Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more from David Gergen on AC360° at 10pm ET.
David Gergen | Bio
CNN Senior Political Analyst
In his first three working days in office, Barack Obama has seized the reins of presidential power in smooth, almost flawless fashion. Whether that will be enough to conquer the forces arrayed against him, however, remains very much open to question.
On the economy, his most urgent challenge, he has followed up quickly on transition planning by bringing in bipartisan leaders of Congress today and will soon hold a special meeting with Congressional Republicans alone. One of the first mistakes of some past presidents has been to dismiss the concerns of the opposition. Because Obama has gone far beyond tradition, GOP leaders left the White House this morning endorsing his call to have a stimulus bill by the President’s Day recess in February.
Even so, chances remain high that the President’s economic plans will hit serious snags in Congress and even if passed, may not work. Democrats in the House, where partisanship has been rancorous, seem little inclined to seek a truly bipartisan stimulus bill, as Obama has wanted. And while some Senate Democrats are trying to re-craft the House bill to make it more pleasing to Republicans, others like Dick Durbin are now airily saying that it makes little difference how many Republicans sign on. (Perhaps they are taking a cue from Obama himself, who reportedly made it clear to the GOP at the White House today that he was in charge of negotiations because “I won”.) If partisan attitudes take hold on both sides, Obama can kiss off his hopes of getting dozens of Republicans on board in the House and more than 20 Republicans in the Senate – and in turn, the bipartisanship he needs on TARP, Detroit, and many other bills to come will be progressively tougher.
AC360° Associate Producer
Finally, this week has come to an end. I had no idea how exhausting hope and optimism could be. Say what you will about pessimism and disappointment, but they lend themselves much easier to naps.
Some of you have e-mailed me asking, because I hadn’t written anything this week, if I had stopped blogging and/or died. The answer is neither, though the latter is not for a lack of effort by a certain cab driver distracted by his dashboard full of Chicken McNuggets. I just needed a little time to detoxify from all the warmth and fuzziness. I’ll spare you the details but let’s just say it involved dry heaving into Aretha Franklin’s giant hat.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/23/art.hanskeirstead.jpg caption="Dr. Hans Keirstead is conducting research with human embryonic stem cells."]Thelma Gutierrez
When you first walk into Dr. Hans Keirstead's lab, it looks like any other, microscopes and Petri dishes. But when you take a closer look, you begin to understand the importance of this place.
You see articles on the walls of the team's accomplishments and photos of spinal-cord-injured rats, a series showing the rat dragging its legs, then the rat standing on its hind legs, then one that shows the rat walking again – with its tail in the air. The photos were hard to look at, considering what the rat endured for the study, but they also illustrate what we once considered impossible. That human embryonic stem cells implanted around the injury site of a paralyzed rat could actually restore mobility. Now, the FDA has cleared the way for a drug company to begin clinical trials with severely injured spinal cord patients.
Dr. Keirstead took us to the place where it all began. The incubator room – where he showed us human embryonic stem cells growing in Petri dishes, to be mixed with a cocktail of hormones and chemicals to become spinal cord tissue. To an untrained eye like mine, it looked like smudges on the bottom of my two-year-old daughter's clear apple juice cup. Who would think that could become tissue that would allow the injured rats to walk again?
It's hard to imagine how a person could come up with any of this, let alone see it through. But after spending the afternoon with Hans Keirstead, I began to understand a bit more about the man. He climbed the highest peak in Norway and he told me he's never been afraid of criticism or getting fired. This from a guy who says he knew he wanted to become a scientist – not any scientist, but someone who would work on spinal cord injuries – from age 11. Does he remember that far back? Not all the details, perhaps, but his mother says it's all right there on the pages of the diary he kept as a kid.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/23/gitmo.detainee/art.gitmo.filer.gi.jpg caption= "The Defense Department estimates that more than 60 terrorists released from Guantanamo may have returned to the battlefield."]
President Barack Obama is making it clear Afghanistan and Pakistan will be getting more attention under his watch.
The prime example: 17 people were killed today in two CIA missile strikes in the tribal region of Pakistan.
Simply put, Mr. Obama isn't messing around.
But America's enemies aren't keeping a low profile.
al Qaeda has released a new video. It's message this time: "We told you so." The video shows former Gitmo prisoner 372. The deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Yemen happened a year-and-a-half after he was released from the U.S. prison in Cuba. The U.S. is certain he was the mastermind of the attack. Now that Pres. Obama is pushing for the closure of Gitmo will all the freed prisoners return to the battlefield? Is all this talk of "Jihadi Rehabilitation" just garbage? We'll talk it over with CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen.
Plus, Suze Orman is here tonight to answer your questions on the economic meltdown. CLICK HERE to submit your questions.
And, we want you to start off the weekend with some laughter. So, fear not. We're going to replay one of the crazier moments of the day. Plus, there's the shot of the day and more. We'll see you at 10pm ET.
Steve Brusk and Emily Robards
CNN National Desk
One of the perks of life in the White House: with rare exceptions, you never sit in a traffic jam.
That’s not the case if you live in Dallas.
Former First Lady Laura Bush got a taste of her new life in the Metroplex Thursday, as her SUV ended up stuck in traffic on a freeway entrance ramp. Her much shorter motorcade sat patiently, with television news helicopters overhead, waiting to merge onto Interstate 35 as she returned to the ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Mrs. Bush visited a friend, and then stopped by the Bushs' future home in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas. She was seen checking out the large backyard, waving to cameras circling overhead. A smiling Mrs. Bush also waved at bystanders gathered on the street as she departed.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/23/art.suze.orman.actionplan.jpg width=292 height=320]
Program Note: Suze Orman's on AC360° to discuss how to keep your money safe.
Have questions about how the continued economic trouble and Obama's economic plan will change the market; affect your stocks, mutual funds, 401(k)… your job?
Suze's book, " Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan," is currently number one on the New York Times bestseller list and she answers these questions, and many more!
Submit your financial questions here for Suze Orman and watch AC360° to get them answered.
The L.A. Times
If you thought being governor of Alaska and a new grandmother would be enough to fill the cold, dark nights in the Arctic state, you underestimate Sarah Palin, the failed vice presidential candidate.
Palin has reportedly enlisted the services of Robert Barnett, the Washington lawyer who represented President Obama, would-be President Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton in their multimillion-dollar book deals.
CNN White House Correspondent
President Barack Obama will issue an executive order Friday afternoon reversing a controversial abortion policy from the past three Republican administrations, a senior administration official said.
The order comes the day after the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade - the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States.
The order reverses the "Mexico City policy," initiated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, canceled by President Bill Clinton and reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.
Program Note: Tune in to hear more from CNN National Security Expert Peter Bergen tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.
Ken Ballen, Terror Free Tomorrow
Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Expert
Controversy over the Bush Administration’s policy to detain “enemy combatants” at the military’s Guantanamo Bay prison has raged since the facility first opened in 2002. The controversy has been fueled primarily by the lack of legal protections afforded the detainees and allegations of their mistreatment, much of which was subsequently confirmed by the FBI.
Now that President Obama has ordered the prison camp to be closed, additional new controversy swirls around the claim made earlier this month by the Pentagon that 61 Guantanamo detainees are believed to have returned to terrorism.
But that number became a little less alarming when the Pentagon clarified that only 18 of the 61 have been confirmed to be engaging in terrorism, while 43 are “suspected of returning to the fight.”