. If she was bludgeoning young staffers into going out and maxing out their credit cards to buy fancy clothes for her --

BROWN: OK. But here, respond to this, because Paul just said she is running in 2012.


BROWN: Do you really think she is?

MARTIN: Oh, no doubt she's running in 2012. You hear people who are obviously trying to target her. You know, look, where I come from this is going to call what it is. These are punks. This is a punk move to sit here and trash her the way they are.

Now, you have to take ownership. These are the same people who tried to sell her. So either they were selling her, selling us a false bill of goods, or they actually believe in her as a candidate.

I think this is where the candidate, frankly, should step in and repair the reputation, the person who he chose because the buck does stop with him. And I think also the campaign manager should (INAUDIBLE) also with the top adviser should also step in. But to allow it to float on is ridiculous. And I know, you know, Kevin says a couple of people, well, this is more than a couple of people.

BROWN: All right. We've got to end it there. I'm sorry we're out of time. In all honestly, I think we're probably going to move on. We got a brand new administration here, so this is probably the last conversation.


BEGALA: No, no. We need a special report on this.

MADDEN: No more talk of this.

MARTIN: Paul wants to stay right here.

BROWN: All right.

MARTIN: Paul is not going anywhere.

BROWN: All right. But, Kevin, you will be back to talk about this new administration. Believe me.

MADDEN: Thanks.

BROWN: Just because this campaign is going away, doesn't mean we won't have plenty more.

OK. Appreciate it, guys. Thanks to everybody.

Two gorgeous little girls, Sasha and Malia Obama are moving into the White House. Coming up next, what to expect for the first young children in the White House since Camelot.


BROWN: Of course, Barack and Michelle Obama have two girls of their own, 10-year-old Malia, 7-year-old Sasha. And no president has had two young kids in the White House since the days of John F. Kennedy.

Randi Kaye looks at what children mean to the White House and what the White House means to them.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Talk about an extreme home makeover. The Obamas are moving into a new house, the White House.

DOUG WEAD AUTHOR, "ALL THE PRESIDENT'S CHILDREN': One of the negatives of the White House is that it's very much a fish bowl.

KAYE: A fish bowl presidential historian Doug Wead says that can feel like a trap for the president's children. For the most part, Sasha and Malia, 7 and 10, have been shielded from the public. Limited appearances and one interview, which their dad says he regrets.


MALIA OBAMA, BARACK OBAMA'S DAUGHTER: When you come home, you know you have your big gigantic bag and you leave it in the bedroom. Sometimes I trip over it.


KAYE: The Obamas' daughters will have round the clock Secret Service protection but not even that can fend off unwanted attention.

WEAD: There's something that Sasha will say and something Malia will say or do, and they'll be remembered for the rest of their life.

KAYE: Wead says the Roosevelt kids were famous for dropping water balloons onto foreign dignitaries, and unleashing their pet snake in the dining room.

John F. Kennedy Jr. was known for hiding under his father's desk. The Bush twins, Wead says, will be remembered for underage drinking.

13-year-old Noah McCullough interviewed dozens of first kids for his book by the same name.

NOAH MCCULLOUGH, AUTHOR, "FIRST KIDS": If you flunk that huge math test, then it's on the front page of the newspaper the next day.

KAYE: One of the first big decisions, will it be public or private school? WEAD: If they send their child to a private school, they'll be called elitist and hypocritical for betraying the public school system.

KAYE (on camera): There are advantages to living in the White House, too. It has a bowling ally, a swimming pool, and its own movie theater. World leaders and celebrities stop by all the time. And the biggest Easter egg hunt in the country takes place right on the front lawn. What child wouldn't love that?

(voice-over): But like those before them, Sasha and Malia will have to endure their father's critics. And there may be pressure as they grow up to do something as important as their father did.

MCCULLOUGH: John Quincy Adam's kids, most of them went through alcoholism and addictions to different things to kind of soothe the pain of not being able to live up to their father's expectations. My best advice to Sasha and Malia Obama is to just have fun. Be a kid.

KAYE: Michelle Obama is determined to keep things real for her daughters.

MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: I'm a mother first and I'm going to be at parent-teacher conferences and where I'm going to be the things that they want me to attend. I'm not going to miss a ballet recital.

KAYE: So much attention when all Sasha and Malia wanted out of this election was a new puppy promised to them, win or lose.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: You have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House.


KAYE: They sure have. Now, Jackie Kennedy believed that if a child is kept away from the media glare of the White House, they do much better. So she actually got a home built in suburban Virginia so she could keep her kids there. It worked so well that Hillary Clinton called on Jackie Kennedy for advice when they moved into the White House. Mrs. Kennedy apparently told her to keep Chelsea underground, so we'll see if the Obamas plan to do the very same thing.

BROWN: I bet they do. Absolutely bet they do. It is quite a glare there, the media glare.

Randi Kaye for us tonight. That was great, Randi. Thanks.

KAYE: Thank you.

BROWN: Coming up next, we started thinking about some of the pets other first families brought with them. Let's see. I think that's Bess Coolidge and her pet raccoon. And then there is President Bush, and of course, his best friend Barney who went all cujo (ph) today. We're going to tell you what happened when we come back.


BROWN: President Harry Truman famously said, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." And as we heard on election night, the Obama family will be taking his advice. But man's best friend has not been the only animal to live in the White House.

Erica Hill is here with a history of presidential pets.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a very important topic that America needs to know about, Campbell. And really, who doesn't love their pet, right?'

There is no denying too that pets add a little warmth to any home. And there are plenty of them at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Dogs, cats, birds and a few less conventional presidential pals as well.

Like the pet of choice for Benjamin Harris in the 1800s, a goat named His Whiskers (ph), who pulled the president's grandchildren around the White House lawn in a cart. Lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Calvin Coolidge, his wife Grace, had a pet raccoon named Rebecca. During the Kennedy administration, there was, of course, Caroline's pony, Macaroni.

And the most recent four-legged friend to roam the White House halls, the Bush's Scottish terrier, Barney, who is really the first truly connected pet. It's hard to forget the moments we've shared with him on the Barney cam offering White House tours, a glimpse of the Christmas decorations.

Now we don't know if the Obamas have a particular breed of dog in mind, although some bloggers have suggested that pitbull with lipstick.

Yes. We can tell you though the new First Family does plan to adopt their pooch from a rescue shelter which makes me personally, Campbell, very happy.

BROWN: Oh, that's good to know.

OK. So, Erica, I don't know if you know this. And I don't know if Barney is perhaps jealous of the new dog moving into the White House. Maybe he's just picked up a bad attitude towards the press. But take a look at what happened today when a reporter tried to pet the president's dog. That moment caught on camera there.

HILL: Barney.

BROWN: And posted on


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to pet Barney. My mom has a Scottish terrier. I wanted to pet Barney and unfortunately, he was not in the mood to be petted.


BROWN: The White House doctor bandaged actually the reporter's finger. As for Barney, he's going to be heading back to Texas in 75 days. But tonight, he gets our "Bull's-Eye."

HILL: Maybe he's going to go sooner.


BROWN: No. Advice to reporters, beware of dogs.

That's it from us. Thanks to Erica.

We'll see you tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.